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 Post subject: Chapter 50
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 6:02 pm 
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Director
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:05 am
Posts: 52863
Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 50

As the days passed and Tim healed, he got to the point where he felt he was ready to move back to his own apartment. Gibbs agreed, but it also meant that Zahara needed to find someplace to stay. She was not comfortable with the idea of staying with Tim, but at the same time, she wasn’t sure about staying alone in an apartment. Surprisingly, Ziva offered her spare room for as long as Zahara needed it, and even more surprisingly, Zahara seemed to be happy to accept. Tim knew that part of it was that Zahara would be able to stay with a woman, rather than Gibbs. But they didn’t know each other very well and yet Zahara was more willing to be with Ziva than with anyone else. However, he didn’t have any complaints about it. It meant that Zahara would still be close to him, and it also meant that she wouldn’t be alone all the time, but he would still have some time to think about things.

And think he did. There were some things he felt he needed to do now that he was physically able to do them, but one of them, he wasn’t quite sure about doing it.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Would this be the fish-or-cut-bait moment? Carew wasn’t sure, but he felt that this was a necessity, no matter how much he didn’t want to do it. He had never told a single soul about it, except in a very vague (and delusional) way to Tim when he’d been drugged. He had kept this part of himself hidden deep inside. He wasn’t sure his mother had ever realized how transformative that moment had been for him. He didn’t know if Tamara would realize how important it was that he was telling her this, but that was the nature of things. This was as close as Carew felt he could come to baring his soul. If this wasn’t enough for Tamara, he wasn’t sure anything he could do would be.

Tamara was sitting in the living room, going through some recipes. They’d hit a kind of stalemate the last few days and this would surely break it, although Carew wasn’t sure if the break would be good or bad.

He walked over and sat beside her. She looked up and then had an expression of slight surprise.

“What is it, Levi?” she asked. “You look more serious than usual.”

Levi pulled out his wallet and opened it. Then, he took a folded picture from a pocket and handed it to her.

“This is what defines me,” he said with no preamble. “This is my whole life in one moment.”

Tamara’s brow furrowed in confusion, but she took the picture and unfolded it.

“What is this?”

“That’s my father and my uncle and my grandfather when they were in a concentration camp. I don’t know who the fourth man was. He’s long dead...like the others in this photo.”

“How does this define you? I knew about your father and what happened to him. You told me even before I met your mother. I didn’t know you carried the picture with you, but...”

Now, Carew didn’t look at her. Generally, he would force himself to maintain eye contact as a silent way of claiming that the memory had no control over him, but this one did. It always had, and he couldn’t pretend otherwise.

“I was sixteen. I wanted to be with my friends after school, but I was supposed to go straight home. I lied to my mother and she found out.” Carew took a breath. “She didn’t yell at me. I wished she had. Instead, she took me upstairs and showed me what felt like thousands of pictures of the Holocaust, starting with this one. She had them in an album. She’d collected them and saved them. I didn’t have any idea before that day. My father was already dead. He had been for years. He’d never recovered from what happened to him there. I knew it. I had known it. But this made it more real somehow. Then, she told me that lies had killed them, that lies had made the Holocaust possible. Six million people had died because of lies, including my father and most of her family and his. And I had done the same thing to her by lying.”

He glanced at her, and Tamara’s expression had changed from confusion to horror. He looked away again, keeping his voice as calm as possible. Carew found that saying the words out loud made it impossible to hide his own feelings. He’d never said anything about it since it had happened. His mother had never referred to it again. He had never lied to her again, so there had been no reason. He’d never told her that he had taken the photo from the album. But it had always been there in his mind. Always. Every single day of his life. Without looking, he held out his hand and Tamara put it in his hand. He looked at it again, feeling the shock anew.

“She told me that she never wanted me to lie to her because I was doing the same thing that had killed my father and my father’s family and her family. I promised I wouldn’t. I promised I would never lie again. I meant it. Anything to keep myself from having to hear that again or from seeing how she felt because I had lied to her.”

The recipes slipped from her lap to the floor and suddenly, Tamara leaned forward and hugged Carew tightly, but this wasn’t the kind of hug he’d had from her before. He couldn’t explain why he knew it was different, but he did. She was trying to comfort him for something that had happened over forty years ago. He wanted to tell her that it wasn’t necessary, that he’d long since made his peace with it, but for some reason, he couldn’t. He didn’t say anything more. He didn’t cry. He just sat on the couch while Tamara hugged him.

“Did she ever apologize?”

Carew found he could smile about that.

“You knew my mother, Tamara. Can you imagine her apologizing?”

“No.”

“That’s your answer. Besides, it was a valuable lesson.”

“You never told me.”

“I never told anyone...unless you count unwillingly sharing some of it with Agent McGee while drugged. I don’t know exactly what I said, but it was enough that he asked me about it when I was sane again.”

“Why tell me now?”

Carew forced Tamara to let him go so that he could turn around and face her directly.

“Because,” he said, holding out the picture. “This is who I am. If there is one thing that shaped my life, this was it. It’s almost the only thing that I couldn’t bear to change no matter what else happened. I always have had it in the back of my mind that lies kill. The worst thing I could ever do was lie.”

Tamara looked at the picture and then met his gaze. He could see tears glistening in her eyes.

“I wanted you to know. I can’t tell you anything more that you don’t already know.”

Tamara smiled a little. “And you want to know if it’s enough.”

“If it’s not, nothing will be.”

“It’s something that still bothers you, isn’t it.”

“Yes. There’s a reason why I never told anyone.”

“Yes. The ultimate weakness, sharing the one thing you’ve never conquered. It would be like giving someone the key the exploit you. And you don’t ever want someone else to be in control.”

Carew just nodded.

“Levi...I know that you’ve deliberately given me all the power in this, but I feel like you’ve been dragging your feet the whole way, fighting against giving anything up that you didn’t absolutely have to. Am I right?”

“To a degree. It’s hard to break habits.”

“I know that.”

Tamara’s expression was gentle, almost pitying.

“I couldn’t have asked for what you’ve told me because I didn’t have a clue. I never knew, and even if I had known that there was something like this, I couldn’t have asked for it because it’s wrong to deliberately force you to recount something so painful. But you told me anyway. Why?”

“Because I needed to. You needed me to.”

“Levi...that might be the most wonderful thing you’ve said in the last two years.”

She hugged him again, and this time, Carew returned the gesture and it was almost natural. They sat together for a while and then Tamara whispered.

“Let this be a step forward, Levi. Don’t make it be where we stop.”

“I’ll work on that,” he said.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

“You’re doing what?” Tim asked, unsure if he should be worried or not.

Zahara smiled. “Ziva has taken a day off and she is going to take me shopping for American clothing. I wish to fit in.”

“Are you worried, Tim?” Ziva asked, poking her head into the kitchen.

“I don’t know,” Tim said. He grinned. “I’m not sure I could take two Zivas in my life.”

“You think I would become too much?”

“Well, it would be better than two Tonys, obviously, but...”

Ziva laughed. “I would hope so.”

“I have never shopped in an American store. It will be a new experience for me,” Zahara said. “I am not sure I know what to expect.”

“Well, it’ll be more expensive than Marrakech,” Tim said. “That’s for sure.”

“I have enough money. I think.”

“If she needs more, I will help her,” Ziva said. “And I promise not to force her to dress like me.”

“I am not sure I would be able to,” Zahara said, looking at Ziva’s clothes. “They are...very different.”

“We will ease you into it, but there are many styles you can try. Almost too many, really.”

“Guys definitely have it easier in that respect,” Tim said. “Pants, shoes, shirt. Women have like three times the space in any given store...and I guess they want you to spend three times the money, too.”

At the word money, Tim suddenly had a thought. It would give him a valid excuse, at least.

“What is it?” Ziva asked.

“Nothing,” Tim said, absently.

“You are lying, McGee,” Ziva said. “That expression is not a nothing expression.”

“It’s nothing important. I promise. Since Gibbs won’t let me get back to work yet, I’ve thought of something to do while you’re out shopping.”

“You are not yet ready to work,” Ziva said.

“Not full time, of course, but I could have done some desk duty. But for some reason, Gibbs won’t even let me do that. I don’t know why.”

“Really?”

Tim raised an eyebrow. “Yes, really. Are you surprised?”

Ziva just shrugged and went to get her keys.

“How’s it going?” Tim asked.

“She is very courteous,” Zahara said. “I have missed my friends in Marrakech and she has been very kind.”

“You don’t...”

Zahara shook her head before Tim could even finish talking. “No, Tim. You are not forcing me to stay here. I am here because I want to be here, and the only thing I would change is that I would move Marrakech closer to me here. I cannot be in both places, and here is where I want to be most.”

Tim felt a goofy smile on his lips and he kissed Zahara quickly on the cheek as Ziva came in. He blushed when he realized Ziva had seen his expression, but she didn’t say anything about it. Instead, they all left and walked down to the street where Tim’s car was parked. As Tim got ready to get in, Ziva caught his arm.

“Tim, Gibbs is making sure you have the time with Zahara,” Ziva said in a low voice. “Can you not see that he wants you to be happy?”

Tim furrowed his brow. “I could still have time with her, Ziva. There’s no deadline here and we’re taking the time she needs. Gibbs is not responsible for my happiness.”

“Maybe he does not need to be, but he is anyway.”

Then, she let him go and left with Zahara. Tim looked after her for a few seconds and then got into his car and drove back to his apartment, but he only stayed there for a moment. In fact, as he got into his car, he smiled at his CIA guards. They were going to have their work cut out for them today. He hoped they didn’t mind driving.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

“Tim was right. There are so many choices,” Zahara said. “I am used to fabrics and other materials, but...”

“Yes. If you are used to the open markets and having a smaller wardrobe, this is unnecessary,” Ziva said.

Zahara nodded. “But it would be nice to have some clothing that fits in here.”

“You do not have to fit in if you do not want to,” Ziva said. “No one will force you to wear American clothes. Especially in the cities. You can find every style in the world.”

“I know that, but the only time I am comfortable standing out is when I dance. Off the stage, I would prefer to be a part of the group, not separate.”

They stopped at a rack displaying tube tops and tanks. Zahara looked at them with a shocked expression.

“I would not have to wear these things, would I?”

Ziva laughed. “Only if you wanted to.”

Zahara picked up a tube top and looked at it.

“How does it stay on? There are no sleeves.”

“It is very tight.”

“It would have to be.” Zahara shook her head and put it back. “I do not want to wear anything like this.”

“I did not think you would. Come over here.”

Ziva led her to a different section where the clothes were more conservative. She could see that Zahara was generally a more conservative dresser, even taking into account where she had lived. Since Melilla was where she had grown up, her tastes must have been easy to tailor to Marrakech when she moved.

Suddenly, Zahara walked over to a display. To Ziva’s surprise, she pulled a red shirt with a lace top and three-quarter sleeves off the rack.

“On my first date with Tim, I borrowed a caftan from Khadija that was this color. It was so beautiful. I had never had something so fancy in my life. She insisted that I wear it. I loved how it looked.”

“Red is a good color for you. You can try it on. We should find a couple of other things to try on, too.”

Zahara nodded, looking a little self-conscious. Ziva found her to be a very interesting mix. Every so often, she would state things very firmly, but most of the time, she seemed almost timid. Much of it probably stemmed from being in a new place, but not all of it.

While she mostly let Zahara pick out her own clothes, Ziva did encourage her to try some jeans along with skirts. If she wanted to fit in, jeans would be an easy choice. All the tops Zahara chose were in bright, vibrant colors. She may have wanted to fit in, but she would still stand out with the reds, blues and greens that she chose. Again, that interesting combination of outgoing and shyness.

All in all, Ziva was enjoying getting to know her.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Tim decided to put off the one visit he wasn’t sure of to last. Instead, he drove to the NSA Headquarters and walked inside.

“Hello, I’d like to speak to Director Gellman, if he’s free. My name is Tim McGee.”

The security guard raised an eyebrow.

“Is he expecting you?”

“No, but I think he’ll see me if he has the time. It’s not urgent.”

The security guard looked skeptical, but then, Tim knew that his name wasn’t bandied about publicly. He called up and then, the look changed from skeptical to surprised. He hung up.

“You can go up. Here’s a visitor pass. Director Gellman said you know your way?”

“More or less,” Tim said, with a smile. He’d never been in this building before, but he was well aware of the layout.

He got on the elevator and rode it up to the third floor. Then, he got off, oriented himself, and headed toward Director Gellman’s office. He was ushered in past a woman he didn’t know but who looked at him curiously.

“Agent McGee,” Director Gellman said. “To say that I’m surprised to see you here is a major understatement.”

“I thought you would be, but I don’t think it’s going to be too traumatic for you.”

“Actually, I think this might be the first time we’ve really been in the same room. You’re not as intimidating as I thought you might be.”

“I’ve been told that before,” Tim said. “Really, what I came here for was to thank you for the support you gave me during all this.”

Director Gellman raised an eyebrow, although, unlike Gibbs, he couldn’t quite keep the other one still. It also raised slightly.

“You could have chosen to stay out of it, Director. There was no reason for you to get involved.”

“Yes, there was, Agent McGee. There was a very good reason.”

“What was that?”

“I...or rather the NSA can’t afford to have you get pushed into actual treason. You’ve done a lot of work on our security. There’s not a part of the NSA servers that you haven’t had some hand in. Jorgenson was pushing and every man has his breaking point. I figure that you’ve done well to bend as much as you have, and I didn’t want one man’s stupidity to ruin everything for me.”

“You really thought I might go rogue?”

“Yes,” Director Gellman said, bluntly. “Be honest with me, Agent McGee. Hasn’t it been tempting?”

“At times.”

“Exactly. Once it’s something that tempts you, if things get bad enough, you might give in to temptation. And I think the entire country would regret it if you did.”

“I’d regret it, too,” Tim said.

“That’s because you’ve got more morals than Jorgenson does. It’s too bad you couldn’t have been there to see him cut down.” Director Gellman actually seemed a little gleeful. “It was one of the best moments of my political life. The only thing better would have been getting a physical smack down as well. He needs it.”

“That’s tempting, too,” Tim said.

“Yeah. Actually, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve heard that Carew did just that after the meeting.”

“Really?”

“Unconfirmed, of course, but there is a rumor going around that he tried to threaten Carew after the meeting and Carew punched him in the face. Carew’s never done anything like before, but you never know what retirement might have loosened.”

Tim knew that Carew could be physical when he wanted to be, and he didn’t think there was any love lost between the two men, but the idea of him actually punching someone out was surprisingly strange.

“I wish I could have seen it.”

“Off the record, so do I.”

“Do you know why he’s not being fired?”

“To keep him chained up until he’s out. I’m almost positive that he had or has someone else helping him plan. We’re conducting some discreet investigations, but whether we find out who it is or not, it’s better to have him where we know what he’s doing. His name is mud in D.C. right now, and I want to keep it that way.”

Tim nodded reluctantly.

“I know. It’s not what you want. You want justice, even revenge for what he tried to pull off, but be satisfied with how miserably he failed. He might have been able to save some face if he’d given up when he couldn’t arrest you, but he never was smart enough.” Then, Director Gellman smiled. “By the way, you were a little sloppy the last time you came in here.”

“What do you mean?”

“I won’t ask what you were doing, but one of my agents saw you and because you erased your presence after, she couldn’t let it go. In fact, you would have walked past her as you came in. Agent Bishop.”

“I’ve heard that name recently,” Tim said. “But I was kind of out of it when I got back.”

“I had heard that you were injured. You look healed up now.”

“Mostly. Just don’t ask me to lift anything heavy yet. My back is better, but I’m not completely healed.”

“Can I ask what happened?”

“Short version is that I was in the wrong place...at the right time.”

“Really.”

“Yeah. They had no idea who I was. I had no idea who they were. I was just getting in the way.”

“At the right time?”

“I got some pretty good rewards out of the deal, but it was good to be able to come home. No matter the reason, I’m still grateful that you weighed in. I needed all the help I could get.”

“You must have had some very impressive help since the President himself had some evidence he wouldn’t share.”

Tim smiled. That must have been Lawrence and company.

“You know.”

“Yes. At least, I think I do.”

“I won’t ask. Anyway, if it keeps us in your good graces, you’ll have our support anytime...so long as you’re not on the wrong side.”

“Understood.”

Tim stood up and shook hands with Director Gellman. Then, he left the office and looked at the woman who had seen him.

“Hello, Agent Bishop,” he said.

She looked up.

“Have we met?”

“Not officially. You did see me, but I didn’t see you. I would have been more careful otherwise.”

Her brow furrowed.

“Agent McGee,” he said and held out his hand.

Then, her eyes widened and her mouth opened. His hand hung in the air and he dropped it to the side, smiling.

“Wow,” she said.

“I don’t deserve that kind of reaction. I’ll be more careful next time I’m sneaking around the NSA.”

“There’ll be a next time?”

“You can count on it,” Tim said. “But I’m usually more careful than I was that night.”

“You don’t even exist in the system... officially.”

“A lot of things don’t exist officially,” Tim said. “Doesn’t mean they aren’t real.”

“What if I see you again?”

“Then, you’re better than I am, and not many people are. I’m not saying that to brag. It’s just the way my life has been. I’d like to go over where you saw me if you have time, another day.”

“So you can make sure you can disappear better?”

“No. So I can see where the security I set up is effective enough that someone watching at the right time could catch me. Have a nice day, Agent Bishop,” Tim said, holding out his hand again.

She hesitated and then shook his hand.

“I don’t think I know which side you’re on, really.”

“That’s because you don’t know me. You’ll always know which side I’m on. I’m not good at being subtle. Never have been. I’m working for the federal government and a number of federal agencies. You decide where my loyalties lie.”

Then, he nodded to her and walked away.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Zahara walked out of the dressing room with a perplexed look on her face. Ziva chuckled.

“What?”

“Why would a person pay so much money to buy pants that already have holes in them?” she asked.

The jeans she was wearing did have holes ripped in the knees.

“I am not sure, but it is the style.”

“I am beginning to think that American fashion makes no sense,” Zahara said. “I would never pay money for something that is already ruined. And the clothing with the least material seems to cost the most.”

“Some of it does not make sense, I agree, but the top is good.”

Zahara looked at herself in the mirror. It was the first short-sleeved shirt she’d been willing to try on, and even then, it was only with a tank top underneath as an extra layer. It wasn’t a bright color, but a rich, dark blue.

“I feel like I am almost naked,” she said, smiling at herself as she rubbed her arms.

“Do you like it?”

“I am not sure.”

“Put on the other pants you took in there and see if they work better.”

“Very well.”

Zahara walked back into the fitting room and came out again a minute later wearing a pair of gray trousers. Whether she liked it or not, Ziva could see that this style suited Zahara very well.

“You look very nice,” she said.

“Are you sure this is normal?” Zahara asked.

“Yes. It is something you would wear if you were going to a casual dinner or out with friends.”

Zahara turned around a few times, looking at herself. Ziva didn’t rush her. This wasn’t someone trying to rebel against a repressive system. It was a woman who was seeing fashions she’d never even considered for herself and deciding whether or not she liked them. All the clothes Ziva had seen her wear were simple with a few embellishments here and there, but they were all long-sleeved or at the least, three-quarter.

Suddenly, Zahara turned back to her.

“Am I changing too much?”

“I cannot answer that. Do you think you are?” Ziva asked.

Zahara turned back to the mirror. “When I came here, I never thought about clothing or shoes or...fashion. I only thought about Tim. There is much more to being here than having someone to be with.”

“Yes.”

“I do not want to...give up all I was.”

“You do not have to. And you shouldn’t,” Ziva said, firmly. “You know who you are, Zahara. That is the woman Tim loves. He does not need you to change everything for him. He has not asked for that, either.”

Zahara nodded. Then, she went back into the fitting room. She came out a few minutes later with the outfit in her hands.

“I will get this,” she said.

“All right.”

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Arriving at his next destination, Tim felt more comfortable which was bizarre when he thought about it. For years, this place had been the embodiment of everything wrong with his life. Now, it was a place he’d been often enough that he felt at ease walking inside and he knew where to go without any trouble. He breezed through the halls to an outer office.

“I’d like to speak to Director Morgan, if he’s available.”

“I’ll ask him, Agent McGee,” Marjean said, smiling kindly.

“Thank you.”

Tim sat down to wait. After a couple of minutes, Marjean turned back to him.

“You can go right in, Agent McGee.”

“Thank you.”

Tim walked into the office of the director of the CIA. He hadn’t been in this office for quite a while. It had still been Carew’s office at that time.

And really, it hadn’t changed all that much.

“Agent McGee, I wasn’t expecting to see you here. You’re looking well.”

“Thank you.”

“Have a seat and you can tell me what’s going on.”

Tim sat down and smiled. He had appreciated Roy’s attitude from the first time he’d met him. It had made his efforts to work with the CIA much easier.

“Mostly, I just wanted to thank you for defending me in all this that’s been going on. I didn’t make it easy for you, especially when you could easily have been dragged into it with me.”

Roy smiled and shook his head.

“No, I was just following orders, Agent McGee.”

“Whose?”

“Levi Carew’s. Before he left, he told me that protecting you was vital. It was only when this started that he actually told me why.”

“And what did he say?” Tim asked, curious about Carew’s reasoning.

“He said that your value is in who you are and that if Jorgenson got a hold of you, that value would be gone because you’d become a traitor in your efforts to get away from what Jorgenson wanted to do. He said, and I agree, that I do not want you as an enemy.”

Carew had said something similar a couple of years ago, but it was strange hearing other people say it, Tim decided. Then, he smiled.

“No, you don’t want me as an enemy, but so far, I haven’t had any reason to look at you that way.”

“Good. By the way, speaking of looks, I shocked a few people when I revealed that you’d been doing some work for me.”

“When did this happen?” Tim asked.

“At the meeting with the President. Both Levi and Director Shepard were more than a little surprised.”

“My distrust is legendary,” Tim said.

“If so, I’m curious as to what got you to offer help? I would never have even asked.”

“Honestly, I was being selfish, even though it helped you. I was doing it to help myself put some of what happened behind me. I couldn’t really heal if I wasn’t willing to confront that automatic distrust. If you don’t need me, that’s one thing, but if you do, I’m willing to help. As long as you ask and not demand.”

“I haven’t demanded yet, have I.”

“No, you haven’t and I appreciate that.”

“Is there anything else?” Roy asked.

“No.”

“No problems with your guards?”

“None. I can see them, but I know they’re there, so...it’s fine.”

Roy nodded and stood up.

“By the way, I think Agent Worthing would appreciate hearing from you.”

Tim was surprised. “Daniel?”

“Yes. He sent his usual report with the warning about what he’d had to do to find you but that, so far, his cover is holding. He also expressed some concern about how you were doing. If you contacted him, it would alleviate those worries.”

“Of course. I don’t know why I didn’t call sooner,” Tim said. But actually, at least part of it was probably due to the revelation that he was a CIA agent and Tim had never clued into it at all. While he still enjoyed Daniel’s company, Tim couldn’t deny that his old paranoia was at least part of the reason.

“For what it’s worth, Agent McGee, even though I started out just doing what I was told I needed to do, by the end of it, I was determined not to let Jorgenson succeed, and that was mostly because of knowing who you are. Some of it was just not liking Jorgenson, but most of it was you.”

Tim smiled. “Thank you, Director.”

Then, he left. He got in his car and paused. One last stop.

He drove to a place he’d only been to once before. Then, he grabbed a small travel bag and walked up the walk, up the steps and he paused before knocking.

The door opened.

“Hello, again, ma’am,” he said. “Can I speak to Levi?”

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 Post subject: Chapter 51
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 6:08 pm 
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Director
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:05 am
Posts: 52863
Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 51

“Agent McGee,” Tamara said, in surprise. “You’re looking well.”

“Thank you.”

“Levi is in the yard. Would you like to come back?”

“Sure. Thanks.”

They started walking through the house.

“Levi told me that he picked up your girlfriend from the airport.”

Tim smiled and nodded.

“Yes.”

“How is it going?”

“Good so far,” Tim said. “I can only hope it keeps up. It wouldn’t be an easy life for her, but right now, she says she wants it.”

Tamara stopped him. He turned and looked at her.

“I hope that you do find your way through. I don’t know much about your life, but if you’ve been involved with Levi, I know it’s been complicated. Please don’t use Levi as a model of how to manage a family and a career. What he did was try to protect us, only at the expense of everything else. You don’t have to do that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished Levi would have done something else with his life or else just stopped thinking he had to save the world. Don’t keep her out because you think it’s too dangerous for her.”

“What if it is?”

Tamara smiled sadly. “Speaking from personal experience, I would rather have faced the danger than the isolation. If she loves you, she’ll feel the same way.”

“Until it becomes real.”

Tamara shook her head. “No, Agent McGee. It’s not like that at all. Levi said that you were injured. If it had been because of your girlfriend and you could have avoided it by not being with her, would you?”

“It’s not quite the same.”

“No, it’s not. What I’m asking you is about an injury you actually had, not about a hypothetical event at some nebulous time in the future. You can evaluate your own response to a real event.”

“I was glad I was there,” Tim said.

“Exactly. Don’t you think she’d feel the same way?”

“I guess I don’t want someone else’s life in my hands.”

“With what you undoubtably do, Agent McGee, you’ll always have someone’s life in your hands. At least, let someone be there who wants to be. Levi and I are making progress, but it’s hard, every step of the way. Your life doesn’t have to be our life. I don’t wish it on anyone.”

Tim smiled.

“Levi said the same thing to me, once. A few years ago.”

“What did he say?”

“That I didn’t have to be him.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

Tamara smiled wistfully. “Every so often, something happens that gives me more hope.”

“Is it worth it? What you’re doing?”

“Yes. It is. I wish you could have known him before the CIA. He was so warm, so earnest, but always honest. And I still see it in him sometimes.” She took a breath. “Anyway, he’s just back here.”

Tim stepped out into the backyard and he was surprised to see Carew kneeling in a garden, apparently weeding. It was just so incongruous to see him doing something so...simple.

“Levi, Agent McGee is here to see you,” Tamara said.

Carew turned and stood.

“Agent McGee, what brings you here?”

“I just needed to talk to you for a few minutes. I don’t want to interrupt.”

“That’s what you said before,” Carew said, wryly. “And I ended up going to Morocco.”

“Well, I didn’t call you. I was dying of a stab wound at the time. That interruption was Daniel’s fault.”

“True.”

Carew walked over to a small patio and sat down on a chair. Tim joined him while Tamara went back inside.

“What is it?” Carew asked.

“First,” Tim said and held out the travel bag Carew had given him, “I wanted to return the money I didn’t use. I’m sorry that it never got changed back to dollars, but I was a little distracted.”

Carew took the bag and opened it up.

“There’s still quite a bit in here.”

“Yes. I was frugal. I didn’t buy any souvenirs.”

Carew smiled slightly.

“It wasn’t necessary to return it,” he said.

“It wasn’t necessary to give it in the first place,” Tim said. “I didn’t even notice.”

“Yes. I was pretty pleased with how that turned out. It’s always a trick to get people to do something without realizing it.”

“I didn’t end up using the credit cards at all. It felt safer to use cash.”

“Probably wise, although these particular cards wouldn’t have pointed anyone to you.”

“I figured, but cash was easier once I got used to dirhams.”

“Was there anything else?”

“Yes, some questions.”

“What makes you think I’ll answer them?” Carew asked.

“You may not. Doesn’t mean I can’t ask.”

Carew nodded and then gestured. “Go ahead.”

“You played a big role in getting Jorgenson to stop coming after me.”

Carew sat there for a few seconds, and then, he smiled that empty smile.

“Yes? I’m waiting for the question.”

“How? Besides the things you could talk about. I know that you were determined not to let what happened two years ago ever be known.”

“It’s still unknown.”

“But how did you do that?”

“Without giving details, let’s just say that I have a rather firm political hold on Jorgenson when I need to. I used it to make sure that he didn’t use that time period against you.”

“How would he have known about it?”

“He doesn’t. But there was a major security breach that happened at about the same time as my op. How it happened and who did it is still unknown, even now. That’s one of the reasons the NSA has been asking for your help so much. They want to keep that kind of thing from happening again. Jorgenson was hoping to use your disappearance to pin that on you.”

Tim felt a cold weight in his stomach. With how secret their work in Yemen had been, that would have been Jorgenson’s strongest claim. He really might have been convicted just on that basis if Carew hadn’t stepped in.

“Oh,” Tim said. He found that he couldn’t really say anything else.

“That’s why I made sure he didn’t. It would put too much at risk...and I have to admit that it was extremely enjoyable to watch him squirm. Beyond that, I simply gave requested testimony. When the President summons you to a meeting, you go.”

“Do you?”

“Yes. Even I go,” Carew said. “You could ask anyone. I never missed a meeting with the President.”

Tim nodded. That fit with what he knew of Carew’s general approach to life.

“I heard that you punched Jorgenson in the face.”

Carew smiled, and even without him answering, Tim could see that it was true. There was genuine glee in that smile.

“Not in the meeting.”

“What happened?”

“He tried to threaten me, and I simply let him know that it was a bad idea. I don’t think I actually broke his nose.”

“I wish I could have been there.”

“I wouldn’t recommend that you try it yourself. You have a lot more in the game than I do.”

Tim had to admit that it was true.

“How did you get the plane to get me home again?” he asked, switching gears. “I know that it’s an expensive plane and that it must have been a major inconvenience for the owner. How big a favor were you owed?”

“Actually, I think he would have done it without the favor. Not because of me, but because of you.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that you made an impression.”

I made an...” Tim trailed off. “The copilot?”

Carew smiled again. “Yes. I told him that he couldn’t know where the plane was going unless he was with the plane, and he doesn’t like to flaunt his wealth around, so he didn’t want to simply be a passenger who was obviously there because the plane was his. So he generally flies as the copilot.”

“I wondered how he could have so much influence in the airport. It wasn’t just about bribes.”

“Most of it probably was. Regardless, all I had to do was ask for it. Was there anything else, Agent McGee?”

Tim debated whether or not he wanted to ask about what Carew had told Zahara. On the one hand, she hadn’t said that he told her to hide it, but on the other hand, he had chosen to tell Zahara, not Tim himself.

“Are you happy?” Tim asked, finally.

There was a long silence and a look of faint surprise on Carew’s face.

“Since when do you care about whether or not I’m happy, Agent McGee?”

“Since I found out that you’re a real person with emotion, whether you choose to show it or not,” Tim said. “Since I realized that you’ve done things for me without any real expectation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know if I can forgive you for pushing me into nearly killing myself to build that program again. You manipulated me when I was at a point of real weakness and you exploited me to get what you wanted. I know you wouldn’t have done it if you didn’t think it was necessary, but I don’t know if I can forgive you for that. It almost ruined me.”

“I know. There’s no reason you should,” Carew said, bluntly. “I’m surprised that’s the only thing you’re mentioning.”

Momentarily distracted from his initial question, Tim found himself smiling.

“I put myself in your hands after that. You didn’t make me come to you for help. I chose it, and you only called in the favor for something you really needed help with. You also forced me to get the help I needed. No one else managed to do that because they hoped they could just convince me to agree, but I was too far gone to ever just agree. You put someone in my path that you knew would be too perfect to pass up. You set things up so that I would get help. It was sneaky and underhanded, but it was something I really needed. So yes, the one thing I can’t forgive you for is making me build the program, but even there, you stopped me from killing my handler when I thought it was what I wanted. So I’ll ask again. Are you happy?”

Carew took a breath and let it out slowly.

“I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest.”

Tim looked at him skeptically.

“Agent McGee, when a man makes a decision to put everything in his life aside, that includes thinking about happiness, because he knows he won’t be and that’s the decision he’s made. It does no good to dwell on it. However, at this point, Tamara is here and we’re making a go of it, so I’m probably as close to happy as I could be.”

“Would you marry her again?”

“We’re a long ways from that.”

“Only because you think you can’t. I think Tamara would marry you if you got to the point where you dared ask. From what I’ve seen of her, she’s amazing woman.”

Carew’s smile was a little different.

“She is, but I’m not to that point yet. Are you?”

Tim smiled, self-consciously. “I am, but she’s not.”

“Are you sure of that?”

“Yes. I’m not going to put it off, but I want to give her some time to settle into the United States, see if it’s really what she wants.”

Carew raised an eyebrow again. “Seems to me that she’s already decided what she really wants. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t be here. She’s had plenty of chances to leave.”

Tim shook his head. “It’s too fast. Too soon for anything like that.”

“I realize that you have no interest in my advice, Agent McGee, but why give up time that you could have with her? You know how quickly life can change. Remember that you’re playing the game only against yourself. You don’t have to be like me and spend your life deliberately trying to lose.”

Tim cocked his head to the side and considered Carew carefully. There was an earnestness in his eyes that took Tim by surprise. His black eyes were usually blank or seemingly amused. Tim could almost believe that Carew was sincerely trying to encourage him to take a step he had been pushing off into the future. It was also interesting that Carew was telling him basically the same thing that Tamara had.

“You know...it just occurred to me that we’re both headed for the same basic goal,” Tim said.

Carew smiled slightly. “If that’s the case, Agent McGee, like most things in life, we’re coming at it from opposite ends of the spectrum.”

Tim nodded and stood up. Carew stood as well.

“I hope you get there,” he said and held out his hand.

“Do you really?” Carew asked with some skepticism.

“Yes, I do,” Tim said. “I can’t hate you anymore. It would be easier if I could, but I can’t. ...and I hope that you figure out how to be happy again...Levi.”

Carew’s smile warmed and he shook Tim’s hand.

“If that’s sincere, then, I’ll thank you for your good wishes,” he said.

Tim started to walk toward the front of the house, but Carew stopped him for a moment.

“And if you ever need anything that I can give, you just need to ask.”

Tim turned back, and where it came from, he’d never know, but he knew that it was sincere, as bizarre as it felt to him to be saying it.

“Same here, Levi,” he said. “If I can do it, I will.”

Then, he left and got back into his car. For a few minutes, he just sat there, thinking about what he’d learned, about what he’d said and about what he’d seen in Levi and Tamara.

Mentally, he added one more stop to his list of places to go. Then, he got out of his car and walked over to the car just down the block, the one belonging to his CIA guards. He leaned down.

“Yes, Agent McGee?”

Tim smiled. This wasn’t the same person as before he’d left.

“I’d like your opinion.”

“About what?”

“What would happen if I went to the FBI right about now?”

“You’d be gambling for very high stakes. Why?”

“Because I’ve never actually been in the same place as Jorgenson and I want to confront him.”

“What good will that do, Agent McGee?”

“It’ll make me feel better.”

The agent sighed heavily, and Tim grinned.

“I could tell you to just take the rest of the day off.”

“Don’t give me that, Agent McGee. You know that I can’t do that. If anything happened to you, I’d never see the light of day again.”

Tim grinned again and the agent rolled his eyes.

“Is there any way I could talk you out of it? Appeal to your intelligence? Anything?”

“Nope.”

Another sigh.

“Fine. Thanks for telling me, at least.”

“You’re welcome,” Tim said.

Then, he walked back to his car and drove to the FBI. He found Jorgenson’s car and leaned against it, prepared to wait for however long it would take. He decided it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to actually go inside.

But while he waited, he pulled out his phone and dialed an international number.

“Alū, Anqalaysūn Real Estate, this is Daniel Worthing.”

“You still sound very professional, Daniel.”

“Tim! You sound like you’re back to normal.”

“Mostly.”

“I’m glad. Really. And I’m really happy that you called me. No one ever thought to give me an update and I wanted to know how you were doing.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t before. I could have.”

“Eh, you’ve had a lot on your mind. How’s Zahara?”

“Good.”

“How good?” Daniel asked, and Tim could hear his grin.

“Very.”

“Excellent.”

“How are things going for you?”

“Very good. I finally got to the point that I can realistically get my dad here. We’re in the process of making plans now. Hopefully, in another couple of months, we’ll get him back to Marrakech one more time.”

“That’s great, Daniel. I’m really happy for you.”

“Thanks. Do you miss Marrakech?”

“Honestly?”

Daniel laughed. “Don’t worry. You don’t have to. Just because I know it’s the most wonderful place in the world, doesn’t mean I expect everyone to be as smart.”

“I’ll remember that.”

“Good. So did everything work out?”

“Pretty much. I’m about to push my limits to see just how well it’s worked out.”

“Push the limits? What do you mean?”

“I mean that I’m leaning on Director Jorgenson’s car and I’m waiting for him to show up so I can berate him to my heart’s content.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Tim?”

“Nope, but right now, I just don’t care. He has pushed me around for years and I’m tired of taking it.”

“Well, good luck. I hope that doesn’t get you into trouble.”

“I’m moderately certain it won’t.”

“Moderately?”

“Yes.”

“Well, give me a call when you’re done and let me know if I have to call in the cavalry.”

“Will do.”

Then, he heard the elevator ding and he hung up and turned toward the sound. There he was. Tim considered whether he would get out of sight or brazenly wait in plain sight.

He smiled and leaned casually against the car.

Brazen it would be.

He saw the moment Jorgenson noticed him and realized who he was. Then, if looks could kill, Tim would be dead, but Tim himself just smiled more widely.

“Good afternoon, Director. You’re leaving work a bit early, aren’t you?”

“What do you want, Agent McGee? To gloat about your good fortune?”

“In part. Both you and I deserve it.”

Jorgenson glanced at him as if he was surprised Tim would admit to it.

“Mostly, though, I wanted to give you a warning.”

“A warning?”

“Yes,” Tim said, his voice hardening. “You have spent a lot of time trying to control me over the last few years and you have failed every time. I’ve been playing by the rules for all this time, trying to get things done right. If you try for me again, you won’t find me so amenable to manipulation. You’ve tried to ruin my life over and over and I won’t stand for it any longer.”

“Oh, really, and how do you propose to avoid it...should this happen?” Jorgenson asked him in a cold voice.

“I’ll leave that to your imagination, but I will be very clear: leave me alone.”

“Or what?”

Tim leaned in close to him. “Or you’ll live to regret it.”

“Are you threatening me, Agent McGee? That could be a crime, you know. Do you want to risk arrest?”

“I’m not threatening at all. I’ve given you a friendly warning because you have committed crimes, just in your attempts to take me from my life. I am sick and tired of having to deal with your crap. At no point have I ever betrayed my country, no matter how many times my country has tried to betray me. And you failed, Director. You failed again. You have failed every time and you just added one more colossal failure to the list. Give it up and leave me alone. That’s all I have to say.”

Tim started to walk away.

“I’m armed, Agent McGee.”

Tim stopped and turned around. Jorgenson was holding a gun in his hand, although he wasn’t yet pointing it at Tim. He had spoken very casually and his stance was ostensibly casual as well. For a moment, Tim felt a chill, but he refused to give into that. Instead, he smiled and saw Jorgenson’s confidence falter.

“And I’m not here alone, Director Jorgenson.”

“No threats, Director,” came a voice from behind one of the pillars of the parking garage. “Just promises. I am a very good shot and I have my orders.”

Without a word, Jorgenson turned and got into his car. Tim made his way out of the garage, being sure to keep at least one aisle of cars between him and Jorgenson. Then, he walked back to his car.

“Don’t do that again, Agent McGee.”

Tim looked to the side and saw his CIA guard looking a little put out.

“After all these years of boring you guys with nothing to do, I thought you’d relish a little excitement.”

“Not me. I’m all for boredom. Don’t do that again,” he repeated.

“I won’t. Hopefully, that’s the last time I see that piece of...” Tim swallowed the words he had considered saying. He could only imagine his mother’s horrified expression if she knew he’d even thought them.

“I don’t blame you for hating him, but let’s stay away from the Hoover building, okay?”

“Sure. I’m okay with that.”

“Anywhere else you’re headed today? You’ve been driving quite a bit. I’m glad I get paid mileage.”

“Just one more stop,” Tim said. “And it’s an easy one. I promise.”

“Good.”

Tim chuckled and got into his car. He waited long enough for his guard to get to his own car and then he started driving. With his warning to Jorgenson delivered, he felt like he could make that one last stop.

He drove to a little strip mall in Maryland, parked and walked into a store before he could talk himself out of it.

“Hello, sir, and welcome to Johnson Jewelers. How may I help you?”

Tim looked at the friendly man behind the counter and took a breath.

“I’m looking for an engagement ring.”

“Congratulations! We can certainly help you with that. What price range are you looking at?”

“I’m not planning on going bankrupt to buy this,” Tim said. “I want something that will be practical to wear but still beautiful.”

“Understood.” The man gestured to a particular part of the counter. “These should be something like what you’re wanting. If you want to customize the ring, of course, that will require extra time.”

“I understand that. I haven’t asked her yet,” Tim said.

The man grinned.

“Well, what kind of style are you looking for?”

“I don’t know if you have anything like this or if you’ll know what I mean, but I met her while I was in Morocco, and I’d like something kind of Moroccan style to remind her of home.”

“Actually, we do have some rings that are evocative of that part of the world. I can’t guarantee that they’re genuine.”

“That’s all right,” Tim said. “I’d like to see them, please.”

“Of course, sir.”

Tim spent the next hour looking at rings, learning more about gemstone cuts, metal types and band thickness than he’d ever known in his entire life. The employee behind the counter, Evan, was extremely patient. Tim figured it couldn’t all be because he really wanted to make the commission.

Nothing seemed quite right, though. The rings were beautiful and most of them hadn’t made him want to scream and run because of the price. It was just that he felt that Zahara needed something a little out of the ordinary.

Then, he looked to the side, away from the engagement rings and he saw it. He knew it as soon as he laid eyes on it that this was the ring.

“Can I look at that one?”

“It’s not an engagement ring, sir,” Evan said.

Tim smiled. “It will be if I give it to her that way.”

Evan nodded and got the ring out of the case. It was so different. The band was thicker and it had intricate designs carved in it, and then, the main stone was actually blue, not the typical diamond, although it was accented with some small diamonds. The blue instantly made him think of Marrakech.

“Yes, this is it,” he said. “It’s perfect.”

“I can tell,” Evan said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone’s face light up like that. It’s not what I would have expected, but I’m happy to sell it to you. Now, the tricky part. Do you know what her ring size is?”

Tim reddened a little because he had been thinking about this for a while, even if he hadn’t planned on doing anything about it so soon.

“Yes, I do.”

“Nothing to be embarrassed about. That’s a good thing. It means that, assuming that we’ll have to adjust the size, we can do it that much faster.”

Tim didn’t bother to explain why he felt self-conscious about knowing Zahara’s ring size, but he gave the size, and the ring was two sizes too large.

“No problem, sir. We can get that resized for you in just a couple of days. We will have to take extra care because of the design on the band, but if you can wait that long...”

“Yes, I can,” Tim said.

“Wonderful. Then, I’ll just take down your information and we’ll get this process started.”

Almost before he knew it, Tim handed over his credit card and then left the jeweler with the promise that he would be able to pick up his ring in two days.

Two days.

That would be enough time to plan something. He didn’t want to go overboard with it because he felt that people who had to dress things like this up too much were destroying the beauty of the experience. However, he did want to do something.

Then, he drove back to his apartment and tried to calm himself down enough that he’d be able to go and see what Zahara had bought without giving away his plan. He did call Daniel back and let him know that everything was fine.

...but he didn’t say anything about the ring he’d just bought.

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 Post subject: Chapter 52
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 6:15 pm 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
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Chapter 52

Tim managed to hide his growing excitement and nerves from Zahara although he was certain that Ziva had noticed. He had enjoyed seeing what Zahara had purchased, but his mind had mostly been on the ring. Finally, he had asked Zahara to go to dinner with him in a couple of days. She had agreed easily, leaving Tim with the task of figuring out where to take her and where to go afterward. He didn’t want to propose with an audience. He didn’t want photos. He didn’t want video. He just wanted to be able to ask her and he figured he’d be tongue-tied enough without others peeking at him.

But in the end, he found a nice restaurant for an early dinner and then a place in Shenandoah where there would be fewer people in the evening. That was enough. He wasn’t going to overthink this. He already was running the risk of thinking too much about whether or not it was a good idea, whether or not Zahara would agree, whether or not he was making a mistake to listen to Carew (and Daniel to a lesser extent) rather than wait until he felt Zahara was ready.

All he had to do was wait.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Carew sat with his phone in his hand. He’d been thinking (as he’d promised) and he was deciding whether or not Tim was right about what he should do. Granted, Tim had been speaking in terms of Tamara, but the broad strokes applied across the board, and while Tamara hadn’t mentioned her request in the last few days, he hadn’t forgotten it and he knew she hadn’t either. It would be wrong to hold her off without an answer, but he found that the idea of exposing himself as she was requesting was more than a little troubling. In fact, in the back of his mind, Carew felt that it was almost frightening to consider.

At the same time, he was a grown man and had faced down people much more terrifying and dangerous than his daughter.

Nodding to himself, he dialed Bri’s number and then stared at it for a few moments without connecting. No matter what Tamara believed, Carew was certain that this would accomplish nothing. For very good reason, Bri hated him and he didn’t feel that he could or should insist that she change her mind after years of emotional neglect.

Well, there was no way to prove that without trying. It would be a sincere attempt, too. Carew didn’t do things halfway or half-heartedly.

He pushed the call button and then lifted the phone to his ear. He was quite certain that Bri would not know how to take this.

“Dr. Carew’s office.”

“Hello, Bri. Do you have a minute to talk?”

There was a long pause.

“What are you calling me for?”

Carew smiled.

“To make a request.”

“For what?”

“I was calling to ask if you’d like to pay us a real visit.”

Another long pause and Carew was sure that she was trying to figure out what the reason for this was. If she asked, he’d be honest.

“Mom put you up to this, didn’t she.”

“To an extent.”

“What does that mean?”

“She definitely suggested it, but there were no demands. She doesn’t know that I’m calling you right now.”

“Do you think that this can make up for all the years before?”

“No, I don’t. I don’t think anything I could do would.”

“Then, why are you bothering?”

“Because the certainty of failure doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try anyway.”

“I didn’t think you got involved in lost causes.”

“I only do when the causes are personal. Never when they’re professional.”

“Dad, why are you doing this? Why are you back with Mom? Why are you going through all this? Why are you coming back into our lives twenty years after you left us?”

“Because I always loved my family, Bri. I don’t expect you to believe that. I never gave you any indication of it, but it’s the truth. I chose to separate myself from you to protect you.”

“You didn’t protect Quinn. You got him killed.”

Carew knew that she was trying to get a rise out of him, and he knew he’d disappoint her when he didn’t change his tone.

“I’m aware of that.”

“And you don’t feel a thing, do you.”

“Actually, every time I see you, I remember that I got my son killed.”

Again, there was a pause. This time, Carew felt that there was some surprise in the silence. He pressed on.

“There is no requirement that you say yes. I understand that there’s little, if any, hope for a change in how you feel about me. I’m not in a position to demand or even request that you give me a chance. While the bridge between your mother and I may not be completely burned, the one between us likely is. I accept that as just deserts for my actions.”

“I have...work to do,” Bri said, finally. “I have to go.”

“Good-bye.”

Carew hung up and sat back. No definite answer, but definitely no softening. Well, he had told Tamara that she was holding out for something that couldn’t happen. Bri hated him, and she hated him all the more because she had been a daddy’s girl as a child. Carew could smile when he thought of her toddling along behind him, everywhere he went, not even asking for anything, just wanting to be wherever he was. However, he had ruined all that and since it was his own fault, he couldn’t do more than indicate that there was an opening. Bri didn’t want to take it and he would have to accept that he had irretrievably alienated his daughter.

Then, he looked at his watch. It was time to meet with Dr. Hicks. He got up and headed out.

“Levi?”

He turned and saw the hopeful look on Tamara’s face. He hated to dash her hopes, but it wasn’t fair to leave her thinking there was any possibility.

“You were listening?” he asked.

“Just enough to know what you were talking about. Who you were talking to.”

“Bri hates me, Tamara. That hasn’t changed.”

“She said no?”

“She didn’t answer outright, but the writing is on the wall. I’m sorry, but I can’t force her to forgive unforgivable actions. I have to get going.”

He turned to leave again, but Tamara caught his hand, pulled him around and hugged him.

“Please, don’t give up yet, Levi,” she whispered. “You can’t see it, but I can. Don’t give up.”

“Don’t hold out for what can’t happen, Tamara,” he said in return, albeit gently.

“It can. I have to hope because you don’t know how.”

She let him go and he left.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Bri sat in her office, staring at her phone. She hadn’t thought that anything in the world could surprise her after all the things she’d experienced in the CIA. Go figure that it would be her own father giving her such a shock.

At the same time, she couldn’t help thinking that it was just like him to do this to her. She’d got to a point where she finally felt like she was in a good place, she felt stable and secure and suddenly, there he was, saying that he wanted her to visit, admitting to human grief when he had spent most of her life showing absolutely nothing, and saying that he loved his family. It was ridiculous and she couldn’t decide if it was depressing or infuriating.

She had about twenty minutes before her next appointment and she decided to eat her lunch. She only got halfway through her sandwich before her phone rang again.

“If this is you again, Dad,” she muttered. “Dr. Carew.”

“Bri, it’s your mother.”

“Mom, you put him up to it, didn’t you.”

“I asked him to think about it, but I didn’t know he was going to do it until I heard him on the phone. If I had known, I would have tried to get you to listen to him. Tell me something. Do you hate your father?”

“Mom, nothing you do is going to change what happened.”

“That’s not what I asked,” she said. “Your father is sure that you do. I’m sure that you don’t. Which of us is right?”

“Mom, why are you doing this?”

“Because I love both of you and I don’t want to live the rest of my life with a broken family. It’s been broken for far too long and I want to put it back together as much as it can be.”

“It won’t ever be whole. There will always be something missing,” Bri said.

“Yes, and I think that Quinn would have been more willing to give your father a chance than you are...because you were closer to Levi than Quinn was. Bri, I won’t force you to change how you feel, but your father really is making an effort. You want him to be something he can’t be. He’s trying. Can’t you at least meet him part way?”

“You hated him.”

“Yes, I did. I hated the director of the CIA, but I always loved your father.”

“They’re not two different people, Mom. There’s only one.”

“Yes, it’s true, but your father made himself into a different person. He had his reasons. I didn’t agree with them, but I understand why.”

“And that’s enough for you?”

“Yes. It doesn’t have to be enough for you, but it’s enough for me. Please, Brianna. Give your father a chance. He won’t be like he was. I don’t think that’s possible, but he can be better...if the people he cares about help him, even when he doesn’t think he needs the help. And you don’t need to talk about deserving it. He knows he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to ask for what he doesn’t deserve, but I am asking you to give him the chance you don’t want to give him. Please?”

The thing that bugged Bri the most is that she never felt like she could outright refuse when her mother asked her to do things.

“I can’t promise anything,” she said, finally.

“I’m not asking for promises. I’m asking for effort.”

“Okay.”

“Thank you.”

“I have to get to work, Mom,” Bri said.

“Then, I’ll let you go. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Bri hung up and took a deep breath. Then, she shook her head and got ready for her next appointment.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

The clouds were building. It looked like they were in for a thunderstorm soon. Carew looked out the window for a few minutes without speaking, remembering that his completely illogical directions had actually led them to where Tim and Zahara had been left. That had been a slim chance and he was amazed that it had worked out, but that was how he had often worked. He made decisions very quickly and firmly, rather than wasting time, standing around, wondering which decision was right.

The door behind him opened.

“Levi, you look very deep in thought.”

“Self-reflection,” he said and turned around.

Dr. Hicks smiled at him and limped back to his usual chair. He’d had to step out to consult for a few minutes in the middle of the session.

“My feet are improving,” he said as he propped them up on a footrest. “My doctor said that they’ll improve faster if I take it easy on them. I’m attempting to follow my doctor’s advice.”

Carew sat down.

“Do you ever regret being saved?” Carew asked.

“No,” Dr. Hicks replied, without hesitation. “Do I hate the pain? Yes. Do I hate that it happened at all? Yes. But do I regret being saved? Absolutely not.” He smiled. “I still remember that day as one of the best days of my life because I knew that the agony would be over. ...and you were my savior that day, Levi.”

Carew rolled his eyes slightly.

“I’m not using the word in the Christian sense, necessarily. It means one who saves or rescues. Literally, that is what you did for me. You took me off of that table and out of that room and into the light for the first time in a year. You can dismiss the description all you want to, Levi, but you were my savior, and I’m grateful for it, pain and all.”

Then, Dr. Hicks’ expression changed.

“I’m especially grateful because I know what you ended up having to sacrifice for that. I don’t know if the tradeoff was worth it.”

“It’s always worth saving a life, if possible,” Carew said.

“Is that why you agreed to help Ray Cruz?”

“I did that because Agent McGee insisted.”

“No, Agent McGee insisted on the confrontation. What came later was all you, and Ray is much better off now than he would have been. But he’ll never rid himself of the guilt.”

“He shouldn’t. He committed murder,” Carew said.

“Yes, he did, but he can at least accept his own actions now. ...which is more than you do.”

“I have long since accepted my actions, Dr. Hicks,” Carew said. “I have also killed quite a few people in my time. I accept the choices I made as necessities, even though I hurt my family in doing so, since I know that’s what you’re referring to.”

“But you don’t accept the changes you could make. You want things to be on the path you choose and you control.” He paused and then smiled. “In a way, you’re a lot like Tim, only his need for control was borne of desperation and pain. But you both want to be able to control the world around you so that anything that happens is what you have allowed to happen. Any mistakes are your fault and any triumphs are yours. Every decision, good or bad, is yours. It might leave you alone, but at least, you made the decision. You have a chance to change things. Sure, you’re getting older and maybe changing is harder to do, but you still have the chance.”

Carew looked at him with some amusement.

“You seem to still have the same rose-colored glasses you’ve always had, Dr. Hicks.”

“No,” Dr. Hicks said, and Carew was surprised to see pity in his eyes. “No, Levi. I don’t see the world through rose-colored glasses. I see the world as something that can always change for the better. And, in part, you’re responsible for my outlook.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes. You came into the world of pain I had grown to assume was permanent and you changed it. I assumed there was no end to the pain, that I would be like that forever, but you came into that room and you changed my entire world. Even when things seem set in stone, they can change. You can make the decision to change, and you’re doing it, even though you’re figuratively kicking and screaming the whole way.”

Carew smiled and sat down.

“So, now, your turn. Tell me something I don’t know.”

This was a part of every session he had with Dr. Hicks. It was like a rehearsal for the rest of his week. He was supposed to tell something about himself that he didn’t want to tell. Carew supposed that this was useful, but he had to admit that he hated it.

“I called Bri just before I came here.”

“And?”

“And I did as Tamara asked me to do, and it just proved to me that my daughter has no intention of forgiving me.”

“You can’t expect forgiveness to come in a single conversation,” Dr. Hicks said.

“I don’t.”

Dr. Hicks smiled. “No, you don’t expect it at all.”

“I don’t deserve it.”

“Why not?”

“Because my neglect was deliberate. My intentions were good, broadly speaking, but the results weren’t pleasant.”

“And how did you feel when she rejected your attempt?”

Carew raised an eyebrow at Dr. Hicks. That sounded way too much like a stereotypical shrink. Dr. Hicks smiled at his reaction.

“There’s a reason why that’s associated with therapy, Levi. Especially in your case where you don’t like talking about how you feel. Actions and decisions are easy for you, but you don’t like to even admit you have feelings.”

“Actually, it was almost a relief.”

“Why is that?” Dr. Hicks asked, serious again.

“Because I don’t want to have to deal with her hating me, and... she’s my only child. Now.”

Dr. Hicks nodded.

“So will you try again?”

“I doubt it. If she indicated that she might be open, I would, but without that, I see no point.”

“Levi, this is your daughter, not a CIA mission. You can’t treat it the same way. She has to have time to get over your deliberate neglect. If you keep at it, she’ll mellow over time.”

“You don’t know my daughter.”

“No, I don’t. I never had her as a client, but I’m more familiar with how children are in general. You should give her more than one chance. ...and Levi, you don’t need to engage in self-flagellation to prove your point. Figurative or physical, all that will do is hurt. It won’t make anything better, not for you or anyone else.”

Carew looked at his watch. He was meticulous about starting on time and stopping on time.

“Finished,” he said.

Dr. Hicks looked at the clock. “You’re correct, as usual.”

Carew stood and started to leave, but then, he thought about what Tim had said to him and about the photograph that was still in his wallet, that reminder of the horrors involved in lying. He stopped at the door, but he didn’t turn around.

“I’ve never had rose-colored glasses that I remember,” he said, softly. “My mother may have, but she lost them in the war, and my father definitely didn’t, either. I’ve never seen the world like that, not even as a child. I can’t fathom what the world must look like to someone like Agent McGee.”

“He doesn’t see the world through rose-colored glasses, Levi. Tim is well-aware of how bad the world can be.”

“And yet, he hasn’t let it ruin him. He actually said that there is only one thing he can’t forgive me for, and even with that, he also said that he would help me if I needed help.”

“Are you saying that you’re ruined?”

“Yes,” Carew admitted. “But I did it on purpose, never thinking that I’d have to try to rebuild. I was likely to die, first. So it didn’t matter.”

“And you didn’t die.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Maybe you should take a page from Tim’s book and refuse to accept the ruins.”

Carew smiled. “Maybe.”

Then, he left.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

The clouds looked ominous and threatening, but Tim didn’t care. He was focused on tonight and on what would happen with Zahara. He was excited and nervous.

...and he had the ring in his pocket.

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 Post subject: Chapter 53
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 6:20 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:05 am
Posts: 52863
Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 53

“I wonder what he is thinking,” Zahara said, as she looked at the clothes she’d purchased, trying to decide what to wear.

Ziva and Abby laughed.

“He’s thinking that he wants to take you out, more formally,” Abby said. “That’s what Tim is like. He doesn’t want to just hang out. He wants an official date. I think you should wear the red shirt.”

Zahara picked up one of the red shirts she’d purchased.

“This seems different, though,” she said. “I have gone on official dates with him before. This does not seem the same.”

“Do you want to wear something new or something you brought with you?” Ziva asked.

“Something new,” Zahara said. “I bought these clothes. I should wear them. I am just not sure which will be right for what Tim is thinking.”

“You could be wearing a potato sack and Tim wouldn’t care,” Abby said.

“But I care,” Zahara said.

“I still think red is the way to go.”

Zahara looked at Ziva. Ziva smiled.

“You do look very good in red.”

Abby walked over to the neatly folded shirts. She picked up one of the red shirts Zahara had chosen.

“This one. It’s nice and filmy.”

“I do not know that word,” Zahara said.

“It flows and it’s light fabric so you won’t get hot. You could wear it with...these pants.”

“Not a dress?”

“You could, but you don’t have to.”

“You also have this skirt that you chose,” Ziva said, pointing to the black skirt.

“Hey, how about these?” Abby said, holding up a pair of palazzo pants. “It’s almost like both a skirt and pants at the same time! And they’ll look great with the shirt!”

“You are determined to have her wear that shirt, Abby,” Ziva said.

“Yes! Because it’s the best choice!”

“I will try it,” Zahara said and took the clothes Abby had chosen.

“Do you think Tim has something else in mind?” Abby asked in a low voice once Zahara had left the room.

“I am not sure. He seems excited, but that could just be because he is excited about Zahara being here with him and not wanting to leave.”

“He’s going all out for this, but it is a little early for a fancy dinner.”

“Perhaps they will go somewhere afterward.”

“Yeah. Hopefully, it’s not outside. It’s going to start pouring any minute.”

Ziva looked outside at the darkening clouds.

“Yes. I think it will rain tonight. Maybe that will help it cool off.”

“No. It’ll just make tomorrow feel even hotter.”

The bedroom door opened and Zahara came out in the outfit Abby had chosen. Ziva had to admit that Abby had made a good choice.

“You look beautiful. Tim will not know what to say.”

Zahara smiled. “I was afraid he would not speak at all, the first time we went on a date.”

Abby laughed.

“Now, what are you going to do with your hair?”

“I will show you and you can tell me if you think it will look right,” Zahara said. She went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Ziva and Abby waited and wondered what Zahara had in mind. After a few minutes, she returned with her hair partially pulled up, secured in place with a few sparkling clips which were joined together with a strand of small pearls.

“What do you think?” she asked. “It belonged to my mother.”

“Perfect!” Abby said. “Tim is going to die when he sees you.”

“Oh, I hope not,” Zahara said, smiling.

Abby laughed. Then, suddenly, Zahara’s smile faded although she still seemed happy.

“What is it?” Ziva asked.

“Thank you for being here with me. I miss Fatima and Khadija. You are nothing like them, but it is nice to have friends here. I do not feel so out of place.”

Abby hugged her tightly.

“I wasn’t sure when you first came, but you’re always welcome!” she said. Then, she let Zahara go like she had been burned. “Oh, no! I’m going to mess up your outfit!”

She straightened the shirt while Zahara tried to fend her off. Ziva just laughed.

Then, there was a knock at the door.

“It’s Tim!” Abby said. “We have to hide so it’s like he’s actually picking you up.”

“He is picking her up,” Ziva said.

Abby just tsk-ed at her and grabbed her by the arm. Ziva resisted for a moment.

“You should answer the door, Zahara,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Abby is determined to have us out of the way.”

Zahara laughed and nodded.

Abby dragged Ziva back into the kitchen and then pulled Ziva down onto her knees.

“What are you doing, Abby?” Ziva asked.

“I want to hear what they say, but I want to be out of the way,” she whispered loudly.

“They are not staying here,” Ziva said.

“Shh!”

They heard Zahara open the door.

“Hello, Tim.”

There was a moment of silence and Abby held back laughter.

“He’s probably trying to think of something to say. I can just see his face. His mind has gone blank!” she whispered.

Ziva tried not to laugh, but she agreed.

“You look amazing,” Tim said, finally.

“Thank you. Ziva and Abby said you would like this.”

“I do. Are you ready to go?” They could hear the smile in his voice.

“Yes.”

They heard the door close and Abby jumped to her feet.

“You know, I don’t think Tim has been this happy in years. It’s sad, but it’s great that it’s happening now,” she said. “I’ve hated seeing his eyes so dark all the time. Even when things were good, they weren’t really great. I think they’re great now.”

“He will not be perfect,” Ziva said. “Too much has happened.”

“But haven’t you noticed how happy Zahara makes him?”

“Yes, I have.”

“I think it’s great. I was ready to hate her, but I can’t. She’s too nice.”

“You are always ready to hate the women Tim likes.”

“I just don’t want them to hurt him.”

“Like you?”

Abby furrowed her brow.

“Yes. Like me. So...now what? I don’t have a date, tonight. Do you?”

“No.”

“Then, let’s get something to eat and rent a movie! We can have a girls’ night! ...or we could invite Tony.”

Ziva shook her head. “A girls’ night sounds good.”

“Great!”

They sat down and decided where they were going to get dinner.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Tim drove Zahara to a fancy Moroccan restaurant, hoping that it would be good.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked.

“It’s a restaurant that specializes in modern Moroccan food, along with some Spanish. It’s supposed to be really good, but I hope it’s not a disappointment. I wanted it to be a little reminder of home for you.”

“Even if it is not real, if the food is good, I will not mind.”

“Good. And this time, I know that the waiter will speak English.”

Zahara laughed at the reminder of their first date.

He parked and then led Zahara to the restaurant.

“Hello, my name is Tim McGee. I have a reservation for two.”

The hostess nodded and smiled.

“I’ll take you right back,”

Tim and Zahara walked back to a private room and were seated at a table with soft lighting.

“It is so quiet in here,” Zahara said.

“I decided to splurge a little.”

“Splurge?”

“Spend a little more for more.”

“More what?”

Tim smiled. “More of this.”

Zahara smiled, too.

They ordered their food and when the entrees arrived, Tim watched Zahara as she started eating, hoping that she would like it, that it would be what she was used to. She took a few bites and then looked up and noticed. She smiled.

“I like it, Tim. Do not worry.”

“Is it authentic? Real?”

“Almost,” she said. “Something about it is not the same, but it may be that this restaurant uses better meat than I could get in Marrakech or in Melilla.”

She reached out and squeezed his arm gently.

“I am glad you brought me here. I like it.”

“Okay.”

Tim took a deep breath and tried to relax and forget about the ring in his pocket. They chatted easily all through dinner. A couple of times, he noticed some thunder outside, but he mostly ignored that. Near the end of the meal, Tim smiled mischievously.

“What?” Zahara asked.

“Tell me something, and I want you to be honest.”

“Of course.”

Tim grinned. “Do you really like the mint tea?”

For a moment, Zahara furrowed her brow, but then, she laughed and nodded.

“Yes, I do. I prefer the second cup to the first which is weak or the last which is too strong.”

“I’ve been wanting to ask someone, but I never dared while I was in Morocco.”

“You do not like it?”

“Not really. I’m more of a coffee guy.”

“I did notice that coffee is everywhere here, but there is tea, as well.”

“Yeah. You can get pretty much anything when you’re in a big city. Tea is popular enough that there are a lot of options. You could probably find the tea you like.”

“I will remember that. Ziva has some tea, but it is not what I prefer.”

“Maybe we could go looking for it, sometime,” Tim said.

“If you did not mind.”

“Not at all. As long as you don’t make me drink it.”

For dessert, they got a small cookie platter to share, with Zahara having the traditional mint tea and Tim having his coffee.

Once they finished eating, Tim paid and they left the restaurant. Now, he had to put his plan into motion. He looked at Zahara as they headed for his car. It had rained while they were in the restaurant. All the better. That meant he had a better chance of avoiding rain for the rest of the evening.

“Zahara, I’d like to take you to Shenandoah,” Tim said, banking on Zahara having no idea what Shenandoah was or where...or how big.

“What is it?”

“It’s a park. I want you to see it. It’s beautiful and not too far from D.C. I saw the Ouzoud Falls when I was in Morocco and I want you to see the kind of...landscape we have here.”

“Yes, I would like to see that,” Zahara said.

Inside, Tim was celebrating. This was going to work.

He hoped.

He desperately hoped.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

They drove through a couple of brief downpours on the way. When they got to Shenandoah, the clouds were low but no rain was falling. Tim drove to the Hogback Overlook and parked. He noticed the CIA car that drove down to a point mostly out of sight and tried to ignore it. Then, he got out of the car, ran around to open the door for Zahara and led her over to the viewpoint.

“This is Shenandoah,” he said. “This is basically what I missed when I was in Morocco.”

“It is so green,” Zahara said. “There are places where many things grow in Morocco, but I have never seen so much green in one place. It does not seem to end. And there are so many trees growing here. It is beautiful, Tim.”

“I’m glad you like it,” Tim said.

“I am glad you showed it to me,” she said.

Tim screwed up his courage and felt in his pocket. “Now, I have a question for you, Zahara.”

She looked away from the view and at him.

“Yes?”

“I don’t know how it’s done in either Morocco or Melilla, but this is how it’s done here.”

With a deep breath, Tim knelt down and pulled out the ring box. He opened it and lifted it up so that she could see it.

“Zahara...will you marry me?”

As soon as he got the words out, the heavens opened up and it began to rain. Zahara didn’t move, not even as the rain became heavy. She stood there, staring at him with her hands over her mouth. That meant that all he could see was her brown eyes, no expression.

“It doesn’t have to be right now. If you still want time, I can wait. I will wait. It would be worth it,” he said. “I love you. I love you so much, and with some help, I realized that there was no reason why I would keep waiting to ask when I could be with you that much sooner.”

For a few interminable seconds, Zahara said nothing as they both stood (or knelt) in the pouring rain.

Then, Zahara knelt down so that she was at the same level as he was.

“Tim...are you sure that...that I am what you want? That I am not just...what you have right now?”

“Yes,” Tim said. “There are a lot of things in my life I’m not sure of, but I am sure about you.”

She looked at the ring and then at him and then, in a moment of complete abandon that he’d never seen from her, she laughed and hugged him tightly.

“Oh, Tim. I love you. Yes, I will marry you. If you want me.”

“I do,” Tim said, holding her.

When they finally pulled apart, Zahara looked at the ring again.

“What happens now, in America?”

“If you’re accepting me,” Tim said, “then, I put the ring on your left ring finger. It’s a symbol to everyone that we’re engaged.”

Zahara nodded and put out her hand. Tim slid the ring on her finger and was gratified that it fit perfectly.

Then, he kissed her.

Kneeling in the rain in Shenandoah Park, they kissed until a clap of thunder startled them. Tim looked up at the sky.

“It’s raining,” he said.

“Yes, it is. Just like in the desert,” Zahara said.

“I missed that rain,” Tim said. “I never felt it, but you were there and that was better than any rainstorm. Now... Now, it’s raining and you’re here with me. Zahara, you saved me...not just in the desert, but in...life. I never thought I’d be able to fall in love, that I could be with someone. You’ve proved me wrong, and I was never so glad to be wrong.”

He kissed her again as lightning flashed overhead.

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 Post subject: Chapter 54
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 6:27 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:05 am
Posts: 52863
Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 54

“We’d better get back in the car before we’re washed away,” Tim said, finally.

“Yes, I think my clothes will be ruined,” Zahara said, not seeming to care at all.

“I’ll buy you new ones,” Tim said.

They stood together and ran back to the car. Then, they got in and Tim turned on the heat to get rid of the fog on the windshield. While he waited for the glass to clear, he looked at Zahara. She was bedraggled from the rain. Her hair was stringy and dripping. Her clothes were soaked. And, to Tim, she was the most beautiful person in the entire world. She was looking at the ring he’d chosen. Then, she looked at him and smiled.

“This is a beautiful ring. I should have worn blue. I have a blue shirt,” she said. “Abby insisted on red.”

“Abby always insists,” Tim said, gently moving her hair off her face. “It looks good with red. Or blue. Or any color. As long as you’re wearing it.”

Zahara smiled and squeezed some of the water out of her hair.

“I will have to tell Ahmed and you must tell your family. It is wrong to keep it from them.”

Tim nodded. “I will. And they’ll love you, too.”

“Not everyone has to love me,” Zahara said. “Only you.”

“I know, but my family will love you. Sarah will scream when I tell her...and my parents will ask me why I kept it from them.”

“What will you tell them?”

“I don’t know, yet,” Tim said. “But I’ll call them tomorrow. Should I have asked Ahmed for permission to propose?”

“Officially, yes,” Zahara said, “but he already knew that this was a possibility and he did not have any objection. He will be happy. So will Fatima and Khadija.”

Tim grinned. “I hope so.” Then, his smile faded.

“What is wrong?” Zahara asked.

“Suddenly, I feel like I need to give all the worst-case scenarios for how things could go wrong...just to make sure that you know what you could be getting into by being with me.”

Zahara shook her head and put her hand on Tim’s cheek. “No, Tim. Do not think that way. You have told me what is possible already. I understand that. I am not accepting without knowing. Do not let your fear ruin your happiness.”

Tim covered her hand with his own.

“Or mine,” she added.

He moved his hand to her cheek.

“I’m still working on believing that I can be happy,” he said.

“You can,” Zahara said. “I know you can, and if you can, so can I.”

Tim took Zahara’s hands in his. He bent over and kissed her palms.

“Thank you for loving me,” he said.

“Thank you for giving me time to see that I could.”

They kissed once more and then Tim drove them back to DC. He dropped her off at Ziva’s, although he didn’t really want to, and then, he drove, not to his apartment but to Gibbs’ house. He parked and then sat where he was for a long time. He started to smile and wasn’t sure he could stop.

She said yes!

Then, he got out of the car and walked to Gibbs’ door. He paused, knocked once and then stepped inside. He looked around and smiled. Gibbs was in the basement, of course.

He walked to the door and opened it. What he saw when he looked down was not what he had expected. Instead of Gibbs working on some project, he was just sitting on a stool, staring at a jar with bourbon in it. His smile faded a little.

“Boss?”

Gibbs looked up at him.

“You’re wet, McGee.”

Tim smiled. “I know. I’m soaked to the skin.”

“Not usually something you’re happy about.”

Tim thumped down the stairs.

“I know. And I guess I’m not happy about being soaked, but I don’t care. I don’t know if anything could bother me right now. Boss, I proposed to Zahara and she said yes! I’m going to get married!”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

“Just like that?”

“Well, I was planning for a few days.”

“Who knew?”

“Just me. No one else, although I’ll admit that my CIA guard might have been able to put two and two together when he had to follow me to a jeweler twice and then to pick up Zahara for our date.”

“When is it happening?”

“Don’t know yet. We’ll figure that out. I haven’t even told my family yet, and she needs to tell her brother and her friends back in Marrakech.”

“I’m happy for you, Tim,” Gibbs said.

Tim knew he meant it, and yet, he could see something else and he decided that they needed to talk about it, now that he wasn’t halfway high on morphine.

Tim took off his wet jacket and faced Gibbs. He took off his shirt, revealing all the scars on his back, on his side, on his arms. Then, he reached down and touched the small, white scars on his sides, the beginning, and he forced himself to look Gibbs in the eye.

“Boss, please, stop beating yourself up about all this,” he gesturing to his body. “This is my past and in some ways it’s still my present and might be my future, too. But I’m stronger than all this. I can’t say that it doesn’t define me to some degree. It does. It has to. But it’s not the master anymore. I’m in control of myself. I can’t control the world, but I’m in control of me. It’s going to take time for me to not be afraid of losing this feeling that I have now, of being happy. It is, but falling in love with Zahara is helping me. And what I hate is knowing that you still blame yourself.”

“Who else can you blame, Tim?” Gibbs asked.

“No one,” Tim said, bluntly, and then, he laughed a little, although without much humor. “This all did start because of what you asked me to do. It’s true. I’m not denying it. I’m not pretending that you had nothing to do with it, but I don’t need to blame anyone. I don’t need to find someone to put all my pain on. Not even Carew, Boss. I don’t hate him. Whether I should or not, and I know Tony would say I should. I can’t, and I don’t want to. There’s been too much hate in my life already. I don’t need more. And I don’t need you to put yourself between me and the rest of the world. You aren’t my bodyguard, Boss. Unfortunately, I already have more than one. They’re outside, right now.”

“And you’re really all right with that?”

“Yes, because it’s part of who I am now. My life is having CIA guards, friends and coworkers at NCIS, a family who doesn’t know how bad it’s been for me the last ten years, and now, soon a wife who is aware of my life and doesn’t mind the potential danger. I have friends, enemies, family, people who have done things for me without any expectation of payment. But my life is good, right now, Boss. It’s good and I don’t need you to...suffer in my place. So, please, don’t. Dr. Hicks has told me more than once that I need to let the past go. So do you. Let it go, Boss.”

“Can’t just do it all at once,” Gibbs said.

Tim smiled. “I know. I know that more than most, but I want you to know that I’m not blaming you. I’m not angry at you. Right now, the only specific person I will admit to hating is Jorgenson and if I could, I’d beat him to a bloody pulp. Since I can’t, I’ll accept the way things are. But I’m going to build the life I always wanted. As much as I can, and I’m going to have the best part of it. I’m going to get married. I don’t think it’ll be easy, but I know it’ll be worth it. I don’t want you to look at me feeling guilty for the past. I want you to be happy for me because of what I have now, because what more I can have in the future.” He paused and then grinned. “If you need more of a reason than that, it’ll make my life better if I know you’re not feeling guilty.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow and smiled.

“Are you planning on leaving your shirt off all night?” he asked.

Tim smiled. “No. I was making a point.”

He quickly put his shirt back on, shivering a little as the wet fabric touched his skin. Then, he faced Gibbs again. Gibbs pointed to the wood Tim had been working on.

“You going to finish that?” he asked.

“If you’ll help me get the angles right,” Tim said.

Gibbs set down the bourbon and walked over.

“It’s not that hard,” he said.

“Show me,” Tim said.

He watched Gibbs as he demonstrated the best way to get the angles Tim needed to make his frame and he knew that Gibbs was deflecting a bit, but he wasn’t the kind of person comfortable with these conversations. Tim knew he’d been heard and that was the important thing.

So he focused on the frame, thinking it would be perfect for when he and Zahara were married and living together.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

Zahara couldn’t stop looking at the ring as she walked to the door of Ziva’s apartment. It was as if Tim had found a small piece of Morocco and brought it to America. Part of her was worried that this was moving too quickly, but most of her was thrilled beyond measure at this illustration of just how much Tim loved her. He had said it before she had expected it, but this had been coming ever since she had decided to come to the U.S. She knew it and the longer she had the ring, the better she felt about it. She was feeling ever more secure in sharing her feelings.

Finally, she unlocked the door and went inside. She could hear the TV and she walked into the living room to see Ziva and Abby watching a movie. Abby noticed her first.

“You’re back! How was it?”

“Very good,” Zahara said, smiling.

“You are soaking,” Ziva said. “What happened?”

Zahara felt her smile widen. “We ate dinner and then, Tim took me to Shenandoah.”

“Did you go on a hike and get stuck in the rain?” Abby asked. “You weren’t really dressed for that. Tim should have known better!”

“No,” Zahara said. “No, we were only a few steps from his car.”

“So why didn’t you just get in?”

“We were...distracted. Because...” Zahara held out her left hand. “...he was asking me a question.”

Abby’s mouth fell open and then she shrieked and hugged Zahara.

“That’s great! You’re getting married!”

“Yes,” Zahara said. “Yes, we are going to marry.”

“When?” Ziva asked.

“We did not decide on a day. We have to tell our families, first. He said that we have time, and we do.”

“This is so amazing!” Abby said. “Let me see the ring.”

She took Zahara’s hand and examined the ring closely. Zahara wasn’t sure she’d ever completely get used to how physical Abby was. She hugged and shook and danced and grabbed, all with reckless abandon. She didn’t seem to notice or care what others thought.

“It is a beautiful ring. Did you know he was going to ask you?” Ziva asked.

“I did not know,” Zahara said. “He did this on his own.”

“It seems to fit very well.”

“It is perfect. I do not know how he did it.”

“Why blue?” Abby asked. “That’s different.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” Ziva said. “Typically, engagement rings are diamonds.”

“Oh,” Zahara said, looking at the ring again. She smiled. “It is because he said that the blue he saw in Morocco was one of the things he would remember most. There are gardens in Marrakech that use blue for the decorations and for some of the some of the buildings. Tim was very impressed. It was the first time he held my hand, and he told me that I was beautiful.”

“Awww,” Abby said, happily. “That’s great. Well, change into something dry and then you have to tell us everything! Every second!”

Zahara nodded and went into her room to change. Ziva and Abby were different, but they were becoming friends, and she was happy to be able to share her good news with them.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

It was late when Tim finally went back to his apartment. He sat there for a while, thinking about what Zahara had said, thinking about his family and how little he’d told them about his life the last few years.

Finally, even though it was pretty late, he decided to call home. With his news, he was sure they wouldn’t mind.

He dialed quickly and listened to the ringing phone.

“Hello, McGees.”

“It doesn’t sound like I woke you up, Mom,” Tim said, smiling.

“Tim! You caught us on our way to bed. What’s up?”

“I have some big news. Dad will want to hear this, too. I’m sure you’ll both have a lot of things you want to ask me.”

“Well, that sounds different. Just a minute.”

Tim heard the click as his dad got on the other phone.

“Okay, Tim. I’m here,” Sam said. “What’s going on?”

“I’m getting married,” Tim said, with no attempt at delaying his news.

There was a long pause in reaction.

“You’re... Tim, what?” Naomi asked.

“I’m getting married. I proposed to her, tonight. We haven’t set a date yet, though.”

“To who? Where did you meet her? When? How? Tim...this is out of the blue.”

“I know. Her name is Zahara Mokrani. I met her Marrakech, where I spent about six weeks.”

Another long pause.

“You were in Marrakech for six weeks and you never told us?” Sam asked.

“Yes.”

“Tim, I know you’ve kept a lot from us the last little while, and I accept that it might be necessary, but can you tell us anything?” Naomi asked.

“The FBI accused me of treason and I had to run to make sure they couldn’t arrest me,” Tim said.

Again, there was a pause. Tim knew why. This was more than he’d told them in years.

“Why would anyone think you were a traitor?”

“He didn’t,” Tim said, still feeling the same anger that Jorgenson’s actions always awoke in him. “He wanted to get control of me, to use me for his own purposes.”

“Who?”

“I probably shouldn’t tell you,” Tim said. “But he was going to use some of the classified things I’ve been involved in the last ten years as evidence.”

“Tim, is this at all related to NCIS?”

“Only because I’m an employee. It’s had nothing to with NCIS itself. More...the CIA.”

“The CIA?” Sam repeated. “Tim, where is all this coming from?”

“Dad, I can’t tell you. But I knew that I couldn’t just tell you I’d met someone and I was getting married. You know me well enough to know that I wouldn’t have kept all this from you for nothing.” Tim chanced a quote. “Goethe said, ‘Whoever wishes to keep a secret must hide the fact that he possesses one.’ That’s why I wasn’t telling you anything at all. I hated it, but I had to.”

“‘Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.’ Paul Tournier.”

“It’s true. I’ve been alone for a lot of what’s happened to me, but it’s been getting better and better and I’m so happy to have found Zahara. I had given up on ever falling in love with the way my life has been, but I met her and I love her.”

“How long have you known her, Tim?” Naomi asked.

“About three months, now.”

“And you proposed tonight?”

“Yes.”

“She’s from Morocco?”

“She’s actually from Melilla, but her dad was from Morocco and her mom was from Spain. They’re both dead. She has a brother who lives in Cairo.”

“And she’s there with you in D.C.?”

“Actually, she’s staying with Ziva, and I think she will until we get married,” Tim said.

“How well do you know her?”

Tim smiled, knowing that his parents were still digesting the fact that he’d concealed so much from them and was still not telling them everything.

“I’m still finding out details, but I know who she is,” Tim said. “I know her and I love her.”

“When do we get to meet her, then?”

“Whenever you want to. I’m just getting back to work, so I probably shouldn’t take more time off, especially when I’ll be getting married soon. But if you have time to come down here, I’ll be happy to introduce you.”

“Have you told Sarah?”

“No. I wanted to tell you, first.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that. Tim... without getting into the details of what you don’t think you can tell us, are you safe?”

“Mostly.”

“Only mostly?”

“Yeah. That’s better than I was. Remember when I was out of contact with you for months?”

“Yes. Agent Gibbs told us that something was going on, but he couldn’t say what.”

“Yeah. I was almost killed, Mom,” Tim said. “Those months I spent out of contact, I was recovering, getting physical therapy so that I could walk again after...”

“After what, Tim?” Sam asked.

“After getting my feet beaten with a metal bar. I can’t tell you any more than that. Right now, I’m mostly safe. I’ve told Zahara as much as I can so that she’s not in the dark about what my life could be like, but she’s decided that she can accept it. How many people could do that? Knowing that my life could be dangerous, how many people would be willing to be in a relationship with me? She knows and she still loves me and wants to be with me.”

“Tim, I had no idea.”

“You weren’t supposed to,” Tim said. “For a while, I didn’t want to tell you because it was too hard for me to talk about it, and so much of it has to stay hidden, but now, where there’s such a big change coming for me, I couldn’t leave you out any longer. Can you forgive me?”

“Of course,” Naomi said. “I’m just sorry that we never knew. Sam is off for the summer. We’ll come down to meet her next week. All right?”

“Yes, that’s fine. Mom, Dad, I love you both. I never kept this from you because I didn’t trust you.”

“I understand, Tim. Well, we’ll be there with bells on. Make sure you tell your sister, too.”

“I will. I want everyone to know.”

“It’s getting late, and we need to get to bed, but thank you for telling us, and congratulations, Tim. If you’ve found someone you love and who loves you, you can’t get better than that.”

“I know. Thanks.”

They said their good-byes and then, Tim hung up. He sat where he was for a while and thought about what he’d told his parents. He knew he probably should have done that sooner, but he never had the incentive to deal with the awkwardness.

Until now. Zahara was helping him in more ways than one.

The thought made him smile again and he decided to try to go to bed.

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 Post subject: Chapter 55
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 6:32 pm 
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Title: DOCTOR!
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Chapter 55

Over the next few weeks, Tim felt like things exploded, but in a good way. His parents came to meet Zahara. Ahmed flew to D.C. to meet Tim. They settled on a wedding date four months from the day that Tim had proposed. It was fairly quick, but neither of them wanted to delay. They’d already faced the prospect of separation after Tim had been stabbed and then with Zahara’s fear, and they didn’t want that. Tim told everyone he could about his upcoming nuptials, wanting to share his joy with as many people as possible. He called Daniel and told him. He tracked down Lawrence and Amin and let them know. He told Dr. Hicks at one of his sessions.

One of the more serious things he did, though, involved a meeting with Roy at the CIA, asking about adding Zahara to the protection detail. While he hoped that nothing would ever come of it, Tim knew that if someone wanted to get to him more easily, they would just have to go after the people he loved, and Zahara would be an easy target. Roy agreed and added her, mostly as a side note to what was already being done.

Then, they could get down to the process of planning. While it was traditionally the bride’s prerogative to plan the wedding, with Zahara being new to the U.S., Tim felt it would be wrong to dump it on her.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

“What kind of a wedding do you want to have?” Tim asked.

He and Zahara were sitting in Rock Creek Park, trying to figure out what to do with their wedding. They’d packed a lunch and were sitting on a blanket by the creek.

“I do not know.”

“Do you want to do something Moroccan? Spanish? Muslim? Christian? Jamaican?” Tim asked.

Zahara laughed.

“There are too many choices. Like everything in the United States.”

Tim smiled. “Okay. Let’s try to eliminate some options. Do you want it to be a Muslim ceremony?”

Zahara ate some grapes while she considered it for a few seconds and then she shook her head.

“No. You are not Muslim, and I am but only in part. Christian.”

“Okay. Do you want to do anything cultural? I don’t have any idea what is involved in Moroccan or Spanish weddings.”

“It would be difficult to have a traditional Moroccan wedding here, and very expensive. I do not have enough friends,” Zahara said, smiling. “We should not make this hard for us. Christian, yes. But simple. We will invite the people we want to have and that means only enough room for them.”

“I just don’t want you to have to give up any dreams you might have had. I want you to have the wedding you always wanted.”

Zahara leaned over and kissed Tim on the cheek.

“My dream was to find someone I could love and who would love me. Everything else... it is just a detail. Details change.”

Tim kissed her back.

“Okay. Simple. Christian. Do you want it in a church?”

Zahara furrowed her brow. “Where else?”

“Anywhere, really.”

“Outside?”

“Yeah. Of course.”

“Oh. I had not thought of that.”

“So do you want it outside?”

“What will the weather be?”

“In four months? It could be cold or it could still be warm. It’s hard to say. It’s kind of a transition time for D.C.”

“Then, we should plan on inside. Then, we will not have to change at the last minute.”

“Okay.”

They continued through all the bits and pieces of what they would need. Then, it came down to how many people they’d invite.

“You will have more than I will,” Zahara said. “My brother must be there.”

“Of course. We always make room for family.”

“Good. I have some cousins in Ceuta, but I have not been close to them. I have friends in Melilla and Fatima and Ibrahim and Khadija.”

“Yeah. I have my family. And I have quite a few friends.”

They both made lists. Tim’s was much longer than Zahara’s, but they decided that they could fit everyone they wanted to have there in a fairly small venue. Then, Zahara looked hesitant.

“What?” Tim asked.

“Have you thought of inviting Mr. Carew?”

Tim couldn’t help it. He laughed, a little incredulously. “What?”

“He has done so much for us. I know that there are things about him that you do not like, but...”

The thought had never even crossed Tim’s mind. Carew was definitely not on his list.

“I don’t know, Zahara.”

“I will leave it to you to decide.”

“All right.” Tim was happy to put that idea aside for the time being.

Then, they went back to working on the details. Fatima had offered to help Zahara get a wedding dress that would be appropriate. They’d already been talking about it. Khadija had been trained in the art of drawing with henna, and she had offered to do that for Zahara, a Moroccan tradition. Naomi and Sam had offered to pay for the food as long as it was reasonable. Abby had sworn that she knew someone who would make the perfect wedding cake at a great price. Tim had hesitated in accepting Abby’s offer, knowing how Abby could be, but Zahara had enthusiastically agreed, and Tim had gone along with it. What they really needed was the location, and they needed to decide soon. Otherwise, it would be too late.

Suddenly, Zahara looked back over Tim’s shoulder. He followed her gaze to the two CIA agents sitting casually on a bench about twenty feet from them.

“They really are there all the time,” she said.

“Yeah. I’m used to it, now.”

“I am not, yet,” Zahara said. “It is strange to never be alone.”

“Inside, we are. They don’t follow me inside and they don’t watch inside. That’s part of the deal. And they don’t listen in.”

Zahara nodded. “Do you know them well?”

“Enough that I recognize them. When they change agents, they always change out one at a time so that I can see the new ones with the old ones and know that they’re still agents. I don’t talk to them unless I want to, and they only talk to me when it’s absolutely necessary.”

“Will they be at our wedding?”

“Outside? Yes. Until I’m obsolete or dead, they’ll be there.”

“It is not something I had considered. It will take time to get used to it.”

Tim felt worried, suddenly. “Do you think you will?”

Zahara smiled as she looked in his eyes. “Yes. It will take time, but I will. Do not worry.”

“I’ll try that,” Tim said.

“Good.”

By the time they wrapped up their discussion and Tim took Zahara back to Ziva’s place, they’d decided pretty much everything except a venue. Tim decided to ask for suggestions and he figured that they’d get a good list to work from. The people at NCIS were not shy of giving opinions.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

The wedding date was swiftly drawing near. Tim just wanted it to be done. They’d got photos done and invitations made. They’d been sent out. Surprisingly, Gibbs had been the one to recommend the venue they chose: an historic home, built on the order of an old plantation house. Everything was ordered. Abby had refused to let them see the design of the wedding cake, calling it her gift to them and they would have to trust her that she was picking well. Thankfully, Ziva had assured them both that Abby’s choice was wonderful, and Tim was inclined to trust Ziva’s judgment when it came to things like this. She knew how important it was to him. Abby did, too, but she tended to go overboard. Fatima had sent Zahara a picture of the wedding dress she was bringing with her.

Everything was going well, but Tim really wanted it to be the day so that Zahara could move in and they could get on with life together.

For now, he decided to drive over to Rock Creek and go for a run.

“Jethro! Let’s go!” he called.

Jethro ran over, panting happily, jumping around in anticipation. Tim grabbed Jethro’s collar and got his leash on. Then, he headed out, wondering if his morning guard was ready for a run. He smiled to himself and decided not to make it difficult today. He did sometimes. The only problem was that it often led to him regretting it later on. He could run and he was grateful for that, but when he overdid it, his feet let him know.

He got out of his car, looked over and saw his guard getting out, ready to run. Tim considered inviting him to join him, but then, he shook his head and just started going.

He didn’t go overly fast, nor did he decide to take a long path. He just did his regular jogging and then headed back to his car, satisfied that he’d managed to get Jethro a good amount of exercise, but as he got back to his car, he noticed someone leaning on it and he got a little nervous. He hadn’t seen any sign of the FBI since his confrontation with Jorgenson and he wanted to keep it that way, even with CIA backup.

As he neared, Tim suddenly realized who it was. He slowed down and relaxed.

“Levi,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

“I was waiting for you,” Carew said.

“How did you know I’d be here? I don’t schedule my runs.”

“But you are a creature of habit and I have very good sources, Agent McGee,” Carew said, smiling.

“Well, what do you want?”

“I hear that you’re getting married.”

“Yes. In about a month.”

“Congratulations.”

“Thanks.”

Tim got two bottles of water out of his car. He got Jethro’s bowl and poured some water into it. Then, he got a drink himself and sat down on a bench near his car. Carew followed suit.

“Are you getting married?” Tim asked.

Carew smiled. “Not yet, but Bri is coming down to visit. Reluctantly. I have to admit that she deliberately doesn’t ask about you.”

“I hope you don’t mind, but she’s not someone I particularly care to know, either.”

“She tortured you, and even when she didn’t do that, she was hardly the kindest doctor you’ve had, although I’d say you probably haven’t had anyone more skilled.”

“Maybe not,” Tim said, “but I found her bedside manner to be more than a little lacking.”

Carew smiled again and nodded. “She doesn’t get that from her mother.”

“Honestly, I don’t think she gets it from you, either. You know how to smooth things over if you want to. I think it’s her own thing.”

“She’d be glad to know that.”

“I’m sure she would. Did you just come and track me down to say congratulations?” Tim asked.

“No.”

“I didn’t think so. Then, what?”

“I have a question to ask you. I recognize that this will sound strange coming from me, Agent McGee, and you’re under no obligation to respond.”

“Okay.”

“How did you rebuild?”

Tim furrowed his brow, confused at the question.

“Rebuild what? I don’t do a whole lot of building.”

“Your life. It wasn’t just Dr. Hicks talking to you. Therapy only works if the person involved wants it to.”

“Can I ask why you’re asking me this question?”

“Of course,” Carew said. “You’re a nearly perfect example of someone who has rebuilt a satisfactory life after having it destroyed.”

Tim still felt a little confused, but he was also curious. Carew was seemingly completely at ease. He wasn’t showing any discomfort with what he was asking, but Tim couldn’t imagine that this kind of question wouldn’t be something discomfiting, especially to Carew.

“Just how uncomfortable are you about asking this question, especially of me,” Tim asked.

Carew smiled. “There are no words to describe it.”

Tim laughed a little.

“Then, why do it?”

There was a heavy pause and Carew looked out at the park.

“To decide whether or not I need to let Tamara go,” Carew said, seriously.

The humor was gone and Tim thought about it. He didn’t know exactly what the answer was, because he’d definitely rebuilt his life, but there wasn’t any one answer as to how he’d done it.

“Dr. Hicks really did help out a lot,” Tim said. “I don’t think I’d have got this far without him.”

“I’m well aware of how skilled Dr. Hicks is,” Carew said. “That doesn’t change the fact that he can only do what he is allowed to do by his patients.”

Tim nodded and thought about it some more. Finally, he came to a decision.

“I don’t know if there’s any one thing, but a really big part of it was that I wasn’t in it alone, even though I wanted to be. They wouldn’t let me be alone. After what happened to me in the Empty Quarter, I was ready to give up. I don’t know if you knew that already.”

“I did.”

Tim nodded again, still able to remember the feelings that had controlled him for so long.

“All I wanted was to be safe, to be hidden, and to be away from the pain. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate it once I healed, but I didn’t care. I wanted it all to be over and done with. They wouldn’t let me give up. They kept telling me that I wasn’t what I thought I was.”

“Which is?”

“A murderer,” Tim said, not looking at Carew anymore. He rested his elbows on his knees, feeling a very slight pull in his shoulder, but that was all. “All I could see was blood on my hands. And my future was being used as a slave. Blood, pain and guilt. That was my life and I didn’t want it. You put Dr. Hicks where I could use him, but I never would have without Tony being there to make me start on the path. I tried to get off it more than once, but I couldn’t with everyone helping me. That’s why I had to help Ray. I had to give him the chance I’d had. Maybe what I did seems different to everyone else, but I still see myself as guilty. I didn’t want to do what I did, but I still did it and people died because of it.”

He stared at the ground for a while. Then, he took a deep breath and sat up.

“If there’s one thing that I could point to, it’s that I wasn’t allowed to give up. I’d hit rock bottom and I was ready to start digging and going lower, but I wasn’t left alone to deal with it. Once I had some momentum going, it got easier and easier. ...to the point that I could relatively easily agree to work with you when you called in your favor. To the point that I don’t feel worried or angry when I see you, to the point that I can do work for the CIA without nearly the same kind of fear as I had before.”

“You’re healed.”

“Mostly,” Tim said, nodding. “I probably won’t ever heal completely, but if I do, I think it’ll be because of Zahara.” He smiled as he thought of her. “She gives me something more.”

“I see.”

Tim looked at Carew as a sudden thought hit him.

“Are you giving up?”

“I’m considering it,” Carew said.

“Why?”

The smile that crossed Carew’s lips was a tired one. For the first time in all the years that Tim had known him, Carew looked old and tired. Was this how he always felt? Tim didn’t know, but he found that, as little as he liked Carew, he liked seeing him beat down even less.

“I’m not sure the results will be worth the effort,” Carew said. “I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of the mask...or that I ever will be.”

“Isn’t Tamara worth it?”

“I don’t know. Yes, she is, but at the same time, giving up the mask is harder than I ever thought it would be.”

Tim shook his head. “No. You can’t think of it like that. I know that your life is really different from mine and that I don’t know everything that you’ve done, but you have someone who is really pulling for you. I’ve met her. She’s strong. She wouldn’t do this if she didn’t think you were worth it.”

At the back of his mind, Tim couldn’t believe that he was giving a pep talk to Levi Carew. When had this become something that was even in the realm of possibility? It was like stepping into a parallel universe. At the same time, probably for the same reason that he had wanted to help Ray, Tim couldn’t leave Carew in this mind set where he felt that failure was the only option and the inevitable conclusion.

“Levi, if you love Tamara, you have to see this through and you have to give yourself a real chance. If you think you’re going to fail, you will. You can’t make it if you’re living every day with the idea that nothing you do will be enough. You have to make it be enough. I couldn’t go back and refuse to help them kill. That will always be a part of who I am. You can’t go back and say no to whatever put you on this path. All you can do is keep trying. Really. What do you have without your family?”

“Nothing,” Carew said, easily.

“Then, you have to keep trying. You can’t give up what you know you want.”

“That’s your advice?”

“Yes,” Tim said. “For what it’s worth. That’s what worked for me.”

Then, Tim made a decision he’d been grappling with for weeks. Again, he wasn’t sure why, but it felt right and so he did it.

“Wait a second,” Tim said.

He ran over to his car, Jethro running beside him, thinking it was time to play again. Tim ignored him. He rummaged through the glove compartment and pulled out an envelope. Then, he ran back to the bench and handed it to Carew.

“Here. This is for you. No obligation.”

Carew actually looked a little confused, but he opened the envelope and Tim saw the absolute shock that crossed his face for a couple of seconds before it was gone again.

“A wedding invitation?” he asked.

“Yes.”

It wasn’t particularly fancy. Tim and Zahara were walking together, holding hands (as much as Zahara felt comfortable doing in a picture that so many people were going to see).

“It appears to be raining,” Carew said.

Tim grinned. “Digitally added afterwards. We couldn’t conjure up a rainstorm on demand. Rain is special to me.”

“Just to make sure you realize what you’re doing, Agent McGee,” Carew began.

“I’m inviting you to my wedding,” Tim said before Carew could say anything that might make him regret doing it. “I’ll admit that Zahara suggested it, but she left it up to me. You and a guest, and if you come, I’d appreciate it if your guest wasn’t Bri.”

“I doubt she’d feel comfortable there, either.”

“I know. Anyway, that’s the information. You’re welcome to come. ...or not, if you don’t want to.”

Carew smiled again. “I notice that you are carefully avoiding saying that you actually want me there.”

Tim smiled back. “Honestly, I don’t know whether I do or not, but I do know that I’m not categorically against it. If I was, I wouldn’t have given you the invitation.”

“Thank you, Agent McGee.”

“You’re welcome. Hey, do you happen to know how to contact Suhayl? I would love to let him know that I’m getting married, but I have no idea how to get anything to him.”

Carew thought about it. “I contacted him through al-Hurram. I could see if the contact information is still current.”

“I’d appreciate it. I don’t think he’ll be able to make it, but being able to contact him would be nice.”

“Just how many people have you invited?”

“Not as many as you might be thinking, but some people you probably wouldn’t expect. I don’t expect them to come, but I wanted to let them know. Anything else? I still have to get ready for work.”

“If there was anything else, I’ve forgotten it in the shock of your invitation.”

Tim laughed. “All right. Levi, I really think you need to give yourself a chance to make it. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for Tamara. She wants you back.”

Carew nodded and stood up. Tim stood as well.

“I can’t, for the life of me, imagine why.”

“Are you lying?” Tim asked, only half-joking.

“With one exception, I don’t lie, Agent McGee,” Carew said. “I wouldn’t give me a chance.”

“Good thing that it’s Tamara making that decision, then.”

Carew laughed, although he still sounded weary.

“You can do it, Levi. I know that because you’ve done whatever you thought was necessary up to now. I don’t see that changing just because you’ve found that it’s harder than you thought it would be.”

“Thank you,” Carew said.

“What for?” Tim asked. “I’m just being honest.”

“You’ve given me as much of a chance as Tamara has, just in a different way. I’m well aware that I don’t deserve it. I appreciate it more than you could understand.”

Then, suddenly, Carew held out his hand. In that moment, Tim was suddenly reminded of when he had said his good-bye to Suhayl and Suhayl had hugged him. It had seemed incredibly familiar for the bedouin, at least as Tim had perceived him. A handshake wasn’t intimate by any means, but it implied a level of familiarity that Carew had never offered before.

Tim hesitated and then shook Carew’s hand firmly.

“You’re welcome,” he said.

Carew nodded and then walked away. Tim watched him until he was out of sight and then looked down at Jethro.

“Well, I guess it’s time to go home, Jethro. What do you think? Are you hungry?”

Jethro began jumping around excitedly. Tim laughed and took him home.

Having Carew suddenly turning to him for help and advice was weird, but Tim was willing to set that aside and look forward to his wedding. Somehow, he felt that it would be the real sign of healing, something he’d been waiting for, for years.

He looked at Jethro and grinned.

“I’m getting married, Jethro.”

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 Post subject: Epilogue
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 6:33 pm 
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Epilogue

“...and now, the bride and groom would like to exchange personal vows.”

The priest nodded to Tim and Zahara as they stood facing each other. Tim looked at Zahara. She was dressed in a beautiful white caftan. Fatima had got some women together and they had made the dress in record time. It was decorated with elaborate beading, but it was all white or glass and so it didn’t make the dress look gaudy. Zahara was wearing her hair up as she had on her first date and she was wearing the hair clips she had been wearing when he proposed to her. Khadija had drawn henna motifs on Zahara’s hands and feet as part of the Moroccan tradition. Because of the white of the gown, they stood out dramatically. He didn’t think he’d ever get tired of seeing her, no matter what she was wearing. Tim himself was wearing a simple tuxedo, accented with blue. Zahara smiled at him, her eyes twinkling with happiness.

Tim took a deep breath and began.

“Zahara, I love you,” he said. “I know the official vows were a promise to be there for each other for better or for worse, but I feel like we’ve already done that. We’ve been together through some bad times, but also through wonderful times. I know we’ll have ups and downs throughout our lives, but I promise that I will love you and that I will always try to be there for you, especially on this road that has led you to an unfamiliar country, full of strangers. You have sacrificed a lot for me and I love you for it.”

He wondered what Zahara would say. She’d always been a little shy of speaking in front of a lot of people. She looked only at him, and he could see that she was nervous, even though she was happy as well.

“Tim, I...love you,” she said. “You cautioned me about what I might be giving up in marrying you, but it is worth any risk. I always thought I would stay in Morocco for the rest of my life. I never thought to come to America, but I have had a life opened to me that I did not have before. I promise to love you...and I promise that I will not let you fall into that fear that keeps you from happiness. I will try to help you be happy in your life.”

Then, they exchanged rings. Hers was a simple band that joined the engagement ring. Tim was surprised that his wedding band had a blue cast to it. Zahara hadn’t let him see it before the wedding.

“You may now kiss the bride,” the priest said.

They had talked about this. A kiss on the forehead was normal for weddings in Morocco, but not the kissing that was expected in the U.S., and Tim knew that Zahara was uncomfortable with public displays of affection. So he smiled and kissed her on the forehead and then briefly on the lips. She smiled at him as the priest officially presented them to the crowd as a married couple. As they stood facing all the guests, Tim saw Carew at the very back of the room. He must have come in after the ceremony started. Then, Tim noticed that Tamara was with him (not Bri), and it gave him a surprising feeling of happiness. He could hope for Carew to have the same happiness that he now felt.

Then, it was time to run down the aisle and out of the house, to the waiting car that would take them to the dinner and reception. Tim knew that everyone was cheering them on. All the people most important to him were there, but his attention was almost entirely on Zahara. When they were in the car, alone, he looked at her.

“Mrs. McGee, you look wonderful,” he said.

Zahara smiled widely.

“I love you, Tim,” she said.

“I’ll never get tired of hearing that,” he said.

“Then, I will keep saying it.”

“Good.” Tim smiled mischievously. “I almost wish that we could skip everything else and just go on our honeymoon right now.”

“We cannot do that,” Zahara said. “It took much too long for me to get dressed to leave now.”

Tim laughed and kissed her much more deeply than he had during the ceremony. She responded and then pulled back.

“Do you like your ring?” she asked.

“I love it,” Tim said.

“It is called blue tungsten. Ziva helped me choose it. I wanted it to match mine.”

She held out her hand with the blue stone. Tim held her henna-decorated hand.

“It’s perfect.”

They arrived at the venue and spent a long night of eating, dancing and celebrating with friends and family. When it was time for Tim and Zahara to leave, they actually went to his apartment. In an embarrassing mental lapse, Tim had got their plane tickets for the day after the wedding and so they were going to spend their first night together in his apartment instead of a fancy hotel or on their way to their honeymoon.

“I have something for you, Zahara,” Tim said, once they were finally really alone.

“What is it?”

“You’ve already seen some of it, but I worked on it with Gibbs’ help for the last couple of months. I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“What is it?” Zahara asked again.

Tim picked up a package and handed it to her. Zahara took it and unwrapped it. Then, she gasped and looked at him.

“Oh, Tim. It is beautiful.”

Tim smiled. The tile mosaic he had originally decided to make as a way of saying good-bye to Morocco and everything in it had become a way to remember what had started there and it was a little piece of home for Zahara.

“I’m glad you like it,” he said.

“I love it, and I love you,” she said.

Zahara carefully set the mosaic down and then she kissed him soundly on the lips.

“Tim, you saved me,” she whispered.

“And you saved me,” Tim said back. “Whatever else happens in my life, I can face it...because I know I won’t have to do it alone. You’ll be with me.”

“I will. For the rest of my life.”

Then, they went to bed and shared their first night together, starting a life that wouldn’t be easy, might be dangerous, but one that they both were ready to fight for, no matter the cost.

FINIS!

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