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 Post subject: CIA VI: A Dream of Rain
PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 2:52 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
Title: A Dream of Rain
Characters: Tim, the team, Levi Carew, OCs
Genre: Drama, some angst (of course), adventure, and yes, some romance :shocked:
Rating: FR15
Series: CIA

A/N: This series is both my first and my favorite. It has become something I love to come back to, whether anyone else cares about it or not. I love the OCs I use. I love how the team has pulled together. I've now been writing in this series for eight, going on nine years. I'm sure others aren't as enamored as I am, but that's okay with me. :) This one picks up about two years after The Player on the Other Side and will, again, be globetrotting. The inspiration for it came when I was listening to the song "Desert Rose" by Sting and it led me to a story that will be somewhat romantic...in the midst of the rest of the chaos that is naturally a part of this series. :)

The banner is by McMhuirich.

If anyone is still following this series, please put any comments in the discussion thread since this will be another long story.

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Prologue

He was shaking, now. Zahara pressed her hand harder over the wound, trying desperately to stop the bleeding, to keep his blood in his body instead of staining the sand. The flow was slowing, but it couldn’t replace what he’d lost, and he’d lost too much already.

They had left, knowing that there was no way he’d make it out of the desert alive. She might, but he never would, and the chances of surviving decreased with her being alone. Zahara was afraid of that, too, but she wasn’t going to give up hope. Still, there was no denying that things were bad and not looking to get better.

The sun descended to the horizon, flattening and reddening, promising a long, cold night.

Could they survive out here through the night? Zahara figured that she had a chance, but him? She didn’t know.

His eyes opened slightly and he looked at her. She smiled.

“It is almost night.”

He nodded, accepting all that could mean.

“Is there anything more I can do?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“No.”

There was silence for a while. Then, he smiled a little.

“It rained the last time I was in the desert,” he whispered. “I still remember it. The rain fell in...in torrents, like it would never stop. Rain in the desert. It saved me.”

“It happens sometimes, but not often, not at this time of the year.”

“I know. I wish it would rain, now.”

“For you, I wish it would rain,” she said and a tear escaped from her eyes. “To save you.”

“You could leave, you know,” he said. “On your own, you’d be able to get back. I don’t blame you. There’s no reason for you to stay here. We’ve got to be...only a few miles away from the nearest...city. You could find it...on your own.”

“I will not leave you, nuttār,” Zahara said, firmly.

He laughed a little at the word.

“You don’t have to insult me, too,” he said.

Zahara smiled and held back more tears.

“I will stay with you. We will stay together, here. If you do not leave, I do not leave.”

He reached up with a shaking hand and touched her cheek, feeling that single tear that had escaped her control.

“Sing to me,” he whispered. “Please. Let me hear something beautiful, tonight.”

As many times as she had performed in the marketplace and in clubs, now, she couldn’t think of a single song. There was only silence. She searched for a song as his hand dropped back to his chest, but his eyes remained on her.

I want him to live through this night, she thought.

Unconsciously, she started to hum a tune. After a few seconds, she recognized it as a song her mother had sung to her when she had been frightened as a child. It was not a song she ever performed. The sun dropped below the horizon and the dark of night was spreading.

Softly, she started to sing.

Hush, lay down your troubled mind
The day has vanished and left us behind
And the wind, whispering soft lullabies
Will soothe, so close your weary eyes


He smiled at the words. Zahara returned the smile and then looked up at the sky, searching for the first star. Instead of singing to him, she began singing to heaven.

Let your arms enfold us
Through the dark of night
Will your angels hold us
Till we see the light


Another spasm of pain caused him to gasp and his eyes closed tightly as he breathed through it. She pulled him closer and began to rock him gently. A breeze began to blow. She continued to sing.

Sleep, angels will watch over you
And soon beautiful dreams will come true
Can you feel spirits embracing your soul
So dream while secrets of darkness unfold


As the night went on, she continued to sing to him, trying to keep him warm as the sky sucked all the heat of the day out into space, trying to keep him alive even though he only got weaker.

The wind picked up and she noticed clouds in the sky, covering the stars overhead.

“Ghuyūm,” she whispered.

Could it be? She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

“Tim, there are clouds,” she said. “Maybe it will rain.”

There was no reply.

“Tim? Tim?”

He was so still and quiet. Zahara began to fear that he would die.

“Please, Tim. Do not leave me.” She leaned in close to his ear. “Ahabbak.”

He did not speak again.

___________________________
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 Post subject: Chapter 1
PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 9:29 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 1

Six weeks ago...

“McGee!”

Tim looked up from his computer, eyes wide with inquiry.

“Yeah, Boss?”

“With me.”

Gibbs stood up and headed for the stairs. Tim glanced at Tony in surprise. Things had been quiet and almost normal for more than a year. He hadn’t been asked to work for any other agency for months. This couldn’t be good. It was never good when a summons was given for only one of them, especially when it was for Tim. Tony looked uncertain, but it hadn’t been him called. He sat where he was, giving Tim a significant look. Still, Gibbs hadn’t been asking politely. Tim hurried after him, determined not to be left behind.

He caught up just as Gibbs reached Cynthia’s desk.

“Go in, Agent Gibbs.”

Gibbs only nodded and walked on by. Tim didn’t think he’d had any plans of waiting, no matter what Cynthia had said. He smiled briefly at her and went in.

Jenny looked very serious, and that only made Tim more worried.

“What’s going on, Director?” he asked.

“Have a seat. Both of you.”

Tim sat down.

“What is it?”

“I got a report from one of my sources, this morning. You’re going to be charged with treason, Agent McGee.”

For a moment, the meaning of the words didn’t even register in his head. Once the meaning penetrated, it was so ridiculous that he let out a laugh.

“What?”

“You’re going to be charged with treason. Plans are being made to accuse you of betraying the country.”

Tim looked at Gibbs for a moment, but his expression was blank. He looked back at Jenny.

“You’ve got be kidding. Who would think that I’m a traitor?”

Jenny was silent for a moment and it suddenly dawned on him that the reason she knew about it was because it was from the other agencies.

“Who is it, Director? I need to know.”

“FBI.”

“Jorgenson,” Tim said, nodding. “I get it. When they arrest me, they get control of me.” He stood up and started pacing. “I thought he’d accepted that he couldn’t take over my life. How could this be happening, now? Why?”

“A new president is in office,” Jenny said. “If he can create evidence, then, he has the clout to force the issue...and I hate to say it, but Carew no longer runs the CIA. Director Morgan might be sympathetic, but he doesn’t have the hold over people yet that Carew did.”

“I can’t be arrested by the FBI,” Tim said. “You know what will happen. It won’t be a trial. I’ll just disappear. We all know that’s what will happen.”

Jenny nodded sympathetically.

“I’m sorry, Tim. I really am. This isn’t happening right away. We have time to figure something out.”

Tim sat down again. “How much time, though?”

“My source has been listening for any whisper of something involving you. This is the beginning of their plans. They have to get the evidence that they’ll use. They have to plan their attack. I’d say a week, maybe five days at the least.”

Tim ran his hands through his hair and shook his head.

“What can we possibly do to stop them when we don’t even know what their plan is?”

“That’s why we’re going to figure it out,” Jenny said. “My source will keep me apprised of what happens over there and you’ll have help.”

“Help?”

“You think we’ll stay out of it?” Gibbs asked, speaking for the first time. “That’s not happening, McGee.”

Tim wasn’t surprised by that, but it gave him no comfort, not right now when he’d found out that they were coming after him yet again, this time with the threat of legal action.

“I know this is a shock and the last thing you want to hear, Tim, but we will figure this out. They won’t get you.”

Tim nodded, not at all confident.

“Why don’t you go and let it sink in. I’ll call you the minute I know anything more.”

Tim nodded again and stood up. He walked out of the office, Gibbs following behind.

“Elevator,” Gibbs said.

Tim nodded yet again, feeling numb. He let Gibbs direct him to the elevator. They got on and it stopped almost as soon as the doors closed.

“I can’t go through this, Boss,” Tim said. “It’s been two years! I thought it was all behind me, except for the CIA protection. I just can’t deal with it.”

“Yes, you can, and you will, but not alone.”

Tim sighed. “I know this sounds stupid, but it’s just not fair! Why can’t they just accept that I’m working for the country? Why can’t they accept that it’s best for me if I’m free? Why can’t they leave me alone?”

“Because for some people it’s all about control. Jorgenson wants to control you because that gives him power. That’s all he cares about,” Gibbs said.

Another sigh. “Boss...can I just go home? I know that everyone needs to know, that they’ll want to help, but I just can’t deal with seeing it in their eyes. Not today.” Tim looked at Gibbs, pleadingly. “Please, Boss? I need some time alone to figure out how I’m going to deal with it. Then, tomorrow, I can face them.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

“Honest, I just want to be alone for a little while and figure this out. I’ll still have my CIA watchers. Director Shephard said that it would be a few days before they moved on it. Give me one day, Boss.”

“As long as you promise that this isn’t an excuse to try to keep us out of it.”

“I promise. That’s not what I’m doing. I really just need to go home.”

“All right. You can go home. I expect to see you tomorrow, and the others might go over there tonight.”

Tim nodded, knowing that was likely. Maybe by the evening, he wouldn’t be feeling so overwhelmed by the renewed possibility of being taken away from his life.

“Thank you, Boss. Really. Thanks.”

Gibbs started the elevator going again and sent it down to the first floor. Tim got off, and then realized that he had left his stuff at his desk.

“I’ll get it,” Gibbs said, before Tim could think to ask.

Gibbs was gone for less than a minute and then he was back with Tim’s bag.

“Tomorrow.”

“Yeah, Boss.”

Tim left NCIS, noticed his CIA watcher start to follow him and was surprised to realize that it made him feel a little better. Usually, it made him feel worse to notice them, but right now, he was glad they were there.

He walked to his car and drove home. When he walked into his apartment, Jethro jumped up, excited to see him home early. Tim smiled and actually spent a little while just playing with his dog. Then, he fed him and went into his bedroom. He lay down on his bed and stared at the ceiling.

“How could this happen, Jethro?” he whispered. “How could this be happening again just when I was feeling like my life could be mostly normal? Why can’t I just be allowed to live my life? Why does it always have to be like this?”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tony stood up as soon as the elevator doors opened and his brow furrowed when he saw that Gibbs was alone. He had already come and got Tim’s bag without responding to any questions, but this was getting weird.

“Boss, what’s up? Where’s McGee?”

“Where’s Ziva?”

“Down with Abby, still.”

“Come on.”

He understood that he shouldn’t keep asking questions, not yet. As they went down to the lab, Gibbs called Ducky and Jimmy up from Autopsy as well. This was not looking good, not with Tim gone and Gibbs bringing in the troops.

Gibbs walked into the lab.

“Gibbs! I’m not ready yet! You’re usually much better with your timing and...”

“Stop,” Gibbs said. “I’m not here about the case.”

Abby looked a little affronted that Gibbs had shushed her. The lab doors opened again as Ducky and Jimmy came in.

“Okay, Gibbs, what is going on?” Ziva asked. “Where is Tim?”

Abby’s expression became worried once she registered that everyone was there except for Tim.

“He’s at home. He asked for some time alone, and we’re giving it to him.”

“What’s happened, Jethro? I wasn’t aware that Timothy had been having any recent problems.”

“The FBI is going to accuse him of treason within the next few days, and we have to be able to prove they’re wrong.”

“What?”

“Treason? That’s ridiculous!”

“No way!”

The protests came thick and fast. Tony said nothing, but his heart plummeted to his shoes. It had been long enough that they’d all eased back into a routine, thinking that it was well and truly over. What made it worse was that it should be over, but it wasn’t, not because of terrorists but because of a federal agency who wanted control of Tim’s abilities.

Gibbs let the protests go on for just long enough. Then, he gestured for silence and he got it.

“Jenny doesn’t think it’ll happen for another few days. We have time to come up with something. Tim didn’t want to deal with all this yet. He’s home. He still has the CIA guard. He’ll be back tomorrow.”

“What about tonight, Boss?” Tony asked. “Are we leaving him alone that long?”

Ask first,” Gibbs said.

“Right.”

“What do we do?” Abby asked. “If they haven’t made the accusation yet, we can’t say they’re wrong...even though they are. Scum-sucking little...”

“Yes, Gibbs,” Ziva said, interrupting Abby’s rant. “This is, of course, a ploy to get Tim out of sight, but if we do not yet know what their plan is, how can we stop it?”

“Jenny will give us more information when she gets it. The fact that we know in advance that it’s coming gives us a better chance to figure it out.”

“Should we ask Fornell what he knows?” Tony asked. “He’s been their messenger boy before.”

“All the more reason not to get him involved at this point,” Ducky said. “The FBI uses him because they know he has a connection here. Of course, he is also aware of that, but it means that they may be watching for any sign from us, and if they get it, perhaps, they’ll try to speed up their process.”

“So...what do we do...right now?” Jimmy asked. “If we only know that it could be coming soon but not when or how?”

“We make sure we’re ready for anything,” Gibbs said. “McGee is not going to be arrested.”

On that point, everyone was in agreement. However, Tony was still worried. Would they really try this if they weren’t sure of it working? Surely, they would have anticipated Tim’s friends being ready to help him.

Still, Gibbs was right. They just had to be ready for anything.

Hopefully, Tim would be ready, too.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tim lay on his bed for a couple of hours, just staring at the ceiling, Jethro, drooling contentedly on his leg. His mind was going around and around in circles, trying to figure out what he could do to keep this from happening. He couldn’t let the FBI even go through a travesty of an arrest because, once they had him, it would be that much harder to get them to let him go.

“I won’t deal with that,” Tim said. “No matter what it takes. I won’t deal with that, Jethro. I just need to find some way to be sure of it.”

And suddenly, from out of nowhere, a thought pinged in his brain. At first, he wanted to reject that thought out of hand, but then, it came back again with more force and he sat up.

Jethro whuffled at him, unhappy about being displaced, but Tim didn’t pay attention to that.

He was going through all the possible permutations of this idea and the more he did, the more sense it made.

Gibbs would want to kill him. Everyone would be extremely upset, but Tim saw this idea as his only certain way out of this trap that was being slowly wound around him. He’d get out before the trappers even knew he was gone, before the trap had really been set.

He stood and started to move with purpose. He grabbed a bag out of his closet and quickly packed it with a few changes of clothes, some toiletries, and after some hesitation, his gun and his badge. Then, he fished his passport out of its hiding spot, thinking about the fact that most of the places he’d been forced to go in the past had not required that he have his passport with him. Then, he walked to his typewriter. He sat down and began to type a message. To Gibbs. It took only a few minutes. After that, he walked to his computer and, with practiced ease, hacked into a site and found an address. Sure, he could have done it the right way, but right now, he didn’t care about that.

Then, he looked down at Jethro who had been following him in all his movements around the apartment. He knelt down.

“Jethro, you’re going to be staying with Gibbs for a while. Okay?”

Jethro licked his face and panted at him. Tim smiled with a little bit of an ache, knowing that there was a possibility he’d never see the big German shepherd again.

“Be good for him and maybe you could help him not be so mad at me when he finds out what I’ve done.”

Tim gathered up Jethro’s things, clipped a leash to his collar, picked up his bag, his wallet, his keys, and walked out of his apartment. He packed everything in his car and then turned around, knowing his shadows would be there.

“Going on a trip, Agent McGee?”

“Yes, in a way,” Tim said. He didn’t know the name of this particular shadow, but he recognized him. “I won’t be needing your services for the next little while. In fact, I’d appreciate it if you’d take the rest of the day off.”

The agent smiled a little. “Can’t do that. I’d lose my job. This detail isn’t just for fun, you know.”

“I want you to go to Director Morgan and tell him that I won’t be needing your services until the FBI is done trying to take control of me again.”

The smiled faded. “FBI?”

“Yes. I’m removing myself from their clutches before they can try to grab hold. He’ll probably know all the details within the next few days. Oh, and if you could tell Dr. Hicks about that, too. I’m supposed to be meeting with him tomorrow, and I don’t want him to worry.”

“What about your team?”

“That’s my first stop. Unless you’ve noticed any FBI watchers, I should have enough time to put my plan into action, and I don’t need witnesses for it.”

The agent considered it. Tim watched him weighing all the possible outcomes of acceding to his request.

“You’re sure about this?”

“Yes. If it matters, I’d even vouch for you...once it’s safe to contact anyone.”

“Right. Okay, Agent McGee. I’m not really happy about this situation you’re putting me in, but I’ll go along with it. Director Morgan and Dr. Hicks?”

“Yes, please.”

“And not your team?”

“They’ll get a message about it as soon as I go to Gibbs’ place.”

“Okay.”

The agent turned and walked away, leaving Tim in the sudden position of having no one watching him. For the first time in years. It was a strange feeling, not as good as he’d hoped he’d feel.

I’m getting too used to them always being there, he thought.

Then, he squared his shoulders and got in his car.

The drive to Gibbs’ house was easy. He took Jethro around to the backyard.
Then, he went down to the basement. He looked around and was sorry that he didn’t have time to start a new project, something he could look forward to. He smiled and little, pulled out his message and hand-wrote a P.S. Then, he tacked the message to Gibbs’ latest project, knowing that Gibbs likely wouldn’t see it anywhere else. Then, he got back in his car and drove out of DC, northward into Maryland.

He stopped in front of a lovely house with a beautifully-kept yard and got out.

For a few seconds, he stood on the sidewalk, wondering if he was making a huge mistake. Then, he dismissed the thought and walked up to the door and knocked politely.

After a few more seconds, the door opened and a woman with graying hair stood there, looking quizzically at him, as if trying to remember where she’d seen him before. He remembered her, even though they’d never spoken to each other.

“Yes? What can I do for you?”

Tim took a breath and committed himself.

“I’d like to speak to Levi Carew, if he’s home.”

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 Post subject: Chapter 2
PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 9:17 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 2

She looked at him warily.

“My name is Tim McGee. This shouldn’t take very long. I just need to ask him a question. Maybe two.”

“Tim McGee?”

“Yes. He knows me. Too well,” Tim said, ruefully.

She smiled a little at that. “Now, I can see that you do know him. Come in.”

Tim stepped into the house, looking around with interest at the decor. It seemed too normal for someone like Carew to live in a place like this.

“I’m Tamara Carew.”

“His wife?”

“Sort of. This way.”

She led him into a small study.

“Just have a seat in here and I’ll go get him.”

“Thank you,” Tim said.

He sat down and looked around. Books on the shelves, a desk, a couple of comfortable chairs. All in all, he would never guess that this was the study of the former director of the CIA. He thought about what Tamara had said about his question of whether or not she was his wife. In a way, it was almost comforting to know that the complexities of knowing Carew were universal. It was sad, too, but a little comforting.

The door opened and Tamara came back in.

“He’ll just be a couple of minutes. So you know him.”

“Pretty well. As well as I guess I could.”

Tamara nodded knowingly.

“I’m assuming you know him through the CIA?”

Tim nodded. That was the easier way to answer without getting into the details.

“Then, did you meet our children, as well?”

Funny, but Tim had never thought of Carew’s children as having a mother. That was ridiculous, but it was true. He could easily associate Bri with Carew, but this slightly-weary woman seemed too normal to have raised someone like Bri.

“Yes. Sort of.”

Then, her eyes widened.

“You were with Levi when he saved Bri. Weren’t you.”

“Yes.”

“Thank you,” she said. “Really. After Quinn was killed, she was all I had left.”

“How is she?”

“She left the CIA a little over a year ago. She’s been working in a small clinic in upstate New York, as far away from the chaos as she can be. I’m glad. I never wanted my children in the CIA, not when I’d seen what it did to my husband. After Levi retired, there was no reason for her to stay. She didn’t want to after what happened, and she was always a daddy’s girl.”

“Really.”

Hearing Bri described so normally was weird.

“How did you know them?”

Tim took a breath. He couldn’t tell this woman how he had come into her children’s sphere. He couldn’t tell her that they were responsible for torturing him to make sure he wouldn’t share CIA secrets. There wasn’t enough money in the world to make that a temptation. She didn’t need to know those details.

“Mostly unwillingly,” he said. “But it was years ago and I don’t really want to get into it.”

Tamara looked like she wanted to ask him more but then thought the better of it.

“How is...Carew doing?” he asked, hesitating over whether to use Carew’s first name or not.

“Depends on the day,” Tamara said, clearly hedging a bit, herself. “But he’s more like I knew him than he was. That gives me hope.”

“I’m glad,” Tim said.

“Really?”

“Yes. I can’t say that we’re friends or anything, but I do...respect him, even if I can’t agree with everything he does.”

The door opened and Carew himself came in.

“I’m sorry for the delay, Agent McGee.”

“That’s all right,” Tim said.

“Agent?” Tamara asked, looking wary again. Tim couldn’t blame her.

“NCIS agent,” Carew said. “Not CIA.”

“And I’m not here on business...or at least, not business having to do with my occupation,” Tim said.

“Don’t worry, Tamara,” Carew said, sounding much as Tim remembered him. “Of all the people who might show up at my door, the only one less worrisome than Agent McGee is Dr. Hicks. However, I do think we’ll need to talk privately.”

Tim nodded.

Tamara stood up and whispered something to Carew. He nodded and briefly cupped her cheek with his hand. Tim was surprised at the intimate gesture. He felt like he should look away, but it was over before he could move. Then, Tamara left and Carew sat down.

“I have to admit that I was surprised to have you of all people show up here, Agent McGee.”

“It wasn’t in my plans, until today.”

The old smile that revealed nothing. “To be expected. I assume you’re here for a reason, then.”

“Yes. I need your help.”

“Count me as doubly surprised. Why? Surely, your NCIS friends are up to any challenge.”

“Probably, they are, but I don’t think they can be fast enough in this case. The FBI is going to accuse me of treason and have me arrested. I think we both know what will happen if they do.”

Carew sat back and took a breath. Then, he nodded.

“Well, Jorgenson certainly has become more creative since my retirement. I wonder how long it took him to come up with this little idea...or who gave the idea to him since I have a low opinion of his raw intelligence. If you’re thinking that I can stop this, you’re sadly mistaken, Agent McGee. I haven’t tried to stay in the game since I left it. A few people have tried to pull me back, but I’ve been firm in my rejection.”

Tim leaned forward.

“I don’t think you can do that. I’m not asking for that.”

“What are you asking for, then?”

“I’m calling in the favor you said you owe me. I’m asking you to help me run, to get to a place where the FBI can’t find me. Hopefully, nothing that has to be permanent. Just long enough for my friends to clear my name...or for Jorgenson to finally get the message that I’m not for sale.”

“Again, you’ve managed to surprise me, Agent McGee. I think you’re probably right that you need to get out of Jorgenson’s hands before he realizes that you’re running. Also, while I have every faith that your team can get you out of this, I agree that they probably couldn’t do it before you were arrested and that means it would be too late. I am, of course, assuming that you haven’t committed treason.”

“Absolutely not!” Tim said, with more than a little irritation.

Carew smiled. “Just checking. So what are you hoping for from me? Ideas or actual assistance?”

“Both, but I don’t need you to come with me. I’m not here to interrupt your life. I just need to know where to go and how to get there. I don’t want to risk taking a regular flight. I think that I’ll probably be flagged. So if you can get me out of the country, I’ll make do with the rest.”

“What about your team? Do they know?”

“Not yet. Hopefully, I’ll be gone before they find out. I left Gibbs a note because I can’t just disappear again. He may come here, wanting more information, and I don’t care if you tell him, but they won’t listen if I tell them that this is necessary; so I need to be gone before they know.”

“Okay. Why don’t you relax in here while I make a few calls. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes.”

Carew left the room, and Tim felt some of his tension ease. Again, he was surprised by that feeling. Since when had asking Carew for help been a source of calm?

Since realizing that my own government doesn’t care about me.

In reality, if Tim were honest, the more he had to deal with this, the more temptation there was to turn his back on his country and just give up. It would be easier to throw in the towel and just say that they weren’t worth it.

Only, he couldn’t do that because he loved his country. He loved the people here. He had known too many good people to give up on them. It was so hard when it was his government giving him the most grief.

It just was so frustrating. He hated that the actions of his government were driving him away. Part of him felt that he was being a coward by running away instead of facing it head-on. The other part of him was furious that he was being forced into this. It made him angry that he was running, that he had to.

I want a normal life!

The door opened once more and Carew came back in.

“All right, Agent McGee. You’ve lucked out because while I don’t have access to a private plane any longer, I know people who do...and a couple of them owe me favors. How do you feel about going to Marrakech?”

“What?” Tim asked. “You mean...Morocco?”

“Yes, that’s exactly where I mean.”

“I hadn’t really thought about...going back to any Arabic country. That hasn’t been all that great for me in the past.”

“It’s not only Arabic, actually. They do speak the language and there has been a significant Arabization, but ethnically, many of the people are Berber.”

“Why there?” Tim asked, ignoring the history lesson.

“A few reasons, actually. One, it’s relatively stable. You’re not likely to be caught in a military coup or peasant uprising. Two, there are quite a few tourists and English, while not as prominent as French, is becoming more common. Tourism one of the major industries there, and so you’ll be less likely to stick out. Three, Morocco is not a country that we would suspect of luring Americans to betray their country. They’re too busy with Western Sahara. Four, and this is probably the most important, there’s no extradition treaty with the United States. The government can’t force you back, and they likely won’t want to make an international incident out of this. You’re not going to be important enough. Or at least, you shouldn’t be.”

This was becoming more real by the second and Tim took a deep breath as he considered Carew’s explanation. It made logical sense, but at the same time, Tim knew that he was going to be taking a major step away from his life and, in a worst-case scenario, it might end up being permanent.

“If you have a better idea, that’s fine, but this is my suggestion, since you asked for it.”

“No, it’s...it’s fine... Do you think Jorgenson will back down?”

“Maybe. The fact that he’s still trying to get you two years after the last time says a lot about his attitude. There’s probably something specific he wants from you, but he can’t get it unless he has complete control. I don’t have any idea what it is, but it might behoove you to figure that out if you can. Knowledge is power.”

“And the truth will set you free?” Tim asked, quoting the CIA motto.

Carew smiled again. “The CIA understands more than some that knowing what’s going on beneath the surface is the sure way to freedom. Speaking of, while the FBI doesn’t operate internationally, the CIA does, and you may run into CIA agents in Marrakech. They tend to try and be where there’s potential action and while Morocco is relatively stable, there are unstable countries all around. And you never know when the treaty between Morocco and the Polisario Front in Western Sahara will break down. Instability in one country can have a domino effect.”

“I’m not worried about the CIA,” Tim said.

“And you’ve moved me beyond surprise and into shock, Agent McGee,” Carew said with that same amused smile. However, Tim noticed that there was some hint of genuine amusement, not just his false amusement that covered up whatever he might really be feeling. “Either you have been exchanged with a clone or you’ve finally let Dr. Hicks convince you that we’re not the devil incarnate.”

Tim only barely managed to keep from rolling his eyes. “I don’t know Director Morgan very well, but he’s been doing what he said he would be and I’ve never worried about being taken over. I was paranoid about being watched, not about being controlled. I don’t have that luxury with the FBI.”

“Director Morgan is an excellent director and is trustworthy so far as I’m aware. Regardless, are you accepting my offer of transportation to Morocco?”

“Yes,” Tim said. It didn’t take much thought. He had too much to worry about to add picking out a place to the list.

“Good. You should pack.”

“I’m already packed. My bag is in my car.”

“In that case, I’ll drive you to your plane and then return your car to your apartment, if that works for you.”

“Yes. We’re even, now,” Tim said.

Carew just smiled and gestured for Tim to stand up.

“You’re too quick to deprive yourself of favors.”

“No, I’m not. I don’t want or need them.”

“Except now?” Carew asked, pointedly.

Tim shrugged. “I don’t like that I’m in a position where favors are wanted or needed.”

“But you are and luckily for you, there is someone who owes you a favor. I’ll tell Tamara that we’re leaving and then we can go.”

“Okay.”

Tim stood and followed Carew to the hallway. Tamara was standing near the kitchen, watching them.

“I should be back in an hour or so,” Carew said.

“You said that last time,” Tamara said.

Carew smiled. “I’m getting better at timing my errands. I’ll be back,” he said.

There was something deeper there than just a general statement. Tim couldn’t see Carew’s face, but he could see Tamara’s and her expression softened just a bit. It was obvious that they weren’t completely at ease with each other but that it was getting better.

Carew turned and gestured. They left the house and got into Tim’s car. Tim let Carew drive, mainly because he didn’t know where they were going. Interestingly, Carew assumed that he would be driving also. No discussion needed. It just happened.

At first, it was awkward and quiet. Well, it was awkward on Tim’s side. He didn’t know if Carew felt awkward or not. Then, his curiosity got the best of him.

“What was the last time?” he asked.

“Last time?” Carew repeated.

“Yes. Your...” He hesitated.

“You can call her my wife, although, technically, we are still divorced. Or you can just use her name.”

Tim flushed. “Tamara said that you said you’d only be an hour last time.”

“Ah. Every so often, something has come up which has led to people wanting or needing my assistance. Sometimes, it’s difficult to get them to take no for an answer. Considering how many people disliked me in my position in the CIA, it’s interesting how many now want to get access to me again. When it’s people like Director Morgan, he will contact me in advance and make it a request, not an order. Generally, I’ll allow it. Others, however, are not so considerate. The last time, a man showed up at our door and I had to do some...convincing that he was making a mistake. Hence, Tamara’s wariness about your presence. I had to take him back to the FBI and dump him on their front steps, so to speak. No, I didn’t kill him. He was doing his job, but he had very little sense of self-preservation. I explained that I had no interest in assisting them and it was my choice. The next one who tried to force the issue would end up dead. Traffic was bad and there were some threats thrown around, but I got out in the end.”

“How often has that happened?”

“Often enough to be annoying. Not often enough to require a major statement on my part.”

“Are you...” Again, Tim hesitated. This time it was because he wasn’t sure about asking personal questions. Still...what did he really have to lose? “Are you both living there? I mean, that was the address I found.”

“And how did you do that?”

“I think you can guess.”

Carew smiled a little.

“Yes, we’re both living there, although more as roommates at this point. No rushing and no certainties.”

“Tamara told me that Bri left the CIA.”

“I was surprised, although not shocked. Sometimes, those kinds of experiences are too much, and in this case, Bri decided that she’d had enough.”

“Tamara said it was because you weren’t there anymore.”

“Given how much my daughter hates me, I’m sure that Tamara was exaggerating. I know both of my children joined because I worked there, but to say that she left because I was no longer there ignores all the years that came between the beginning and her final departure.”

Tim smiled a little himself. While that was probably technically true, Carew himself was probably ignoring what his ex-wife could see. A lie? Probably not at its heart, but it wasn’t a whole truth.

They were silent until they pulled up to a small county airport.

“Here we are, Agent McGee. I’ll walk you inside and make sure they know who you are.”

“Thank you,” Tim said.

They got out of the car, and Tim got his bag.

“You’re lucky that you have someone owing you a favor,” Carew said, as they walked inside.

Tim stopped and looked at Carew for a long moment. Carew raised an eyebrow at the sudden gaze.

“Yes?”

“I’m starting to think that you would have done all this whether you owed me a favor or not.”

Carew smiled.

“You may be right. Your plane is waiting.”

They went into the building which contained the only terminal. Carew introduced Tim to the pilots who would be flying him to Marrakech. Then, just as Tim was about to walk away, Carew stopped him.

“One last thing, Agent McGee.”

“What’s that?”

“Given the situation, you would be wise not to use credit cards...or at least, not your own.”

Carew handed Tim a small travel bag.

“Keep your passport and ID with you at all times. Don’t even leave them in the hotel where you stay. Never depend on things going right.”

“They never have before,” Tim said.

“Exactly. And change over to dirhams when you get there. The Marrakech airport is quite modern and you’ll be able to make that exchange. Good luck, Agent McGee.”

“Thank you. We’re even, now.”

Carew didn’t agree or disagree, he just turned and walked away.

Tim watched him go and then squared his shoulders and turned back to the pilots.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes. I’m ready.”

“This way.”

Tim followed them through the airport to a rather lavish private plane.

“Who does this belong to?” he asked.

The pilot smiled. “Best not to know those kinds of things, under the circumstances. Not the government. Just a wealthy man.”

“Must be very wealthy,” Tim said, taking in the plush decor.

“Filthy, stinking rich would be a good description. We’ll check in with you once we’re in the air. Enjoy your flight.”

Tim laughed and sat down on one of the seats. He stowed his bag and secured his seatbelt.

Then, he looked out the window and watched to get his last view of the United States. Soon, Gibbs would find the note he’d left. Tim couldn’t help wondering how long it would take him to track Carew down.

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 Post subject: Chapter 3
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:34 am 
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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 3

Carew drove Tim’s car very skillfully through the streets of the Metro area, enjoying the smooth ride. He parked the car, broke into Tim’s apartment to leave the keys on the counter. Then, he left the building and took a taxi back home.

All in all, it was about two hours.

I’m getting better at that, he thought to himself.

He paid the exorbitant taxi fare and then walked inside.

Tamara was right there.

“I wasn’t sure you’d be back,” she said.

“I was,” he said.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked.

“Are you?”

“That I want to, yes. That I think it will work? No.”

Carew walked up to her and dug down deep for the strength to let his own feelings show. He had never realized how hard that would be after all these years. Although, to be honest, he had never really considered the possibility of all this happening. He had assumed either that he’d die before it could happen or that Tamara would never be willing to take on this struggle. That she had spoke volumes and he wasn’t willing to squander the chance just because it was hard.

“You want to get away from the possibility of people interrupting this attempt,” he said. “It may not ever be completely possible, but we’ll be more successful off the beaten path. I’m willing to give it a shot.”

One lock of hair had escaped the bun and fallen across her face. He reached out and carefully tucked it behind her ear.

“What about that agent?”

“I’ve done what I can for him. He’s capable of taking care of himself. More than capable, actually.”

“What did you do to him?”

“Do you really want to get back into that again, Tamara?”

“He knew both Quinn and Brianna.”

“In a professional sense, yes.”

“Not in a positive sense.”

“No. That’s true. But what that entailed is really unnecessary for you to know. You don’t want to know all the details. It will only hurt you.”

“And you?”

“Depending on how you react...” He took a breath and let it out. “...yes.”

“It’s hard for you, still. Isn’t it.”

“Yes. It may always be.”

“But it’s better.”

“Yes.”

“I’m packed.”

“So am I.”

“Then, we should go,” Tamara said.

She reached out her hand. Carew took it and they walked together out to their car. Then, they drove away from civilization, trying to find each other in seclusion.

--------------------------------------------------------

There was nothing urgent keeping them at work; so Gibbs let everyone go right on time. Even he didn’t linger. He knew what they were planning, though. They would all be determined to get Tim out with them, to not let him hide himself away as Tim tended to do when he got upset.

Gibbs didn’t like that Tim had separated himself from his friends, even temporarily, but he also understood the shock and the need to work through it on his own before the overwhelming concern of well-meaning friends...some of whom still felt a little bit of guilt about how things had fallen out.

Like me.

Gibbs couldn’t forget that it was his fault Tim’s life had become what it was. The nightmare of the years before had begun because of Gibbs’ need to poke around. He had known that it wasn’t his place, that it would be concealed from him, but he wasn’t willing to accept that, and it had led to Tim hacking the CIA and being found by the group that had first made him important.

Tim hadn’t blamed him for that in years, but every time Gibbs saw his eyes darken with a memory that still bothered him, Gibbs knew that it was his own fault. His recklessness had started this, not Tim’s. He had tried not to let Tim see his own regret because Tim would take that as a failure of his own.

Now, as he headed home, he hoped that this would blow over relatively quickly. Tim was understandably afraid of it, but they would be ready for it. That meant that they could deal with it as it came and keep Tim safe.

Unlike the other times when it had come up out of nowhere and thrown them all for a loop, they knew about this in advance and they could fight it. Investigating was what they did. It wasn’t terrorism. It wasn’t going on a secret mission. It wasn’t torture. It was just proving Tim’s innocence. Since he was innocent, that made it all the better.

By the time he reached his place, Gibbs had mostly convinced himself that things would work out. He went inside and headed for the basement, wondering if Tim would come over to start something as he often did when he got upset.

Then, he saw something that changed the whole situation.

It was just a piece of paper tacked to his latest project.

Even before he read it, somehow, Gibbs knew, more or less, what it would be.

He took it down and saw that it had been typed...probably on an old typewriter.

From Tim. He had come over to start something, but not a carpentry project.

He sighed and started to read.

Boss,

I know you’re going to be furious, that you’re going to think I lied to you today, but I promise that I didn’t. When I left NCIS, I really was just planning on going home to stew about this for a while. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. And that led me to what I’ve done. I know you won’t agree, but I think it’s something I had to do.

I’ve left. I’m running away. I can’t let them arrest me. If I’m arrested, I’m gone and I can’t deal with that. I just can’t. I put Jethro in the backyard. I hope you don’t mind taking care of him while I’m gone.

Before you start thinking it, it’s not that I don’t trust you. I do. I really hope that you’ll all figure out some way to convince Jorgenson that I’m not going to be his slave. Proving my innocence is only part of it. Jorgenson has always been the driving force behind each attempt to get me away from life. He has to be stopped in order for this to stop. I hope you can figure out how to do that. Maybe my running will demonstrate how I feel, that I’m not just kidding. I don’t know.

Honestly, Boss, I’m so afraid of getting taken that I couldn’t sit and wait for you to do what I know you can do. But I also know that none of you would agree with me; so I’m calling in the only favor that is owed to me and I’m running until it’s safe to come back. I don’t have my phone, and I won’t be online for a while; so you can’t have Abby trace my location. Actually, right now, I don’t know where I’m going, but I’ll be gone before you read this; so don’t bother trying to stop me. It’ll be too late.

I’m sorry if you’re angry. I really am. You’ve all done so much for me that I would hate for you to think that this is any slight against you. It’s me giving into my fear. I know that’s what I’m doing, but I don’t care. That’s enough for me. I have to get away from it somehow, and this is the only way I can see.

Tim

P.S. I wish I could have started something. Maybe you can come up with a new project for me while I’m gone and I can work on it when I get back. When.


He smiled a little at the message, but that didn’t last. Another sigh. He should have known that Tim would react like this...even if Tim apparently hadn’t, initially.

His phone rang and he glanced at it, knowing who it would be.

“Gibbs.”

“Boss, we’ve got a problem. Tim is...”

“He ran, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said, tersely. “He got spooked and he ran.”

“What? Where?”

“Don’t know. Yet. He left me a note.”

“What do we do, then, Boss?”

“What we planned. We prove that he’s innocent when we know what’s coming and we stop Director Jorgenson from doing this.”

“I have a few ideas. I’m sure Ziva would help.”

Gibbs smiled grimly. At this point, it was truly tempting to go that route, but it wouldn’t get them what they all wanted in the end.

“Let’s try to do it legally, first.”

“Fine. I’ll tell everyone. Can we see what he wrote?”

“Yeah.”

There was some muffled conversation, and Gibbs had a suspicion that he was about to get visitors.

“We’re coming over.”

“Okay.”

Gibbs hung up and pulled out his brandy. He poured himself a jar and looked at the note again. He sipped at the drink and groaned as he reread the note.

The only favor he was owed.

Carew.

Tim had been pushed back to Carew. Not as part of the CIA this time, but knowing how conflicted Tim felt about what he knew about Carew and what Carew had done to him, almost the last thing Gibbs wanted for Tim was to be forced into his company again.

But it looked like it had happened. Now, they would have to deal with it.

...and find out from Carew where Tim had gone.

...and find out where Carew himself was. Gibbs had no idea. He had let the former CIA director fade from his mind as time had gone on without any hint of contact.

Well, if Abby couldn’t trace Tim’s current whereabouts, Gibbs would bet that she could find Carew.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Dr. Woodrow Hicks limped toward the Director’s office, wondering at the summons. For all that he worked as a CIA psychiatrist, he wasn’t used to being summoned to the inner sanctum. In fact, since Carew’s retirement, he hadn’t been here at all, although they still used him just as much as ever.

He got to the outer office.

“Hello, I have an appointment with Director Morgan. I’m Dr. Hicks.”

The assistant smiled and him and called into the office. Dr. Hicks was interested in how open and friendly this woman seemed. From what he knew, she’d been working as Roy’s assistant for years. How had she managed to stay so cheerful?

“You can go right in, Dr. Hicks. Director Morgan is waiting for you.”

“Thank you.”

Dr. Hicks limped into the office. As soon as he got in, Roy stood up from his desk, walked to the chairs and gestured for Dr. Hicks to sit.

“I have a problem, Dr. Hicks,” he said, with no preamble.

“Okay. What does it have to do with me? I’m not your psychiatrist, Director.”

“I know. You’re not here for me.”

“Then, who? Even if you wanted me to, I wouldn’t tell you anything about Levi Carew.”

“Not him, either.”

“Then, it must be Tim McGee,” Dr. Hicks said. “No one else would have you acting like this and wanting my help. I’m not important enough.”

Roy nodded and walked to a bookcase. He pressed a button.

“This has to stay completely off the record until I figure out what I’m going to do...if anything.”

“What’s going on, then, Roy?”

Roy raised an eyebrow at the informality.

“Tim McGee has likely fled the country. He told his guard that he was leaving and that I should be told...and that you should be told because you’d worry.”

Dr. Hicks smiled at Tim’s consideration.

“Why has he left?”

“According to him, the FBI is about to accuse him of treason. I’ve put out some discrete feelers and that seems to be the case. Now, since we don’t eavesdrop on his activities, it’s always possible that he did something, but...”

“No, it’s not, Roy. While everyone can be broken, if Tim McGee had been broken, you would have known about it, already. It wouldn’t be subtle. If Tim McGee had turned traitor, we’d all be regretting it. He’s the kind of person who would self-destruct and do so spectacularly. The whole world would end up knowing it if Tim McGee committed treason. He’s not a traitor, even though the things he’s gone through could easily have pushed him there. A lesser man would have turned his back on the country after what it’s done to him, but Tim hasn’t.”

“Are you speaking as his shrink or his friend?”

“Thankfully, both. I know Tim McGee. I’ve been his psychiatrist for years, now. I understand him, and if he’s running, it’s out of fear, not out of guilt.”

Roy sighed. “Well, that’s something, anyway. Regardless, the charges are going to be filed. How publically, I don’t know. It’s still in the beginning stages. What I want to know is why.”

“Why do you think I’d know that?” Dr. Hicks asked. “I’m not employed by the FBI.”

“As you say, you know Tim McGee. Jorgenson has been pushing for access to him ever since I took over. Levi warned me about him, but I had no idea how much or how intently it would be, but it’s been nearly constant. He wants control of Tim McGee, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get him. The only reason I haven’t just let him is because of how clear Levi was about it before he left. Why does he want Tim McGee? What is it about this one man that has got the director of the FBI so determined to have him?”

“I don’t know, but that’s a very good question and it’s probably the most important thing to answer. Since Tim has gone...somewhere?”

“I don’t know where.”

“Then, he’s out of the FBI’s hands. For now. He’s probably out of the country as you said. No sense in trying to get away from the FBI by going to a different state. We don’t need to worry about that part so much. Based on what I know of his team, they’ll deal with the charges. If you’re going to worry about anything, worry about why it is that Director Jorgenson is willing to do something so dishonest just to get control of one man. Tim McGee is skilled, yes, but there’s nothing I know of that he can do that Jorgenson couldn’t get another way.”

“That’s what I was afraid of. It would have been easier if it was just that Agent McGee was somehow better at something than everyone else.”

“He might be, but not to this degree. Jorgenson wants him for another reason. Are you going to do anything about it?”

“I don’t know. I’d like to say that I didn’t sign up for this, but I know I did. I knew the kinds of things that could come up by taking this job. It just seems ridiculous that it’s because of this NCIS agent. I have a few days to decide, but I’m sure that Jorgenson is going to try and drag us into it, to be unwillingly on his side.” Then, there was an unexpected smile. “This is a pain, but I’d sure like to be in the room when Jorgenson finds out that he’s lost his chance to arrest Agent McGee.”

Dr. Hicks smiled, too. Then, his smile faded.

“Would it be too much to ask to be kept in the loop on this?”

“Actually, I would drag you, kicking and screaming, into the loop if you tried to stay out of it. I need someone who has experience with Agent McGee beyond just watching his movements. Levi knows him best, but I can’t get in touch with him right now. I’ve already tried, and we’ve all learned the hard way to respect his privacy. I’ll hear from him when he gets back from wherever he’s gone.”

That didn’t surprise Dr. Hicks one bit. When Carew did something, he went all the way and he wouldn’t stand for anyone keeping him from what he had decided.

“I’ll be available as you need me. A little bit of advanced notice would be appreciated if I’m going to be called on to perform, though. I like a chance to collect my thoughts.”

“I’ll try to do that for you.”

“Good.” Dr. Hicks stood up and then paused. “If there’s anything you can give me about Jorgenson, I might be able to build a profile that could help us figure him out.”

The eyebrow went up again. Roy was extremely expressive. Quite the opposite of Carew, to the extent that, even though he was merely expressing a normal level of emotion, he seemed almost gushing in comparison.

“Nothing that would break secrecy, but if you were going to have a meeting with him or if you had files on him that I might be permitted to read. Things like that.”

“I’ll take that into consideration,” Roy said, drily.

“All right. Is that everything?”

“One last question.”

“What is it?”

“I don’t know Agent McGee. I know of him, but I don’t know him. Is he worth all this aggravation?”

“Yes,” Dr. Hicks said, instantly. No hesitation.

“Okay. Then, I’ll do my best. If things work out right, maybe I’ll get a little more leverage in this game. I don’t have a whole lot, right now.”

“You’ll never have enough for complete security. Someone will always hate you.”

Roy pushed the button again.

“I’ve already figured that part out. Good night, Dr. Hicks.”

“Good night, Director Morgan.”

Dr. Hicks left and headed home, his mind abuzz with concern and thoughts about where Tim might have ended up, why this was happening now, what made Jorgenson want Tim so badly.

It was never simple.

___________________________
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 Post subject: Chapter 4
PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:03 am 
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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 4

“We’re flying to Frankfurt, first. We’ll refuel there and then go directly to Marrakech. It’ll be a long flight, overnight; so you should feel free to sleep. We’ll be trading off flying; so you don’t need to worry about that.”

Tim smiled. “I wouldn’t worry about that. You both seem very competent...to someone who doesn’t know the first thing about flying.”

“Ha.” The copilot looked at him speculatively for a moment. “I know we’re not supposed to ask questions about this, but I’m curious. Who are you that Carew would do this? It’s not a simple thing. My employer wouldn’t exactly be likely to just share out his private plane. This is top of the line. I think it cost somewhere around 65 million.”

Tim’s eyes widened. “Wow. I won’t make that much money in my entire life.”

“Neither will I, but that’s why I’m curious. You seem like a regular guy. What’s so special about you?”

“Nothing...except that the wrong people think that there is something special about me. Why Carew is willing to do this...well, on the surface, it’s because he owes me a favor, but I don’t know if that’s all of it.”

“What do people think is special about you?”

“At this point, I don’t even know. It used to be computers, and then, it was some of the stuff I have in my head. Now? I don’t have a clue. It’s been two years since the last time. I thought it was over.”

“I’m sorry that there was a last time.”

“Me, too.”

There was a brief silence. “Well, you should sleep. Enjoy the luxury of a bed on a plane. We’ll let you know when we’re getting close to Frankfurt. There’ll be a layover there and then, we’ll get you to Marrakech.”

“Thanks.”

Tim looked back at the bed. A bed on a plane. It was crazy, but this whole plane was insane. Beds, showers, nice blankets, good food. Even though it sucked that this was necessary, he figured that the luxury was a small bright spot in the misery.

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

Tony handed the letter to Ziva who read it silently and then passed it on.

No one spoke. Gibbs didn’t really expect them to for the moment. It had to sink in that Tim was really gone, that he had really chosen this route for himself.

“Did you know that he’d do this?” Tony asked, finally. “Did you let him go?”

“No,” Gibbs said. “I didn’t know.”

“What if you had?” Ziva asked. “Would you have stopped him?”

“Don’t know.”

Ducky looked up from reading the letter. “And you don’t know where he was going to go?”

Gibbs shook his head.

“Looking at this letter, while he claims not to know where he’s going, he seems to know what to do to find a destination,” Ducky said. “What favor?”

“Carew,” Gibbs said.

Tony sighed. “Again?”

“Why does Carew owe Tim a favor?” Ziva asked.

“Because he insisted on saving Carew’s daughter, even when Carew couldn’t make it a priority.”

“Tim didn’t want to have to talk to Carew anymore!” Abby protested. “He told me that he just wanted to live his life without being connected to the CIA!”

“But he’s also said that Carew is better than the heads of other organizations, including the FBI,” Ducky said. “If Director Jorgenson is truly going to come after Timothy, I can see that he might go to Carew for help. Are you sure this letter is really from him?”

“As sure as I can be,” Gibbs said. “Haven’t checked it out.”

“So what do we do now?”Abby asked, plaintively. “We can’t leave it like this! Tim can’t have to run away to be free! He has to be free here!”

“I need you to find out where Carew is.”

“Should we find out where Tim is if he doesn’t want to be found?” Jimmy asked. “He said that he wouldn’t even be online. He’s trying to be hidden.”

“But not from us!” Abby said.

“If it wasn’t from us, too, he would have told us, wouldn’t he?” Jimmy asked.

“Not if he wasn’t sure where he was going at the time,” Ducky said. “But you bring up a good point, Dr. Palmer. Perhaps we are inviting trouble if we try to find him when he is trying to hide.”

“Even if we find out where he is, that does not mean that we need to go to him,” Ziva said. “It just means that we know where he is.”

Tony scoffed. “When have we ever just let Tim be somewhere without going after him?”

“This is different,” Ziva said. “He has left on his own.”

“Right now, we don’t know where he is,” Gibbs said, interjecting. “Carew probably does. We need to figure out where Carew is so that we can ask him.”

“I can find Carew,” Abby said. “I don’t want to, but I can. He can’t hide from me. I know it.”

Gibbs almost smiled at that. “Then, we need to be able to counter whatever the FBI comes up with to arrest Tim. That is more important than Carew or knowing where Tim is.”

“I still think my idea would be better,” Ziva said, darkly. “This man is trying to destroy Tim, and too many people have almost succeeded already.”

“Yeah, Boss, isn’t there anything we can do besides defend Tim from stupid accusations? Why can’t we take the fight to them?”

“We don’t know what the fight is yet,” Ducky said. “You don’t go into a fight blindly, not if you don’t have to. Actually, with Timothy apparently safely out of the way, this might be the chance we need to find out just why Director Jorgenson is so determined to control Timothy.”

Gibbs nodded in agreement. Taking the fight to Jorgenson sounded good, but they needed a base from which to mount their attack. While he little relished the idea of going to the CIA for anything, he wondered if it would be possible to cultivate a few ties over there. There seemed to be no love lost between the CIA and the FBI.

And the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

It was all about dividing and conquering. If they could know that Tim was definitely safe somewhere, then, they could focus their energies on the two aspects of what had driven Tim away in the first place: the accusation of treason and Jorgenson’s true intentions.

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

Tim looked out the window as the plane descended and got his first real look at Marrakech. He was surprised to see some green. He had expected the baked browns and oranges of the Empty Quarter. That wasn’t to say that it was lush and green, but you didn’t look out the window and wonder how in the world anyone could live there.

“We’re starting our final descent. Please make sure that your seatbelt is securely fastened and please don’t get up and walk around until we’re safely down.”

“Right,” Tim muttered.

He still couldn’t believe that he was headed to a place to hide because there was no extradition. It made him feel like a criminal, even though he wasn’t. It bothered him. A lot. Still, he was here and he’d have to make the best of it.

While the plane taxied in to the private plane hangar, Tim pulled out the travel bag Carew had given him. He hadn’t really thought anything of it, but now, he realized that this wasn’t his own bag. It was Carew’s.

“Why did he give me an extra bag?” Tim muttered to himself.

He opened it and was shocked. It had cash, credit cards, a guide book. It was like Carew had decided to fund his whole trip.

“What is this?” he said.

Part of him wanted to close up the bag and leave it on the plane, worried that this would only lead to more connections with Carew, but most of him wanted to make sure that none of this got confiscated at customs. It would make him much more secure. He wasn’t sure how much money he’d grabbed to take with him, but it might not end up being enough. Better to be more prepared. One more moment of hesitation and then he closed the bag up and determined to bring it with him.

The plane jerked to a stop and Tim looked toward the cockpit as the copilot came back once more.

“Here we are. Marrakech. Do you speak Arabic? Or French?”

Tim shook his head, ruefully.

“No. Not really. I know a few Arabic phrases, almost nothing in French. I know how to ask for help.”

“Well, that will get you somewhere but not very far. You should be fine as far as that goes with English. More French tourists here than Americans, but the number of Americans is increasing all the time and more people are getting to know English. I’ll help you through customs.”

“Oh, that’s not necessary, is it?”

The copilot smiled. “Probably not, but I’ve been here before. Sometimes, everything goes smoothly. Sometimes, there’s a big delay, and I’ve got some connections here that should ease your way. Why make it difficult if you don’t have to?”

“Okay. Then, could you tell me something?”

“I’ll try.”

Tim opened the travel bag and showed the money.

“Will this be a problem going through customs?”

“It could be. There’s a limit on how much money you’re allowed to bring into the country.”

“I was planning on getting it changed to...the local currency.”

“Dirhams.”

“Right. Dirhams, but this is more than I thought I had.”

“Where did you get it?”

“Carew. I didn’t realize he was giving it to me.”

The copilot chuckled. “Okay. Well, a few words in the right ears, maybe a few of those dollars going to the right persons, you should be fine. It’s unfortunate that corruption is still a problem here, but sometimes, you can use it to your own advantage.”

“I’m willing to follow your lead.”

“All right. Let me see what I can do.”

The copilot (whose name Tim still didn’t know) took a few of the larger bills and walked back into the cockpit. Tim waited, not feeling overly anxious, given that this was someone picked by Carew who wouldn’t throw Tim to the wolves in a situation like this.

After a few minutes, he came back out.

“Okay. One of the administrators is coming out to the plane. I’m going to do the talking. I’ll give him some money, and he’ll conduct you through customs and help you get your money changed over to dirhams. Make sure you don’t flaunt it.”

“I know that much,” Tim said.

“Good. Here’s the address for a good hotel. It’s not for long-term stays, but it’ll give you a base to operate from while you figure out where you’re going to stay.”

Tim looked at the card he’d been given. Then, he looked at the copilot again with a raised eyebrow.

“Was this part of the deal Carew made with your boss?”

The copilot smiled. “Nope. This is all gratis.”

“In that case, thank you,” Tim said. “I am grateful.”

“I figured you would be.”

He walked over to the door of the plane and opened it. Tim watched as a man came up the steps and looked at him. The copilot began speaking to the man in French (Tim guessed, anyway). He pointed at Tim a few times and passed over some bills. Tim felt a little uncomfortable at the outright bribery going on, but he knew that he needed it. So he said nothing.

Then, after a few minutes, the man walked over.

“Hello, welcome to Morocco,” he said. His accent was prominent but his English was still easily comprehensible. “I will take you to the customs. You will come with me and then, you will be able to take a taxi, yes?”

“Yes,” Tim said.

“Good. Come with me, then.”

Tim picked up his bags and walked over to the door. He paused.

“Thanks for your help,” he said to the copilot.

“No problem. Good luck, and if you end up needing a ride back, we’ll come and get you.” He handed Tim another card. This one had a phone number on it.

“With your employer’s private plane?”

The copilot grinned. “I can be very persuasive.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

With that, Tim turned and followed the man off the plane. He went through customs very quickly. His money was changed over to dirhams and he stowed it out of sight in his bag. Then, he went out to the front of the airport, managed to get a taxi and got a ride to his hotel, or rather the riad which he assumed meant hotel. He paid the driver and went inside. There was a man at the front desk. He looked up expectantly as Tim approached.

“Hello. Do you speak English?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Do you have any rooms free?”

“You have no reservation?”

Tim shook his head. “No. I’m afraid not. It was a last-minute trip.”

“For how long?”

“The week,” he said, figuring that would give him time to get the lay of the land. “Do you have a room available? I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

“No inconvenience at all! It is just you?”

“Yes. Just me.”

“Then, yes, we can accommodate you.”

Tim sighed with relief.

“Thank you very much.”

He checked in, got his room assignment and walked to it. The room was small, but clean and it looked like a comfortable bed. This was a pretty nice hotel and not too expensive, either. All in all, it was not bad.

However, only when he was safely inside the room with the door locked did Tim let himself start to consider what he’d just done.

“I ran away...to Marrakech. I’m a fugitive.”

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 Post subject: Chapter 5
PostPosted: Sun Oct 08, 2017 10:51 am 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 5

Dr. Hicks made a rather rash decision and, instead of heading home after leaving Langley, he headed back toward DC. He was pretty sure that Tim would have found a way to inform his team that he was leaving. Maybe they’d even helped him, although he could easily imagine that Tim would want to keep them out of it to the extent that he could.

Still, maybe they had some information that the CIA didn’t yet. When it came to Tim, they were willing to go the distance, and already had in other circumstances.

“But where will you be?” he said aloud. It was unlikely that they’d be at NCIS, not at this hour. Maybe Tim’s apartment? Probably not.

Gibbs. That was really the only choice there was. He wasn’t sure of his welcome, given that Tony was the only one he’d talked to for any real length of time. Ziva had met him, but most of his perceptions were through the lens of how Tim perceived them. It would be interesting to see how much Dr. Hicks agreed.

He pulled up and smiled to see the other cars in the driveway. It gave him a feeling of pride that he was able to make this prediction correctly. Then, he got out of his car and limped to the front door. He knocked and waited.

He heard footsteps coming to the door and he had a moment of envy for the ease at which most people walked. It didn’t rule his life, but the pain and difficulty he lived with occasionally exhausted him.

There was a pause and he smiled, knowing that someone would be wondering why he was there.

Then, the door opened. Since he didn’t recognize the man, he figured it must be Gibbs himself.

“Hello, Agent Gibbs. I’m Dr. Hicks, Tim’s psychiatrist. May I come in?”

Gibbs raised a questioning eyebrow.

“I’m assuming you already know that Tim is gone?”

Gibbs nodded curtly but said nothing.

“I’d like to talk to you about that, if I may.”

Gibbs took a breath and then stood aside. Dr. Hicks didn’t bother hiding his limp. It had been a long day and he didn’t have any interest in making walking harder than it had to be.

“We’re down in the basement...if you can get down there,” Gibbs said, speaking for the first time.

“I can make it, but I hope there’s somewhere to sit when I get there.”

“There will be.”

“Good.”

Dr. Hicks followed Gibbs down the stairs and he found himself looking at the people who were so important to Tim. Tony and Ziva he’d met already, but these others he only knew by guessing based on what Tim had said.

“Tony,” Gibbs said.

Dr. Hicks was impressed when Tony seemed to know exactly what Gibbs meant and got off the stool he’d been sitting on.

“Have a seat, Dr. Hicks. What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I’m guessing you’re all here because you’re worried about Tim?”

“Yes, very much so,” said the man who had to be Ducky.

“Dr. Mallard, correct?” Dr. Hicks asked.

“Yes.”

“How much do you know about Tim’s situation?” he asked.

There was a pause, a hesitation. They didn’t really know him.

“I’m only asking so that I don’t tell you anything you already know. Why waste time? You know he’s gone, right?”

“Yes,” Gibbs said.

“And you know why he left?”

“Yes.”

“Then, you know that Director Jorgenson is likely the impetus behind all this?”

“We suspected,” Ducky said.

“Do you know where Tim is?” Tony asked.

“No. I don’t, but I know who probably does.”

“Carew,” Gibbs said, flatly.

“Yes.”

“Where is he?” Ziva asked. “We do not even know where he is now that he is no longer with the CIA.”

“Well, I can tell you where he lives, but I don’t know that he’ll be there.”

“What do you mean?” Ducky asked.

Dr. Hicks relaxed just a little bit, relieved that they were all willing to talk with him about this. They wanted to know what he knew and they weren’t kicking him out.

“Director Morgan indicated that he wouldn’t be.”

“Morgan?”

“CIA Director Morgan,” Dr. Hicks clarified. “Levi has taken steps to ensure that people understand he doesn’t work for them. He can be very persuasive when he wants to be, and as you all know already, he can be ruthless when he wants to be. When I spoke with Director Morgan earlier, he indicated that Levi would be out of touch. I don’t know where he might be, but I don’t think you’ll find him at home.”

“Does that mean you won’t tell us where he lives?” Gibbs asked.

It was an obvious test. Dr. Hicks smiled.

“Oh, I’m more than willing to tell you. I just didn’t want you to get there and be disappointed when he wasn’t there. I would guess that he’ll be back in three weeks at the most.”

“Why?”

“Because I still meet with him once a month and he didn’t change that.”

“And he would?” Tony asked.

“Yes. Just as he was meticulous about meeting with me as required when he was the director, he is now meticulous about keeping his appointments when he makes them.”

“So why is it that you know about this?” Ziva asked. “I am not angry about it, but I am surprised. We have only just found out ourselves.”

“Because Tim dismissed his CIA guard and asked him to tell both Director Morgan and me about what was coming. Director Morgan took the information to heart and has been trying to figure out what’s going on. He’s relieved that Tim is out of Jorgenson’s hands while he decides what he might need to do.”

“Why does he need to do anything? If this is about Jorgenson and the FBI, then, why would the CIA need to be involved at all?” Abby asked. “Tim hasn’t done anything for the CIA for years. He hasn’t even really interacted with the CIA...has he?”

“Not to my knowledge, but the plain fact of the matter is that Tim is being kept safe, at least in part, by the CIA. That gives a connection, whether real or perceived. I learned from Director Morgan that Director Jorgenson has been pressuring him for access to Tim for quite some time.”

That was a surprise to all of them, Dr. Hicks could see.

“Because it’s clear that Jorgenson isn’t going away, it’s in our best interests to know why this matters so much to him. One of the reasons I came here was to let you know that I’m going to be analyzing the director’s actions and seeing if I can ascertain his motivations. I don’t know how successful I’ll be, but it’s something to try. If you happen to come across anything that might help, I’d be happy to have it. I will be up front with you, though. I have every intention of sharing what I find out with Director Morgan. He needs to know all this as well, at least as far as Jorgenson goes. He doesn’t want to know where Tim is. If he knows, he can be tricked into sharing that information. If he can claim genuine ignorance, it’s better for everyone.”

“Do you know any details about his plans?”

“Whose? Director Morgan’s or Jorgenson’s? ...although the answer is the same in both cases. I don’t. What I do know is that I’m offering you my help should you need it. I know you’re all more than capable, but this may be a situation in which more is better, just because it’s more.”

Having finished his proposal, Dr. Hicks waited. He’d said what he’d come here to say and now, it was up to them. He could see them evaluating and wondering whether or not this was a trick. Thankfully, he could see that Tony’s unease was more about the overall problem. It was nice to know that Tony still had that trust he’d earned.

“If we need you, we’ll ask,” Gibbs said, finally.

“And alternately, might I have some hope of assistance should I ask for it?” Dr. Hicks asked, knowing that this might be the harder question.

“Yes.”

“Then, that’s all I can ask for, at the moment.”

He stood up to leave, but then, stopped.

“Oh, I forgot that you wanted Levi’s address. Do you have some paper and a pen?”

Gibbs gestured to Tony who conjured the required items up from somewhere. Dr. Hicks leaned on the stool and wrote the address down. He hesitated for just a moment and then decided not to include the phone number. Not only had they not asked for it, he was thinking of Tamara and her struggles as well as Levi’s. They could track down the number if they wanted it, especially with the address in hand. He finished writing and handed the paper to Gibbs.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get home while my feet still work. It’s been a longer day than usual.”

“You need any help?” Tony asked.

“No, thank you. I still have enough steps left in me to make it,” Dr. Hicks said with a smile. The pain was there, though, and he wanted to leave. So he started up the stairs, regretting that he’d agreed to go down them before. That extra pressure on each step made him want to groan.

He got up successfully and then limped through the house. As he stepped out onto the porch, he heard footsteps behind him. He paused and turned.

“Dr. Hicks,” Tony said.

“Yes?”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Can it wait until I get to my car and sit down? I’m not kidding about my feet.”

Tony nodded and then, unassumingly, lent an arm. While it was a little galling, Dr. Hicks was grateful for the support and he allowed Tony to help. When he was sitting in his car, he looked at Tony questioningly.

“Why would Tim go to Carew for help? He knows that we’ll help him. He even said so in the letter he left Gibbs. Why not just let us do what we can do? He said he was scared, but it can’t just be that.”

“Actually, it can, Tony. Don’t underestimate the fear Tim carries of being confined, being effectively imprisoned. Now, does that mean it is just that? No, not necessarily. This could be Tim’s way of asserting his independence, of demonstrating that he will not be controlled by anyone. They start to push and he completely removes himself from their hands. He’s refusing even to play their game. Why Carew? Because, while I know you still hate him and don’t trust him, Carew does what he says he’ll do, and Carew owed Tim a favor. Tim knew that he could trust Carew to get him away.”

“Do you think he’ll be okay?”

“Depends on where he went, but just as you shouldn’t underestimate Tim’s fear, don’t underestimate his strength. Tim’s lot has been really hard and yet he’s come through it all still the good guy, the one willing to fight on. It’s amazing that he can do it without anger, but he has, and he’s all the stronger for what he’s gone through in the past. You want him back, but one thing you should keep in mind is that he wants to be back, too. He didn’t leave because he didn’t trust you. He left because he felt he had to.”

There it was. Dr. Hicks could tell that he’d hit on a worry that Tony wasn’t going to be willing to voice or probably to talk about. He was worried that Tim was leaving just to be gone, to escape from them as much as from the FBI.

“And you’ll tell us what you know?”

“Yes. I will.”

“Okay. Thanks, Dr. Hicks.”

“My pleasure.”

Dr. Hicks closed the car door, drove home and was grateful to put up his feet and take some painkillers.

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 Post subject: Chapter 6
PostPosted: Sun Oct 08, 2017 10:55 am 
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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 6

Tim woke up to sunlight pouring into the room and shining on his closed eyelids. He was surprised that he’d successfully slept through the night, although jet lag probably helped. He wouldn’t be surprised if he was tired all day long.

Well, I’ve got the time to get over it.

Unfortunately, the thought gave him no comfort.

However, it was his lot and he knew he’d have to accept it for now. He sat up and looked out the window into a lovely interior courtyard. It had trees and a beautifully-tiled fountain. All in all, there were worse sights to see upon waking.

I’ve seen way too many of the bad ones.

What he decided he needed to do was find a longer-term rental. That would be the task for the week. Then, when he was settled there, he could start his own investigations. He didn’t like being completely separated from his friends, but he did like knowing that the FBI wouldn’t be able to get at him so easily, if at all.

He turned his mind back onto his task. He genuinely had no idea where to start and while he probably could figure it out eventually, it might be best just to ask for help. Surely, the man at the desk would be able to give him suggestions. He didn’t know how strange it would seem if he revealed that he had absolutely no plans made in advance, but he couldn’t avoid that.

There was a breakfast available in the hotel, so Tim decided that it was time to get up and see if he could get any food and then see if he could also get information.

He got out of bed, enjoyed a nice hot shower and then got dressed and headed out to get something to eat. He could smell food. He didn’t recognize the scents necessarily, but it was food, and that was all his stomach cared about. He followed the smells to a...well, it was a room, but it was wide open to the courtyard. There were tables and a few people eating. Tim didn’t recognize any of it, but that was okay. He didn’t care.

Then, Tim saw the buffet table. That was what he could smell.

It looked wonderful. There were a lot of pastries and breads in shapes and textures he didn’t recognize, but it was bread. How bad could that be?

He walked in and picked up a plate. Then, he took a little bit of pretty much everything. He took something that he thought might be dates, something that was kind of a weird-looking pancake, along with some distinctly French-looking pastries. There was also something that looked like tea. He didn’t see any coffee, but he could deal with that. The tea would suffice for now.

Then, he sat at a table and began tasting. The tea was mint. Okay. It looked like everyone else in the room was having it, too. He wasn’t really a tea person, but he wasn’t about to reject it.

As he sat drinking tea and eating pastries, he suddenly had a pang. Ducky would probably love this. Tim wished he was here, too.

He finished eating his breakfast and then made his way to the front desk. The same man was there. Today, Tim noticed that his nametag declared him to be Hamza.

“Hello, sir. Can I help you?” Hamza asked.

“I hope so. My trip was last-minute, but I’m going to be here for probably about a month, and I need a place to stay that’s a little more long-term. My problem is that I’ve never been in Marrakech before, and I don’t even know where to start looking. Is there any help you might be able to give?”

Hamza seemed a little surprised, but at the same time, his expression was open and unquestioning.

“It is possible. If you can give me some time, I will see what I can do.”

“Oh, I’m not in a rush. I was planning on staying here for the week. I don’t want to take too much of your time.”

“No trouble, sir. No trouble. I will help you.”

“Thank you, very much,” Tim said. “Uh...shokran.”

Hamza smiled. “‘Afwan. I will let you know.”

Tim nodded and then, for lack of anything better to do, went back to his room.

...and fell asleep.

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

“I can’t find any sign of Carew, anywhere, Gibbs,” Abby confessed. “The last time he used a credit card was last week. I don’t know what else to try.”

“Then, we’ll have to wait,” Gibbs said.

“We can’t just wait, Gibbs! We have to know that Tim is okay!”

“We do. He’s out of the country. He’s fine.”

“Then, what do we do?”

Gibbs looked Abby in the eye. “We make it so that he can come home.”

“But we still don’t know what the FBI is going to try!”

He smiled a little. “But we do know who’s in charge.”

“Yeah? So? What does that–?” Then, she got it. “How invasive can I be?”

“As invasive as you can get away with. ...and don’t go any farther,” he said, firmly. “You know what you can do. Don’t push it.”

“Okay.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow at her.

“I promise! I won’t!”

Gibbs nodded and left the lab and then headed back up to the bullpen. When he got to his desk, he sat where he was for a few minutes, thinking about what would be the best idea. As he’d told Abby, they had to wait for Carew to show himself, but at the same time, maybe there was a way to track him down. All he wanted was to know where Tim was. If Carew was busy, he could give the information and then they’d leave him to his life.

He looked at the piece of paper Dr. Hicks had written Carew’s address on and decided that he could ask Carew’s neighbors...if he had any.

It was lunchtime. He had the time right now. It might get him back to NCIS a little later than usual, but there was a first time for everything.

Quickly, he got up and left the building before anyone could see him and ask him where he was going.

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

Roy sat in his office for a few minutes. He had a meeting with Jorgenson in the morning and he wasn’t looking forward to it. He didn’t like Jorgenson on general principle, but he liked even less the man himself. He found his attitude about most things distasteful. He hadn’t made a habit of reaching out to many of the different federal agencies up to this point. He had a pretty good relationship with the NSA, but there was a group that might be important in the short term. Long term? Maybe not, but short term.

He walked to the Communications Center.

“Director, what do you need?”

“I’d like you to contact NCIS and ask if Director Shephard is available for a short discussion. Make sure it’s clear that this is a request, not a demand.”

“Yes, sir.”

A few minutes later, the tech turned back.

“She’s ready, sir. Shall I put her through?”

“Yes.”

Roy suppressed the desire to straighten and square his shoulders. He wasn’t being judged here. This was his request, not Director Shepard’s.

“Director Shepard,” he said, keeping his tone even.

“Director Morgan. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

There was a lot of suspicion and wariness. Knowing as he did how Carew had played with other people, he understood it.

“I’m sure it’s not a pleasure on either side, but I have a feeling that we might be needing each other in the near future.”

“For what purpose?”

“For the one thing that we have in common. Or rather the one person we have in common.”

Her expression became even more closed off and Roy stifled a sigh. He decided to nip this attitude in the bud before it could go any further.

“Look, Director Shepard, I’m not thrilled about the fact that I still have to protect your man and I’m even less thrilled that this little power struggle between you and Jorgenson is involving me. I have plenty on my plate without worrying about one man who doesn’t even work for me. However, I have accepted that there is a necessity in protecting him from whoever might try to take him. I am going to be meeting with Director Jorgenson tomorrow and I’d like to know how to proceed since I’m almost positive it has to do with Timothy McGee. If you don’t care how I respond, then, I won’t take any more of your time. If you do care how I respond, then, now is the time to share that. Is that clear enough for you?”

There was a long pause and then, a sigh.

“I apologize, Director Morgan. As you may know, when it comes to Timothy McGee, our opinions of the CIA are mixed at best.”

“Well, I would hope that you would not judge me on the basis of my predecessor, even if he did save your agent’s life on more than one occasion. I want to be judged on the basis of my own actions, not someone else’s.”

“I understand.”

“Now, is there any input you would like to give me before I have my meeting? I have little interest in being useful to Jorgenson if it’s not necessary.”

“Well, it certainly isn’t necessary in this case. You are aware that my agent will potentially be accused of treason?”

“Yes, I’m aware of that. I take it you believe that it’s not true.”

“It’s not just belief. I know that my agent has never even dreamed of committing treason.”

“I appreciate that you know him where I don’t, but I’m relatively certain that Jorgenson is going to have some kind of evidence he’ll use.”

“I’m sure he will, but that doesn’t change the facts. It would be fairly easy to pick something and claim that it proves that Agent McGee is a traitor, but that is only if the full picture is ignored, something that Director Jorgenson is strangely willing to do.”

“So you’re saying that I shouldn’t believe him?”

“I wouldn’t.”

Roy suppressed a smile.

“That goes without saying. Very well, Director Shepard. I’ll take that under advisement. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?”

“What do you know about Agent McGee up to this point?”

“I know that he dismissed his CIA guard and said that he was going on the run. I don’t know where he ran to, but I know why he did it. I don’t want to know where he is. That’s not my business. If and when this is resolved, I’d like to know so that I can reassign his guards.”

There was another pause, but then, she nodded.

“Understood. That’s all I have to say.”

“Thank you, Director Shepard.”

The screen went blank.

“Is that everything, Director?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

He turned and left the room and returned to his office.

As he sat at his desk, he thought again about how strange it was that the most difficult part of his job was dealing with an NCIS agent.

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

Gibbs parked in front of a house that looked much too normal to belong to Carew and walked to the front door. He knocked and waited. He knew that it wasn’t likely that they were there, but he had to check.

“Are you looking for Levi and Tamara?”

He turned around and smiled at a friendly-looking woman, probably around Tim’s age.

“Yes. Do you know where they are?”

“Not exactly. Are you a friend of theirs?”

Gibbs walked down to meet her on the sidewalk.

“More of an acquaintance, but I was trying to just drop by. I didn’t know that they’d be gone. Are things going well for them?”

“Well, they only moved here a year ago.” She lowered her voice. “I got the feeling they were having some kind of marital problems, but I didn’t want to pry. I have to admit that it took me quite a while to get used to Levi.”

“Why is that?” This wasn’t particularly important for what he was doing, but Gibbs couldn’t deny that he was a little bit curious about how someone who had no history with Carew perceived him.

“Well...” She shrugged uncomfortably. “How long have you known them?”

“I’ve known them for a few years.”

“So you’re used to him.”

“Yes.”

“It was just his eyes, at first. I know that it’s not right to judge someone by how they look. I mean, he can’t control what color his eyes are, but I’d never met someone with black eyes before. It’s kind of disconcerting because they seem to just look right through you. And you know how horror movies have the evil people with black eyes like that sometimes. I know it’s fiction, but I couldn’t help thinking about it. But he’s always been perfectly polite and I tried not to let that get to me. But...he’s a little...different, don’t you think?”

“He does take some getting used to,” Gibbs said, thinking about what an understatement that was.

“Yes! Tamara is so lovely, but there’s something about Levi that’s hard to deal with. I’m not sure what it is, exactly. He’s never rude and when we came to welcome them to the neighborhood, he was so solicitous. It’s just that sometimes it seems like he’s holding the world at arms’ length. Still, I have tried to make them feel welcome. They clearly care about each other, even if something isn’t going like they wanted it to. I know that their son died a few years ago and I think that’s still hard for them. In fact, I was talking to Levi one day and I got the feeling that he blames himself for it.”

“Really?” That seemed strange for Carew to be admitting to any kind of feeling, let alone one of guilt, to someone like this woman.

“I’m sure it’s not true, but I don’t know the details...and I’m not asking for them,” she said, quickly. “That’s really private stuff and shouldn’t be gossip.”

“True. So you don’t know where they’ve gone?”

She shook her head. “No. Tamara said that they needed to get away from everyone. I think that he must have had a really hard job and it’s hard for him to let go.”

So she didn’t know what Carew had done. He supposed that the only reason he would know the CIA director on sight was because of how much interaction he’d had. It just seemed impossible that she wouldn’t recognize him. Gibbs just nodded.

“I’m going to be getting their mail for the next few weeks. So you’ll have to wait. I know they weren’t even going to have their phones or anything. It was supposed to be completely cut off from the world so they only had each other.”

“Then, I’ll have to try back later. Is it three weeks or more?”

“Tamara asked me to get their mail for another three weeks, but I told her that I’d do it for as long as she needed it.”

“Thanks. I’ll just have to try back later.”

Then, suddenly, it occurred to this woman that she had told a lot of personal information to a man she knew nothing about. Her expression got a little bit wary and Gibbs smiled.

“I really do know Levi Carew. I’ve worked with him in the past. Here’s my ID so you can check it if something happens.” He pulled out his wallet.

“NCIS. What’s that?”

“Navy law enforcement.”

“Oh.”

“Thanks for your help. I’ll be back in about a month.”

“Okay. I’ll watch for you.”

“You do that,” Gibbs said with a smile.

He walked back to his car, got in and drove away. It was only when he was safely out of sight that he sighed. He had hoped that Dr. Hicks was mistaken and they’d be there or that it was just a weekend, not a month. Still, there was plenty for them to do before making sure that they could bring Tim back. They would just have to focus on that instead.

He got back to NCIS fairly quickly and told the others about how it had gone. They were disappointed but agreed that they had plenty to do while they waited.

It was just that they’d all feel better if they could get in contact with Tim and know that he was okay.

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 Post subject: Chapter 7
PostPosted: Mon Oct 09, 2017 10:51 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 7

Tim awakened to a nasty taste in his mouth and someone knocking on the door. He stumbled out of bed, not really thinking and only just was able to remember that he wasn’t in DC and should be a little cautious.

“Who is it?” he asked.

“It is Hamza from the front desk.”

“Oh. Just a second.”

Tim rubbed his face with his hands and then ran them through his hair, trying to wake himself up. Then, he opened the door and, sure enough, there was Hamza standing there. There was the faintest expression of amusement on his face and Tim wondered what he looked like that had elicited that.

“Yes?” he asked.

“I am sorry to wake you, sir.”

“No, that’s fine.”

“You had asked me about someone to help you find a place to stay here in Marrakech?”

“Yes. You know someone?”

“I do not know him well, but he is an American who has been trying to set up a business here in Marrakech, serving other Americans or English-speaking people. A kind of guide. He knows the city well and has asked to be referred if possible when needed. I have not met him, but Ayoub has and he says that this is a good choice. He can help you find a place to stay and he can give you a tour of the city if that is something you wish to have. He also speaks English which many do not. Does this interest you?”

“Yes. Absolutely. Do you have a phone number or whatever?”

“Yes. Here it is.”

Hamza gave him a piece of paper. It looked like a step above a homemade flyer, but it was all in English (and Arabic) and that was comforting to Tim. On the one hand, it was almost too good to be true that there was an American tour guide. On the other, there was an American tour guide!

“Thank you very much, Hamza.”

“Will you be wanting dinner tonight?”

“Is there room service?”

“Yes, sir. There is a menu in your room, although it is currently morning.”

“Oh. Is it?” Tim looked his watch and realized that he’d slept an entire day and night without waking. “Thank you. I’m sorry. I have jet lag.”

Hamza did smile this time. “I can see that, sir. It is quite common.”

“Thank you for your help. I really appreciate it.”

“It is nothing. Breakfast is still available downstairs.”

“Thank you.”

Tim closed the door and then stumbled to the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. He laughed at the sight. No wonder Hamza had seemed amused. His hair was sticking up in every direction and he had a line of dried drool on his cheek. All in all, he probably looked like a stereotypical inexperienced traveler. He was feeling much better, though. That was a lot of sleep and now, maybe he could think clearly enough to deal with his situation.

But first, a shower.

After he felt like he looked more presentable, he went down to the breakfast area and tried a little bit of everything again. Still no coffee. He might have to find out if coffee was a thing here...but then, there was Moroccan coffee. Maybe it was just not a thing in this hotel. The tea would do. He enjoyed the pastries and the rest of the food. Then, he went back up to his room and sat down by the phone. He looked at the number.

The question was whether or not he could trust this. But how in the world could the FBI anticipate where he’d end up when he hadn’t even known until right before he went to the plane? And how could they have known what hotel he’d end up at?

Then, Tim smiled to himself. It was funny, but he was assuming that he could trust Carew and the people he’d got to help. If nothing else, it was a sign of how much he’d recovered mentally from everything in the years before. He wasn’t automatically assuming he would be attacked.

Still, he forced himself to evaluate this person. Hamza and Ayoub (whoever that was) had said he was trying to start his own business. That would mean that he would be wanting English speakers. It made sense and it would make sense if Hamza was making this offer to anyone who asked. Even the FBI would be hard pressed to have anticipated this much. They would be psychic if they could do that.

Nodding to himself, Tim picked up the phone and dialed.

“Alu. Sabāh il-khayr. Good morning.”

“Good morning. Is this Daniel Worthing?”

“An American voice! Wonderful! Al-hamdu lillah!”

Tim couldn’t help laughing.

“Glad I could help.”

“I’m sorry. I’m not being very professional. Yes, I’m Daniel Worthing, founder, owner and sole employee of Anqalaysūn Real Estate.”

“Well, I’m in need of help finding a place to stay in Marrakech for...probably about a month.”

“Probably? Does that mean you’d want something that could potentially be rented longer?”

“It would be nice if the option was there.” Even if I hope I don’t end up needing it, Tim added to himself.

“Okay. I think I can help you out there. Where are you staying, currently?”

Tim gave the address of the riad.

“Oh, fancy. Are you wanting something that level?”

“Not necessarily. I just want a place that’s safe, where I don’t have to worry about robberies or anything and has some modern conveniences.”

“Toilet, shower, kitchen...wifi?”

“If possible.”

“It is. Definitely. Are you looking for large, small, furnished...?”

“Definitely not huge. It’s just me, and furnished, yes. I don’t know exactly what’s normal here, but I want privacy.”

“Apartment or house?”

“I figure that houses are more private, but if it was an apartment you recommended, I’d consider that, too.” Tim took a breath. “Privacy is really the most important thing for me.”

“That I can give you. It sounds like you want a riad.”

“Oh. I thought that must mean hotel. It doesn’t?”

“Well, a lot of the hotels are called riads. It’s more the style. Traditional homes here tend to be right next to each other, but everything is oriented toward an interior courtyard so you’re still private even in the middle of the city. It does make it hard to find the place because, especially in the Medina, it’s a maze of alleys and bazaars and everything. So you’ll be walking along and all you’ll see are blank walls and the occasional door. But it gives you a lot of privacy. Any other luxuries you’re wanting?”

“No. If luxuries come along with it, that’s fine, but I’m not looking for anything...unless something like hot water is a luxury?”

“It could be in some areas, but not for the kinds of places I’ll be looking at for you. I assume that, unless you say otherwise, as an American used to hot and cold water, you’ll want that. Budget?”

“I don’t know what’s normal here, but I’d say no more than three or four thousand dollars for the month. Is that all right?”

Daniel laughed. “That’s more than all right. People who want large homes and luxury furnishings can get up higher than that, but otherwise, that’s plenty. Okay. Give me today to get some places lined up and, if it will work for you, I’ll come by the riad in the morning, say around... nine or so?”

“That sounds great,” Tim said.

“Excellent. Allah yemsek alā khir. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye.”

Tim hung up and thought about the voice. If this Daniel Worthing was what he sounded like, he would be a good person to have around. Friendly, eager to help. His voice sounded fairly young, too. In addition, the little bit of Arabic he’d spoken had been smooth. He switched from English to Arabic with almost no hesitation. It appeared that he was fluent. Tim had to admit that he was interested in meeting him.

So now, he had time on his hands and he was alert enough to be aware of it. He was hesitant about going out into the city for the time being. What he’d seen of Marrakech was confusing at best. Hamza had mentioned that Daniel was a tour guide, as well as real estate agent. If this worked out, Tim figured he might want to use Daniel as a guide to help him get a feel for the city, too.

With that much decided, Tim had to figure out what he was going to do with himself. He considered calling back to DC and letting everyone know he was okay, but that would be asking for trouble because by now, the FBI might be aware that he was gone. If they did, he had no doubt that they would do whatever they could to track him down. Besides, Carew knew where he was and Tim had no doubt that Gibbs would figure that out. He had told Carew that he didn’t care if he told them where he was. Hopefully, they would realize that it was important that he stay hidden.

In fact, maybe it would be better to wait a few days before he started to see what he could dig up. It was a balancing act between potentially revealing his location by looking for answers and making it possible to go home more quickly by finding the answers.

That decided, he decided to relax in his room until the next morning.

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

“Well?” Roy asked, dismally.

The technician suppressed a smile.

“Director Jorgenson is on the other end, ready and waiting.”

“Put him through.”

“Yes, sir.”

On the screen was Director Jorgenson. He had that perpetually unhappy expression. It was like someone was holding something unpleasant under his nose.

“Good morning, Director. What can I do for you?” he asked.

“You’re still watching Timothy McGee.”

Ah. No small talk.

“Why do you ask? That has nothing to do with you, Director.”

“Yes, it does.”

“Why?” Roy asked. “You have no access to him. Just because there’s a new president, doesn’t change that arrangement. I thought that had already been made patently clear to you two years ago.”

“Even if he’s a traitor?”

“In what respect?”

“What do you mean? There’s only one respect in which one is a traitor.”

“Yes, but when did he commit this treason? We’ve been watching him.”

“Agent McGee is very skilled, as I’m sure you’re aware. We believe that he’s been sharing information all along.”

“And his abduction in which more than one CIA agent was killed taking him and he was tortured?”

“Just because he’s giving information to one group doesn’t mean he’s giving information to all groups. He has routinely gone off the grid, often with the aid of the CIA, including a suspicious occurrence two years ago in which Levi Carew was involved and...”

Roy let a smile worthy of Carew cross his face.

“I think you might want to be careful with how you’re making your case, Director Jorgenson.”

“If you want to make sure that you’re not lumped in with his treachery...”

Roy smiled more widely. Jorgenson would never have tried this with Carew, but he thought he could do it to the new guy, never mind that Roy had been working with Carew for years before his appointment as Director.

“I’m not worried about that, Director Jorgenson,” he said. “Clearly, you have a low opinion of my ability to see through you. Let me assure you that I’m well aware of your strange obsession with Agent McGee and I see no reason to aid you in that pursuit since you’ve given me nothing of note. All you’ve done is threaten and throw around vague accusations. If you had real evidence, you would have shared it already. Since you haven’t, I am left to assume that you’re just blowing smoke.”

Jorgenson’s expression hardened.

“We’ll get him with or without you. The question you need to answer is whether or not you’re willing to go down with him because the CIA has been watching him for years. Either you’re incompetent and didn’t notice it or you’ve been knowingly protecting a traitor. That won’t go over very well with the American public.”

“I have done nothing of the kind,” Roy said. He held up his hand, signaling the coming cut off. “Since you clearly don’t need my help, this conversation is over. If you need to make a serious request, you can try again.”

He gestured and Jorgenson’s face vanished from the screen. Roy hoped that he’d made the FBI director angry. He might not get to know it, but he could enjoy the idea that he had done it anyway.

“Anything else, Director?”

“No. If Director Jorgenson tries to contact me again, tell him that he can make an appointment.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Thank you.” Roy looked at his watch. He was supposed to have a briefing with some of his overseas agents, but that wasn’t supposed to happen for another hour. He might be able to squeeze in some alone time. “The briefing will still take place at the scheduled time. I’ll be back for it.”

“Yes, sir.”

Roy turned and left the room. He considered notifying NCIS, but for now, he’d keep his own counsel. He did wish that he could get in contact with Carew. It was really bad timing that he’d decided to vanish from sight just when it was all hitting the fan.

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 Post subject: Chapter 8
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 9:25 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 8

“Agent Gibbs, Director Shepard would like to speak with you,” Cynthia said.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. What was this about?

“If you have the time.”

Gibbs nodded and got up to follow Cynthia to the office. She gestured for him to go inside without making any move to join him. Gibbs knocked once and walked in.

Uncharacteristically, Jenny was standing in front of her desk, waiting for him.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Do you know where Agent McGee has gone?”

“No.”

“Do you know why?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I’d hoped that you wouldn’t be blind-sided.”

“I was. I just have had time to get over it.”

“So he didn’t tell you in advance.”

“No.”

Jenny nodded and then sighed.

“I’ve already had contact from the CIA.”

“So have I.”

“What?” Jenny asked, clearly surprised.

“Tim told them he was leaving. Because of his guards.”

“Yes, I know.”

“His guard told both Director Morgan and Dr. Hicks.”

“Oh. I should have thought of that. Who contacted you?”

“Dr. Hicks. He’s offered his help with the understanding that any progress made on our side that we tell him will be shared with Director Morgan as well.”

“For what reason?”

“Because the CIA is being sucked into this whether we want it that way or not, and that means that it could also affect the CIA, even if they shouldn’t be involved at all.”

Jenny took a deep breath and then nodded reluctantly.

“I haven’t met Dr. Hicks. I only know about him through Agent McGee. What do you know about him?”

“I know that Tim trusts him, and he doesn’t trust very easily. He’s been meeting with him on a regular basis ever since we brought him back from Saudi Arabia.”

“Really. Well, that does say something in his favor. I have no problem with you helping him, and Director Morgan doesn’t seem very happy about being dragged into it. I have to admit that I appreciate his informing me about what was happening. I just don’t like that it’s necessary.”

“I don’t, either, but I’m willing to trust Dr. Hicks.”

“And by extension, Director Morgan?”

“I trust that Dr. Hicks trusts him.”

Jenny smiled a little.

“I haven’t had any pressure yet from the FBI, but I’m sure, once he gets his ducks in a row, he’ll starting pushing. I just wish I knew what he was going to use as his evidence. There’s nothing concrete, but there are a lot of little things he could probably produce.”

“Like what?”

“Like Tim’s frequent disappearances, like the attacks in Arlington a few years ago. We can claim that he thwarted a larger attack, but since he did, Jorgenson could claim that he made the attack that did happen possible. His disappearance two years ago when no one knew where he was or what he was doing. He could even go all the way back to the work Tim did with the rogue group in the CIA. None of those operations were sanctioned and some were ruthless. All in all, he can make claims, but the facts should stand on their own. The problem is that, if Jorgenson gets a chance to arrest him, it’ll be too late. Honestly, while I hate that he felt the need to run away, Tim probably made the wisest choice he could.”

Gibbs agreed, but he didn’t admit to it. Then, Jenny got a speculative expression on her face.

“What?” he asked.

“This is all centered on Jorgenson. He’s the one doing this. If we get him out of the way, then we can assume that Tim is safe. Have you talked to Fornell?”

“No.”

“This might be one of those times when he could offer something valuable. If you’re willing, I’d suggest that you try him.”

Gibbs wasn’t particularly enamored of the idea, not because he didn’t trust Fornell, but because he wasn’t sure if Jorgenson would have thought of that already. He didn’t like to force Fornell into a position where he was under attack from both sides. Still, it was a suggestion he would have to consider seriously.

He nodded.

“If you find out where he is, don’t tell me. When the pressure comes, I want to be able to be completely honest in not knowing where Tim has gone.”

“Fine with me.”

Jenny smiled. “The only good thing about this is that, if we can figure Jorgenson out, we can make sure Tim never has to worry about him again.”

“Hopefully.”

“Yes. All right. Keep Fornell in mind.”

Gibbs nodded again and left the office. He went back down and sat at his desk, thinking about whether or not Fornell was the one to call this time around. He glanced up and saw Tony and Ziva exchanging looks with each other.

“Nothing new,” he said.

They nodded and got back to work. Gibbs sat there for a few more minutes and then walked to the elevator and went to his office. He pulled out his phone.

“Gibbs, what do you want? And don’t say nothing because you wouldn’t be calling me right now, probably from the elevator, if you didn’t want something from me.”

“Has Jorgenson given you any instructions recently?”

“About what?”

Fornell sounded genuinely confused.

“About McGee.”

“Not recently. Not in the last couple of years. Why?”

“Because he’s trying to get him again.”

“Oh.” There was a pause. “I’ve been off the last few days, though. Sacks has been out, too. I’m still trying to catch up on what I’ve missed. What have I missed?”

“Can you come to my place tonight?”

“Okay. This had better be good.”

“It’s not. It’s bad.”

“And you want my help with it. Okay. If it’s about Agent McGee, then, you know whose side I’m on.”

“Good.”

“But don’t forget who pays my salary.”

“I won’t.”

Gibbs hung up and headed back to his desk.

“Tonight,” he said, briefly.

Tony and Ziva both nodded.

Back to work.

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

Carew sat and stared pensively out on the forest. The one problem with this whole experiment was that it was awakening a sense of regret in him for things he had done intentionally in the past. He hadn’t allowed for regret during his time in the CIA. Or at least, he hadn’t acknowledged any regret that he felt for decisions he made.

Trying to get back to living a life that was a real life and not a shell required that he allow himself to feel things. If he was honest (and he was), he could admit that he wasn’t sure the effort would be worth it. He knew that Tamara felt much the same about this whole thing, albeit for a different reason.

But she hadn’t given up on him yet, and he couldn’t just give up, either, not when he knew he could still try it. If it got to the point that he knew he just couldn’t do anything more, he’d admit it, but that wasn’t where he was at, right now. Right now, it was uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Where that left him was sitting here on the porch of the small cabin they’d rented, thinking about the one person who had chosen not to condemn him for the things Carew had chosen.

Tim McGee.

It was still almost shocking to him that Tim McGee could wish him well, even while hating that there was any connection between them at all. Carew was actually a little surprised at himself that he was extending it when he knew very well that it wasn’t necessary. He did owe Tim a debt that couldn’t really be repaid, but it hadn’t been necessary to tell Tim that. Tim had pointed it out himself: Carew would have helped him even without the favor.

Which was another issue. Had he softened that much? Had two years really been enough to get him to do something just because he was asked to, not because he could get something out of it?

Whether he had or not, he had been honest before. There was really no way to make it even between them because he had done a lot more to Tim and used him more than could ever be repaid. Carew accepted that as one of those things he might have to learn to regret. At the same time, he knew he hadn’t changed enough to think that he should have done things differently. Maybe he wouldn’t ever. The things he’d done, making use of Tim, had been been necessities, not luxuries. He had never used Tim for something that was personal. He had known that Tim would refuse to leave Bri behind, but he had chosen him for taking care of Higgins and he would have done that with or without Bri being involved.

“You’ve been out here for a long time. I couldn’t hear anything. I thought maybe you’d made a run for it.”

Carew took a breath and looked back. He managed to smile. Tamara had always made him want to smile, even when he couldn’t. She sat down beside him.

“What were you doing?”

“Thinking about the past.”

“Which past?”

“Not family at the moment. Just work.”

“Do you miss it?”

“No,” he said, easily. He had never really wanted the job he had. He had simply felt he needed to be the one doing it.

“Do you regret it?”

“I’m trying to feel like I should.”

“And?”

“And I’m not sure I want to do that much.”

Tamara actually smiled.

“Join the rest of the world, Levi. No one likes regret.”

Carew smiled back.

“I’m aware of that.”

“Anything you want to talk about?”

“Tim McGee.”

“The man who was at our house?”

Carew nodded.

“What about him?”

“He’s one of those people I should regret having treated the way I treated him.”

“And you don’t?”

“I recognize that I should. That’s progress.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

The silence fell again. Neither of them spoke for a while.

“Do you regret this?” Carew asked, finally.

“Sometimes.”

Carew nodded and then, tried to share. It was a necessity if this attempt was going to succeed, and since he did want it to, he would continue to put forth the effort.

“I regret that,” he said.

Tamara touched his hand for a moment.

“What would you do for him?”

Carew smiled. “Hope that he’s never in need of my help.”

“But what if he was? How far would you go?”

Carew wasn’t sure why she was asking, but he could be honest about it.

“I would go as far as he’s gone for me.”

“How far is that?”

“The reason Brianna ever made it back here was because of him, not because of me. He saved us both.”

Another silence. Then, Tamara got up and walked in front of him. She knelt down so that she was right in front of him, looking him right in the eye.

“You’ve done that for a long time. You throw yourself into whatever you think is necessary and you don’t go halfway. While I wish you hadn’t gone the way you did, that trait is a good one. That’s something that shouldn’t change, Levi. You shouldn’t give that part of you up. And if you have to go to help him, you should.”

“Hopefully, that will never be necessary, for his sake.”

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

Tim enjoyed a leisurely day. He tried not to think about anything but his immediate surroundings and the food. He did do a few searches to see what kinds of homes were available in Marrakech. He was interested to see the variety, both in style and in price. He knew so little about this place. What he was starting to see, however, was that it was going to be a very different experience from his time in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Briefly, he found himself wishing that Suhayl would randomly show up here, although he would be suspicious if he did. Even with what Suhayl seemed to do for a living, having him here at this exact moment would make Tim nervous, although he could hope that Suhayl would be honest about whatever had brought him here.

Still, he wasn’t here, and Tim knew that he wasn’t likely to see him at all.

He lay back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling for a while, trying to appreciate just not moving. While his overall situation wasn’t great, at this very moment, he could appreciate that he was in a nice hotel room, in what would likely be a fascinating city.

Then, he had a thought and he sat up. Would the FBI know about his meeting with Dr. Hicks? Even if they did, how likely would it be that they would know about that and think the way he was thinking right now? In order to track him, they’d have to be monitoring all of Dr. Hicks’ correspondence, but that would probably be fairly difficult, given that Dr. Hicks was working for the CIA. He might be able to at least assure everyone that he was okay. Not tell them anything, but let them know that he was as good as he could be at the moment.

He pulled out his laptop and thought about it a little bit more. Should he do it?

Tim sat there, staring at Dr. Hicks’ email address. Then, he nodded. He would be cautious and cover his tracks, but he’d do it.

Now, what to say?

Dr. Hicks,

This is Tim. I just want to let you know that I’m safely at my destination. I’d appreciate if you could tell the others. That’s all.

Tim


He could say a lot more, but anything more he might say could give away his location if his email was intercepted. He didn’t think it would happen, but it was safer to be cautious. He stared at the screen for a few more seconds and then sent it off.

Then, he sat back and thought about how strange this was. At the moment, he had nothing to do except hide. There was no pursuit. There was no injury. There was no work to do. He was just sitting here. In a way, he’d be glad to get back to doing something, but at the same time, not being afraid was kind of nice. He was worried and more than a little frustrated, but he wasn’t really afraid, not now that he was out of the FBI’s hands.

Instead of trying to come up with something to do, Tim just tried to enjoy having nothing. Tomorrow would be soon enough to start thinking about what would be coming next.

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 Post subject: Chapter 9
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 9:29 pm 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 9

Fornell walked to Gibbs’ front door, amused by how many cars were already in the driveway. This was so typical. They were worried so they all got together to commiserate, as if that wouldn’t broadcast to anyone watching that they had a reason to worry.

Still, he wasn’t sure this had all dawned on anyone at the FBI just yet. Certainly, he hadn’t been told anything.

...but then, what were they worrying about? Tim himself or the FBI?

He didn’t bother to knock. Instead, he just stepped inside and headed for the basement. When he opened the door, there were a number of eyes on him. He smiled and walked down.

“You know. You people are being pretty obvious,” he said. “All gathering to plot and plan with all your cars out in the driveway, no less.”

“I don’t care if they know that we’re planning,” Gibbs said. “If I did, I wouldn’t have invited you.”

“You think I’m going to go and spill my guts to Director Jorgenson, Gibbs?” Fornell asked. “I thought you knew me better than that.”

“You still are FBI, aren’t you?” Tony said.

“Yeah, and they pay my salary, but I’m hardly in the inner circle there. Jorgenson certainly doesn’t confide in me, for all that he’s used me on occasion to pass along messages.” Fornell focused on Gibbs. “Why am I here?”

“What do you know?”

“Only that this must have something to do with McGee because that’s always what it is, and he doesn’t seem to be here. Where have you stashed him?”

“No one is talking about it at the FBI?” Ziva asked.

Fornell shrugged. “I wasn’t asking too many questions today. I like to have a little background before I start sticking my neck out too far. What’s the deal?”

“Jorgenson is going to accuse McGee of treason,” Gibbs said.

Fornell couldn’t help it. The idea was so ludicrous that he laughed.

No one else did.

“You’ve got to be kidding. Even Jorgenson couldn’t be so obtuse as to think that McGee would be a traitor. If he was going to do it, it would have happened years ago and we’d all be regretting it because he’d be really good at it.”

“We don’t believe that he sincerely thinks that,” Ducky said. “It’s a ruse.”

“Oh.” Realization dawned on him. “To get control of McGee.”

“Yes. The question is why.”

“And that’s what you want me for?” Fornell asked.

“Yes.”

“I don’t know why you’d think I’d know anything about this. I can’t tell you the last time I actually spoke to him. He doesn’t like the old timers like me. In fact, he’d like to be able to get rid of us.”

“He’s no spring chicken himself, is he?” Tony asked.

“No, but he wants to be able to implement changes without questions, and those of us who are hanging on tend to ask awkward questions.”

“Are you willing to ask some of those questions?” Gibbs asked.

“For what reason?”

“If we know why he is doing this, we will know how to stop him,” Ziva said. “Even if my method would be much faster and more satisfying.”

Fornell smiled. “I’m sure it would be, although I don’t know that it would necessarily solve your problem...depending on why Jorgenson is so determined. It’s been years. What could he want? McGee’s good, don’t get me wrong. He’s scary good in a lot of ways, but...he’s only one man, and there are a lot of computer geniuses out there, some with a lot lower standards of morality and ethics.”

“That’s what we’re hoping you might be willing to help us with,” Ducky said.

“Ah. You want me to go sneaking around, asking questions that could get me fired. I see.”

“Isn’t it worth it?” Jimmy asked.

“I don’t know. I can see it is for you guys, and I have a lot of sympathy for Agent McGee’s position, but that doesn’t mean that I can accomplish anything besides landing myself in forced retirement. One question asked to the wrong person or even just heard by the wrong person could land me in hot water.”

“You’re saying no?” Gibbs asked.

“No. I’m saying that this might not get you the results you want and it’s not going to be fast if I’m the one who’s asking the questions. However, if you’d be willing to open this up just a little farther, I know someone who has a few more ins than I do, and hasn’t ticked off nearly as many people as I have.”

“Who is that?” Ziva asked.

“Agent Sacks.” Fornell looked at Tony who seemed ready to say no. “And before you reject him out of turn, remember that his only real flaw was in trying to do the right thing and you didn’t make his job any easier. If you hadn’t treated it like a joke in the beginning, he might have had a bit more sympathy for your situation, DiNozzo. And it’s also been over ten years. Let it go.”

“Easy for you to say,” Tony muttered, but he didn’t voice an objection.

“If you’re willing to let me trust him, I’ll see what he can do. If not, I won’t say anything. This is your show, more or less.”

“More or less?” Ducky repeated.

“Yes. Since I’m the one who will suffer for it if things go wrong, I reserve some control over what happens. So?”

Gibbs looked at everyone else. Fornell knew that they weren’t disposed to letting Sacks in on it, and they weren’t really wanting to widening their circle for anyone. He could understand that. The more people who knew, the greater the likelihood that something important was heard by the wrong person.

“Okay, Tobias,” Gibbs said, finally. “But...”

“I know how to keep things quiet, Jethro. Don’t start acting like I’m ignorant. Is that everything? Where are you stashing McGee? Not that I think you’ll really tell me.”

“We’re not,” Gibbs said.

“You’re not what?”

“We’re not stashing him anywhere,” Ducky said. “Timothy got the news of what was going to happen and he’s run off. He’s hiding until it’s safe to come back. We hope.”

“You don’t know where he is?” Fornell asked, feeling skeptical.

“No. The only person who might is Carew and no one knows where he is, not even the CIA.”

“Carew? Former director of the CIA Carew?”

Gibbs nodded.

“Why him?”

“He owed McGee a favor, apparently.”

He owed McGee a favor? Not the other way around?”

“Nope.”

“Wow. That’s the first time I ever heard of Carew owing someone else. How did that happen?”

“We don’t know,” Tony said. “But Tim left a letter for us.”

“And there is no reason for him to lie about that,” Ziva said.

“No. That’s true. Unless he was trying to throw the FBI off the trail by pretending, but I don’t see that it would gain him much of an advantage. It’s probably best for him to be out of the way, even if there’s no guarantee that he’s in a good situation unless he contacts you. He hasn’t?”

“Not at this point,” Gibbs said.

“Okay. Anything else I need to know?”

“We have a little bit of an in with the CIA.”

Fornell raised an eyebrow. “Meaning?”

“Meaning that Tim had still been meeting with Dr. Hicks, who is a psychiatrist for the CIA,” Ziva said. “And he has offered us his help. We decided that help would be useful, no matter who offered it.”

“So let me get this straight. NCIS has reached out to the CIA and is getting help from them in spite of your previous history of avoiding them at all costs, and in addition, you’re asking an FBI agent for help in investigating the director of the FBI, all to help one guy who happens to be stuck in the middle.”

“That’s about the size of it,” Ducky said.

“Well, that’s a royal mess. All right. You’ve got me on your side, but I make no guarantees.”

“Understood.”

“Fine. Then, I’m going home. I’ll come to you. Don’t call me.”

Fornell walked up the stairs and left Gibbs’ house. This really was a mess, but he could see why they were trying to get some help with it.

Well, he’d do his best.

Actually, he might as well get started now. He got into his car and pulled out his phone.

“Hey, Ron. You’ll never guess what I’m about to ask you to do.”

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

Dr. Hicks was doing his evening email check when he received his first surprise of the day.

An email from Tim McGee.

He opened it quickly and was unsurprised to see how short it was. He was surprised to get it, but not surprised at how sparse the information was. In fact, he smiled at Tim’s consideration for his friends, wanting them to know that he was all right, knowing that they would worry simply because he was gone. He knew why Tim had sent it to him rather than to any of his friends. The FBI wouldn’t think to be watching the email account of Dr. Woodrow Hicks. And even if they managed to think that much outside the box, Dr. Hicks knew that he had a lot of security that would make spying very difficult to do.

As little as it was, it was infinitely more than his friends had right now. The decision he had to make was whether he wanted to get up and go over to Gibbs’ home, where they would surely be, or just use Tony’s number and call.

Dr. Hicks looked at his feet, propped up on the couch as they often were at the end of the day.

Can I make it?

Unfortunately, he felt that the answer had to be no this time. While he might be able to make it, the end result of it would be that he could barely get back home and tomorrow, he’d probably still be feeling it.

He picked up his phone and dialed.

“Agent DiNozzo.”

“Tony, this is Dr. Hicks.”

“Oh. What is it?”

“I wanted to let you know that I got an email from Tim. It just says that he’s at his destination and that I should let you know. I would have come and told you in person, but my feet are hurting tonight.”

“That’s fine. Is that all it says?”

“Yes. The full message is four sentences, two of which have only two words. I don’t know if you want to do anything with the message, but if not, I’m going to delete it.”

“Just a second.”

Dr. Hicks could hear the muffled conversation and then Tony was back.

“Delete it. It’s better that we don’t know, for now, and if we need to, we can find out from Carew. ...whenever he decides to show up.”

“I’ll let you know if he contacts me, but he probably won’t until this trip is over. You know him. He doesn’t do anything halfway.”

“Yeah. Unfortunately,” Tony said, a little bitterly. “Well, thanks, though. We were just saying that it would be easier if we at least knew he was all right.”

“According to what he sent me, he’s all right.”

“Yeah. Best we can get, for now. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I hope your feet feel better.”

“They will. Soon enough.”

“Thanks for calling.”

“Good night, Tony.”

Dr. Hicks hung up and lay back. He wasn’t sure how much this would have helped, but at least it would ease Tim’s friends’ minds a little bit. He tried to relax his feet and thought about this situation, and he also thought about the person that was likely the catalyst. Why was Jorgenson so determined to get control of Tim? After all, as the director of the FBI, he had access to plenty of computer experts and could get help from others if needed. That indicated that this was not something for the good of the FBI or for the good of the country. This was something that he wanted for himself. But again, the question was why. From what little he knew, Jorgenson had always been the one pushing for control of Tim’s life. The lack of access to Tim’s skills had lessened the calls over the years, but not from Jorgenson. Whatever it was that he wanted, it wasn’t something that had a short shelf life. A lot of secrets did. So it wasn’t that. It couldn’t be anything about Carew since Carew was no longer involved in the CIA.

Well, he probably wasn’t going to figure it out tonight. Maybe it was time to get himself to bed. He took a breath and got carefully to his feet.

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 Post subject: Chapter 10
PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2017 11:12 am 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 10

Tim woke up much earlier than the day before. He showered, went down to have breakfast and then went back up to his room and sat, waiting for the arrival of Daniel Worthing. He was curious about what Daniel would look like. He was guessing someone who would easily fit in here. He thought about the name. Worthing was almost certainly an English surname. He had no trace of an English accent, meaning that he was likely American or very good at using an American accent.

The room phone rang and Tim hurried to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Good morning, ustāz. It is Ayoub from the front desk. There is a visitor here for you. Daniel Worthing?”

“Oh, yes. Thank you. I’ll be right down.”

Tim hung up and checked his room and his things, grabbed his passport and slipped it into a hidden pocket, tucked into his waistband. Then, he headed down to the lobby. When he got there, Ayoub was at the desk, and there was only one other person in the room. He was not a local. That much was obvious. He had bright red hair and pale, freckled skin. Was this Daniel Worthing?

He walked over.

“Daniel?” he asked, hesitantly.

The man looked up and his expression brightened. His eyes were a dark brown, the only thing that didn’t fit. Otherwise, he looked like a stereotypical Irishman.

“Sabāh il-khayr, Timothy McGee!” he said. “I’m Daniel Worthing of Anqalaysūn Real Estate.”

Tim noticed Ayoub smiling a little when he said the name. He looked back and saw that Daniel noticed as well.

“It’s distinctive, isn’t it?” he asked, grinning.

Ayoub nodded.

“What do you mean?” Tim asked.

“Ayoub finds my business name ridiculous...which it is, but it’s supposed to be.”

“What does it mean?”

“Eels.”

“Eels?” Tim repeated.

“Yes. Eels. As in, my hovercraft is full of eels.”

Tim laughed. “What?”

“Not a fan of Monty Python, I take it.”

“Not enough, apparently.”

“There’s an episode where a man is traveling with a phrase book that has the sentence, ‘my hovercraft is full of eels.’ I figured it would be a unique business name. My English-speaking customers would just see an Arabic word and my Arabic-speaking customers would be intrigued...or at least confused.”

“‘aw masalā,” Ayoub said, with a chuckle.

“‘Īyeh,” Daniel said, grinning. Then, he looked back at Tim. “Anyway, I have a reason for it, but yes, it’s silly.”

Tim couldn’t help but smile back. Daniel was extremely personable.

“So, are you ready for a day of wandering around Marrakech?”

“Sounds great,” Tim said.

“Mumtāz! Bismala, Ayoub!”

“Bismala,” Ayoub said. “Have a nice day, sir.”

Tim felt a little left out with all the Arabic flying around him. He decided to break out the little Arabic he knew.

“Shokran,” he said.

Then, they left the hotel, and Tim realized he was going outside for the first time since he’d arrived in Morocco. He took a deep breath of the dry air.

“Jayyid jiddan, Tim! And here you had me thinking that you didn’t know any Arabic.”

“That’s about all I know. I think I can ask for help and for water.”

“That’s an interesting combination, and you can say thanks when they give it to you.”

Tim laughed. “Exactly, and I can say please, too. So I’ll be polite.”

“That’s good, but you might want to get a little more Arabic than that.”

“Yeah, I know, but what little Arabic I’ve heard here doesn’t sound at all like what I knew.”

“The Moroccan dialect can be a bit challenging simply because a lot of bits of other languages have made their way in, a lot like English, actually. But if you learned even a little, you’d be doing better than probably 90 percent of the people who come on vacation. Heck, you might even be doing better than 90 percent right now because you know something.”

“That’s pretty sad for everyone else,” Tim said.

Daniel laughed. “Yeah. Anyway, I’ve found a few places and I got permission from the owners for you to take a look at them, today. One thing I recommend is that you make a choice quickly. That way we can do some negotiating and make sure you’ll be ready to get in by the end of the week. Don’t want you wasting your money on a hotel when you can spend it on much more interesting things.”

“Sounds good,” Tim said.

“Great. I’ll drive us over to the first place, and then we can mostly walk if that’s okay with you.”

“It is. I’ve had some bad jetlag, so I haven’t really gone out to see anything.”

“Then, in that case, consider this your first introduction to the beautiful city of Marrakech! I’m even more thrilled.”

Tim laughed and followed Daniel to his car. They got in and Daniel navigated the traffic to a place where he parked and they got out.

“Husna. Here we are. The first place is right down this alley.”

Tim nodded and they walked to a door. It was plain wood, with no windows.

“How can you tell which one it is?” he asked.

“Practice.”

“Okay.”

“You’ll get a feel for the place the longer you’re here.” Daniel opened the door and led Tim inside. “Here is your first riad! ...well, besides the hotel.”

Tim followed him in and, at first, he was thinking how dingy it seemed, but then, they stepped through into a small courtyard, open to the sky. It was similar to the hotel he was staying in, but a lot smaller and simpler.

“Wow,” Tim said.

“Yeah,” Daniel said, grinning. “Now, this is a two-bedroom riad. It’s been renovated, but only in the last fifteen years. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it has a fully-equipped bathroom upstairs. Wireless is included, and you have a kitchen with a fridge/freezer, small but it works, and some storage space. The thing to remember about the riad is that everything is oriented in to the courtyard. There are no windows facing the street and it’s just like a row home in the States. You don’t get windows on the sides, either. But what you do get is this outside-inside space, and a beautiful view from the rooftop. Want to see more?”

“Yeah,” Tim said, nodding.

“Good. Let’s go.”

They started through the house. There were two extremely high floors. On the first floor was a kind of living or sitting room nook, the kitchen and a dining room. Then, they went up a floor. Everything was tiled. The stairs were kind of tight and a little dark, but they were beautiful, too. Then, he was looking over a railing down into the courtyard again. They walked into the two bedrooms and the bathroom.

“The bedrooms are kind of dark,” Tim said.

“Well, that’s what you want, really. You want it to be dark when you’re sleeping.”

“True.”

“All right, now, I want you to see the rooftop. You have an amazing view of the Jemaa el-Fnaa.”

“The what?”

“The main square. You can’t go wrong with that place. It’s actually a protected UNESCO space. There are food stalls, clothing stalls. People will be dancing, singing and telling stories. It’s amazing.”

Tim nodded and looked out over this place that was not as foreign to him as he wished it was. He’d been in this type of place enough that it wasn’t a shock, but it was mostly associated with bad memories for him. Even the good people he had met couldn’t completely overcome the torture he’d suffered.

“Hey, Tim. You all right?”

“What?” Tim asked, looking over.

Daniel had a concerned look on his face.

“You looked like someone was walking over your grave. You okay?”

“Yeah. I’m fine. It is a beautiful view. Very different from the States.”

“Yeah, it is.”

Daniel didn’t seem fooled by Tim’s prevaricating, but he didn’t push it, for which Tim was grateful. There was no way that he could ever tell Daniel about just why this view had him feeling more than a little unsettled.

“You ready to see more?”

“Yes. I am,” Tim said.

“‘Athīm. Let’s go.”

As they headed to their next stop, Tim’s curiosity got the best of him.

“So...you don’t seem like the kind of guy who would be so at home here,” he said.

Daniel laughed. “I know. A scrawny red-headed white guy like myself should be in Ireland or something.”

“I was thinking that myself.”

“Believe it or not, it’s in my blood.”

Tim smiled. “I find it hard to believe.”

“My looks are against me, I know. I don’t know why my dad’s pale, freckled skin was so strong and yet my mom’s dark eyes won out. I’m a weird combination. My dad is a typical white guy, but he grew up loving Morocco and he came here every chance he got. My mom is an American, but her father was French and he married a Moroccan woman. They settled in Nebraska of all places, and my parents met in college. When they found out that they had this mutual link to Morocco, they started dating, got married, and had a few kids. They weren’t ever really rich, but they would save up for family vacations and they were always to come here. A few years ago, Dad had a stroke, and it’s left him completely paralyzed on the right side of his body. He’s in a wheelchair. He’s not likely to ever get back here again. One day, I was talking to him, and I said that I missed going to Marrakech. He can’t talk very well, but he said that I should come here. And suddenly, I couldn’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t. So I sold everything I owned and moved out here to start a real estate business. I’m hoping that, in another couple years, I’ll have a steady enough income that I can find a way to get my parents out here one more time. I can live on what I’m making now, but I need more than that if I’m getting my dad here.”

“Wow,” Tim said.

“Oh, here’s the next place,” Daniel said, pointing.

“Your name is very English, too,” Tim said as they walked toward another blank door in the maze of alleys.

“Yeah. My dad got to pick the boys’ names. My mom picked the girls’. I have a sister named Salma and another named Yasmine, and a third named Sarah. I’m Daniel and my brother is James. But Yasmine has hair as red as mine, and James looks like he belongs in Morocco. Salma and Sarah are both nice blends. We like to joke that they got the best genes while the rest of us got the dregs.”

Daniel opened the door and let them inside the riad.

“Okay. This one is two bedrooms, but it has an extra half bath on the main floor. It’s been renovated much more recently and is going to be a little higher end than the first one. It also costs more.”

“Of course. The courtyard seems larger than the first one,” Tim said. “Is that just my imagination?”

“No. It’s larger. This riad has a slightly larger footprint, but it’s still not significantly larger than the first one.”

“All the white paint makes it brighter, too. The tile on the first one was beautiful, but it did make things a little darker.”

Daniel nodded in agreement and showed Tim through the rest of the riad. It was similar to the first, but as Daniel had said, it was much nicer. But Tim wasn’t sure it was worth the higher price. He didn’t need luxuries like this while he was here, and the view from the rooftop wasn’t as nice. Less life, more buildings.

For the next three hours, they went to various riads, and Tim found himself comparing every single one to the first one he’d seen. He also found himself genuinely enjoying Daniel’s company. Of course, he was partially just doing his job for a client so that he could get paid, but he had a very pleasant personality and his excitement was unfeigned as he pointed out all the different places they were passing, in addition to the rentals.

“Okay, Tim. Last one. This is my wild card to see if you want something different.”

“Okay.”

They went to a building that looked more like an apartment building than a riad. It was still very nice and definitely Moroccan, but it wasn’t the same as the riads.

“Okay, so here are the specs,” Daniel said. “It’s two bedrooms, one bath. Comes with free wifi, and it’s fully furnished. This is in the area that’s more for expats who like Morocco but still want to be with people more like them. You’ll find a lot more English and French here.”

That would be nice, but Tim wasn’t sure this was the kind of environment he wanted. Still, it was worth taking a look.

“Want to see it?”

“Yes.”

“Follow me.”

They went into the apartment, and as promised, it was a much more familiar setting. It didn’t look American, necessarily, but it did look European. But it didn’t feel right and his mind went back to the very first place he’d seen. Tim was surprised that it mattered to him. This was a (hopefully) temporary move. He needed a place to hide and a place to do his work. It shouldn’t matter what it looked like as long as it had the necessities.

But it did matter. And beyond that, it would be harder to be private with his comings and goings if he had to walk through halls. He wasn’t sure about that.

“Well? What do you think?” Daniel asked. “I can’t read you at all, and I’m usually pretty good at reading my clients. A mask couldn’t be more immobile.”

Tim smiled a little. Daniel couldn’t know how ambivalent he was about that description.

“Not this one,” Tim said. “On paper, it makes the most sense, but in reality...I don’t think it’s what I want.”

“Okay. That’s fine. Actually, I agree with you,” Daniel said. “Of course, I love old town Marrakech. It’s my first love. So do you have a choice, then? If you know what you don’t want, do you know what you do?”

Tim thought about it, but there was really only one choice.

“This will probably sound silly after all the places we’ve been today, but I can’t help thinking about that first riad. Price-wise, it was good. It had exactly what I wanted, and even though the tiles make it a bit darker and older, I just...I like the feel of it more.”

“Really. Now that does surprise me. You didn’t strike me as that kind of person.”

“What do you mean?”

“I showed you that one first because I thought it would be what you eliminated right away. It’s kind of dingy, and it’s old. It hasn’t been completely modernized. It’s real Marrakech, not the glitzy, glamorous Marrakech that a lot of Americans have in their heads or that you see in movies. It’s a place to live in, not to visit. Besides that, you didn’t really seem to like it all that much. Are you sure that’s the one you want?”

“Yeah, I am,” Tim said. “Am I supposed to negotiate or something? I’ve never had a realtor help me with a rental before.”

“I’ll make all the arrangements. As the brochure states, my fee is one month’s rent but you pay half and the owner pays half. I’ll see if there’s some haggling possible, but there isn’t always with rentals. So why don’t I take you back to your hotel and hopefully, I’ll have good news tomorrow. Hātha jīd?”

“Meaning?”

“Is that all right?”

“Yeah. Sounds good.”

“Then, I’ll see you tomorrow, in sha’ allah.”

That one, Tim knew. The continual injection of Arabic into the conversation was a bit confusing at times, but he could at least appreciate the exposure he was getting to the language, and even as a non-speaker, Tim could tell that Daniel was fluent and that he was used to speaking in Arabic here. They headed back to the hotel, but as Tim started inside, he thought again about how he’d enjoyed today and he looked back.

“Daniel?”

“Īyeh?” he asked.

Tim could figure that particular word out, very easily.

“I saw on your flyer that you also can be hired as a tour guide.”

Instantly, Daniel looked eager again.

“That’s right! I have reasonable daily rates or hourly rates or even on a per destination basis if you want to go somewhere specific,” he said, sounding like he was reciting a memorized spiel.

“Do you have a list of the costs?”

“Yes!” Daniel leaned down and felt around on the floor. Then, he picked up a piece of paper and handed it to Tim. “Here it is. I don’t have anyone else right now, but that might not stay the case. I get hired at odd times...and by some odd people.”

“Including me?” Tim asked, with a smile.

“Yes, including you, although you might go down as intriguing rather than odd. You certainly haven’t lived up to your looks. But then, I don’t, either, so I guess that shouldn’t have surprised me.”

Tim chuckled.

“Right now, what I’m going to want and need is to be able to navigate this place without getting lost. It’s like a maze to me.”

“Right. I can definitely help you with that. You let me know what and when, and I’ll let you know how much.”

“Sounds great.”

Tim went back into the hotel and to his room. He fell onto the bed with a sigh of relief. It was good to be back here and in a quiet space. Marrakech was dizzying and fascinating, but at the same time, it was still foreign.

If Daniel was as good as he claimed, Tim thought he’d be able to get into that riad in a day or two at most. Then, he could take a couple of days to get himself situated and see about starting to search. The one question would be how he’d get any information back to his team. Then, he smiled.

He’d find a way.

“This time, I’m calling the shots,” he said aloud. “As much as I can, I’m calling the shots. No one else is dictating what I do or how I do it. I’ll figure this out, so that I can go home.”

Decision made, he then made an easier decision to go down and have dinner.

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 Post subject: Chapter 11
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 9:30 am 
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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 11

Tony tried not to look at Tim’s empty desk. Not only was he worried, he was angry. Every time he remembered anew that Tim had been forced to flee the country just to get away from people trying to use him, he wanted to throw something. It wasn’t right, and it wasn’t fair.

In fact, Tony almost felt it would be worth it to barge into FBI Headquarters, invade Jorgenson’s office and give him a piece of his mind...followed by a piece of his fist, right in the face.

“Tony?”

In fact, maybe he shouldn’t care about whether or not it would be worth it. Maybe he should just throw caution to the winds and beat the stuffing out of Jorgenson.

“Tony!”

Tony looked away from the desk and over at Ziva.

“You were trying to set fire to the desk with your eyes, I think,” she said.

“Not the desk,” Tony said, darkly.

Ziva’s smile faded and she walked over to him.

“Do not let this ruin you, Tony.”

“It’s not me we need to be worried about,” Tony muttered.

“Yes, it is,” Ziva said. “It is, if you are going to destroy everything else by becoming bitter or by feeling guilty again.”

Tony saw Ziva rub the scars on her wrists for just a moment before she mastered the impulse and let her hands fall to her sides. He raised an eyebrow, and she smiled a little.

“We both need to keep that from being how we react. It has been too many years for us to fall back on that emotion now. This is not the same situation.”

“I know. Actually, I was thinking that we should just beat Jorgenson’s face in. Then, we don’t have figure out what he’s trying to do. He’ll know that it was a mistake to mess with Tim.”

Ziva smiled. “That would be much better than what we have to do.”

“I know. And I know that we can’t really do that, but maybe once we take him down, we can also take him out.”

“I will remember that.”

Gibbs came in and his eyebrow raised. Ziva walked back to her desk and they settled down to work on their day job. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do anything with Tim’s situation until they had some downtime. It was a risk they couldn’t take, even though they all wanted to. What kept them from ignoring their jobs was the certainty that Tim would not want them to give up anything for him.

Tony glanced over at Tim’s desk again and felt the same anger, but he tried to refocus.

Too much to do.

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

Abby didn’t care that she was supposed to be doing her regular job. She had three searches running for various cases, but she was sitting and reviewing everything that had happened to Tim in the last ten years. As much as she wanted to pound Jorgenson into the ground, it had occurred to her that the FBI might be watching for NCIS to react and that they might notice if someone started poking around in the personal files of the head of the FBI. Abby knew that she might be able to get in and out without being noticed, but that was shaky ground and with Tim’s freedom on the line, she didn’t feel that she could take that risk.

However, she could look at what Tim had been doing and see if there was any clue as to why Jorgenson wanted Tim. The interesting thing was what Fornell had pointed out. What made Tim so special that Jorgenson wanted him? He was skilled, but why not just hire someone to do whatever it was that Jorgenson wanted? Why Tim?

The one issue with her wonderful idea was that a lot of what Tim had been doing was not just classified. It was something that, as far as records went, hadn’t ever happened. That meant that she had to go off her own recollections, and Abby knew that she didn’t know even close to everything.

Still, she had to start somewhere. If she wrote down what she knew herself, then, she could get more input from the people who knew more: Gibbs, Ducky, Tony and Ziva... Come to think of it, probably the only one who knew less than she did was Jimmy.

That wasn’t very fair, but that was the way things were. For now.

The mass spectrometer beeped at her, signaling results in one of the cases going right now. As much as she wanted to ignore it, Abby knew she couldn’t. She set aside her wonderful idea and went to check on it. After analyzing the results, she called up to Lovitz. It was another two hours before she had time to get back to her idea.

She sat at her computer and thought back to what had begun this whole mess. That horrible moment when they all had realized what Tim’s situation had been. She didn’t think she’d ever forget Tim laughing and then crying in Autopsy, standing there, no shoes, no shirt, feeling like his whole world was ending.

Then, she interrupted her own thoughts. Wait a minute. What was it that Tim had been doing that first time? ...and the second time, too. That program! It made so much sense. What did Tim have that no one else had? He had the knowhow to create a program that would be the ultimate eavesdropper. Tim had created it from almost nothing twice, from what she understood. Both times, it had nearly broken him. Both times had been at the request or demand of people involved with the CIA.

Here, she faltered. How had Jorgenson known about it if it had been kept secret? But then, it seemed like everyone tried to get the upper hand over each other. It was possible that someone had told him about it. Okay, so she didn’t know for sure if this was right, but there was no reason to reject it out of hand. As head of the FBI, Jorgenson could have access to people who would know about these things.

Of course, if she was right, the next question would be why. The program was definitely illegal. The way it had been used was illegal, and Tim himself had destroyed it to make sure that no one else would be able to make use of it. So why would Jorgenson be willing to risk that kind of discovery?

Well, they didn’t necessarily have to know that, but this would definitely be something she told the others about. Whether they agreed or not, Abby felt like this was as likely a possibility as anything else. That was what mattered.

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

One of Dr. Hicks’ clients had cancelled his appointment, and that meant he had some down time. Sometimes, it was frustrating, but in this case, Dr. Hicks didn’t mind it. It gave him time to think about Director Jorgenson. He wasn’t so much concerned about what Jorgenson wanted from Tim as why. Dr. Hicks had no doubt that, once given the time to get their minds around it, Tim’s team would be able to figure out the what and also deal with the possibility of an accusation of treason. He’d be willing to help, of course, if they asked him, but he felt that they were more than capable in that regard.

No, for Dr. Hicks it was all about the why. What was driving Jorgenson? It had been years since his last attempt to take control of Tim’s life. He had been determined to get at Tim for years before that. From what he understood, Jorgenson’s voice had always been the most prominent in any discussion of what to do with Tim. This wasn’t about the FBI as such. It was about Jorgenson himself. Something about Tim really got to him. He wanted control of Tim. He didn’t really need it. He just wanted it. But why? He was risking his career with this gamble. Surely, with Tim out of his hands, he’d pull back a little.

Come to think of it, what were his arguments for taking control of Tim? He knew that the FBI team who had tracked Tim down in Idaho a few years ago had claimed that it was for his protection, but was that still the case? And what about before that? That was something to see if Roy would tell him about it. If Carew was around, Dr. Hicks would feel no compunction about asking for his input, but given that he was still out of the picture and would be for the next few weeks, there wasn’t much chance of doing that.

All in all, there was something to be said for knowing Jorgenson’s claims. The best lies had a kernel of truth in them. Nodding to himself, he sat up and called to see if Roy had time to talk to him.

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

“So why is this involving me, again?” Sacks asked.

“Because people happen to like you a whole lot more than they like me,” Fornell said.

“Yeah, for good reason,” Sacks grumbled. “This could get me in a lot of trouble, too.”

“I know, but I have faith in your ability to be discrete.”

Sacks rolled his eyes.

“So how much probing do you want me to do?”

“As much as you can...without losing your job,” Fornell said, grinning.

Sacks sighed. “It’s not that I’m not sympathetic. If this is all true, it really sucks, but...”

“I know. I get it. Just do what you can, and if it comes right down to it, you can always blame it on me. Everyone knows I’m a bad influence.”

“You got that right. Fine. I’ll do it. I’ll see if I can get to her today.”

“Starting at the top?” Fornell asked.

Sacks smiled. “She likes me. It’s just you she hates.”

“With good reason. I worked hard for that dislike,” Fornell said.

They both laughed and headed inside the building. When they got in, Fornell headed for his desk, while Sacks went to talk to some people, including one of the assistant directors.

To see if he could suss out any information about why Jorgenson was pushing for this.

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

It was early in the morning. Carew had found that he didn’t often sleep very well anymore. It was probably a facet of trying to think like a real human being. He’d done and experienced enough in his life that a disturbed sleeping pattern should probably be expected.

However, one benefit to this was that it gave him a chance to look at his...wife? Technically, she wasn’t, but he did still think of Tamara that way.

When she slept, the years melted away and Carew almost felt as though he was back to the happy days when he was just a father and a husband with nothing else going on to pull him away from his family. The stress he’d laid on her was gone when she was asleep.

And then, he let his mind move back still further into the past to his childhood, to his mother. She had been a hard woman. Of necessity, definitely. He laid no blame at her feet for the way her suffering had hardened her. He had known he was loved, and he had loved her as well, but her hatred for the people who had taken her family from her was stronger than her love for her son, and that had affected how she had raised him.

As he lay there, looking at Tamara, he found himself grateful that he had found someone without that kind of hardness. Tamara had been affected by the life she had lived (far more than he had wanted), but she still was much softer than his mother had been.

After a few more minutes of watching her sleep, Carew carefully got out of bed without waking Tamara. He quietly walked out of the bedroom and back out to the deck. The sun hadn’t yet risen and it was so quiet that there was nothing to distract him.

...no matter how much he’d prefer that.

He let his mind go back to Tim, again. Carew knew that there were plenty of people he had used over the years, but Tim had become the representative of them all, mostly because his involvement in the CIA had been entirely involuntary from the very beginning. Even the event that had put him on that path had been something he hadn’t done on his own initiative. Now, he wondered about Tim’s situation. Carew could honestly say that he had not intended Tim’s life to become so entwined with the CIA, but he hadn’t hesitated to use that.

He thought about this most recent issue and gladly left behind his own self-reflection to think about Jorgenson and his obvious desire to control Tim. Actually, Carew was more than a little surprised that Jorgenson had managed to hold on to his position for as long as he had. The two of them had managed a longevity that was almost unheard of in Washington. But Jorgenson’s position was one that had a term limit while Carew’s had not, and Jorgenson’s term should be up soon. Did Jorgenson think that controlling Tim would give him leverage to stay on in his position? Or did he have higher aspirations that controlling Tim would help? Carew really didn’t know, but thinking about what Jorgenson might want from Tim, he thought that it would actually be better if it was something directly related to the FBI. If Jorgenson was working out of self-interest, to get something for himself, Tim would only really be secure if he was really out of the way.

Killing him would be the easiest, Carew thought, but at the same time, he knew he couldn’t do it. Not only did he doubt his own connections for accomplishing such a task (and for avoiding the subsequent maelstrom), but also, he had to admit to some selfishness on his own side. There was no way that Tamara would be willing to look the other way if he committed murder, even if it was of someone who probably deserved it.

He smiled to himself. He knew that he wouldn’t do that, but he did have a strong feeling that this was more personal than professional. Jorgenson wanted to get control of Tim before he was out of his office and couldn’t order it.

He considered the possibility of cutting this trip short and offering his help to Tim’s team. Would they want his help? Likely not. Would they accept it, if he offered it? Probably. Grudgingly.

But was it really necessary at this point? He gave it real thought, trying to be objective. In reality, they probably didn’t need his help yet. So he could put off going going back.

For now, it was late enough that he could start making breakfast without alerting Tamara to how little he had slept.

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 Post subject: Chapter 12
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 9:37 am 
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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 12

Tim spent the next two days waiting to hear back from Daniel. He tried not to worry that he’d been taken for a ride or that something had fallen through.

He still was too uncertain to venture much outside of the hotel. He just wasn’t sure that he could find his way back, and he was a little paranoid about what could happen to him in the meantime.

Finally, at about noon, he had a call.

“Hello?”

“Alu, Tim. It’s Daniel. Āsif. I’m sorry for the delay. First, the owner was out of town, and then, he decided to be a little difficult, but because you have an amazing real estate agent working for you, I even managed to get the price down a little, about 100 bucks off the original price, and the place is yours. He’s agreed to let you have it for the month with renegotiation at the end if you want another month. How does that work?”

“It’s sounds great,” Tim said. “Sounds like the delay was worth it. When can I get in there? I only have this room until tomorrow.”

“Actually, it’s available right now if you’d like to get a move on.”

“Really?”

“Īyeh, and I can come and get you and take you over, if you want.”

“Wow. That would be great.”

“Okay. I’ll be right over. You just get yourself packed and settle your hotel bill.”

“Will do. Oh, hey. I don’t know conventions here. Do I give a tip to Hamza or Ayoub for referring you to me?”

“I think it would be appropriate. Not too much. Just add a few dirhams to your bill.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

“I’ll see you in the few minutes, then. Wadā’an.”

“Good-bye.”

Tim hung up and sat for a few seconds, thinking about shifting his location yet again. It would be a good thing, and he would be glad to have a place he could depend on being his for the month, but at the same time, it was a little worrying. Still, Daniel was proving to be a great help, and Tim appreciated it, even if it was just for payment. He didn’t mind paying for this degree of help.

He gathered up his clothes and everything else. Then, he went down. Hamza was at the counter this time.

“Hello, sayid. How can I help you?” Hamza asked.

“Hi. I’ve found a rental, so I’m checking out. Thank you so much for your help. Daniel has been great.”

“My pleasure, sayid. You would like to pay your bill, now?”

“Yes.”

“Just one moment.”

Tim waited. When Hamza came back, Tim looked at the bill. He had to keep reminding himself that he was seeing dirhams, not dollars.

Ten dirhams in every dollar. It’s not a big deal, Tim thought to himself as he read it.

Then, he smiled and handed over the dirhams for his bill, plus some extra.

Daniel came in just as he was finishing.

“Mselkhīr!” he said, jovially.

Tim raised a questioning eyebrow.

“Good afternoon,” Daniel said. “I’m trying to expose you to as much Arabic as I can. It’s good for you.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Tim said. He turned back to Hamza. “Shokran. I’ll definitely recommend this place to anyone I know.”

Hamza smiled and nodded.

“Bla jmīl, sayid. You are very welcome. Enjoy your stay in Marrakech.”

Daniel picked up Tim’s larger bag, leaving the smaller bags for Tim to carry, and they headed out.

“Will you miss the hotel?” Daniel asked once they were on their way.

“Well, having someone at my beck and call is nice, but being in a place that feels like a home is better. And cheaper.”

“That’s true. How will you be paying?”

“I have enough dirhams to pay.”

“You do? That’s a lot of cash to be carrying around.”

Tim flushed. “Well...I wasn’t quite sure what the credit card situation would be. I figured it was better to be prepared.”

Daniel laughed. “Just don’t flaunt that.”

“I have no intentions of flaunting anything. I just wanted to be ready for anything.”

“Well, I can tell you that Youssef will be plenty happy to get cash. But you can choose how to pay me. Cash or credit. And I promise that my credit card reader is legit.”

“Is that a problem here?”

“It can be.”

Tim nodded. That would probably be the case anywhere.

“So when would you like your first tour?”

“Tomorrow?” Tim suggested. “I’m going to need to figure out where to buy groceries.”

“Very true. Now, I did negotiate to have a few simple food items stocked when you moved in, but tomorrow can be your basics day. I’ll show you some supermarkets, but you should really also check out the food stalls. Most of them will be fine if you stick to the Jemaa el-Fna and the popular areas of the souks. Lots of turnover, not so many worries about food sitting out all day. Make sure that, when you buy fruit, you buy it with the peel still on. The water is safe enough, but bottled water is really cheap if you’d prefer it.”

“Thanks.”

They got to the riad with no trouble, and Tim was glad to have all his stuff inside.

“Now, Youssef lives just next door, and you should get him paid right now. Also, it’s a good thing to meet him.”

“Okay.”

“He’ll be more impressed if you try to speak some Arabic to him,” Daniel said. “So when we go over there and I introduce you, say metsherrfīn. It just means that you’re pleased to meet him. I’ll explain that you don’t speak much Arabic and most of the conversation will be in English, but he’ll appreciate the effort.”

“Metsherrfin,” Tim said.

“Metsherrfīn,” Daniel said. “Lengthen the r and the i if you can.”

“Metsherrfīn,” Tim said.

Daniel laughed. “Not that much, but better. Shorten it just a bit.”

“Metsherrfīn.”

“Good enough. Let’s go.”

The discussion with Youssef only took a few minutes. Tim managed to say what Daniel had told him to say and while his pronunciation wasn’t quite right, he could see what Daniel had meant. Youssef was much more friendly once he saw Tim trying to communicate in Arabic, even just a little. At Daniel’s signal, Tim paid his rent. Youssef paid Daniel. Tim paid Daniel, and then, they took their leave.

“Very good. Now, since I’ve been fortunate enough to come into a little money, how about I take you to a nice club tonight for dinner?”

“How much will that cost me?” Tim asked, with a smile.

“Not a cent. Not even a dirham,” Daniel said. “Totally on the house. It’s been a long time since I had a fellow American to take around. I get quite a few people from the UK, fewer from France. My Spanish is a little rusty and I don’t have as good a grasp of French as I’d like. But Americans haven’t quite caught on to how amazing Morocco is. I’m trying to change that, even on a small scale.”

“I’d love to.”

“Great! I’ll come by in a few hours. That will give you time to unpack and settle in a bit. The place I’m taking you to has amazing food and entertainment.”

“Tourist place?” Tim asked.

Daniel waggled his hand in the air.

“Sort of. The dancing is definitely a little Westernized, but not completely, and there are plenty of locals enjoying the food.”

“Dancing?” Tim asked, feeling his brow furrow.

Daniel laughed. “Remember, Tim. This is mostly a Muslim country. No strip shows here. There are some amazing local dances and a few that are adapted for tourists. All fully-clothed.”

Tim laughed in reply. “Okay. Okay. I’ll trust you.”

“Good. You should. Allah yemsek ‘alā khīr. See you later.”

“Bye.”

Tim went into the riad that was to be his home for the next few weeks and took a deep breath as he looked up to the sky. This would take some getting used to. He walked up the stairs to the roof and stared out over the old town. Yes, this would take some getting used to, but he had to admit that it was really nice to be here without the same fear he often had to deal with in his travels. There was definitely worry and frustration, but here, safely away from the FBI, he could honestly say that he wasn’t afraid, and the more time he spent with Daniel, the more he trusted him.

He thought about unpacking his clothes and computer, but in the end, he just sat on the roof and stared out. Who would have guessed that he’d come to a place like this as a place of refuge rather than danger?

The sun started to sink toward the horizon. Tim realized that he’d been sitting there for a couple of hours. Instead of worrying about how to get himself out of this predicament, he was just sitting around, doing nothing.

Why am I not worried?

Tim thought about that for a while and the answer came to him.

I trust my team to figure it out.

Would they appreciate the significance of that? Probably not, but Tim hadn’t felt that way in a long time. He hadn’t really been able to trust anyone like that. He had always felt there was no chance unless he did it himself...and there was no chance for himself, either.

But he didn’t feel that way anymore. He was ready to let others help him and he believed that it was possible.

A knock on the door, two stories down, startled him out of his contemplation of himself and the world before him. He got up and ran down the narrow flights of stairs to the front door. No windows on the door, but there was a peephole and so he looked out and saw Daniel standing there.

Quickly, he opened the door.

“Sorry,” he said, panting a little. “I was up on the roof. Come in.”

Daniel chuckled. “I can’t think of many better places to be. Were you working or just enjoying the view?”

“Enjoying the view...and thinking.”

“Good place to do it.”

“I just need to grab my stuff from upstairs and I’ll be ready.”

“Great.”

Tim ran up the stairs to the bedroom and made sure he had some money and his passport securely tucked in his waistband. Then, he ran back down the stairs.

“You don’t have to be that quick, Tim,” Daniel said. “It’s not a race.”

“I’m still getting used to how many stairs there are in this place. I should have got somewhere with an elevator.”

“You’d have to have a lot more money than you’d want to spend in order to get a riad with an elevator.”

Tim took a deep breath and smiled. “I’ll remember that.”

“Let’s go!”

They left the riad and Daniel led Tim through a seeming maze of alleys, pointing out various landmarks that would supposedly help him navigate. In this twilight time, it was all just walls and doors to Tim, but he nodded as if it was helpful.

Then, they were suddenly in front of a very lively building. A lot of people going in and out. Noise and color and music. Tim was a little dazzled by it all. Daniel didn’t seem affected, but he pulled Tim inside and they were shown to a table, facing a stage. There was a group of men and women dancing and singing. The women wore yellow dresses with bangles around their waists, while the men wore blue and white burnooses and small turbans. There was a lot of singing and not a whole lot of what Tim would have thought of as dancing.

“This is called an ahidou,” Daniel said. “It’s actually a traditional Berber dance. They have a troupe here who are trained in many of the traditional dances and that’s one of the more touristy things about it, but these are the real deal. You won’t find any of that Hollywood belly dancing here.”

“No Fatima of the seven veils?” Tim asked with a smile.

“Nope. That’s all made up. Now, there are a few dances that might be similar, but those erotic dances aren’t the real thing. The real thing is better.”

“I’m not really familiar with either version, so I’ll take your word for it,” Tim said.

“Okay. What do you want to try? You ever have Moroccan food before?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Then, we’ll ease you into it. We can start with a tagine.”

“Which is?”

“A cooking pot shaped like a cone. Let’s do a chicken tagine.”

“Sounds fine to me.”

“Great.”

Daniel ordered their food and then he proceeded to explain each dance as it was performed on the stage. When their food came, Tim was as interested in the pot as he was in the food itself, but the food was delicious. Because it had been recommended, he ate without any worry about food poisoning or something else.

“Except for your looks, you seem to be almost a native,” Tim observed as they ate.

“I’ll never quite get to that point,” Daniel admitted. “I grew up in the States, and even with my heritage, I’ve only lived here for a few years. That’s not native, but I love it.”

“I can tell.”

“So where are you from?”

“...well, the last place I came from was D.C., but as far as origins, my dad was in the Navy.”

“So you moved a lot?”

“Quite a bit. He retired when I was still pretty young and we ended up in Ohio.”

“Why Marrakech?”

Tim hesitated for a moment and then smiled. “It was recommended to me by a friend. He said it was a good place to come. I’ve been to the Middle East a couple of times, and it wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience for me. I was leery, but so far, this has been a lot better.”

“Well, Morocco isn’t really the Middle East. In fact, the Arabic name for it, Maghrib, means west. It’s the westernmost Muslim nation, and the Berber culture has modified the Muslim influence to some degree. Now, I have to admit that I’m really curious about what brought you here since you seem to be about my age, meaning that you should probably be working.”

“I do have a job,” Tim said. “I just...had to get away.”

“Mid-life crisis?”

“I guess it was something like that. I’ll be going back.”

“You must have a very understanding boss to be able to drop everything for a month or more.”

“You have no idea,” Tim said, smiling.

Suddenly, Daniel gestured toward the stage.

“Oh, this is what I wanted you to see. It’s the raqs al-seniyya, the Moroccan tea tray dance. And this dancer is amazing. I’ve seen her do this before. She’s really good.”

Tim watched as a woman came onto the stage, and she was literally wearing a laden tea tray on her head, complete with lit candles.

“What’s going on?” Tim asked.

“The key is to dance without disturbing the tray, and it takes a lot of skill to master. They call her the Desert Flower or Zahra al-sahārā. She’s the one most people come here to see.”

Tim looked around the restaurant and there were quite a few people just standing and watching as she began to dance. She wasn’t wearing the skimpy Hollywood belly dancing outfit, but there were a lot of bangles and beads on her costume. He watched and became entranced by the smooth movements of the dancer. She knelt on the floor, lay down on her stomach, and stood, all the while keeping the tea tray perfectly balanced and motionless on her head. More even than the clear skill with which she danced, Tim was taken by the woman herself. She had an exotic look that didn’t quite match the other dancers he’d seen.

The other thing that surprised him was that the dance wasn’t really sexy. As Daniel had said, this was something that took effort and skill to master and she had mastered it. It wasn’t being done for eroticism. It was something to be watched and enjoyed...and Tim was enjoying it. He vaguely heard Daniel saying something else about the dance, but he didn’t really pay attention. He was entirely focused on the stage.

When the dance ended and she walked off the stage, he was applauding with everyone else...and hoping that she’d come back out again.

“Tim?”

What surprised him was how deeply affected he’d been by the dancer. His life had been so hectic the last few years that he’d not had any time to even think about women, let alone pursue any kind of relationship, not even when things were relatively normal. Where had this feeling come from and why now?

“Tim? Earth to Tim?”

Tim turned to Daniel.

“Yeah. What?”

Daniel smiled, far too knowingly.

“Well, that didn’t take long, did it?”

“What didn’t take long?”

“I’m telling you. There’s something about Morocco.”

Tim felt his cheeks warm.

“I... No! It’s... The dance was... It was just...interesting. That’s all.”

“Just remember that she probably has a lot of men who feel the same way as you just did.”

“I’m not going to start asking her out,” Tim said, rolling his eyes.

But privately, his treacherous mind was thinking about whether or not there was any way that he could possibly do just that. Or at least talk to her...if she spoke English. If she only spoke Arabic, he’d be stuck asking her for water...but he’d be happy to do that, his mind supplied.

“Uh-huh,” Daniel said, grinning. He patted Tim’s arm.

Tim brushed Daniel’s hand away and shook his head.

“Oh, come on!”

“Well, here she comes again,” Daniel said, pointing at the stage.

Sure enough. Although she wasn’t coming out alone this time. There was a large group of men with her. This dance was more lively, with more audience participation, clapping and shouting encouragement, but again, every time she moved to the center of the circle to dance, Tim found himself raptly watching. If she had cast a spell on him, he couldn’t have possibly been more entranced.

At the end of the show, the whole group bowed, but as she straightened, just for a second, she made eye contact with him. Real, genuine eye contact. She paused and he found himself smiling, but then, the moment was over and she was leaving the stage with the other performers.

“Wake up, Tim. The party’s over. It’s time to call it a day.”

Tim nodded and stood, with one eye still on the stage itself. Daniel laughed at him and dragged him out of the restaurant.

“If I had known you were looking for a girlfriend, I could have lined up some people,” Daniel said.

“Ha ha. I’m not looking for a girlfriend.”

“But I’ll bet you wouldn’t say no to her.”

Tim tried to retort, but his brain jammed at the thought and he couldn’t think of a thing to say. Daniel just grinned.

“Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.”

“Tell anyone what?” Tim asked. “That I enjoyed the floor show?”

“You keep denying it, Tim, but I could see the infatuation in your eyes from the second she was on the stage. You looked like a googly-eyed teenager.”

Tim shrugged Daniel’s teasing away and, instead, tried to focus on how Daniel was leading him back to the riad. The more he knew how to navigate in this place, the better off he’d be.

And you could find your way back to the club by yourself.

Embarrassed by the fact that Daniel’s description of infatuation seemed to be very accurate, Tim felt his cheeks grow warm. Thankfully, the alley wasn’t brightly-lit enough to reveal that. When they got back to his riad, Tim was relieved that Daniel didn’t bring up the dancer again.

“I’ll come by around nine tomorrow. Does that work?”

Tim nodded.

“Yeah, that’ll be fine.”

“Good. Enjoy your first night in the riad.”

“Thanks and thanks for your help.”

“No problem.”

Daniel left and Tim closed and locked the door. Then, he turned his attention to the riad. It was dark, but the sky opened up above him. This was going to take some getting used to, but instead of going to the bedroom, Tim again went up to the roof and looked out over the darkness, punctuated by bursts of light and activity.

...and his mind went back to the dancer. There was just something about her. He couldn’t get her out of his mind, but he needed to. This was a terrible time to be getting interested in a woman, and as Daniel had said, she probably dealt with this kind of thing fairly often. Someone like him wouldn’t have a chance and he really shouldn’t try.

But he couldn’t forget that instant reaction he’d had to seeing her dance.

He stared up at the sky for a while and then decided it was time to get some things unpacked so that he could go to bed.

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

Zahara headed home late in the night, as was normal when she danced at the club. The maze of alleyways in the Medina was as familiar to her as anywhere else. She knew better than to draw attention to herself so late. In fact, she tended to dress in clothes that would make it unclear whether she was male or female, just to make sure that she had some extra security. Marrakech was mostly safe, but at the same time, there was always a chance of running into the wrong person.

When she reached the small apartment in which she lived, she let herself inside. It wasn’t much but it was all her own. She made enough money from her work that she didn’t need anyone else. It was a good thing because she was all on her own since her brother had decided to move to Cairo. She hadn’t heard from him in weeks, but she knew that he was busy. Still, it was lonely at times. She had friends but family was something more and she missed Ahmed more than she had thought she would, especially since their mother had died, back in Melilla.

Then, her mind went back to that strange moment at the club. She was used to the way men tended to look at her when she danced, but this man was different. First of all, he was a foreigner. That much was obvious. It wasn’t strange to get tourists in the club, but something in his expression had grabbed her attention and she had found herself staring at him. In that moment, he had smiled, but not in a leering way. If she had read him right, he had seemed surprised as well. Surprised, but pleased. His eyes were so green. She wasn’t sure she’d ever seen eyes like that.

Laughing at herself for thinking so deeply of a brief moment of eye contact, Zahara shook her head and told herself that she was being silly. There was no point in thinking about it any more than she had. He was obviously a tourist and that meant he had probably come for one meal and she’d never see him again.

Tomorrow, she wouldn’t be at the club, but she planned to go to the Jemaa el-Fnaa to help some of her friends at the booths. She didn’t need the extra money, not really. Dancing didn’t make her rich, but it made her independent, and that was hard to do in Morocco. Dancing also sometimes gave people the wrong idea of who she was and what she was willing to do. Still, she enjoyed dancing, but it would be nice to get away from that by doing something more ordinary, even if it still took her out in public more than was strictly approved of by some people.

And if she was going to do that, she would need to get some sleep.

Quickly, she prepared for bed and turned out the lights.

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 Post subject: Chapter 13
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:09 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 13

With them doing their real work, it had taken a couple of days before any of them had time to talk about Tim’s situation. After work, they gathered at Gibbs’ place, as usual, and Abby shared her idea.

“Okay, Gibbs. I had this great idea about what might be driving Jorgenson to do this!”

“What is it?” Tony asked. “And why do you think it’s so great?”

Because I’m just that amazing, Tony,” Abby said, grinning. “What if it’s about the program that Tim made in the beginning of all this? He’s done it twice. He told me once that he could probably do it even faster a third time because he’s had the experience of building it from scratch. And once, he even let it slip that the NSA changed some of their security specifically because he had been able to hack in unnoticed and use their satellite connections.”

“Really? He never said anything about that to us,” Ziva said.

“Well, I don’t think he meant to say it to me, either,” Abby said. “We were talking about internet security during a case once, and he said that sometimes all it takes is one person to make things change...like him and the NSA.”

“Figures,” Tony said.

“Yeah. He changed the subject really fast after that. But when Fornell asked us what made Tim so important, I got to thinking and really, as much as I love Tim, his access to the CIA and that program are the only things that make him really different. There are a lot of computer guys out there, even really good ones.”

“And the access to the CIA probably isn’t as big a deal with Carew gone,” Tony said.

“Exactly!”

“But if that is what he wants, what does he want it for?” Ziva asked. “Surely, he could not expect the FBI to use it openly, and there would be plenty of questions if he started using information taken from it in cases.”

“It’s personal,” Gibbs said.

“But what good would it do him?” Ziva asked.

“Don’t know, but this is about Jorgenson, not the FBI.”

“We’d be better off if we just killed him and were done with it,” Tony said, darkly. “The more I know about this guy, the worse he is. I might hate him more than I hate Carew.”

“I know that I do,” Ziva said.

“What do we do about it, though?” Abby asked. “I mean, I think I’m a genius for thinking of it, but if I’m right, what do we do with that?”

There was a moment of silence and then, Tony sighed.

“I think we have to wait, don’t we,” he said. “Until the charges are officially filed.”

“Unless we can keep them from being started in the first place,” Ziva said, “and that would only happen if it was better for Jorgenson to keep quiet.”

“No,” Gibbs said.

“What do you mean, no, Boss?” Tony asked.

“We don’t want to stop him from making this public?” Ziva asked

“But we don’t want Tim labeled a traitor!” Abby said.

“No, but we do want Jorgenson to go down,” Gibbs said.

“And we cannot kill him as we would like to,” Ziva said, nodding slowly. “I think I see. If he is publicly defeated...”

“Then, he’ll probably lose a lot of his influence in DC,” Tony finished. “Who’d believe him if everyone knew what he’d tried to do to Tim?”

Gibbs just nodded.

“I hate that we might have to do that, but I agree,” Ziva said. “So what now?”

“We get as much as we can before it gets going.”

“And see what Fornell has to tell us,” Tony said.

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

“Let’s get dinner,” Sacks said.

“Too late for dinner,” Fornell said, not looking up. “Bad for your digestion, Ron.”

“Stay up later, then.”

Fornell looked up at that and caught Sacks’ expression.

“Okay. You buying?”

“I think it’s your turn,” Sacks said.

Fornell knew what that meant. It meant that he owed Sacks for what he’d been doing.

“Maybe you’re right.”

They left the building and went to a little place a fair distance away, just to make sure that they wouldn’t have any accidental eavesdroppers. Then, they sat down.

“Well?” Fornell asked.

“Seems to be accurate,” Sacks said. “It looks like Jorgenson is going to do it. They can accuse him in absentia, you know.”

“But they can’t arrest him if he’s not here,” Fornell pointed out. “And if the point is to get control of him, an accusation won’t really help. Not even his team knows where he is right now.”

“Oh, come on.”

“Really. He managed to get away from everyone.”

Sacks looked impressed. Then, he shook his head.

“But it doesn’t matter. Jorgenson can get the right people on his side if he plays it right.”

“How likely is that, though? I know he’s political. He’d have to be to keep his job as long as he has, but he’s also an idiot.”

“He’s not making the plans,” Sacks said, seriously.

“Who is, then?”

“I don’t know. This whole thing is his idea, but he’s using someone else to figure out the details.”

“Is that just an assumption or is that for sure?”

“She was pretty sure.”

“What’s her opinion?”

“That if this goes badly for him, he’s out with no chance of ever getting back in. He’s playing for high stakes.”

“What does he want, though?”

Sacks shook his head. “I have no idea. Whatever it is, he’s determined to get it and he’s decided that now is the time.”

“How much time does he have? One more year?”

Sacks nodded. “Yeah. That’ll be ten years.”

“No wonder things have been so bad. We’ve had him for almost a decade.”

There was a silence.

“One year,” Fornell mused. “What could he be wanting? If he’s looking for some kind of political capital, why is McGee his key to getting it?”

“Maybe it’s not just McGee. Maybe it’s just that McGee is the one he knows can do what he wants.”

“Maybe.”

“So...what do you want to do?”

“Do?” Fornell repeated with a smile. “I’m not doing anything. I’m just the messenger.”

“Will they let you just be the messenger?” Sacks asked.

Fornell’s smile widened.

“I sure hope so.”

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

The door opened.

“Yes, Sherry?” Dr. Hicks asked.

“Director Morgan is here. Do you have the time?”

Dr. Hicks raised an eyebrow. That was unexpected.

“Yes. I do. I know you’re out the door, so don’t worry about staying. There won’t be any paperwork for you to do tonight.”

Sherry smiled. “You were going to be out the door, too.”

“When the Director of the CIA shows up, my plans change,” Dr. Hicks said. “Don’t worry.”

“Your feet?”

“Not bad today.”

Sherry raised an eyebrow.

“Truly. They’re not bad,” Dr. Hicks said, smiling.

“All right. See you tomorrow.”

“Just send him in when you leave.”

“Will do.”

Dr. Hicks took the few seconds he had to consider Sherry’s concern. She’d been a bit more open in talking to him about non-work topics the last few months. Was this more than just his assistant showing professional concern for her boss? She wasn’t beautiful in the conventional sense, but she was very pleasant and he genuinely enjoyed talking with her. If he was honest with himself, this was probably the first time he’d ever even thought about a woman since grad school. He’d spent so much of his life focused on the CIA that he’d let most of his personal life go. He still had family, but he saw them very rarely. What had made the difference? He didn’t know.

Then, the door opened and Roy Morgan walked in. Dr. Hicks put aside his personal considerations and focused on what this might be about. Tim, very likely.

“Director, I’m surprised to see you here at this hour. What can I do for you?”

Roy sat down and slid a folder across the desk.

“You can make sure that this information never gets out. Make use of it if you can, but do not, under any circumstances, let anyone know that you have it or where you got it.”

Dr. Hicks felt his brow furrow in confusion. That was not the kind of introduction he was expecting to anything Roy might have to share. He picked up the folder and opened it. He began to skim through the contents and he realized what he was reading. A complete dossier on Director Jorgenson. He looked up, his eyes widening in a silent question.

Roy shook his head.

“No, I didn’t do this, but don’t ask me why it was done or how. You can easily figure out who authorized it.”

Dr. Hicks smiled a little. Carew. Who else?

“How long do I have this?”

“As long as you need it. No longer.”

Dr. Hicks nodded in understanding. Roy was considering this situation important enough to make the loan open-ended, but he was also trusting Dr. Hicks to do the right thing and be honest. Carew would be pleased.

“I’ll only look at it while I’m here and I’ll keep it in my secure files. I’m the only one with the combination.”

“That’ll have to do,” Roy said. “Since no one else knows that this exists, hopefully, no one will think to look for it.”

“That does help.”

“Good.” He stood up and shook his head. “All this for one man.”

“If it makes you feel any better, Tim doesn’t like being the one man, either.”

Roy smiled. “No. It doesn’t make me feel any better, except that I’m not mad at him for starting it, since I know he didn’t. The end results of this could be huge...just because of one man.”

“Jorgenson is the cause, not Tim.”

“Ultimately, not even Jorgenson is the cause. Certainly, he’s doing his best to make himself the cause, although he’d be surprised to hear it described that way. But he’s not the cause. He’s an effect. The cause is the CIA, or at least, that clandestine group within the CIA. They’re the ones who started this, and since the CIA started it, it’s our mess to clean up. I just wish that Jorgenson would stop making the process so noisy. I like things quiet. Neat and orderly.”

“You picked the wrong profession.”

“You’re telling me. This could have been over years ago, if he’d just let it go. Good night... Woodrow.”

“Good night, Roy,” Dr. Hicks replied, smiling at the implied complicity in referring to each other by their given names.

Then, Roy left the office and Dr. Hicks looked at the folder. What a treasure trove he’d been given. He did wonder what had stirred Carew to do something like this. Sure, there were FBI files on a lot of people in politics, but this was not the usual employee file or even one for compiling information. This was a file, the purpose of which was to get down to the nitty gritty of what made Jorgenson tick. There was a complete psychological profile, family background well beyond the basics, schooling, political connections, a collection of every time he’d ever made a public statement. Whatever Carew’s intention had been, he had been as thorough with this as he was with anything that mattered to him. He had made it his business to understand Jorgenson completely.

Another reason to wish he was here to give some insight.

Alas.

Well, Dr. Hicks knew that he could make a good start with this.

Instead of going home, he elevated his feet onto his desk and began to read.

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

Tamara sat and watched as Levi tried to turn himself back into a normal human being. Currently, he was sitting out on the deck, possibly reading a book. He hadn’t turned a page in a while, so there was a distinct possibility that he was just using the book as a cover for more of his thinking. The fact that he was genuinely making the effort was what kept her trying as well. She knew that he put all of himself into whatever he really wanted. It was what had kept her from completely giving up on him before. She had understood why, even if she had hated it. The other thing that she understood, whether Levi consciously did or not, was that he had nothing without this to try for. Once he left the CIA, he had nothing...except for his family. She knew it, and deep down, so did he. While he had claimed that he would find something else to occupy his time, she doubted whether or not he really could.

It was just that this was so hard. Neither of them could have anticipated the difficulties in coming back together after so long apart. Levi had lived with the mask so long, he had forgotten how to live without it and he clung to it as his only security. She was sure that he wouldn’t appreciate it being described like that. However, it was true. He had cultivated it as a way of keeping himself and his family safe because no one would know what mattered to him. Now, getting him to set it aside, even for a little while at a time was a challenge. In fact, the moment that had given her the most hope was the first time he had let her see his uncertainty about this whole attempt. The moment had been so short that many would have missed it, but she hadn’t.

They had been sitting, side by side, on the couch. She had been reading and she had thought he was, too. Then, the weight had shifted and he was sliding over to sit with her, not just next to her. She had looked up and he had hesitated, just for a few seconds. She had smiled and the confidence had been back. But she had seen that this was hard for him, too. He wasn’t coasting through it.

She wished that she could talk to him about the emotional events, the times that he might have felt something and just not shown it to her (or anyone else), but the timing had never seemed right to do so. It also felt a little callous to be intentionally prodding at a wound, just to get a reaction. But they had both lost their son and almost lost their daughter. Normally, parents weathered that kind of pain together. They hadn’t. He hadn’t even admitted that there was any pain associated with it at all.

Part of her wondered if she should suggest that they end this trip early so that he could help that Tim McGee who had come to their home a couple of weeks ago. His connection to Levi was complicated at best. She had been able to tell that it was almost as complicated as her own, but she had also sensed genuine respect between the two of them. When she had told Levi he was there, Levi had been surprised but pleased. Not many people elicited that kind of reaction from him. Not many people elicited a reaction from him at all. He had been glad to see Tim, and Tim had saved Bri from her imprisonment.

Of course, she had also seen that Tim was ambivalent about her children and that was being generous. The fact that Levi had not wanted to elaborate on what might have caused that reaction told her more than she needed to know and she didn’t want details, as Levi had said.

Tim was in some kind of trouble, but Levi didn’t seem to think it was necessary to cut their trip short, and he knew what the situation was.

And no matter how small the gains had been, Tamara was seeing them and she didn’t want to stop that.

If Levi himself suggested it, she would accept it and even think of it as a good thing, but if he didn’t, neither would she.

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 Post subject: Chapter 14
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:13 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 14

“I don’t think I’m ever going to make any sense out of this place,” Tim admitted.

Daniel had been navigating for him for hours and Tim just felt like everything was so chaotic and unfamiliar that he couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. All the alleys looked the same to him. Even his own street was indistinguishable from any other as far as Tim was concerned. Daniel could be leading him around in circles for all he knew. They’d also spent quite a bit of time in the Souks, so that Tim could get familiar with the food available for purchase there. Still, it was all so different and not what he had expected.

“Oh, you will. Just give it time,” Daniel said.

“How much time? Before I leave?” Tim asked, secretly hoping that he didn’t have that much time available.

“Maybe. But really, this is only your first day trying to get through a completely foreign city. You don’t read the language and you don’t know the culture. Of course you’re going to have some difficulty,” Daniel said, bracingly. “But don’t worry about it. You’ll get there.”

Tim sighed and looked around. If it was just a matter of being here as a tourist, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but he was planning on living here for a while, and he didn’t like the idea of being completely dependent on Daniel to get him around. He enjoyed Daniel’s company, but this was above and beyond the call of duty.

“Okay. Let’s go over to some of the food booths in the Jemaa el-Fnaa. Because it’s in the main square, most of them have good turnover with their food and so you don’t have to worry about it spoiling.”

“I don’t know if I would have even thought of that,” Tim admitted.

Daniel grinned.

“That’s why you hired me. Come on.”

Tim allowed himself to be led through yet another maze, this time of booths, toward some very tasty aromas. As they got closer to Daniel’s goal, they could hear music.

“More music?”

“All the time,” Daniel said. “One of the great things about Marrakech is how much the people love music, dancing, singing. It’s all over the place. In public spaces like this, the performers will generally be men, sometimes, even men dressed as female dancers.”

“Really?” Tim asked, furrowing his brow in surprise.

“Yeah. It’s an interesting tradition here. They’re not cross-dressers, or at least, that’s not a requirement. Most of them are just wearing the traditional female costume and when they’re done dancing, they take it off. Tourists don’t see that as often since it tends to weird them out a little.”

“Do you pay the street performers?” Tim asked.

“If you make eye contact with them or take their picture...or both, you’d better be ready. For a lot of them, this is how they make their living and so they expect to be paid for demonstrating their skills, and when they’re good, they definitely deserve it. You don’t have to pay a lot. They’ll try to get as much out of you as they can, but ten dirhams is plenty unless you stay for a long time to listen or watch. Just ignore the people with the trained animals. It’s all for tourists, none of it is real, and in some cases, the animals aren’t treated very well. So snake charmers, monkeys, and the rest...ignore those people as much as you can. If you don’t look, they can’t insist that you pay. Some get kind of demanding, but be firm and they’ll usually back off. Eventually.”

“Gotcha.”

The sun was heading down and it had been a long day with only a couple of breaks for food. Tim was ready for a real meal. They got to a collection of booths and he saw some men singing in an open space near the booths. Daniel directed Tim to one of his favorite stalls and they got something to eat and then found a table at which to sit and eat.

As they ate, they talked about the different parts of Marrakech, whether or not Tim could really get to a grocery store on his own at this point (he couldn’t) and the reliability of the electricity and wireless. Tim didn’t really pay much attention to the people around him. The food was delicious and the conversation was important.

“Oh, hey, Tim. It’s the dancer from last night,” Daniel said, suddenly, pointing toward one of the booths.

Tim turned around...too quickly. He heard Daniel chuckle, but he had to see if Daniel was just teasing.

He wasn’t. There she was, standing with two other women. As before, he was entranced by her. Even without the contrived lighting of the club, she had an exotic look that still seemed a little different from the others. As he watched, she started to sway back and forth a little, almost dancing to the music being played.

“Tim, you’re going to start drooling.”

Daniel’s voice intruded on his enjoyment and he looked back.

“Come on, Daniel. Can’t I just enjoy the sights of Marrakech?”

“Sure. I’m just trying to keep you grounded.”

“I’m very grounded,” Tim said, turning back to watch as she and her friends began to move around, just slightly, almost like they wanted to dance but weren’t supposed to. As he watched, his voice got a little softer. He almost forgot Daniel was there at all. “You have no idea how grounded I am. I’m so grounded that I’m stuck in the quicksand...starting to sink. You don’t get more grounded than I am.”

There was silence in response. Tim watched until the song was over and the women stopped their private dance. He applauded, hoping that it would only be taken as applause for the music being played. The woman looked over at him and there was a definite expression of surprise on her face when she saw him. Could she really have remembered him from that brief moment the night before? Then, she deliberately turned away from him and began talking to one of the other women who had been dancing with her. He took a breath and scoffed at himself. Daniel was right. He was acting very silly about this woman. He turned back and saw a strange expression on Daniel’s face. It might have been regret.

“What?” he asked.

“Why are you really here, Tim?”

“What do you mean?” Tim asked.

“Never mind. I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“It sounds like you need the escape. Maybe you shouldn’t be so grounded.”

Tim smiled and shook his head. “No. You’re right. I might as well be a mindless teenager. It’s been a long time since I let myself relax enough to feel that kind of silly attraction. I need to keep myself focused.”

“No. If you need a vacation that bad, I shouldn’t be stomping on it.”

“A vacation, yes, but not necessarily a relationship, and I’m not big on the idea of a one-night stand, even if it was a thing here.”

“Well, probably not, but you never know. If you’ve got the money... I haven’t gone looking,” Daniel said. “That’s one place I can’t help you, and I wouldn’t even if you paid me.”

“No problem. I’m taking up enough of your time just trying to find a grocery store on my own,” Tim said, grinning.

Daniel smiled back. “What about tomorrow? Do you want to try again?”

“Sure. Then, I’ll see if any of it stuck and do some walking around on my own.”

“All right.”

“Should I give some money to the musicians?” Tim asked.

“Just stand up.”

Tim did and almost immediately, one of the performers (not the women he’d been watching, unfortunately) came over.

“You liked the song, yes?”

Tim glanced at Daniel who just nodded.

“Yes, I did,” Tim said.

He pulled out a few coins. He had to check them to make sure he wasn’t giving too much or too little, but then, he put a few coins in the man’s outstretched hand.

“Shokran,” Tim said with a smile.

Then, before he could do anything else, Daniel stood up and started hustling him away, speaking to the man in Arabic so rapidly that Tim couldn’t even hope to catch a word or two. Before he knew it, they were walking away from the booths.

“What was that about?” he asked.

“Those guys were good performers, but they also thought they had an easy mark with two tourists. They would have started pushing for more money, trying to get you to take pictures or something like that and then charging you for the privilege. Better to cut it off quickly.”

“What were you saying to him?” Tim asked.

Daniel smiled. “Nothing rude, if that’s what you’re worried about. I simply said that we had other places to go and that he did a great job. Other people were giving money to the performers, too, so it’s not like we were stiffing them or anything.”

Tim nodded, but he regretted that he hadn’t been able to spend longer there. Maybe buy something from a particular booth. He didn’t say anything about that to Daniel, though.

All too soon, they were at his riad, and suddenly, Tim felt he should make sure that Daniel knew he was genuinely enjoying his company. He didn’t want to make it seem like he was only interested in having a guide to the city. It was nice to have someone he could easily converse with. He handed over the money for the day.

“Daniel, thanks for all you’re doing for me. I really appreciate it.”

“Do I hear a but in there somewhere?” Daniel asked.

Tim laughed. “No, actually. I just... I mean, I’m paying you to take me around, but it’s a real relief to have a fellow American here, so I have someone to talk to. I’ve never been really good at languages, so it’s nice to have the option. I really didn’t think it would be a possibility when I decided to come.”

“You’re not so bad, either, Tim. I’ve had customers I’m happy to be finished with, but you’re not one of them. So I’ll see you in the morning. Same time. I’ll see if you remember how to get to the Souks.”

“All right.”

Tim went inside, locked the door and then, went up to the rooftop again. He could see why these places were so popular. He had a great view and there was something peaceful about it. After these days of having Daniel guide him through Marrakech, he knew that he needed to get going on trying to find out what was happening back in the States. This wasn’t a vacation. He was in hiding and he needed to know what he’d have to do to get out of it. Even though he did trust his team to do what they could, he felt bad about leaving it all to them while he hung out in Morocco.

But right now, he sat where he was, enjoying the cooler air that came with night in the desert, and was startled when he heard the sound of a call to prayer. He hadn’t noticed them any other evening although he’d heard the muezzins during the day. He hadn’t realized that there was a prayer at night, too. Maybe his jetlag had assisted him in missing it because, even now, he’d often go to bed early and be completely zonked until the morning.

Tim considered what he was hearing. It was beautiful, no doubt about that. He wasn’t right next to a mosque, so the sound was softer than it could have been. He had no idea what the words meant, although he knew that there was something about praising God in it. As he listened, he thought about the people he had met over the last ten years, the people who had hurt him and the people who had saved him. As far as Muslims went, the score card was pretty much tied in the two categories. So while the auditory evidence of where he was made him a little uncomfortable, bringing back bad memories, he also felt the joy of the friends he’d made among the bedouins.

After a couple of minutes, the call was over and Tim went back to his ruminating.

What religion would Jorgenson claim? Tim thought to himself.

No matter which one, if any, Tim felt that it was very likely that he wasn’t a sincere believer. He didn’t know of any religion in which the level of dishonesty demonstrated in this latest bout would be condoned.

Given his determination over the last few years, Tim felt that Jorgenson was more dangerous than pretty much any other person who had come after him. Tim had worried, off and on, about the fact that Higgins had known him by sight, but really, the biggest problem was Jorgenson. Tim had been counting down the days until Jorgenson would be out as FBI director. Without the resources of the FBI to call on, Tim was sure that Jorgenson would fade into the woodwork. Apparently, that wasn’t what he wanted to happen.

Then, treacherously, Tim’s mind meandered away from his current predicament and onto the dancer. Yet again.

“What is wrong with me?” Tim said aloud. “I don’t know her name or anything about her, and it’s really not the time or place to be thinking about a woman.”

But his mind wouldn’t listen. Instead, it brought him back to seeing her quietly swaying back and forth in time to the music. For some reason, he found that more alluring than the dancing she’d been doing at the club.

Finally, he gave in and tried to analyze just what it was about her that had him forgetting his situation and focusing on an impossible fantasy.

She was beautiful. There was no question of that. It wasn’t a typical beauty, though. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was that made her different from the other women she’d been with. Regardless, she was beautiful. That wasn’t enough, however. It wasn’t like he’d never seen a beautiful woman before. He worked with beautiful women. He’d known many of them. What was it about her?

Then, he thought about how he’d seen her today. She had been wearing a long dress with a few embellishments and a head scarf which didn’t completely cover her hair. It definitely hadn’t been suggestive or erotic in any way. So he could reject that as the reason. Thank goodness. He’d be a little disappointed in himself, if it was just about sex.

What he had liked today was seeing those slight movements that said dancing was not just something she did for a job. It was something she enjoyed.

Regardless, he would have plenty to do for the next little while. No thinking about her.

If he could help it.

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 Post subject: Chapter 15
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 3:19 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 15

Zahara sat in the hammam with her friends, Fatima and Khadija. When they could, they got together to practice English, French and Spanish. Zahara knew Spanish, having grown up in Melilla before moving to Marrakech. Fatima and Khadija had learned French in school, and they had all learned a bit of English from music, movies and the Internet.

They had been talking in English, today, and finally, near the end of their time in the hammam, Khadija got a smile on her face and Zahara knew what was coming. She had been in the booth when the man had shown up again.

“I would like to know who the man was at the booth,” Khadija said. “He looked at you.”

“What man?” Fatima asked.

“A... ajnabī... uh... A foreign man. In the booth two days before,” Khadija said, enjoying Zahara’s discomfort. “He was watching you, Zahara.”

“A foreign man?” Fatima asked. “Why have you not told us about this?”

“There is no story to tell,” Zahara said, firmly, but blushing a little. “He was at the club where I dance, and I saw him there. Then, he was in the Jemaa el-Fnaa. That is all. He is a tourist, I am sure. I have not spoken to him at all. It was an interesting coincidence. That is all.”

Fatima smiled, and Zahara could see that she had not convinced them.

“What does he look like?”

“He is foreign. He is white,” Zahara said, trying to make it sound like she had not noticed anything else, even as his expressive green eyes came to her mind.

“He is very tall,” Khadija said, eagerly. “Taller than Ibrahim by at least ten centimeters. And he has dark blond hair.”

“And his eyes are green,” Zahara said.

“You noticed his eyes?” Fatima asked.

Zahara felt her blush deepening.

“Yes.”

“The man with him lives here,” Khadija said, “but he is also white. And red. He has very red hair. And spots all over his face. Al-namsh. What are they called in English?”

“Freckles,” Fatima said, smiling at the funny word.

“Oh, yes. He has freckles,” Khadija said, laughing a little.

“You know that man?” Zahara asked, curiously.

“No, but he has been here for some time. He speaks Arabic perfectly. I have seen him being a guide. It is very strange to me that he seems to know Marrakech so well.”

“There are plenty of foreigners who have come here,” Zahara said, reasonably. “He could just be one of them.”

“Īyeh,” Khadija agreed. “But he seems different to me. But that does not mean I have forgotten your tourist.”

“He is not mine, Khadija,” Zahara said. “I do not speak to the tourists. It would only give others the wrong idea of what I do. I am not for sale.”

Khadija instantly put out a conciliatory hand. “I am sorry, Zahara. I did not mean it like that.”

“I know.”

“Have any tried?” Fatima asked, more seriously.

“Not recently.” Then, Zahara smiled mischievously. “Not since I shouted at the last one who touched me. Many women came and told him off for me.”

Both Khadija and Fatima laughed at the image. Physical contact between men and women was uncommon in public spaces and a strange man definitely did not have the right to touch a woman if she did not want him to.

Finally, Khadija sighed.

“I cannot stay longer. My father wishes me to meet another man he thinks I will marry.”

“Do you not like him?” Fatima asked.

“I do not know him, and Morocco is becoming different than it was. I wish to know the man I marry...before we marry.”

“It does not hurt to give him a chance,” Zahara said. “If you trust your father.”

Now, Khadija grinned. “I trust my father... to find a very wealthy and very boring man. But there are worse things. At least I know that I will not be forced to marry him. My father is not so bound to the past.”

She stood and went back to the dressing room to put on her clothes. Fatima stretched and sighed.

“I should go home, too. Ibrahim has been working very hard these last weeks and he is tired and hungry when he is finished. I will be glad when this project is done. I feel like a widow.”

“A wealthy widow,” Zahara said, as the two of them stood.

“I like having money. It allows me to come here whenever I want and to be safe and...comfortable,” Fatima admitted, “but sometimes, I wish I had a poor husband who was home, instead of a rich husband who is gone so much. I love Ibrahim and I miss him.”

Zahara gave Fatima a supportive squeeze and then, they joined Khadija in putting on their clothes. Once they left the hammam, they went their separate ways, heading off to their different lives. They had met at the hammam, and they spent much of their free time together there. Fatima was older than Zahara, and Khadija was younger. Yet, they all enjoyed these days. When they couldn’t come to the hammam to practice their languages, they would often go to Fatima’s home because she had the most space.

For now, however, Zahara had to get ready to go to the club. She would be dancing tonight.

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

Tim took a deep breath, mentally preparing himself. After two more days of Daniel helping him navigate, he was starting to feel like he could get around Marrakech, at least a little bit. He had successfully got to the Souks this afternoon and even got back to his riad without any help. Now, he was going to do something stupid.

Daniel hadn’t brought up the dancer at all the last couple of days, and neither had Tim, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t thinking about her. Even acknowledging that he shouldn’t bother, he was going to bother. He had found the address of the club and had studied the city map until he was relatively certain that he could get there and back without help. He had also started to feel better about brushing off the people who tried to insist that he needed their help. As Daniel had suggested, the couple of times he’d got lost, Tim had decided to go into a shop and ask the shopkeeper for help, rather than any of the helpful guides out on the street. The shopkeeper couldn’t leave his shop and most of them had been genuinely helpful.

Daniel had been acting as a guide to another group today. He would be taking them on an excursion tomorrow as well, and Tim had taken the chance to go to the club on his own. He could watch the dancing, maybe get something to eat, and then, he could leave. There was no need to talk to her. No reason to talk to her. He could just enjoy the dancing and then leave.

Another deep breath and then, Tim left before he could try to talk himself out of it.

To his surprise, he managed to make it to the club without any problems. He got a table, ordered a meal and ate without noticing the taste at all. His attention was all on the dancing. There were more group dances tonight, but he didn’t mind. Even those were interesting. He enjoyed seeing the skill involved.

After a couple of hours of watching, the show ended. Tim sat where he was for a few minutes, savoring the lingering imagery in his mind. Then, he stood up and paid his bill.

A number of men tried to prevent him from leaving, offering to give him a wonderful experience for the night, very cheap. And so on, and so on. Silently thanking Daniel for warning him about these kinds of things, Tim shook his head numerous times.

“La shokran,” he said. Again and again, as he slowly moved toward the door.

It took nearly twenty minutes to get out of the club, politely refusing all offers, but he managed it in the end. However, once he was out, he had more people offering to “guide” him to his next destination.

Again. “La shokran,” he said. “La shokran. I know my way. I don’t need any help. La shokran.”

Finally, he shook off all the eager would-be guides and started back to the riad. If he was honest, he wasn’t quite as sure about getting back as he had claimed, but Daniel had told him about some of the guides who would take a person, not to his destination, but to another place where they would expect payment, plus extra to actually get him to the real destination. He didn’t want to deal with any of that. He just took his time, watching for the different landmarks that would tell him where he was.

Then, just down the alley ahead of him, he saw some movement, low voices speaking Arabic. Then, a louder voice. Female.

“‘ateinī-tīsā’!”

It did not sound like she was happy about whatever was happening.

“‘ateqnī!”

That sounded frantic and it was quickly muffled. Tim didn’t waste another moment thinking. He ran at the people and grabbed the one on top, pulling him away.

“Leave her alone!” he said, angrily. “Let her go!”

The man instantly started to fight back, but Tim was far from helpless and he kept on his feet until the man shoved him hard against the wall and he was left feeling dazed. He slid down to the ground, unable to keep his mind connected.

After a few seconds, there was someone close to him and he tried to re-engage his brain.

“Sayid?”

He heard that one word and then a lot of other syllables that made no sense to him. He brought his hand up to the back of his head and then winced as he touched the sore spot and felt blood.

“Ow,” he said.

“Sayid, are you...all right?”

The voice was heavily-accented but understandable.

“Yeah... I think so. That’s a hard wall,” he said and winced again.

“I will help you stand?”

“Okay.”

Relatively small hands clasped his arms and then lifted him with surprising strength. Soon enough, he was on his feet. He was leaning against the wall, but he was on his feet.

“Can you stand alone?”

“I think so.”

He straightened experimentally and felt dizzy. He couldn’t focus on the woman speaking to him, and it was dim enough that he couldn’t really see any features anyway.

“I will help you to your hotel.”

“Not...a hotel. A riad. Not far from here,” Tim said.

“You are not a tourist?”

“No. Not really.”

“You will give me the address, then?”

Tim nodded and managed to remember the address of his rental. Then, after a few more seconds, the same strong hands guided him forward and helped him through the alleys. He tried to keep his mind focused, but he was having a hard enough time just walking in a straight line. After a blur of time, those gentle, yet strong, hands stopped him.

“This is it, yes?”

Tim lifted his aching head and looked at the door. It was his.

“That’s it.”

He stumbled forward and managed to unlock the door. Then, he was inside. The woman apparently had followed him because he was still being guided. The idea of walking up a flight of stairs to his bedroom was too much. Instead, he walked to the sitting room where there was a sofa, almost like a sectional and he knew he could fit on it. That would do for the night. He sat down and then lay down, pushing a few cushions onto the floor.

There was blissful silence. Then, he heard movement and started to sit up.

“Stay. I will take care of the blood. You may rest. Do not worry. I am not trying to hurt you or rob you.”

If he had been a bit more alert, Tim might have found that statement suspect, but the mental fog just had him agreeing and then closing his eyes.

He didn’t even feel the woman bandage up the back of his head.

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

It was only when the man fell asleep that Zahara realized who he was. She almost gasped at the knowledge that her rescuer was the same tourist she had seen before. Had he been at the club tonight? She hadn’t noticed him there, but that didn’t mean anything. He was a little dazed, but the injury didn’t seem serious.

She hesitated, and then, decided to call Fatima. Fatima had worked as a nurse in France before her marriage to Ibrahim had brought her back to Marrakech. She could say what should be done, even at this late hour.

She sent a quick message on her phone, not wanting to disturb her if she was asleep. There was a return call just a few seconds later. They both spoke in low voices, not wanting to disturb anyone. Unlike at the hammam, they both spoke Arabic. This was too important to worry about stumbling over words.

“Alu, Zahara.”

“Fatima, I need your help.”

“What for?”

“A man attacked me tonight, but another man stopped him. I helped the man back to his place, but he was a little dizzy. He got thrown against a wall.”

“Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, but I want to make sure he doesn’t need a hospital.”

“Did he lose consciousness?”

“No. He was a little unbalanced, and he’s sleeping, now, but he never lost consciousness. I got the bleeding stopped from a small cut on his head.”

“He shouldn’t need a hospital, then, but he shouldn’t be left alone until he wakes up.”

Zahara swallowed at the thought. Stay the night with a complete stranger? A male complete stranger? Still, he had saved her virtue, if not her life.

“All right. What should I watch for?”

“You must be tired or wired in order to accept this so easily.”

“I have help. What should I watch for?”

“If anything gets worse very suddenly, if you can’t wake him up. All those things. Want me to come over to help you? ...or would you like me to wake Ibrahim?”

“No. He would hate to wake up so late. It will be fine as it is. Thank you!”

Then, she hung up and tried to figure out what to do in order to be there for him if he needed her but how to keep herself comfortable or as comfortable as it would be possible to be. If it hadn’t been so late, the idea of having Ibrahim and Fatima here as company would be great, but she knew that it would be a major inconvenience, especially with Ibrahim’s current busy schedule, and the only reason anyone would know she was here would be if they actually came into the riad. She felt that she could reasonably expect to get out of here without being seen.

Finally, she withdrew from the sitting room and dared to search for another place to sleep. There was no way she was going to sleep beside him.

Zahara walked up the stairs and found the room the man must be sleeping in and then went to the other bedroom. It had a bed. That would do. It wasn’t right next to him, but she would hear if he called. She was a little nervous, but in the end, she was more tired than nervous, and she fell asleep.

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 Post subject: Chapter 16
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:23 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 16

Tim woke up with a major headache. For a moment, he couldn’t remember why, but then, the previous night’s events re-emerged in his brain. He sat up on the couch and groaned. He felt the back of his head and touched a bandage.

Did I put that on?

He didn’t remember that part, but he did feel the need for a shower. He’d probably feel a lot better after that.

Carefully, he stood up. He was a little dizzy but nothing like last night. He walked up the stairs and into the bathroom. He was tempted to linger in the shower and just let the water cascade over him until he felt like a human being again, but in the end, he decided that, even feeling like this, he shouldn’t waste water when living in a desert. He got out of the shower feeling refreshed, but then, he realized that he hadn’t brought any clothes in with him.

Well, no matter. He wound a towel around his waist and walked to his bedroom.

As he was digging through his clothes to find something to put on that would go along with his plan for the day (doing absolutely nothing), he heard a gasp.

He spun around in shock. Who was in his house?

“Allah birhama. What happened to you?”

The same voice from last night. This must be the woman.

“Uh...what are you doing in my house?” he asked, trying to be nonchalant, even though he was half naked and with the light coming in from the inner courtyard, he felt like he was standing in a spotlight while he couldn’t distinguish any of the woman’s features.

“Do you not remember what happened last night?” she asked.

“Yeah, I do, but... Did you stay the night?”

“My friend said that you should not be left alone during the night, in case something was wrong. But I did not hear you get up. How are you?”

“Uh... I’m... half-naked at the moment,” Tim said, starting to blush. He cleared his throat. “Could you wait a minute... please?”

Then, it was as if the woman just noticed his current state of undress herself. He could hear her embarrassment.

“Oh. Āsif. I did not...”

She withdrew from the doorway very quickly. Tim suppressed a smile, but he tried to get dressed as quickly as possible. He figured that they were both in an awkward situation, but after what had almost happened to her last night, he didn’t want her feeling bad about it.

As soon as he was dressed, he walked out of the room and looked around.

“Hello?” he asked, wondering if she’d just decided to sneak out.

Then, he saw her down on the first floor, looking up at him, and he suddenly realized just who she was. The dancer from the club! He was now feeling extremely awkward. Still, he couldn’t leave her standing down there. So he walked down the stairs and approached her.

“Hi. Are you all right?” he asked. “I didn’t see if you got hurt.”

“Yes, I am fine,” she said.

“I hope that I wasn’t interfering in something I didn’t understand.”

There was a slight smile. “No. You understood very well.”

“Then, I’m glad that I was there. You helped me back here last night.”

“Yes.”

“Thank you. I appreciate it. Uh... my name is Tim.” He put out his hand.

She hesitated and he was worried that he’d broken some societal rule, but then, she took his hand and shook it.

“My name is Zahara.”

“It sounds like the desert.”

She smiled.

“It is similar, but my name means flower. Sahāra is the desert.”

“A flower in the desert, then,” Tim said, smiling.

She pulled her hand from his and looked down. Tim worried now that he’d managed to insult her somehow.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

She looked up again.

“No. It is thanks to you that I am all right.”

“It was the least I could do.”

“What happened to you?”

“What do you mean?” Tim asked. “I got thrown against a wall. I think that was pretty obvious.”

“No. Your...back. It looks...very...bad.”

“Oh.”

That was the last question he had expected, but he knew what she was talking about. The scars from the first round of torture had never healed, and he knew that the shrapnel scars were still very much present. Many of his scars would never completely heal. He guessed that they had been very obvious to her. He never looked at them himself. It was hard enough just knowing they were there and remembering how it had felt.

“It’s...a long story. And not a pleasant one.”

She nodded. “Let me check your head. The bleeding stopped very quickly, but it could be a problem.”

Tim waved his hands in an attempt to fend her off.

“No trouble. I’m sure it’s fine.”

“It is not certain and you cannot look yourself.”

“All I’ve got is a headache. It’s nothing.”

Zahara got a slightly exasperated look on her face and she walked over to him, muttering under her breath, but in Arabic. He did hear one word that sounded a lot like Ferengi, but he was pretty sure she wasn’t talking about Star Trek. He didn’t protest any further as she probed the back of his head. He winced, but he didn’t resist.

Then, she walked back around him.

“It looks fine.”

“Good. Thanks.”

“You should not be alone for a full day, in case it is more serious than I think. Would you like to go to a doctor?”

The idea of seeing someone official was a bad idea from where Tim was standing. The more documented presence he had here, the more likely it was that the FBI would find out where he was.

“No. I think I just need to take a day to recover. I’ll be fine. You don’t need to stay with me.”

“Do you have someone else? Perhaps the man who was with you?”

“Normally, I’d say yes, but he’s out of town all day, today.”

“Oh.”

While he still found her as attractive as he had before, he was also feeling very uncertain about having her with him all day. In fact, Tim had very little confidence of showing himself in a good light with extended exposure, especially in these circumstances.

“Look, I really am grateful for what you’ve done, but you must have a lot to do, and there’s no reason to stay here with me when all I’m going to do is lay around.”

“No. You may be fine, but you may not. You have thanked me, but it is I who should be saying that. All I did was little. You saved me. That is something that I cannot repay.”

“I don’t expect you to,” Tim said. “I know how it feels to want to repay someone, but I don’t regret getting involved. I’m just glad I could help, and all you’ve done is more than I would have expected.”

“What I will do now is very little. You must rest, and I will make sure that nothing is wrong. You should eat if you can.”

“I can, but I really don’t need you to cook for me.”

She pointed sternly at the couch.

“Sit. You should not be standing so much.”

Tim raised his hands in surrender, regretting the fact that she was right. He was feeling a bit more of a headache as he stood there. He walked back to the couch and sat down. Looking satisfied, Zahara left him and walked into the kitchen. Tim wasn’t sure what he had in there, but he was even less sure what she’d make of it.

He had to admit that it felt much better to be sitting down in the dim light of the sitting room. In fact, he wouldn’t mind lying down again, but he was determined to stay upright until Zahara came back, at least. Maybe then, he could convince her to go on her way.

Or not.

No. There was no reason to have her hang around here. He wasn’t in the market for a girlfriend. She probably wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. She probably already had one. There were plenty of reasons why this should end as soon as possible.

Suddenly, he was smelling something cooking. She wasn’t just grabbing one of the pastries he’d bought. It smelled like she had gone through everything he had and was making a real meal. He felt bad for having this woman serving him when he barely even knew her.

He sat where he was, dithering about what to do, but about ten minutes later, he heard Zahara coming out of the kitchen.

I probably shouldn’t eat sitting on the couch. I should be in the dining room.

Tim sighed and got to his feet, wishing he was still sitting down. He walked out and saw that she was holding two plates. At least she was feeding herself, too.

“There’s a table in there,” he said, pointing to the dining room.

She nodded and they walked in. Tim sat down and she put the plate down in front of him. It looked like an omelet on steroids. Had she made this out of the things he had bought? Crazy.

“What is this?” he asked.

“It is eggs and vegetables and cheese. An omelet, I believe is the word.”

“It looks amazing. I didn’t think I had the ingredients to make something that looked like this.”

She smiled a little and sat down. For a few minutes, they both ate in an awkward silence. The omelet was delicious and, while he had wanted her to leave, he had to admit that this was a lot more satisfying than anything he could have made. He probably would have just eaten a pastry or two.

“Thank you,” he said, after he finished. “It was delicious. You really didn’t have to go to all that effort.”

“But I did.”

“Yes, and I’m grateful. I’m still feeling tired, but I hate to think of you just sitting around here. You really could go.”

“No. I will stay until the evening. I will have work then, but that will let me know that you are all right. You are injured and should sleep. I will be fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. I am very sure.”

“Okay.”

Tim stood and picked up his plate. Instantly, Zahara stood as well and took his plate from him.

“I will clean. You will sleep.”

She certainly wasn’t shy about taking charge. He smiled a little.

“All right.”

He decided to go up to his bedroom this time. That way, Zahara could have the run of the place...and if the worst happened, all his important stuff was in the bedroom anyway. He walked up the stairs and then let himself fall onto the bed. He was asleep before he had time to think about the fact that he was instantly trusting a complete stranger, essentially with his life.

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

Zahara took the opportunity of cleaning the kitchen to think about the man in the bedroom above her. Clearly, he wasn’t at his best, but he seemed less confident and more awkward than she would have expected. Then, she thought of the scars she’d seen on his back. They were not the result of an accident. She would swear to it. It looked almost like his skin had been melted. Before seeing that, she had assumed he was simply an American or European tourist with few problems, an easy life. He was so clean and neat. But those scars did not indicate something easy. It indicated difficulty, perhaps it had to do with the long story he clearly didn’t want to tell. But he was also so polite.

After she finished cleaning up breakfast, she sat down for a few minutes in the sitting room and thought about what had almost happened. The man last night had assumed that, as a dancer, she was also a prostitute. And he would not take no for an answer. Zahara shivered with remembered fear. He had been too strong for her and she had been afraid that this time, she would not be able to get away. Her cry for help had been desperation. The time of night, the location... no one would be there to hear it.

And then, this man had come flying in and had pulled the man away, even suffering injury to keep her safe. It wasn’t that no one else would have done it. She knew that others would have, but a foreigner was not the one she would have thought to get involved.

And yet, Tim had. Not only had he got involved, he could have been killed had the man been armed.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She was lucky that nothing had happened to her. Tim had intervened right at the beginning of the attack.

Now, Zahara stood and walked up the stairs to the second floor. She walked to the bedroom and looked in on him.

Tim was lying on the bed, on his stomach, so deeply asleep that he was snoring. She smiled at the noise. Well, if he kept that up, she would definitely know that he was alive.

Her phone rang and she quickly answered to keep from disturbing him.

“Alu?”

“Zahara, how are you?”

Fatima. Of course, she would be checking up on her friend.

“I’m fine, Fatima,” Zahara said, keeping her voice low as she walked away from the bedroom door. “And so is he. He woke up and ate breakfast. He’s sleeping again.”

“That sounds normal. I told Ibrahim about what happened. He asked if you called police.”

“No. The man escaped. I didn’t see his face, and I don’t need that kind of exposure. I’m sure I would lose my job if I even got associated with prostitution.”

“I understand, but if he isn’t stopped now, he may try again.”

“But now, he might think I have a protector.”

“Are you going to stay there all day?”

“Yes. I have work tonight, and his riad is close to the club. It will be easier, and fewer will be likely to see me.”

“Call me this afternoon, all right? I want to know that you’re not in danger.”

“He is no danger, Fatima,” Zahara said, looking back toward the room. “He saved my life.”

“Call me, anyway.”

“I will.”

They said their good-byes and Zahara went back to the room and looked at Tim again. They weren’t as obvious, but with closer examination, she could see scars on his face as well, some around his eye and cheek. She couldn’t help but wonder what other scars were covered up by his clothing, what she hadn’t noticed in her embarrassment at seeing him unclothed. He seemed like a typical American tourist just looking at the surface, but there was more to him than that. She wondered just how deep he went.

Then, she smiled a little and wondered what her brother would do if he knew she was in a a house alone with a male stranger. He would worry, of course. That was what Ahmed did best when it came to his sister. He had suggested that she go with him when he decided to go to Egypt, but even though Marrakech wasn’t Melilla, Cairo was even less. She knew this culture and she understood its idiosyncrasies. She didn’t want to have to figure out another set of them.

After a while, she left her quiet observation and went up to the rooftop. Tim had a riad with a very nice view. It was private and quiet. It was very nearly perfect. She wondered what he paid for this rental. It was obvious that he wasn’t having someone come to cook for him as many tourists did.

She had been up on the roof for a couple of hours when she heard him.

“Hello? Zahara? Are you still here?”

Zahara smiled at the uncertainty in his voice. She could tell that he wasn’t sure whether or not he wanted her there...which made her feel better about the whole thing. He wasn’t going to attack her as the man had the night before. Still, this was not her usual way of meeting new people.

“I am on the roof,” she called down.

“I’ll come up.”

A few seconds later, he stepped out onto the roof and walked over. He sat down across from her. He looked much more alert than he had been this morning.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Better,” Tim said and smiled.

“Good. I am glad.”

“Thanks.” He hesitated.

“What is it?”

“My only real experience with any kind of Muslim culture was when I stayed with a bedouin tribe in Yemen, and I barely even saw the women. It wasn’t considered appropriate. Is your being here a problem?”

Zahara smiled at how cautious he was being. She appreciated that he was trying to be respectful, and she was curious about what would have sent an American to a bedouin tribe in Yemen.

“No. For some, that would be the case, but Morocco is changing. You will still see more men out on the streets than women, but even that is changing, especially here in the cities.”

“Oh. Will anyone miss you while you’re hanging out here with me?”

“My friends know where I am. I only have one brother, Ahmed, and he is in Cairo.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

Zahara shook her head. “No. It is nothing to apologize for. My father died when I was a child. My mother died a couple of years ago. She had cancer.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Yes.”

“You look different from the people you danced with at the club. Uh...are you...not from here?”

Zahara laughed. “No. Not exactly. My father was a Berber Muslim. The Berbers are the people who were in Morocco before the spread of Islam. They converted to Islam during the early years. My father, Amud, moved to Melilla for work.”

“Where is Melilla?”

“On the north coast. It belongs to Spain and has for centuries, but Morocco has been trying to get it back. So far, Spain has refused.”

Tim smiled. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” he said.

Zahara furrowed her brow as she tried to parse the meaning of what he had said. He suppressed a smile and he seemed to know what was going on.

“I mean that if they have it already, it’s hard to say that they have to give it back.”

“Oh. Yes.”

“I have a friend who has English as a second language. She’s definitely fluent, but she still stumbles over idioms, sometimes.”

“Oh. I see.”

He leaned forward. “So your father went to Melilla?”

“Yes. While he was there, he met a woman, Salma, who was a Spanish Christian.”

“Wow,” Tim said. “Really?”

“Yes. They fell in love and were married. They lived in Melilla for a few years, but then, my father went back to Marrakech. My mother never said why he left or why she did not go with him, and while he was here, he died in an accident. I was very young and I do not know if it was temporary or if he was leaving us. But my mother never said a bad word about him.”

“So...are you Christian or Muslim?” he asked.

Zahara laughed softly.

“I am not even sure. My mother would send us to a mosque on Fridays with a friend of hers. On Sundays, we would go to Mass. I suppose she wanted us to be exposed to both sides of our culture, but it mostly left me confused. I do not know what I am. I am...both. Neither. I do not know.”

“That does sound difficult,” Tim said.

Zahara nodded, and she was amazed at herself for sharing these things with Tim. She had known him for all of a few hours and she was telling him her life story. Something in his eyes, though, told her that he could be trusted.

“I came here to Marrakech after my mother died. I suppose...I wanted to know more of my father, but I do not know his family. I do not know if they are here or if they were somewhere else and my father simply moved to Marrakech. In the end, I felt that I would do well to understand my father’s people. I had learned the Berber dances and other Moroccan dances when I was younger, and I found work with the troupe you have seen. I can and do live on my own here. My brother wanted me to come with him to al-Qahira, but I am not yet ready to leave.”

“Wow. That’s amazing.”

“Thank you.” Then, Zahara smiled. “Very well, Tim. Now, it is your turn. Why are you here in Marrakech?”

Tim leaned back and she sensed that he would not be telling her everything. Even if he didn’t lie to her, there were things he wouldn’t say. That was fine. She hadn’t told him everything, either.

“Well, my childhood is about as uneventful as you could get, really. I was just a nerdy little kid. I loved school and I went to college, got my master’s degree before getting a job. My father was in the Navy until I was seven. He retired and went to graduate school. He became a professor.”

“Is he still alive?” Zahara asked.

Tim nodded. “Yeah. He and my mom live in Ohio, in the States. I only have one sibling, too. A sister, Sarah. She’s going to grad school right now, back in California. I don’t see my family very often, but we try to get together at least on the holidays. I live in DC and have for more than ten years. The last few years have been...hectic. Um...not the most pleasant period of my life, although the last two years have been better.” He sighed and she saw a darkness in his eyes that seemed to fit with the scars she’d seen on his back. Whatever details he was hiding, they were definitely bad.

“What do you do?”

“I’m an investigator. I work for a group called NCIS. I investigate crimes in the Navy or associated with the Navy.”

“Like your father, then,” she said.

“Well, not completely. My dad was a sailor, and I get seasick.” He laughed. “But serving aboard a ship isn’t required in NCIS. Mostly, though, I’m just a computer guy. That’s what I’m good at.”

Zahara furrowed her brow.

“So...why are you here in Marrakech? It does not sound like you would need to be here to work, but you said you are not a tourist.”

“I’m not, but I’m not here for work, either.”

“What else is there?” she asked.

Tim shrugged. He wasn’t really happy about the conversation. She could see it, but then, he took a breath and sighed.

“I’m kind of here unwillingly. I had to come here, and I’m hoping it will only be temporary...just until the people who need to get the message.”

“What message is that?”

Tim smiled a little, although she could see some bitterness in his smile.

“That I don’t belong to them. I belong to myself. There are some people who like to think that they can take over anything and anyone they want to. Nothing else matters but what they want. I refused to be one of those things they control, but it’s just not so simple as saying no. I had to leave so that they couldn’t force me, and when I go back, it will be to make sure that they can’t ever do this to me again.”

Then, he seemed to realize that he was saying more than he had probably intended and he blushed a little and looked out at the city. Zahara reached out, paused and then touched his hand. He twitched and looked back at her.

“Life is never simple,” she said.

“No, it isn’t.”

He looked down at her hand and then he looked up and smiled. His eyes brightened and she found herself smiling back.

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 Post subject: Chapter 17
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:30 pm 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 17

Dr. Hicks parked his car at Gibbs’ house and limped his way to the front door. He had planned on coming sooner, but things hadn’t worked out the way he had wanted. His feet were wanting him to be home, but he needed to do his part.

As he made his way, he noticed a car that he’d never seen before. Whose would that be? He didn’t know, but it surprised him that there was someone else they trusted.

He knocked on the door, hoping for a quick answer. Today was a bad day for his feet and he really needed to sit down.

The door opened.

“Dr. Hicks,” Tony said, in surprise. “We weren’t expecting you tonight.”

“I like to keep you on your toes, Agent DiNozzo,” Dr. Hicks said, smiling. “But I don’t know how much longer I can keep on my feet. Is there a chance that I could speak to you without going down to Agent Gibbs’ basement?”

Instantly, Tony looked concerned and he offered a supporting arm. Dr. Hicks took it gratefully and limped into the living room. He sat down on a convenient couch and then, feeling slightly embarrassed, he maneuvered himself around to prop his feet up on the couch.

“Sorry, but I’ll be lucky to get back out to my car if I don’t do this.”

Tony just smiled. “No problem for me. I’ll just make Fornell stand.”

He left, presumably to get everyone else upstairs. Dr. Hicks didn’t like asking people to cater to his physical limitations, but sometimes, it was necessary and he was willing to swallow his pride when it came up.

Dr. Hicks heard a bunch of footsteps coming up the stairs, and he tried to look as calm and unpained as possible. His aching feet were academic to people unless he actually showed them his pain, and he strove to avoid that.

Predictably, Gibbs was there first.

“Agent Gibbs,” Dr. Hicks said. “I hope you don’t mind if I take up all of your couch.”

“Nope.”

The others came in, dragging chairs in with them.

“There’s one person I don’t know here,” Dr. Hicks said, looking at an older man, probably about the same age as Gibbs.

“Tobias Fornell,” he said. “FBI.”

“FBI. That is a surprise.”

Fornell rolled his eyes. “They just don’t want to do the work themselves and they know I can.”

Dr. Hicks smiled. For all his brusqueness, Fornell was definitely someone well-acquainted with this group.

“So what’s wrong with you?” Fornell asked.

“My feet tend to get sore in the evenings. It’s been worse the last couple of weeks, and it gets hard to walk. I considered waiting, but I never know whether or not I’ll be feeling better, and so I just decided to bite the bullet and come.”

“Do you have something to share with us, then?” Ducky asked.

“Yes, although it’s more of a perception of the man himself rather than telling you what to do about it.”

“We’ll take what we can get,” Tony said.

“All right. I’ll have to ask that you not attempt to get me to tell you where I got this information from. I can’t and won’t tell you. Suffice it to say, the source was extremely reliable.”

“All right,” Gibbs said. “What do you have?”

“I’m sure you’ve already come to the conclusion that this is something personal to Jorgenson. It’s not being done by or for the FBI.” Dr. Hicks looked at Fornell for confirmation.

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s pretty much what I found.”

“Given that fact, I felt that it was better to focus on Jorgenson himself rather than what he might want from Tim McGee. What is driving him? I know that, in the past, Jorgenson has been presented as a foolish person who kept his position at the FBI simply because he was just competent enough to do the job but incompetent enough not to be a threat. To some degree, I feel that’s true. He’s not as competent as he thinks he is.”

“He’s not held in high esteem by the rank and file at the FBI, I can tell you that,” Fornell said.

“He’s not held in high esteem at NCIS, either,” Tony muttered.

“For a different reason, DiNozzo.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Anyway,” Dr. Hicks said, trying to keep this from turning into something else. “He can’t hope to keep his position any longer than the ten years allotted. That’s a law and he’s not going to change that. There’s no way. That being the case, his intentions must have some other goal, some other focus. He is not a man who will accept being obsolete. He is going to fight tooth and nail to make sure people need him around. He doesn’t care if they want him around. He wants to be needed. When someone needs you, you can be whatever you want and they can’t do anything about it. Jorgenson is probably looking forward to that kind of situation. He’s had to toe the line for the last ten years to keep his prominence. Soon that will be gone, and he needs something to put in its place.”

“And what would that be?” Ziva asked. “Do you think he would be trying to for something in the Cabinet or a security advisor?”

“No,” Dr. Hicks said. “I think it’s something else. And let me emphasize that this is a guess on my part, and I have already given a heads up to Director Morgan.”

“Why him?” Abby asked. “What does it have to do with him besides that the CIA is always involved in this stuff with Tim?”

“It has everything to do with him. Because I believe that the reason Jorgenson is doing all this is to put himself in a position to become the Director of the CIA.”

There was a surprised silence that greeted his pronouncement. Dr. Hicks let the silence hang as they digested what he was suggesting. He looked at Gibbs. There was an expression of skepticism, but until someone else said something, Dr. Hicks was willing to let that skepticism linger.

“How sure are you of this?” Ducky asked. “I know I can’t ask you what specifically led you to this conclusion, but can you give us anything to help us understand why you settled on the CIA as the reason?”

“I’m very sure of it. Not completely, of course, but I’ve been studying Jorgenson, not just the events that have made his paths cross with NCIS. Everything that I could get my hands on and that is quite a bit. Director Morgan told me that Jorgenson has already threatened him, saying that he’ll go down with Tim when this gets going, and he’s probably right...if his plan succeeds. If Tim McGee is shown to be a traitor, then, that means that the people who have been watching him will have been either complicit in his treachery or else incompetent since they didn’t notice what he was doing. Director Morgan has been personally overseeing the assignment of Tim’s guards. He’ll take the blame, and while he’s been considered innocuous up to now, no one will be willing to keep him on if his people couldn’t see a traitor in their midst.”

Again, a silence as they absorbed his explanation.

“You know...if I’m right, then this makes a lot of sense,” Abby said, finally.

“Right about what?” Dr. Hicks asked.

“I was thinking that the reason Jorgenson wants control of Tim is to force him to make the program he made for Carew. How better to make himself indispensable than by being able to track down anyone, at any time, and with Tim’s inside access to the CIA, he can figure out people to get on his side, people to get rid of. Tim would be his way in.”

“At least an important stepping stone,” Ducky agreed, nodding slowly.

Dr. Hicks could see that they were getting more and more convinced. He was glad because he was convinced that this was Jorgenson’s goal, and if he was right, that was about the worst outcome as far as Tim was concerned.

“This would really suck for Tim,” Tony said, giving voice to Dr. Hicks’ own feeling. “I never thought I’d say that there could be someone worse leading the CIA than Carew, but I think Jorgenson would be worse.”

Dr. Hicks didn’t bother engaging in that particular debate, but he was gratified to hear someone else echoing his own thoughts. Then, he turned his attention to Fornell.

“Agent Fornell, does my hypothesis jive with what you’ve found?”

“More or less. Most of us think Jorgenson is pretty much incompetent, but Sacks found that there’s someone helping him with his plan.”

“Really. Are you sure of that?”

“Definitely,” Fornell said, firmly. “He might be calling the shots, but he’s not planning them.”

“If Dr. Hicks’ idea is correct, then, it would have to be someone who also had a lot to gain,” Ziva said. “Perhaps, this is someone he has promised a supporting position to. People have done worse for less.”

“True,” Ducky said. “And that means in order to truly stop him, we have to make it unwise for him to continue.”

“Or we have to get blame for something laid at his doorstep,” Tony said. “If we could show what he’s been doing, that’d be poison as far as a public position is concerned. No politician would would touch him if they knew he was dirty.”

“So do we want to convince him or do we want to convince the rest of DC?” Ziva asked. “I still think that killing him would be easier.”

“Public humiliation would make it more likely to be over,” Fornell said. “If we just stop him, there’s nothing to say he won’t change his mind, later.”

“And there won’t be any incentive for politicians to ignore him, either,” Tony said.

Dr. Hicks looked at the group. He could see they were convinced, and he was relieved that they weren’t pushing for more information on the source of his analysis.

“One other thing to consider. From what I understand, Jorgenson hates being bested by anyone. He’s been bested by the CIA, or at least by Carew, and by Tim, over and over again. He’s continually been outdone, and that’s probably part of the driving force behind why he’s trying to get Tim in his control. At least some of this is about him just wanting to get revenge, even in a small way.”

“Well, won’t he be surprised when we grind his mealy face into the floor,” Abby said, grimly.

“So, we wait, then,” Tony said. “We can’t let him know that we’re ready for this. We have to wait until he makes a move.”

“And be ready to counter it,” Ziva said.

Her eyes suddenly widened, but she said nothing. Dr. Hicks wondered what it that she had thought of, but he didn’t pry.

Gibbs had said almost nothing, but now, he took charge.

“Then, we wait,” he said. “Go home. Get some sleep.”

No one protested, but Dr. Hicks saw Ziva grab Tony by the arm and whisper in his ear. He really wanted to know what she was thinking, but he also thought that maybe they were keeping it from Fornell and maybe from him as well. He took a breath and shifted his feet off the couch, bracing himself for his trip home.

Then, there was a hand on his shoulder. He looked up and Gibbs just shook his head slightly and then walked over to urge everyone out. Dr. Hicks waited as everyone else left, including Fornell.

Then, Gibbs walked back over and sat down across from Dr. Hicks.

“Yes, Agent Gibbs?”

“You got this stuff from Carew, didn’t you.”

“I can’t tell you where I got it, but indirectly, Carew was involved. Only indirectly. I promise that I haven’t spoken to him. I don’t know where he is. I only know that he should be back in another week or so.”

Gibbs sighed.

“Tim said he was okay, that he was safe.”

“He wouldn’t say anything else,” Gibbs said.

“Actually, he probably wouldn’t say anything at all because he knows that you’d do whatever it took to find him.”

Gibbs leaned forward and stared at his hands.

“I have to. This whole situation is my fault.”

“How much territory does whole cover?”

“From day one. I’m the one who put Tim on that group’s radar. They found him because of me not being able to stay out of things that didn’t involve me. I had to know, had to do what I’d been told not to. ...and Tim paid the price. He’s been paying the price for my mistake for over a decade.”

Dr. Hicks furrowed his brow. This was new.

“Tim’s never talked about that. He’s only talked about the group itself. I have to admit that what put him in their path has never even come up. He never mentioned you in that context and he’s certainly never blamed you for it. It’s definitely not an issue for him.”

“That’s because he doesn’t blame me, not anymore,” Gibbs said and shrugged. “Even if he doesn’t, it doesn’t change the facts. He’s had to go through Hell the last ten years of his life because of my decision. Anything I can do to keep him out of it.”

“Agent Gibbs, while your actions might have been the catalyst, that doesn’t mean you’re to blame for everything, particularly not for Jorgenson’s behavior or even Carew’s. Just like I’ve told Tim time and again, you cannot take responsibility for other people’s actions. You made a mistake and it’s had long-lasting consequences, but that doesn’t mean this is all your fault. It’s not. I’m sure you’d feel better if you could have suffered along with him.”

“He tried to get me to promise that I’d do that. Back at the beginning.”

“I know. Tim said that he felt guilty for even asking that of you.”

Gibbs looked up in surprise, and Dr. Hicks smiled.

“We’ve talked about a lot of things over the last few years, Agent Gibbs. In this case, Tim wasn’t talking about it for the purpose of therapy which is why I feel I can share it. Tim said that he knew that you’d do it if you promised, even if it killed you. I’m impressed that you didn’t give in and make the promise.”

Gibbs grimaced. “I wanted to, but I knew it wouldn’t help Tim.”

“Not in the long run, definitely. Agent Gibbs, what you need to accept is that this has happened and it’s not going to change. While Tim has had some major struggles, the last few years really haven’t been that bad. In fact, they’ve been good in a lot of ways.”

“Until now?”

“Even now. Tim is at risk, but don’t you see how far he’s come? Can you really not see what amazing strides he’s made in his psychological recovery?”

Gibbs was silent.

“Tim ran. He was afraid. That is completely understandable in the circumstances. Totally acceptable as far as I’m concerned, but he did not let paranoia dictate his decisions. He went to Carew because he knew that Carew could help him, whether he liked it or not. He’s trusting you and your team to figure this out. I don’t doubt that he’s going to make attempts on his end, but he’s trusting you. Agent Gibbs, Tim has struggled with trusting people, with trusting himself. He’s doing both. Even as disgusting as Jorgenson’s actions are, Tim is still fine, and by the only indication we have, he is fine. I know it might be a tall order, but let go of your guilt, Agent Gibbs, and just appreciate how far Tim has come and how well he’s doing. He’ll keep surprising you with how strong he is. He’s not hanging on by a thread anymore. He’s left the rope behind and is standing on his own two feet.”

Then, the eyebrow went up and Gibbs glanced down at Dr. Hicks’ feet.

“Can you?”

Dr. Hicks managed to laugh a little. “I think so, but I should get home. Could I have your help back to my car?”

Gibbs nodded and helped him up. Dr. Hicks couldn’t suppress his wince at the pain from the pressure.

“This seems worse than it was before,” Gibbs said as they headed out.

“It is,” Dr. Hicks admitted easily. “I have an appointment with my doctor in another week. Unfortunately, though, this kind of thing has happened before. The pain gets suddenly worse and then eases off again. Every time it happens, I’m afraid the increase is going to stay. The damage done to my feet was permanent. The bones never healed correctly, and a number of the nerves were so badly damaged that they’ll always be damaged. That’s what happens when your feet are beaten over the course of a year. I’m just glad that I’m around to hate the pain. It’s a good reminder of what I have and what I could have lost. Of course...” He smiled. “...times like these, I don’t believe that. I just want to go home and get what relief I can.”

Gibbs helped him into the car and Dr. Hicks sat down.

“I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from Carew.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, Agent Gibbs. Good night.”

“To you, too.”

Dr. Hicks smiled. “As soon as I take my pills when I get home, I’ll be just fine.”

Then, he started his car and headed home. Yes, this would have to be a night with the pain pills. He’d never liked taking them, but when the pain got like this, he knew he had to give in.

To distract himself from the pain, he thought about Tim’s situation. He still could see so much good in what was going on. He just hoped that Gibbs would be able to as well.

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 Post subject: Chapter 18
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:34 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 18

There was a pounding that brought Tim out of his extremely deep sleep. He started to open his eyes when the pounding stopped. He lay where he was and debated about whether or not he was going to get up.

Then, the phone started to ring.

He groaned and rolled over to grab the phone.

“Hello?” he mumbled.

“Tim, it doesn’t sound like you’re ready to go.”

“Who is this?”

“Daniel? Your extremely skilled and friendly neighborhood real estate agent and tour guide?”

“Oh. Uh... Are you downstairs? Did you knock?”

“Yes.”

“Give me a second.”

Tim hung up and sat up in bed. He was definitely better than yesterday, but he was not quite ready for a real schedule. He got up and went down to the front door and opened it.

“Hey, Daniel. Come on in.”

Daniel was smiling as he walked into the riad.

“Well, you definitely don’t look ready to go.”

“Actually, Daniel, could I put this off until tomorrow?”

Daniel’s brow furrowed. “Sure. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, but I wasn’t okay two nights ago.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning that I got into some trouble.”

Tim walked back to the sitting room. Daniel followed him and they both sat down.

“I was walking back here, and I saw a man pinning a woman against a wall. She was struggling to get away and it sounded like she was calling for help. She was speaking Arabic, but it really did sound like it. So...I jumped in and tried to help. I was okay until the guy slammed me against the wall.”

“Are you all right?”

“I was a little out of it. I got a pretty good ding on the head. She helped me back here and I fell asleep on the couch. When I woke up the next morning...she was still here.”

“Really?”

“She said that she had asked a friend about what to do, and her friend said I shouldn’t be alone if I’d had a head injury.” Then, Tim couldn’t help but blush just a little.

“What’s going on, Tim? Did you–?” Daniel waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

“No! But...it turned out that the woman was...the dancer from the club. Her name is Zahara.”

“You saved the dancer?” Daniel said in amazement. “So...what happened?”

“Nothing really. She insisted on staying on the entire day. I slept for a lot of it, but we talked some and...and then, in the evening, she had to get to work. So she left.”

“And?”

Tim shrugged.

“Did you ask her out?”

“No. She got attacked, Daniel. That guy probably wanted to rape her. It would have been in really bad taste.”

“True, but you could have done something without being insensitive.”

“We talked. A lot.”

“That’s not much, Tim,” Daniel said.

“Yeah, but...it’s something...whether it should be or not.”

“Come on, Tim. You’re both adults, and there’s nothing that requires you to be cloistered.”

“No, but like I said, I really wasn’t looking to start a relationship.”

“Well, you know what they say. ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley.’ Just let it happen as it will, Tim. There’s no reason to stress about what you weren’t planning on. You were attracted to her from the first moment you saw her, and apparently, talking to her didn’t change that, either. Did it?”

“No, it didn’t,” Tim admitted. “Not at all.”

“Perfect. Just enjoy it. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen.”

“Yeah. Maybe,” Tim said. He wasn’t sure that he’d be able to be so blasé about it.

“Definitely.”

“Anyway...I’m still not feeling up to par, and I think I need another day to lie around before I start wandering again.”

“Hey, no problem. You need anything?”

“No. I’m just going to give myself one more day to recover.”

“What if your dancer comes back?” Daniel asked, slyly.

“I don’t think she will.”

“I think you’re wrong.”

Tim smiled and stood up. “I would like to get back on schedule tomorrow, if that’s okay.”

“No problem,” Daniel said, standing as well. “I’ll just have to do some of the paperwork I’ve been putting off.”

They walked to the door and Tim opened it only to take a step back in surprise.

Zahara was standing there, apparently getting ready to knock on the door. She was dressed very simply. She had a scarf on her head, but her long, dark hair was visible beneath it. Her clothing was simply dark pants and long-sleeved light-colored top with a little bit of embellishment around the cuffs and hemline.

“Zahara,” Tim said, and he couldn’t help but smile...and then, blush a little because he could see Daniel grinning at him.

“Hello, Tim. How are you feeling?”

“Much better. Thanks. Uh...this... this is Daniel Worthing. He’s...”

“Tim’s tour guide and real estate agent,” Daniel said, modifying his grin to a welcoming smile. “Metsherrfīn.”

“Smītī Zahara,” Zahara said.

Then, suddenly, Daniel started speaking to her in Arabic. Tim had no idea what was being said, but neither of them appeared to be distressed or excited or amused. Still, he hated being left out.

“Hey, guys. Non-Arabic speaker here,” he said.

Daniel nodded. “Sorry. I just had to show off a little bit. I was just saying that I’ve seen her perform and she’s very good. ...and if she knows anyone looking for a place to live or visit or a tour guide, I’m available.”

“Yes,” Zahara said. “You are very good at speaking. I would not guess that you could speak so well.”

“Years of practice,” Daniel said. “Well, I’ve got to get going. Allah yemsek ‘la khir. See ya, Tim.”

“Yeah. Thanks for understanding.”

“My pleasure.”

Daniel slipped by and left Tim staring at Zahara.

“Do you want to come in?”

Zahara nodded and walked in. Tim closed the door behind her, glad that Daniel had left and wasn’t there to stare at him and make him even more nervous.

“I cannot stay long, but I wanted to make sure that you were still all right.”

“I’m fine. Still a little tired, but I’m going to take it easy today and get back to things tomorrow.”

“Good. I am glad. You look much better than yesterday.”

“Thanks,” Tim said and laughed.

Then, they stood there, awkwardly staring at each other. Tim didn’t know how Zahara was feeling, but he was thinking that it was almost funny that, after everything he’d gone through, he could still feel as awkward as a teenager.

“I have to...run some errands,” Zahara said, finally. “I will go.”

“Okay.”

She turned to leave. Tim watched her and thought of what Daniel had said.

“Wait. Zahara?”

She turned back.

“Yes?”

“I...I don’t know if this would be appropriate, but... could I see you again?”

Tim wasn’t sure how to read the expression on her face. There was some surprise.

“If... If you don’t want to, that’s okay. I won’t... I won’t push or anything.”

Zahara smiled. “You are not like I imagined an American man to be.”

“Why is that?”

“You are not so...forward, as I thought.”

“Not all Americans are like the movies,” Tim said, but he smiled to show he wasn’t irritated.

“No, it is true. I just had not expected it.”

“Is it disappointing?” Tim asked.

“Not at all.”

“Good.”

Zahara smiled. Then, her smile widened.

“Yes, I would like to see you again, Tim,” she said. “My troupe will be beginning a new routine and that means we will be rehearsing. I will get my schedule tonight.”

She reached into her purse and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen.

“This is my phone number. You can call me, tomorrow. In the afternoon. I should not be busy then.”

She handed him the paper. Tim took it and looked down.

“I’m glad you didn’t write it in Arabic,” he said.

“The numbers are similar,” she said.

“I know, but not the same.”

“I grew up speaking both Spanish and Arabic and I learned Tamazight from my father. English is something I began to learn only a year or two ago, although I did have some experience with it when I was younger.”

“You speak very well for only studying it for a couple of years.”

“I have help from hearing tourists and my friends are also learning. We practice with each other.”

“I’ve never been very good at languages,” Tim said. “My Arabic is very limited.”

“Perhaps I could help you.”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Tim said, feeling a goofy smile cross his lips.

Zahara laughed a little.

“Now, I must go. I hope you will call me, tomorrow.”

“I will. Good-bye.”

“Hasta luego,” Zahara said.

Tim was surprised for a moment and then remembered that she said she had grown up speaking Spanish.

“Adios?” he suggested as he opened the door for her.

“That, also,” she said.

Then, Zahara walked out and Tim closed the door, knowing he was probably smiling like an idiot. She wanted to see him again! She had given him her phone number!

His stomach started growling and Tim tried to set his childish giddiness aside while he went and made himself breakfast.

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

Zahara hurried to the hammam to meet Fatima and Khadija. Fatima had insisted on getting all the details when Zahara had the time to give them.

Both of the others were there already.

“Zahara! You came!” Khadija said, happily, in English. “Tell us.”

“We spoke English the last time,” Zahara said, smiling. “Do you want to work on your Español? Or Français?”

“No,” Khadija said, waving her hand in dismissal. “You know al-asbaniya, and we know al-faransiya. We all need to practice al-īngliziya. Tell us. Fatima said you met him. How?”

“It did not start well,” Zahara said, still feeling the residue of the fear from that night.

“What happened?”

“A man attacked me as I left the club. I think he was going to rape me.”

Khadija gasped and then hugged Zahara tightly.

“Hātha marī’! Onti bakhīr?” she asked, speaking Arabic in her shock.

Zahara hugged her back.

“Īyeh. I am fine. He did not get the chance to do anything more than scare me.”

Khadija let her go and switched back to English.

“What happened?”

“I called for help, but I did not think anyone would hear me. Not so late and not in that place. But then, a man came and pulled him away from me. He fought with the man until he hit the wall with his head. The man ran away and I helped the one who saved me back to the riad he has rented. When I got him there, he fell asleep and I realized that he was the one who I had seen.”

Khadija gasped. “He is the one from the market? He saved you? Rā‘i’!”

“Yes. I called Fatima to ask if I should do something for him because he was dizzy. I stayed the night.”

With him?”

Fatima rolled her eyes.

“She is not foolish, Khadija. She stayed in the riad to make sure he was all right.”

“There was more than one bedroom,” Zahara said.

“I am sorry. Go on.”

“He did not wake up until the next morning, and he introduced himself. His name is Tim.”

“That is a very short name. Is that all?”

“He did not tell me his surname,” Zahara says. “I am sure he has one. It would not have meant anything to me.”

“So what is he like?”

“Very kind,” Zahara said. “He was uncertain of offending me or hurting me. Very careful. He has had hard times from what I could see in his eyes, but he has not let them ruin him. He did not know if he wanted me there, but he was very...easy to speak to when he was awake.”

“What did you talk about?” Fatima asked. “You were with him all day.”

“He slept for much of the time.”

“But not all of it,” Khadija said.

“We talked about our lives a little bit. He asked me about dancing and working here and the customs in Marrakech. How much it is different from Melilla. I asked him about America. It was simple things. The reason I was late is because I stopped there to see if he was all right today.”

“And?” Fatima asked, smiling a little.

“He was. I met his friend, Daniel. He is American, but he is living here. Tim is only here temporarily.”

“Anything more than that?”

“As I was leaving...Tim asked if he could see me again.”

“Really?” Khadija asked. “Did you say yes?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Are you sure about that, Zahara?” Fatima asked. “He is only here for a time, and you do not know much about him.”

“I know enough,” Zahara said, thinking of the things she hadn’t shared. “He saved my life, Fatima. There are not many who would do the same. We both know what things are like.”

“You are an adult,” Khadija said, firmly. “You can do what you want...as long as it is legal.”

Zahara laughed. “I do not plan on doing anything illegal, Khadija.”

“I know.”

“I gave him my phone number. Tomorrow, we will start rehearsals for new dances and that will take more of my time.”

“Just be cautious,” Fatima said. “That is all I ask.”

“I will be.”

“Good.”

They chatted for another thirty minutes before they had to dress and go their separate ways, Khadija promising that they could speak Spanish next time.

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 Post subject: Chapter 19
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:37 pm 
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Chapter 19

“So what is this great and glorious idea that you’ve had?” Tony asked.

“We need evidence to support our account if and when Jorgenson decides to accuse Tim,” Ziva said, walking quickly into Tim’s building.

“Yeah?”

“Before he moved, he had made a flash drive that had information on it. What kind, I do not know, but it was related to the activities that he was asked to do. If we have Tim’s own account, it will help us get more evidence.”

“But Tim hasn’t lived in his old apartment for years,” Tony pointed out. “What if he didn’t keep it? It didn’t seem like he needed to.”

“I do not know for sure that he did,” Ziva said, “but we will not know if we do not check.”

“I’m all for it.”

“Good.”

They used the spare key Ziva had and walked into Tim’s apartment. It was quiet and felt very empty after more than two weeks of Tim being gone.

“Do you know where he kept it?” Tony asked.

“Hidden in plain sight, I think is what he said.”

“When did he tell you?”

“I cannot remember for sure. He did not tell me where it was or what exactly it contained, but he said that Gibbs would know, but that I should only ask for it if it was needed.”

“So why not ask Gibbs?”

“Because I did not want to ask him in front of Fornell or Dr. Hicks.”

“Don’t you trust them?”

“Yes, but if this is what I think it is, then, it is important that we find it before someone else thinks to look for it.”

“And what if we can’t find it?”

“Then, we will call Gibbs.”

“Okay.” Tony looked around Tim’s apartment. “Hidden in plain sight. If I were a flash drive, belonging to a geek, where would I be?”

“Hidden in his computer supplies?”

“Maybe.”

They both walked over to Tim’s collection of computer parts. While his apartment had started out very clean and almost empty (especially after all the damage that had come from the invasion and abduction a few years ago), he had amassed a new collection of computer junk. They began to search through it, but then, Tony just happened to look up and he stared at a wooden box, sitting on a shelf, mounted to the wall above Tim’s typewriter.

Hidden in plain sight.

He walked over and picked up the box. It was the same one that he’d looked at before and been impressed by. It was also the same box that had, for some reason, made him feel bad about invading Tim’s privacy. He slid the clasp over and opened the box.

Inside was a single flash drive.

“Found it,” he said. “What are the odds that we’ll just be able to open it up and read it?”

Ziva laughed, although without much humor.

“Slim to none, I would say. Tim would not trust someone to get his hands on something so important to him.”

“Yeah. Well, we can take it to Abby.”

“Not at NCIS,” Ziva said, quickly. “There will be a greater chance of observation.”

“Tim always felt safe there.”

“Yes, and he was, but do not forget that he was watched there as well.”

“Yeah. Do you want to take it over tonight?”

“No. I think we should wait until tomorrow, but we should not leave it here.”

“Okay,” Tony said, nodding his agreement. “You want to keep it or should I?”

Ziva smiled. “You found it. You may choose.”

Tony looked at the flash drive. It was so small for something that could possibly help make it safe for Tim to come back again. He held it out.

“You keep it. Coming here was your idea, and I think you’d be more likely to kill whoever tried to get it.”

Ziva laughed and took the flash drive. Then, she looked around and walked over to Tim’s computer junk. Lying in a pile in one of the crates were a number of lanyards of various sizes and lengths. She took one, attached the flash drive to it and then put it around her neck and tucked the flash drive into her shirt.

“There. I will keep it with me until it is safe to hand it over.”

“Well, I certainly wouldn’t try to fish around in there,” Tony said.

“Good. You would lose your hand.”

Then, they left. They decided to wait to call Gibbs until the next day as well, just in case anyone was monitoring them.

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

Tim took another nap during the morning, but by the afternoon, his mind was back on track and he decided it was time to sit and see if he could figure out anything about his predicament.

The first thing he did was scan through the news to see if the FBI had gone public with its accusations. Sometimes, they did. Sometimes, they didn’t. It depended on the situation, but if Jorgenson was confident enough, he might just make it public and hope for the support of America in going after a traitor.

So far, nothing in the papers. That was good. Tim wasn’t excited at the prospect of having his name bandied about as a traitor to his country when he could have done that several times over and didn’t when the opportunity was given to him. That still made him angry. He wished he could just face off with Jorgenson and beat him up. Tim had no doubt that he could best the FBI director with no trouble.

The second thing he did was write up anything that Jorgenson might be able to use in his accusation. It took hours. Unfortunately, from an outsider’s point of view, there were a lot of questionable things that Tim knew could be used. His meltdown and psychotic break in Central Park, after he had created that program for the second time. He had spent months trying to recover from that. Even if Jorgenson hadn’t been in on any of that, he’d be completely oblivious if he didn’t know what had happened. Then, there was his disappearance, reappearance and involvement in the bombs that had gone off in Arlington. He had run out of a building right before some explosives had gone off. Yes, he’d been involved in stopping it, but it could be argued that he was involved since he had disappeared afterward. Then, there was the worst period as far as he was concerned. Was there some way that Jorgenson could spin that to make him look guilty? Tim doubted it. He was taken from his home by force. He was tortured to within an inch of his life. Then, disappearing with Carew for over a month. That could be made into anything, especially since Carew had supposedly been lying at death’s door during all that time. Plus, Higgins had implied that Tim was known to people in his position, and that meant someone operating outside of the law. And every single event was not only classified, but most of it didn’t exist in any file in any agency.

Tim sat back and sighed. Yes, it would be easy to point to a lot of this and say it was evidence of corruption and treachery, but it wasn’t. Not one moment of it was.

Then, suddenly he picked up the first page and looked at it again. He read through the first events he had made note of. A program that could track anyone, anywhere in the world. A program that made clandestine use of NSA satellites, FBI files, CIA wire taps, and cameras, video and audio all over the world, all synced to a single program for easy (or relatively easy) use. He had built it twice and destroyed it twice. He could build it again, even all these years later. For whatever reason, Jorgenson wanted that program. Tim was sure of it. He didn’t know why he was so sure, but he was.

And then, for a wild moment, he thought about creating it again. It had been years since he’d last done it, and it had almost killed him, but he had. Then, he scoffed at himself. While the skills were definitely there, he couldn’t do that. In this riad in the middle of Marrakech, he had a single laptop, a burn phone programmed for use in Morocco, and nothing else. The wifi in this riad was not bad, but it was nowhere near powerful enough to be used to hack into federal agencies. It was tempting to try it anyway, but Tim shook his head.

No. After the last time, he had told himself that he would never do it again. Nothing anyone offered him would be enough to get him to do that. He was not Higgins who sold himself to the highest bidder. He also wouldn’t use that knowledge to attack others. Even with Dr. Hicks’ help, he still had the occasional nightmare of the people he had helped kill.

But boy, would that be satisfying to track Jorgenson down, hunt him down and let him see how it felt to be at the mercy of someone on a different continent.

No.

Tim squashed that idea before it could take root. No. Never.

There was so much potential for corruption in that program. It was already illegal, but the power it could give was frightening. Used for the right reasons, of course, it could be a benefit, but it would never only be used for the right reasons, and while people might try to replicate parts of it, Tim was confident that no one else would have the wherewithal to get the whole thing done. The only people who had managed to get information out of the NSA were people who actually worked there. It wasn’t done by an outsider. ...except for Tim himself. And even at that, the NSA had paid him very well to help them plug that particular hole. Tim had never told anyone about that work. He’d almost let it slip to Abby once, but he’d covered it quickly, and she hadn’t pressed him for details. The weak point he’d exploited before did not exist any longer. The NSA had done their best to verify that by having people try to get around the security and none had been able to do what Tim had done before.

By the time the sun was heading down to the horizon, Tim had been staring at pages of notes for hours.

The knock on the door was welcome. He didn’t dare hope that it was Zahara again, but he walked down and checked through the peephole before opening the door.

“Hey, Daniel.”

Daniel grinned at him and seemed genuinely glad to see him.

“You’re looking much better than this morning.”

“Thanks. What brings you here?”

“Believe it or not, concern for your well-being. Besides being my best chance for a semi-regular paycheck at the moment, I also like hanging out with you. So I decided to drop by and bring you some dinner and see how you were feeling.” He held up a large bag.

“I’m feeling much better,” Tim said, smiling, “but you didn’t have to buy me dinner.”

He stepped aside to let Daniel come in and then closed the door behind him.

“Oh, I didn’t. This is 100 percent pure homemade.”

“Homemade by whom?” Tim asked.

“Me, of course! Just because I take people to clubs and restaurants doesn’t mean I don’t know my way around a kitchen. And believe you me, I do. I spent three months learning how to make tagine. Now, I have my own spin, but this is a beef kefka tagine with flat bread and mint tea.”

Tim gestured toward the dining room. As Daniel began to set the dishes out, Tim finally had to ask the question he’d had since his first day.

“Okay. I have to ask. What’s with the mint tea? It’s everywhere! The hotel I stayed at didn’t even have coffee. Just mint tea.”

Daniel just laughed.

“Get some glasses and plates and I’ll tell you.”

Tim went into the kitchen and grabbed plates, glasses and utensils.

“It’s not that you can’t buy coffee.”

“I’ve noticed,” Tim said. “I bought some.”

“But drinking mint tea is a social activity. It has ceremony attached to it at times. But where you would go to a cocktail hour in the States, here, you go to drink mint tea. Traditionally, you drink three cups of tea in a Moroccan home, and it’s very impolite to refuse to drink it.”

“Why three?”

“There’s an old proverb. ‘The first glass is gentle as life, the second as strong as love, the third as bitter as death.’ Basically, the tea is allowed to steep throughout the meal and each cup will have its own flavor. I made this right before I left, so it’s ready to drink right now. We’ll do the traditional three cups so that you can see the difference.”

“I’m so excited,” Tim said, drily.

Daniel laughed pulled out some fresh mint leaves. He put them in the two glasses and then poured the tea over the mint.

“So is this drunk by everyone?”

“Pretty much, and traditionally, the male head of the house prepares it.”

“Really. That’s interesting.”

“It’s a ceremonial way to invite someone into your home.”

“I see, and the head of the house would be the one to make someone welcome.”

“Exactly. Believe it or not, I made the bread, too.”

“So you’re a real chef?” Tim asked, smiling.

“No. I’m a bachelor who isn’t willing to keep living on ramen and brown mustard, even if I could find them here.”

Tim raised his glass of mint tea in a salute. Then, Daniel served them both and they started to eat. When Tim was about half finished, Daniel suddenly skewered him with a stare.

“Well? What do you think?”

Tim laughed. “It’s good, Daniel.”

“Are you sure you’re not just saying that? I’ll still be your tour guide, even if you don’t like what I make.”

Tim couldn’t help laughing again. “I really do like it, Daniel! I promise!”

Daniel laughed and looked a little self-conscious.

“Okay. I’ll admit it. You’re the first person I’ve ever let try my cooking. I like what I make, but I’ve never dared have anyone else eat it. Just in case.”

“What makes me so special?” Tim asked.

Daniel shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t really have close friends here. I have a lot of acquaintances, but when I’m spending so much time trying to set up a sustainable business, I don’t get the chance to make friends. It’s one of the hazards. Besides, I’ll always be a bit of an outsider here, no matter how much I know. You’re an outsider, too, and you’re a fellow American. It gives us something in common right off the bat.”

Tim was surprised and a little bit touched at the confession. Daniel was a happy-go-lucky guy, and it didn’t fit the image Tim had of him that Daniel wouldn’t have friends.

“Well, if it’s friends you want,” he said finally, “I’m more than willing to be that. ...but I’ll still pay you when you act as my tour guide.”

Daniel grinned and dramatically wiped his forehead with his hand. “Whew. I was definitely worried about that.”

They continued to eat, and Tim had the traditional three cups of tea. While it wasn’t his favorite, he could definitely taste the difference from the first cup to the last which was a little bitter.

“Still not my favorite, but I’ll tolerate it,” Tim said as he sipped at the last cup.

“If you can do that, you won’t cause offense if you’re ever invited to dinner at a Moroccan home. Now, tell me about the dancer.”

“Zahara.”

“Right. How long did she stay after I left?”

“Not long. She was really just checking on me.”

“And?”

“And...” Tim blushed a little. “When she left, I asked if I could see her again.”

“What did she say?”

“She said yes and gave me her phone number.”

“Wow! Score!”

“Do people score when dating in Morocco?” Tim asked.

“Well, not in the sense you’re using,” Daniel admitted. “Or at least, if they do, they don’t brag about it because it’s not considered moral. No, dating here is much more sedate, generally speaking. That’s not to say that no one does those kinds of things, but it happens much more privately.”

“What about in Melilla?”

“I have no idea, but it’s a Spanish city,” Daniel said. “It would likely be more open. Why?”

“Zahara isn’t from Marrakech. She told me that she was born in Melilla and she’s only been here for a couple of years, since her mom died.”

“Really. That’s interesting. Why here?”

“Her dad was a Berber Muslim, and her mom was a Spanish Catholic. She said that she learned about both when she was younger, but that didn’t really help. It mostly left her confused.”

Daniel nodded. “I can see that. It’s all well and good to say that you should just let the kids choose, but their brains really haven’t developed to that level. If they know that one religion is their mom’s and one is their dad’s, that just means they feel like they have to choose one of their parents. I think it’d be better just to have one and learn about the other so that, when they’re older, they really can choose.”

“Anyway, I was actually a little curious about something.”

“What?”

“Zahara didn’t seem interested in calling police about what happened. I didn’t get a good look at the guy and I wouldn’t be able to identify him, but she never even suggested that we call them. Why?”

Daniel sighed a little and shrugged one shoulder.

“This is one of the places where Morocco still has changes to make.”

“What do you mean?”

“I love Morocco and I love the culture and the people. I chose to give up everything to move here. But some of the past conventions have been slow to change. In the past, women were almost never seen in public. Even now, that’s the case in some areas. Dancers have always been a major exception. Dancing is expected at festivals and weddings, so they need women to dance, but at the same time, female dancers have a freedom that is not seen with many other women. She is out of the house many times of the day. She is seen not only by strangers but by men. She performs for them. So in the past, many dancers were seen to be loose women, prostitutes. How much that was actually true, I don’t know, but it was assumed. Very likely, the man who attacked her felt that, because she was a dancer, he could do whatever he wanted to her. He may even have offered to paid her after he finished. Some police will also feel that way. But more than that, the troupe she dances with will not want to have anyone associated with them who is of suspect morals. It could affect where they are hired to perform. She could very well be fired just for being suspected.”

“That’s terrible,” Tim said.

Daniel nodded. “It’s changing, but it’s changing slowly. The good thing is that it is changing. Another generation or two and this will be a much rarer point of view, although it will likely never leave completely.”

“It hasn’t left in the States, either,” Tim said.

“True, but it’s less an accepted part of the culture there, and it’s definitely getting to be less, here. Change is hard, but it’s happening.”

Tim smiled. He liked Daniel’s cautious optimism. What had almost happened to Zahara was definitely wrong, but things were getting better. It was a hard thing and it wouldn’t happen overnight. It was just a matter of sticking with it.

“Anyway, the fact that you stopped him will probably act as a deterrent for a while. Men aren’t supposed to have physical contact with women in public. If it had happened during the day, many people would have said something, especially if any of them knew her, even a little bit.”

“That’s something, anyway.”

“I know. It’s not enough, but you have to start somewhere.”

“Yeah, I see that.”

They started to clean up the remains of dinner and carried the dishes to the kitchen.

“Are you going to go to the club tonight?” Daniel asked.

“No. Not tonight.”

“You’d better call her tomorrow.”

“I’m planning on it.”

“So what are you going to do tonight? Just sit around?”

“Yeah. Probably. I think I’ll go up to the roof and enjoy the view.”

“Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Sure, but I reserve the right not to answer it,” Tim said. He smiled, but he was serious about that. He wasn’t sure what Daniel would want to ask him.

“The day I brought you to see this riad, you didn’t look like you wanted to see what you were seeing, but now you’re saying that you’re going to enjoy the view. What was it that bothered you about it? Because I would have sworn that you hated what you were seeing.”

Tim took a breath and thought about how to answer the question. It was tied up in so much that he couldn’t talk about, but he didn’t want to say nothing.

“I...” He paused. Then, he smiled a little. “This might sound weird, but feel my cheek, right here,” Tim said, pointing to the place where the metal plate had been placed.

Daniel raised an eyebrow, but did as Tim had said.

“Can you feel that?”

Daniel nodded and dropped his hand. “Metal plate?”

Tim nodded. “I was... I could just say beaten, but that wouldn’t cover it. I was tortured. This was just the most obvious bit. The worst parts don’t really show. But...it happened mostly in the desert. I can’t tell you where, and it’s not the same here as it was. Not even close. I’m not the same, but when I looked out over the city from up there, that first time, I couldn’t help but think about it, and...and it was...very... It was just a moment of only remembering and not really seeing what was there. This place isn’t anything like where I was, but it was just enough that... that’s what I saw. Now, looking out, I appreciate the view of Marrakech. It’s very calming at night.”

Daniel’s expression was grave, but he nodded.

“I can tell there’s a lot you’re not saying, but that’s... Honestly, I’m impressed that you can talk about it so calmly, now. That sounds like about the worst of what people can go through, like what they show on the news.”

“I know someone who went through worse, but I got help in dealing with it.”

“Well, I won’t overstay my welcome. You ready to go out again tomorrow morning?”

“Yeah. See you then.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Daniel gave Tim a little salute and then left the riad. Tim stared after him and then, he walked up to the second floor. Instead of continuing up to the roof, he walked into the bathroom. He didn’t let himself think about all that in much detail. It was too much, even now.

But staring into the mirror, he slowly removed his clothes and looked at himself. For those who knew what to look for, there were scars all over his body. Some of them were very faint, leftover signs of sand abrasions. There were a few places where his skin was just slightly discolored, never fully healing from contusions. There were the scars on his face around his eye. He didn’t turn around, but he knew there were pretty big scars on his back, both from torture and from shrapnel. His attention turned to his side, though. Both sides. Six small white scars. Four on the right, two on the left. Scars from his handler reminding him of his position. Ten years ago. He rubbed his fingers over them, remembering the physical injury but also the much-worse psychological injury that had been inflicted on him. There were scars on his knees where he had been hit by a car.

Wound upon wound upon wound. It was his lot in life.

Then, his mind turned to Zahara. Was it really right of him to risk dragging someone else into that life?

Then, his mind moved to Suhayl, a man who had deliberately chosen to live in the world that Tim spent so much time avoiding. He was married, had children, and yet also worked for people that he was not at liberty to reveal. He didn’t seem troubled by it, and he lived the life he wanted.

Then, he took a breath and made a decision. It was a decision that would have been unthinkable not too long ago.

He wasn’t going to worry about it. Not now. It would be nice to be able to enjoy something almost normal, even in the midst of his current situation.

Tim put his clothes back on and walked up to the roof. He sat down and stared up at the night sky.

“‘Though my soul may set in darkness,
It will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly
To be fearful of the night.’”

For some reason, those lines of that poem came to him again and again, almost like a mantra, something to hang onto when it got hard.

After a while, he began to feel tired and went down to get some sleep.

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 Post subject: Chapter 20
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:42 pm 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 20

“Well?” Tony asked.

He and Ziva had come home with Abby to see what she could do with Tim’s flash drive.

“It’s encrypted,” Abby said, leaning back with a sigh.

“We figured it would be. Do you think you can get in?”

Abby looked up from her computer at Tony and Ziva.

“I don’t know, guys. Remember that this is Tim we’re talking about. He is really good at this stuff. He’s better than I am, and while I hate to admit it, he’s a lot better than I am. If he wasn’t before, he really is now. I can’t do it unless he made it easy.”

“Do you think he did?”

“I don’t know. I won’t know until I work on it. What did Gibbs say?”

“Be careful.”

Abby rolled her eyes and turned back to her computer.

“It won’t happen fast, guys, unless Tim didn’t make it hard, but I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t have...because he wouldn’t want this stuff to get out unless it was absolutely necessary. ...and if someone found it who shouldn’t...”

“Yeah,” Tony said. “We know. Just see what you can do.”

Abby nodded. “I will.”

“Do you want company while you work?” Ziva asked.

Abby smiled and shook her head, even while she understood that Ziva was kind of asking for company herself.

“No. I’ll work better without an audience. Kind of like Tony, actually.”

“Hey!” Tony protested.

“You like performing,” Abby said, grinning. “Just like me. So I’ll work on this and I’ll let you know.”

Tony and Ziva both nodded and left. Abby looked at her computer again. She had a bad feeling that Tim had made this encryption as good as he could. If so, it would only be luck that got her through it.

“Oh, Tim. I wish you were here,” she said softly. “But if you were here, I wouldn’t need to do this. I just want this to be over before something else goes wrong. You must be so miserable, wherever you are.”

She took a deep breath. Maybe she would luck out. Maybe this would be enough.

“Well, I’ll never find out if I never start.”

She nodded to herself and started working, hoping that what she could try to do would be enough...or that what she was trying to do would become unnecessary.

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

Tamara was about to say something. Carew could feel it coming. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he was pretty sure that he wouldn’t enjoy it.

It didn’t come all through the day, not during dinner, either. They cleaned up and Carew walked out to the deck, knowing that Tamara would come out to join him. He sat where he was and looked out on the forest, admitting to himself that he liked the solitude. After all these years of dealing with people he privately despised and sending people to their deaths, the idea of being alone was definitely appealing. He smiled a little. He’d never allowed himself to think these things before. The more the thoughts dominated, the harder it was to control whether or not he showed what he thought.

“Levi?”

“Yes?”

Tamara came out and sat down beside him.

“I need you to tell me something.”

“What’s that?”

“Something that you don’t want me to know. I don’t care what it is. I know that there are some things you can’t tell me, so don’t try to get around it by claiming you can’t. I know there are things you can tell. I need you to open up. Just a little bit, Levi. Let me see the parts you don’t want me to see.”

Carew leaned forward.

“What good will that do, Tamara? I’ve already told you that you don’t want to know these things, that they’re unpleasant and will only hurt you.”

“I know, and I’m sure you’re right, but if we have any chance, it has to be with me seeing some of those dark parts. If not, then, it’s just a lie. ...and you don’t lie.”

Carew looked at her, and for once, he wasn’t sure what to expect. He’d always tried to keep the darkness away from her. While the methods he’d used had been callous, they’d been effective and to deliberately expose her to that just seemed like a waste of all that time before.

“Please, Levi. I know you don’t want to. I know you’re probably trying to find some way to talk around it, but don’t. Not this time. Like I said. Tell me one thing.”

“You’re sure this is what you want? You can’t take it back, once it happens.”

“I’m willing to take that risk.”

Carew smiled slightly. “Am I?”

Tamara smiled. “Actually, Levi, I don’t care. I need you to do it, whether you’re willing or not.”

“Thank you for being honest, this time.”

“I can tell the truth, occasionally,” Tamara said. “Tell me.”

Carew nodded and took a breath. He considered for a moment and then hit upon what he would tell her. It was minor as far as he was concerned, but he didn’t know how Tamara would take it.

“I killed the man who killed our son.”

“I know that. Bri told me.”

Carew just smiled slightly and shook his head.

“No, she gave you a piece of information with no detail. She didn’t tell you anything, really. We traced him to a house. We flushed him out to the yard. He surrendered. And I shot him, right between the eyes as soon as he put his gun down. I had no interest in seeing him arrested. I had no interest in letting him be tried. From the moment we found him, I knew I would kill him. Later, I killed the other two who were complicit in Quinn’s death. I killed all three of them without any intention of doing otherwise. I didn’t let anyone else do it. It had to be me. Not even Bri, although she would have done it. Not even Tim McGee who had a vested interest in their fate. I wanted to be the one to kill them. There are people in this world who have forfeited the right to conventional justice, and those three had done that. I gave them what they deserved. And, Tamara, I will never feel any guilt for those deaths. Even if I feel guilt for other things, eventually. I will not change so much that I feel guilty for killing three people who betrayed the CIA, the country and a comrade who was my son. That is part of who I am.”

There was silence. Carew waited. He had no idea what would come next, but he was being honest. He couldn’t fathom ever regretting what he’d done. It was the same with Higgins, although he could admit that there had been some personal feeling involved in Quinn’s killers. Regardless, they deserved their fate and Carew knew that they’d never face it if he’d simply turned them over to the justice system.

Tamara stood up and walked to the railing. She was facing away from him.

“Is this something you can live with, Tamara? I have killed people. Many of them, and the memory of most of those deaths only brings me satisfaction.”

Carew stood up as well, waiting for an answer of some kind. He knew the answer he wanted her to give, but he also knew that he wanted an answer, rather than silence.

The silence stretched onward for about five minutes. Then, suddenly, Tamara turned around, walked to Carew and hugged him. For a few seconds, he just stood there, surprised that this was Tamara’s reaction. Then, he gently put his arms around her, ready to let her go if she decided she didn’t want to be this close to him. There had not been much physical contact between them up to this point.

Then, he felt a damp spot on his shirt. He looked down and saw that Tamara was crying.

“I’m not sure how to interpret this,” he said.

Tamara laughed a little through her tears.

“Levi, why did you do this to yourself?”

“I told you before.”

“I know, but would you have done this before?”

“Actually, I don’t know.”

“The great Levi Carew doesn’t know? And he’s admitting it?”

Carew smiled.

“I didn’t think you’d fallen for the same persona that everyone else did.”

Tamara stepped back from him and looked at him closely.

“You said to me, when Bri had been taken, that you would do the same things you would for any agent like her. You knew I’d miss the significance of those last two words.”

“Yes.”

“And you did that to make me angry at you.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because if you had realized what I would have done, it would have been more likely for my plans to fall through. And unless the mission was successful, nothing would change.”

“What do you mean?”

Carew sighed. “My last mission was also my first.”

“Levi, your first mission was more than thirty years ago.”

“I know that. And during that mission, I made a calculated mistake, knowing that it might come up again at any time, and when it did, I had to be ready to fix it, no matter the cost.”

“What was the mistake?”

Carew didn’t want to tell her because he knew it would sound grander than it was. It would sound heroic when, in his mind, it was simply right. He had known it. So had the others, but he had been honest enough to acknowledge that it was right, rather than pretend something else was more right.

“Tell me.”

“I saved a man, rather than leave him to be tortured because he’d been mistaken for someone else. If I had left him there, we would have had more time to complete our mission and maybe we would have succeeded. Since I wouldn’t allow it, the man we were after got away. Until two years ago.”

“And you see that as a mistake.”

“It was. I put one man ahead of millions of others.”

“And you fixed it?”

“Yes.”

Tamara took a breath and then, to Carew’s surprise, she smiled.

“Good night, Levi.”

“Good night, Tamara.”

She walked back inside, leaving Carew to wonder just what had happened out here. Even with all his experience in reading people and understanding how they reacted, he had to admit that his wife had thoroughly stumped him.

It was almost a pleasure to be confused.

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

Tim sat on the roof, staring at the phone number Zahara had given him. He’d been trying to convince himself to call her for about an hour. Finally, he pulled out his phone and carefully dialed, making sure he didn’t fall into the habit of dialing numbers as he would in the States.

The phone rang three times.

“Alū?”

“Hi...Zahara?”

“Yes?”

“It’s...Tim...McGee.”

“Oh, is that your surname?”

“Right. I guess I didn’t tell you that before,” Tim said, feeling embarrassed. “Yes, that’s my last name. Uh...hi.”

He could hear her amusement. “Hello. I was not certain that you would call.”

“I did.”

“I did notice that.”

“Okay, I know I’m sounding like an idiot. Uh...”

“You are not. You do sound nervous.”

“I am.”

“You do not need to be.”

“Thanks. Zahara...would it be inappropriate if I asked you to go out on a date with me?”

“Probably, it would, but that does not bother me.”

Tim couldn’t help it. He laughed.

“That was not the response I was expecting.”

“You sound much better. However, I have to rehearse with the troupe and then dance in the evenings for the next three days.”

“I can wait. I’ll still be here.”

“Then, I will be happy to go on a date with you.”

“Three days from now?”

“Yes. I will meet you where we go.”

“That’s fine. Daniel told me about a restaurant. It’s French, he said, but I thought it might be fun to try it.”

“I would like to. I have not really gone to any restaurants here in Marrakech.”

“You’d like to? Really?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Good. Um... Okay.”

Hearing Zahara’s quickly-suppressed laugh, Tim got his mind in gear and gave her the address and the time. Then, he said good-bye and hung up.

He leaned back against the chair and grimaced.

“Tim, you sounded like a stupid teenager.”

Then, he smiled at himself. He had asked a woman out for the first time in more than ten years. How could he be doing something so normal in the midst of something so crazy?

And why did it make him so happy?

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 Post subject: Chapter 21
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:51 am 
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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 21

For the next three days, Abby worked on breaking Tim’s encrypted flash drive for hours before and after work. He had done his best work on this encryption. She could tell that he’d been very careful in designing it. He hadn’t wanted to risk it getting out without cause. Unfortunately, that meant that she was making no progress. She kept it with her at all times, just in case. She wished more than once that Tim was there to give her some kind of hint. She could imagine him watching her and grinning mischievously as she tried again and again. And failed time after time. She would have slugged him if he had done that, but how she wished he was there to irritate her like that.

It was nearly midnight and she was still having no success. The only reason she wasn’t freaking out about it was that she knew that this wasn’t the only option. They had a lot of things going on and any one of them might be enough.

Suddenly, there was a ding in her email. She brought it up and didn’t recognize the address. She was about to delete it as spam, but then, she noticed Tim’s name embedded in the address and she quickly opened it. There was nothing in the email except for two words: Anonymousse - FerengiMan.

For a few minutes, she was confused. Then, she smiled and realized what this probably was. She got out her phone and downloaded a social media app called Anonymousse. It was supposed to give the users complete anonymity. The format of it was a number of people with their backs turned and names written on each figure. One could tap a shoulder at random or search for a particular name. If the tap was acknowledged, one was taken to a private chat. She guessed that Tim was trying to be secretive in contacting her when he was trying to stay hidden. She really wanted to see if she could track him down, but she kept herself from doing it. She just got on with her name as Abbsolute and searched for FerengiMan.

There he was. She tapped him and he accepted.

TIM!

Subtle, Abbs.

Sorry. It’s been almost three weeks. I miss you.

I miss you, too. How are things going?

We’re working as hard as we can.

I know. I’m working too.

I guess you won’t tell me where you are?

No. This app is supposed to be completely anonymous, but I don’t want to risk it. You know who knows.

We can’t find him. He’s been gone since you were, but he’s supposed to be back soon.

You can ask him when he gets back. I don’t mind, and I told him that, if he decides to be irritating.

Why did you contact me?

I wanted see if you’d made any progress.

No charges filed yet.

I figured. I hadn’t seen anything in the news.

But we’re working. We thought that we might need to get into your flash drive. But it’s encrypted. Can you give me any hints about how to get into it?


There was nothing for a few seconds. Abby wasn’t sure if that meant that Tim was writing a lot or if he wasn’t writing anything.

Abby, that’s not what I want. That flash drive is supposed to be a last resort, not a first resort. There’s stuff on there that shouldn’t get out unless there’s no other choice.

But what if we get to a last resort?

We’re not there yet. No. I’m not going to help you open that up. Focus on other things. If you’re to the point that you need what’s on there, then, I’ll tell you how. Otherwise, no way.

But what if you can’t get to us?

That’ll have to be the way it is. I don’t want you opening that. Period
.

Abby was surprised at how vehement Tim was about it. She wondered what there was on there that Tim was protecting. But if that was how he felt, she decided that she’d try to respect it. For now.

Okay. Anything else?

I think Jorgenson will try to use the times that I just disappeared. Two years ago, but I’ll bet he won’t even mention when I was tortured. But the time before that.

You think so?

Yes. He needs the things that have no record, not the ones where I was obviously a victim. He could even give plenty of motives. Everyone knows there are plenty of reasons for me to give the US government the finger right now
.

Even though there was no tone in the typing, she could tell by the words he chose that Tim was feeling bitter.

But you haven’t ever done that, and we both know it.

Yeah.

Any suggestions?

Director Shepard might be able to give evidence, but some of what I’ve done is so classified that it doesn’t exist. But I think that might be what he wants.

What?

Jorgenson. He wants the program I built.

I thought that! I told Gibbs that was what he wanted!

I guess we were on the same wavelength. I don’t know for sure but I can’t think of any other reason Jorgenson would want to control me. He wants it and he will never get it. I promised myself after the last time that nothing would make me do it again and I meant it. Maybe you could get someone to tell him that.

I don’t know if that would help, but I’m sure we’d all be happy to tell him off.

As long as telling is all you do.

You’d be free to come back a lot faster if we didn’t.

Not a good idea.

I know. Doesn’t stop us from fantasizing about it. Haven’t you?

No. Not about killing him
.

Abby could see why that would be.

Sorry.

Don’t worry about it. I’d better get off, just in case. Don’t try to find me again.
If I get on here, it’ll be with a different name. Everything on here gets deleted right after the conversation closes. There’s no permanent database.

I just want you to stay and let me carry you around in my pocket!

Ha. That would not look suspicious at all.
Tell everyone that I’m safe where I am.
And I’ll probably stay that way provided you don’t get chatty.

Give us a little credit. We can keep our mouths shut.

Really? You?

Hey! If you were here...

What would you do?

Give you a big hug and never let you go.

Nice chatting with you, Abbs. Maybe this will all work out. You never know.

It will! I know it will!


Then, the chat room was abruptly closed and Abby was back in the midst of the turned backs. She chanced a search for FerengiMan, but there was nothing. Tim hadn’t been kidding. She didn’t want to hang around here to chat with anyone else, so she closed out of the app and looked back at her computer where the flash drive was waiting for another attempt.

Tim didn’t want her doing this. She really wanted to keep trying, but Tim had definitely told her not to. With more than a little reluctance, Abby closed down the flash drive and put it around her neck again. She decided that she’d give it to Gibbs early tomorrow morning, before he went to work. Then, she wouldn’t be tempted.

...or Gibbs would tell her to keep working at it.

She smiled to herself and went to bed.

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

Tim sat back and shook his head. He had no idea that anyone would think of his flash drive. He hadn’t updated it in a few months and had never even considered using the information on it to help him out in this situation. He was never so grateful that he had done his best encryption on that drive. He did not want them to use that just because it would be easier. Besides that, there were things he’d recorded on the flash drive that he’d never told any of them about. Work that he’d done. It wasn’t that it was worse than anything he’d done before, but beyond that slip with Abby about the NSA, he’d never told them how much extra work he was still doing. Part of his acceptance of his new life was accepting that others would want to use his skills on occasion.

Including the CIA.

Tim had never told anyone, not even Gibbs, that he was occasionally doing work for the CIA now. Actually, he wasn’t sure how much of the CIA knew he was doing work for the CIA. He did know that the people he’d worked for were legitimate. When he’d first received the request, he’d hacked into the CIA and searched through as much of it as he could to make sure that he wasn’t getting pulled back into the same type of work as had first started the mess of his life.

How would they feel if they knew? Tim wasn’t sure. He had done it less because they needed his help and more because he felt that he wouldn’t truly be trying to heal if he continued to avoid every interaction with the CIA.

After ruminating for a few minutes, Tim shook his head and tried to set that aside. He’d been firm with Abby. Honestly, he didn’t think she could break the encryption he’d put on the flash drive, but it was never safe to assume that kind of thing with Abby. But she had seemed to accept his view. He knew she wouldn’t like it, but she had accepted. He hoped.

For now, though, he could look forward to his date with Zahara tonight. Hopefully, he could act like a rational adult this time.

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

Gibbs sat in the basement, thinking. In spite of what Dr. Hicks said, he couldn’t shake the knowledge that he was to blame for Tim’s predicament. Sure, everything else had happened due to other people, but the plain fact of the matter was that nothing else could have happened if it hadn’t started.

And who had started it? Gibbs himself.

Tim had paid for what Gibbs had done, and the worst of it was that Gibbs would have paid the price if he could have. He thought he had done enough to cover Tim in the beginning. But he had only been thinking of people getting mad at Tim for hacking. He had never even considered the possibility of someone wanting to use Tim because he was so good.

He sighed. It was all well and good to say that Tim was doing better, but he wouldn’t need to do better if he hadn’t been so bad that he wanted to die...that he almost had died.

I have to apologize.

That’s all he had time to think of because the door to the basement opened.

“Gibbs, you’re up early!”

Gibbs looked up and saw Abby standing there.

“So are you,” he said.

Abby grinned and pounded down the stairs.

“You’ll never guess what happened to me last night!”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

“I talked to Tim! ...well, I chatted with him.”

“How?”

“Through one of these social media apps that claim to keep everything completely secret. He was just checking in to see what was happening.”

“And?”

“He’s fine. He said that he was safe where he was. He wouldn’t tell me because he didn’t want to risk anyone listening in. He said that Carew knows. But he also said that I shouldn’t be trying to decrypt his flash drive. He was adamant that I stop working on it.”

“Why?”

“He said it was only a last resort and there are things on it that shouldn’t be let out.”

Another eyebrow raise. Abby smiled and pulled the flash drive from around her neck.

“So I’m giving it to you to take care of. I’ll just be tempted to keep working on it, and I know that, even if you were tempted, you couldn’t do anything.”

Gibbs smiled a little and took the flash drive. Funny how something so small could have so much on it. He’d never understood how those things worked, but he knew they did.

“The other thing Tim said to me was that he would never make that program again and that maybe someone should tell Jorgenson that there’s nothing he could do to force Tim to do it. I think Tim meant it.”

Gibbs agreed, but there was no telling what might happen behind closed doors if Jorgenson was truly determined, and Gibbs wasn’t willing to risk that.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Gibbs... This is going to work out, right? Tim’s going to come back and everything will get back to normal, right?”

“Which normal?” Gibbs asked.

Then, Abby surprised him. Too often, she tended toward childishness when the chips were down, but not this time.

“The only normal we can have, Gibbs. The normal that is Tim here, with us, doing his job and mostly being happy. That’s the best normal we can expect and I’m okay with that. That’s what I want.”

For a few seconds, Gibbs was too surprised to respond, but then, he realized that, when it came to Tim and this whole situation, Abby had been amazingly mature. Something had happened that had changed her, too. Finally, he hugged her.

“We’ll get that back, Abbs. I promise.”

“Good. Then, I’ll go to work early and pretend that I’m not thinking of ways to make Jorgenson suffer.”

Abby let him go and walked up the stairs. Gibbs heard the door slam and then he looked at the flash drive Abby had given him. Tim didn’t want them using this. Well, until it really was a last resort, Gibbs would allow that. He wasn’t too happy about wearing a lanyard, but now that they’d taken this thing from Tim’s hiding place, he felt that it was better to keep it on hand at all times.

Then, he went upstairs to get ready for work.

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 Post subject: Chapter 22
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:55 am 
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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 22

Zahara walked toward the restaurant, surprised at how nice it appeared to be and glad that she had listened to her friends. She had asked for suggestions from Khadija and Fatima (in Spanish, this time), and in the end, she had borrowed a beautiful caftan from Khadija. It was gold and red with intricate sewn patterns and lace accents on the sleeves. Zahara had debated about whether or not to wear a scarf. Fatima always did. Khadija almost never did, only when she was out with her parents, out of respect for tradition, rather than from any religious or cultural requirement. Zahara often wore a scarf but not really as a hijab. It was more a token of respect to the culture in which she now lived than it was a part of her fashion. She had never worn one in Melilla. Finally, she had listened to Khadija and decided to forgo it all together. Instead, she let Khadija do her hair, piling it on top of her head in a fancy updo with just a few curls hanging down around her face.

Now, as she walked toward the entrance, she glanced back. Fatima had insisted that she and Ibrahim bring her to the restaurant. Just in case. Fatima smiled and gestured for her to go inside.

One more deep breath and she walked into the restaurant. She saw Tim immediately. His eyes widened dramatically when he saw her and he seemed to not know what to do for a moment. Zahara walked over to him.

“Good evening, Tim,” she said. “I am sorry that I am late. Khadija took much longer than she should have trying to style my hair.”

Tim’s face reddened and then his mouth opened and no sound came out. She wondered if he was going to be able to say anything at all. Then, he grimaced and seemed to get a hold of himself.

“You look great,” he said, finally. “I don’t mind the wait at all.”

He straightened and offered her his arm. Zahara took it and they were seated.

“Now, Daniel swore that the staff all speak English here, but if they don’t, I might have to have you translate for me,” Tim said.

Zahara smiled. “What if they speak French?”

“I’m still no good. There just isn’t the same push to learn other languages in the States, and I was always a computer guy, so I only did the minimum required when I was young. I regret that now.”

“But would you have chosen Arabic when you were young?” Zahara asked, amused at Tim’s chagrin.

“No. Probably not. I probably would have chosen Spanish. So I’d still be hopeless.”

Then, their waiter approached the table.

“Good evening, sir, madam.”

“Oh, good. You speak English,” Tim said, with relief.

“Of course, sir.”

“My friend said you would, but I was afraid that he was trying to make me look silly.”

The waiter smiled a little.

“He did not. I am Mahmoud and will be serving you tonight. Would you like to begin with wine?”

Tim looked at Zahara and raised his eyebrows, asking her.

“I do not drink alcohol,” she said, wondering what he would think.

He just smiled and nodded.

“Could you just bring us some mineral water, please?”

“Of course, sir.”

Mahmoud withdrew and then, Tim took a deep breath and looked at her.

“Does it bother you that I do not drink?” Zahara asked.

“No. Not at all. I only drink a glass of wine occasionally. I’m not a big drinker. Actually, I’m surprised that alcohol is available here. I know Islam forbids drinking alcohol.”

“Yes, but Morocco depends on tourists. And many tourists drink,” Zahara said. “My father was against drinking and my mother did not drink, either. I never had any interest. My brother, Ahmed, said that he tried it once and did not enjoy it.”

“Where is your brother again?”

“Al-Qahira... Cairo. He is working there. He moved last year. You went to university?”

“Yes.”

“What did you study?”

“Computer science, mostly. I did a master’s degree in computer forensics, but I studied biomedical engineering, too. Did you go to college?”

“No. There was money for one of us to go, not both. Ahmed worked to earn money, but I was already earning money dancing, more than Ahmed could make, and so my mother felt that Ahmed should go.”

“Did you want to go?” Tim asked, curiously.

Zahara waved her hand in the air. “Sometimes, but not always. I finished secondary school, and perhaps it would have been better if I had gone on, but I had no idea in mind of what I would study.”

Mahmoud brought their water and took their order. Then, they continued their conversation.

“Have you always danced?”

“No. I began when I was a teenager. I wanted to learn more about my father’s culture. There was a woman who taught Moroccan and Berber dances in Melilla. I asked my mother for permission to learn. I do not think she really wanted me to do it, but she allowed it. The woman only taught in Arabic which allowed me to continue to speak it.”

“So you said you grew up speaking Spanish?”

“In school, but at home, we spoke only Arabic until I was in school. My parents wanted us to be fluent in both. And until my father left, he taught me a Berber language, but I am not fluent in that. My mother did not know it. I began dancing as a way of making money in Melilla, and I do the same here.”

“And you do it very well. I was amazed when I watched you dance that first time. How long did it take you to learn to dance with a tray on your head?”

“A very long time,” Zahara said, with a smile. “I have dropped more trays than you could count.”

Tim laughed and she noticed that his eyes lightened considerably. There was a shadow to them that she hadn’t noticed before, but it seemed that he had something pressing on his mind most of the time. Zahara found that she wanted to encourage that lightening.

“What do you do when you are not working?” she asked.

To her surprise, his eyes darkened, just a little. Then, he smiled.

“Actually, in the last few years, I started doing some woodworking. I’m not very good, but it’s a nice way to relax and unwind. ...to remind myself that it’s okay to make mistakes. I’ve had problems with that before. I started out doing it to escape from everything else. The first thing I built was a box. It looked terrible.” But even as he said it, he grinned and his eyes lightened once more. “The sides were crooked. The glue was oozing out of the cracks. The nails poked out of the boards in more than one place. I still have it, but it really looks terrible.”

“Then, why keep it?”

“Because it reminds me of what I can and can’t do.”

“That sounds too...important for a box.”

Tim laughed. “I guess it is. I don’t have too many things that are just for fun anymore.”

“Do you dance?”

“Oh, no. I have no coordination. I can’t.”

“I will have to teach you.”

“I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

Zahara grinned. “Yes. The next time, I will teach you to dance.”

“There’ll be a next time?” Tim asked, and he sounded hopeful.

“If you agree to let me teach you to dance.”

Tim smiled back. “Well, then, I guess I have no choice but to accept.”

“Good.” Then, she thought about what else they could talk about. “You said you know a little Arabic?”

“Very little.”

“How little?”

“I can say please and thank you. I can’t say you’re welcome, but I can say water.”

“That is an interesting combination.”

“Oh, and I was taught some insults once, but I don’t think I could bring them to mind again.”

“Perhaps you should learn more.”

“No one has been able to make them stick in my head. Unfortunately. But could I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

“I had a five-year-old girl correct me on the word I used, and I was wondering how I messed up.”

“What was it?”

“I said min fadlak when she asked if I wanted water, and she laughed at me. Then, she very emphatically said min fadlik. Did I get the word wrong?”

Zahara wanted to ask what the circumstances had been, but again, she saw the slight shadow in his eyes. His eyes were very expressive once one knew to look.

“No, not the word, just the ending.”

“What was wrong about it?”

“Arabic has...endings for male and female words and objects. Min fadlak means from your grace, and it is the...it is almost the same as saying please in English. But min fadlak is spoken to a man. Min fadlik is spoken to a woman. To that girl, you were talking to a man, not to her and she probably thought it was funny than an adult was making that mistake.”

Tim smiled. “I can imagine she felt that way. She certainly seemed to be a character.” His eyes became a little distant. “She’d be...probably ten or eleven, now. I can only imagine what she’ll do when she grows up. If she’s anything like her father, the world had better watch out.”

“Did you know her well, then?”

Tim refocused on Zahara. “Actually, no. She didn’t speak any English...but we communicated all the same. Anyway, thanks for clearing that up. I wasn’t really able to ask at the time and I’d forgotten about it until just now.”

“Any other Arabic questions?”

“Actually, yes, I have one,” Tim said, and he grinned a little mischievously.

“What is it?” Zahara asked, smiling in response but wondering what the question would be.

“On the day we met, or rather the morning after, you were muttering at me in Arabic when I was trying to tell you I was fine.”

Zahara blushed a little and looked down. She had been more brusque than she would have been normally, simply because she had felt so awkward with him.

“Yes?”

“You said a word that I don’t know. Well, you said a lot of words I don’t know, but one of them sounded almost like a word I do know, but I’m not sure I heard it right.”

“Which one?” Zahara asked, although she was almost afraid to know what word he was asking about.

“Well, to me, it sounded like ferengi.”

“Oh.” Zahara blushed more deeply.

Tim smiled. “It’s okay if it was an insult. I’m mostly just curious. I’m assuming that, if you loathed me, you wouldn’t have been willing to go out with me tonight.”

Zahara smiled and nodded. “That is true. The word is farangī. It means...foreigner, but it has come to be insulting toward people who are not from here. Mostly, it refers to Europeans, but in a... a mean way. It is not a compliment. It is not even neutral. I was frustrated. I am sorry.”

Tim shook his head. “No, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I’ll have to see if I can remember that. I’d like to know when I’m being insulted.”

“Anything else?”

“I don’t really know enough to know what to ask,” Tim said. “But I’d take anything you told me.”

“How about starting at the beginning?”

“Okay.”

Zahara scooted a little closer and began to jot down Arabic letters. The conversation carried them through the appetizers, the entrees and all the way through dessert. Occasionally, the conversation veered off into other topics and then it would turn back to Arabic again. After they’d both finished, Tim paid and tipped the waiter. Then, they stood up and walked out of the restaurant together.

“Do you need a taxi?” Tim asked.

“No. My friend is going to come to get me. Sometimes, the taxis can be...not quite honest.”

“Ah.”

Zahara sent a quick message to Fatima and received an acknowledgment.

“So...Zahara...were you serious?”

“About teaching you to dance? Yes. Completely.”

Tim laughed. “Well...at least, seeing you again.”

“And teaching you to dance.”

Another laugh. “Okay. It’s a deal. I’ll call you. Tomorrow?”

“Yes. Please do.”

They talked for a few minutes and then, Fatima and Ibrahim pulled up.

“Thank you, Tim. I enjoyed this, tonight.”

“So did I. Good night, Zahara.”

“Good night, Tim.”

Zahara walked over to the car and got in. Fatima looked back at her and smiled.

“I don’t need to ask how your date went,” Fatima said.

“Why not?” Zahara asked.

“You are happier than I have ever seen you.”

“It went well.”

“He did not push you?” Ibrahim asked.

“Not at all. He was very kind to me, and he is very interesting to talk to.”

“So will you date him again?”

“Yes. I will.”

Fatima looked at Ibrahim but neither of them questioned her. Instead, they drove her back to her apartment. Zahara went inside and looked at herself in the mirror. She could see her own happiness. She couldn’t stop smiling. No, Tim was not perfect. He seemed to have faced things that still negatively affected him, but they didn’t rule him. She was enjoying getting to know him, and she had no qualms about doing so.

She felt there was a lot to know.

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

Tim walked back to the riad. He couldn’t stop smiling. As far as first dates went, this was probably the best he’d ever had. Zahara was beautiful, and she seemed to have that same beauty inside as well. What more could a guy want? For a moment, he wondered what could possibly come of this, but then, he tried to put that aside. He had been upfront with Zahara about his stay here being temporary. They could both enjoy the time they had without pretending.

When he reached the riad, he went inside, walked up to the roof and stared at the stars for a long time.

In the nearly three weeks he’d been in Morocco, he hadn’t seen any clouds. None at all.

As he lay there, he looked at the stars and wondered how much longer he really would be here. He was kind of surprised that Jorgenson hadn’t filed any charges yet. He couldn’t imagine that it wouldn’t happen. He just wondered what he was waiting for. Maybe just time.

He found himself wishing that it would rain, just once.

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 Post subject: Chapter 23
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 2:19 pm 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 23

The days went on. Tim spent hours each day thinking of something he could do to fight against Jorgenson’s plan. The biggest thing, though, would be defeating any accusation he had with the facts. It took him three more days to think about trying to find Lawrence and his team. If he could get some kind of testimony from them, it would defeat Jorgenson’s use of that period of time. That would be knocking a significant leg out from under Jorgenson’s figurative stool. Would it be enough to stop him? Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, it would be a start.

But finding Lawrence would be difficult, at best. They were a group that didn’t exist for anyone except the President.

Still, it was worth a shot. Tim started exploring the hidden and anonymous corners of the Internet, hoping for some little whisper.

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

“Dr. Mallard?”

Ducky barely looked up from the autopsy.

“Yes, Dr. Palmer?”

“Do you really think this will work out?”

Ducky didn’t need to ask what Jimmy meant.

“Yes.”

“Why? Everyone else seems so worried.”

Ducky took a breath and straightened. Jimmy’s expression was one of curiosity, not skepticism. He really did seem to want to know.

“Over the years, ever since we first became aware of Timothy’s situation, I have watched him. I have seen him lower than I’d ever hope to see a person. I’ve seen him insane. I’ve seen him fighting back. Nothing has kept him down permanently, and in this case, his fear drove him away, but he hasn’t given up. Timothy himself has hope for things getting better. Because of his strength, I believe things will work out for the best.”

“So what’s the best?”

Ducky smiled. “Whatever we can have that allows us happiness, my boy. Now, if you’ll return your attention to the body. You’ll see that what we have here is truly remarkable.”

As Ducky described his findings, his mind was only half on what he was explaining. The other half was on Jimmy’s question. Perhaps it was a little strange that he wasn’t worried, but he truly wasn’t. He felt that everything would work out for the best. There might be some trying moments to deal with, but he felt confident that they’d come out of this whole, maybe even stronger than they were before. Tim’s recovery over the last couple of years had been wonderful to see and Ducky refused to believe that one bump in the road, no matter how large, was enough destroy him, now. He hadn’t been needed much this time around, and he was genuinely glad of that. Better to be unneeded and maybe a little bit forgotten than to be desperately needed to repair the damage.

He just hoped that, wherever Tim was, he was all right.

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

There was a knock on the door, and Tim grimaced a little, but at the same time, he ran to answer as fast as he could. Today was the day that Zahara had decided she would teach him to dance. He wasn’t happy about the dance lesson, but he was happy about seeing Zahara again. So he’d be willing look foolish.

He opened the door.

“Hi,” he said, smiling.

“Good afternoon, Tim,” Zahara said, smiling as well. “Are you ready to dance?”

“I’m ready to fail at dancing,” Tim said.

“If you start thinking that you will fail, you will fail.”

“You haven’t seen how clumsy I am,” Tim said.

Zahara held up a small tray.

“I am ready to see.”

Tim stood aside to let her in.

“You’re not teaching me that tray dance, are you?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Oh, come on!” Tim protested with a laugh. “I’m not going to be able to do that!”

“Not at first, but anyone can learn.”

“I don’t know about that. Do you want to laugh at me down here or up on the roof?”

“There is more space up on the roof,” Zahara said.

“True.”

Tim led the way up to the roof and watched as Zahara set her things down. He had watched her dance the other night, but he was trying to keep himself from being too overbearing. They were still getting to know each other and it wouldn’t help if he started essentially stalking her.

“Would you like to wear the costume?” Zahara asked, holding up some women’s clothes.

“Uh...no. Thanks. Daniel told me that when men do this dance they wear women’s clothes. Why is that?”

“I do not know,” Zahara admitted. “It is just done that way. Tradition. This is the costume that one wears to do this dance.”

“I’ll take your word for it, but I won’t wear it.”

“That is fine. I did not think you would want to. Many tourists find it strange, and so to accommodate them, some men will not put on the traditional costume.”

She pulled out a small CD player and turned it on. What Tim heard was not exactly music as he would define it. It was mostly percussion. Every so often he caught strains of some kind of horn or flute or something.

“What is this?”

“This is to help you feel what you do. The key to keeping the tray balanced is to learn to keep your head still...and to not rush any of the movements. You move when it feels right to move. Do not think you must move.”

Then, she picked up a strange-looking hat and gestured for him to lean down. She placed it on his head.

“This is to help you keep the tray in place, but if you move your head, it will not matter that it is there. This is to help. It does not do all the work.”

“Okay. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Then, she put the empty tray on his head. Tim was surprised that the hat really did help. The task of keeping the tray up there seemed possible. Not certain, but definitely possible.

“Now, just walk around a little. Remember that you need to keep your head still. Do not jerk it around. Otherwise, the tray will fall.”

She moved the pillows and furniture to the side as Tim tried to walk without moving his head. After a few minutes, he felt like he could do a reasonable job of not tripping over his own feet and not dropping the tray. Zahara seemed to feel the same.

“Now, Tim, try to walk with the beat of the music. Feel it inside you. Move with the...the flow of it.”

Tim tried. He really did, but over the next hour, most of the time, one of three things happened: the tray fell to the floor, he fell to the floor due to tripping over his own feet or (most often) both of them fell to the floor. But for some reason, he didn’t mind in the slightest. He was laughing as much as anything. Zahara also found it extremely entertaining, which Tim suspected was the main reason she wanted him to try it.

“Okay,” he said, after an hour. “I think we have proved me correct. There is no way I’m doing this.”

“Not in one day. Nothing is mastered in one day.”

“I know, but I really do think I’m a hopeless case...as far as dancing with a tray on my head is concerned.”

Zahara smiled. “You may be right.”

“So what now?”

“I have shared something that means a lot to me. Dancing is how I connect with my father, no matter who he was. Even if you cannot do it, I have shared it. It is your turn.”

Tim smiled at her explanation and tried to think about what he could share in exchange. He realized that there wasn’t very much that he did that wasn’t work or computers.

But maybe there was one thing.

“This isn’t... well, it doesn’t require you to do anything except listen,” he said. “Wait here.”

Zahara raised a quizzical eyebrow at him and nodded. Tim hurried down to the bedroom and got his laptop. He didn’t have any records here, of course, but he had a good internet connection and he could go to YouTube.

He brought the laptop up to the roof and sat down on one of the chairs.

“Sit,” he said, gesturing to the other chair.

“What is it, Tim?”

“I can’t share a lot of what I do because it’s all back in the States, but... this is something that means a lot to me.”

He found a good jazz song and he started it going.

“What is this music?” Zahara asked. “I have never heard it before.”

“It’s called jazz. This is Dixieland jazz. It’s all about improvising. It’s not about playing from written music. Instead, there’s a line and you follow it wherever it takes you. Sometimes, it’s great. Sometimes, it falls apart, but you follow it. And you can get a band following the line in their own ways. It gets more complex and sometimes less complex. But it’s never quite the same from moment to moment. One of the things I like to do is write. I have an old typewriter that I sit at and just write things. Sometimes, it’s coherent. Sometimes, it’s not. But it’s where I go to escape. Lately, it’s been escaping from serious things, but even before all that, it was about escaping from work, escaping from worrying, escaping from... life, but not exactly. And I’d come home, turn on my jazz records, sit down at my typewriter and just start writing.”

Tim ran out of words and he just turned up the volume on the song and sat there, listening to it. He closed his eyes and smiled as the mellow clarinet suddenly dominated the music and the other instruments backed off.

When the song ended he opened his eyes again and looked at Zahara. Her expression was inscrutable.

“Well? What do you think?” he asked.

“I think that I would have to get used to music like that, but I can see that it is something important to you. Thank you for sharing it with me.”

Then, they started talking about music. Zahara had heard some American music and Tim had heard some European music and no Arabic music, but in general, they didn’t know each other’s music at all and Tim’s laptop became their tool. Zahara would look up a song and have him listen. Then, he would reciprocate. Zahara introduced him to the great Arabic singer Fairuz. Tim introduced her to the offbeat They Might Be Giants. Zahara played a song by Marisol, who had been one of her mother’s favorite singers. Tim played a song by the Beach Boys. They went back and forth for a few hours and it was heading toward evening when Zahara suddenly realized how long she’d been there.

“Oh, I have to leave. I did not mean to stay so long,” she said, standing up quickly.

“I’m sorry. I lost track of the time, too,” Tim said. “Did I make you late for anything?”

“No, but I do need to leave, now.” Zahara turned to go, but then, she stopped and turned back. “I had fun today, Tim.”

“So did I.”

“Good.” She smiled a little mischievously. “You may call me again.”

Tim smiled back. “I will.”

Then, Zahara hurried down the stairs before Tim could offer to see her to the door. He watched as she hurried out and he grinned. It felt like he’d known Zahara forever already. It was easy to talk to her. It was easy to be with her. It was just...right in a way he hadn’t experienced before. He acknowledged that this might just be an initial infatuation that might fade as time went on. After all, they hadn’t known each other for more than two weeks, but at the same time, right now, it just made him happy to be with her.

Today had been really good.

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

Every step was a struggle. Carew knew it. He knew it was for him, and he knew it was for Tamara. At times, he’d considered asking her if she wanted to give up, but he hadn’t yet. After his revelation to her, she had been quieter, and yet, somehow, it seemed better. He just didn’t know why.

And he hated not knowing why. He wanted to understand. Being confused meant that he wasn’t calling the shots.

It was hard to give up the habits of thirty years and accept that he didn’t have to be calling the shots and, quite frankly, he shouldn’t be calling the shots all the time. But still, every step along this path was a struggle, and he still wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t find the bridges burned beyond repair.

Tamara was sitting out on the deck after dinner. Carew debated whether or not he should go out and talk to her. Normally, he was the one sitting out there, but Tamara had beat him out there. Carew cleaned up the kitchen and then walked out.

“What are you thinking?” he asked without any preamble.

Tamara looked up at him and Carew sat down across from her.

“I think I understand you more now than I ever did before, Levi.”

“In what respect?” Carew asked.

Tamara leaned forward and held out her hand. Carew hesitated for a few seconds, just a few too many for his decision to take her hand to be natural. She smiled a little.

“How did you feel, Levi?”

“When?”

“You told me about when Quinn was killed. You told me your decisions and your determination to kill the people responsible. How did you feel?”

Carew furrowed his brow, carefully considering what she was asking and why she was asking it. For some reason, Tamara was confusing him more than she should. Up until this trip, he had been able to accurately predict how she would react to most things. This was different.

“Levi, you always claimed that you felt it, even when you didn’t show it. If that’s really true, if you really have had all these feelings, these emotions that you simply hid from everyone, then, you must have felt something.”

“Satisfaction, like I told you before,” Carew said.

“Beyond that. Please, Levi. Tell me.”

“Why?”

“I need you to do this. Tell me. When you realized who was to blame...”

For a long moment, Carew said nothing. He had an answer, and he couldn’t lie about it, but he didn’t want to make himself so vulnerable, not even to Tamara. Weakness was too easily exploited.

“Guilt,” Carew said, his voice low. He was objective as he could be. “As well I should have, given that I put Quinn in his path. I was his employer and he was fulfilling my orders.”

“Not anger?”

“No, not anger. That came later.”

“That’s why I still have hope, Levi.”

He looked up and raised an eyebrow.

“Why?”

“Because you weren’t thinking like the man I hate. All you let me see was the man I hate, but what you felt was the same as you would have felt, no matter what.”

“I still felt satisfaction.”

“I know, but you had more than one reason to catch him.”

“Of course. I wouldn’t have involved anyone else if it had been personal.”

“Of course.”

Carew looked at Tamara’s hand.

“I don’t think that it could get better than this,” he said.

“You don’t?” Tamara asked, sounding a little amused. “I think it could.”

“Those are just details. The essentials.”

“What do you mean?”

Carew took a breath.

“I’m sitting here with you.” He smiled a little, knowing that the little emotion he expressed wouldn’t match his words. “You’re all I want.”

He knew the moment the words had penetrated because Tamara’s grip became tighter. She said nothing for a few minutes.

“I don’t know if I can square that sentiment with everything you’ve done,” she said, finally.

“I don’t know if you should even try,” Carew said in reply. “You asked me. I answered. How you choose to take it is entirely up to you.”

“I know. Believe me, Levi. I know.” Then, she smiled a little. “Are you ready to go back?”

Carew gave the question real thought. If he were honest, the answer was no. He felt they were making some genuine progress here and he didn’t really want to interrupt it by returning to the outside world. He had lived for many years surrounded by people he couldn’t trust and didn’t like. He had spent years interacting with people he hated, all the while hiding that hatred in the interest of doing his job well. It was nice to have no one around at all, if he wanted that kind of solitude. However, he also knew that they should go back soon. As much as he would like to, it just wouldn’t be right to stay out here. If Tamara ever decided that this wasn’t going to work, he’d probably come back out here and live as a hermit.

“I’m not, but we should. Next week, like we planned.”

“Okay.”

Then, she got up and walked back into the house. Carew stayed out on the deck, wondering what would happen next. He had deliberately given Tamara all the power in this situation. She held all the cards and the final decision lay with her. He wouldn’t fight what she chose, no matter what that choice was and how it affected him.

He hoped things would work out, but he didn’t know what to expect.

He just had to wait.

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 Post subject: Chapter 24
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:55 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:05 am
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 24

Two more days passed (and one more date with Zahara) and then, Tim finally got a response to the messages he’d been sending out. The reply was very short, but he understood why. He took the information in the message and hopped online. He followed the instructions to set up the secure link and then, he sent a ping indicating that he was there and ready to talk...if they were available.

It took an hour to get a reply.

“Tim?”

Tim jumped. He hadn’t been paying attention to the computer and he spun around quickly to see Lawrence and Amin in all their pixelated glory looking at him.

Tim, it’s been a while,” Amin said.

“Hi,” Tim said. “I wish it was under better circumstances, but it’s nice to see you again, even like this. How are things going for you?”

“Quiet at the moment,” Lawrence said. “We’re doing some mopping up is all. I’ve seen your name on some of the intel we’ve been given.”

“Just doing a few things here and there...as I’m needed.”

“Until you’re obsolete or dead?” Amin asked.

“Yeah, but I don’t think about it like that anymore. It’s still true, just not as...bad as it was when I worked with you.”

“I’m glad. Really, Tim. That’s good to hear. Now, what made you track us down? It must be for a particular reason.”

“It is. I’m hoping I won’t need this, but I need to find out what’s possible.”

“Need? What? And why us?” Lawrence asked.

“I’m in a little trouble. A lot of trouble. Or at least, I will be.”

“You will be? Most people don’t get to know when they’re going to get in trouble.”

“Lucky me. The FBI... no, not the FBI. Director Jorgenson is trying to get me arrested so that he can take control of me.”

“What good would that do him?” Lawrence asked. “It took me less than a week to figure out that you don’t work your best unwillingly.”

Tim smiled a little. “I get the feeling he doesn’t care. I think he wants something specific from me.”

“Then, you must have an idea of what that specific thing is.”

“I do. Do you know any of the details of how I got pulled into this stuff in the beginning?”

“Some of it.”

“Well, it involved being forced to design a program, one that I’ve built twice and destroyed twice.”

“You think he wants that?” Lawrence asked.

“So you do know about it.”

“Yeah, I do. I had wished that you’d have been able to build it for us to use. Everything I saw about it told me it was an amazing resource. The holy grail of intelligence gathering.”

Tim smiled grimly. “I wouldn’t have done it. Not for anything. After the last time, I decided that I’d never create that program again, no matter the cost. I found my line in the sand, and not even my life would be worth it.”

“But why would he want that?” Amin asked. “What good would it do him? I mean, it sounds like it has great potential and all, but there’s so much that could go wrong and it’s not like he doesn’t have plenty of resources at hand already.”

“Not for much longer,” Tim said.

“Meaning?”

“This is his last year.”

“Oh, right. It is. You think he wants to hold onto power somehow.”

“Yeah. Do I know that for sure? No. But I would be willing to bet quite a bit that this is what he wants from me. It’s the only thing I can think of that would explain why he’s been so persistent for so long.”

“Okay. So how do you think that we can help? We don’t exist, remember?”

“Right now, I’m in hiding. Out of his reach, and so far as I’ve been able to tell, the charges haven’t officially been made.”

“What charges?”

“Treason.”

Amin and Lawrence scoffed in unison.

“I’m glad you feel that way,” Tim said with a smile.

“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” Amin said.

“I know, but I don’t think he cares. And so much of what I’ve done the last few years has been the stuff that doesn’t exist, it’ll be easy for him to make the accusation. Plus, I won’t have much evidence to support my side of it. ...without corroborating witnesses.”

“I see,” Lawrence said.

Tim could tell that Lawrence was reluctant to get involved like that. He didn’t blame him at all. This would be risking exposure that they didn’t want or need.

“If the answer is no, I understand. I may not even need to call on you. I’m just seeing what the possibilities are. I cannot tolerate being enslaved. They’d try to dress it up somehow, but that would be the end result and I can’t deal with it. I’ve had too much trouble dealing with things already. When this comes up, I want to be able to bury him under the weight of everything that vindicates me. In fact, I want him to be humiliated to the point that he can’t show his face in Washington ever again.”

“Bitter, Tim?” Amin asked, although he was smiling.

“Yeah. Bitter, angry, furious, and at times, depressed. It’s just not fair that this is something I have to fight. I should never have to fight against my government and they’re forcing me to do just that.”

“You know that we’re sympathetic, Tim.”

“I know. But you can’t.”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Lawrence said, quickly. “What I’m saying is that I can’t make a guarantee. The only person who gets to know that we exist is the President. ...but if it came down to it, we would possibly be able to make a statement through him. It might not be enough, but as much as I’d like to take care of Director Jorgenson myself, what we’re doing is too important.”

“I understand. That’s actually more than I expected.”

Amin smiled.

“You made an impact on us, Tim. More than you might have realized. You’re the opposite of our coin. We’re doing a lot of the same things you do, but we all got into willingly. You were a pointed reminder that not everyone has that luxury.”

“I’m surprised that I made any lasting impact at all,” Tim said.

“You did. And we’ll do what we can. If you get to the point that you need us to speak for you, contact us through this linkup. We’ll see what we can do about it.”

“Thanks. Really. I appreciate it,” Tim said.

“Now, we have to get off and get back to work,” Lawrence said.

“No problem. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

The image went blank and Tim quickly shut down the connection. Why let anyone find them because he was complacent? Then, he smiled to himself. Lawrence would approve of his paranoia.

It was a start, and a better start than he had expected.

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

“Agent Gibbs?”

Gibbs looked up from his computer. Tony and Ziva looked up as well.

Cynthia hadn’t been down to talk to them for a while. Her expression was grave but not shocked.

In Gibbs’ mind, that meant only one thing.

It was starting.

“Director Shepard would like to speak with you in her office.”

Gibbs nodded and stood up to follow. Then, he glanced over at Tony and Ziva. Would it be fair to keep them out? No. They’d been in on this stuff from the beginning. They knew what was coming. He gestured and they both jumped up to follow. Cynthia paused for a moment but didn’t say anything to stop them. They all went up the stairs and into Jenny’s office. She looked up and for just a second, she looked like she wanted to tell Tony and Ziva to leave but then thought the better of it.

She stood up from her desk and walked around to the table. They all sat.

“Charges have been filed,” she said with no preamble. “It’s started. I hope you’re ready.”

“What took them so long?” Tony asked. “It’s been almost a month!”

“I can only assume that Agent McGee’s flight made them reconsider how they were going to do it.”

“How are they doing it? Open or behind closed doors?” Gibbs asked.

“Behind closed doors, for now. If it makes you feel any better, both the CIA and NSA have already filed official complaints.”

“It doesn’t,” Tony said. “They’re not the ones making the problem.”

“I am not surprised about the CIA, given everything that has happened, but the NSA, too?” Ziva asked. “Why?”

“Because, apparently, Tim has been of great help to them in the last few years...mostly without my knowledge,” Jenny said. “Did you know?”

Tony and Ziva both shook their heads.

“But Abby said he had mentioned something about the NSA once. He did not give details,” Ziva said.

“Gibbs?” Jenny asked.

Gibbs shook his head, although he felt that he should have known that all those requests wouldn’t go away. It seemed that they were going directly to Tim instead of working through Jenny. Obviously, Tim hadn’t felt it was necessary to tell anyone about it...which was good, in a way. He wasn’t upset about it, and he was overcoming his previous paranoia. However, it was also irritating that he was keeping it to himself.

“So Tim has some high-profile defenders,” Tony said. “Will it do any good?”

“Some,” Jenny said. “Enough? I don’t know.”

“Do we have enough?” Ziva asked.

“We have some, but maybe not enough,” Gibbs said.

“How do we...proceed with this?” Tony asked. “If it’s being done quietly.”

“It’s not so much quiet as it is not in the media, at least, not until Jorgenson is sure he’ll succeed. Right now, he’s presenting his claims to people he thinks will believe him. It’s up to us to do the same...without the media, for now.”

“So do we get the full list?”

“I’ve already put in a request for it,” Jenny said. “It should be coming in the next day. After that, we’ll have to respond very quickly. I want you to be ready for it.”

“Are you going to give us the time?” Gibbs asked.

Up to now, they’d been doing their regular jobs and only working on Tim’s situation before and after work and at odd times during the day. If they were going to be ready to respond, they would need time.

“Yes,” Jenny said. “As soon as I get the full list of charges and the reasons for them, I will give you all the time you need to formulate a response. As quickly as you can.”

“Anything else?” Gibbs asked.

“No. Not for now. I just wanted you to know that it’s finally happening, so that you’ll be ready for it.”

Gibbs nodded and stood up. Tony and Ziva followed suit. They left the office, nodding to Cynthia as they passed.

“Anything I can do, Agent Gibbs, just let me know,” she said.

“Will do.”

They kept moving. Out on the balcony, they paused.

“Boss...” Tony began.

“Not here. My place. Tonight. Tell Ducky and Palmer.”

“And Abby?”

Gibbs shook his head.

“I’ll do that.”

He gestured for them to go down to their desks while he headed for Abby’s lab. If Tim had been trying to keep up on what was happening, maybe she could contact him. It was a long shot if Tim was trying to keep himself hidden from everyone, but it was worth a try.

Abby’s music was blaring when he walked into the lab, but for once, he didn’t bother turning it down. He just walked over close to her.

“What’s up, Gibbs?”

“Charges have been filed.”

Abby’s expression got worried and angry at the same time.

“I wish...” Then, she stopped herself. “What now?”

“Can you contact him?” Gibbs asked, deliberately not using names.

“I don’t know. I can try, but...”

“Try. Just let him know that it’s starting.”

“Okay. I will.”

“Tonight. My place.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, forcing a smile.

“Don’t call me sir,” he said and kissed her on the cheek.

“Then, stop giving orders like an officer,” Abby said, her smile more genuine.

“You don’t listen if I don’t.”

Abby laughed. Gibbs kissed her on the cheek one more time and then left the lab. He got on the elevator and sent it up, but he stopped it and sat down on the floor of the elevator for a few minutes. In a way, it was good that it was finally starting, This meant that, instead of dreading it, they could start to fight. But at the same time, it was now the time that he had to confront what he’d done to Tim anew. He pulled out the flash drive and looked at it. Tim was apparently safe enough right now, but what if this attempt failed? What if they couldn’t prevent Jorgenson from getting the authorization to take over Tim’s life? Gibbs didn’t like letting himself worry like this, but he felt that it was his responsibility to get Tim out of it.

I need to clean up my own mess.

No matter what, Tim would not be paying the price. Gibbs was going to do it. He hadn’t been able to promise Tim at the beginning. He thought of that moment when Tim had tried to get him to promise, tried to force him to do it and Gibbs had known that his promise would possibly be a lie, so he hadn’t given it.

“McGee, I can’t promise that no one will get hurt.” There was a flash of something in Tim’s eyes. Gibbs wasn’t sure what it was. As astute as he usually was, Tim was confusing him. “...but I can promise that I’ll be there, that I’ll do my best.”

Tim held his gaze for a few more silent seconds. Then, he said softly, “What if your best isn’t enough?”


Then, Tim had actually apologized when he had tried to sacrifice himself to end it. He had apologized for wanting Gibbs to fix what he had screwed up. It had been painful to hear. Now, Gibbs was determined to fulfill the promise he hadn’t been able to make before. This was over. This would be the last time. No matter what it required.

He stood up, turned back on the elevator and got back to work.

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

“Lawrence.”

Lawrence looked up from his computer.

“What is it, Xandra?”

“You wanted to know.”

“Already?”

“Seems to be.”

Lawrence got up and followed Xandra to her station and leaned over.

“Treason, just like you said.”

Lawrence swore feelingly.

“Amin, it’s happened,” he called.

Instantly, Amin came over, joined by Thompson and Sam.

“The FBI has officially filed charges of treason against Tim,” Lawrence said.

“Evidence?”

“Don’t know yet,” Xandra said. “I’m not seeing anything specific.”

“What do you want to do about this, Lawrence?” Amin asked.

“Can we do anything at all?” Thompson asked. “If we make a statement, we’re ruining our anonymity.”

“Only if we make a public statement,” Amin said.

“You’re suggesting that we get the President involved in this?” Sam asked. “Should we really go that far?”

“Yes,” Amin said, firmly. “Once Xandra works her magic and figures out the details, if we can help by saying something, we will. Tim saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives a few years ago. If the FBI is going to say that he was the cause of the danger, it is our duty to make sure that doesn’t stand.”

“But who knows how many more lives might be lost if something goes wrong?” Sam said. “He’s just one man.”

“Yes, he is,” Amin said. “So am I. So is each person who survived that day. One life. Tim was willing to die for each of us, for each of them. He would have done it if it had been asked of him. He’s one man.”

Then, they all looked at Lawrence. He was the one in charge and the final decision fell to him. He could see Sam’s point. She was right that Tim was just one man and their mission was so much wider in scope than one life. But Amin was right, too. At the end of the day, they all owed Tim for the work he’d done and even if they didn’t, he was an innocent man who would only suffer more if they did nothing.

He looked at Xandra.

“Do what you can to find out the details. If there is any reference to the bombing in Arlington, I’ll contact the President and tell him Tim’s role and the importance of removing that as evidence of duplicity. If there is not, then, we stay silent. Realistically, we can only vouch for the time we spent with him. Even if we know it’s ridiculous, we can’t just say it. All right?”

There were nods all around. Xandra turned back to her station and began seeing what she could find. Thompson returned to his analysis of all their mechanics. Sam returned to her own station to resume a conversation with the other Sam who was doing some reconnaissance. Amin said nothing. He left the room and Lawrence followed.

“This is wrong, Lawrence,” he said.

“I know.”

“I can’t stay silent.”

Lawrence shook his head. “You have to. Legally...”

“Legality has nothing to do with this, and you know it,” Amin said. “This isn’t about justice. This isn’t about the possibility of Tim going to prison. He won’t. We all know that. What will happen to him is worse. Lawrence, Tim was so afraid of what might happen that he ran. Tim doesn’t run. He’s not the kind of person who just runs away, but he did. That’s how afraid he is.”

“Amin, Tim would agree with me. If we can’t comment directly on the charges, then, we shouldn’t say anything at all.”

“Tim would agree that it’s the big-picture thing to do, but do you think for a second that he’d say nothing if it was one of us in his place? He was willing to risk a lot more to save his team and he wasn’t even sure if they were still alive. He went far beyond what he would normally be willing to do, just to save them. We can’t let the big picture obscure why we do this at all.”

“And why is that?”

“To save the guy walking his dog on the sidewalk who has no idea how close he might come to death from day to day. To save the family who is sitting, listening to Mass, secure in their faith and their location. We aren’t saving people. We’re saving one person at a time. And Tim is another person we can save. ...or at least, we can help save him. And if we can, then, we should. Period. End of story.”

Lawrence was surprised at Amin’s vehemence. He hadn’t ever realized how deeply Tim had affected Amin during their brief time working together.

“For now...we wait. We wait and see what Xandra can find. All right?”

“All right, but I’m not turning my back on him, Lawrence. No matter what.”

Then, Amin walked away, leaving Lawrence to consider anew what the best course of action would be.

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 Post subject: Chapter 25
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 8:37 pm 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 25

“So you will be here for your appointment?”

“Yes,” Carew said. “We’re leaving today.”

“You’re going to have people looking for you.”

“Oh?”

“Yes,” Dr. Hicks said. “Tim’s friends. They want to know where he is.”

Carew smiled.

“They couldn’t figure it out on their own?”

“No. And I don’t know how hard they’re trying, but they know that you know.”

“Of course they do.”

“They wanted me to tell them when I heard from you. Do you mind?”

“Why would I mind?”

“I know why you left. Doesn’t seem fair to dump you back into it right when you get back.”

“What makes you think they’re the ones I’ve been avoiding? I know they loathe me, Dr. Hicks. They’re not going to seek me out for anything that isn’t important. That’s not the case with other people.”

“Well, then, I’ll be telling them.”

“That’s fine. I’ll be ready for them.”

“I’m sure you will be. You would have been whether I told you or not.”

Carew was interested anew that the people who knew him best still were fooled by the outward persona, something he had deliberately cultivated over the course of years. He didn’t bother to correct Dr. Hicks’ perception.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“All right. Bye.”

Carew hung up and then walked out to the deck again. He stared out at the trees and, suddenly, a memory came to him. It was one he didn’t generally try to think about since it was an event he had hated, but he couldn’t legitimately deny that it had been extremely influential in his life. Tim had realized it, even with the little Carew had been willing to tell.

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

“Mom, I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have lied about where I was, but nothing happened! I didn’t get into any trouble. I was just hanging out with the guys,” Levi said.

“Levi, come with me.”

That was all. She walked out of the room, expecting Levi to follow her. So he did. He hadn’t thought it was a big deal. It was just that he had wanted to hang out with his friends after school and he wasn’t supposed to. He knew it and he had decided to tell his mom that he had to make up a test.

They went up to the attic and to an old trunk that Levi had never opened. It didn’t look interesting at all, so he had ignored it on the rare occasions he had come up here. His mother knelt down and opened it.

“Sit down, Levi,” she said. Her voice wasn’t angry or lecturing. It was just firm.

Levi sat down beside her.

She pulled out a book and opened it. It was a scrapbook...of a sort.

The first page was a photo, an old one by the look of it. There were four men standing together. They looked like little more than skeletons.

“This is your father,” she said, pointing to the second man. Levi didn’t recognize the man she indicated as his father. “This is your uncle, next to your father. He died before they could get away. This is your grandfather. He was gassed. They were all in concentration camps.”

Then, she turned the page. This page had newspaper clippings...showing dead bodies.

“This is where your aunts died, your father’s sisters. They brought them to a hole, made them strip naked and walk down inside. Then, they murdered them. They shot them.”

Levi was horrified. “Mom...”

“Listen!”

She turned another page. Page after page of death, torture, horror. Family member after family member killed.

“I don’t want to see anymore, Mom,” Levi said.

She didn’t listen to him. She continued, showing newspaper stories about the concentration camps, the millions upon upon millions of Jews killed, worked to death, starved, beaten, shot, burned to death. It seemed to have no end. Finally, she closed the book and put it reverently back into the trunk. Then, she turned to him, still not angry. However, he could see the pain in her eyes.

“Do you know what killed all those people? Do you know what killed your father, your grandfathers, your aunts, uncles, cousins? Do you know, Levi?”

He shook his head, mutely.

“Lies. That’s what killed them. Lies and people willing to believe those lies. Lies that were told to others, lies that people told to themselves. Lies! When you lie to me, you are doing the same thing that killed your father.”

Levi couldn’t even think of anything to say. He was horrified by what she was telling him.

“I want you to be obedient, Levi, but more than that, I want you to be honest. You can’t hurt me more than you do when you lie to me. I would rather have you disobey and be honest about it later than lie to me to cover what you’ve done. Lies destroy. Don’t lie to me, Levi. Never again.”

“I won’t,” Levi whispered. “I promise. I’ll never lie again.”

He’d say anything to keep from seeing any more of those pictures, to keep from seeing his mother’s pain, but he also meant it. More than anything he had ever said in his life
.

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

“Levi?”

Carew jumped a little and turned around, taking a deep breath to dispel the memory.

“Yes?”

Tamara looked a little worried.

“Is something wrong?”

“No. Just remembering the past,” he said, hoping that she wouldn’t probe.

“Not a pleasant part, based on your expression,” she said.

“No. Not particularly.”

“I won’t pry. Are you ready to go?”

“Yes. Are you?”

Tamara smiled and shook her head.

“No, but I think we need to. We can’t just hide out here and pretend the world doesn’t exist.”

“We could do that, you know,” Carew said. “It’s not like there’s a job either of us have to do.”

“I know, but we shouldn’t and so we won’t. This has been really good for us, I think. It was important that we came here, but it’s important that we go back, too.”

“You’re okay with what you learned?”

“Yes, I am. For now, I am.”

“For now?” he repeated.

“Yes. For now. I can’t promise more than that.”

“Okay.”

They gathered up their clothes, loaded the car and headed for home.

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

Abby had been trying to get in contact with Tim for two days without success. The email he’d used before was no longer valid. He wasn’t actively online (at least, not in any obvious way). Abby had never been asked to try to track Tim down, and she was seeing very clearly how hard it would be if Tim ever wanted to disappear permanently. No one was perfect, but Tim knew how to track people down and so he also knew how to avoid being tracked himself.

Still, she was trying a number of different things to find him and she hoped that, eventually, something would pan out.

She was sitting at her computer, waiting for some results and idly thinking about what to try next.

A window popped up on her screen.

Hi, Abby. Can you chat?

Abby’s eyes widened.

How are you doing this?

I’d rather not say. Let’s just leave it at me doing it.

Have you heard?

Heard what?

I guess you haven’t. Charges have been filed.


There was a long pause.

About time. Any details?

Not yet. Director Shepard thinks that she’ll be getting everything today.

Another long pause.

I hate this, but I think you should let me know. I’ll send you an email tomorrow. Okay?

Okay. Do you have something that will help?

Maybe. I don’t know for sure, but there’s a possibility.

Okay. I’ll try to be patient.

Good. Now, I’m going to be late. I’ll talk again later.

Late for what?


There was no response and a few seconds later, the box closed down.

“What could he be late for?” Abby wondered.

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

Jenny stood in MTAC, feeling more irritated than anything else.

“You told me that I’d get the details of the charges yesterday.”

“You know how these things can get tangled up.”

“Yes, I do, and I know that this is not what the problem is. The FBI has accused my agent of treason. I expect to get full disclosure by the end of the day. Otherwise, I might think you have something to hide.”

“You mean the way you are hiding your agent from justice?”

“I don’t have the slightest idea where Agent McGee is,” Jenny said, glad that she could be honest about that. “And if I was hiding him, it wouldn’t be justice I was hiding him from. It would be you, Director Jorgenson. You know my feelings on your attempts in the past. Whatever it is that you want from him, you won’t get it, especially not like this.”

“And why would you think that I want anything from him?”

“I’m not playing this game with you, Director Jorgenson,” Jenny said, sternly. “By the end of the day. No more stalling.”

She gestured and the FBI director’s sneering face was replaced by the much more appealing colored bars. She grimaced.

“I never thought there’d be someone worse than Carew,” she muttered to herself.

“Anything else, ma’am?”

Jenny looked over at the tech.

“Yes. See if you can get Director Morgan. If he’s busy, simply ask for a time when he’d be available.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The tech turned away and a couple of minutes later turned back.

“Sorry, ma’am. Director Morgan is in meetings all day. They said that he will be available first thing in the morning.”

“That’s fine. Tell them I’ll contact him, then.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Jenny left MTAC and headed back to her office. Gibbs looked up at her with a questioning eyebrow raise. She just nodded once. This was taking longer than it should, longer than she wanted it to take. Wherever Tim was, she really hoped that he was safe.

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

“Say the name of this place again,” Tim asked.

“Jardin Majorelle. It is not an Arabic name,” Zahara said, with a smile. “It is French.”

“Garden...what?”

“Majorelle was a painter,” Zahara said. “These gardens must be named after him.”

“Oh. Not quite as exotic as I was thinking.”

“Not everything must be exotic, you know,” she said.

Tim laughed. “I know. I’ve just come to expect it.”

Then, to Zahara’s surprise, he reached down and took her hand. It was a gentle grip, not controlling, just requesting. She considered whether or not this was a step that she was ready for, and then, she squeezed his hand and they continued to walk, hand in hand, through the gardens. It probably wasn’t as big as gardens in other places Tim had been, but they were beautiful.

“I can’t get over this deep blue,” Tim said. “It’s amazing.”

“Yes. It is very beautiful,” Zahara said.

“So are you,” Tim said, suddenly.

Zahara looked at him and Tim blushed and then looked at the fountain, but he didn’t let go of her hand.

After a few seconds, Tim rolled his eyes.

“That was clumsy. I know,” he muttered.

Zahara pulled Tim around to face her.

“Thank you.”

Tim blushed again and smiled.

“You’re welcome.”

They continued to walk.

Because Zahara had to work later, they didn’t spend all day together. Instead, they spent some time together in the morning and early afternoon and then, Zahara went to work, and Tim went back to his riad to work...or at least, to try to work.

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

Tim spent quite a bit of time just brooding. It was good to know that the charges had finally been made, but at the same time, it really bothered him that they had been made. He hated the possibility that anyone might find out and then actually believe that they were true.

He hadn’t tried contacting Lawrence yet. He wanted to know what the details would be before he found out whether or not they could/would help him.

He’d have to find a new secure way of contacting Abby. He was trying to change it up by using a different method every time. He wasn’t sure it was necessary, but he really didn’t want to see how far the FBI would go to get him back. Better to avoid the possibility completely. Maybe he should try someone else, but the problem would be getting them to be secure about it. Abby wasn’t really discrete but she knew how to keep things secure.

There was a knock at the door, late in the evening, and Tim hurried down to open it.

“Tim! You’re still in the land of the living.”

Tim furrowed his brow as he stood aside to let Daniel come inside.

“Yeah, Daniel. Why?”

“All that time you’re spending with your new girlfriend and...”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Tim said, quickly. Too quickly.

Now, it was Daniel’s turn to furrow his brow, although he still smiled.

“Oh, really? You’re spending all this time with her, going out on dates nearly every other day, and she’s not your girlfriend? I’d like to see how you’d treat a girlfriend if Zahara doesn’t qualify. It must be on the level of how most people would treat royalty.”

Tim blushed. Daniel was totally right. He was dating Zahara. It wasn’t just a date or two, he was spending almost all his free time with her. They were talking about everything from their childhoods to their current interests. He felt so comfortable with her. What had started as an infatuation was now a relationship. How had this happened?

Correctly reading Tim’s silence, Daniel smiled more gently.

“Tim, it’s okay. If she didn’t want it, too, I think she’d tell you.”

“But...I never... It wasn’t even in my mind to... to do this.”

“Like I said, it’s okay. I think it’s great that you let yourself relax enough to do it.”

“But I’m not here forever,” Tim said. “What if...”

“Hey, if it’s a real relationship, you’ll figure that stuff out. If not, then, you both enjoyed yourselves in the short term,” Daniel said. “Calm down.”

“It’s just that...” Tim laughed a little. “...when I came here, I was just running away. I didn’t expect to find something other than a hiding place.”

“Nothing wrong with a few benefits,” Daniel said, grinning.

“I don’t mean that,” Tim said.

“I know that,” Daniel said. “Seriously, Tim, do you like her? I won’t tell her, if that worries you. Do you like Zahara?”

“Yes,” Tim answered instantly. There was no reason to pretend otherwise.

“Do you love her?”

“I’ve only known her for a few weeks!”

“Wamāthā fīthālik? Why does that matter? The only reason my parents didn’t get married a month after they met is because my grandfather said they should wait more than a month to make sure that they were really in love. They were. They’ve been married for almost forty years. So...do you love Zahara?”

Tim opened his mouth to answer and then stopped. Did he? He thought of the time in the gardens, walking around, holding hands. He had been nervous about doing it, but once he was holding her hand, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. He could have spent all day, just walking around with Zahara. No need even to speak, really (although they had spoken quite a bit). He just wanted to be with her.

And if that wasn’t an indication of love, what was it?

“Yes,” Tim said, softly, and sat down on a chair and ran his hands through his hair. “Yes, I love her. I didn’t plan on that.”

Daniel sat down by him.

“I don’t think most people plan on falling in love, but obviously, you were ready for it. And I can’t see that you’d do much better than loving a Moroccan, although I’ll admit that I may be a little biased.”

Now, Tim smiled. “She’s from Melilla. That’s technically Spanish.”

“Don’t say that too loudly,” Daniel said, only half-jokingly. “There are some people who feel that Melilla and Ceuta should be given to Morocco, even though Spain has owned that territory for hundreds of years. I doubt most Moroccans would fight about it, but some definitely would.”

“I still hadn’t planned on this,” Tim said again.

“Are you bothered by it?” Daniel asked. “If you don’t want it, you should stop now.”

Tim stood up and started pacing.

“No, that’s the problem. I do. I can’t believe how much I do want it...how much I want to be with her. But it’s a bad idea, not because of my being here for a short period of time, but because of me.”

“What do you mean?” Daniel asked. He got up and stopped Tim’s pacing. “Tim, what are you talking about?”

Tim knew that he still couldn’t tell Daniel details, but he should try to explain why he was so worried about it, that it wasn’t just a lack of interest in long-term relationships. He forced himself to sit down.

“Daniel, I’m... My life has been....more than a little chaotic the last few years, the last ten years. Some of the things I went through almost killed me, and some people around me died. I told you about some of it, and I... I don’t know that it’s responsible for me to drag someone else into a life that always has the potential to go pear-shaped. ...until I’m obsolete or dead.”

Daniel was quiet for a few seconds. Then, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“I see what you’re saying, Tim. It is hard, but there’s one thing you’re forgetting.”

“What?”

“Zahara. She’s an adult. She lives here alone. It’s not like she has a sheltered existence where she’s unaware of how bad the world can be. If this worries you, why not just tell her and let her decide if it’s too much?”

“I have told her some of it.”

“Enough that she knows what she could be getting into?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, Tim. Talk to her. Ask her. Give her a chance.”

“But if I do that... What if she’s not thinking of this as seriously as I am?”

“You’ll have to risk rejection,” Daniel said. “I would guess that a lot of relationships are like that. You go along until you have to find out whether or not it’s going to last.”

“You’d guess?”

Daniel grinned. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Tim, but I’m not exactly a chick magnet, especially not around here. The girls just don’t go for scrawny, freckled redheads.”

Tim laughed a little and then sighed.

“Hey, Tim, just try it. At least if she rejects you, you’ll know that you don’t have to worry anymore.”

“Oh, thanks, Daniel. That really makes me feel better,” Tim muttered.

“You’re welcome. Seriously, when are you seeing her next?”

“Tomorrow,” Tim said and blushed.

“Then, talk to her, tomorrow. See what she thinks of it. Let her know how you feel. Just get it out in the open and see what comes of it.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

“I am.”

Tim laughed again.

“So, now that that’s out of the way, are you ready for your next Moroccan experience?”

“I don’t know. What is it?”

“Just once, you need to experience the square at night. It can’t be described, only experienced. ...just don’t take your wallet with you.”

Tim raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“There’s a lot of music and drumming and people are very close together. Pickpocketers exist in Morocco just like they do anywhere else. It’s still worth it.”

“Okay.”

“Great!”

“Is this you as my tour guide or you as my friend?”

Daniel stopped and considered.

“Since you’re having a bit of a personal crisis, I’ll just say friend this time, but the next thing I show you will be for hire.”

“All right. That works.”

“Mumtāz! And we can get something to eat from the square, too. Let’s go!”

Tim went upstairs to grab his things. Then, he securely tucked his passport into his waistband with the strap around his neck and under one shoulder. It was zipped and snapped and velcroed. A pickpocket would have to get through a lot to get into it.

Then, he went down and let Daniel drag him to the square.

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 Post subject: Chapter 26
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 8:42 pm 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 26

Tamara and Carew pulled into the garage and unpacked their things.

“I’ll go get our mail from Lauren.”

Carew nodded and said nothing else. Tamara watched him walk back to his bedroom. This had been an interesting trip. Just the two of them together. It had allowed her to see more of what Carew had become in the years since their divorce, and there was something about him that kept her from giving up. The few times he’d been willing and able to open up at all, he had still had the same personality that he had before the CIA. It was just buried so deeply. And whatever he’d been thinking about just before they left had not been a happy memory. Whatever it was, it had been awful. The expression on his face had been one of near-misery and that was so rare to see that she had been concerned for him. While she had really wanted to know what it was, even with all they were doing, he still deserved some privacy.

She took a breath and walked over to their neighbor’s house. Lauren was very friendly and she had tried to make both of them feel welcome in the neighborhood, even though she was a little put off by Carew.

Tamara knocked on the door and only had to wait for a couple of seconds for Lauren to get there. She opened the door and Tamara smiled at the chaos. She could hear two kids shouting about something. Lauren had a little boy holding on to her leg and she was holding a baby girl in her arms. She looked a little frazzled, but she smiled when she saw Tamara.

“Tamara! You’re back! You want your mail. Um...”

“I can come back later, if you’re too busy. It looks like your hands are full,” Tamara said.

“They always are. Just a minute.” She turned back to the house and shouted. “Isaac! Lucy! Stop bickering and come get Emma and Jacob.” She smiled at Tamara. “Summer vacation. We’re still figuring out routines.”

Tamara looked at Jacob who was staring up at her.

“Hi, Jacob. Remember me?” She smiled and waved.

Jacob hid his face for a second and then smiled at her and waved back.

“That’s good, Jacob,” Lauren said, absently.

Isaac and Lucy came in from the back of the house.

“Mom, Isaac said that...”

“I don’t want to hear it, Lucy,” Lauren said. “Mrs. Carew is here and I need you to help me out by taking Jacob or Emma.”

“I’ll take Emma,” Isaac said quickly and took her out of Lauren’s arms and was gone before Lucy could choose.

“That leaves you with Jacob.”

“But Mom!” Lucy whined.

“Just for a few minutes. I need to talk to Mrs. Carew. I need you to help me, okay?”

Lucy gave a long-suffering sigh, and then, she looked at Jacob.

“Jacob, want to help me make a tower? I’ll let you knock it down after!”

Jacob giggled and ran off, Lucy close behind.

Lauren sighed and then smiled. “I told Cameron that we’re not having any more at least until Emma is two. Before now, we’ve just taken them as they came, but Jacob and Emma are far too close in age. Lucy and Isaac are twins, and we couldn’t help that, but even the twins were easier than my two little munchkins. I’m not doing that again.”

“You’d have more?” Tamara asked. “You already have four.”

“I know, but I have the feeling that there’s another little one waiting for us. ...but he or she will have to wait for another year,” Lauren said and grinned.

“I only had two, and that was enough.”

There was a loud crash from the back of the house.

“It’s just the blocks, Mom!” came Lucy’s voice. “Nothing broke!”

“Good!” Lauren called. “I never thought I’d be a mom like this, but I have to say that I love it. It gets overwhelming sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Now, your mail. It’s in the study. Come on in.”

Tamara followed Lauren into the small study and saw the small stack.

“Not too much considering you were gone for a month. How was it? Was it what you needed?”

“Yes. It was a start. Things went pretty well.”

“Good. I’m glad. I’m not going to ask about any details. That’s personal stuff, but I did want to tell you something.”

“What?”

“After you and Levi left, I saw a man at your door. He said he knew you, but he was just an acquaintance. He asked where you were and then, he showed me his ID so that I knew who he was. His name was Jethro Gibbs.”

Tamara wondered which organization was trying to get at Carew now. Still, she tried to simply look curious.

“I don’t know the name, but Levi has worked with a lot of different people over the years. It could be that. Did he say what he wanted?”

“No. He said he was just dropping by. He was from... Oh, what was it... NCIS, I think.”

The same agency as Tim McGee had been from. Tamara wondered if it was about that. She’d definitely have to bring it up.

“Well, I don’t know him, but I’ll ask Levi. Thanks for telling me. Jethro Gibbs?”

“Yes. That’s the name. I’ve watched, but he hasn’t been back since. I was worried that I’d been telling him about you and he was some kind of con man or something.”

Tamara forced herself to laugh. If only that was the worst it could be.

“I doubt he was, but I appreciate knowing about it, and thank you for the mail. I won’t keep you from your day.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble. Do you and Levi have something for dinner?”

“We’ll probably order out for something tonight.”

“If I had known when you were coming back, I would have made you a casserole or something...although my kids have told me that my casseroles should be considered abusive.”

Tamara laughed. “Don’t worry about it. I wouldn’t expect you to cook for us. We’re more than capable.”

“Oh, I know that, but when you get back from a long time away, all you’ll have on hand are the non-perishable things and they don’t usually make for a good meal.”

“We’ll be fine, but thank you for the offer.”

“Anytime! And I really do mean that. I have kids, but I also have a husband who can watch them and parents who love spoiling them rotten. So if you need anything, please, ask.”

“I will.”

Tamara took her mail and Lauren walked with her to the door. Actually, Tamara was impressed with Lauren’s restraint. She clearly wanted to know something about whatever was going on with her neighbors, but she was deliberately not asking about it. If it weren’t for the fact that getting into one thing meant getting into everything, it would be tempting to share with her. But for now, that wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, Tamara waved and walked back to the house. She sat down at the table in the kitchen and started looking through. Mostly ads, a couple of bills.

“Anything interesting?” Carew asked as he walked in.

“No,” Tamara said, “but Lauren said that there was someone who came by while we were gone. He was looking for you.”

“No big surprise there.”

“His name is Jethro Gibbs.”

Carew smiled, and it was the smile that revealed nothing. Amazingly, Tamara felt she was getting better at reading his expressions. At least, she knew when he was being genuine and when he wasn’t. In this case, whatever he thought of Gibbs, personally, he wasn’t going to tell her unless she asked him directly.

“You know him?”

“Yes, although he regrets it.”

He sounded almost pleased.

“Is there anyone who doesn’t hate you, Levi?”

“Not very many, I will admit. I wasn’t trying to make friends in the CIA, but I don’t think Roy hates me, if that makes you feel any better. ...does it?”

“Not really. Who is Jethro Gibbs?”

“Agent Gibbs is Agent McGee’s team lead. I’m sure he was here to find out where Agent McGee is.”

“Will you tell him?”

“Of course. Agent McGee assumed that Agent Gibbs would ask and said that I could answer. When he comes again, of course.”

“Will he?”

“Yes. Agent Gibbs is not one who gives up. He and his team are fascinating people and relatively easy to use when the need arises.”

“Arose. Past tense, Levi,” Tamara said. “You don’t need to use anybody, now.”

“True enough.” The smile this time was slightly more real. “Old habits die hard.”

“Do you want them to?”

“Some of them, yes. Some of them, no. I don’t mind not needing to use people. But I will say that it’s nice to have the option should the need arise.”

“What about these NCIS people? Do you want to use them?”

“Not anymore. The only things I needed them for have already been done. Agent McGee did what I needed him to do, and I have no interest in using him again.”

“Good.”

Suddenly, Carew got a speculative look on his face.

“What?” Tamara asked.

“I wonder what would happen if I actually asked for help with something. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that.”

Tamara smiled, feeling genuinely amused at his thought.

“It might be an interesting experiment.”

“Yes, but not unless I needed it.”

The speculative look faded.

“I’ll be having my meeting with Dr. Hicks in the morning.”

“Why are you still going to him? I thought it was only a requirement because you were the head of the CIA.”

“It was. Now, because I feel that it’s important, and there’s no one else I would trust to talk to.”

Tamara nodded and then, they both focused on unpacking and getting back into the swing of being a part of society again.

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

“This is ridiculous!” Tony burst out as he read the information Jenny had given them on the FBI’s accusations. “What idiot is going to believe that the guy who saved everyone is the one who was responsible for it?”

“There are many ways to spin that time,” Ziva said. “And we all know it. Tim’s involvement was not well-known. In fact, beyond those who were directly involved and the agency directors, no one has known how important his role was.”

“It doesn’t matter!” Tony said, angrily. “This is stupid. The suggestion that Tim’s efforts to evade the FBI show his complicity. The bombs that went off in Crystal City were done when he was conveniently on site. His disappearance just a few days before. It’s all circumstantial.”

“But how do we prove it?” Ducky asked, leaning forward. “Timothy’s involvement is a secret. His time spent elsewhere is a secret. Not even we know just what he was doing.”

“There’s got to be a way, though,” Tony insisted. “We can’t just accept it.”

“No one is saying that we are,” Ducky said, soothingly. “But it is important to acknowledge the inherent difficulties. Timothy has been required to do things that we don’t know about, things that we can’t know about. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done things of which even Director Jorgenson is unaware. So proving that his actions are those of an innocent man to people who don’t know him could be difficult.”

“So what do we do, then?” Abby asked. “Tim has talked to me a couple of times but I haven’t managed to track down how he’s doing it. He’s covering his trail really well.”

“Shouldn’t we make a record of what we do know?” Jimmy asked.

Everyone looked at him.

“Well, think about it. We’re worrying that we don’t know enough. Maybe we don’t. I’m sure I don’t, but instead of worrying about what we don’t have, we should make a record of what we do. Maybe it will turn out to be enough.”

“Excellent idea, Dr. Palmer,” Ducky said with a smile. “In fact, I think we each should write down what we feel is safe and beneficial to share about each stage of the last ten years. That would be...” Ducky paused while he thought about it. “...that would be five different events about which we have some knowledge. If there was anything else, Timothy has not told us and we can’t hope to do anything about that.”

Ziva got a speculative look on her face.

“What?” Gibbs asked.

“You will all think I am crazy. Perhaps I am, but what if we were to ask Carew to vouch for Tim’s actions? He was involved in most of them.”

“What?! Give him more control over us? Not a chance,” Tony said, instantly.

“No! We would not promise him anything. What would that gain him, now, anyway? He is no longer part of the CIA. He seems to have disappeared from the federal agencies completely.”

“If he was willing to do it, he’d do it without making a deal,” Gibbs said.

“Yes!” Ziva said, sounding relieved that someone agreed with her. “He may not be willing, and if he is not, I do not think we should even try to change his mind.”

“Yes, that would likely require a deal,” Ducky said.

Gibbs’ phone rang as they continued to talk. He turned away and answered it.

“But Carew isn’t even here right now,” Abby said. “What good does it do us to try asking him when we can’t ask him at all?”

Gibbs hung up and turned around.

“He’s back,” Gibbs said.

“What? How do you know?” Tony asked.

“Dr. Hicks told me. I’ll see him tomorrow.”

“Do you really think we should get him involved?” Tony asked, clearly wanting the answer to be no.

“He’s already involved, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said. “Tim went to him for help.”

Tony deflated.

“I was hoping that this one time we could keep away from him.”

“Blame Tim,” Gibbs said, tersely. “Ducky’s idea is good. Be careful what you include.”

“How long should we take, Agent Gibbs?” Jimmy asked. “Mine won’t take long because I wasn’t involved in very much, but you guys have been part of most of it and it’ll take a lot longer. We don’t have all the time in the world for this, do we?”

“Tomorrow night,” Gibbs said. “For now, go home. Get some sleep.”

Everyone nodded and started to walk out, but Jimmy lingered. Gibbs was surprised by it. Jimmy didn’t tend to seek him out for conversations. After everyone was gone, Gibbs looked at Jimmy with a raised eyebrow.

Jimmy looked awkward.

“What is it, Palmer?”

“Agent Gibbs...what if he never comes back?”

The eyebrow went up further.

“Why should he?” Jimmy asked. “Look at what keeps happening to him. Even if he wants to be with friends and family, is it really worth it? How many times can they come after him before he does what they’re saying he’s already done?”

“You’re saying that McGee is a traitor, Palmer?”

“No,” Jimmy said, amazingly with no trace of nerves. He was very earnest, and that kept Gibbs from being mad at him.

“What are you asking, then?”

“I’m saying that if the wrong people knew about what McGee has been going through, they could use that. He wouldn’t have to betray anything, but he could end up leaving and working for someone else, just to escape being attacked over and over again for things that aren’t really important. We’re trying to help him come back here, but wherever he is, maybe he’ll want to stay there, and if he does, will we try to get him back anyway? Should we?”

Gibbs thought about it. It was clear that Jimmy had been thinking about it and really wanted an answer. The problem was that Gibbs wasn’t sure there was an answer. Not right now. There was no question that Tim had been through the wringer, but he’d always wanted to be back. He just wanted the freedom to live his life. But the question was if he ever really could.

Right now, though, only one thing mattered.

“We can’t worry about that yet. Whether he’s here or not, we have to get rid of these charges. One thing at a time.”

Jimmy was quiet for a few seconds and then he nodded.

“I didn’t want to ask while everyone was here because I didn’t want them to think I was questioning whether or not Tim is guilty. I know he’s not, but even the most patriotic person can be turned bitter by this kind of thing happening.”

“One thing at a time,” Gibbs said again.

“Okay.”

Jimmy took a breath and left the basement. Gibbs watched him go, surprised that Jimmy was the one to bring this up. Maybe the rest of them were just trying to ignore the possibility that Tim really would give up on everything that was a part of his life here. And if Gibbs was honest with himself, it wouldn’t even necessarily mean that they’d never see him again. People traveled all the time. It was just that this was not how it was supposed to end, so he didn’t want it to end like that.

Again, as it had a number of times already, Gibbs thought about how important it was that he apologize for starting Tim on this road he couldn’t get away from.

But for now, it was time to sleep.

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 Post subject: Chapter 27
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 10:59 am 
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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 27

It was early morning for Tim, which meant it would be very late at night for Abby. But Abby would probably also still be awake. Tim felt he could risk it. He went to his private backdoor access to the NSA, the one that they knew about but generally ignored. Then, he used one of the programs to hack into Abby’s phone. He inserted an alarm that would get her attention. He smiled to himself and called it the Geek Alarm. When it went off, he tapped out a reminder to get on Anonymousse and look for PoirotTEG. He didn’t like using the same method, but this app was the best he’d found as far as true anonymity was concerned. When he was done, he withdrew from her phone, from the NSA and settled down to wait.

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

It had been a long day for Ellie Bishop. She had been searching through the NSA files for hours, looking for that one bit of information that would crack her case. Now, she was just about to give up and shut down for the night when she saw something that wasn’t quite right. It looked like someone was accessing one of the experimental programs and actually running it. Quickly, she jumped into that section and started to look for any sign of the intruder. Strangely enough, though, there was no sign. It was as if no one was there, nor had ever been there. But she was sure that someone had been in the system.

Quickly, she called her supervisor, Cory Jennings, over.

“Ellie, you should be home. I’d be home if I could be,” Cory grumbled. “What is it?”

“Look at this,” Ellie said, urgently. “Someone was in the system. Someone was in one of the experimental programs. When I tried to track him down, he was gone, but he was definitely there.”

Cory’s brow furrowed.

“Show me.”

Ellie brought up the record where she had noticed the intruder.

“Delete that, Ellie. Right now.”

“But...”

Cory leaned over her and did it himself. The record of the intruder vanished.

“Hey!”

“Forget you saw that.”

“I know that I don’t know everything that’s going on here, Cory, but what was that?” Ellie asked.

“Need to know, and there are very few people who do. You’re not one of them. Forget you saw that. More importantly, whether you forget it or not, don’t tell anyone that you saw it. You have no idea how dangerous that could be.”

“For who?”

Cory raised an eyebrow at her.

“Everyone, Ellie.”

Then, he walked away.

Ellie looked at Cory and then looked back at her computer. There was no way she’d forget this, but she knew how to keep her mouth shut. Which was more than other people could say, even people who worked at the NSA.

But maybe she could figure something more out.

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

Abby was sitting, fretting. Now that they knew how bad this could be, she was afraid that there was no way she’d be able to do what needed to be done, and she still hadn’t been able to find Tim.

Suddenly, her phone alarm went off. She pulled it out and looked at it in surprise.

“Geek alarm?”

Then, the reminder came up and she smiled. She quickly got into Anonymousse and looked for PoirotTEG. She found him and tapped the image’s shoulder. Instantly, she was in the private chat.

How did you do that, Tim?

Let’s not get into that.


Abby smiled. That was what Tim always said when she asked about something he couldn’t discuss.

We got the details of the accusations.

Where is the focus?

Mostly on the stuff from about five years ago.

The bombing in Alexandria.

Yeah.

I was afraid of that. Anything else?

Also, the last time.

Yeah. Of course. I wonder how much Jorgenson even knows about it. Officially, even unofficially, nothing happened.

Tim, we’re all going to write up what we know, but do you have any ideas?

Maybe. If what I hope actually can happen, you probably won’t know about it.

What do you mean?

I mean that the people who can vouch for me about what happened in Alexandria don’t exactly operate in the open and the only way they’ll contact anyone is if it’s secure enough to do it. They won’t contact any of you.

Who will they contact?

Can’t tell you that...and they may not be able to do it anyway.

But if they can help, why couldn’t they?

Can’t tell you that, either. What are they saying about me?

That it’s very convenient that you were on site when the bombs went off, that your attempts to hide from the rest of the federal agencies is evidence that you were not exactly kosher, that you were able to supposedly track them down very easily.


Abby hesitated. She knew that Tim would be at least as upset as the rest of them, probably moreso. She didn’t like to tell him all these things without ranting.

And the time you disappeared last year without any warning and without any connection to any federal agency is an indication that you are out of control and liable to be a danger to the country if you’re not

Abby stopped.

Not what?

Abby didn’t want to type the word she’d been going to type. She knew how Tim felt about this stuff. Not because he said it so much as it showed in his eyes and she hated that look in his eyes. She did everything she could to keep it from settling there. She wouldn’t be able to see it this time, but she knew it would be there.

Not what, Abbs?

Not...controlled.


There was a long pause.

Tim? Are you still there?

Well, he’s certainly doing his best to be right.

What do you mean?

He’s pushing me hard enough that I’m tempted to go out of control. I won’t, but it sure is tempting.

We’re going to stop him, Tim!
If the people you know can’t help, we will. Somehow, we’ll do it. I know we can
.

Another long pause.

Abby...thanks. Please, tell everyone else, too. Thanks for everything you’re doing. When I ran, it wasn’t because I didn’t trust you. It was because I was too afraid to wait. I always trusted you to do what you’re doing. Thank you.

Tim, we love you and we want you to come back when you can.

Thanks. I know it’s really late over there for you, and I need to see if I can get in contact with the people I know. Have you talked to Carew yet?

No, but Gibbs is going to, tomorrow. He just got back from wherever he was.

Okay. Just remember that you can’t just come running to where I am when you know. I don’t want anyone tracing me, and you can bet that they’re watching you guys to some degree. Let’s not tempt fate.

I know, but as soon as it’s safe, we’ll be dragging you back home.

Thanks
.

Then, Abby was back in the space full of turned backs. This time, she didn’t bother to search for Tim’s name. He was clearly not going to be using the same one every time and when he was gone, he was gone.

She sat back and stared at the screen. Then, she smiled a little. She knew that Tim wasn’t happy about all this, but she felt better just knowing that Tim was safe, that he could take the time they all needed to get him safe, and that he was grateful to them.

That much decided, she went to bed.

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

Tim grimaced. He had known what most of it would be about, but it still stung to have accusations of the one thing he’d never dreamed of doing. He sat at his computer for a few minutes without moving. Then, he took a breath and set up the link to Lawrence that he’d been given before.

There was no one to reply right away. Tim wasn’t surprised. He would have been more surprised if they’d been right there. Instead, he left the ping on and waited.

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

“Lawrence.”

Lawrence looked up from his computer. Amin raised an eyebrow.

“Tim pinged us.”

“He still on?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Amin nodded and walked away.

Lawrence sighed. Xandra had found the details of the charges and they’d all been angry that this great thing they’d done was being used to attack Tim. Even Xandra hated it, and her feelings toward Tim were lukewarm, at best.

The problem was that they definitely could help Tim by vouching for his work. Did they really have the right to do nothing when they could do something, whether or not it was enough on its own? But there was so much risk involved in taking a stand here. Yes, the President could simply tell Jorgenson to back off, but would that actually be enough? And if this was about power, Jorgenson might not be above trying to probe into the people who had got Tim off.

...but then, there was Amin. For whatever reason, Amin cared deeply about this. In fact, Lawrence was still surprised by what Amin was willing to do. If it came right down to it, Lawrence thought that Amin would be willing to walk away from all of this if it would help Tim.

But at the end of the day, this part was his call. No one else could make this decision. Lawrence knew he was in charge and the buck stopped with him.

“Lawrence?” Sam asked, leaning in.

Lawrence suppressed a smile and silently cursed Tim for ever saying Sama and Samu. He hadn’t been able to forget it ever since.

“Yeah, I’m coming, Sam.”

He stood up and walked out of his little office and into the main room. Amin was already at the computer they’d set up to talk to Tim. Sam was already there. Xandra was at her station. Lawrence sat down and pinged Tim back. There was a delay of a couple of minutes and then Tim appeared on the screen, still pixelated, but there. The picture quality wasn’t high enough to really read his expression, but Lawrence could imagine.

“Hey, Tim.”

“Hey, Lawrence. Amin, Sam,” Tim said. He smiled. “Quite a crew. So how much do you already know?”

“Probably more than you, Tim,” Sam said. He grinned. “We’ve got great sources.”

“I usually do, but I’m really feeling pretty isolated from everything over there.”

“So where are you?”

“I’m going to take a page from your book and not say. Actually, I’m surprised you haven’t tracked me down.”

“We’re not trying,” Lawrence said.

“Thanks. So...since you know so much, you know why I’m calling.”

“Yeah, we do.”

“And?”

That one word had a wealth of questions in it.

Lawrence knew that Tim wouldn’t protest if he said no. As he had told Amin, Tim would agree with him if he said that it would be too much of a risk if they said anything about it. But he also knew that Tim would be devastated, not because there was no hope without their help, but because people he had allowed himself to trust to some degree were rejecting his one request for aid. Tim had never asked for help for himself, only for others, and Lawrence knew that Tim would be hurt by the rejection. ...and he’d never say a word against it.

“We’ll do what we can. I don’t know if it will be enough,” Lawrence said, finally.

There was a long pause and the picture pixelated again. Then, Tim was back.

“Did you just say what I think you just said?” Tim asked.

Lawrence chuckled. “Yes...at least, I assume so.”

“It’s a big risk,” he said.

“It’s worth the risk. We’ll be careful.”

“Thank you. Really. I knew this was a long shot when I asked. I wasn’t even sure if I should. But as far as support in this thing, you’re the only ones who can say anything about what I was doing.”

“What about Carew?”

“What about him?”

“This wasn’t the only thing they’re using,” Lawrence pointed out.

Tim nodded.

“What do you know?”

Lawrence smiled at Tim’s caution, and he approved of it.

“Only that he was involved two years ago.”

“That’s as much as I can tell. It’s not my place to say anything more. I know that he’ll say something if he thinks it will help, but if he doesn’t, he won’t.”

“Sounds like him. Well, we’ll do our part as well as we can.”

“Thank you.”

“Now, we’d better get off.”

“That’s fine. I won’t try to contact you again. I’ll know if it worked.”

Tim smiled once more and leaned over to end the conversation. The screen went black.

“We’re really going to do this, Lawrence?” Sam asked. “I’m not opposed, you understand. It’s just that...”

“...that our number one priority is supposed to be anonymity,” Lawrence said. “I know. But we can’t knowingly turn our backs when we can do something. It’s a risk, but it’s one we have to take.”

“Okay. You’re the boss. Through the President, I assume?”

“Yeah.”

“Then, it’s all on you,” Sam said, grinning, although his eyes remained serious. “None of us get to rub shoulders with the high mucky-mucks.”

“Yes, and I love it so much,” Lawrence said, in a monotone.

“Well, I’ll let you get to it. This isn’t the kind of thing that can sit. You need us for any details, just say the word.”

“Will do.”

Sam walked over to see what Xandra was working on.

“Amin, come with me,” Lawrence said.

Amin nodded. He hadn’t said much this time, but he hadn’t needed to.

They walked back to Lawrence’s office.

“How do you like having a room to yourself?” Amin asked.

Lawrence made a show of looking around and then shrugged.

“I didn’t need it, but it’s useful sometimes. Now, what I do need is to know why it is that Tim means so much to you. I’ve seen you be the epitome of stoicism in the face of a lot of awful things, a lot of people dying and worse. What is it about Tim that’s different?”

Amin sat down.

“I never told you about the conversation I had with him back when he was working with us at our home base.”

“I didn’t know he talked to anyone enough to have a conversation.”

Amin smiled. “It was only the one time. He... told me what his life was like, and honestly, Lawrence, I had never seen a person so broken as he was when he finally dropped the mask he was wearing and let me see it. Back then, the way he saw his life was as one terrible moment after the other until he died. He didn’t see any possibility of things getting better, and the worst part was that he was terrified of himself, of being pushed over the edge to a place he couldn’t come back from. Seeing him now, knowing that he’s recovered from that... I can’t let him get pushed back there again. He said that I couldn’t understand, and he was right, but the more I thought about it, the worse it was. Then, remember how he sounded when he called us?”

“Yeah,” Lawrence said. It wasn’t the kind of thing one forgot in a hurry. It was something that couldn’t be described in words, but they had all heard it in his voice.

“He was on the edge. If his team had been dead, I think he would have fallen over that edge and never got out again. The fact that he has... I’ll do whatever I can to keep him as far away from that edge as I can.” Amin sighed. “There’s always that person who manages to break through the walls you build to keep going.”

“Yeah,” Lawrence said. Everyone experienced it sooner or later. You thought you’d experienced everything you could possibly experience until, one day, something (or rather someone) made you see it all from the human, illogical and emotional perspective.

“Tim is the person who broke through my walls. I always thought it would be someone I saw during an op, someone I killed, someone I couldn’t save. I never thought it’d be the guy brought in to work with us.”

Lawrence smiled.

“Well, you’re getting your way.”

“Only because you agree. If you didn’t, you’d be willing to cut me loose.”

“Yeah, but it’d have to be pretty bad. I don’t want to go through finding a new brain guy.”

“Brain guy?”

“Well, you’re not quite a shrink. You’re not quite a genius. You’re not quite anything...and that’s what makes you so important to have around.”

Amin laughed. “Thank you. It’s nice to know that I’m not anything.”

“You’re welcome. Now, get out of here while I figure out how to phrase this so it won’t sound wrong.”

“Sure.”

Amin got up and walked out. Lawrence sighed. He didn’t want to do this, but he knew that he needed to. He brought up a word processor and started to write.

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 Post subject: Chapter 28
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:04 am 
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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 28

Gibbs pulled up at the Carew home, surprised anew at how normal the house looked. It just wasn’t the kind of home one would expect the former director of the CIA to live in. He got out and walked to the front door. It was fairly early to be visiting someone, but Gibbs had no doubt that Carew would be awake. He knocked and waited.

The door opened after a few seconds, and a woman with a wary expression on her face was standing there.

“Yes? Can I help you?”

“Hello, ma’am,” Gibbs said, politely. “I’m Agent Gibbs, with NCIS. I’m here to speak with Levi Carew, if he’s available.”

The wary expression faded, which surprised Gibbs a little. It wasn’t completely gone, by any means, but it seemed that she had heard of him.

“You were here, before.”

“Yes, ma’am. I was told that you were gone on vacation.”

She nodded. “Does Levi know you’re coming?”

Gibbs smiled slightly.

“I’m sure he does, but I didn’t tell him I was coming.”

The woman smiled in return. It was a slightly weary smile which told Gibbs a lot about who this woman was and how well she knew Carew. She stood aside to let him in.

“Wait here, please.”

Gibbs nodded and stood in the small foyer, waiting to be admitted. Even though he felt little sympathy for Carew and anything he might be wanting to do with his life now, he did regret that this woman was involved in it. The neighbor he’d spoken to had indicated that there was some struggle they were dealing with and he didn’t want to add to it...for the woman’s sake.

“Agent Gibbs, I’m surprised you waited for me to get here. I thought you might have miraculously figured out where I was and beat down my door for information weeks ago.”

Gibbs turned and saw Carew standing in the hallway, with the same unreadable expression on his face, although Gibbs thought he might detect a bit of genuine amusement.

“It wasn’t urgent,” he said.

Carew raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, really? I was under the impression that it was always urgent, especially when I’m involved.”

“You’re not the problem. This time,” Gibbs said.

The smile became more amused.

“That must have been difficult to admit,” Carew said.

He led Gibbs down the hall to a small family room. The woman was nowhere to be seen. Carew gestured for Gibbs to sit.

“Well, what do you want?”

“Where’s McGee? He said that you would know where he was.”

Carew nodded. “I do. He asked for my help getting away from the FBI and I gave it.”

“Where is he?”

“Morocco. Anything else?”

Gibbs was more than surprised. He was shocked. Tim had never expressed any interest in returning to that part of the world and, in fact, had seemed more than a little leery about repeating a visit to the region where he’d had so many difficulties.

“Why?”

“Because I suggested it as a safe place to hide...as far as these things go. No place is perfect, but Morocco does not have an extradition agreement with the U.S. and it happens to be a place that no one would assume he’d go.”

Again, Gibbs was surprised, both that Carew had simply told him without any prevaricating and that he had given Tim a suggestion that Tim had accepted.

Carew raised an eyebrow again.

“Well, Agent Gibbs? Is that everything? Given that this isn’t over, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go get him yet, but when the time comes, I can provide the same transportation I gave to Agent McGee. That means a plane that can avoid many of the hassles of regular air travel.”

“Why?” Gibbs asked.

“Why what?”

“Why offer transportation to us?”

“Are you suggesting that you don’t need it?”

“Why do it?”

“Because it’s needed,” Carew said, simply. “I realize that you have no desire to ascribe a positive attribute to me, but I have no reason to be doing this. No games, no political deals. I have no job and no intentions of getting one. Therefore, there’s no reason to be difficult. What you people seem to have trouble understanding is how to let go.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow of his own.

“Some of us don’t think letting go is a good idea.”

Carew laughed humorlessly.

“Yes, I know. Especially Agent DiNozzo. You do like to hold onto grudges and you act like that’s a virtue, when in reality it’s a weakness.”

There was actually a little bit of emotion in Carew’s voice, something that Gibbs wasn’t sure he’d ever heard. He couldn’t even identify what emotion it was.

“Do you think I’ve never had people who did things I hated or resented? I have. Probably more than you ever will in a lifetime. Would it have done me any good to hold onto that grudge and parade it about like some kind of crown? Because I haven’t, I have a lot of people who owe me favors. If I was to hold grudges, I wouldn’t be able to help Agent McGee get out of the FBI’s clutches. And should you need help, my ability to let go has made it possible to offer that same help to you. No, Agent Gibbs, holding grudges only hurts the person holding the grudge. It does nothing to the person who is hated. I don’t care if you hate me, Agent Gibbs. You would not be the first.” Then, a strange smile crossed his face as he looked over Gibbs’ head. “Tamara was first.”

Gibbs turned and saw the woman who had answered the door. She returned Carew’s smile and then withdrew from sight.

“Your wife?”

“Ex-wife,” Carew said. “Agent Gibbs, is there anything else that you need?”

The calm, almost bored tone was back.

“Yes. Can you vouch for Tim’s actions two years ago?”

Carew’s brow furrowed and he looked genuinely surprised.

“Vouch for his actions? In what respect?”

“His disappearance two years ago is part of what’s being used in the charges against him.”

“Really. How?” Carew asked, his voice getting hard.

Gibbs didn’t know what was causing this change, but Carew didn’t seem very happy about what he was hearing and that was something Gibbs was happy to exploit.

“There’s nothing specific in what we have, but he was connected to some event that happened at the same time. They know he was out of contact.”

“And you’re asking me to reveal what we were doing in order to clear him.”

“Yes.”

“Impossible, Agent Gibbs. There’s a reason why I did what I did in the manner I chose. I will not ruin that upon request. It’s too important.”

“It’s your fault that Tim is in this position.”

“Only in part, but even so, I cannot and will not destroy what we did by revealing it to anyone. The only people who know about it are the people who were directly involved. It has to stay that way. You, of all people, should recognize that there times when keeping a secret is necessary.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. For some reason, Carew was being completely open. He was sincere in his refusal and Gibbs could see that there was no way to change his mind.

“Will you do anything?”

“More than I’ve done already?”

“Yes.”

Carew leaned back and thought about it. Gibbs waited, knowing that Carew wouldn’t allow himself to be manipulated, even now. He took a moment to consider the man in front of him. What had Carew been like before all this that his ex-wife was back with him, apparently trying to make another go of it? What was the “real” Carew like? Because unless Carew had manipulated her himself, she was here of her own accord.

“I only have as much influence as people think I have now, Agent Gibbs. Luckily for you, that still means I have quite a bit, although it’s lessening by the day, thank goodness. Like Agent McGee, I’m only as important as people think I am, and to some degree, I think I may be able to mitigate the part of the charges that deal with two years ago. I’ll make arrangements to speak to Roy about it.”

Gibbs wanted to ask Carew if he was really capitulating so easily, but he didn’t. Not even when Carew’s black eyes almost twinkled with private amusement at this situation. Was it genuine this time? Gibbs wasn’t really sure, but he wasn’t going to play into Carew’s little game. He might claim that he was done with the games, but he was certainly not completely finished with his usual poking at the sleeping bear. The difference between Carew’s poking and someone else’s was that other people poked with a stick. Carew poked with a double-edged sword, ready to stab at any moment.

“Anything else?”

“No.”

“Good. I won’t keep you, then.”

Carew stood up and Gibbs followed suit. They walked to the door and then Gibbs stopped and looked at him. His black eyes were almost featureless. He could just barely discern the difference in color between the iris and the pupil, the barest indication that Carew’s eyes weren’t truly black but a very dark brown.

The eyes widened slightly.

“Yes, Agent Gibbs?”

Gibbs just shook his head and opened the door. He was surprised by seeing someone he hadn’t expected to see ever again.

“Bri,” Carew said, definitely sounding surprised. There was no question that he wasn’t ready for her to be standing on his front steps.

“Agent Gibbs,” Bri said, also sounding surprised. “What are you doing here?”

“He was asking me a few questions. What brings you down here?” Carew asked, his voice back to normal. “I thought you had a job.”

“I needed to talk to you.”

“I do have a phone.”

“You weren’t answering it,” Bri said.

Gibbs watched the back-and-forth with some amusement. While Bri didn’t quite have her father’s bearing, and her eyes were much closer to hazel, her tone of voice was much the same as his.

“True. We only got back yesterday. Are you here to see me or your mother?”

“I need to see you. I want to see her.”

Carew nodded and then looked at Gibbs once more.

“I’ll do what I can, Agent Gibbs. Today, if possible.”

Gibbs nodded and left the two of them standing on the porch, and he couldn’t help but wonder what it was that Bri was doing if no one had known she was coming.

But it had nothing to do with him, so he put it out of his mind and headed for work.

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

“Brianna! I didn’t know you were coming!”

Tamara hurried in from the back and hugged Bri tightly.

“Kind of last minute, Mom,” she said.

“What brings you here, then?”

“I needed to talk to...Dad.”

Tamara released her and looked from her to Carew. Carew knew she had caught the hesitation. Still, she nodded.

“Then, why don’t you get the business over with, first. Are you going to stay for dinner?”

Bri smiled slightly.

“How awkward will it be?” she asked.

“As awkward as you choose to make it,” Tamara said, with a hint of warning.

“Actually, I’m going to have an appointment as soon as I finish speaking with Bri and I’m supposed to be speaking with Dr. Hicks today anyway. This may take all day,” Carew said. “Since you wanted to see your mother, dinner would be best served and the least awkward without me being part of it.”

“Levi...”

“There will be plenty of opportunities for awkward and unpleasant family dinners, Tamara,” Carew said. “No need to cram them all in at once. Now, Bri, you needed to talk to me.”

“Yes.”

“Privately, I assume?”

“Yes.”

“Very well. In the study, please.”

Bri walked into the study, but Tamara caught Carew by the hand.

“Levi, it’s not going to get any better if you keep doing this,” she said in a low voice.

“Tamara, don’t delude yourself,” Carew said, although he kept his voice gentle. “You want something to work out. That means there’s a chance. Brianna does not. Since she has no interest in changing things, nothing you do is going to change it. Nothing I do will change it, either. Only she can, and I don’t think there’s any point in forcing the issue.”

Then, he walked into the study and sat down.

“What is it?” he asked, feeling himself move almost completely into director mode. He was able to keep that tamped down with Tamara most of the time, but Bri had been his subordinate in addition to being his daughter and it was very easy to approach her that way.

Bri straightened just a little. She felt the same thing.

“I’m assuming you sent this message to me through one of your little stooges.”

“I have not attempted to send you any messages. I don’t have stooges any longer or did you miss my retirement?”

“You have plenty of people to do your dirty work,” Bri said. “So you didn’t send it?”

“No. I actually have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Bri pulled out a piece of paper and held it out. Carew took it and read the short note.

Agent Tim McGee is under investigation for treason, based in part on what happened two years ago. You can bear testimony to his role in your rescue.

Carew looked up with a raised eyebrow.

“No identification?”

“No. It was dropped off at the clinic. No one knows who it was.”

“And you just did what it said? Has two years been enough to dilute your sense of self-preservation?”

“Agent McGee saved my life,” Bri said, bluntly. “I have done nothing for him in all the years that I’ve known of him. If giving testimony that he’s not a traitor will help, I should do that. Besides, how many people actually know about what we did out there? It seemed worth the risk.”

“Without revealing what we were doing.”

“Of course. Just because I’ve left the CIA doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what classified means.”

“Of course,” Carew said, smiling slightly.

There was always a little pang he felt when he saw Bri. It reminded him of Quinn and the fact that he’d inadvertently contributed to his death. However, he pushed that to the side. This was more important.

“Who did you tell about the mission?” he asked.

“Only the CIA director,” Bri said, pointedly. “And even at that, it was vague.”

“And the CIA director didn’t file that report,” Carew said.

Then, his mind went back to something Higgins had said during their brief confrontation.

“Ah, and Agent McGee. I’ve heard about you. You’re not at all like what I expected. The way people have talked about you, you would have thought that you were ten feet tall and permanently interfaced with the Internet. After all that talk, you’re just a man like anyone else.”

Tim was fairly well known in certain parts of the covert world, and the dust had been in the air.

“I told you there was more, and you would not believe how much more there is. I mean, it’s about surveillance, of course. That’s always been what it was, but I found something else. You know that what I can give would mean that I’d be taken back, no matter what. All’s forgiven if I share and I’m ready to share.”

“Yes, I know that,” Carew said.

Then, he lifted the gun slightly and pulled the trigger, shooting Higgins in the head. He jerked back and then fell to the floor.

Dead.

The dust swirled around in the room from the disturbances caused by Higgins’ body falling.


“Dad?”

Carew smiled at the awkward use of a word she had steadfastly avoided for years.

“How long are you staying?”

“Long enough to do what I came to do. I have a job.”

“Then, when you get some time today, write up what you’re willing to make a record of and I’ll add it to what I’m going to say.”

“To who?”

“Roy...and perhaps one or two others, if necessary.”

Carew felt a faint stirring of excitement. It had been two years since he had willingly removed himself from politics and he didn’t regret that choice, but this could be more than a little fun. He couldn’t deny that some of what he’d done over the years had been simply for the sport of it, because he’d enjoyed his ability to throw people off balance.

He stood up and started out of the study.

“Dad, you don’t have to leave,” Bri said, almost mumbling.

Carew chuckled.

“Don’t worry, Brianna. I’m not requiring you to show any family feeling toward me. We both know that ship has sailed, even if your mother hasn’t accepted it. Enjoy your time with your mother. She could use something easy herself.”

Carew left the room and headed out to the garage. He got in the car and headed toward Langley. As he drove, he abruptly changed his plans and his trajectory. He smiled to himself. Was it risky? Sure, but he hadn’t taken any risks like this in two years. It would be a pleasure.

He parked his car on the street and walked into a building he hadn’t entered in many years. In fact, he’d taken great pains to stay out of it as much as possible, given his general disdain for some of the people in it. At least one person.

However, he walked to the front desk and confronted a bored security guard.

“Levi Carew to see Director Jorgenson,” he said, abruptly.

The guard straightened.

“Excuse me?”

“Levi Carew to see Director Jorgenson, and I might suggest that you try to stay a little more alert...” He looked at the badge. “...Larry. As boring as this job might be on a day-to-day basis, the people who might want to kill you are hoping for someone who isn’t paying attention. Your job is as important as that of the agents upstairs.”

Carew stifled a smile as Larry’s bearing changed slightly. It might have been the first time he’d been told something like that. Or else, the first time he’d listened when he’d been told that.

“Now, call up and tell Director Jorgenson that I’m here. If he says he’s too busy to see me, I want you to reply with one word.”

“What’s that?”

Carew did smile this time. It was his smile that meant absolutely nothing and tended to make people nervous.

“Mustang,” he said.

Larry was not immune to the smile. He swallowed a little and turned away from Carew to call. Carew waited, knowing that he’d be admitted very quickly, if with extreme reluctance.

Two minutes later, Larry turned back.

“You can go up, Mr. Carew. Do you know the way?”

“Unfortunately, I do. I will take a visitor pass, though.”

“Yes, sir.”

Larry handed him a pass and Carew walked by. He got on the elevator and rode it up to the appropriate floor. Then, he walked to Jorgenson’s office and greeted the assistant with the same smile.

“Levi Carew. Here to see Director Jorgenson.”

“Yes, sir. You can go right in.”

“Thank you.”

Carew walked into Jorgenson’s office and was pleased to see that Jorgenson was no more in control of himself than he had been the last time they’d crossed paths.

“What do you think you’re doing here?” Jorgenson demanded, with no preamble.

“That’s the question you should be asking yourself, Jorgenson,” Carew said, almost pleasantly. “But you never were smart enough to do that. I’m here to tell you that, if you don’t back off what you’re doing, you’re going to bury yourself so deep that you’ll never get out. And I’ll be there with a shovel to help you.”

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 Post subject: Chapter 29
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:06 am 
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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 29

Tamara looked at Bri and felt both joy that she was still alive and frustration at the continued icy relations between her and her father.

“Don’t look at me like that, Mom,” Bri said. “Nothing has changed.”

“Only because you refuse to let it. Your father is trying.”

Bri scoffed a little, but only a little.

“You say that like it matters,” she said.

“It does matter. Your father is trying to become better than he was. That matters.”

“It doesn’t change the past, Mom.”

“I know that, and so does he. The problem is that he thinks there’s no chance and so isn’t going to try. You don’t want to give a chance and so you won’t try. I’m the one sitting here between you, knowing that there is a chance, but I can’t make either of you acknowledge it.”

“He’s never said anything.”

“And he won’t. You know that he won’t, no matter what he feels.”

Bri got that stubborn expression on her face.

“If he’s not willing to show anything, I’m not going to believe he feels it. He’s a grown man and he can decide.”

Tamara sighed. It pained her to see Bri this way when she had been such a daddy’s girl as a child. She had always wanted to be with him, following him around the house, trying to help with his chores, and he had always been very patient with her, giving her time and attention.

...until everything had started to change. As her father had become ever more distant, she had become more and more angry at him.

“I won’t try to make you change your mind, Bri, but please, soften your heart a little. Open it up. Take a chance.”

Bri couldn’t outright say no, but she didn’t look very willing. Tamara set it aside and rubbed Bri’s shoulder.

She would keep hoping.

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

There was a knock on the door. Tim took a deep breath and went down to open it. Zahara was standing there, beautiful as always. He stood aside to let her come in. As he closed the door, she removed the head scarf and smiled at him.

“You said you had something to tell me,” she said.

Tim swallowed and nodded.

“Let’s go up to the roof, if that’s all right,” he said.

He could tell that Zahara wasn’t sure what was going on, but he didn’t want to try and say just a little bit when the whole thing was going to be hard for him to say.

“Of course,” she said.

They walked together up the two flights of stairs. It was mid-afternoon and hot, but the roof had a shaded sectional which made it a little cooler. Zahara sat down on one side, facing him. Tim sat down on the other and looked into her dark brown eyes. Now that the moment was here, he was afraid to say it, but he knew he needed to.

“What is it, Tim?” Zahara asked.

“I have a couple of things I need to tell you, but I’m not sure which one is harder to say.” Tim smiled weakly.

Zahara’s brow furrowed. “You wish to start with the harder one, yes?”

“To be honest, I don’t know.”

Then, Tim thought about the fact that, if she wasn’t as serious about this as he was, then, it would hardly matter about the possible dangers. When he left, it would be the end.

“Actually,” he said, “depending on your reaction to one of them, I may not have to tell the other.” Another deep breath. “Okay, here it is. I never planned on this when I came to Marrakech. Actually, I assumed it would never happen to me, not with the way my life has been. But it has. Everything has changed for me. Everything I thought I knew...about love...” He stopped for a second as Zahara’s eyes widened at the word, but then, he pushed on. “...it’s all been changed since I met you.”

He was afraid of what Zahara might say, so he kept talking in the hopes of getting it all out.

“I feel like...everything that I’ve gone through, those scars you saw, they led me here...where you are. I know. This is all so...melodramatic. I’m not saying that... well, I don’t want you to misunderstand me. This is, I hope, the beginning of something...more.” He paused again and chanced a smile. “Have I scared you off yet?”

Zahara smiled back. “No. Not yet.”

Tim laughed a little. “Okay. I’m not saying that everything will be perfect. In fact, I know won’t be because life isn’t like that, but I just can’t hide how I feel, and how I feel is that I love you, Zahara.”

He stopped again. Zahara said nothing, but her whole attention was fixed on him.

“I don’t know where this will go, and I have to admit that...having that mystery is kind of fun. It’s something I haven’t had in a long time. If this is something you want too... I don’t want you to think that you have to feel something you don’t feel. I just needed to tell you how I feel.”

He took a breath and waited. Zahara was quiet for a few seconds. Then, she smiled again.

“That was the first thing?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“I am ready to hear the second thing,” she said. “Go ahead.”

Tim nodded, although he had hoped for more of a response. Still, she wasn’t running away.

“Okay. So if that didn’t scare you, then, I need you to know that there could be danger in getting involved with me in any substantial way.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that those scars you saw came from the life I’ve led for the last ten years. The last couple haven’t been so bad, but not only have I nearly been killed, people around me have died. I couldn’t give any guarantee that you’d be safe if you were with me.”

“No one can guarantee safety for another, Tim,” Zahara said. “That is life. Look at my father. He died in an accident. My mother died of cancer. Look at how we met. Safety is not a thing that can be guaranteed.”

“It’s true, but in my case, the danger is more real than it is for other people. It would be irresponsible of me not to warn you when I know the possibility is there.”

Zahara nodded, and Tim was afraid this was being taken in the wrong way.

“This isn’t because I don’t want this,” he said quickly. “I told you how I feel. I meant it.”

Again, Zahara was quiet, this time for longer. Tim waited. He had said all he had to say and he would let her think about it for as long as she needed to.

Finally, she stood up and walked over to sit right beside him. She took his hands in her own and stared deeply into his eyes. He was amazed at how vivid they were. She blinked slowly and took a deep breath.

“Tim...I do want this, too. I am not afraid that it could be dangerous. I do not know what will happen next, but I want to find out. With you.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” Zahara said, with a smile. “Yes, really. I do not know if it will work. Everything is so different about us, but if you want to try...I want to try, too.”

Tim felt himself start to smile like an idiot. He didn’t know what else to say. He wasn’t sure it would be appropriate, but he decided to give it a shot.

He leaned in, very slowly, in case Zahara didn’t want it. She leaned forward, too, and they kissed. Then, Zahara pulled back and they sat together on the couch for a little while, just in silence.

“I wasn’t sure that was allowed,” Tim said, softly.

“I am sure that my father would not have approved,” Zahara said, smiling. “I think my mother would not have minded.”

Tim laughed.

“Okay. I’ll go with that.”

Zahara leaned against him. It was the closest they’d been together, physically, since the first time they’d met. After a few minutes of contented silence, Tim found that he had a question he had to ask.

“Zahara?”

“Yes?”

“I’ve seen you sing with the troupe at the club.”

“Yes.”

“Do you sing alone?”

“Yes. Sometimes. Not to perform. It is not done much here.”

“This is going to sound strange, but would you sing, now?”

Zahara looked at him with a surprised expression.

“Why?”

“It would be something to remember when I’m having a bad day.”

“You think you will?”

“Yes,” Tim said and took a deep breath as he thought about all the ways what was happening could go wrong.

Zahara reached out and cupped her hand over his cheek.

“Yes. I will sing for you.”

She sat back and closed her eyes. Then, she started to hum and sway back and forth. For a few seconds, that was all she did, but then she started to sing in Arabic. Tim didn’t understand the words, but there was something mesmerizing about it. She sang, seemingly lost in the tune. Her voice was good, and he enjoyed hearing her. Finally, the song ended and she opened her eyes, looking a little self-conscious.

“That was beautiful,” he said. “What is it?”

“The song is a lullaby. It is called ‘Nami Nami’. Nami means sleep. I do not know if I can translate the words right, but it is a mother telling her child to sleep and look forward to her father’s return from selling lemons and coming with gifts for his daughter.”

Tim smiled. “Interesting choice.”

“It was the first song I thought of. Azam Ali has performed it.”

“I like it. Thank you.”

“You are welcome.”

Then, Zahara had to leave to get ready for her performance that night. Tim walked her down to the door.

“Thank you for listening to me.”

Zahara turned back to him.

“Thank you for being...brave enough to tell me. I would like to ask you a question. If you do not want to, I will understand. There will be no offense.”

Tim furrowed his brow.

“What is it?”

“I have a friend. Her name is Fatima and her husband is Ibrahim. They are older than I and they are almost like my family. They have asked that I invite you to come to dinner at their home.”

“Oh.”

Tim couldn’t think of anything else to say for a moment. It had never crossed his mind to have any interaction with other people, especially not people who were close to Zahara.

Zahara laughed.

“You do not have to.”

“No, it’s not that. I just...never even considered that as a possibility. I have to wrap my mind around it.”

“I have spoken of you to them very often. They just want to know who you are.”

“Um...okay. When?”

“Tomorrow night, if you are willing.”

“Yes...I guess I would. Do they speak English?”

“Yes, they do. They speak French better than English, but they know it well enough.”

“Then, I’ll say yes.”

“Good. I will come here tomorrow and take you there.”

“All right. Do I need to dress up?”

“Do you mean formal?”

“Yes.”

“No. How you have dressed is enough.”

“Okay. Then...I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Zahara smiled. “Do not be nervous.”

“That’s asking a bit much.”

She laughed and then left. Tim closed the door behind her and grimaced. It was like meeting the parents...only worse. Still, he couldn’t begrudge her the chance, especially after what he’d just said to her.

“So I’m going to meet the family. Sort of.”

He laughed to himself and then decided to go back to working on figuring out his life back in the States.

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

Ellie knew that she shouldn’t, but she couldn’t let what she’d seen lie. It was too strange. She cautiously logged in and started to search for the place where she’d seen the intruder.

It just was wrong that she was expected to forget about someone breaking into the NSA. She couldn’t ignore it. She couldn’t forget it. She wouldn’t tell anyone, but she still had to figure out what was going on.

She jumped around in as many places as she could until she saw the signature she had seen before. She stopped and was surprised to see it as an official tag. This was someone who had the authority to be in the NSA system.

“Bishop, what are you doing?”

Ellie turned around quickly.

Caught.

“Nothing, Cory.”

“Too late for that, Ellie. Come on.”

Ellie swallowed nervously and got to her feet. As she did, she watched Cory lean over and delete all her keystrokes. Then, she was led to an office she’d only been in once during her entire time working for the NSA.

The director’s office.

Cory knocked on the door.

“Enter.”

Cory opened the door.

“Agent Jennings, you have Agent Bishop with you?”

“Yes, Director.”

“Good. Agent Bishop, please come in. Agent Jennings, that will be all.”

Ellie looked at Cory who just raised an eyebrow at her and then left her to her fate, whatever it might be.

Ellie walked in and sat down across from the director.

“Agent Bishop.”

“Yes, Director Gellman?”

“You were looking at information you had been told not to. You were probing into something you had specifically been told to forget.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Are you aware that I can fire any employee at will? I don’t even have to have a reason for it.”

“Yes, sir.”

Director Gellman raised an eyebrow.

“Then, tell me why I shouldn’t exercise that option right now.”

“I can’t tell you that, sir. I did disobey instructions given to me by my superior.”

“And why did you do that?”

“Because it made no sense that he wasn’t concerned about someone who could get into the system and erase any evidence of it. That means that someone knows the security so well that...”

“...that he might as well have designed it himself,” Director Gellman said, significantly.

Ellie’s mouth opened and then closed without her saying a word. She swallowed hard as she realized what was meant.

“Agent Bishop, your concern is appreciated, but your interference could be detrimental to us.”

“Why? ...if I can ask that, sir.”

“I can’t tell you that. I can only tell you that the signature you saw is always allowed. And anyone who sees it is instructed to ignore it. The more people who know about it, the more risky it is, and we don’t want that.”

“What if someone were to recreate it, Director?” Ellie asked. “Then, we’d have everyone ignoring a genuine intruder.”

“Not this signature. Nothing is perfect, Agent Bishop, but this is as close to it as it’s possible to be in the world of cyber security.”

Ellie thought about it. Like almost everyone, she’d heard about the new security setup they’d got in the last year or so, and everyone had said that it was all being done by one guy. She’d never believed that...until now.

“So now, I am giving you a chance. Can you keep out of this or will I have to fire you?”

Ellie considered the choice before her. Was curiosity really a good enough reason to get fired? Was she really willing to give up a job she generally enjoyed just to satisfy her curiosity?

“Director, I can’t promise to forget it. I can’t promise to stop thinking about it, but I can promise that I won’t probe.”

Director Gellman’s eyebrows raised.

“I’m being honest,” Ellie said. “Would you believe me if I claimed that I’d forget all about it?”

Director Gellman smiled. “No, I wouldn’t.”

“Then, I might as well be honest about it. I can’t forget, but I can obey orders given to me by a superior and not find out more.”

“Very well. You’ll be watched more closely for the next few weeks, Agent Bishop. One step out of line and you’re fired.”

“Yes, sir. I understand.”

“Good. Get back to work.”

Ellie nodded and stood up. She left the office and breathed a sigh of relief.

“You survived?”

She looked over at Cory and nodded.

“Yes. For now. I step out of line again and I’m out.”

“I told you,” Cory said, seriously.

“Yes, you did. I chose to ignore it.”

They started back to Ellie’s desk and she decided to do just a little verbal probing. No computer search.

“Do you know who it is?” she asked.

Cory shook his head. “No. I just know that, whoever he is, he’s extremely important and has carte blanche in the entire system. There’s nowhere he’s not allowed to go. And I know that he was working on security last year.”

“Really.”

“Yeah. That’s all I know, Ellie. I haven’t tried to find out more and neither should you.”

Ellie questioned that, given how urgent his warning had been before, but she just nodded as if she accepted it and sat down. Cory gave her one more look and then he went back to work.

She accepted that she couldn’t keep looking into it, but it didn’t stop her from thinking about it, and she was going to keep thinking about it.

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 Post subject: Chapter 30
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:10 am 
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Posts: 52863
Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 30

Jorgenson was extremely irritated to have Carew in his office. Carew knew it and he was glad of it. The more he could annoy Jorgenson, the better it was.

“Are you seriously going to threaten me with what happened in the Mustang region?” Jorgenson asked.

“Are you prepared to risk me doing just that?” Carew asked in return. “I have nothing to lose at this point. You still do.”

“How many times are you going to try to use that on me?”

“Until it stops working. You and I both know that its effectiveness lasts for as long as you’re in this office,” Carew said with an unpleasant smile.

“I won’t be in this office forever.”

Carew raised an eyebrow. The slight emphasis on the word this told him that Jorgenson had aspirations. That was interesting.

“Just what is worth bringing up the Mustang again?”

“In your stupidity, you are trying to do something I can’t allow.”

“Allow? You aren’t the director of the CIA anymore, Carew,” Jorgenson said, angrily. “You’re not in a position to allow or disallow anything.”

“Except for the Mustang,” Carew said, pointedly.

“So what is it that you won’t allow?”

“You’re using Tim McGee’s time off the grid two years ago in your pointless attempt to take control of him,” Carew said, baldly.

“He’s been accused of treason. That has nothing to do with me.”

Carew shook his head. “Don’t pretend to be even more stupid that you actually are. We both know the purpose of this. And while I don’t have the clout to stop you outright, I can and will stop you from ruining something in which I have a vested interest. You will not continue to pursue the charges at least with respect to Agent McGee’s actions two years ago. I can state that he was not betraying his country during that time, and a former agent can add to my account, if necessary. This won’t succeed in any case, and I’ll enjoy seeing your political influence crumble to nothing but I will not let you ruin anything I spent time on. Not for your petty desires.”

“And what was that?” Jorgenson asked.

“Please,” Carew said. “Don’t insult me. I would never entrust you with something important. You aren’t trustworthy and we both know it.”

Jorgenson’s eyes narrowed. Carew knew he was getting extremely angry and it was more than a little enjoyable to see how far he could push Jorgenson when there was no reason to hold back. How far would Jorgenson let him go before he lost it?

“Are you ready to deal with Mustang?” Carew asked. “I need an answer right now. I don’t have time to waste on you and your desperate need to think you’re important and influential.”

Jorgenson stood abruptly.

“You have no authority anymore, Carew,” he said, now overtly angry. “I had to take your insults before, but I don’t now. And soon enough, you’ll be wishing you had treated me better.”

Carew raised an eyebrow and stood as well.

“Oh, really?” He smiled the same unsettling smile. “I find that hard to believe. And I don’t care about your posturing. Will you withdraw your claims about Tim McGee’s disappearance two years ago? Yes or no? I don’t want to hear any other word coming out of your mouth other than one or the other.”

He pulled out his phone.

“I can make a call to any newspaper you want. You know how the media feels about secret missions, especially the missions that violate the rules regarding how law enforcement operates.”

“You’d go down with me.”

“Go down where?” Carew asked. “I’m not in the CIA anymore, Jorgenson. I’ve left all that behind, and I don’t care about being in a position of power. You’re the one who cares. Besides, are you really going to try to argue that the legate in Bangladesh condoned what happened in Nepal? Really? Access to that region is already restricted, and your people weren’t exactly there with permission. If you try to argue otherwise, I’ll be happy to straighten anyone out.”

Carew knew that if looks could kill, he’d now be dead. However, Jorgenson would have been dead long ago if that was all it took. He smiled again.

“What’s your choice?”

“Get out of my office,” Jorgenson bit out. “I’ll modify the charges.”

“Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Carew asked, smiling pleasantly.

“Get out of my office. I don’t want to see you here again.”

“I’m happy to leave, but don’t even think of double-crossing me. You’re not smart enough to get away with it.”

Jorgenson nearly shouted. “Get out of here!”

Carew was tempted to make one more push. Jorgenson was on the verge of getting physically violent, and it would be entertaining to see what he’d do. However, he’d got what he wanted and it was time to go and see Roy instead. By the time he got through with doing his part, it would be time to meet with Dr. Hicks.

All in all, he felt he would be having a successful morning.

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

Gibbs hadn’t had a chance to tell anyone about his visit to Carew, but he couldn’t get it out of his mind. Tony and Ziva were helping Lovitz with a case while Abby was doing her best to collate the information they’d all be writing up on Tim’s actions in the last few years. Gibbs couldn’t stop thinking about how Carew had changed. It was strange because, on the surface, he hadn’t. But at the same time, he was infinitely easier to read than he had been two years ago. He was living in the suburbs of DC, sharing his home with his ex-wife and, by all accounts, completely staying out of politics. Gibbs would never have guessed that the CIA director would be so willing to give up on all that.

And yet, he had not only done that, he had also offered aid. He hadn’t tried to get anything out of it. He had simply offered and then, insisted even when Gibbs wanted to reject what he would likely need. And he had been clear about what he would do and what he wouldn’t.

It was strange, unsettling.

Still, it was also nice to know where Tim was and that they’d easily get him back when it was safe. For the first time, Gibbs was thinking that this would actually work out in the best possible way.

“Boss? Lovitz is done with us for now. Is there anything?”

Gibbs looked up at Tony. They needed to know, but he didn’t even want to say it out loud, not here. So he pulled out a piece of paper and wrote Morocco on it. Then, he gave it to Tony who looked at it in silence. He looked up in confusion and then, comprehension dawned on him and he nodded. He passed the note to Ziva who did the same. Then, she ripped it up and threw it away.

Then, before Tony could say anything else, Gibbs’ phone rang.

“Gibbs,” he said, tersely.

“Agent Gibbs, Director Shepard needs to speak to you. Now.”

Gibbs hung up and gestured.

“Something’s up,” he said.

“On your six, Boss,” Tony said.

The three of them hurried up the stairs and were admitted into Jenny’s office.

“What is it?” Gibbs asked.

Jenny’s expression was a bit bemused.

“I just received a message from the FBI. They’ve modified their charges against Agent McGee.”

“Modified them, how?” Tony asked.

“Any mention of what happened two years ago has been removed.”

“What?” Ziva asked. “How is that possible?”

“Carew,” Gibbs said.

“What would he have to do with it?” Jenny asked. “He’s been out of communication for weeks.”

“Got back yesterday. I talked to him this morning.”

“You did? Why would you do that?”

“To find out where McGee is. And to ask if he could help.”

“And he could?”

“He said he’d try. Didn’t ask for anything in return.”

“But why would he be so quick to agree?” Ziva asked. “He has not been so easily swayed in the past.”

“He didn’t seem happy about that being part of the charges. I think he was worried about whatever they did getting exposed by the investigation,” Gibbs said.

“That makes sense,” Tony said, grudgingly. “He’s very efficient, isn’t he.”

“Yes, very,” Jenny said. “I have a meeting with Director Morgan tomorrow morning to discuss what the next step will be. I wonder how much he knows about Carew’s intentions.”

“Who knows?” Ziva said. “Carew has always been careful about who he told what.”

“Careful. That’s one word for it,” Tony muttered.

“For now, I guess we’ll just keep on as we are,” Jenny said, “but at least, that’s one thing that can be ignored, and since none of us knew what was being done, it’s a relief to have it gone. Are you ready to give your reports?”

“By tomorrow,” Gibbs said.

“Good. As soon as they’re ready, I’ll compile everything and we’ll see what impact it has. That’s all for now.”

Gibbs nodded and they left the office.

“Do we have to get Carew’s help?” Tony asked.

“No, but we need it,” Gibbs said.

“Yeah, I know. I just hate that I can’t hate him.”

“You can hate him,” Gibbs said.

“Good. Because I do,” Tony said. “I can’t forgive him for everything else, even if he’s helping now. It doesn’t change the past.”

“Nothing does,” Gibbs said, thinking of what Carew had said earlier. No point in bringing it up now, but it did change the way he thought of what Tony said.

“But we can be glad that he is doing something now,” Ziva said. “That does not require that we stop hating him.”

“Good thing because I’m not going to anytime soon.” He took a breath. “But that’s one less thing to worry about.”

They went back down to the bullpen. Tony and Ziva went back to working on their accounts and Gibbs went back to musing about what was going on.

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

Roy leaned back and shook his head.

“You’ve given me a real mess to deal with, Levi,” he said. “Why is Tim McGee so important?”

“In this case, he’s not. Jorgenson wants what he can take from Agent McGee, not Agent McGee himself. Of course, he’s missing the forest for the trees because of it.”

“What trees?”

Carew leaned forward. “You know that Jorgenson wants your job, right?”

“Dr. Hicks suggested that as a possibility. What makes you so certain?”

“Because I talked to Jorgenson today,” Carew said.

Roy sat up abruptly. “You did what? Why? How did you even get him to let you in? I thought the loathing was mutual.”

“It is mutual, but I have one card I can play with him as long as he’s trying to stay in politics.”

“So why?”

“Because I needed to stop him from doing immediate major damage. I can’t stop everything anymore, but I could stop that much. While I was needling him, he said some things that have convinced me that he wants you out and him in your place.”

“That will only work if he gets Agent McGee convicted.”

“Exactly.”

“Okay. I’ll give you that. But if that’s the trees, what’s the forest?”

“Agent McGee’s greatest value is who he is, not what he can do, although his abilities definitely play into it. If Jorgenson manages to take control of Agent McGee, all his unique value will be gone because he will become exactly what Jorgenson is accusing him of being. The protection you’re giving him is protection for the country. You do not want someone like Tim McGee fighting against you. If he became a traitor, the world would know it and we would live to regret it. There is no worse enemy than the one who began as an idealist. And if Jorgenson gets the CIA, he also gets Tim McGee which means that the country loses. If it weren’t for Agent McGee, this wouldn’t be as dangerous, but I’ve made a study of him and there is nothing to be gained and a lot to be lost if this happens.”

“And here I just thought you liked the guy.”

Carew raised an eyebrow. “If I liked him, I wouldn’t have used him the way I have.”

“Actually, I think you would have. You just put the big picture before the individual. I can respect that outlook, even if I don’t necessarily want to follow it myself.” Roy shook his head again and stared up at the ceiling for a few moments. “So...any suggestions to keep this from happening? I’m already working with NCIS and both Gellman and I have lodged official protests.”

“Really,” Carew said, more than a little surprised. “What bestirred Gellman to get involved? He doesn’t tend to let himself get drawn into these things.”

“Maybe he’s come to the same conclusion about Agent McGee that you have.”

“Perhaps. You’ll get some information on the operation two years ago, mostly just a basic statement that Agent McGee was with us and not committing treason. No details.”

“I didn’t expect details. Who will...” Roy stopped. “Your daughter.”

“She’s the only other person who was there, at least the only other person who can give testimony.”

“When will I get this?”

“Probably tonight.”

“Okay. Anything else while you’re busy ruining my day?”

Carew smiled. “I can’t think of anything at the moment. I’ll let you know if I do.”

“Thanks,” Roy said, sarcastically.

“My pleasure. If that’s all, I’ll let you get back to work.”

“That’s all on my side. I’m meeting with Director Shepard tomorrow. We’ll see what comes of that. What we need is something unexpected to stop this in its tracks. If we could find some way to really stop Jorgenson, humiliate him beyond recovery. That would end this almost permanently.”

“It may still come. These things have to filter through the ranks.”

“I know. I’ll let you know if I find out, first.”

“You do that.”

Carew left the office and then headed out of the building. As he did, he stopped and looked at the CIA motto. He’d always found it strangely appropriate that he’d ended up in a job in which the motto was about the truth.

But he still had his appointment with Dr. Hicks. He didn’t like being late.

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 Post subject: Chapter 31
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:13 am 
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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 31

Gibbs was able to give Jenny everyone’s accounts by the end of the day. She promised to get it all to the right people as soon as she could. Gibbs also asked Fornell to see if he could find out anything about Carew showing up at the FBI. Abby tried, unsuccessfully, to find Tim online again. There was nothing to give her a clue, not even knowing that he was in Morocco. Tim was too experienced. It was another flurry of activity and then a return to the waiting and hoping.

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

“I’m more nervous about this than I was about asking her out the first time,” Tim said.

Daniel laughed. “Don’t be nervous, but you should be prepared for a long evening.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that you’ll probably be treated to a traditional Moroccan dinner and that’s no simple meal. It’s hours long, multiple main courses, plus side dishes and desserts. You’re not getting away hungry or quickly. Resign yourself to both and you’ll be better off.”

“Anything else?”

“Do everything with your right hand,” Daniel said.

“Wait. What? But I’m left-handed.”

“Doesn’t matter. The left hand is considered impure. So when you greet them, do it with your right hand. If you don’t think you can eat easily with your right, then, it’s okay to do it with your left, but if you can, you should use your right. Don’t start eating until your host begins to eat.”

“Which is the host? The husband or the wife?”

“Ladies are not first. The husband is the host. They’ll probably ask you to eat more than you can. It’s a sign of respect, and so just keep politely saying no and they’ll let you stop eating eventually.”

“This is getting more complicated by the second.”

“It’s an honor to be invited. They’ll probably have gone all out for this.”

“You’re not making me feel any better,” Tim said.

“Hey, if she wasn’t serious about you, she wouldn’t be asking you to do this. Clearly, Zahara likes you as much as you like her.”

“She didn’t say that, you know,” Tim said. “I said it, but she didn’t.”

“That could just be natural caution on her part. She’s showing you that she cares. If she didn’t care about you, she’d hardly be inviting you to meet the closest to family she has here.”

“Yeah. I know. I’m...just nervous about what they’ll ask and how I’ll answer.” Tim sighed and sat down. “I don’t know all the answers yet, Daniel! This is not something I had planned on, but it happened anyway and...and don’t get me wrong. I’m happy about it, but...it wasn’t...”

Daniel patted him melodramatically on the arm. “And since it did, you might as well let yourself enjoy it instead of freaking out about every bit of it. Relax!”

Tim took a deep breath and nodded.

“Right. Relax. I guess it’s too late to back out now?”

“Very much so. That would be extremely rude.”

“I figured.”

There was a knock at the door.

“That must be Zahara,” Tim said.

He got up and hurried to the door. He opened it and Zahara was there. She wasn’t dressed too fancy, thankfully.

“Come in,” he said.

“Are we not going out?” she asked, with a smile.

Tim laughed a little. “Yeah, but I need to grab a couple of things, first. Daniel’s here. It’ll just take me a second.”

“All right.”

Tim ran up the stairs to his room to grab his passport and some money. He had not yet left the riad without those things. He felt he was asking for trouble if he did. Then, he hurried back down and saw Zahara talking to Daniel in Arabic. He smiled. Zahara had tried teaching him more Arabic, but not much of it was sticking. Tim had always assumed that all he needed was to be immersed in an Arabic-speaking country without worrying about dying. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Maybe my brain is just wired for numbers, not languages.

“Masā’ il-khīr,” he said, stumbling over the syllables. “I assume it’s time to go.”

“You’re getting better, Tim,” Daniel said, with a grin.

“No, I’m not,” Tim said. “You just know what I’m likely to be saying and you assume the best.”

Daniel laughed. “It’s true, but you still are getting better. Hath sa’īd.”

“Meaning?”

“Good luck.”

“I’m going to need it,” Tim said and then looked at Zahara. “Okay.”

Zahara smiled and led him out of the riad.

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

He was rarely alone. It was one of the parts of the job he’d never really considered. Who thinks about alone time when running for office? But he rarely had it now, and he had to admit that it wasn’t a great part of his position. But right now, he was sitting in his private office, alone. Yes, there were people right outside the door, but inside the room itself, he was totally alone.

And he was reading a communique from a person he’d never actually met. This was another part of the job he’d not known about. Of course, the only way a person could know was if he got the job in the first place. Since he’d succeeded, he had the job and he learned things he would never have expected.

As he read the communique, he found himself thinking about another man he’d never met: Tim McGee. Everything he’d seen of the man’s file showed a person who had been a typical American. Maybe a little smarter than others, but still typical. And then, his life had been twisted and turned and changed to such an extreme, it was amazing that he was still alive to be a concern at all. There had been a note about him from the previous occupant of this building, but in the chaos, Tim McGee had faded into the background because nothing had really needed attention.

Until now. Until the FBI had accused him of treason, giving multiple instances where Tim McGee had gone off the grid during what ended up being a major challenge for national security.

Given everything that had happened to this man, he could easily believe that it might have turned him to treason. He was willing to allow the accusations to go through and see what came of them, even with the warnings he’d received.

However, that had all changed with one letter from one man who, according to everyone else in the country, did not exist. He and his team were risking their anonymity to fight against the accusations. Already, the FBI had withdrawn one of their evidences and done so without explanation. That, in and of itself, was suspicious, given how firm Jorgenson had been about it in the beginning. In addition, the CIA and NSA had filed complaints about the accusations which supported the NCIS protest. In fact, Director Gellman had been extremely vehement about what he saw as a ridiculous waste of time. Director Shepard had given him statements from Tim McGee’s team about his actions and his devotion to his country. He had a lot of stuff.

But this letter was what had shocked him. People who depended on complete anonymity in order to succeed in what they did were opening themselves up to possible discovery to save this one man.

One man.

Why was he so important?

At the end of the day, that was the question that he couldn’t set aside...and it was the one he couldn’t answer.

A knock at the door disturbed his silent contemplation.

“Come in.”

The door opened.

“I’m sorry, Mr. President, but your next appointment is in five minutes.”

The President sighed and nodded. He had another free hour coming up later.

For now, he had to go and do his job.

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

“How far away do your friends live?” Tim asked.

“It will take us about fifteen minutes to walk from the Jemaa el-Fnaa. They would have come to get you, but I thought you would want to have some time before meeting them.”

“I would, yes.”

First, they stopped at a stall to buy some fresh flowers as a gift. Then, they walked, standing close together as Zahara led Tim through the crowds to another alley marked by occasional doors. They stopped in front of one that Tim knew he’d never be able to find his way back to again.

“It doesn’t look all that different from the place I’m staying at,” he said.

Zahara smiled. “On the outside, it is not, but it is different inside. Much bigger and, if you do not mind, it is nicer.”

“I don’t mind. It’s not my place. I’m just renting.”

Zahara laughed and knocked on the door.

Tim took one more deep breath and then the door opened. A man who was shorter than Tim but at the same time, infinitely more intimidating, was standing in the doorway. He looked up at Tim, instantly evaluating...thankfully, only for a few seconds.

“Masā’ il-khir, Ibrahim,” Zahara said.

“Al-salamu ‘alaykum,” he said in reply.

Then, Ibrahim smiled and stood back to let them enter. Zahara removed her shoes as she walked in and Tim followed suit, hoping that he was supposed to as well. Then, Ibrahim took Zahara’s hand and bowed slightly to her with his hand on his heart and then, to Tim’s surprise, he held out his hand to shake Tim’s, but without the bow.

“Tim, this is Ibrahim Marzouk. Ibrahim, this is Tim McGee.”

“Nice to meet you,” Tim said, forgetting the word that had been taught to him.

“Metsherrfīn,” Ibrahim said. “We are glad to meet you. Come in.”

His accent was thicker than Zahara’s, but Tim was relieved that he still understood him easily. Maybe he was just getting used to how English was spoken here. As he followed Ibrahim and Zahara, he was surprised at how much larger it was than the riad he was staying in. The inner courtyard was probably two or three times wider, and it stretched up above him three stories. The walls were stark white, but bordered by elaborate mosaic tiles. A relatively large pool was in the center of the courtyard, and there were potted plants all around. It was like a garden, only inside. Sort of.

“Wow,” he said, and then wondered if that would be considered rude.

Ibrahim looked back at him.

“It’s beautiful,” Tim said. “Your home. It’s beautiful.”

Ibrahim smiled. “Shokran,” he said.

They continued back into a brightly-lit sitting room. The doorway was wide and let in a lot of light, but it was also had bright lights as well.

“Please, sit here.”

Tim nodded and sat on the plush, beautiful sectional couch. Then, he was taken by surprise when Ibrahim and Zahara spoke quickly to each other in Arabic and Zahara smiled at him and left him there. Alone. With Ibrahim.

“Zahara will talk to Fatima for a few minutes,” Ibrahim said.

“Okay.”

“You have spent a lot of time with her.”

“Yes,” Tim said. He didn’t know what else to do other than agree. It was true.

“Why?”

“Because I like her. A lot.”

“You saved her life.”

“I don’t know if I did that, but...”

“No. You do not know Morocco. When a man is willing to attack a woman as he did, he is also willing to kill. You saved her life and you could have lost your own.”

“I heard her call for help,” Tim said. “I couldn’t do nothing.”

“Yes, you could. Many would have. Why did you help her?”

“Maybe others could have ignored it, pretended they didn’t understand,” Tim said. “But even though I couldn’t understand what she said, I understood the fear in her voice.” He shook his head. “I couldn’t have ignored it. That’s not who I am.”

Ibrahim looked at him for a long time. Tim felt like he was under a microscope, but if this man was concerned about his interest in Zahara, he would endure some scrutiny.

“For how long are you here?”

“I don’t know, but it won’t be forever. Honestly, I can’t stay here.”

Ibrahim looked at him again.

“The way you speak. It seems that you mean this literally.”

“I do.”

Ibrahim nodded. “Then, I will ask the question. What do you want with her?”

“Honestly...right now, I don’t know. I know that I hadn’t planned on a relationship when I came here, but I can’t remember the last time I felt as happy as I have with Zahara. I hope that, when I have to leave, there’s something we can do. I don’t know what. I don’t know how. But I know that it’s something I want.”

Ibrahim nodded again and his expression became much more open.

“You speak well. I approve. Now, what do you do?”

“I work for the U.S. Navy,” Tim said. “Not a sailor, but I investigate crimes.”

“A policeman?”

“Sort of. But only for the Navy.”

“This is something many people do?”

“Well, probably not compared to other jobs, but there are quite a few of us. What do you do?”

“I work for the government. There is a place called Ouarzazate. Have you heard of it?”

“It sounds kind of familiar, but I don’t know why.”

“We are building a...solar farm there. The government wishes it to be the largest in the world. Morocco does not, like much of the Middle East, have oil deposits. But we do have a lot of sun.”

Tim smiled. “Yes, I’ve noticed.”

Ibrahim actually laughed. “Na’am. We are beginning the second phase of construction. It has been challenging and it has taken much of my time, but if it works as it should, we will, in the future, produce over 500 megawatts of solar energy, and more as we continue. It is exciting.”

“That’s amazing,” Tim said. “There are some solar farms in the U.S., in the western part of the country, but I don’t think there are any that big.”

“There are companies building in China which could be bigger, but we have more sun than China.”

Zahara came into the room, this time accompanied by a woman. Tim got to his feet.

“Tim McGee, this is my friend, Fatima Marzouk.”

Like Ibrahim, Fatima was much shorter than Tim. She was wearing a head scarf, but her clothing was similar to what Zahara wore. Both she and Ibrahim were obviously a little older, perhaps in their forties.

Fatima put out her hand and Tim shook it.

“I am happy to meet you, finally, Tim,” she said. “Zahara has told us much about you. You are completely recovered from your injury?”

“Yes. Completely. Thank you.”

“Good. Come. It is time for dinner.”

Tim followed Fatima and Ibrahim. Zahara walked next to him.

“How am I doing so far?” he whispered.

“You are doing fine.”

“Good.”

They were led into a dining room with long couches around a circular table. The food smelled wonderful, but there was so much of it that Tim wondered if he was going to be expected to eat it all. Still, nothing to be done but sit.

Dinner lasted over two hours. All through it, both Ibrahim and Fatima asked him questions, but thankfully, he was also allowed to ask questions of his own. As Daniel had warned him, they offered him food long after he was hungry. It was all delicious, but he had to refuse a number of times before they accepted it. After dinner was officially over, there were yet more questions as they finished the third cup of tea up on a rooftop deck that was significantly larger than his own and elaborately decorated. These were people who were very well off, but as the evening went on, they became more friendly and Tim was able to relax just a little bit..

Finally, it appeared that the evening was drawing to a close. It was well after dark, and Tim wondered if he’d be able to find the way back to his place. He couldn’t ask Zahara to walk him back to the riad. Then, she’d have to get back to her place in the dark. He’d just have to hope he could find his way to the Jemaa el-Fnaa. If he could get that far, he could make it the rest of the way.

He was just gearing himself to say good night when Fatima suddenly looked away, out over the city.

“It is late,” she said. “Too late for you to walk back. Ibrahim will drive us.”

“Oh... That would be great, but I don’t know how to tell you to get to the riad I’m staying in,” Tim confessed. “I have to admit that these streets confuse me.”

“I know,” Zahara said, with a smile. “I can give directions. They will take you, first, and then me.”

“Okay.”

They all stood and walked down to the front door. Ibrahim went to get the car and bring it to them. When he got back, he got out of the car and walked over to Tim. Then, to Tim’s surprise, Ibrahim took him by the shoulders and kissed Tim on both cheeks.

“It was very good to meet you, Tim McGee. You are welcome in my home any time you wish to come.”

“Thank you,” Tim said, feeling both weirded out and touched. He had not been expecting to be kissed by a near stranger.

Then, they got into the car and Tim was back at the riad in minutes.

“Good night, Zahara,” he said.

She touched his hand and smiled.

“Good night, Tim.”

“It was nice to meet you,” Tim said to Ibrahim and Fatima. “Thanks for the ride.”

“It was very good to meet you,” Fatima said. “Allah yemsek alā khir.”

Tim got out and went into the riad. He breathed a sigh of relief at being alone once more. While Fatima and Ibrahim had been nothing less than courteous and kind, he had still felt very much on display. He was glad to have it finished. Instead of going up to the rooftop again, he walked into his bedroom and lay down on the bed.

He couldn’t stop thinking about what Ibrahim had asked him and what he had answered. He had fudged things a little because he was pretty sure that saying he loved Zahara and wanted to be with her would be looked upon as a little forward in this country. So, instead, he had just said he liked her. But he had known what he was feeling and it was much more intense. He hadn’t been able to shake that knowledge. He couldn’t deny it and he couldn’t reject it.

I love her. What am I going to do when I have to leave?

He didn’t fall asleep for a long time.

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 Post subject: Chapter 32
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:16 am 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 32

“Agent Gibbs, Director Shepard needs to speak with you. In her office,” Cynthia said, her expression inscrutable. “The rest of your team needs to be there, as well. I have already informed Dr. Mallard, Dr. Palmer and Ms. Sciuto.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. Why would they all be needed to meet with Jenny?

“What’s going on, Cynthia?” Tony asked.

She just widened her eyes slightly and said nothing.

Gibbs stood up, gestured to Tony and Ziva, and followed Cynthia. They reached the office door at the same time that Ducky, Jimmy and Abby arrived.

“What’s going on, Jethro?” Ducky asked.

“Don’t know, Duck.”

Cynthia sat down at her desk.

“Go in.”

Gibbs opened the door and then actually paused for a moment. This was far beyond what he could ever have expected.

“Agent Gibbs,” Jenny said, her voice showing only part of her tension. “You might recognize the President of the United States.”

Gibbs looked at Jenny and then at the President who was sitting at the end of the table, flanked by two Secret Service agents.

“Mr. President,” he said.

“Introduce me to the rest of the people here, Agent Gibbs,” the President said.

Gibbs nodded.

“These are the other members of my team, Agent DiNozzo and Agent David,” Gibbs said. “Dr. Mallard, the medical examiner, and his assistant, Dr. Palmer. Our forensics specialist, Ms. Sciuto.”

The President nodded.

“Thank you. If you would all take a seat, please. There’s an important conversation we need to have.”

Everyone sat down, filling all the chairs. Jenny took the seat closest to the President on one side, and Gibbs took the other, giving everyone else a bit of cushion.

“Now, the reason I asked you all to come here was because I have a few questions regarding Agent McGee.”

“In what respect?” Gibbs asked.

“In the respect that a lot of people seem very concerned about this one man. I want to know why. What makes Agent Tim McGee so important?”

“Nothing,” Gibbs said. “He’s only as important as other people make him.”

“Well, Agent Gibbs, while I appreciate that, a lot of people are making him very important. I want to know why.”

“Maybe you should ask the people who are doing this to him, time after time,” Tony muttered.

“What was that, Agent DiNozzo?”

Gibbs looked at Tony and raised an eyebrow. Tony had the grace to look a little embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he said, “but I know that you haven’t been around for all this. We have. We’ve seen Tim put through Hell because of what other people want from him. He’s never done anything wrong. Not once. He’s been forced to do things that he hated himself for doing. He’s been conscripted to do things that risked the lives of other people. He’s been manipulated, tortured, almost killed. Why are you asking us? All we’ve done is try to keep him safe. We’re not the ones who are the problem.”

To Gibbs’ surprise, the President smiled, almost sympathetically.

“Agent DiNozzo, my purpose in questioning you is precisely because you aren’t the problem. Clearly, he means a lot to all of you. I’ve read the accounts Director Shepard submitted to me. I’ve seen the accusations, and I’ve had some unexpected voices speaking on Agent McGee’s behalf. Because Director Jorgenson is pursuing this privately, for the moment, I am the one making many of these decisions. As you say, Agent DiNozzo, I haven’t been a participant in all this. I only learned of Agent McGee’s situation when I took office. Thus, I think it’s important to see all the sides, and I’m aware there are many.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Tony said, softly.

“No need to apologize. But I still need to understand why Agent McGee is being made important.”

“We don’t know the answer to that question, I’m afraid, Mr. President,” Ducky said. “We have only guesses. Timothy is important to us, not because of what he can do but because who he is. The people who wish to have him arrested care about what he can do, not who he is.”

“You’re saying that you think this is a sham?”

“Yes,” Gibbs said. “We’re sure it is.”

“Why?” the President asked. “And let me warn you that it can’t just be because you know him. That is not admissible evidence, not in this case. I need something concrete.”

“Because the things that are being used to accuse him have no validity,” Gibbs said.

“Then, why can’t it be a mistake? Why a sham?”

“Because of what Jorgenson has done or tried to do before,” Abby said and then looked a little intimidated when the President looked directly at her.

“What has he done before?”

“He has always been the loudest voice in every attempt to remove Agent McGee from public life,” Jenny said. “Even when the other agencies accepted your predecessor’s decision, he kept pushing. I also know that he has threatened Director Morgan, that he would take him down with Agent McGee.”

“You have evidence of this?”

“Of the former, yes. I was there. I heard it myself, and others could support that...” she hesitated for a moment. “...including former CIA director Carew. Of the latter, I admit that it was hearsay, from Director Morgan, although I would guess that he could give evidence of it, if asked.”

Gibbs was surprised when the President pulled out a small notebook and began jotting down notes. Everyone stared. He looked up at them and smiled.

“It’s amazing how difficult it is to hack a paper notebook that I keep in my pocket,” he said. Then, he got back to business. “What you’re telling me is all circumstantial, I hope you realize.”

“Well, he’s not going to outright admit what he’s doing,” Abby said. “If he’s smart enough to keep his job for ten years, he’s smart enough not to tell everyone that he’s...”

She stopped, and Gibbs knew what she had tried to avoid saying. Unfortunately, the President was not stupid and he looked at Abby with a questioning expression.

“Yes, Ms. Sciuto? What is it that you believe Director Jorgenson to be doing?”

“We do not have evidence of this, either, sir,” Ziva said, speaking for the first time. “It is based on an analysis done by Dr. Woodrow Hicks, a psychiatrist for the CIA.”

The President jotted down that information.

“Well, you might as well tell me. I will take into account the hypothetical nature of it.”

Abby looked at Gibbs. She didn’t want to be the one to say it. Gibbs figured it was his responsibility.

“We believe that Director Jorgenson is trying to use Agent McGee to force his way into becoming the director of the CIA, with the intention of using Agent McGee’s skills to hold onto that position for as long as possible.”

The President was quiet for a few seconds, tapping his pen on the notebook. Then, he looked at Gibbs and the others in the room.

“You truly believe that Director Jorgenson is going through all of this just because he wants to have a job next year?”

“Not just any job,” Tony said. “There are no term limits on the CIA director.”

“True, but very few keep that position for more than a few years. It’s as political as a congressman. Levi Carew was a major exception. I find it hard to believe that this would be enough for him to accuse an innocent man of treason.”

“People have killed for less, sir,” Gibbs said.

The President raised an eyebrow at him and then nodded. “True enough.”

“We realize that this is circumstantial,” Ducky said. “But it fits with what we have seen thus far and explains why Timothy is so important to control. We know that he is innocent, but we believe that Director Jorgenson knows this, too.”

“And he’s using the excuse of an arrest to pull Agent McGee into his plans, whatever they might entail. Well, it’s a valid hypothesis, but as yet, unproven. However, I do think it’s worth examining in more detail.”

Then, there was another period of silence as he jotted down some more notes. Finally, he looked up once more.

“All that being said, I won’t ask if you know where Agent McGee is. I know you’d either lie to me or refuse to say whether you know or not. However, if it came down to it, would you be able to bring him back here?”

“Yes,” Gibbs said, tersely.

“All right. I’m very short on free time, and I wish I could ask more questions, but I have a number of meetings to get through today. I’ll ask that you stay in here until you are informed that I’ve left. These kinds of last-minute meetings tend to make the Secret Service a little irritable.”

“You do have three minutes, sir,” one of the Secret Service agents said, softly.

The President looked back over his shoulder. “Do I?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, with that embarrassment of riches, Agent Gibbs, could I have three minutes of your time?”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow and then nodded.

“Excellent. In that case, could I kick the rest of you out of Director Shepard’s office for three minutes?”

“Of course,” Jenny said. She stood up and raised her eyebrow at everyone else. They stood up and filed out of the room. Then, she left the room as well.

“Please, give us three minutes, Terence,” the President said.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow as the Secret Service agent looked more than a little surprised.

“Sir?”

“I need to speak with Agent Gibbs in private. In this case, complete privacy. Please, don’t delay. I don’t want to waste my minutes.”

“Yes, sir.”

The two agents left the office.

Then, the President looked at Gibbs.

“Tell me about Agent McGee,” he said.

“You have his file.”

The President waved that away.

“Don’t act like I’m stupid, Agent Gibbs. More importantly, don’t like you’re stupid. I do have Agent McGee’s file. I also have yours. That’s not what I’m asking about. I don’t have time for this dance.”

“Why are you asking?” Gibbs asked.

“Because this one man could potentially become a political nightmare for a lot of people. You say he’s not important. He’s been made important and that’s all that matters at the moment. Not whether or not he should be. He is. So forget about what he should be. I need to know this man because he has become important. Because I have no experience with him, what I know is what I’ve read and that doesn’t tell me who Agent McGee is. Who is he?”

“He’s a good man, Mr. President. He spent years trying to work through the things people have done to him that threatened to change that. I’ve seen him literally insane. I’ve seen him nearly dead. And he’s still a good man, no matter what anyone has tried to do. No one has the right to take that away from him and I will fight anyone who tries. Including you.”

The President smiled humorlessly.

“That could be considered a threat, you realize. And threatening the President of the United States is a serious offense.”

“It’s not a threat. It’s a promise,” Gibbs said. “I will not sit back and let someone destroy him. Not even you.”

The President nodded and then looked at his watch.

“I have about thirty seconds left, Agent Gibbs. Is there anything else you can add?”

“Don’t need to. I told you what matters.”

“Point taken.”

The President stood up and walked to the door. He opened it without hesitation and the Secret Service agents were there in an instant. Gibbs sat where he was, not moving as the President left, obviously speaking to the others in the outer office.

“Please stay where you are and I’ll get out of your hair, Director,” the President said. “It was nice to meet you all. It may happen again. Or it may not.”

“You have to get to your next meeting, sir.”

“Of course. As my mother used to say, there’s no rest for the wicked and the righteous don’t need any.”

Then, he was gone and the others came back into the office.

“What did he want, Boss?” Tony asked.

“To know more about McGee.”

“In three minutes?” Jimmy asked. “That’s compressing things a bit, isn’t it?”

“I told him what he needed to know,” Gibbs said.

“So now what?” Abby asked. “I mean...I had no idea that the President was going to be involved in this. What do we do about it?”

“Nothing,” Jenny said. “We wait, knowing that something is going to happen. Probably soon.”

Gibbs looked at Abby and widened his eyes slightly. She just shook her head. No luck in finding Tim online, still. It was a pain not being able to contact him, but they didn’t really need him to be here. It would just be nice to know for sure that everything was okay on his end.

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 Post subject: Chapter 33
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:20 am 
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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 33

“So, how did it go, Tim?” Daniel asked.

“I think it went fine,” Tim said. “They didn’t seem to hate me at the end of it and they gave me a ride back here after.”

“That’s good. They’d be polite in any case, but they’d probably hustle you out of there as soon as they could if they didn’t approve.”

“That’s nice to know,” Tim said, but then, he suddenly felt antsy.

For the first time since he’d been in Marrakech, he wanted to get out of it, and he wanted to get out right now.

“Daniel, do you have time to act as a tour guide? I’ll pay you, and it’s at short notice.”

Daniel’s brow furrowed. Maybe some of his need was getting around his attempt to tamp it down.

“Sure. What’s up?”

“I just need to get out of the city, away from here, just for a few hours. I don’t care where we go, just away from...people.”

“I don’t count?” Daniel asked, smiling, but his eyes were tinged with a little worry.

“You do, but I can’t get out on my own, so I’ll have to tolerate your presence,” Tim said, forcing a smile in return.

“You don’t want to see any people?”

“Well, just not so many.”

“Okay. Let’s go.”

“Where to?”

“Ouzoud Waterfalls.”

“Waterfalls? In Morocco?”

Daniel smiled. “Actually, you go into the Atlas Mountains and you’ll see snow at some times of the year. Not now, but it does snow up there.”

“Okay. I’m game.”

“Good. Now, at this time of the year, there could be quite a few people there, but you should still see it and it’ll get you out of the city. You don’t even have to talk to me if you don’t want to.”

Tim smiled.

“Okay. Thanks.”

“I’ll have to charge you extra for the silence, though.”

Tim laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Daniel got his car and they headed out. True to his word, Daniel didn’t push Tim to speak. As they headed north and east of Marrakech, Tim saw the expected desert, but that didn’t last very long. They started gaining elevation and Tim saw a lot of greenery.

“Wow. It’s...green.”

Daniel smiled. “There’s plenty of desert in Morocco, but the Atlas Mountains have forests and some of the valleys are beautiful oases.”

“It’s definitely not what I was expecting,” Tim said.

Then, he fell silent again as they continued on the way. When they reached the Ouzoud Waterfalls, there were quite a few people around, but Tim followed Daniel to the overlook.

He stared at the cascades. It wasn’t the largest waterfall he’d ever seen, but it was gorgeous. The falls were narrow and surrounded by greenery. He said nothing. He didn’t take any pictures. He just stared, feeling like this was just a hint of something familiar in the midst of something completely foreign. He felt an ache. For the first time, he was homesick, but it wasn’t just that. It was as if the fact that he was being forced to hide was suddenly being brought home to him and he wanted to panic at the thought that he’d never go home again. What he had said to Ibrahim was nothing less than the truth. He really didn’t think it would be safe for him to stay here for the long term. Not until people forgot about him.

Tim took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to tamp down that desire to panic.

Then, he was surprised by Daniel coming up beside him and putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, Tim. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing more than has been since I came here,” he said softly. “Sometimes, though, it just is harder to ignore than other times.”

“And this time, it’s harder?”

“Yeah.” Tim took another breath. “I just feel so trapped, not by bars but by people. So I wanted to get away from it for a little while. See something different, be away from everything that reminds me that it’s happening.”

“So no desert?” Daniel asked, smiling.

“No. I’ve had some bad experiences with deserts in this hemisphere,” Tim said and smiled a little while staring at the waterfalls. What an understatement that was.

“Well, you’d have to drive about eight hours to get to the real Sahara, so I don’t think you have to worry about ending up there on accident.”

“Right.”

They stayed a while longer and then Tim was ready to leave. They walked back to the car and Daniel started driving. Suddenly, Tim realized that they weren’t really headed back to Marrakech.

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see,” Daniel said, smiling. “Just trust me.”

“Okay...”

Daniel laughed. “I promise. It’s nothing shocking. I think you’ll like it.”

They drove further into the Atlas Mountains. The road narrowed and became steep and twisted until it didn’t even look like a real road. It was more like a hiking trail or something. Tim was really glad he wasn’t driving, but he did wonder where Daniel was taking him.

Then, they came around a corner and suddenly, there was a small village spread out before them, climbing up the mountainside with small, terraced fields below.

“Here we are,” Daniel said.

“Where’s here?” Tim asked.

“A small Berber village. Most of the Berbers live in the Atlas Mountains. I ended up here by accident when I first moved to Marrakech. I was exploring the area and got off on the wrong road. When I got here, it was hard going to get any information. They don’t speak Arabic here. They speak a Berber language called Riffian or Tarifit. There was a lot of gesturing. But they were so kind to me here that I started coming out regularly. I made friends with some of the families and got them to teach me some Berber and I taught some Arabic. You want isolated? This is isolated.”

“It is that,” Tim said, peering through the windshield. “Why is there a road?”

“Well, there are a couple of people who come up here to do some trading, but I don’t know what the trade actually is, so don’t ask. I have wondered, on occasion, if it was something illicit, but I don’t ask.”

“I’ll remember that,” Tim said.

Daniel pulled up to a very small house and stopped the car. He got out and called something. Tim could only assume it was that Berber language. He was familiar enough with Arabic (even if speaking it was a challenge) that he could tell it wasn’t Arabic. After a few seconds, an old man came out of the house with a big smile on his face.

“Daniel!” he said, happily.

“Yedder!” Daniel said.

The two men embraced and Yedder kissed Daniel on both cheeks.

Daniel started talking, and even to Tim’s untrained ear, he could tell that Daniel was speaking a language he didn’t know as well. He gestured to Tim a few times and then, suddenly, Yedder was approaching Tim with a smile.

“Tim!” he said and then kissed Tim on both cheeks, the same way he had Daniel.

“Hi,” Tim said. “Nice to meet you.”

Yedder spoke to him, but Tim couldn’t understand a single word.

“He says that he’s very happy to meet you, that my friend is his friend,” Daniel said.

“I’m glad of that,” Tim said.

Yedder spoke a few more words.

“And can we stay for dinner. What do you think, Tim? You all right with that?”

“No one speaks English, I take it?”

“They don’t even speak Arabic. Yedder claims that he’s never left this village in his entire life. But this will be different. No complications here. Just food and people speaking a language you don’t understand.”

Tim looked at Yedder and, while he couldn’t understand any of the words, he did understand the smile. Yedder was thrilled to have them there, based on his expression. Would this be awkward? Probably a little, but right at this moment, he was happy to be here.

“Sure, okay,” Tim said, nodding.

Yedder’s smile widened as Daniel spoke to him. He began to gesture, but before Tim could follow him, Daniel spoke some more and then, Yedder nodded and gestured to what looked like the entire mountain as he spoke.

“What’s up?” Tim asked.

“I just asked if Yedder would mind if I showed you around the village before we ate. He said that dinner wasn’t ready yet anyway, so I should go for a walk and show you the beautiful mountains.”

“It is beautiful here,” Tim said.

“Worth seeing,” Daniel said. He waved to Yedder who went back into the small house and then gestured for Tim to walk with him.

The Atlas Mountains soared above them. Below the houses of the village, Tim got a better look at the terraced fields. This was no large operation. It appeared that they grew what they needed. There were some fruit trees, mostly apples that Tim could see, and then vegetables, even something that appeared to be cotton. As they walked through the fields and the little houses, Tim was curious about such a remote place.

“Are they Muslim, here?” he asked.

Daniel waved his hand in the air.

“Kind of.”

“Kind of? What does that mean?”

“Well, almost all Berbers are Muslim,” Daniel said. “The Muslims conquered most of the Maghreb hundreds of years ago and most of the Berbers converted, whether out of true belief or out of practicality. But there are some areas where, Muslim or not, they still follow a lot of the Berber traditions. You’ll notice that there’s no mosque here.”

Tim looked around and nodded.

“Yeah, I see that.”

“They’ll talk about Allah on occasion, but honestly, I don’t think they’re really Muslim.”

“So are all the people in the village completely isolated?”

“Well, mostly. The older generation, like Yedder, are part of a dying breed. The younger adults do occasionally leave, but this little village is a lot like stepping back in time. No electricity, no running water, and a people who are welcoming to anyone who comes. They’re not unaware of the rest of the world. They just don’t care about it. So when I showed up, a few of them just wanted me to leave. But most were like Yedder. When I got out my map...well, Yedder couldn’t help me with that, but a lot of the others could and they got me oriented as to where I was and how to get back. I don’t come here a lot, but off and on, I’ll come to visit and they enjoy laughing at my pronunciation, but I think they really like that I’m trying and I understand a lot better than I speak.”

They kept walking and then, as they started back up the hill to Yedder’s home, a boy, perhaps ten years old, came running by, herding a flock of sheep.

“Izri, kīf hālek?” Daniel asked.

“Daniel! Jayid jiddan.” Then, he looked at Tim and said something that made Daniel raise an eyebrow.

Daniel spoke to him, again in the Riffian, Tim guessed. Then, Izri waved at Tim and went on his way with the sheep.

“What did he call me?” Tim asked.

“Arumi,” Daniel said. “It literally means Roman, but it’s used now for foreigners in general, no matter the ethnicity.”

“When Zahara was mad at me, she called me a foreigner, too. So foreigner is an insult?”

Daniel chuckled. “No. It can be, but Izri didn’t mean it rudely. He’s just curious. Not only are we not from the village, we’re obviously not from Morocco. So we attract attention.”

“Wasn’t that Arabic you were speaking to him?”

“Yeah. Some of them want to learn Arabic. There’s not much chance for more up here, and the ones who have left...well, some of them want more than they can get in a little village like this. For Izri, right now, it’s just a novelty. His parents don’t mind, and I don’t mind.”

They saw a few more people as they walked around. Then, Daniel said that dinner would be ready and they began to meander back to Yedder’s home.

“So...what should I expect to eat?”

“Nothing fancy, but it’ll be the best he can give you. You’re a guest and that means a good presentation.”

“So is tagine Berber?”

“Well, it’s Moroccan. I don’t know if it’s originally Berber or not. If you have that here, you’ll know that you’re being treated as a special guest.”

“I’ll remember that.”

They got back to Yedder’s home and he was outside before they could reach the door. He spoke to Daniel, but Tim got the feeling that they were being welcomed. Daniel smiled and walked into the house.

Tim wasn’t really surprised to see that it was all one room. There was a fireplace on one side with a counter beside it. There were rugs all over the floor, a few pillows that were obviously functioning as seating, and a small, narrow mattress of some kind in another corner.

“We’ll be sitting on the floor,” Daniel said.

“I figured,” Tim said, smiling. “That’s fine.”

“Good. Have a seat.”

They each sat down on a pillow and then watched as Yedder brought a large dish over to them.

“Should we help?”

“No. He’ll refuse. He’s the host.”

“Okay.”

Then, he took off the lid of the dish and Tim was surprised to see something he recognized.

“Oh! Couscous,” he said.

Yedder got really excited and began talking at high speed. Daniel laughed and held up his hands. Then, Yedder slowed down.

“He’s surprised that you know what this is,” Daniel said.

“I’ve had the cheap, store-bought, instant version,” Tim said. “I don’t think I’ve had the real thing before. I just know what it is.”

“Hey, he’s now thinking that you’re a closet Berber admirer.”

“Well, if it tastes like it smells, I will definitely be an admirer,”

Daniel laughed and translated. Yedder laughed, too, and then leaned over and kissed Tim on the cheeks again.

Finally, they got to start eating. As he was coming to expect with every traditional meal, Yedder urged them to keep eating long after they were finished. Daniel ate more slowly because he was translating for both of them. The couscous was delicious, full of vegetables and a little bit of meat. Tim guessed that it was lamb, given the sheep he’d seen earlier. Dessert was also couscous, but it was sweetened with honey and had cinnamon and almonds. It kind of reminded Tim of rice pudding, something he’d never really enjoyed eating, but this was in a category all its own.

Even though he couldn’t understand a word that Yedder said, Tim found himself warming to the old man and his easy hospitality and generosity.

When the meal was over, they stood up and Daniel was apparently trying to get them out of the house before nightfall.

“Daniel, how do you say thank you?”

“Sahit,” Daniel said.

Tim looked at Yedder.

“Sahit, Yedder,” he said. “It was wonderful.”

Daniel translated the second part, but Yedder smiled and Tim got one more cheek kissing and then they were out of the small house. Yedder waved to them as they got into the car and then they headed back down the twisty road, toward civilization.

“Well? How was it?” Daniel asked.

“Well, that was way more kissing than I expected.”

Daniel laughed. “Yeah. Yedder was excited and he’s very accepting of people so long as they’re polite. I could have warned you, I guess.”

“Ibrahim kissed me on the cheeks, too, but he didn’t kiss Zahara and he knows her better.”

“Kissing in greeting is something only done between those of the same sex. Here, it’s not a sexual thing. It’s showing joy in seeing the other person. That’s what Yedder was doing.”

“Is Yedder all alone?”

“Yeah. From what I understand, his wife died a few years ago, and they didn’t have any children. He’s watched over by the village as a whole, but he loves having visitors.”

“I could tell.”

“So...how are you feeling, now? Better?”

Tim thought about it for a few seconds and then nodded.

“Yeah. Better. Thanks.”

“My pleasure. No charge for this one since you were going through a minor crisis.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Tim protested. “I kept you from making any money today!”

“That’s all right. I can have a day off. I hadn’t been up to see Yedder in a while, anyway,” Daniel said. “No charge.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

The rest of the drive back to Marrakech was silent, but in a different way than when they had come out. By the time they arrived in the city, it was nearly dark and Tim was happy to get back to the riad. Daniel dropped him off and then headed home, himself.

Tim walked into the riad and thought about contacting Abby to see how things were going, but then, he decided against it. He didn’t want to have to think about that right now.

Instead, he went up to the roof and enjoyed the view.

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 Post subject: Chapter 34
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:23 am 
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Director
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Posts: 52863
Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 34

Director Gellman was a busy man, and he generally didn’t appreciate being interrupted for any reason. So when there was a knock on his door, he was surprised that his assistant was letting someone bother him.

“Enter,” he said, abruptly.

The door opened and Agent Bishop stepped inside. Director Gellman stifled a sigh. She was too persistent for her own good.

“What is it, Agent Bishop?”

“Sir, you can do what you want with this. I just wanted to let you see it.”

She stepped forward and set a folder on his desk.

“Is that everything?”

She nodded.

“Then, you may go.”

“Yes, sir.”

Then, she was gone. Director Gellman debated as to whether or not he wanted to see what this was about. But really, it was his job to know what his agents were doing with their time, whether it was sanctioned or not.

He picked up the folder and opened it. Then, he quickly buzzed his assistant.

“Yes, Director?”

“Get Agent Bishop back in here. Now.”

“Yes, sir. Right away.”

Two minutes later, there was another knock on the door.

“Enter.”

Agent Bishop walked back in. This time, she had her emotions well in control. The only place he could see her nerves was in her eyes.

“Agent Bishop, to put things bluntly, you’re starting to tick me off.”

“I understand, sir.”

“Then, please explain what this is.”

“I told you that I would stop working on it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. These are my conclusions. I have shown them to no one else and they are the result of my own thoughts, not from my prying where I’m not allowed.”

“Then, why show them to me?”

“Because I think my conclusions are accurate and should be told.”

Director Gellman looked at the folder and then back up at Ellie.

“You don’t know the identity of the person in question?”

“No, sir. I haven’t tried to find that.”

“Good. As for the rest of it, your concerns mirror my own, but for the moment, we have nothing to worry about on that score. I’m trying to prevent it from becoming an issue.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Go back to work.”

“Yes, sir.”

There was just the slightest hint of relief. Then, she turned to leave.

“Agent Bishop.”

“Yes, sir?”

“How did you come to the conclusion that this person is a risk, should he switch sides?”

“I looked at the behavior I saw, plus what I was told about what he was allowed to do and what he has already been able to do. From my perspective, the combination of anonymity and power is risky one, especially when it’s accompanied by the amount of skill I saw. He’s someone that you had better be sure of.”

“All right. Back to your desk.”

“Yes, sir.”

She left the office and Director Gellman sat back. Funny how it had taken Ellie such a short amount of time to come to that conclusion, even when she knew nothing about what was happening. It was his greatest worry. He didn’t know whether or not Jorgenson had ever bothered to look Agent McGee in the eye, but he himself had, and what he saw was a man who was being pushed too far. He had seen it years ago, and he wasn’t ready to have everything he’d worked for be destroyed because of one power-hungry man who couldn’t see the danger right in front of his face. He would fight against Jorgenson’s efforts to the extent he could, hoping that Tim McGee wouldn’t be pushed past the point of no return.

He was an enemy they didn’t need.

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

Another day was drawing to a close and Tim hadn’t done anything with it. He hadn’t contacted anyone. He hadn’t done any work. He hadn’t even left the riad. All in all, he felt like he’d been downright lazy. After his mini-meltdown the day before, he felt like he was just trying to regain his equilibrium. He wasn’t sure why yesterday had been the big day for it. He just knew that it had been.

Then, he decided he would go and watch Zahara’s performance at the club. They hadn’t made any plans, but Tim enjoyed seeing the dances. Zahara most of all, of course, but the dances in general were interesting, so different from what Hollywood presented.

He grabbed all his things and left. As he walked by he waved to Youssef. He’d paid another month’s rent and he noticed that his landlord was often out and about when he left. Tim wasn’t sure if that was intentional or not, but he always tried to be friendly.

By now, the route to the club was easy for him to navigate, even in the dark.

This time, however, as he walked through the alley, he saw a crowd off to the side. There was a little commotion and he knew he didn’t want to get involved in it. He was about to make sure he could just ease by when he heard a voice he recognized. A female voice.

“Zahara,” he said and turned back.

Three men looked at him and then began speaking to Zahara who was standing in the middle of them, looking terrified. She shook her head, frantically, and spoke back to them. For the millionth time, Tim wished he understood Arabic. He had got to the point where he could recognize a word here and there, but still...

The men converged on him and he was ready to fight back when, out of nowhere, his head exploded in pain.

“Tim!” Zahara said in horror.

Tim staggered forward and his knees went weak. Then, he felt another sharp pain on his head and everything went black. All he could hear was Zahara crying.

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

Daniel walked to Tim’s door and knocked. Then, he waited. And waited. Tim didn’t come to the door. He pulled out his phone and called. No answer on the phone.

He started to get a bad feeling.

Daniel decided to see if Youssef had seen Tim. He knew that Youssef had been keeping an eye on his tenant. He walked over to the house next door and knocked.

Youssef answered.

“Sabāh il-khīr,” Daniel said, politely. “Hal ra’ayt Tim?”

“La,” Youssef answered, shaking his head, “lam munthu mugaradati-l-layla al-madiya.”

Daniel was now definitely worried. Tim had left last night and either hadn’t come back or had come back so late Youssef hadn’t seen him...and then had left again very early this morning. Sure, it was possible that Tim was just sleeping inside, but Daniel didn’t like it.

“Youssef, sawf fath al-bāb?”

Youssef hesitated. Daniel knew why. Letting someone into a tenant’s place was iffy at best, but if Tim was inside, he wasn’t in a good situation. And if he wasn’t in there, he wasn’t in a good situation, either.

“‘afāk?” Daniel asked.

Finally, Youssef nodded and got his keys. They walked over to Tim’s door and Youssef let him inside. Then, Youssef stayed at the door while Daniel hurried in.

“Tim?” he called out.

No response. No sense of movement. This place was empty and had been for hours. Daniel would swear to it, but he ran up the stairs and checked the bedroom and bathroom. Empty. Then, he ran up to the roof, knowing that Tim liked spending time up there. Empty. He shook his head.

“This is bad,” he said to himself.

He ran back down.

“Shokran,” he said to Youssef.

“Mā khata’?” Youssef asked.

“La a’rif,” Daniel said, shaking his head.

“Al-būlīs?” Youssef suggested.

“La. Shokran,” Daniel said.

They left the riad and Youssef locked it up again. Daniel excused himself and quickly went back to his office. He sat in there for a long time without moving. He was on the verge of making a decision he didn’t want to have to make, but he felt that he didn’t have much choice. He would stake his life and his career that Tim was in trouble. What kind of trouble and from where, he didn’t know, but he was sure of it.

He took a breath and pulled out his phone. Then, he dialed a number he’d never dialed before and hoped he never would again.

The phone rang and he belatedly realized that this was going to be waking up the person he was calling. Oh well. This was important and there would be fewer people to possibly hear.

“Hello?” came a sleepy voice.

“Director Carew,” he said.

“I’m not the director anymore.”

“Sorry. It’s Daniel Worthing. I think something’s happened to Tim.”

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

With waking came pain and confusion. He could feel someone holding him, but he didn’t really understand what had happened.

“Tim, can you hear me? Please, wake up.”

Tim groaned and rubbed at his head.

“Zahara?” he mumbled.

“Yes, Tim. Please, open your eyes.”

Tim managed to do that, but it was hard going. Zahara was sitting beside him and they were both on the floor in a dark, empty room. There were no windows, or if there were, they were covered.

So much for the possibility that what he was remembering had ended when he’d blacked out. Zahara looked frightened and worried, but she smiled just a little when she looked at him. She kept looking away, but Tim couldn’t bestir himself to do the same.

“Where are we?” he asked.

Zahara glanced away again.

“Still in Marrakech, but not for long, I think. Oh, Tim. I am so sorry!”

“You didn’t hit me,” Tim said. “I don’t even know who did.”

“No, but it is my fault you are here. I did not think you would be there, last night.”

“Last night?”

“Yes, it is morning now. I was afraid that you would not wake up.”

“What’s going on?” Tim asked.

Zahara looked away again and Tim heard footsteps. An angry Arabic voice began shouting at him, making his head ache all the more. He managed to look up and at least see who was berating him. It didn’t help. He was very angry. Tim didn’t need to know Arabic to tell that much. Still, he couldn’t really respond. Zahara began to speak in Arabic as well. She seemed to be pleading with the man. Then, she gestured to Tim and he heard farangi as well as something that sounded close to English.

The man knelt down and grabbed Tim by the shoulders.

“What are you doing with this mawmas?” he demanded.

“We’re dating,” Tim said. He had no idea what the man had called Zahara, although he was sure it wasn’t complimentary.

The man angrily threw Tim back to the ground.

“Do not lie to me, farangī!”

“I’m not lying,” Tim said, trying to keep his eyes open and his mind focused. This man clearly thought that there was something more going on, something Tim didn’t know...but Zahara did.

“You are American!”

“Yes. I met Zahara when I came here...on vacation.”

“Kathūb!” he shouted.

“He is not lying,” Zahara said, getting to her feet and standing in front of Tim. “Please, let him go!”

The man slapped Zahara hard across the face and she fell to the floor. Tim tried to get up, swearing at the man, but his head was spinning so much that he had a hard time getting beyond being upright. The man shoved him back to the floor with little effort. Then, he walked away.

“Are you all right?” Tim asked.

Zahara pushed herself up off the floor and nodded, rubbing her cheek. Tim could see the handprint forming. He forced himself to sit up again and gently touched her cheek. She winced a little but smiled.

“I am fine,” she said. Then, her face darkened and she looked in the direction the man had gone. “Ghabī.”

“Please, Zahara. Tell me what’s going on. You obviously know what these men want.”

Zahara looked back at him and she touched the back of his head. He winced.

“You should not have been there, Tim.”

“I was going to see you,” he said, smiling. “I was having a bad day. You always make my day better.”

“Not this time,” she said.

“Even this time.”

“No. Tim, these men wanted me. It is not like the first time. I...” She stopped and looked away.

“Zahara, whatever it is, tell me. Don’t leave me in the dark.”

She looked back at him.

“They found out that I have been...listening. That I am here to listen to what others say and tell what I hear.”

Tim furrowed his brow, his aching head making it difficult to focus. When the meaning of what she said finally hit him, he was shocked.

“Wait...you’re a spy?” he asked, incredulously.

“Yes...but no.”

“Okay. You need to explain.”

“I am so sorry that I did not tell you. I have not told anyone,” Zahara said, earnestly. “Believe me, Tim. I have not lied to you, but I have not told you everything.”

“Tell me, now,” Tim said.

Zahara nodded. “There are people in Morocco who wish to take Melilla and Ceuta by force. They wish to fight and kill in order to get what they want. Melilla is Spanish. Ceuta is Spanish, but they want it to be Morocco. Many of them who have said much about it are here in Marrakech. My mother worked for the city of Melilla and...and she asked me to protect Melilla from Morocco. I promised I would.”

“So you didn’t come here to learn about your father?”

“No, I did. But it is very hard to make a living as a dancer with nothing else. They said they would pay me to listen. So I said yes. All I do is listen and tell what I hear. I am not...really a spy. I am a dancer who listens. When I heard something that was related to Melilla, I would tell the government about it.”

“These men are some you were listening to,” Tim said, with a sinking feeling.

Zahara nodded again. Her eyes filled with tears.

“Oh, Tim. I would never have let you be part of this. I did not think you would be there. I thought it was safe. I was very wrong. I am so sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s not your fault,” Tim said. “What are they going to do?”

“I do not know,” Zahara said. “They did not kill us, but that does not mean they would not do it.”

Tim nodded and looked around. No one was nearby. He lowered his voice and leaned in close to Zahara.

“Then, we need to try to escape, if the opportunity presents itself.”

To her credit, Zahara didn’t try to protest that it wouldn’t work or that it was ridiculous. She just nodded. He understood. Her tears were because of his injury and the danger to him. She was afraid, yes, but she was made of strong stuff. He wiped away a tear.

“We’ll get out of this. Somehow.”

Zahara didn’t look hopeful, and Tim didn’t blame her, but Daniel would be looking for him when he wasn’t at the riad. While he couldn’t necessarily do anything, he would at least be aware. This would be a time to get the police involved, if there ever was one.

Then, the door opened and four men came into the room. Four. He’d only seen three before. The fourth one must have hit him.

“Anhad!” one said.

“He means stand up,” Zahara whispered.

Tim nodded. He’d figured out the gist of it. He was a little off-balance still, but Zahara helped him get up. Once he was sure that he wouldn’t fall over, he looked at the man.

“Now what?” he asked.

“Move!” the man ordered and pulled out a gun.

Now was definitely not the time to try to escape, but Tim was determined to get out of this alive. He was not going to die in something that had nothing to do with him. It was one thing to be killed while working, but this didn’t even involve him and he was not going to be collateral damage.

They were herded out of the room, out of a house and into a car. Then, the car headed out of Marrakech, towards the mountains.

This did not look good.

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 Post subject: Chapter 35
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:28 am 
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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 35

Carew hung up the phone and leaned back, considering his next move. The light in the hall came on and the door opened.

“Who was that, Levi?” Tamara asked.

“A former employee,” Carew said.

“What did he want?”

Carew made his decision and stifled a sigh.

“I have to go to Morocco,” he said.

Tamara turned on the bedroom light and walked into the room. She sat down on the bed and looked at him earnestly.

“Why?” Then, before he could answer, her eyes widened. “This is about that Agent McGee who was here before.”

“Yes.”

“Something’s wrong?”

“Probably. He seems to be missing and I’m going to help find him.”

“Alone?”

“I wasn’t planning on taking you with me,” Carew said, smiling a little. “You don’t really have the training for it.”

Tamara smiled, too, but her eyes were serious.

“Levi, what about his friends? His team? The people he works with?”

Carew shook his head. “No. They dislike me enough that it will only make things harder.”

“No, Levi. You can’t leave them out of this completely. What about that Agent Gibbs who came here the other day? He was willing to come to you. He seemed to be listening to you. If he’s part of Agent McGee’s world, then, at least he should be with you. These people have been worried about him.”

“You were listening?” Carew asked.

“Of course, I was,” Tamara said, smiling. “You could have kept me from that if you gone into the study instead of the living room.”

“True.”

“Don’t keep them out. Give them something to hold onto. Something to hope for. If not everyone, at least this Agent Gibbs.”

Carew raised an eyebrow. Tamara was strangely insistent about this, but he had to admit that she was probably right, even if he didn’t want to deal with any of the NCIS crew in this situation. They were very good at their jobs but they also often let emotions get the best of them. Gibbs was probably the best at not doing that.

“All right. I will,” he said.

“Then, I won’t keep you. This is important, Levi, and I hope you find him quickly.”

“So do I.”

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

Gibbs’ phone rang at the obscene time of three a.m. He wasn’t happy about it, but it was never safe to assume that it was nothing. Instead, he rolled over and picked it up.

“Gibbs,” he said, trying to sound awake.

“Agent Gibbs, I’m getting ready to go to Morocco. Would you like to accompany me?”

Now, Gibbs was fully awake.

“Carew.”

“Very good. I don’t have a lot of time here. Do you want to come with me or not?”

“Why are you going?”

“Agent McGee has disappeared and that seems to be a bad thing. I’m going to find him.”

“What about the others?”

“This invitation is for you only, Agent Gibbs. I will not ask again.”

“How much time do I have?”

“I’m five minutes from your home. You have that much time.”

Not enough time to get anyone else here, then. Probably by design. Gibbs hung up without saying anything else and got out of bed. He dressed in record time and then threw a few things into a duffel, along with his passport, badge and gun. Would those be allowed? He didn’t know, but he was going to have them if at all possible. Better to try and fail than to assume he couldn’t.

The first question he was going to ask Carew when he came was how in the world he knew Tim was missing.

Within five minutes, almost to the second (Carew was irritatingly good at gauging his time.), Carew was outside. Gibbs was ready and opened the door.

Carew didn’t bother getting out, so Gibbs walked over to the car and got in.

“Good. You’re ready. The pilots have already filed a flight plan and we don’t have a lot of time to get there.”

“Why so quick, then?”

Carew smiled. “So no one has time to anticipate, be it the FBI or your team. Or someone else I haven’t thought of.”

He pulled away, driving fast but not so fast that a cop would bother pulling them over. They went out to a small county airport and Carew parked in the nearly-empty parking lot. He grabbed a bag from the back seat and they both go out. Carew’s pace was very fast. Gibbs was wondering why. If they were in that much of a hurry, surely he could have given them a little more time.

However, he said nothing as Carew checked them in and led Gibbs to a private plane.

“You didn’t say anything about another passenger, sir.”

Carew looked at Gibbs.

“Sorry. Last minute addition. He won’t take up much space and he doesn’t eat much. This is Agent Gibbs.”

The man shook his hand and didn’t introduce himself.

“Was there any trouble getting the plane?” Carew asked.

The man grinned. “I’m very persuasive, and you do hold the cards here.”

“Not for much longer, I’m sure,” Carew said. “We’re ready to go?”

“As soon as you’re on board.”

“Good. Agent Gibbs?”

Gibbs nodded and they got on the plane. It seemed like they were beginning to taxi even before he had time to appreciate the opulent accommodations or fasten his seatbelt.

Once they were in the air, Carew actually looked slightly relieved.

“Why the rush?” Gibbs asked.

“Not even I can keep everything a secret, Agent Gibbs,” Carew said. “My movements have been watched far too often and I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to get away without observation. I don’t want anyone to know where we’re going. Nor do I want them knowing that I’m leaving at all.”

“How did you know Tim was missing?”

Carew smiled. “I was told about it.”

“By whom?”

“Someone that we’ll meet when we get there...with the understanding that you won’t share his identity out to anyone.”

“I won’t.”

“Good.”

“So why invite me along?”

Another smile, but this one seemed more real.

“You can thank Tamara for that. I wasn’t going to. I had intended to go by myself, but she insisted that it would be better if someone from his team was along for the ride. You’re the only one who is able to put aside your hatred of me in order to get things done.”

Gibbs had to admit that it was mostly true.

“I need to let people know that I’ll be gone.”

“Without any details, Agent Gibbs,” Carew said. “Not how, with whom, where or why. Just enough that they know you’re intentionally not around.”

Gibbs nodded, a little reluctantly but accepted that Carew was calling the shots here. If he broke those rules, he could actually see Carew taking the phone away from him, and while a physical confrontation might be satisfying, Gibbs actually wasn’t sure whether or not he could best Carew in a fight. The few times he’d seen Carew in action, he’d been impressed with how quick his reflexes were.

He pulled out his phone and called Tony.

“DiNozzo,” Tony said, sleepily. “What’s the emergency?”

“I won’t be at work for a few days,” Gibbs said.

“Wait. What, Boss? You’re taking time off? Now?”

“No. I’ve left.”

“Why?”

“Guess, but don’t say it.”

There was a long pause.

“Oh. Why not let us come?”

“No time. I’ll let you know.”

“I’ll let everyone else know.”

“Good. Quietly.”

“Right. I will.”

Gibbs hung up and looked at Carew who simply nodded and then, amazingly, leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. Gibbs didn’t feel at all tired himself. He was very awake. So he sat and looked out the window, wondering what had happened, where Tim was and what were they going to be able to do to find him.

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

They’d been driving for a few hours and then, suddenly, in the middle of the Atlas Mountains, they stopped. Tim and Zahara were forced out of the car and into a small building away from the road. One of the men stayed to guard them while the others seemed to be having some kind of a discussion. Tim’s head was much clearer now than it had been and he looked at Zahara and widened his eyes in a silent question. She looked nervous but nodded imperceptibly.

This was the time to try to escape. They only had one guard. They were close to the car and the others were distracted. It was dangerous. Tim knew that, but he had a feeling that they weren’t going to be kept alive for very long anyway. Might as well try it. Thinking back to his time as a captive with Carew, he dug for a rock to throw. He didn’t know if his aim would be as good as Carew’s but it was worth a shot.

Carefully, he got a rock out of the ground. Zahara saw it and quickly clued into what Tim was going to try to do. She tensed, ready to move when Tim did.

At least, he hoped that was why she was tensing.

Then, in one smooth motion, Tim flung the rock. It hit the man in the face, knocking him down. In a second, Tim grabbed Zahara by the hand and they began sprinting toward the car.

Unfortunately, unlike Tim’s last time in the desert, there was no rainstorm to distract everyone and he heard the shouts from behind them.

“Faster, faster,” he muttered.

They almost made it. They really almost made it. In fact, Tim thought they had made it.

Until his back erupted in an explosion of pain and Zahara screamed.

They were faster than Tim had thought.

He fell against the car and sagged to the ground. Then, he couldn’t suppress a scream of pain as he felt something hot spreading across his back.

“No! No, Tim!”

He was lying on his stomach on the ground, unable to move for the pain he was feeling.

“Tim...”

It suddenly dawned on him what had happened.

“They...stabbed me,” he whispered.

“Yes. You are bleeding. You will die if it does not stop.”

Hot and sticky fluid.

Then, he moaned when he felt pressure on his back. Zahara was pressing on the wound. Hard.

Then, the Arabic voices started up again and, before he knew it, Tim was being dragged around to the door and put in the back. Zahara continued to press on his wound. It hurt and he almost couldn’t bear it, but he couldn’t muster up any words to protest the treatment.

“You could have made it,” he whispered, after an unknown period of time. “You were closer. You...should have just got in the car.”

“I could not leave you,” Zahara said. “Never. They would have killed you.”

Tim didn’t bother to point out that they were likely going to die anyway. It seemed pointless to bring it up.

Instead, he lay there as Zahara tried to stop the bleeding.

That was a bad idea.

His eyes closed.

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

Tony gathered everyone together in Autopsy as soon as he got into work.

“What’s going on, Tony?” Abby asked. “Where’s Gibbs?”

“I don’t know, but I think he’s on his way to Morocco.”

“Why do you think that?” Ziva asked in surprise.

“Because he called me and told me that he was going to be gone for a few days. He wouldn’t say it on the phone, but he told me to guess.”

“But why not take us?”

“He said there wasn’t time.”

“He must be going with Carew, then,” Jimmy said.

“Why would you say that?” Abby asked. “He doesn’t like Carew any more than the rest of us.”

“Because if it wasn’t for someone else dictating the time, wouldn’t he take Tony and Ziva, at least?”

“I’d like to think so,” Tony said.

“And how many people know where Tim is?”

“Just us...and Carew,” Ziva said.

“So if you’re right about where he’s gone, there aren’t too many choices.”

“Smart thinking, Black Lung,” Tony said.

Jimmy grinned.

“What do we do about it?” Abby asked. “Just wait?”

“I don’t see what else we can do,” Tony said. “I don’t know what part of Morocco he’s going to and even if I did, getting there would be a challenge and take a while. He’ll call us when he can.”

“True,” Ducky said. “Jethro won’t keep us in the dark any longer than is necessary. He must have things to do that are taking up his time. I suppose we will have to trust that he had no other choice.”

“Can we break into his house tonight and stew about it?” Abby asked.

“I’m all for that,” Tony said, smiling. “After work.”

“Then, we’ll talk more about it tonight,” Ducky said.

It was time to get to work, and Tony and Ziva headed back up to the bullpen. Halfway up in the elevator, Ziva suddenly turned off the elevator.

“Are you hiding anything, Tony?” she asked.

“No,” Tony said. “I’m not going to suddenly run off and join Gibbs somewhere. I really don’t know where he is.”

Ziva’s eyes narrowed.

“You are too calm about this.”

Tony grinned. “I just like keeping you on your toes.”

“Be serious, Tony.”

“Okay. Gibbs didn’t sound worried, and he’s going, probably to pick up Tim. I just want Tim to be able to come back.”

“We have not yet heard about what is going to happen. Why would he assume it was safe for Tim to come back?”

“I don’t know, Ziva. I don’t have any of the answers. I can go along with what Gibbs said because I don’t have any other choice. I’m just going to wait and see when I can do something.”

“I am sorry,” Ziva said. “I just...want this to be finished. I hate having to wait.”

“Me, too. But at least we have work to do.”

“Yes.” She sighed and turned on the elevator.

Then, she turned back to Tony and hugged him tightly.

“We need this to be over, Tony.”

“Yeah. From your lips to God’s ears, right?”

The elevator doors opened and they went to their desks and got back to work.

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 Post subject: Chapter 36
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:45 am 
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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 36

“Please remain seated until we’ve parked in the hangar.”

Gibbs looked away from the window and toward Carew. Carew was already sitting up, as if he was just waking up, but he seemed just a little bit too alert. Gibbs was skeptical. However, he said nothing about it. Instead, he raised an eyebrow as the plane came to a stop.

Before Carew could say anything, the door to the cockpit opened and the copilot came out. He had never introduced himself, but he smiled as they looked at him.

“We’re safely landed in Marrakech. I’ve greased the skids for you and you should get through customs with no trouble.”

“Oh, really?” Gibbs asked.

The copilot smiled again and shrugged.

“This is a country where bribery can get you places. It seems you need to get places more quickly than the regular channels allow. So if I can help out, why not do it?”

Carew’s smile was more than a little cynical.

“I could think of some reasons.”

“Well, so could I, but I won’t.”

Gibbs got the feeling that there was something else going on in this conversation, but he decided that it wasn’t important for the situation at hand.

“Will there be someone meeting you?” the copilot asked.

“No, but there will be someone expecting us. We’ll just need a rental.”

“That can be arranged. There are rental options.”

“Any with four-wheel drive? We may need to go off road.” Carew said.

“I’m sure there are. I’ll ask.”

“Thank you.”

The copilot got off the plane.

“How does he have so much pull here?”

“I’m not going to say anything about what he does or how he does it,” Carew said. “Just accept it, Agent Gibbs. He’ll come through.”

Within five minutes, the copilot was back and they were led off the plane, through some expedited customs and then to a waiting SUV. Once they were in and on their way, Gibbs tried to get more information.

“Where are we going?”

“To the person who called me.”

“And who is that?”

“His name is Daniel Worthing. Does that tell you anything?”

“No.”

Carew smiled. “Good. Don’t worry, Agent Gibbs. You’ll get the answers you need when we get there. It shouldn’t be long.”

Gibbs took a deep breath and tried to keep himself from getting irritated by Carew. He knew how Carew worked. He knew what Carew wanted to do. He just couldn’t give him the satisfaction.

They drove to an area of nondescript shops and Carew parked in front of one that had sign in the window in both Arabic and English script. Gibbs looked at it for a few seconds.

“Anqalaysūn Real Estate?” he asked. “Eels?”

“Clever but not really important for what we’re doing, Agent Gibbs. Inside.”

They went into the office and there was a man who didn’t look like he should be there sitting at a desk. He had red hair, dark brown eyes and pale, freckled skin. He looked up when they came in and his eyes widened.

“Director,” he said. “I didn’t know you would be coming, personally.”

“I’m not the director any longer, Agent Worthing.”

“Agent?” Gibbs asked, his heart sinking a little.

“Please, don’t bandy that around loudly,” Daniel said, quickly. “I’ve spent five years establishing myself as a real estate guy and tour guide. I’d rather not have this ruin it.”

“Who are you?” Gibbs asked.

“Who are you?” Daniel retorted. “I know him, but I’ve never seen you before.”

“I’m Tim’s boss.”

Daniel looked at Carew who just nodded silently.

“Ah. I see. Well, I’m Tim’s friend. You can think what you like of me, but...Levi...Carew.”

“Call me whatever, Mr. Worthing,” Carew said. “Be quick, though.”

“Right. He called me a few weeks ago and asked if I could help someone find a safe place to stay in Marrakech for a while. I agreed, but he said that he would be suspicious if I just offered my services. So I did as I’ve done for a while. I went to a number of hotels and gave them a little bit of money to recommend me to any American visitors. Tim called me and I helped him find a rental. But I also liked the guy and he needed help navigating the city. So I’ve spent quite a bit of time with him. Yesterday morning, I was supposed to be meeting him and he wasn’t home when I got there. I went inside and he was not there. Youssef hadn’t seen him since the night before. I just have a really bad feeling that something has happened to him. Zahara wasn’t at the club, either, when I checked there.”

“Zahara?” Gibbs asked.

“Tim’s...well, he’d be embarrassed to call her that, but she’s his girlfriend. He met her a few weeks ago and he’s been spending a lot of time with her. She’s missing, too, from what I can tell.”

Gibbs was shocked. Tim had met someone and was actually dating? He hadn’t shown any interest in that for years...not since Bri had used a blind date to take him and torture him. And now, while he was hiding in Morocco, he’d met someone?

“Where to, first?”

“I thought I’d follow the path that Tim usually took to the club. I just don’t want to draw too much attention to myself. I’m trying to maintain my cover, but I do want to help Tim, too.”

“All right. Let’s go to it,” Carew said.

Daniel nodded and grabbed his things. Then, they left the office and followed him to an alley.

“This is the riad where Tim has been staying,” Daniel said, gesturing to an unassuming door. “The club is this way.”

They began to trace what may have been Tim’s steps, taking it slowly and Daniel’s eyes were everywhere. Gibbs noticed that Daniel was very skilled. While he put off a rather innocent, almost naive, vibe, his dark eyes were keenly intelligent and he missed very little.

In fact, five minutes into the trek, he stopped and knelt down.

“There’s blood here,” he said, softly.

Carew and Gibbs joined him. Sure enough. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough that the daily foot traffic hadn’t worn it away yet.

Daniel looked around and then got to his feet and hurried across the alley to a man sitting alone on a low stool. He knelt in front of the man and started speaking rapidly. It was Arabic, but it was a dialect Gibbs didn’t know and he only caught a few words. Then, the man started speaking, his words, more mumbling, less enunciated. He pointed off in another direction. Daniel grabbed his arm and spoke some more.

“Hal wāthiq?” Daniel asked.

“Na’am,” the man said.

“Shokran,” Daniel said and gave the man some money.

Then, he walked over to them.

“He says that he saw a white man and a woman get taken away from here by four men last night. He says that the man was hurt, but he thought he was still alive when they took him away.”

“Who are they?” Carew asked.

“This is where it gets a little dicey. Based on his description, I think that Tim and Zahara got mixed up in something beyond them. The men he described are some I’ve known about for a while. They’re hotheads, advocating military force to kick the Spanish out of Melilla and Ceuta. They’re two cities on the coast. Spanish territory. On their own, these guys aren’t going to be dangerous on a large scale, but if they can get the right backers...”

“But why take them?” Gibbs asked.

“Maybe they heard something they shouldn’t have,” Carew suggested.

“Do you know where they would be?” Gibbs asked.

“I know where we can start,” Daniel said.

“Good. Let’s get my car and go,” Carew said.

“Okay,” Daniel said, but he didn’t look exactly thrilled.

Carew noticed, too, but he said nothing as they got into the car.

“What are your plans, here, Worthing?” Gibbs asked.

“To help you find Tim and Zahara, but you have to realize, Agent Gibbs, that this could ruin all my work here, if the wrong people see me and make the right conclusions,” Daniel said, bluntly. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think it was worth the risk.”

Gibbs appreciated that Daniel was being honest, at least.

Daniel gave Carew directions to another part of Marrakech, closer to the outskirts of the city, away from the historic center.

“Stop here,” Daniel said, finally. “That door, there.”

“You coming in with us?” Carew asked.

“Yes. I’ll need to be there. At least for the language, unless you two know the Moroccan dialect.”

“All right. What’s the plan? We go in force?” Carew asked.

“Not in force, but ready for force. I don’t know how many will be in there. Please, no guns unless it’s necessary. That will draw way too much attention.”

“Understood,” Carew said and then looked at Gibbs. “You coming?”

Gibbs just raised an eyebrow and got out of the car. Daniel and Carew did as well. They walked to the door and Daniel took the lead. He tried the knob and nodded. It was unlocked. He strode inside without a pause, his pace taking him across the room to where a single man was just getting up from a couch. Daniel grabbed him by the arm and started talking.

Gibbs stayed ready for when the man was able to try fighting back. He was sure he would.

“Are you following this, Gibbs?” Carew asked in a low voice.

Gibbs shook his head.

Then, the man regained his feet and started pushing back against Daniel, shouting angrily, clearly threatening. Gibbs instantly moved in and grabbed the man by the arms, pinning them behind his back. The man struggled to escape, but Gibbs had him securely. Finally, he pulled the man close enough that he could speak right into his ear.

“I won’t hurt you unless you do something stupid,” Gibbs said in a low voice. “Do you understand me?”

Daniel looked at the man.

“Qul!” he said. “Speak.”

“I do not know who you mean,” the man said, with a little less bravado than before.

“La tukathib ‘alī,” Daniel said, sounding angry himself. “I will not ask again. The American and the dancer. Where did they take them?”

“Al-sahrā’.”

“Where?”

“I do not know where! To the desert. That is what they said to me.”

“Over here or the real desert?” Daniel asked.

“The real desert. They have not come back yet.”

“What do you want to do, Gibbs?” Carew asked from his position at the door. “Kill him?”

The man suddenly seemed to realize that this was not an idle question. There was fear in his eyes. He started to struggle again, but Gibbs didn’t let him go.

“There’s no reason to kill him,” Daniel said, looking at the man. “If he tells them that he talked, they’ll likely kill him. If he tries to report us to the police, he’ll have the problem of us telling the police what he’s been involved in. All we want is to find our friend. Do you understand me?”

The man nodded.

“So you know that telling anyone about this will be a bad thing...for you, right?”

The man nodded again.

Daniel spoke in Arabic again. Gibbs caught enough words that he knew Daniel was saying the same things in the man’s native language.

“What road did they take?” Daniel asked. “Toward Ourzazate or Beni Mellal?”

“Ourzazate,” the man said.

Daniel looked at Gibbs.

“Let him go.”

Gibbs hesitated, but he had to acknowledge that Daniel was the expert here, and he had shown his level of control of the situation. He loosened his hold on the man, ready to grab him again if he bolted.

The man tensed slightly, but then relaxed when no death appeared to be forthcoming.

“Remember,” Daniel said. “I will remember. The American is my friend. He is the friend of these men. We do much for our friends. Hal tafham?”

“Na’am.”

“Good.”

Then, suddenly, Daniel showed just how intimidating he could be. He reached out and gently patted the man on the cheek, but his dark eyes were hard as a rock. Without saying a word, he delivered a major threat and the man understood it as such. Then, Daniel jerked his head toward the door and Gibbs nodded. He eased around the man and followed Daniel out to the street. Carew brought up the rear, keeping his eye on the man as the others left.

“Will that have ruined your cover?” Gibbs asked.

“Maybe. Maybe not. I wasn’t kidding about what he might be facing if he lets them know that he talked. I’ll just have to hope that I’m right. Let’s go.”

“Perhaps you should do the driving, Mr. Worthing,” Carew said. “After all, you know this region much better than I do.”

Daniel just nodded and got in on the driver’s side. Gibbs reluctantly got into the back seat and they headed out of Marrakech, toward the mountains.

“This might be a hopeless case, I hope you realize,” Daniel said.

“Why?” Carew asked.

“Because it’s about eight hours just to get over there. Then, it’s hundreds, maybe even thousands of square miles that they could be in. And we’re supposed to find two people in all that?”

“We might be able to get some help if necessary,” Carew said. “But only if necessary. We’ll try our best.”

They fell silent and Daniel drove as fast as he could.

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

At some point, they left the road. Tim only knew it because it suddenly became a lot bumpier and that meant a lot more painful for him. The bleeding had slowed, but he knew that he’d lost a lot of blood and that he wasn’t going to be good for anything. He could feel how weak he was. A couple of times, he’d tried to persuade Zahara to say whatever they wanted just to get her away, but she had refused and, somehow, it had fallen out that he was lying on the seat, his head in her lap, his eyes closed and her hand covering the stab wound on his back, keeping as much blood inside him as possible.

It was nice of her, but Tim figured that this really was going to be his end. He hadn’t said that, but he was pretty sure that his attempt to escape had only brought his own death closer than it might have been already. There was no way to look at this as a positive thing. He hated that he was going to die because of something that had nothing to do with him.

A sudden bump jolted him more than he’d expected and he couldn’t suppress a moan.

“I am so sorry, Tim,” Zahara said.

“Stop...apologizing,” Tim whispered. “It’s...not your fault.”

Then, the car jolted to a stop. The two men in front got out and opened the back door. Tim felt them grab him and pull him away from Zahara, in spite of her protests. Then, they dumped him unceremoniously on the hot, baked ground of the Sahara. He landed on his back and couldn’t hold back a scream that time. He rolled over onto his stomach and lay there, his face on the ground, trying to will away the pain.

After a few seconds, he felt Zahara lift him gently and roll his head onto her lap once again. He tried to open his eyes, but the sun was so bright that he felt like he couldn’t see a thing.

“Now...what?” he asked, trying to look toward their captors. It didn’t work. His eyes kept closing.

“Now...you die. Here in the desert. It will kill you and no one will find your bodies. Bismalla,” he said, mockingly.

“No. Please, do not...” Zahara began to plead.

Tim heard the doors close and then the sound of the departing car. For a long moment, that was the only sound. Their last chance of survival receding into the distance. They were stuck in the middle of the Sahara with no way of getting out and no hope of rescue. Even if they were only on the edge of the Sahara, it was hopeless.

“How...far are we from the...the road?” he asked.

“I do not know, Tim,” Zahara said. “Many kilometers.”

Tim nodded.

“You should leave me here,” he said. “I can’t make it, but you could.”

“No. I will stay with you.”

Tim shook his head wearily.

“Zahara...that’s only...letting yourself die.”

“I will not leave you,” she said, tearfully. “I wish I had told you everything before.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered. I didn’t tell...you everything, either,” Tim said. “I’ve gone through worse than this. I’ve almost...died before. At least...I was happy...before all this happened.”

“You weren’t?”

“Not...for a long time. Dying...would have been easy to...accept.” Tim got his eyes open, finally. He smiled a little. “This time...I have you.”

“I will not leave,” Zahara said again, more firmly this time. “We will be here together.”

“I’m thirsty,” Tim said.

“I have no water.”

“I know.” Then, he smiled again, remembering little Samia. “I told you...before that...I only knew a few words in Arabic. One is ma’a. Water. Ma’a, min fadlik. Not...fadlak.”

“No, and I wish I had water to give you.”

The pain surged and Tim tensed, breathing heavily as he tried to get the pain to leave or at least recede a little. Suddenly, he realized that he had shade. He opened his eyes again and saw that Zahara had removed her head scarf and was using it to shade them both from the harsh sunlight.

“It is good for something,” she said, smiling at him.

“Yes,” he said. His eyes closed again.

Before he knew it, he was talking, talking as he never had allowed himself to do before, talking to a person who was wholly unconnected with everything he’d gone through, knowing that it was unlikely either of them would live to regret it.

“Her name...is Samia. Her father...is the head of a bedouin tribe in Saudi Arabia and Yemen,” he said. “They saved me from a group who was torturing me for information. They wanted me to help them. I couldn’t do it. They were going to keep...torturing me until I died. Then, Suhayl came in the middle of a sandstorm and saved me. His daughter wanted to help me, even when I was dying. She brought me water in a cask almost bigger...than she was. It took me so...long to recover from that. But my mind was worse. I felt like the worst person in the world. Blood on my hands. Innocent blood. Other people’s blood, Zahara.”

His breath ran out and he lay there, just breathing.

“You are not guilty. I do not see a killer in your eyes,” she said, softly, stroking his hair.

“I did. Every day. Then...the CIA psychiatrist forced me to confront it all, helped me to see...more. And I’ve tried...to be worthy of the...chance I’ve had...to live when so...many others have died.” He opened his eyes again. “You are the best thing that’s happened to me...in a long time, Zahara. It made me feel that...maybe I’m not as bad as I thought.”

“You are not a bad man, Tim,” Zahara said. “You are a good man.”

“It hurts,” he whispered. “But physical pain is better than the pain in my soul. All I wanted was to escape from that.” He laughed weakly. “Go figure that...I’d die physically after I healed spiritually.”

“You will not die, Tim. You cannot give up. There is still hope.”

“No, Zahara. We both know it. There’s no hope for me. There is for you. I might...as well be dead already. You should leave me here.”

“No!”

Tim closed his eyes.

“I love you, Zahara. I never thought I’d fall in love. I didn’t think I could, not with the life I have. But I do. I love you.”

As before, she did not reciprocate, but that was all right. It didn’t really matter at this point. The silence fell and Tim lay there, his head in Zahara’s lap, staining her clothes with his blood, enjoying the little bit of shade her scarf could give them as the sun passed through the sky on its way to the horizon.

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 Post subject: Chapter 37
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:48 am 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 37

The sun had long since set below the horizon and they were driving in the dark. None of them had spoken in hours.

“What are you doing in Morocco?” Gibbs asked, unsure if his probing would be allowed. But Tim had apparently trusted this man and he wanted to know what this CIA agent was like.

There was a long pause and then, Gibbs saw Daniel glance at Carew (who said nothing) and back at Gibbs in the rearview mirror.

“I’m establishing a CIA presence here, in case things go south. We don’t want to be taken by surprise if Morocco is the next place to have a political meltdown.”

“Why you?”

“You mean why someone who is obviously a foreigner?”

“Yes.”

“Because I have a connection to Morocco that most people don’t have. My mother is half-Moroccan, and both my parents love Morocco. They passed that on to me. I love this place. I love the people. I love the culture.”

“And this whole thing was his idea anyway,” Carew interjected with some amusement.

“I made the suggestion, I admit.”

“Why?”

“My family used to come to Morocco when I was young. My dad had a stroke a few years ago and I wanted a way to get him out here. Besides, it’s the perfect excuse for living in Morocco, especially Marrakech. And by the way, Agent Gibbs, everything I’m telling you is stuff I told Tim, too. I didn’t tell him everything, but what I did tell him was absolutely true. I just didn’t tell him I work for the CIA, too.”

“That’s a big omission,” Gibbs said.

“Only because you make it that way,” Carew said. “Most people would accept that there are genuine reasons for not saying everything about oneself. And it would not be assumed that Mr. Worthing is lying about everything simply because he chose to follow the rules of his job.”

Silence fell again. Gibbs knew that Carew was right, but that didn’t mean he had to like it. After another hour, Daniel slowed the car and pulled off to the side of the road.

“Okay. Now what?” he asked. “We have desert in front of us. We have desert to either side and the mountains behind us. If they’re in the desert, we’ll have to go off road, but...where?”

Gibbs opened the door and got out. There was a wind blowing and while the ground was still warm, the air was starting to cool. It was dark and he could see the problem involved. Where to look in a region of flat, baked earth and rolling, sandy dunes?

Carew got out as well. He looked around and then, he stared to the north.

“What?” Gibbs asked.

“What’s that over there, Mr. Worthing?” Carew asked, pointing.

Daniel got out and followed Carew’s gaze.

“Clouds,” he said. “It looks like it could even be raining which is weird for this time of year.”

Carew smiled. “That’s where we need to go.”

“Why?”

“Because the last time Agent McGee was in a desert, it rained on us, in an area that hadn’t seen rain in ten years. Only Agent McGee could be lucky enough to experience rain in the desert twice in a row.”

“You’re basing your decision on a coincidence?” Gibbs asked.

“Yes, I am. And because we have no idea where to look. That direction is a definite option and I’ve got a reason for it. Do you have a better idea, Agent Gibbs?” Carew asked.

“No.”

“Exactly. Find a good place to get off the road and we’ll start driving toward that storm.”

“Okay. You’re the boss,” Daniel said.

They got back in the car and Daniel began searching for a place to go off road. After another few minutes, he suddenly slowed to a stop and pointed to a spot at the edge of their headlights.

“A car’s been off the road here. Recently. Look at the tracks.”

“Does it line up with the storm?” Carew asked.

“More or less. The storm wouldn’t just sit in the same spot, you know. It’ll move until it blows itself out.”

“Go.”

Daniel nodded and turned the car off the road, engaging the four-wheel drive as he did so.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” he said, softly.

“As much as anyone does,” Carew replied.

They were driving more slowly now, but the bumping increased significantly. Carew pulled out a flashlight and began shining it to the side of the car. Gibbs found another flashlight under the seat and began doing the same on the opposite side. It wasn’t particularly effective, but it was better than nothing.

Then...

“It’s been raining here,” Daniel said. “Probably a quick downpour, just lasting a few minutes. That’s very uncommon this time of year.”

Carew nodded.

Another few minutes of clattering silence. They drove through some puddles, but the rain was long gone.

“What’s that? Up ahead,” Daniel said.

Gibbs leaned up.

“Looks like someone out in the desert, doesn’t it,” Carew said.

“Only one?” Gibbs asked.

“Hard to tell,” Daniel said. “Too far away.”

He increased his speed a little bit and the figure looked more and more like two people instead of one. About twenty feet away, Daniel stopped the car. Gibbs got out quickly and headed for the two people.

“Salaam?” Daniel called from the car.

“‘ateqnī!”

That was a female voice.

“Zahara!” Daniel said in surprise.

There was a pause and Gibbs could now see the woman shading her eyes from the headlights. She was soaking wet.

“Daniel?” she asked. “Tim...he is hurt!”

Gibbs ran the last few feet and knelt down beside Zahara.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m Tim’s boss. We’ve been looking for him,” Gibbs said, only giving Zahara a glance.

Tim had all his attention. In the glow of the headlights, he looked white and limp. He was as wet as Zahara. His eyes were closed and his breathing was shallow.

“What happened?” Gibbs asked.

“They stabbed him. We were trying to escape, but we were not fast enough and they stabbed him. Then, they left us here to die,” Zahara said, tearfully.

Gibbs checked Tim’s pulse. It was weak and irregular. Daniel joined them. He knelt down and put a comforting hand on Zahara’s arm while focusing on Tim.

“Where did they stab him?” Gibbs asked.

Carefully, Zahara rolled Tim over and the large bloodstain on her clothes matched the one on his back.

“The bleeding has stopped now, but he lost so much.”

“We’ve got to get him to a hospital,” Daniel said. “And that means going back to Marrakech. It’s hours. Will he last that long?”

“Yes,” Gibbs said. “He’s been through worse. Let’s get him in the car.”

Carew had stayed by the car, but now, he walked over.

“I’ve folded down the back seat so that we can lay him back there.”

Together, they lifted Tim as gently as they could and moved him to the car. Zahara got in the back and sat beside Tim. She stroked his hair and said nothing. Carew and Daniel got back into the front seat while Gibbs stayed in the back with Zahara and Tim. Quickly, he cut away Tim’s shirt and found the wound. It was obviously deep, but the fact that Tim was still alive told him that it hadn’t pierced a lung or nicked an artery. It was still oozing a little bit, but overall, it wasn’t still bleeding. It was cold comfort after what had clearly been hours with no treatment, but Tim was still alive and they would keep him that way.

The bumpy ride back to the road began. Zahara tried to brace Tim as much as she could, and Gibbs helped. No one spoke while they were clattering through the desert. Daniel was focusing on the path ahead too much. Gibbs and Zahara were focused on Tim, and Carew simply did not speak. It would have been utterly silent in the car were it not for the rough terrain.

Finally, they were back on the road and Daniel was driving back to Marrakech, as fast as he reasonably could through the mountains in the dark. Gibbs took advantage of the smoother drive to prop Tim’s legs up on the bags in order to encourage circulation of the blood he hadn’t lost. Then, he looked at Zahara and realized how wet she still was and he gave her a blanket. She wrapped it around her shoulders and then looked down at Tim again.

“He was trying to protect me,” Zahara said, breaking the silence. “This is my fault.”

“No,” Gibbs said. “That’s the way Tim is. He would always try to protect someone else if he could.”

Zahara shook her head. “This has nothing to do with him. He said that he was having a bad day and he wanted to see me to feel better.” She closed her eyes and a few tears escaped. “All he got was this.”

Gibbs really looked at her for the first time and saw her fear and he also saw a dark bruise on her cheek. In spite of all that, bedraggled as she was, she had a different sort of beauty. It was impossible to tell where she was from based on her looks. Now, as she held Tim on her lap, he could see the depth of her feelings. Any idea that this might be a fling on her side was gone with her expression.

He covered her hand with his and patted it.

“He’s going to make it,” Gibbs said, firmly. “He is not going to die.”

“I could not get him to speak,” Zahara said. “He was so weak and in so much pain. He did not even feel the rain when it fell and it was what he wanted. He was thirsty.”

Gibbs knew that it was a bad idea to give food or water to someone who was unconscious, but maybe they could get Tim back to consciousness somehow.

“Hand me a couple of bottles of water, Carew,” he said.

“Is he awake?” Daniel asked.

“No, but I can clean him up.”

Zahara handed him a scarf.

“You may use this.”

“Thanks.”

Gibbs handed Zahara a bottle of water.

“You could probably use some, too.”

“Yes. It was very hot,” Zahara said. She opened the bottle and drank half of it in one sitting. Then, she drank the rest more slowly. Meanwhile, Gibbs took the scarf and poured some of the water over it. He began to wipe away the dirt from Tim’s face, being as gentle as he could. Then, he started cleaning around the wound.

As he’d hoped, Tim began to stir. His eyes cracked open, and he looked at Gibbs, but seemingly without any actual recognition. Gibbs didn’t care about that for the moment. Mental acuity was less important than signs of life, right now.

“Tim, are you thirsty?” Gibbs asked.

For a while, Tim just stared, and Gibbs wondered if he was comprehending anything at all. Then, he nodded, mouthing the word without actually saying it.

Knowing that there could be a risk that Tim wouldn’t think to swallow given his current state, Gibbs opened his own bag and pulled out a clean t-shirt. Without a second thought, he cut a strip out of it and soaked the strip with water. Then, he carefully put it in Tim’s mouth.

“Suck on it, Tim. If you can handle it, I’ll give you more.”

Tim obeyed and in seconds, the fabric was nearly dry. So Gibbs took it back and soaked it again. He continued the process of getting Tim to suck on the fabric for the next hour. He didn’t dare let Tim actually drink from the bottle, but as long as he could manage sucking on the strip, Gibbs would keep it up. It was far from ideal, but it was the only option they had at the moment. Tim never spoke, never really engaged, but he got some water which he had probably desperately needed.

“How’s it going?” Carew asked.

“He’s getting some water,” Gibbs said. “No sign of recognition.”

“Once we get over the mountains and we have service again, we can call ahead to the hospital and see what they want us to do,” Daniel said. “It may just be that we get him to the hospital as fast as possible, but we can ask.”

After the bottle was half empty, Tim’s eyes closed completely and he stopped responding even in the limited way he had been.

“He’s out again,” Gibbs said and covered Tim with a blanket.

“Still breathing?” Carew asked.

“Yeah.”

The silence fell again. Gibbs’ attention was all on Tim, making sure he was still alive, that he didn’t start bleeding again, that he was as well off as he could be.

“We’re almost through the pass,” Daniel said. He tossed his phone to Carew. “Start checking for a signal.”

Another twenty minutes.

“Got a bar,” Carew said.

“Dial 15 and let me do the talking.”

“Gladly. Just don’t get in an accident, Mr. Worthing. It’s not safe to talk and drive.”

Daniel muttered something under his breath that Gibbs didn’t quite catch, but based on Zahara’s expression, it wasn’t complimentary. Carew just smiled.

“It’s ringing.”

“Put it on speaker.”

Carew did and held it out. As soon as there was a connection, he started talking rapidly. A couple of times he talked to Zahara and she responded. It was getting details about what had happened to Tim. Now that it was time to give information, Zahara was completely composed. No trembling in her voice, just an earnest desire to be helpful.

Suddenly, Daniel pulled over to the side of the road.

“What are you doing?” Gibbs asked.

Daniel took the phone from Carew and disconnected.

“They’re sending a helicopter. It’ll get Tim to the hospital a lot faster than I can. It’ll be better if we’re in one place that they can track than to keep driving and have them have to find us. They’ll be here soon.”

Another half hour and they could hear the sound of rotors.

Before they knew it, the helicopter was landing. Daniel got out of the car and starting calling to the medics who came over with a stretcher. He was talking to them and gesturing for them to come around the car to the back. They paused in surprise at the sight of Zahara and Gibbs sitting in the back with Tim just lying there. Then, they got moving, checking Tim’s breathing and pulse and blood pressure.

“I’m going to go with them to the university hospital. Zahara, you can get them there, right?”

She nodded.

“Good. I’ll see you there.”

Then, before Gibbs could protest, Tim was on the stretcher and being loaded on the helicopter. Daniel got on as well, leaving Carew, Gibbs and Zahara sitting in the car, looking at each other for a few seconds.

“What were they saying?” Gibbs asked. “I couldn’t follow.”

“That they were surprised Tim had lived so long as he was. They hoped that he would not have...brain damage from the lack of blood. They also wondered what had happened to an American that left him like that.”

“What did Daniel say?”

“That Tim was in the wrong place at the wrong time and they might need to file a police report.”

Awkward silence fell again.

“Well...who wants to drive?” Carew asked, finally.

“You know the way?” Gibbs asked Zahara.

“Yes, but I do not think I should be driving.” She held up her hand. It was shaking. “I will give directions.”

“Okay. Carew?”

“Fine,” he said and slid over to the driver’s seat. Gibbs closed the back door and moved to the front, leaving Zahara to sit in the back seat. She seemed relieved at having a little more personal space.

It took another three hours to get back to Marrakech. Then, Zahara began guiding Carew to the Mohammed VI University Hospital. Carew dropped them off at the door.

“I’ll find a place to park and meet you inside,” he said.

Gibbs nodded and walked with Zahara to the front desk.

“Ayn Tim McGee?” he asked.

“Jā’ marwahiya,” Zahara added.

“Fī al-jarāha,” the attendant said and then gestured to the waiting room.

Gibbs saw Daniel sitting, looking a little dazed.

“Shokran,” he said and the walked over to Daniel.

He started a bit when Gibbs sat down beside him.

“Sorry. I sat down and suddenly realized how tired I am.” He shook his head and looked more alert. “They got him back. The doctors are worried about the blood loss and possible nerve or tendon damage in his shoulder. This place is about the best Marrakech has to offer. There are international clinics where most tourists will go, but this is beyond what they can do. When and if he’s stabilized, you’ll want to get him back to the States as soon as you can.”

Gibbs nodded in agreement. While the medical care might be just fine here, he had to admit that he’d feel better knowing that Tim was in an American hospital.

Still, for now, this would do. He sat down beside Daniel on one side and Zahara sat on the other side. Carew came in a few minutes later and sat down without speaking.

For another hour.

Finally, a doctor came out and started speaking to Daniel who gestured to Carew and Gibbs.

“Yes, I can speak English,” the doctor said. “I am Dr. Naybet. Your friend is alive. We were able to give him blood to replace what was lost. We were able to repair some of the damage, but some will have to heal on its own. If it will. We also checked his head because of the injury there, but there is no bleeding.”

“Can we see him?” Gibbs asked.

“Yes. You may go back. He is still asleep and I do not believe he will wake up, but you can see him.”

Daniel, Zahara and Gibbs all got up, but Carew waited where he was. Gibbs debated asking whether or not he was coming, but he couldn’t imagine Tim being excited about seeing him, so he said nothing. Instead, they walked back to a large room. There were a couple of other people there, but they saw Tim right away. He was lying in a bed, IVs, oxygen supplement, but he was alive and that was wonderful. Gibbs and Daniel walked over to the bed, but Zahara lagged behind.

Gibbs sat down and examined Tim more closely. Beyond the obvious injury, it was clear that Tim had been safe and secure in Morocco before all this had happened. There were no other obvious injuries.

“He’s alive,” Daniel said, softly. “I’m glad. I never thought we’d be able to find them in the middle of the desert. Then, I wasn’t sure he’d survive to get back here.”

“He’s been through worse,” Gibbs said.

“You said that before. Tim told me a few vague things, and I’ve heard of him, of course, but how much worse?”

“They beat his feet,” Gibbs said. “Even touching them hurt him. They broke his arm, his face. They nearly killed him. Months of physical therapy.”

“And psychological.”

“Yeah. That was the worst, but he had other times, too. He got hit by a car and sent to NCIS in a body bag. He couldn’t talk. He went insane for a while. He got caught by shrapnel from a bomb. He’s had worse.”

Daniel was silent for a few minutes, looking at Tim. “I’m sorry that this isn’t the worst.”

“Me, too.”

Suddenly, Daniel looked back.

“Where’s Zahara?”

“I don’t know,” Gibbs said. “I’ll go check.”

“I can.”

“You stay here. He doesn’t know I’m here. It might throw him.”

Daniel smiled. “I don’t know that very much throws Tim at this point.”

“I don’t think it does.”

Gibbs walked out of the room and back to the waiting area. Carew was still seated in the same place.

“Did Zahara come out here?”

Carew nodded.

“Where is she?”

“She left.”

“You let her go?” Gibbs asked. “Didn’t you hear what she said? People were after her!”

“Yes, but she used my phone to call friends and they came to get her. I saw her leave with them,” Carew said. “She wasn’t happy, Agent Gibbs. Let her go to the people she knows.”

Gibbs was irritated that Carew had allowed Zahara to just leave without trying to stop her, but he also recognized that Carew was probably right. She knew how much or how little danger she was in.

“You can’t save the whole world, Gibbs,” Carew said, his tone very different from what it usually was. “Sometimes, you just have to let them go if that’s what they want.”

“Do you do that?”

Carew smiled, but it was less cynical and more weary.

“Agent Gibbs, that is my entire life at this point. If Tamara decides she doesn’t want to try any longer, then, all I can do is let her leave. There’s no force. Just hope. For now, Zahara has had a major shock. She’s been hurt. She’s been frightened, and the man who tried to save her nearly died. She needs to have the chance to get comfort from people she knows, not three strangers. How is he?”

“Sleeping. For now.”

Carew nodded and remained where he was.

Gibbs went back to sit by Tim...just happy that he had survived.

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 Post subject: Chapter 38
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:50 am 
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Chapter 38

Zahara sat on the couch with Fatima and Ibrahim, crying and stammering out the story for nearly an hour. Fatima kept her arms around Zahara, but neither she nor Ibrahim tried to interrupt anything that Zahara said. Their surprise at knowing Zahara’s secondary purpose in being in Marrakech was subsumed beneath the knowledge that she had almost been killed because of it.

“And I saw him in the bed and I couldn’t stay,” Zahara whispered, finally at the end of the tale. “I can’t face what happened to him because of me.”

“It’s not your fault, Zahara,” Fatima said. “You did not do anything wrong. Are you sure that you’ll be safe now?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know because they thought we were going to die out there, and Daniel said he would be contacting the police about what happened.”

“Well, for now, you should stay here and don’t leave. We called Ahmed when we couldn’t find you. He’s on his way here.”

Zahara nodded, glad that she would have the comfort of her brother. Fatima and Ibrahim were both wonderful, but they weren’t family. And family was just different.

“Good. I’ll take you to a room and you should try to sleep. Does your cheek hurt?”

“Yes.”

“Ibrahim, get the kit and I will tend to that before you sleep.”

Zahara nodded again. After everything that had happened in the last couple of days, she was happy just to let someone take care of her and let her escape from the fear.

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

Waking up was really hard to do. Harder than anything he’d ever done. Or at least, it seemed that way. It felt like he was fighting his way up out of a deep, dark pit. Only the knowledge that he was supposed to be waking up kept him trying, fighting against the inertia that kept his eyes closed.

Finally, he saw a bit of light.

“Tim. Tim, are you awake?”

He sorted through various thoughts and remembered that he was Tim.

“Tim, can you hear me?”

The voice finally registered.

“Daniel?” he whispered.

“Yes! Yes, Tim. That’s great. How are you feeling?”

“Daniel...I thought...was...dying.”

“Yeah, you were, but we found you and you’re in a hospital. You’re safe. Don’t worry.”

There was another thing that was more important than that.

“Zahara,” he said.

“She’s fine, too.”

“Zahara,” he said again, unable to articulate the problem.

“Tim, she’s fine. Don’t worry.”

He couldn’t find the words to explain what was going on. He just knew that Daniel needed to know that Zahara was in danger.

“Zahara...she... they were...”

“Tim, we know. She told us. She’s safe. She’s fine.”

Tim tried to open his eyes and focus on Daniel. He succeeded and looked at him.

“Just relax, Tim. All you need to do is relax. Zahara is safe. She’s not in any danger. Just rest, okay?”

Tim’s eyes closed again.

“I’m sure you’re still really tired. Go back to sleep.”

Tim didn’t want to. He wanted to fight that and keep awake, but he really was tired and he sank back into sleep, in spite of his desire to figure out what was going on.

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

Daniel smiled a little as Tim obviously resisted falling asleep but couldn’t stop himself. Then, he looked across the bed at Gibbs. Tim hadn’t even noticed someone else being there. Understandable, given the situation, but Daniel couldn’t help but wonder how Tim would react to Gibbs showing up in Morocco.

“Any idea of where she would go?” Gibbs asked after a few minutes.

“Probably to some of her friends. Tim had dinner with them once. I don’t know where they live, though. Tim does. Maybe.” Daniel smiled again. “He’s never really quite got the hang of navigating through the streets of Marrakech.”

Gibbs smiled a little, too.

“Agent Gibbs, Tim told me that he loves Zahara, but he also said that she never said that she felt the same way. She cares about him. I know that because she spent a lot of time with him, but maybe this was too far for her. I really don’t know. Do we try to find her?”

“Tim can make that decision when he really wakes up.”

“Right. I just never expected any of this being something that would come out of Tim’s being here. This had nothing to do with him if Zahara was right. An innocent bystander...who’s already had enough pain for a lifetime based on what you’ve said.” Daniel shook his head. “It just sucks is all.”

“Yeah, it does,” Gibbs said.

Silence fell again for a few minutes.

“I’ll miss Tim when he leaves,” Daniel said, suddenly. “First friend I had out here. It’s hard to make connections when you know you have to keep part of yourself a secret. It only worked with Tim because I knew he was keeping secrets, too.”

“What about your family?”

Daniel shrugged and didn’t make eye contact.

“Getting Dad out here will be hard, but I have to wait until I could reasonably be expected to afford it. Right now, my business isn’t lucrative enough that I could afford to fly my dad out here when he’s paralyzed on the right side of his body and can barely speak.”

“That’s more important than getting him here?”

Daniel looked up and Gibbs was surprised to see only determination, not anger or guilt, in his eyes.

“Agent Gibbs, while I proposed this assignment because of my connection to Morocco, I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t needed. My job is important. I’m not just doing this for the fun of it. I’m potentially protecting my father by being here. He wouldn’t be happy knowing that I risked that just to give him a vacation, even to Morocco. Besides, it might be the last trip he ever took and I want it to be perfect. Heck, I’d fly my whole family out here if I could, just for one last reunion. One last chance for us to be together in Marrakech.”

Again. Silence. Nurses came in check on Tim and apparently, he was still fine because they didn’t linger at all. They checked his stats, replaced the IV bags and then left.

After a couple of hours, Tim started to stir.

“Tim, it’s Daniel. How are you feeling?”

“Awful,” Tim mumbled. “Fuzzy.”

“You’re on pain killers after your surgery. I’m sure they’re keeping you from feeling as much pain as possible.”

“Sounds...good...to me.”

“I thought it would. Hey, Tim. You have another visitor besides me.”

Tim’s eyes opened.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Look on the other side of the bed.”

Tim furrowed his brow for a few seconds and then let his eyes wander away from Daniel. When they finally lit on Gibbs, Tim only looked confused for just long enough that Daniel started to worry either that Tim might have some real problems or that Gibbs had been lying. Then, Tim’s eyes widened.

“Boss...how...”

“You told Carew where you were going.”

Tim nodded slowly.

“Carew told me.”

“But...how did you...get here?”

“On a plane.”

“Wow,” Tim said. “What now?”

“Now, you get stable enough for us to take you home.”

“Is it...safe?”

“It will be.”

“I don’t...want to...be arrested, Gibbs,” Tim said.

“You won’t be,” Gibbs said, firmly. “You’re not getting arrested.”

“Okay,” Tim said.

To Daniel, that just proved that Tim was still a little out of it. If his freedom was on the line, Daniel couldn’t imagine just accepting one man’s word.

“Don’t worry. You’re going home,” Gibbs said.

Tim nodded. Then, after a few seconds, he looked around a little more.

“Where’s Zahara?” he asked.

“She left with some friends. She’s safe.”

“She left?” Tim asked. “Why?”

“She probably needed to unwind after what happened,” Daniel said, hoping he was right.

“But could she come back?”

“I’m sure she could,” Daniel said. “Do you know where she’d be?”

Tim was silent again for a little bit.

“Where I had...dinner. Fatima and...Ibrahim Marzouk.”

“Where do they live?”

“Fifteen minutes walk...from the Jemaa al-Fnaa,” Tim said, mumbling over the words.

“That’s the best you can do?” Daniel asked, smiling.

Tim smiled a little, too. “Only went there the once.”

“All right. I’ll give you that. I’ll see if I can find her.”

“Shokran,” Tim said and his eyes closed again.

“You’re welcome,” Daniel said, softly. Then, he looked at Gibbs. “I’ll go see if I can figure out where they live. I just don’t know if Tim will believe that Zahara is okay unless he sees her.”

“Not like this, he won’t,” Gibbs said. “Tell Carew to come back here when you leave.”

“All right.”

Daniel left the room and went back to the waiting area. Carew was still sitting there, seemingly of infinite patience, although Daniel’s own experience with him, limited as it had been, told him that whether Carew was really patient or not, he wouldn’t show it.

“Agent Gibbs needs to talk to you,” he said.

“All right. Where are you off to?”

“To see if I can find Zahara. Tim is worried about her, and I figured that I could see if she would come and just let Tim know that she’s all right.”

“What if she’s not?” Carew asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You think she was hurt more than she said?”

Carew shook his head. “I think that the worst damage wasn’t physical. And that means it’s harder to recover. I think you need to be prepared for her not to come.”

“Well, I wasn’t planning on forcing her. I just was going to ask.”

Carew just nodded and stood up. He walked back toward the room where Tim was. Daniel left the hospital and took a taxi to the Jemaa al-Fnaa. Then, he considered the various roads leading from it. Fifteen minutes’ walk wasn’t very far and he knew that the home was a riad and in a nice area where the riads were larger. He decided to walk down one of the streets and see what he could see. After a while, he decided to check to see if he could find out if he was in the right place.

There were a few men sitting out in the alley. Two were playing felli and another two were kibbitzing. He walked over to them.

“Ismeh līya. Hātha bayt Ibrahim Marzouk?” he asked, gesturing to the door across the street.

“La. Thaletha buyūt min huna,” one of the men said, pointing further down.

“Shokran,” Daniel said.

He walked to the door and knocked. After a few seconds, the door opened and he smiled courteously at the man who he guessed was Ibrahim.

“Ismeh līya,” he said. “Ismi Daniel Worthing. Ana sadīq Tim McGee. Yumkin tahadith ila Zahara, min fadlak?”

Ibrahim looked at him for a few seconds, deciding whether or not to trust him.

“Antathar huna,” he said.

Daniel was a little surprised. Usually, he’d be invited in, but with what had happened to Zahara, he could imagine that they were being cautious.

After a few minutes, the door opened again. Ibrahim spoke in English this time, perhaps to get rid of eavesdroppers.

“I am sorry, Daniel. I must say no.”

“I understand. Could you just tell Zahara that Tim woke up and is worrying about her? If she feels up to it, I was hoping that she might visit and talk to him.”

“I will tell her what you said. Good day.”

“Shokran.”

The door closed and Daniel reluctantly walked away. He couldn’t very well insist that she come to the hospital, but he wanted to. Tim would be relieved just by seeing her, but as Carew had said, she had her own recovery to think about.

Instead, he headed back to the hospital to relay the results of his attempt.

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

“Yes, Agent Gibbs?” Carew asked as he walked in.

“Will that plane be able to stick around until we can leave?” Gibbs asked.

“Yes,” Carew said, easily.

“Just like that?”

Carew smiled his usual infuriating and slightly-disconcerting smile. “Yes. Just like that. Oh, the pilot might bellyache a little bit, but they’re prepared to hang around, for a reasonable amount of time. Since Agent McGee is mostly needing to recover from blood loss and he is not in nearly the dire straits he was before, I would guess that another day or two would be enough for him to leave. Not in perfect health, of course, but with some oxygen supplement for the thinner air in the cabin, I think he’d be fine. Is that everything?”

“How well do you know Morocco?”

“Not as well as other places, but I’m somewhat familiar with the way things run here.”

“Do we report to the police or not?”

“Ah.” Carew sat down. “It’s a toss-up, quite honestly. On the one hand, officially, Agent McGee is a tourist and anything that harms tourists is bad for the country. A lot of their economy is reliant on tourism. On the other hand, if these people have any kind of political clout, it could mean a royal mess, especially when we want to get Agent McGee out of the country and keep Zahara safe. I’m not really sure which would be the best option. I’d rely on Mr. Worthing’s opinion over my own.”

“You trust him?”

“Yes. I’m the one who approved his suggestion. It’s the only reason I knew he was here. He is reliable and he’s trustworthy. There’s no reason to doubt his sincerity. Or his experience. I know that he puts off a rather innocent vibe, but he’s not naive. Far from it, in fact. Mr. Worthing went through a trial by fire in his first years working for me. No, I won’t tell you what it was, and neither will he.”

Gibbs nodded.

“Boss?”

Gibbs looked down quickly and saw Tim’s eyes opening. He glanced over and saw Carew getting up. He looked at Gibbs with a smile and then walked out of the room without a word. Gibbs shook his head and looked back down.

“Awake again?”

“Did I fall asleep?” Tim asked. He seemed slightly more awake, although he was still obviously not in a good state for deep conversation. His words were a little slurred and he spoke more slowly than was natural.

Gibbs smiled a little.

“Yeah, you did.”

“Oh. I thought... I just closed my eyes.”

“Nope.”

Tim looked around. Slowly.

“Where’s Daniel?”

“Looking for your girlfriend.”

Tim actually smiled a little and didn’t comment.

“You never mentioned her to Abby.”

“You think... I’m stupid, Boss?” Tim asked.

Gibbs laughed, glad to see Tim acting as normal as it was possible for him to be. Once the painkillers wore off, he’d be a lot less happy, but for now, it was just fine.

“Nope.”

“Good.”

“What’s going on with you two?”

“Dating.”

“And?”

Tim smiled tiredly and his eyes closed.

“Who knows?” he said. “The dream...or...my usual reality...”

A deep breath and Tim seemed to fall asleep yet again.

Gibbs shook his head, regretting the situation anew. He didn’t even know for sure what Tim meant by the dream, but he knew what the usual reality was.

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 Post subject: Chapter 39
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:58 am 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
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Gender: Female
Chapter 39

Zahara sat in the guest room, staring at the bloodstained clothes she hadn’t yet washed. All she could see was Tim slowly dying in her arms because of what she had been doing. She knew about his pain and she had added to it. Part of her wanted to go to the hospital to see for herself that Tim was recovering, that her decisions hadn’t killed him, but most of her wanted to stay as far away from him as possible so that she didn’t have to see him in pain, so that she didn’t have to see what she had done to him.

It had seemed so simple back when she had offered to help keep track of how much antagonism there was against the Spanish possession of Melilla. It wasn’t like she was really doing anything. People talked where she could hear and she passed it on. That was all. She got paid enough extra that she could continue living independently. There had been very little she told her contacts about. She mostly got paid for the potential of hearing something. It had been a simple, easy way to make some money.

Now, it wasn’t simple at all. Her life had been on the line in a way she’d never anticipated, and Tim had almost paid the ultimate price because of her lack of understanding. She had been so naive.

I should never have let this go so far, she thought to herself.

For the last two days, she had not stirred out of the room more than two or three times. She slept and then she woke and sat there. Fatima had brought her food to eat and she had appreciated that, but she didn’t want to go anywhere and, thankfully, Fatima had respected her desire to be by herself. She had even kept Khadija from smothering Zahara with her well-meaning but unhelpful sympathy. Fatima and Ibrahim were around if Zahara needed them. Otherwise, they left her alone. When Ibrahim had told her about Daniel being outside, just the thought of leaving the house had frightened her. What if those men saw her again? Surely, they would recognize her and want her dead again. Who might be the next one to suffer if that happened?

There was a soft knock on the door. Zahara didn’t bother responding. She didn’t want company. She wanted to be alone. Or so she thought.

“Zahara. ¿Puedo entrar?”

She turned.

“Ahmed.”

Zahara went to the door and opened it. Then, she hugged her brother tightly, not realizing just how deeply she had needed him. She started to cry and he rocked her gently.

“Estoy aquí. Estoy aquí,” he said, softly.

Ahmed led her to the bed and they sat down together. He didn’t speak for the time being. That was all right. No words could make things better, not right now. All she needed was to have her brother there to comfort her.

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

“If it weren’t for Zahara, I’d just automatically say no to pressing charges, Agent Gibbs,” Daniel said. “Tim needs to get out of here and formal charges could tie things up. But at the same time, Zahara will still be here and she was the target. Letting these guys get away with it could mean leaving her in danger.”

He sat for a few minutes, thinking about it. Gibbs let him. There was no reason to rush it. Tim’s doctor had been optimistic about moving Tim in the next day or two, but not earlier, and that meant that they still had some time.

“How about this?” Daniel said, leaning forward. “You and Carew write up witness statements. We’ll get them notarized by the U.S. consolate in Rabat and then, I’ll see what Zahara wants to do...or her friends if I still can’t talk to her. There will also be the understanding that, if Tim is needed, he can come back and testify. So if they want to pursue it, after Tim is gone, the option is there.”

It didn’t take much thought. It would probably be the best option for making sure that they wouldn’t be abandoning Zahara but that Tim would still be able to get out of the country without any delay.

He nodded. “Works for me.”

“Okay. I know some people at the consulate. I’ll call them and see if someone can come here and notarize your accounts. If you don’t mind, I’ll go back to my office to call and I’ll bring my laptop here for you to make your accounts.”

Gibbs nodded.

“Okay.”

“All right. I’ll get that going. The sooner it’s done, the better. If Tim is alert enough to give an account, too, that would be better.”

Gibbs nodded, although he wasn’t sure that Tim would get to that point before they left. He was more coherent, but being able to give details would probably be beyond his ability, especially while he was on painkillers.

Daniel nodded and stood up. He looked at Tim for a moment and then shook his head and sighed.

“This really sucks, Agent Gibbs. If, when you guys get back to the States, you need any help, just give me a call and I’ll do what I can.”

Then, he left. Gibbs sat where he was and waited for Tim to wake up again.

It took another hour before Tim woke up.

His eyes opened and he winced a little as he shifted position.

“How much does it hurt?” Gibbs asked.

“Only if I move,” he said and winced again.

“Then, don’t move.”

Tim smiled a little.

“What’s happening?”

“Just waiting for your doctor to clear you to leave.”

Tim nodded. “Is it going to be okay, then?”

“Yes.”

A slow, deep breath and then, he nodded again.

Finally, Gibbs decided it was time to say what he’d been wanting to say for a long time. Was it the best time? Maybe not with Tim still on painkillers, but he was alert enough to remember and react, but mellow enough to give Gibbs the chance to speak and not try to interrupt. Maybe.

“Tim, I’m sorry.”

Tim’s brow furrowed. “What for?” he asked.

“For ruining your life,” Gibbs said, bluntly.

Tim shook his head. “No, Boss. Don’t go...there.”

“Yes. Your life was ruined because of what I wanted. It wasn’t about need. I didn’t need to know, but I wanted to. That put you on the path you can’t get off of.”

“Don’t...apologize for that, Boss. Not now.”

“I should have before. A long time ago.”

Tim shook his head again.

“No. There’s no way of knowing... whether or not I would have got on their radar some other way. I mean, I did hacking other times.”

“The CIA?”

“No.”

“I still owe you an apology.”

Tim tried for a smile. “It’s a sign...of weakness,” he said.

“I’m okay with that,” Gibbs said.

The smile vanished. “I’m not,” Tim said. “I don’t...blame you for...what happened. Not anymore.”

“But you did.”

The smile crept back again. “Of course. It was either you or...me.”

“You didn’t just blame me,” Gibbs said.

“No. I’ve...always blamed myself...for the things I did.”

“You wouldn’t have had to do them if...”

“Please, Boss,” Tim said. “Don’t go there. Please.”

Gibbs shook his head. “No, McGee. We’ve needed to go there for a long time now. We never talk about it, but there’s a reason you’re in this mess and it’s me.”

Tim looked down at his lap and didn’t respond. He just stared at his hands. Gibbs waited. He knew that Tim was trying to decide what to say and that the painkillers were making it harder for him. That meant that patience was required.

Finally, Tim looked up.

“Boss... It’s...” He fell silent again. “Did you know that this...is the first time I got hurt because of something I willingly got involved in?”

“Willingly?”

Tim nodded. “Zahara was in trouble. I stepped in. Had to. It didn’t...have anything to do with me, but...I got involved because of Zahara. And you know...I was okay with it. I...I really didn’t want this to happen,” Tim said, wincing as he shifted in the bed. “But it was...okay. And, Boss... it’s...all okay. Not great. I wish none of it had happened, but...but it’s okay. And I don’t...want you to start doing what...” He smiled a little. “...what I’ve been doing for so long. Can’t change the past. And the present... It’s not so bad.”

“Bottom line?”

“Bottom line...stop blaming yourself, Boss. It’s not going to...change the past and...it’s not going to help the future, either. And...”

Tim’s eyes closed and he didn’t go on.

“And?” Gibbs prompted.

“And I’m tired again.”

“Go to sleep.”

Tim nodded and was asleep in seconds. Gibbs smiled a little at what Tim had said and not said. No forgiveness offered, but no blame, either.

Even so, Gibbs had decided that there was no way that Tim was paying anything for it. He had been willing to threaten the President of the United States. He’d be willing to do a lot more to make sure that he didn’t lie. He knew that Tim had tried to manipulate him in the beginning because of that need to fulfill a promise. Now, whether Tim wanted him to or not, he was going to make good on it.

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

“You never told me about Tim,” Ahmed said, softly, continuing to speak in Spanish. For Zahara, it was like a little bit of home. While she and Fatima and Khadija had continued to practice, it was different from just having a conversation. They were both fluent in Spanish and Arabic, but Spanish was the language of home.

“No, I didn’t,” Zahara said.

“Fatima and Ibrahim said that you’ve been dating him for weeks.”

“Yes.”

“Why not tell me?”

Zahara found that she could smile a little bit at Ahmed’s big-brother voice.

“Because I wasn’t sure what to tell you. I never expected that, if I met someone, he would be an American. I never expected to...” She stopped, hesitating to use the word. It was one thing to say it in the middle of the desert when she thought they would die. It was another to say it to her brother. “I never thought that it would become serious. He was never going to be here permanently. This was just a visit for a few weeks before going back to the United States. It was nothing I needed to tell. And you have been so busy with your new job.”

“But you’re my sister,” Ahmed said, “and I wouldn’t mind being interrupted to know what was happening, especially if you had met someone.”

“I can’t keep doing this, Ahmed,” Zahara said, feeling teary again. “When I agreed to work for Melilla, I never thought that I’d be in danger. I can’t go through this again.”

“You won’t. You’ll quit and if they’re honorable, they’ll let you. And if they’re not, I’ll make them. Mother worked for them for so many years. Surely, that has to make a difference. You’ve done what they wanted for a long time. Now, you’re finished.”

Zahara nodded. “I hope it will be that way.”

“Will you see this man before he leaves?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“If you care for him, shouldn’t you say goodbye?”

“No. That will only make it harder for him. He’s already hurt. Why make it worse?”

“What about you?”

Zahara just shook her head again. This was not something she wanted to think about. It would be best for both of them if he just went back to his real life and she decided what her new life would be. She couldn’t stay here in Marrakech, not now, but she didn’t know what else to do, either. Going back to Melilla might be nice, but not only did she not have family there anymore, she would be leaving her friends here as well. That decision didn’t have to happen right now, though. She had time to make up her mind.

Ahmed put a protective arm around her shoulders and didn’t say anything more. Having Ahmed around definitely made Zahara feel safer. Maybe she’d end up going with him to Cairo, after all.

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

“Any word?” Ducky asked.

Tony shook his head. “No. The one time I tried calling his phone, he didn’t answer. I’m trying not to be worried.”

Ducky smiled. “And failing, I see.”

“Yeah. And failing. Don’t tell anyone, though. I’ve got to keep my stoic leadership appearance going.”

“Even though everyone knows that it’s an act?” Ducky asked.

“Yeah. Even then,” Tony said. “We’re all pretending right now, Ducky. We haven’t heard back about the charges. We haven’t heard back about the President. We haven’t heard back about Gibbs or Tim. We’re in limbo right now, and I don’t like that. We need something we can pretend is working.”

“Perhaps, what we really need is the truth, Anthony.”

“And the truth will set you free?” Tony said, bitterly.

“The CIA is not the problem this time,” Ducky said, firmly. “They’ve been trying to help us, in fact.”

“I know. That’s what really sucks. Why can’t we just keep hating the CIA like the good old days?”

Ducky smiled sadly. “What a disappointment it would be if we never learned from past events and clung to invalid views.”

Tony rolled his eyes a little and his phone rang. He took a breath and reached out to answer it. Ducky patted him on the shoulder and went his way.

“DiNozzo.”

“Hey, it’s Henry, from downstairs. There’s someone from the NSA down here and she wanted to see Agent Gibbs.”

“Gibbs isn’t here. He took some personal days.”

“I know that. That makes you the one in charge of Agent Gibbs’ team, right?”

Tony could hear Henry grinning.

“Yeah, it does. Send her up. What’s she like?”

“She looks like a kindergarten teacher, not an NSA agent, if you ask me, but she doesn’t act like a teacher.”

“Name?”

“Agent Eleanor Bishop.”

“Send her up, then.”

“Already done.”

A few seconds later, the elevator dinged open. Tony hung up and then walked over to meet the NSA agent. She definitely seemed out of place, but her expression was almost one of excitement as she looked around.

“Agent Bishop?” he asked.

She brought her attention back to Tony. She had to look up a little because she was probably about six inches shorter than he was, but she didn’t seem at all intimidated by that.

“Yes,” she said. “And you are?”

“Agent DiNozzo, senior field agent. Agent Gibbs isn’t here, today. I’m in charge of his team while he’s gone.”

“Team? I only see you, Agent DiNozzo,” she said, archly.

Tony grinned. “Well, there’s work to do. Can’t always have everyone sitting at a desk. Is that what you do at the NSA?”

“Depends,” she said and didn’t elaborate.

“What can I do for you, Agent Bishop?” Tony asked.

“You can pass on a message.”

“Which is?”

“That Agent McGee might be in danger, even if he gets off, unless you can find a way to discredit Director Jorgenson.”

Tony raised an eyebrow. “Agent McGee? Why would you be saying that about Agent McGee? He’s with NCIS, not with the NSA.”

“You can choose to admit that Agent McGee is in this situation or not. I’m just here to deliver the message and a warning about Director Jorgenson.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s been the FBI director for ten years, but, and I quote, ‘he’s still as stupid as he was on day one.’”

“Who are you quoting?”

“I’d better not say, but it is a direct quote. The NSA is worried about what Agent McGee might do should he get pushed too far.”

“If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s not going to.”

“There’s always the potential,” she said, shaking her head. “Agent McGee is not somehow immune from being pushed over the edge and over the line.”

“Well, we’re working on it, ourselves. What’s so important that the NSA is giving a personal message?”

“I’d better not say that, either.”

“Anything you can say?”

“Yes. I can say that Director Gellman is willing to give any help that Agent McGee might need, should everything not work out just right.” She lowered her voice. “Including making him disappear if it should be necessary.”

Tony raised an eyebrow at her.

“Our goal isn’t to make him need to disappear permanently. It’s to make it so that isn’t necessary.”

“Well, we don’t always get what we want, Agent DiNozzo.”

“So why you?”

Now, she smiled and there was something in her smile that made Tony question just how soft she was. She appeared to have quite a bit of backbone.

“Because I’m nosy. I figured out who he was without knowing anything about what had been going on, and Director Gellman doesn’t like leaving things to chance. The fewer who know the better. Since I knew already, he decided I was the ideal messenger. Just watch out. When the trap springs, you’d better hope that Jorgenson is the one inside it.”

“Any ideas?”

“Not at the moment, but if you’re asking for some, I’d be happy to give it a think. You know, while I’m sitting on my desk at the NSA,” she said, smiling.

On your desk?”

“Well, they won’t let me sit on the floor very often.”

Tony grinned. “Fine by me. Whatever you want to do. It must be pretty boring there if you have all this spare time.”

“I can think of more than one thing at a time, Agent DiNozzo.”

“Good to know, Agent Bishop.”

“Well, if that’s all, I’ll get back to work.”

She turned and started to leave, but Tony furrowed his brow as one of the things she’d said registered.

“Hey, wait a second.”

“What?”

“How did you figure out who Agent McGee is?”

She turned back and smiled. “I caught him in the NSA and I’m just nosy and stubborn enough not to be able to ignore it, even when I was told to.”

Tony smiled. “Sounds like you belong in NCIS, not the NSA.”

“Already applied and got rejected. The NSA knew when they had a good thing on their hands. You guys missed your chance.”

Then, she walked to the elevator and left. As soon as she was gone, Tony’s smile faded. The NSA seemed to be very focused on making sure that Tim was safe from Jorgenson.

Were they really that worried about Tim becoming a traitor because of the FBI? Was it a possibility? Tony supposed it could be, but he didn’t see Tim turning traitor just because of one man’s idiocy.

Still, it might be a good idea to bring Jenny up to speed on this latest development.

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 Post subject: Chapter 40
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 12:00 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 40

Both Carew and Gibbs wrote up their accounts, and Tim gave what details he could to the notary who certified it. Then, the doctor said that Tim was stable enough to travel back to the States but emphasized that Tim would need a thorough examination once he was there. He should also have oxygen supplement on the plane and he wasn’t to be walking around at all. Carew guaranteed that Tim would be horizontal on the plane. Gibbs didn’t call anyone simply because he was worried about being overheard and he wanted to get Tim back to the States as quietly as possible. Daniel had used one of his secure lines of communication to make arrangements for Tim to be taken to Bethesda upon their arrival.

Everything was working out, except for one thing.

Zahara.

As Gibbs walked back to Tim’s room to talk to him about the coming departure, he wondered if Tim would ask about her again. He had asked a few times, but Daniel had to admit that he had been unable to speak to her. He was going to make one more attempt today before they left, but then, that would be it. It would be too late.

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

Daniel knocked politely on the door, hoping for something different to happen this time.

The door opened after a few seconds and Ibrahim was there again. He seemed resigned to have Daniel standing at his doorstep.

“I’m sorry to bother you again, sidi, but I need to speak to you about what happened. May I please come inside?”

Reluctantly, Ibrahim nodded and stepped aside. Daniel started to remove his shoes.

“No, that is not necessary. Please, come in.”

Daniel nodded and followed Ibrahim through the inner courtyard and to a comfortable sitting room.

“What is it that you wish to say?”

“First, I have notarized testimonies from the two men who helped find Zahara and Tim, describing what happened and what they saw. I also have a recorded account from Tim, also certified by the notary from the U.S. consulate. It’s incomplete because of his medical status, but he also avers that he will come and give full testimony should it be needed. I am letting you know about this because Tim is leaving today, and once he’s gone, the choice about whether or not to go to the police is up to Zahara. I just want you to know that we’re not abandoning her to face this on her own. She’ll have our support and our testimony should it be needed.”

“Shokran. It is good to know,” Ibrahim said. “I will let Zahara and Ahmed know.”

“Ahmed?”

“Her brother. He is here with her.”

“I see.”

“What is the other thing?” Ibrahim asked.

Daniel nodded. “You probably know what it is already, sidi,” he said. “Tim is leaving today. In a few hours, in fact. He has been asking about her and I was hoping to speak to her and ask if she will come to say good-bye, at least.”

“I will ask, but I think the answer will be unchanged.”

“I won’t try to force her.”

Ibrahim nodded and left the room. Daniel didn’t think it sounded too promising. If there had been any real change, he would have shown it, just in his expression. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. After a few minutes, he heard someone coming and he turned around, hoping to see Zahara.

He didn’t. He didn’t even see Ibrahim. Instead, he saw a man who had much the same exotic look that Zahara did. This must be her brother.

“I am Ahmed Mokrani. Zahara is my sister.”

Daniel stood up quickly. “I’m Daniel Worthing. Tim is my friend.”

Ahmed nodded and then sat down.

“You have asked twice for my sister to see him.”

“Yes, but only because he’s worried about her,” Daniel said. “He’s leaving Marrakech today. It’s the last chance for them to talk. I know that they care about each other, and I had hoped that Zahara might want to see him to say good-bye.”

Ahmed’s expression softed slightly, but he shook his head.

“This is not possible. Zahara is not even leaving her room, and while the men who attacked them are possibly out on the street, it is dangerous for her to be seen.”

“I understand. Could you ask her if she wants to send any message to Tim? I would be happy to deliver it.”

“I will ask.”

“Shokran.”

Ahmed nodded and left. Daniel didn’t have much hope. If Zahara was truly as fearful as the others had intimated, it was entirely likely that she would reject any connection to Tim at all, just out of a need for safety...for both of them.

After a few minutes, Ahmed came back, and his expression had moderated to one of sympathy, but as Daniel had expected, he shook his head.

“No, but thank you for your help. We will ask for the information if it is needed.”

Ahmed stood up, and Daniel understood that it was time to leave. He nodded.

“Thank you for your time.”

“I am sorry that it was no help to you. You all played a part in saving my sister. She is my only family, and I am grateful that she is safe,” Ahmed said. “I hope that Tim makes it to the United States safely.”

“I do, too. I won’t be going with them. I live here in Marrakech, if you need anything.”

Ahmed put out his hand and Daniel shook it.

“Thank you,” Ahmed said.

Then, Daniel left, regretting that he couldn’t even give Tim the comfort of a good-bye. He knew how strong Tim’s feelings were, and he hated that this is how they would have to end. It wasn’t that Tim couldn’t ever come back here, but Daniel had a feeling that he wouldn’t ever come back. He would take this as the end of their relationship. Maybe it was. Daniel didn’t know Zahara well enough to know if that was her intention. But he could understand if she was still feeling the trauma of almost losing her own life, along with Tim almost losing his.

He went back to the hospital, dreading telling Tim that Zahara wouldn’t come to see him.

How can I put that so it doesn’t sound bad?

Maybe it would be best just to say it and let the chips fall where they would.

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

“Mr. McGee, I am signing you out of the hospital, but you must understand that this is only so that you may go home. You are not recovered. You are not ready to be on your own. You must be evaluated by your doctor when you get there.”

“Yes, I understand,” Tim said. “Thank you for everything you’ve done. I would have died.”

“Yes, you would have,” the doctor said, smiling. “But you did not. Good luck.”

“Shokran,” Tim said.

“La shokran ‘ala wājib.”

Then, the doctor left and Tim tried to get comfortable. It was a useless exercise. Every time he moved, his back hurt. He was still on whatever painkillers they were using, but he felt like they weren’t giving him enough.

“Hey, Tim.”

Tim looked toward the door and smiled.

“Hey, Daniel.”

“You’re out of here in another couple of hours, I hear.”

“That’s what I hear, too.”

“Well, before you go, I should probably come clean.”

Tim furrowed his brow. “What do you mean? Remember, they’re still giving me drugs and I don’t know when I’m just not following.”

Daniel laughed. “You seem fine. I didn’t tell you the whole truth about myself.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning that...” Daniel checked around the room and lowered his voice. “...I work for the CIA.”

“What?” Tim asked, laughing incredulously.

“My cover is being a real estate agent and tour guide. Carew called me and told me you were coming, but he said that you wouldn’t be very likely to trust me if you knew.”

“What did he tell you to do?” Tim asked, trying not to fall back into his instant paranoia.

“Find you a safe place to stay. That’s it. I really did keep hanging out with you because I enjoyed your company. Everything I told you about my family is true. The only thing I didn’t tell you is about my other employer. Still friends, I hope?”

Tim smiled and nodded. “Yeah. You took me on too many tours of Marrakech for me to say no.”

Daniel laughed, but he did look genuinely relieved. Tim was surprised. After all, he was leaving the country and would likely never be back. Speaking of which...

“Have you found Zahara?” he asked.

Daniel looked down for a few seconds and then, he took a breath and looked up again.

“Yeah, I did. I didn’t talk to her, though. I talked to Ibrahim Marzouk and I talked to Zahara’s brother, Ahmed. She wouldn’t talk to me.”

“Why not? She knows who you are.”

“I think that this has really shaken her, Tim. I think she’s scared. You almost died. A few hours later and it would have been too late for us to save you, even if we’d found you. You’d lost a lot of blood and you weren’t getting enough oxygen. She had to watch that. ...and she won’t be coming to see you. She wouldn’t even leave a message. I’m sorry.”

Even though he could see the reason for it, logically, Tim felt like he’d just been punched in the gut. He took a breath and let it out. He tried not to be angry. He tried to understand Zahara’s point of view. He told himself that he did, but deep down, he didn’t. All he would have wanted was to say good-bye, if she didn’t want anything more. Just one last time to see her.

“Tim?”

Tim swallowed all that, but he couldn’t meet Daniel’s gaze.

“We’d only known each other for a few weeks. That’s too soon for things to really get serious. It’s okay.”

“Tim, I really think that she’s too afraid to leave the house. I don’t think it’s about what she feels for you.”

Another breath and Tim tried to hide what he felt. He looked up and smiled.

“If you ever come to DC, you can stay at my place,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll be coming back to Morocco anytime soon.”

“Understood. I’ll try to keep in touch,” Daniel said, but his expression told Tim that he wasn’t fooled by Tim’s forced calm.

“Daniel?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks. For everything.”

“My pleasure.”

“I hope you get your dad out here.”

“I will.”

Then, Daniel excused himself and Tim sat alone, trying to make himself accept that Zahara didn’t want to see him. He could see her feeling guilty, but at the same time, he understood needing to keep secrets. She hadn’t ever imagined this happening. She had held it together through most of the time they’d been captives.

Maybe he really had just read too much into their relationship. Maybe it was just that she felt bad but she was using this as the chance to end things. If Tim was honest with himself, he would say that explanation didn’t feel right.

It just hurt to know that she was deliberately not giving him any message at all.

It hurt more than his back did.

Tim lay there for another hour and then Gibbs came into the room. He sat down by the bed and waited, as if he expected Tim to start the conversation. Tim didn’t feel like talking. Not at all. So he said nothing. Finally, Gibbs gave in and spoke.

“Ready to go, Tim?”

“Yeah. What about my stuff?”

“Daniel got it all from the riad.”

“Good.”

“And Carew’s here.”

“He is? Why?”

“He was providing the transportation and he knew Daniel.”

“Yeah. I know. Daniel told me.”

“And he’s here. Just so you know.”

“He really did help me a lot, Boss.”

Gibbs smiled. “Doesn’t mean I have to like him.”

“I don’t like him, either,” Tim said. “I just know that he went beyond what he had to do when I called in my favor.”

“Are you glad to be leaving?”

“Yeah. It’ll be nice to be in an English-speaking country again. But...”

“It’ll be all right. You’re going to Bethesda using some of Carew’s contacts and you’ll have someone on hand to keep their eye on you until we’re sure that you’re safe.”

“Okay. I’ll have to trust you. I can’t really do anything else.”

“No, you can’t.”

Tim laughed and then winced.

“I almost died, Boss.” He laughed humorlessly. “Again.”

“Yeah.”

He looked at Gibbs. “I’m ready to go home.”

“Then, we’ll get you there.”

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 Post subject: Chapter 41
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 12:15 pm 
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Posts: 52863
Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 41

“You’re going to be on a stronger painkiller for the duration of the flight. It will likely make you very drowsy, but you won’t feel the vibrations as much.”

Tim smiled as the nurse continued to explain everything. He wanted to stop the man and tell him he knew all about this stuff, having gone through worse pain in the past. However, he just let the words wash over him.

“Are you ready, sidi?”

Tim nodded. “I’m ready.”

“Then, take these pills and you’ll be feeling tired before you know it.”

Tim took the pills and then lay back and let the hospital staff transfer him to an ambulance. He knew that Gibbs was there, but he just figured that Gibbs could take care of himself. Then, Daniel leaned over him. Appearing out of nowhere as far as Tim was concerned.

“Hath sa’īd! Trīq al-salāma, Tim!”

“Thanks, Daniel. I have no idea what you said,” Tim said.

Daniel laughed. “Good luck and have a safe trip.”

“Thanks.”

Then, Tim was on the ambulance and they were headed to the airport. The pills started to kick in long before they took off and Tim was feeling loopy before they even got to the plane.

“I don’t know...if I’ll be...walking...” he said, stumbling over the words.

“We’ll get you on board. Don’t worry.”

“Okay.”

He felt the ambulance stop and he was transferred to a wheelchair. Everything was a blur as they moved through the airport toward the private hangar. At the plane, there were other people.

“Welcome back, Tim.”

“Back?” Tim mumbled.

“Ah, gotta love the painkillers. Just relax. I’m glad to be taking you back home.”

“Me, too.”

Then, he was upright for the first time in days, but he wasn’t actually walking. Someone was lifting him up the steps onto the plane. Then, he was being eased down onto a bed. He felt the seatbelt snapped into place.

“Relax, Tim. We’ll be taking off in a few minutes.”

“Thanks, Bossss,” Tim said.

Then, even with the roar of the engines, Tim felt himself slip off into sleep.

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

“Director Morgan is requesting to speak to you in MTAC, ma’am,” Cynthia said.

Jenny stifled a sigh. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the new CIA director. He was much more tolerable than Carew had been. She just hated that it was necessary.

“I’ll be right there.”

She kept expecting to hear something more from the President about Tim’s situation. He had seemed intrigued at the accusations and had shown a willingness to look into it. It was just that those promises didn’t always result in any changes. Even though he was the President of the United States, he was still only one man.

Well, nothing left to do but see what Director Morgan wanted. She left her office and went to MTAC. Director Morgan was looming over her on the screen. Sometimes, she had to admit that she hated the MTAC screen. Couldn’t they make it a little more like having a real conversation with a real person?

“Director Shepard. I have an unusual request for you.”

“Yes, Director Morgan?”

“Could you dismiss your staff? I have already done the same on my end.”

Jenny looked over at the technicians on duty. They glanced at her and at Director Morgan.

“May I ask why?”

“What I have to say needs to be completely secure. No witnesses.”

“Very well.” She nodded to the technicians. “Give us a few minutes, please.”

The technicians nodded and left. Jenny waited until the door had closed after them. Then, she turned back to Director Morgan.

“All right. They’re gone. What is it?”

“Agent McGee is currently on his way back to the States. He’s going to be admitted to Bethesda.”

“Why? And less importantly, why do you know about this?”

“He was injured in an incident unrelated to the FBI...or the CIA. I don’t know the details. As to why I know anything at all, I happen to have someone in Marrakech, where he was. Once he was in the air, I got a call. They’re going to be landing in a few hours. Whether you want me to or not, I’ll be reinstating his CIA watchers once he’s back. They’re already on call. As soon as I know.”

Jenny wanted to protest, but she knew that Tim had accepted it and there was no reason to say anything against it.

“Fine. Anything else?”

“I’m aware that the President met with you recently. Do you know if anything has been decided?”

“No. I’m still waiting. How well do you know Director Gellman?”

“Well enough. Why?”

“Because he sent an agent here to talk to Agent McGee’s team, to warn them about Director Jorgenson and to offer help if he needs it.”

“Really.”

Director Morgan looked surprised.

“So you don’t know him that well,” Jenny said, smiling slightly.

Director Morgan actually smiled back.

“Apparently not. He must be really worried to be offering his services outright. Agent McGee has had quite the impact on the federal agencies. They either want to help him as much as possible or control him as much as possible. Too bad we just can’t all ignore him, right?”

“Yes. That would be preferable, I think.”

“You might think that, but I doubt that would be the best policy when you consider...” He stopped.

“When I consider what?”

“Never mind.”

“No. No never mind. What are you talking about?”

Director Morgan’s smile became reminiscent of Carew’s.

“I’ll keep some of my secrets, Director. In spite of our current need to cooperate, there are some things that I can’t talk about. Not at this time.”

“I’ll remember that.”

“Good. Would you like to be informed when I know of Agent McGee’s arrival?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll make sure you get notification. It will only come through MTAC, not any other way.”

“Understood.”

Director Morgan nodded and then, walked out of view and the colored bars appeared.

“Meeting adjourned,” Jenny said to herself.

Then, she walked to the door of MTAC and opened it. The technicians were out there, waiting patiently.

“You can go back in now. I’m done,” she said, smiling a little.

They shuffled back into MTAC and Jenny went back to her office to think a little more. She wanted to know what it was that Director Morgan hadn’t been willing to say. Had that been a real slip or had he been trying to show her that he still knew things she didn’t?

Either way, it didn’t have anything to do with the current situation and she would leave it at that.

There was plenty to worry about already.

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

Tim was asleep when they neared DC. He’d slept through most of the flight, but he was in much better health than he had been the last time they’d had to fly him home. The oxygen supplement had apparently been enough to keep him comfortable because he’d barely stirred the entire time. The only issue Gibbs could see was keeping him out of Jorgenson’s hands. Maybe it was time to take a risk. Gibbs looked at Carew who was ostensibly asleep himself. Then, he called up to the cockpit, hoping that they hadn’t started the preparations for descent just yet.

“Yes?”

“Would it be possible to make a quick call?” Gibbs asked.

“How quick?”

“At most, two minutes. Probably more like thirty seconds.”

“Yes, as long as you do it right now. We don’t need any interference during descent and that will be starting soon.”

“Understood.”

Gibbs hung up and pulled out his own phone. He dialed and then waited.

“DiNozzo.”

“Don’t ask any questions,” Gibbs said, tersely. “We’re landing soon. Going to Bethesda. Meet us there if you can, but don’t risk being followed. Got it?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Gibbs hung up without saying another word. That was enough, and Tony could easily fill in the blanks if he needed to.

He sat back and waited for landing.

“Was that a good idea, Agent Gibbs?” Carew asked, opening his eyes and widening them slightly.

“Yes,” Gibbs said.

“Without any indication of success or failure?”

“Yes.”

Carew just shrugged and leaned back, closing his eyes once again. Gibbs stared at him for a few seconds. Even now, he found the former CIA director difficult to read. He revealed so little and it seemed to take no effort at all to do it. He just crafted a perfectly apathetic expression onto his face. The mask, only, unlike Tim who wanted to get rid of it, Carew seemed loath to give it up. If Gibbs was right, it was the only sure thing he had.

“We’re beginning our final descent. Please remain seated until we touch down.”

Quickly, Gibbs went to Tim and checked his seat belt. Tim stirred.

“Tim, we’re getting ready to land. Stay put.”

“Okay,” Tim mumbled, his eyes never really opening.

Gibbs smiled a little and then checked the oxygen flow. It had just been a precaution while on the plane, counteracting the lowered air pressure, and Tim had never seemed distressed at all, which was a real relief. Gibbs would never admit it to anyone, least of all to Carew, but Gibbs had been worried about this flight. No Ducky on board this time. The plain fact of the matter was that if something did go wrong, Gibbs would not have been well-equipped to do anything about it. Maybe Carew could have, but there had to be limits even to his abilities, no matter how omniscient he might seem.

The plane touched down a few minutes later without any problem, but the jolt finally woke Tim up completely. Almost completely.

“Whas goin on?” he asked.

“We’re landing,” Gibbs said. “Stay where you are.”

“Okay,” Tim said, vaguely, but he did try to shift position a little. Thankfully, he didn’t try to get up.

Finally, the plane stopped in the private hangar and the copilot came out.

“How’s he doing?” he asked.

Gibbs walked over to where Tim was lying.

“Boss?” he asked, still seeming a little out of it.

“We’re back, Tim,” Gibbs said.

“Good. Now what?”

“We get you checked out at a hospital.”

“I hope you don’t mind my interfering,” the copilot interjected, “but I got some transportation arranged.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. There was no reason that a copilot, even for a wealthy man, should be able to do all this.

“You own this plane,” Gibbs said. “You don’t work for the owner. You are the owner. There’s no way you could do all this if you weren’t.”

The copilot smiled and didn’t confirm or deny Gibbs’ statement. Gibbs didn’t need him to.

“I don’t recognize you,” Gibbs said.

“No reason you should,” the copilot replied. “Good luck, Agent Gibbs. I hope I never read about Tim in the paper. Keeping things like this quiet is often the only way to make it work out like it should.”

He put out his hand and Gibbs shook it firmly. Whoever he was, whatever he had done to get involved with Carew, Gibbs could see that he was being sincere. Then, the copilot looked at Carew.

“Well, Carew?” he asked.

“I think that covers it,” Carew said, nodding with his usual smile.

“Good. Now, get off my plane,” he said, but he grinned as he said it.

“Gladly.”

Gibbs returned his attention to Tim. He lifted the seat up, carefully, making sure he didn’t jostle Tim too much.

“Are you ready to move, Tim?” he asked.

“No,” Tim said, shaking his head.

Gibbs chuckled. “How about if we help you?”

“Okay.”

Gibbs looked over at Carew who nodded and joined Gibbs in lifting Tim to his feet. It took some maneurvering but they go him off the plane and into a waiting van. Inside, there were two wide, padded benches. They lay Tim down on one, and the driver set off.

“Where to, sir?” he asked.

“Bethesda,” Gibbs said.

“I’ll get you there. Anyone expecting you?”

“There’s a Dr. Barton who knows we’re coming.”

“Outside the hospital staff?”

“Just my team. If anyone outside NCIS knows, I’ll be suspicious.”

“Understood. No tails yet.”

“Not yet.”

The van pulled out smoothly.

“Boss, what’s happening?” Tim asked.

“You’re going to the hospital to sleep off the morphine and make sure everything is okay.”

“Is it?”

“It will be.”

Tim nodded and closed his eyes again.

The ride to the hospital was blissfully uneventful. When they arrived, Carew went in and brought out Dr. Barton and a nurse. They put Tim on a gurney and wheeled him inside to a private room. Tim was still a little loopy and he submitted to the examination without complaint. Dr. Barton rolled him over to check the wound. They drew some blood to make sure there was no infection or any other issues.

“Well, Agent McGee, I think you were very lucky,” Dr. Barton said.

“Because?” Tim asked.

“Because you’re still alive. Based on the information I’ve been given and what I’ve seen here, you dodged a bullet.”

“But not a knife,” Tim said.

Dr. Barton laughed. “No, not the knife, but there was no damage to any of the arteries. The nerve damage was minimal. The doctors in Marrakech did a good job repairing the damage. You’ll be a while in recovery, but I think that we’ll keep you here for a day or two and then, let you go, preferably not alone.”

“He won’t be alone,” Gibbs said.

Tim looked at him in surprise, but he didn’t say anything.

“For now, you can get some sleep, Agent McGee.”

“I’ve been sleeping for the last two days,” Tim protested.

“Yes, and I’m sure you needed it. You need more.”

Tim nodded and sighed. He settled back and winced. Then, his eyes closed and he fell asleep.

Gibbs watched him for a few seconds and then walked out into the hall. Carew was sitting there by the door. Gibbs raised an eyebrow and Carew smiled.

“Best to have someone on hand to keep watch until the real watchers get here.”

“Real watchers?”

“CIA watchers. Now that he’s back, Agent McGee will have to have his regular guards. And until we’re sure that the FBI will keep its hands to itself, they’ll be very useful. Like it or not.”

Gibbs considered telling Carew to take a hike, but he didn’t get a chance to do it.

“Boss! Is he here? What happened?”

Gibbs turned away from Carew and saw Tony, Ziva and someone he didn’t recognize with them.

“He’s here. Sleeping right now,” Gibbs said. “Who is this?”

“Agent Bishop,” Tony said. “She’s with the NSA.”

“What are you doing here, Agent Bishop?” Gibbs asked.

“Being a representative, keeping an eye out for unwanted visitors.”

“Like who?” Gibbs asked.

Agent Bishop smiled. “The FBI, Agent Gibbs. I don’t know everything, but I know enough. Director Gellman asked me to keep being annoying until this is over.”

Gibbs smiled slightly at the explanation.

“How long have you been annoying so far?”

“Depends on who you ask.”

“Can we see him, Boss?”

Gibbs looked at Carew and then back at Agent Bishop.

“Agent Bishop, this is Levi Carew. Feel free to get acquainted.”

Then, he led Tony and Ziva into the room.

“What happened?” Ziva asked, softly.

“He got mixed up in something he didn’t need to be a part of. He tried to protect a woman and got stabbed.”

That wasn’t exactly the truth, but Gibbs didn’t want to tell Tony and Ziva about Zahara. Tim deserved to make that choice when he could.

“But he’s going to be okay, right?” Tony asked.

“Yeah.”

“Good.”

“Agent Bishop?”

Tony smiled. “She’s something, isn’t she. Apparently, the NSA is worried about what’ll happen if Jorgenson keeps this up. They’ve offered their services in the event that it hits the fan.”

“How long will he stay here?” Ziva asked.

“Not long. Then, he’ll be staying with me for a while.”

“How bad was it?” Tony asked.

“He almost died.”

Tony shook his head. “And it wasn’t even about him?”

“Nope.”

Tony sighed and then sat down beside the bed, obviously prepared to wait until Tim woke up again. Ziva sat on the other side, absently rubbing the scars on her wrists.

Until Tim woke up, that was the way things would stay.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 12:21 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 42

There was always too much to do, but right now, the President was walking around his private office, thinking about what he should do in the case of Tim McGee.

It was a frustrating situation because, based on what he was learning, he tended to take NCIS’ view of what was going on, but he couldn’t just say that he was supporting them. Jorgenson was stubborn and he had some support that couldn’t be ignored. In addition, he hadn’t yet found any evidence supporting the accusations against him. Certainly, Jorgenson wouldn’t admit to it.

What he needed to figure out was what would lead to the best outcome. There were a lot of options of what he could do, but most of them would only be a temporary reprieve.

He pulled out his notebook and looked through the information he had.

What he wanted to do more than anything was talk to Tim McGee himself. However, until he knew where the man was, that wasn’t going to happen.

Then, he furrowed his brow.

Perhaps, it was time to have a meeting with his staff...or maybe just a few directors of federal agencies...and maybe one or two others.

He smiled to himself and called for his assistant.

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

Tim felt himself waking up. He reminded himself that he was back in the States, that the plane ride had really happened.

But am I still in the hospital? Did something happen while I was sleeping?

The thought woke him completely and he opened his eyes, looking around to see where he was.

“Whoa! Tim, relax!”

Tim blinked a few times and then, pain registered and he slumped back on the bed, breathing deeply, trying to calm himself down. Then, he realized that the voice he’d heard wasn’t Daniel. It wasn’t even Gibbs.

He blinked again and looked over to the side.

“Tony.”

Tony grinned, although he looked almost more relieved than anything else.

“Who else would be here, hovering over your sick bed?”

“I don’t know,” Tim said. “Ziva?”

“I am on the other side,” Ziva said.

Tim turned his head and smiled.

“Hey, Ziva,” he said.

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m still on morphine...but not enough of it.”

“Morphine, eh? You’re going to become an opium fiend,” Tony said.

Tim laughed.

“Only when prescribed by my doctor,” he said. “They’re letting it get out of my system before putting me on anything else.”

“Really, how are you feeling?” Ziva asked.

“I’m fine, if I don’t move.”

“What happened?” Tony asked. “Gibbs said it didn’t even have anything to do with you.”

“It didn’t.”

“Then, how did you get involved?”

“I was there,” Tim said. He thought about Zahara, and he found that he didn’t want to try to explain the relationship. So he decided to fudge it a bit. “There were some guys harassing a woman, and I couldn’t stay out of it. Knife in the back for my trouble...” He smiled a little, thinking of Zahara. “...but the woman was okay.”

“Heroic to the end, huh?” Tony said.

“I hope it’s not the end,” Tim said, smiling again. “The doctor told me I was getting better.”

“Ha ha. Very funny.”

Tim grinned, but then, he thought of what little he knew about his situation here and his smile faded.

“What is it?” Ziva asked.

“Gibbs said it wasn’t over yet. How long do I have before the FBI finds me?”

“Hopefully, it won’t matter for very long,” Tony said. “We haven’t told anyone in the FBI where you are, not even Fornell.”

Tim raised an eyebrow. “Do you think that Fornell–?”

“No, but the more you tell, the more who know,” Tony said. “We’d rather keep Fornell in the dark while it matters.”

“And the President is the one making the decision,” Ziva added.

“What? Why?”

“Because, so far, Jorgenson has not make his accusations public. We do not know what that will mean.”

“And the President came to NCIS just to talk to us about you.”

“Really?”

Tony nodded. “Yeah. And that was a few days ago. I think something will happen. It’s just a matter of when. Your CIA people are out there and...”

“And what?”

“How well do you know the NSA?”

Tim was surprised at the question and he hedged a little. That was the last thing he expected to be asked.

“We know that you’ve done a lot of work for them.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because one of the people out there is an Agent Bishop who works for the NSA. They’re apparently very worried about the FBI getting control of you.”

Tim raised an eyebrow again.

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” he said.

“You shouldn’t?”

Tim smiled and shook his head.

“No, but don’t ask for details. I can’t give them.”

“We won’t,” Tony said. “So how would you feel about more visitors?”

“As long as Abby stays away from my back. I’m not ready to move much yet.”

“She managed it once before.”

“Yeah, she did.”

There was an awkward pause as they all remembered that particular time. It hadn’t been pleasant for any of them.

“Does it hurt as much as it did then?” Ziva asked.

“No. That was a lot worse. It was my entire back. This is just one spot. It hurts, but not as bad.”

“You know what sucks?” Tony asked.

“What?”

“That you can compare shrapnel in your back to being stabbed.”

“I’m not exactly happy about it, either, Tony,” Tim said.

“I know.” Tony shrugged and shifted his gaze away.

“Tony, it’s okay. Really. At least this time, what happened to me wasn’t because of any of this mess. It was completely unrelated.”

“But not the reason you were there in the first place.”

“Yeah, but that part really does have nothing to do with you. That goes all the way back to the beginning of this. You don’t need to feel guilty about this one.”

Tony looked back and smiled a little. “So I should about some of the others?”

“Yes,” Tim said. “I’ll let you figure out which ones on your own.”

“Sneaky, McGee,” Tony said.

“Yep. That’s me.” Then, a wave of tiredness hit him and Tim yawned widely. “Sorry. I’m still partially drugged. I think it’s time for more sleeping. The doctor said I needed more sleep.”

“We will not keep you awake, then,” Ziva said. She stood up and leaned over the bed. She kissed him gently on the forehead. “Sleep and heal, Tim.”

Tim closed his eyes and enjoyed the softness of Ziva’s instruction.

“Gladly.”

Then, with his eyes still closed, he felt Tony squeeze his shoulder, thankfully, the opposite side of his injury.

“They’re not taking you away, Tim. No matter what. They’re not taking you away. They’ll have to fight through a lot of people in order to do that. I don’t care who they have on their side, we’re better.”

Tim smiled and realized that he believed Tony. He tried to say so, but he was so far gone into sleep that he couldn’t get the words out. Instead, all that he managed was a slurred jumble of sounds.

Then, he was fully asleep.

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

Ziva smiled and brushed Tim’s hair away from his head. It was longer than it had been. He must not have cut it at all in the last few weeks.

“He doesn’t look too bad,” Tony said, his voice soft to keep from disturbing Tim.

“No, he does not,” Ziva agreed. “It was something serious, but he is recovering already.”

“Who do you think the woman was?” Tony asked. “I don’t think Tim was telling us everything.”

“He almost never does. He tells us what he thinks we should know.”

“Do you think Gibbs knows?”

“How could he not? He was there.”

Then, Tony got a speculative look on his face.

“What?”

“Do you think Carew knows?”

“Probably, but would you really ask him?”

“I don’t know, but it’s an option.”

Ziva shook her head.

“No, Tony. If you want to know more, give Tim a chance to do it, first.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s just that Tim gets weird about this stuff sometimes. I hate it when he’s hiding things from us.”

“At least, we know that this was not because of something he did.”

“Yeah. It’s not much, but it’s something.”

Then, they sat back to wait for Tim to wake up again.

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

Carew drove through DC, not to his home and he would have preferred, but to a place he’d never expected to be again in his lifetime.

The White House.

One did not refuse a summons from the President of the United States. No matter who sat in the Oval Office, the position of President commanded some degree of respect, and Carew believed that it was important to show that respect.

He didn’t know what all this was about, but he was intrigued to find out.

When he arrived Carew was conducted into a room with a large table. Only a few of the chairs were filled, but Carew smiled as he realized that he recognized everyone there. They all looked over as he came in.

“What are you doing here?” Jorgenson asked.

“I haven’t the slightest idea, Claude,” Carew said, enjoying the look of irritation on Jorgenson’s face. “I happen to have been invited. This is an august group for a lowly private citizen like myself.” Then, he looked over. “Director Shepard, how nice to see you again.”

He smiled at her expressionless face, knowing that any pleasure was all on his side.

“Roy,” he said, nodding.

Then, the door opened once more. Carew turned and nodded again.

“Mr. President,” he said.

“Mr. Carew, you haven’t changed.”

“I disagree, but I’m sure that’s not why I’m here,” Carew said.

“Very true. Have a seat.”

“What’s this about, Mr. President?” Jenny asked.

The President acknowledged her question, but he didn’t answer it. Instead, he turned to Jorgenson.

“You will give me all the evidence you have that NCIS Special Agent Timothy McGee is guilty of treason. The others in this room will have a chance to refute your evidence.”

Jorgenson was surprised. “Sir, that’s not really...”

“Please, Director Jorgenson, you are the one who started this. The charges came from you. You are the one who claims to have all this evidence, and yet, you’ve already withdrawn some of it without explanation. This makes the rest of your evidence suspect. Since you’ve kept the charges secret up to now, I am acting as the judge...and jury. You know the charges you filed. You know the evidence, or at least, you’d better.”

Carew watched as Jorgenson looked around the room once, and suddenly, he understood what was going on. The President could have done this one-on-one, but by having a number of witnesses, including genuinely neutral parties, Jorgenson’s likely defeat would be well-circulated throughout Washington. Looking around the room as well, he noted that every major federal law-enforcement agency was represented, plus the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. While the public would likely never know, everyone involved in federal politics would know about how this turned out by the end of the week, meaning that Jorgenson was walking the plank and he had no choice in the matter but to see how close to the edge he would have to go.

Carew also understood why he had been invited. He was one who could refute a lot of the evidence.

“Do not waste my time, Director Jorgenson.”

Jorgenson cleared his throat and nodded.

“While I acknowledge that some of the evidence is circumstantial,” he said, “there is so much of it that it removes some of the circumstantial nature.”

“Such as?”

“Agent McGee has been off the grid a number of times in the last decade. Each time he was, we ended up with a major threat to national security. The most obvious is the bombing in Arlington.”

“Which Agent McGee helped foil,” Carew said, casually, not rushing or trying to override Jorgenson at all. “He did not help set it up. In fact, the people who were involved did their best to kill Agent McGee as well as the rest of his team.”

“And you know this, Mr. Carew, because–?” the President asked.

Carew smiled and looked slowly around the room, enjoying seeing that most in the room were still discomfited by his eyes.

“Because I was there, Mr. President. I was there when his team was found. I was there when Agent McGee tracked down the people involved. In fact, I was with him for two days after he was nearly killed by shrapnel from the explosion.”

“And after that, he was at NCIS,” Jenny interjected. “And after that, he was in the hospital, being treated for the shrapnel wounds.”

The President nodded and looked back at Jorgenson.

“Director Jorgenson, it would appear that this piece of evidence has been refuted.”

“Just because he wasn’t actively working for them at the time of the attack doesn’t mean that he wasn’t involved.”

“While you are certainly correct,” the President said, “I have my own evidence that, for the two weeks prior to the events you have referred to, Agent McGee was actively involved in tracking this group down, and that he was the one who figured out most of what was being done. He is the one who revealed their plans. That is not the work of a traitor.”

“What is your evidence, Mr. President?” Jorgenson asked.

The President smiled. “I can’t tell you my evidence. Suffice it to say that it is impeccable. What else do you have?”

“Even Carew can provide support for this,” Jorgenson said, almost smiling.

Carew suppressed a smile of his own because he could see where Jorgenson was going and this would also be easy to refute.

“Yes?” the President asked.

“Agent McGee was involved in a group who operated within the CIA and they were implicated in a number of clandestine operations, most of which were illegal and unethical, some even violating international laws. And Agent McGee was a part of it. A large part of it. In fact, he helped track down the victims. Who’s to say where he went next?”

“Mr. Carew? I believe this was during your tenure?”

Carew smiled again, and he could see that Jorgenson was surprised by his reaction.

“It was.”

“And is Director Jorgenson accurate?”

“In some things.”

“Please, elaborate.”

“It’s true that there was a group operating in the CIA. It was quite an embarrassment that it escaped our notice. They used CIA resources and they made use of Agent McGee. His participation was unwilling.”

“And you know this, how?” Jorgenson asked.

“Because I have the accounts of the people who were arrested, the ones who weren’t killed when Agent McGee finally was able to come clean.”

“And those people?”

“All dead. I killed them,” Carew said. He paused just long enough and smiled again. “When they were attempting to escape, of course.”

The President raised an eyebrow.

“However, their statements are certainly still on record at the CIA. For that, you’d have to petition Director Morgan.”

Roy nodded. “I’m not familiar with that case, in particular, but I could definitely produce the records, if the President would like to see them.”

“I would. Thank you.”

Roy nodded again and made a note.

“Anything more that you can tell me about that period of time, Mr. Carew?”

“Only that Agent McGee was nearly killed by the surviving members once they escaped, and he was instrumental in catching them. Before Director Jorgenson points out that a snitch would have good reason for being targeted, I would remind him that the CIA was also part of an attempt to discover how well Agent McGee could resist torture and whether or not he would be willing to share secrets.”

“Meaning?” the President asked.

“Meaning that he was taken, drugged and tortured by a special CIA team. They weren’t aware of his involvement initially, but they adequately determined the depth of his loyalty to his country.”

“Director Shepard?” the President asked, looking at her. “Can you add anything to this?”

“Agent McGee was brutally attacked by those people mentioned by Carew,” she said, keeping her tone carefully neutral. “He has been forced to be on call for use by anyone, at any time. It’s only been in the last few years that he was allowed to live a more normal life, and even at that, he’s still been doing some work.”

“Yes,” Director Gellman interjected. “He’s been heavily involved in overhauling our security. It seemed prudent since he was able to get into our systems without us knowing. He knows our weaknesses. We hired him to plug the holes he was using.”

“He’s also done some work for the CIA,” Roy added, without elaboration.

It was hard to say who was more surprised at that addition. Those who were aware of Tim’s situation knew that he had vehemently rejected every request to help the CIA or interact with the CIA in any way. Jenny looked shocked, although she covered it quickly, but Carew himself was shocked, although he’d never admit it. That Tim was willing to have some kind of interaction with the CIA was a development he never could have anticipated.

He’s actually healing, Carew thought to himself. Was he healed? Probably not completely, but he smiled a little as he thought back to the conversation he’d had with Tim and Tim’s admission that the CIA didn’t worry him. He’d never really considered how far that admission might have gone.

Meanwhile, the President nodded and returned his attention to Jorgenson.

“Your case is getting thinner and thinner, Director. Do you have anything else?”

Jorgenson looked at Carew and Carew knew what he was considering. He was weighing whether or not it was worth mentioning something that would surely lead to Carew’s revelation of what had happened in Nepal. Carew widened his eyes slightly.

Just try it, Jorgenson, he said silently. Please, try it. Do it. Test my limits and you’ll find that I have none.

“I’m waiting, Director,” the President said. “Because what I’m left with is the possibility that you have done this, not because you truly believe Agent McGee to be guilty, but because you want to use him for some purpose of your own. If that is the case, there will be repercussions.”

“It seems ludicrous to me that you are taking Levi Carew’s word for all this,” Jorgenson said.

“Why is that? He was the director of the CIA for much of the time in question.”

“Carew didn’t mention that his own children were part of the operation that started this.”

The President was obviously surprised at that and he looked at Carew for confirmation.

“It’s true. I wasn’t aware that being related to CIA agents made one corrupt,” Carew said, and then suppressed the guilty pang he still felt. “And I would remind Director Jorgenson that my son was murdered by a member of that group. If you are trying to imply that I was using family to run some kind of illegal operation, I would like to disabuse you of that notion. I used my son and my daughter because they were qualified. I never protected them from dangerous assignments.”

Carew saw the surprise on some of the faces again, but he took grateful refuge behind the emotionless mask and held back the grief he’d never expressed.

“And I would also caution Director Jorgenson in attempting to impugn my son’s honor. I won’t accept that. He fulfilled his assignments to the best of his ability. He wouldn’t have kept his job, otherwise.”

“And yet, under your tenure, Agent McGee was nearly killed himself a number of times and it is documented that he had a mental breakdown,” Jorgenson said.

“Yes, he was and yes, he did. Your point?”

“Maybe the man you tested isn’t the same man as he is today. The kind of treatment he received at your hands could easily have been enough to turn him against his country. It’s only been since Director Morgan took your place that Agent McGee has been willing to work for the CIA.”

“Agent McGee’s loyalty to his country has not changed,” Jenny interrupted.

“He’s not the same man as he was,” Carew said, easily. “No one stays the same, not even you, but I agree with Director Shepard. His loyalty to his country is unchanged, and I would say, based on what I’ve seen of your actions the last few weeks, that his loyalty to the country far outstrips yours.”

Jorgenson started to argue, but the President stopped it.

“All right. That’s enough. Director Jorgenson, do you have anything else?”

Again, Jorgenson looked at Carew for a split second, and Carew smiled at him once more.

Just try me, he thought.

“No, sir,” Jorgenson said, deflating a little.

“No? You were willing to destroy a man’s life based on events that could easily have been verified without charges?”

And off the plank he goes, Carew thought, gleefully. He wished he was alone so that he could laugh at Jorgenson’s fate.

Jorgenson was silent.

“I am extremely disturbed to find that the director of the FBI would act so incompetently, that he would go after a man who, by all accounts, has given much of his life for the purpose of preserving this country and the people who work for it. Director Jorgenson, you are in the last year allowed in your position, and for the sake of your previous service, I will not ask for your immediate resignation, but I expect you to be ready to depart and you had better believe that I will not support your attempt to gain any other federal position while I am in office. Is that clear?”

“Very clear, Mr. President,” Jorgenson said.

And everyone in the room had heard it. Jorgenson was now a pariah in Washington politics.

“Good. If no one else has anything to add, that will be all.”

Everyone stood to leave.

“Mr. Carew, if you would remain.”

Carew nodded and sat down again. He saw Roy and Director Gellman talking to each other in low tones, while Jenny glanced at him before leaving the room. Once the room was empty, the President walked over.

“What hold do you have on Director Jorgenson?” he asked, bluntly.

“In what respect?” Carew asked.

“In the respect that he obviously had something else he wanted to say, some other piece of evidence he wanted to use, but he couldn’t because you were in attendance.”

“With all due respect, Mr. President, since he said nothing, I don’t feel I can reveal it.”

“So there is something.”

“Yes.”

“And you won’t tell me?”

“I can’t,” Carew said. “If I did, I’d be breaking the deal I made with him, and I don’t do that. In addition, you would be risking an international incident.”

“International? With the FBI?”

“Yes. Besides, what he wanted to say would also have been refuted, just not as easily, because it involves events for which there is no record.”

“All right. Your son was killed in the line of duty?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry for that.”

“As am I,” Carew said, with no expression.

“Thank you for your time.”

“My pleasure, Mr. President.”

Carew stood, shook hands, and then, he left the office. That was probably the most satisfying meeting he’d ever attended. Seeing Jorgenson get stomped on would go down as a memory he would treasure for years to come. However, as he left the building, he felt a hand on his arm. He was spun around and shoved against the wall by a strong arm. He found himself facing the FBI director who was spitting mad.

“What a pleasure, Director Jorgenson,” Carew said, with a dangerous smile. “I had no idea you wanted my attention so desperately. You had but to ask.”

“You little piece of...” Jorgenson began.

“Oh, please, Claude,” Carew said, not fighting back...for the moment. “You dug this pit for yourself. Now, you’re not happy about having to lie in it. I warned you that I would be there with a shovel to help. Don’t blame me for your stupidity. Your plan might have worked if you’d been able to arrest Agent McGee. Once he was gone, you should have cut your losses and accepted your upcoming unemployment. You didn’t. That’s your fault and maybe the fault of whoever was helping you. And one more thing...” He paused.

“What?”

Carew raised one arm above his head, turned and brought it down, breaking the hold Jorgenson had on him and then, he punched him in the nose. Jorgenson staggered backward, holding his nose and cursing loudly. Carew smiled.

“Don’t ever threaten me,” he said. “You don’t have the reflexes to get out of it. You never did and you’re definitely slowing down. Enjoy the rest of your day. If you can.”

Then, he left Jorgenson trying to stem the blood coming from his nose, walked back to his car and headed home.

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 Post subject: Chapter 43
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:19 pm 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
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Gender: Female
Chapter 43

“How is he?” Jenny asked, as she walked through the hall with Gibbs.

“Getting better,” Gibbs said.

“Good.”

“Your meeting?”

“Interesting,” Jenny said. “Carew was there.”

“Why?”

“As a witness.”

“Witness of what?”

“Tim should know, first. Or at least, at the same time.”

Gibbs nodded and gestured for her to precede him. They walked into Tim’s room. Tony and Ziva turned quickly but relaxed when they saw who it was. Tim was asleep.

“How long has he been sleeping?” Jenny asked.

“A few hours,” Tony said.

“He’ll be happy to wake up now,” she said.

“Okay.”

Ziva leaned over and shook Tim gently.

“Tim, wake up. Director Shepard is here with Gibbs.”

It was a minute or two before Tim was really awake. Gibbs could see more awareness in his eyes, though. Thankfully, it did appear that the morphine was finally getting out of his system. He needed pain management, but the morphine was obviously doing a number on him.

“Hey,” he said, finally...and yawned. “What time is it?”

“It’s evening, Agent McGee,” Jenny said.

Then, Tim seemed to realize who was there. He looked at Jenny and tried to straighten, but he instantly winced and slumped back down.

“Agent McGee, you don’t need to do anything but listen this time. I have good news.”

Tim looked at her. “How good?” he asked, cautiously.

She smiled. “Very good. I was summoned to a meeting this afternoon. It was attended by the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the directors of DHS, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, along with three secretaries, and myself. The purpose was for the President to get to the bottom of the accusations against you.”

“What happened?”

Jenny smiled. “Quite frankly, Jorgenson was humiliated. Every evidence he tried to put forward was completely demolished. ...by Carew, much of the time.”

“Carew was there?” Tim asked. “How? Why?”

“He said he was invited. I’m guessing the President wanted his feedback.”

“So what happened?” Tim asked again.

“The President isn’t going to force him out of office right now, but he made it clear that Jorgenson would not have the support of the White House should he try for any other position.”

“That doesn’t sound like it’s over,” Tim said.

“It is because of who heard. Multiple directors, the Speaker, the Vice President, along with the heads of federal agencies. They all heard and know that the President has no faith in Jorgenson. They all know that he has been rejected by the White House. He has nothing, Tim,” Jenny said. “At this point, even if he did get a hold of you, it wouldn’t do him any good because he won’t have anyone’s support. I’m not saying you should go sauntering into the FBI to gloat, but the charges didn’t stick. It’s over.”

Tim leaned back and closed his eyes. For a few seconds, there was silence. Then, there was a long sigh of relief and Tim didn’t say a word.

“Give us a few minutes,” Gibbs said.

They all nodded and discreetly withdrew. Gibbs watched as Tim lay there, and he could see that Tim was trying with all his might not to break down again. It was hard for Tim to accept the idea of things being over, and right now, when he had an injury and medication that was impairing his thought processes, it would probably make it more difficult.

After a few minutes, Gibbs decided it was time to break the silence.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

Silence for a few more seconds. Then...

“Furious,” Tim said, his voice shaky. “If I was in the same room with Jorgenson, I’d want to kill him. At the very least, I’d want to punch him in the face and watch with satisfaction as he started to bleed.”

Anger. Gibbs could understand that.

“It’s tempting,” he agreed.

“But he’s staying in office. Why?”

“I don’t know. It’s so close to the end of his tenure that it’s not worth it? I don’t know, Tim.”

“There’s no justification for what he was going to do to me. None.”

“Nope.”

“He should be in jail.”

“Can’t prove that we’re right and a trial would make everything public.”

“I know,” Tim said. “I know that you’re right. I just don’t care.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Good. Because I don’t. I hate what he was going to do to me, and I hate that he’s not getting punished for it.”

Gibbs smiled and decided to pull Tim’s mind away from the injustice and onto something that was just as painful, in its way.

“Have you told them about Zahara?”

Tim’s eyes opened and he looked at Gibbs in surprise.

“No.”

“You should.”

Tim shook his head. “I don’t want them to know.”

“Why not?”

“Because I can’t decide how I feel about it. Maybe I misread things. Maybe I just didn’t realize that my feelings were stronger than hers. Maybe we never had a chance. ...but she wouldn’t even say good-bye. I don’t want to tell them about her...when I don’t even know how to explain it.” He shook his head again and stared at the blanket. “I never expected to fall in love, Boss. That wasn’t part of my plan. All these years...I never thought that I could fall in love, not after everything that happened. That would be too normal.”

“But you did.”

Tim nodded. “It was too fast. I should have slowed it down. I shouldn’t have let myself. I should have...”

“You should tell Tony and Ziva,” Gibbs said. “They know how it feels to be dumped. If they can’t know anything else, they know that much.”

Tim laughed a little. “I don’t want them to tease me about it. Not right now. Maybe not ever.” He looked up. “Boss, I let myself go... I felt the attraction and instead of analyzing whether or not it was a good idea, I just let it happen. For a little while, I was just...dating a girl. We had fun. We only...we only kissed once. Public displays of affection aren’t really a thing over there. I loved her, Boss. I really did.”

“And you don’t, now?” Gibbs asked.

“I don’t know. I mean...I can understand that she was upset, that she was scared, that maybe she feels guilty...but all she had to do was say good-bye. I just don’t know how else to take that but that she decided to use this as a chance to break things off.”

Gibbs patted Tim on the leg.

“Tell Tony and Ziva. Let them know what happened, who she is. They can understand that.”

Tim nodded, a little reluctantly, true, but he nodded. Then, he moved on. Gibbs let him.

“How much longer will I be here?”

“A day at the most. Then, you’ll be at my place.”

“For how long?”

“As long as you need to be.”

Tim nodded.

“Okay.”

“It’s going to work out, Tim,” Gibbs said. “It’s already getting better.”

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

“Remember, Abby,” Tony cautioned, “Tim got stabbed in the back. You can’t pounce on him like you want to.”

“I know, Tony. I can keep my hands to myself, if it’s necessary. I’m just so glad he’s back and that he can be back! I want everything to get back to normal again. I miss my geek.”

“Depending on what happened in Marrakech, it may not be so swift a transition as you would like, my dear,” Ducky said. “Near-death experiences are difficult and, unfortunately, Timothy has faced more than one already. He will be affected by that. Just let him set the terms of the conversation.”

“Hey, I’m the one Tim chatted with while he was gone, you know.”

“That is only because you are the only one of us who is good enough at using computers to keep that hidden,” Ziva said. “You are not somehow privileged in your friendship.”

Abby stuck out her tongue and then continued on her way. She was giddy, now that Tim was back on American soil and now that he was in DC and things seemed to be getting better.

“Is it really over, though?” Jimmy asked. “It seems too easy.”

“Six weeks of freaking out was easy?” Tony asked. “Didn’t feel easy to me.”

“No, I mean, one meeting...”

“With the President of the United States,” Tony added.

“But still, one meeting,” Jimmy said. “That’s all it took?”

“But it wasn’t just one meeting, lad,” Ducky said. “There have been many things going on behind the scenes that we likely do not know about, and we also do know about the things that have been done on our side. That meeting was simply the culmination of everything that we have been trying to do.”

They reached Tim’s door and Abby pushed it open, first. Tim was actually awake, although he looked a little dazed as he stared at the TV. He looked over at them and smiled, gladly turning off the television as the whole lot of them trooped in.

“Hey, guys. What’s up?” he asked.

“How are you feeling, Timothy?”

“Tired. Achy. I still hurt, but they took me off the supplemental oxygen this afternoon and I’m doing fine with that.”

“Can I hug you, Tim?” Abby asked, hopefully.

Tim smiled. “No, Abby. ...but I’ll hug you if you’ll promise not to reciprocate right now.”

“Okay.”

Abby leaned over and Tim gently put his arms around her. While Tony could see that it still hurt Tim to be moving like that, he was still doing all right as he let her go and settled back.

“Gibbs said I should be released tomorrow. I hope you’ll come to visit me at his place. It’s going to be a little weird.”

“Ah, it’s not the first time you’ve stayed with Gibbs,” Tony said. “It’ll be fine.”

“I don’t know,” Tim said. “The last time I spent an extended length of time with Gibbs, I was insane...and I still left before I should have.”

Tony laughed.

“We’ll come until you’re sick of us,” Abby said, squeezing his hand.

“That’ll never happen. ...at least, not permanently.”

“How long are you going to stay with Gibbs?” Jimmy asked.

“I don’t know. Until I’m ready to take care of myself again,” Tim said. “And until we’re sure that Jorgenson isn’t going to try something else.”

“He had better not,” Ziva said, darkly. “We will not restrain ourselves if he does.”

“What did you do while you were in Morocco?” Ducky asked, clearly trying to lighten the mood.

“A lot of things, actually. When I wasn’t working on what was going on here, I learned a lot about Marrakech, although my Arabic is still not very good. The Moroccan dialect is different from what I’d heard before.” Then, Tim suddenly smiled. “You would have loved it, Ducky.”

“Why?”

“Everyone drinks mint tea. You don’t get coffee breaks. You get tea breaks.”

“Sounds heavenly,” Ducky said.

Tim started to relax, and Tony marveled at how easily Ducky redirected Tim’s mind to talk about pleasant things.

“In a traditional meal, you have three cups of mint tea. Once at the beginning, once in the middle and once at the end. You have it from the same steeping leaves. So the flavor is different.”

“I would think that the last cup would be quite strong,” Ducky said.

“Yeah, it is. I can’t remember how Daniel put it, but basically the last one is supposed to be almost bitter.”

“Fascinating.”

They continued to talk. Tim told them about his friend and tour guide, Daniel, and all the things he saw while he was in Marrakech. After about an hour, he started yawning and they wrapped things up.

“Thanks for coming by, guys,” Tim said. “I’m feeling better already.”

“Our pleasure,” Tony said.

Then, they left Tim to sleep, knowing that he had a number of people watching out for him, and for the first time, it gave them comfort.

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 Post subject: Chapter 44
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:30 pm 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 44

“Levi?”

Carew turned from his contemplation of the backyard.

“Yes?”

Tamara walked over and smiled.

“The weeds will grow whether you watch them or not,” she said.

“Weeds?” Carew asked, keeping his face expressionless. “I didn’t know we had weeds.”

Tamara raised an eyebrow and then, finally, Carew allowed himself to smile.

“I didn’t have a garden after the divorce,” he said. “I think I’ve forgotten what the difference is between weeds and plants. They’re all green. Sometimes, the weeds are greener than the plants.”

“If it gets you to help out in the garden, I’ll be happy to re-educate you,” Tamara said, drily.

“I’ll remember that.”

“Good. What were you thinking about?”

“Nothing in particular.”

“How did Agent McGee react when you showed up?”

“Oh, he never saw me.”

Tamara’s brow furrowed. “Why not?”

“Because it was unnecessary,” Carew said. “I played the role I needed to play and once that was finished, so was I. He’d been injured and the last thing he needed was to know that I was around.” He walked over to the garden which did look pretty weedy at the moment, even to his unpracticed eye. “This is red root, isn’t it?”

“Yes. It’s a weed. Levi, he came to you. He wouldn’t have cared if you were there.”

Carew leaned down and pulled up one of the weeds. It came out of the ground with a little pop. Then, he turned back to Tamara and smiled pityingly.

“Tamara, it’s just like with Bri. You can’t force people to want me around. And most people don’t.”

“Yes, it’s just like with Bri. You can’t see the truth when it’s right in front of you.”

Carew raised an eyebrow. “And what is that truth?”

“That your daughter loves you and is just waiting for you to show that you feel the same.”

“Tamara, that is nothing more than wishful thinking on your part.”

Tamara furrowed her brow and looked at him for a long moment.

“You actually believe it, don’t you.”

“Believe what?”

“You actually believe that your daughter hates you.”

Carew smiled again. “Are you saying you think she doesn’t?”

“I know she doesn’t. Don’t you remember what she was like when she was young? She would follow you around everywhere you went. If you were there, so was she. She loved being with you. She loved listening to you. And you were always so patient with her. You never got upset because she was interrupting something else you were doing.”

“That was a long time ago, Tamara,” Carew said. “Things change. People change.”

“But the only thing that’s changed is that neither one of you is willing to admit what you really feel. Bri won’t admit that she still wants to be with her dad. You won’t admit that you want her here.”

“I’ve told you before that I would never turn her away if she wanted to come.”

“Yes, but you won’t admit that you want her here. Or do you not?” Tamara looked at him more closely. “Levi, do you not want her to come? Do you not want to see her?”

Carew considered the question. There was no question that he had some regret for what had happened, but at the same time...

“Levi, why don’t you want to see her?”

Carew didn’t want to answer. Again, this was exposing his own weaknesses and he didn’t like to do it. It felt like he was opening himself up for attack. Still, it was Tamara asking, and she was the only person he felt that he had to open up to. He leaned over and pulled up another red root. They were amazingly easy to pull. He looked at the weed. Plucked out of the ground without warning.

“Every time I see her, I think of Quinn,” he said, finally.

“And you’d rather avoid regret than see your daughter?”

“Yes,” Carew said, frankly.

“Sometimes, Levi, I wonder if I want you to be so honest,” Tamara said.

Carew smiled. “Too late to change that, now.”

“I know.” Tamara took a breath. “Would you do something for me?”

“What’s that?”

“No, Levi. I want you to trust me enough that you don’t need me to elaborate. You’ve spent your life not trusting anyone, but you need to trust me.”

Carew smiled again. “I trust you, but that doesn’t mean I want to agree without knowing what I’m agreeing to. I would have said that before working for the CIA.”

“Then, I don’t want you to answer right away. I want you to listen and then think about it for a while.”

“I can do that.”

“Good. I want you to call your daughter and tell her that you want her to visit.”

Carew raised an eyebrow.

“Just think about it, Levi. That’s all I ask.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Thank you.” Then, Tamara smiled. “Could you do something else for me?”

“What?”

“Weed the garden.”

Carew smiled. “I can do that.”

Tamara squeezed his arm and then went back into the house. Carew took a breath and looked down at the garden.

Rather than think about Tamara’s first request, he knelt down and starting pulling up weeds. Amazingly enough, he had no trouble figuring out which were weeds to be pulled and which were plants to be saved.

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

Gibbs took Tim to his home the next day, with the entourage of CIA guards and at least one NSA person tagging along. If Tim noticed (and how could he not) he said nothing about it. He was able to walk into the house on his own, but he was still weak and a little fumbling. Gibbs was pretty sure that Tim would recover quickly. He was already leaps and bounds ahead of where he’d been in Marrakech.

After getting Tim settled, Gibbs knew that he had to get to work. He just didn’t want to leave Tim alone, not even with all the people watching out for him.

As he left the house, he saw the discreet guards, but then, he saw someone else that surprised him, although only a little bit. He increased his pace.

“Dr. Hicks,” he said.

Dr. Hicks smiled. “I have very good connections, Agent Gibbs,” he said, answering the unspoken question. “I had my usual session with Levi and he said that Tim was back as well. Do you mind if I go in and talk to him?”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

“It’s your house,” Dr. Hicks said. “And I know that your feelings tend to be mixed when it comes to the CIA or anyone connected to it.”

“I trust you,” Gibbs said.

“Well, thank you,” Dr. Hicks said, sounding genuinely grateful. “I’ll let myself in, then?”

Gibbs nodded and noted that Dr. Hicks was still limping.

“How are your feet?”

“Improving, but not as quickly as I’d like. I wish there was some way to bully them back into full function but that’s not something I can do. Nor can anyone else. I’m just relieved that the pain is easing off again. I was afraid that it wouldn’t this time.”

“Good luck.”

“Thank you.”

Then, Dr. Hicks continued on his way up the walk to the front door. Gibbs watched him go and then headed on his way. When he got into his car, he pulled out his phone and dialed a number.

“What do you want, now, Gibbs?”

“How’s the FBI going, Tobias?”

“It’s in a state of quiet upheaval. Somehow, everyone knows that Jorgenson got his hat handed to him and that the only reason he hasn’t been fired is that he’s out at the end of the year anyway.”

“Any push to get some revenge for that?”

“Please, Gibbs. This isn’t a spy movie. Jorgenson might be stupid and corrupt, but he’s not going to go after someone right now. It would be way too suspicious.”

“What have you heard?”

“That Jorgenson blames most of this on Carew.”

“Why?”

“Who knows? I sure don’t, and no, I will not ask. If it’s Carew, you know the guy. You can ask him yourself.”

“If he’ll answer.”

“Well, I’m still stopping the information train at asking why Carew is to blame. I still have a couple years before I’m supposed to retire.”

“Aren’t you a couple of years beyond that?”

“If I am, so are you, Gibbs. You’re not any younger than I am.”

Gibbs smiled. “I think you’ve got a few years on me.”

“Whatever.”

“Anything happen to Sacks?”

“No. Too many people like him. I know you guys think he’s terrible, but at the FBI, he’s a popular guy. No trouble for him.”

“Good.”

“How is he?”

“Got into trouble in Morocco, but he’s getting better.”

“No big surprise there. McGee is a magnet for trouble.”

“Not his fault.”

“Didn’t say it was. Magnets are magnets. Can’t change that without changing what they are. I hope things work out for him.”

“They will.”

“If the great Gibbs decrees it. I have work to do.”

“Bye, Tobias. Thanks.”

“You owe me, Gibbs.”

“I know.”

“Then, you’re welcome.”

Fornell hung up, and Gibbs did as well. He was glad that neither Fornell nor Sacks had paid a price for the help they’d given at the beginning of all this. In the midst of the problems, Gibbs focused on the main issue and let the peripheral things fall by the wayside, but now that it was mostly over, he knew that there were people who had taken risks to help, and he was relieved that it had turned out.

But he had a feeling that it wasn’t quite over yet.

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

Tim heard the door open and he was surprised.

“Boss, did you forget–?” Then, he stopped abruptly when he heard the limping footsteps.

Dr. Hicks limped into view.

“Hi, Tim. You’re looking much better than I feared you would after hearing what happened.”

Tim smiled a little and shrugged...and winced as he aggravated his injury yet again. He couldn’t keep still.

“I’m okay. Getting better. I’m only in a sling to remind me not to move too much. I keep forgetting that I can’t use my arm. The wound was close to my shoulder. I lucked out.”

“You mind having a chat with me?”

Tim shook his head. “No. Not at all. You’re limping pretty bad. Have a seat.”

Dr. Hicks sat down with a sigh of relief.

“What’s going on?” Tim asked, in concern.

Dr. Hicks took a deep breath and let it out and then smiled.

“The nerves in my feet sometimes flare up and overreact to everything. Because of the damage, there’s nothing to do about it but hope that it goes away. Usually, it does. It’s getting better, but it still hurts, and I’m just trying to let it ebb.”

“You didn’t have to come over here, today. I’m okay. Really.”

“I believe you, but it’s also been a while since our last session. Besides, on a purely personal note, I was worried about you.”

Tim smiled. “Thanks.”

“So, how are you doing?”

“Still feeling...unsettled. Honestly, Dr. Hicks, part of me wants to give up on this place and give them a taste of what they’ve given to me. I’m sick of this happening over and over! Jorgenson is only the worst of it. I don’t want to be so important. I’m sick of it.”

“Would you really give up?”

“I don’t know,” Tim said with a sigh. He thought of the freedom he could have if he gave up, and unbidden, Zahara loomed up in his mind. Maybe he could go back to Morocco and find her.

“You haven’t so far.”

“Everyone has a breaking point. Jorgenson deserves to suffer what I’ve had to go through, but he won’t. He even gets to keep his job until he’s at the end of his term! That’s wrong!”

“It is, but it’s also prudent.”

“Why?” Tim demanded.

“Because he doesn’t have a chance to drum up sympathy,” Dr. Hicks said, leaning forward. “Tim, the firing of the FBI director would be big news. There would be questions about why he was being fired, especially when his tenure is up so soon. This way, Jorgenson can’t claim that he’s been railroaded. He can’t try to get people to support him because he still has his job and when the year is up, so is his time in the job. There’s no firing. He’s leaving the position because there’s no other option. There’s a term limit. I know it seems wrong, but the way I see it is that the President is hemming him in even more by keeping this from being news.”

It all sounded good, and Dr. Hicks might even be right, but Tim wasn’t really in the mood to acknowledge it. Instead, he slumped back and then winced as he moved his back again.

“I know that it’s rather anticlimactic, considering everything you went through and the worries you had about what could have happened, but it really is probably for the best.”

“I hate him. I barely even know him, but I hate him,” Tim said. “I’d beat him to a bloody pulp if I could get away with it and not feel any guilt.”

Dr. Hicks smiled. “You’d feel guilt eventually.”

Tim groaned, but he couldn’t suppress a small smile in reaction. “You’re probably right. I’m stupid that way.”

“Not stupid. You just have strong morals. It’s hard to have morals when you’re dealing with people who have none. But you’re still all the more powerful for keeping them.”

“You make it sound so grand,” Tim said, glumly. “It just doesn’t mean much.”

“Tim, there’s something else, isn’t there,” Dr. Hicks said. “It’s not all about Jorgenson. What happened while you were in Morocco that wound you up? Yes, being stabbed is traumatic enough on its own, but that’s not really it, is it.”

Tim raised an eyebrow. “How do you do that?”

Dr. Hicks smiled. “Tim, I’ve been a psychiatrist for a long time. Plus, I’ve been your psychiatrist for a few years now. I can read you like a book.”

“In what language?” Tim asked.

“Esperanto?” Dr. Hicks suggested with a grin.

Tim couldn’t help but chuckle and he relaxed a little bit, feeling some of his frustration ebb.

“Yes, there was something...someone else.”

“Someone?”

“Yeah. I met a girl in Marrakech. I fell in love. And now, it’s over.”

“She didn’t love you?”

Tim shrugged and winced yet again. “She never said she did, but I thought she might. After all this happened, she wouldn’t even see me, not even to say good-bye.”

“Have you thought about trying to contact her?”

Tim shook his head.

“Why not?”

“Because she had the chance to and she didn’t.” Tim sighed and looked down. “I don’t think it’s my place to force myself on her.”

“Tim, are you sure that’s the reason?”

Tim looked up. “What other reason could there be?”

Dr. Hicks smiled. “Like, maybe, you were worried about where it might go and part of you is relieved it’s over?”

“I wasn’t worried about where it might go,” Tim said, and he knew he was being honest about that. He had been interested in seeing what happened.

“But?” Dr. Hicks pressed.

“But what?”

“But, there’s something more, Tim. Think about it. Even if you don’t have her phone number...”

“I do.”

“You could call her without forcing her hand.”

Tim thought about it, and the thoughts he’d had at the beginning welled up in his mind again.

“What right do I have to be in a relationship?” he asked.

“You have the same right as anyone else does, Tim,” Dr. Hicks said, surprised. “Why would you think differently?”

“Because I’m not like everyone else,” Tim said, now feeling more earnest. “You know what my life has been like the last ten years. You know what could happen to me again and again. Until I’m obsolete or dead. I disappear on a semi-regular basis and there’s never any way of knowing whether or not I’ll survive it or if someone else will get dragged down or even killed along with me. What right do I have to bring another person into that? Even worse, because it would be family. There would be love involved and you don’t just shut love off like a faucet. It’s there and it’s real. Look at Carew!”

“Carew? What does he have to do with–?”

“Look at how he tore his own family apart...to protect them from the life he was living. He divorced his wife. His children followed him to the CIA. Now, I’ve met Tamara. Their life is hard and wouldn’t it have been easier if they never met or if he hadn’t been in the CIA?”

“If he’d never saved my life,” Dr. Hicks said, softly.

“I’m not saying he shouldn’t have, but yes.”

Dr. Hicks took a breath and leaned forward. “Tim, what you’re saying is true. Your life is not typical and it likely never will be. But, that does not mean you can’t have the same things that other people do. You can get married, have a family, get old and fat and retire.”

Tim laughed a little.

“If you’re afraid of the risk, then, don’t keep it from the one you love. You don’t have to hide it. You can be upfront and honest.”

“But how honest can I really be?”

Dr. Hicks smiled sympathetically. “There are things you can’t tell. I understand. It’s hard having to keep secrets, but you can be honest about having things you can’t tell. You don’t have to lie and pretend there’s no secret. What this boils down to, though, is that whether this woman you met is the one for you or not, you don’t have to assume that you’ll be alone if that’s not what you want.”

Tim felt a wistful desire, but he shook his head.

“Well, I won’t push it, but you shouldn’t reject it out of hand. Just think about it,” Dr. Hicks said.

Tim nodded, but he felt that it was more likely that Zahara would easily move on. They’d only known each other for a few weeks. It wasn’t like this had been a long-term relationship ending.

“Let’s talk some more about what was going on in Morocco.”

“Okay.”

Tim took a breath and tried to relax as much as possible as he talked about the last six weeks of his life.

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 Post subject: Chapter 45
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:34 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 45

Zahara finally ventured out of the spare room, but only to go to the courtyard. She sat beside the pool and stared at the water, occasionally playing her fingers along the surface.

“Zahara?”

Zahara looked up and saw Fatima looking at her with concern. She mentally moved herself back to Arabic. She’d been talking to Ahmed more than anyone else, and they both preferred to talk to each other in Spanish.

“You came out.”

“Yes.”

“Are you feeling any better?”

“A little.”

“You can stay here as long as you want to, you know that. ...but what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” Zahara whispered, looking down at the pool again. “I can’t stay here, not now. But I don’t want to leave. I don’t know where I’d go. My family is gone from Melilla. Al-qahira is so far away and so different. Do you hate me for what I was doing? Do you think I betrayed you?”

There was a long silence. Then, Zahara felt Fatima kneel down beside her and hug her.

“No, Zahara. I don’t hate you. I have no opinion about Melilla and Ceuta. They’ve belonged to Spain for so long. Will it make my life better if they are suddenly part of Morocco? Will it improve others’ lives? I don’t think it will. You weren’t hurting anyone that I can see. The people who attacked you damaged their cause as far as I’m concerned. Violence shouldn’t be necessary to make an argument. But I don’t think you need to be afraid of them anymore. They were arrested. One of them even has admitted it. They won’t get away with what they tried to do.”

Zahara nodded. “I’m still afraid.”

“I know.”

Zahara leaned against Fatima, closing her eyes and trying to will away the fear she still felt.

“What about Tim?”

Zahara shook her head. “He’s gone. It doesn’t matter.”

“Yes, it does. Zahara, did you love him?”

Zahara sat up quickly and looked at Fatima in surprise. Fatima smiled a little.

“I think that’s a yes.”

Zahara couldn’t deny it, so she said nothing.

“Why did you let him leave without saying anything?”

“It’s like I almost killed him myself,” Zahara said. “He came to see me. He tried to help me, and he almost died because of it.”

“But you did nothing to him. You saved his life, Zahara. You kept him from dying until those other men came.”

Zahara turned back to the pool and looked at the tiles. They were green.

“You love him. He loves you. You should find him and tell him how you feel.”

“He won’t love me after I refused to speak to him. He’ll think I hate him,” Zahara said. “He’ll hate me. It’s what I would deserve.”

“You don’t know that. Not if you don’t try.”

“He left. He’s not here anymore. I don’t know where he lives, only that it’s close to Washington, D.C. That’s not enough to find someone,” Zahara said in a low voice.

“What about his friend? Daniel? He came here twice to see you. He said he was here and available. Surely, he would know where Tim is.”

The thought of leaving the house made Zahara’s stomach tighten. It must have shown on her face because Fatima took her by the shoulders and turned her.

“I understand that you’re still frightened by something you never thought would happen, but you have to fight that, Zahara. You have. Many times. You don’t have to let fear win, now. Take Ahmed with you if you need the support. He would want to come in any case.”

Zahara smiled a little. “Yes, he would.”

Then, her smile faded. Fatima looked serious.

“You were happy with Tim, Zahara. I have never seen you as happy as you were with him.”

“We are from different worlds, Fatima. How could it work?”

Fatima shook her head, firmly. “You are from the same world. We all are. Your cultures are different, but that doesn’t have to mean failure. It may not work, but you won’t know if you don’t try. Sometimes, love is enough. Sometimes, it isn’t. Find him, Zahara. See if you can love him enough to be with him.”

“And if I can? What then?”

Fatima smiled, then, and kissed Zahara on the forehead. “Then, you’ll invite Khadija and me to the wedding and you’ll come to visit us, sometimes.”

The thought of leaving Morocco, of going to the United States frightened Zahara, although in a different way. She’d lived her entire life in Melilla and Marrakech. She’d never gone anywhere else, not even anywhere else in Spain or Morocco. What would the United States be like?

“I’ll tell Ahmed that you want to talk to him.” Then, Fatima pulled a brochure from her pocket. “This is Daniel’s business. You can go to his office and talk to him there.”

Zahara took it and looked at the page as Fatima walked away.

Could she really do this? Should she?

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

Daniel ran the numbers again. It was getting to the point that he could pretend that he made enough money to bring his parents here for a last visit to Marrakech. Seeing things would be hard for his father, but they could plan enough that he could see some of the things he’d always loved. He could get his parents a room in New Town where there were accessible hotels. This could work.

In fact, he was about to call home and tell his parents that it was time when the bell on his office door jangled.

“Sa’akun hunāk. I’ll be right with you,” he said, quickly. It didn’t pay to lose customers because he was busy, but he had to close out his finance program. He didn’t want to have the numbers visible to anyone. So far, there’d been no backlash from his involvement in finding Tim, but he didn’t see any reason to tempt fate.

“Daniel?”

He spun around quickly at the voice he recognized.

“Zahara,” he said. “You’re...looking better. How are you doing?”

“I am better. Thank you,” she said, but she looked very uncertain. Her brother was with her, standing just behind, obviously as moral support.

“What can I do for you?”

“Have you spoken to Tim since he left?” she asked, softly.

“No,” Daniel said. “I think, in all the chaos of leaving, they forgot about me. I haven’t heard anything. I’ve just been hoping that it all worked out...and that Tim thinks about calling sometime since I don’t have his phone number.”

“You don’t?” Zahara asked, looking disappointed.

“No. I only met him when he came here,” Daniel said. “Why?”

“I was...hoping that you could tell me where he is.”

Daniel had to keep himself from smiling. He could see what Zahara meant and what she was wanting. He was excited, but he tried not to show it.

“Well, if it’s just getting to where he is that you need, I know someone who can probably help you with that.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Levi Carew. He was here that night, remember?”

“Yes. He said almost nothing. I had almost forgotten him.”

“Yeah. He doesn’t talk much, but I know his number, and if you... Are you going to the States?”

“If it was possible to find Tim there. Yes.”

Zahara looked very nervous about that, and so Daniel tried not to act too eager. He wanted her to be as comfortable as possible.

“I’d bet that Carew would have no trouble with that. I know he knows Tim pretty well.”

Zahara looked back at Ahmed who just smiled and said nothing. She looked back at Daniel.

“Was Tim angry with me when he left?”

Daniel shook his head. “No, but he was hurt that you wouldn’t speak to him. He loves you, Zahara. I know he does, and he thought that he must have misread how you felt.”

“No. He did not.”

“I didn’t think so,” Daniel said, smiling. “Is this departure imminent?”

“I have not yet bought a ticket.”

“Then, why don’t you just sit right here and let me call Carew and ask him?” Daniel suggested. “Then, you’ll know right away.”

Zahara nodded, nervously.

“Have a seat,” Daniel said, gesturing to the chairs.

Zahara and Ahmed sat down while Daniel dialed Carew’s number again. It rang a number of times.

“Hello?”

The breathless, female voice surprised him and Daniel checked to make sure he’d dialed the correct number.

“Uh...I’m looking for Levi Carew?”

“He’s here. Who may I say is calling?”

“It’s Daniel Worthing. He knows who I am.”

“Just a moment.”

Daniel waited and then, a few seconds later, he heard the phone change hands.

“Mr. Worthing, I must say that I’m surprised to hear from you again.”

“Wasn’t in my plans, sir,” Daniel said. “But I need to ask you a question.”

“What’s that?”

“Would you be able to direct Zahara to where Tim is?”

There was a long pause. Daniel wondered if he’d managed to surprise the unflappable former director.

“I could do that. Is she actually coming?”

“As soon as she buys a plane ticket.” Daniel looked at Zahara. “Do you know anyone over there?” he asked, although he was pretty sure he knew the answer.

“No. No one,” she said.

“Okay,” Daniel said, smiling. “Actually, she doesn’t have anyone to meet her there, so when she does get her ticket, could you meet her at the airport?”

Another pause, and this time, Daniel pictured Carew raising his eyebrow as he had when Daniel had first pitched his idea about being based in Marrakech. It was as if he was deciding whether or not this was a joke.

“I could also do that. Is she all right with that?”

“Would you be all right with having Carew take you to Tim?” Daniel asked, dutifully.

“I suppose,” Zahara said. “I had not really thought about the details.” She looked at Ahmed who just nodded, although he didn’t seem especially enthusiastic.

“Levi Carew would take care of her until she got to Tim,” Daniel said. “I promise.”

“You’re making a big promise there, Mr. Worthing. Some people feel that I’m the devil incarnate,” Carew said, with amusement. “Are you sure you want to put your honor on the line like that?”

Daniel ignored him.

“Who is this man?” Ahmed asked.

“He was with us when we found Tim. In fact, he’s the reason I got to know Tim, and he’s the reason Tim was able to get here and leave so easily,” Daniel said.

Ahmed considered that and then nodded. “Very well.”

Zahara finally smiled. “Ahmed wishes to come with me, but he cannot take the time.”

“Is that all, Mr. Worthing?”

“Yes. I’ll call you to let you know her schedule when she buys her ticket.”

“I’ll be ready for that.”

“Good.”

Daniel hung up. Zahara leaned forward, earnestly.

“What is the United States like?” she asked. “I have never been there.”

“It’s impossible to describe it. It’s so big that every region is like a different country. You’re going to be in or near D.C. It’s a chaotic place, but not so crowded as Marrakech and the population is smaller, but because it’s the national capital, there are crowds of tourists year round. It’s very green, though. It’s humid and wet and hot in the summer, but you can still have snow in the winter. It’s different from Morocco, but people are people, no matter where you go. You’ll find good and bad. I see the world as mostly good.”

“Even with what you have seen?”

For a moment, Daniel thought that she meant his own experiences, but then, he realized that she was talking about what had just happened and no one here knew his real past.

“Yes, even then. Because the good people in the story outnumbered the bad. At least two to one.”

Zahara nodded and stood. “I will tell you when I have bought my ticket.”

“I’ll be waiting to hear,” Daniel said. He stood and nodded slightly. “I hope it’s soon. Hasta luego!”

Zahara’s smile widened and she nodded. “Hasta luego.”

Then, she and Ahmed left and Daniel sat back down. How he wished he could call Tim and tell him that she was coming, but then, maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea until she was actually gone, anyway. ...and it would certainly be a surprise for Tim. He grinned to himself as he went back to his numbers.

“I wish I could be there to see his face when she shows up,” he said to himself.

Then, he decided to call his parents. He quickly dialed their number.

“Daniel, it’s been ages since you called!”

“I know, Mom,” Daniel said. “But I have a good reason for it now.”

“Is it time?”

“Yes. It’s time. When do you want to come?”

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

“So, Tim, what’s up with you?” Tony asked.

Tim furrowed his brow.

“What do you mean?” he asked. “I’m recovering from being stabbed and almost dying. I’d think you’d understand that I’m not very chipper, even if I have been through worse.”

“There is more to it, and you know it,” Ziva said.

They’d come over during their lunch break to give Tim some company. It would make them late back to work, but right now, Gibbs was conveniently not noticing. They couldn’t depend on that being the case permanently, but it was nice for the time being.

Tim sighed and looked down.

“Aha! So there is something wrong! I knew it!” Tony said, triumphantly.

“It’s nothing really.”

“But it’s something!”

Tim sighed again. He didn’t really want to tell them, but at the same time, it would be nice to have some sympathy for his situation.

“I met someone while I was in Marrakech,” he said, softly. “And now, it’s over.”

“You met someone?” Tony echoed. “A female someone?”

“Yeah.”

“How? Who is she?”

“I saw her dancing at a club,” Tim said. “And before you say anything, Tony, she is not a stripper. That’s not the kind of club it was. She was doing traditional Berber and Moroccan dances. Fully clothed.”

“Hey, I didn’t say anything.”

Tim smiled a little. “You didn’t have to.”

“You met her there?” Ziva asked, getting them back on track.

“Yeah. We hit it off and went on some dates...and...”

“You fell in love with her,” Ziva finished for him.

Tim looked down again. “Yeah. I did.”

“Well, that explains the doldrums. Why is it over, though?” Tony asked. “Couldn’t you try the long distance thing before you give up?”

“She wouldn’t talk to me, Tony,” Tim said, looking up. “After I got stabbed, she wouldn’t even send me a message. I don’t know how else to take that. She wasn’t as serious about it as I was.”

“Did she know how you felt?” Ziva asked, gently.

“I told I loved her,” Tim said.

“Wow,” Tony said. “You sure moved fast, Probie. A month and already the L word? Maybe you scared her.”

Ziva smacked him.

“Hey!” Tony protested, rubbing his arm.

“I did. He’s right, Ziva,” Tim said. “I wasn’t planning on it. I didn’t even think it was a possibility, but I love her and...and I guess that it’s over now. I just really...I wish it wasn’t.”

“Maybe once you get better you could go and see her,” Tony suggested. “You might not get the cushy private plane, but you’re allowed a vacation.”

Tim shook his head. “No. I just have to accept that the dream is over now, and I’m back to reality again. It was a nice break but couldn’t last.”
Ziva furrowed her brow. “You think that your reality is without love?”

“I can’t see that I’m really wrong,” Tim said. “After all, look at what my life is. Constant risk of being attacked, being taken, being killed, being enslaved. It was just a dream that I could live a normal life with a family. I just let myself get too lost in the dream. Now, it’s back to normal again. Or at least my normal.”

Tim saw Tony and Ziva exchange looks, but they didn’t keep arguing with him. Tim was glad. It was easier just to accept the idea of being alone than to dream that it was possible to be with someone.

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

Zahara wondered what she should pack for this trip. She had no idea how long it would be. She had no idea what was appropriate to wear in the U.S. All the pictures she’d seen had been dominated by people in shorts and t-shirts or business suits. She didn’t own either type of clothing. She stared at her suitcase which was waiting to be filled. Finally, she started to fill it with her usual clothes. Surely, she wouldn’t stand out too much. Besides, what else could she do?

“Are you sure this is what you want to do?” Ahmed asked, for the fifth time.

“Yes,” Zahara said. “I’m sure it’s what I want to do...but I’m still afraid of doing it.”

“I could take more time off,” he said. “I could go with you.”

“No, Ahmed. You would lose your job if you took more time off now,” Zahara said. “I’ll be fine.”

“What if you’re not?”

“I will be,” she said. “Even if Tim cannot forgive what I did, he won’t hurt me. I will call you and let you know.”

“You’re my sister,” Ahmed said. “I feel responsible.”

She decided not to take the head scarves she often wore here. She knew that they wouldn’t be necessary in the United States.

“I am an adult, Ahmed,” Zahara said. “You cannot protect me forever. I’ve wanted you here. I’m glad you came, but now, this is something I have to do. And I hope that it will...work.”

“What will you do if it doesn’t?”

“I can’t think about that. One thing at a time. For now, I have to pack.”

Ahmed hugged her tightly and then left her to her packing.

After he was gone, Zahara stared at her clothes. They were tangible evidence of how different the world she’d experienced was from the world she was now going to see. She liked these clothes. She felt comfortable in them. How would they be seen in the U.S.? Would Tim have moved on? Would he hate her for what she had done? She knew that she deserved to be rejected after she had, effectively, abandoned him. But what if he didn’t and what if he was happy to see her?

“Could I fit into the United States?” she whispered.

Only time would tell.

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 Post subject: Chapter 46
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:41 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 46

After a couple of days lazing around, Tim needed something more to do. There was no sign of the FBI making any moves and that allowed Tim to relax a little bit. It was nice to be able to set aside those worries...and only worry about one thing at a time. So while Gibbs was at work, Tim would venture down to the basement to tinker on something. He couldn’t really do any work while his back was healing, but it took up time as he sat and planned a project that he could do when he was better.

The heartache was starting to ebb, but he still hated to realize that the one time he’d relaxed enough to meet someone, it had fallen apart. It just seemed to be what he had to accept. He wasn’t meant to have a normal life. Everything had changed too much for it to ever happen.

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

Gibbs walked into his house and took in the silence. He guessed that Tim was back in the basement, sitting and doing nothing. He’d finally told Tony and Ziva about Zahara, but Gibbs could see that Tim was still dejected after being dumped, or at least, effectively dumped. Gibbs would be surprised if Zahara had really wanted to see Tim leave, but Tim couldn’t bring himself to see the other side yet. He would, eventually. He just needed some time to be miserable, first. Besides that, he was still recovering from the stabbing as well. Having two things needing to heal at once just made it more difficult for both.

He walked down to the basement.

Sure enough, Tim was sitting on a stool, staring at a piece of wood. At least, there was a piece of paper with some writing on it this time. Tim had tried to do something. Right now, he was rotating his shoulder, clearly feeling some pain.

“Tim.”

“I’m fine, Boss,” Tim said, not looking up.

“Did you eat?”

“No.”

“Then, you’re not fine. Come on.”

Tim nodded and stood up. He still walked with exaggerated caution, trying to not to jar his back too much, but he was definitely doing better.

Gibbs had picked up some takeout on the way home and they ate that, mostly in silence.

“Are you actually working on anything?” Gibbs asked, once he’d finished.

Tim was still picking at the food on his plate. “Just ideas. Nothing really solid yet. Have you ever done anything with tiles?”

“Like a floor?”

“Like a decorative mosaic.”

Gibbs almost smiled. “No.”

“Any ideas?”

“You’d probably need to build a frame for it. Then, you could glue the tiles into it once you had the design.”

Tim nodded. “That sounds right.”

“Why?”

Tim finally looked up at him and smiled a little. “I can’t get over the tile work I saw in Marrakech. The riad I rented was covered with it. It’s too bad you never got a chance to see it. At first, it just seemed overdone, but then, I realized that it’s the way they decorate, and it’s beautiful, especially the blues. I saw this place that was almost all this bright blue, both paint and tile. I’d never seen anything like it before. I was thinking that, maybe I could find some tiles and make a mosaic, something to remind me of it.”

“Sounds like a good idea. Is it just Marrakech you want to remember?”

“Yes. For now.”

Gibbs nodded in acceptance of that. He could understand wanting to put off thinking about what he’d lost.

“I’ve never made a frame. Any pointers?” Tim asked.

“Sure.”

Gibbs gestured and they both headed down to the basement. At least, this would be doing something.

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

Zahara looked out the window of the plane as it descended into Washington, D.C. She had been traveling for nearly a day, and even though she’d never left the airport in Casablanca or Frankfurt, she still felt as though she had traveled to a different world when she had landed in Frankfurt. Then, the nearly nine-hour flight, much of it over water, had introduced her to the world of cramped quarters and the tiny facilities available on an airplane. She had flown to Marrakech from Melilla, but that had been her only time on a plane. The only reason she had a passport was because her mother had told her to get one and to keep it ready if she ever needed it.

Now, she was watching the world outside the tiny window on the plane, wondering if this had been a terrible mistake.

“Your first time in D.C.?”

Startled, Zahara turned in her seat away from the window and toward the woman beside her, who had slept through most of the flight.

“I am sorry?” she said. “I did not hear you. The plane is very loud.”

The woman smiled.

“Yes, it is. Your first time in D.C.?”

“Yes. My first time to the United States.”

“Oh, really? Well, that’s exciting for you,” the woman said, smiling kindly.

“Yes. A little frightening, too.”

“Are you from Germany?”

Zahara shook her head. “No. I am from... Morocco.”

“This will be a change for you, then. You have family here?”

“No.”

“Friends?”

“I hope so,” Zahara said, thinking of all the things that Tim might be thinking about her after what she had done before.

“You hope so?”

“Yes. It is a long story. I am meeting someone here, but he will take me to the one I hope is still my friend.”

“Oh, I see.”

Zahara was sure that this woman didn’t, but she was sympathetic and that was nice. She had been relieved that the person sitting beside her had been this petite, older woman, rather than a large hulking man who would have made Zahara feel more than a little afraid.

“Are you from Germany?”

The woman shook her head. “No. My daughter lives there. Her husband is in the military. I was visiting to spend some time with them and my grandchildren.”

Before Zahara could reply, the woman pulled out her tablet and started showing photos of her grandchildren. It lasted until the plane began to taxi to the gate. Then, once they got to the gate and everyone started standing up, the woman patted her on the shoulder.

“Good luck,” she said.

“Thank you,” Zahara said.

She followed the crowd off the plane and to customs. There was a long line of people waiting to go and Zahara stood in line, slowly moving forward through the maze of cords, leading to a number of booths with bored-looking customs agents. When it was finally her turn, Zahara mentally ran through what she was going to say when asked the purpose of her visit. She and Ahmed had discussed what she should say, how much she should tell, but without lying about it. Just to say what needed to be said so that she got admitted to the U.S.

She stepped up to the booth and handed her passport and customs form over to the agent. He asked her questions in a bored way, barely looking at her. Then, the important question came.

“What is the purpose of your visit?”

“A friend of mine was injured and I am here to visit him. He lives in Washington D. C.”

“Who will you be staying with?”

“His name is Levi Carew. His address is there on the form.”

The man looked up at her and raised an eyebrow, but then, shrugged and looked back down.

“How long will you be here?”

“My ticket is for next week. Seven days from today.” She didn’t mention that, if things worked out as she hoped, there would be some shuffling around to get her permission to stay. Ahmed had told her to buy a return ticket to make things easier.

There was a pause, during which Zahara worried that she had said something wrong. Then, he stamped the form and handed it back to her, along with her passport.

“Baggage claim is that way.”

“Thank you,” Zahara said.

The man barely acknowledged her. He just gestured to the next person in line while Zahara continued to baggage claim. The rest of the process went smoothly and, finally, she was leaving the secured area and coming out to where Levi Carew was supposed to be waiting to pick her up. She wondered if she would even remember him. He had made very little impression on her before.

Then, she saw her name in both English (or Spanish) and Arabic. She made her way over to the man holding the sign and when she got to him, she was pulled up short for a moment as she looked him in the eye. His eyes were black! How had she not noticed that before? It was very strange and, for a moment, she wondered if he was some kind of evil spirit as the more superstitious believed. Then, reality asserted itself and she smiled.

“You are Levi Carew?”

“You don’t remember me?” he asked, smiling slightly.

“No. Not very well,” she said. “You did not say much.”

“Nothing needed to be said on my side. Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“All right. My car is this way.”

He gestured and they left the airport. Zahara was looking all around as they walked. The air was oppressively hot and humid, something she hadn’t really expected. She had thought that it would be cooler in the United States. After all, this was far from a desert. It wasn’t really worse than Morocco. It was just that she had built up a particular expectation in her mind and this was not it.

“Is this normal?” she asked.

“Is what normal?”

“It is so hot.”

Carew smiled. “Yes. Unfortunately, that’s very normal for D.C. in the summer. This city is built on a place that used to be a swamp. It’s on the convergence of two rivers, low elevation. It’s hot and sticky all summer, except when we get thunderstorms. Then, it’s usually hot and wet.”

Zahara nodded, but she was still surprised by it. Then, another question came into her mind.

“Are you famous?”

There was no question that she had surprised him. His face before had been immobile, even when he smiled, but this time, he laughed and it seemed genuine.

“Excuse me?”

“Are you famous?”

“Why would you think I was?”

“When I was going through customs, the man asked who I was with and I said your name. He seemed surprised. There was no reason for him to be surprised if he had never heard of you,” Zahara said, making sure she was explaining herself clearly.

“Well, I’m not famous,” Carew said, “but some people have heard of me.”

“Why is that?”

“I used to run the CIA.”

“What is that? I think I have heard of it before,” Zahara said.

Carew smiled. “It’s a law enforcement agency.”

“Like NCIS? Like Tim?”

“Yes. Only bigger and not military.”

“Oh.”

They walked together in silence for a while and then Carew gestured again.

“Here’s my car.”

Zahara nodded and put her suitcase in the back seat. Then, she sat in the front. It was silent in the car as he navigated out of the parking garage. As they pulled out, she noticed that it was definitely headed toward evening and there was a lot of traffic.

“Are you taking me to Tim, now?” she asked.

“I assumed that was the plan, yes.”

“Why are you doing this?” she asked.

“Because I can,” Carew said.

“No, that is not enough. You were there in Morocco, but you said so little. You are here now, but you still say very little and you are very hard to understand. Why are you helping me?”

Traffic slowed to a crawl and Carew turned to look at her, his black eyes like empty voids.

“I’m helping you because it helps Tim McGee.”

“Why? This must have been very inconvenient and you came all the way to Morocco to find us.”

There was a long pause, as if he was evaluating how much he should say to her. Zahara wasn’t used to being stared at like Carew stared, but she figured it was mostly because of his eyes, and she tried not to be discomfited by them. Then, in a moment in which he seemed completely open, Carew spoke.

“Because Agent McGee is the one person, almost in the world, who could ask me to do anything and I would do it if it was in my power.”

Zahara was surprised by that kind of declaration coming from someone who had seemed to feel nothing.

“What has he done to make you feel that way?”

“It’s more what I’ve done,” Carew said, looking back at the road. “I’ve hurt him and used him for my own purposes, out of necessity, but still used him. I’ve put his life on the line more than once, and in return, he did everything required of him, he saved my daughter’s life and more important than all of that, he still wished me well.”

Zahara listened, very curious about what she was learning.

“Why is that so important?”

“Because there are few people in the world who can be torn apart the way Agent McGee has been and still maintain his basic morals. He hasn’t let this destroy him. But I’ve contributed to his difficulties to such a degree that there is no way that I could ever repay him. It’s only right that I do what I can to make it up to him.”

“But you said that you could not do that.”

“That’s right. I can’t. I never will,” Carew said, not taking his eyes from the road. “That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. If I spend the rest of my life trying, it might make some difference.”

Zahara nodded and then was quiet as the speed increased again. For a few minutes, she said nothing and it was quiet in the car. Then, she looked at Carew again. He knew Tim, but he didn’t really know her. Maybe he could answer the one question that she really wanted to know.

“Will Tim forgive me?” she asked, softly.

Carew smiled. “I can’t imagine a scenario where he wouldn’t.”

“I would not even speak to him.”

“He’ll understand.”

“How do you know?”

“Because he’s a good man and, if he loved you before, he still will, now.”

Zahara could only hope that he was right.

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

Tim was sorting through Gibbs’ wood, trying to find what he had decided would be the right kind for this project. Gibbs let him, thinking that it was better that Tim get his mind off the negative and focus on the positive for a while.

Then, there was a knock at the door. Gibbs was surprised. It was obviously not someone who knew him. Those people all knew to walk in. Tim looked up.

“I’ll get it,” Gibbs said, to forestall Tim offering.

He walked up the stairs and to the front door. Then, he opened it and was more shocked than he’d been in a long while.

“Zahara,” he said. Then, he looked beyond her and saw who was standing on the sidewalk. “Carew.”

“Hello, Mr. Gibbs. Mr. Carew said that Tim was here. Is that right?” Zahara asked. She looked both determined and uncertain at the same time.

“He is,” Gibbs said and stood aside for her to go in, but he also looked at Carew. “You coming, too?” he added.

“If you’ll allow me to sully your home,” Carew said.

Gibbs rolled his eyes and allowed Carew to walk in.

“Where is he?” Zahara asked.

“In the basement,” Gibbs said and led her to the door. “We’ll wait up here.”

Zahara nodded and took a breath before opening the door. She walked in and Gibbs walked back to the living room where Carew was waiting, seemingly totally at ease.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“Playing the chauffeur,” Carew answered. “Daniel Worthing called me and asked for my help in getting Zahara to Tim. He didn’t know anyone else’s number.”

“How long will you do that?”

“Until I’m not needed. Then, I’ll go back home. Don’t worry, Agent Gibbs,” Carew said. “I’m not planning on moving in.”

“Good.”

“How is Agent McGee doing?”

“He’s healing,” Gibbs said.

Then, suddenly, Carew smiled, looking almost genuinely happy for possibly the first time in all the years that Gibbs had known him.

“In more ways than one, Agent Gibbs,” he said and then sat down on the couch, clearly prepared to wait.

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 Post subject: Chapter 47
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:44 pm 
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Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Chapter 47

Tim heard the door to the basement open.

“Who was at the door?” he asked, not looking up.

“I was.”

The voice was not the one he was expecting to hear. He looked up and almost had to pinch himself. There she was, standing at the top of the stairs, looking the same as she had in Marrakech, just without the head scarf. A little rumpled as if she’d been traveling all day, but still the same.

“Zahara,” he said.

“Yes,” she said. “Are you healing? Your back?”

“Yes. I’m not all the way there yet, but it’s getting a lot better.”

“I am glad.”

“What... What are you doing here?” he asked.

She looked down, hiding her eyes from him.

“I let you leave without speaking to you.”

“I know.”

“And it made you think that I did not care.”

Tim didn’t say anything. He couldn’t deny it, but it wouldn’t help to verify it. Zahara kept speaking. This was her turn to speak.

“You did not hear me in the desert.”

“What do you mean?”

There was a long silence and then, tentatively, she walked down the stairs. Tim stayed where he was, sitting on the stool, but his eyes were on Zahara and nothing else. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and didn’t move for a few seconds.

“I heard you singing to me,” he said, softly. “It was the last thing I heard. It was beautiful.”

Zahara took a deep breath and looked at him. She seemed almost fearful.

“I thought you were dying. It was what I hoped you would hear if it was the last thing you heard. I said...a word. A word I’d never said to another before, and I’m afraid to say it again, now, but I must because it is still true.”

“What word?” Tim asked. He wasn’t sure he knew where this was going.

“Ahabbak,” she said.

“And what does that mean?” Tim asked.

“It means...” She paused again. “It means that I love you.”

For just a moment, everything in the entire universe seemed to come to a complete halt for Tim. He had spent almost every waking moment since returning to the States convincing himself that he had misread Zahara’s feelings, that he’d created a stronger emotion in his mind than had actually existed and now...

“Tim?”

Tim looked at Zahara. She seemed concerned.

“Did you hear me?”

“Y-Yes,” he said. “I heard you. I just wasn’t sure I heard you right.”

Zahara smiled a little.

“What did you hear?” she asked.

“I heard you say that you love me.”

“Yes, that is what I said. I love you, Tim. I never thought I could. It is...I was afraid. I am so sorry that I did not speak to you before you left Marrakech.”

“Why didn’t you?” Tim asked.

“I was afraid. Of many things. I was afraid to love you. I was afraid to leave Fatima’s home. I was afraid of what happened. I was afraid that what happened to you was my fault. I sat in the desert and watched you dying.” She dropped her head. “You spoke of blood on your hands, but your blood was on me. I could not get it off me no matter how I tried. I saw it there and it was my fault that it was. I thought it would be best to separate from you completely. Best for both of us.”

Now, Tim stood and walked over to her. Gently, he lifted her head until he could look her in the eye. Then, he took her hand.

“Zahara, what happened to me was not your fault. I know how guilt feels. I really do, but it was not your fault. It wasn’t even mine, although my plan to get away didn’t pan out at all. Please, don’t beat yourself up about it. Let it go. I’m speaking from personal experience. It’ll poison you. It can even destroy you if you let it.”

“You are not angry with me?”

“Not about getting stabbed. I’m just glad I was there to stop them.”

“But about my abandoning you?”

Tim nodded. “I was. I was more hurt than angry, but I was a little angry because...because I loved you.”

“Do you still?” Zahara asked, hesitantly. “Do you still love me? Or are you sorry you met me?”

Tim thought about it. It didn’t take long, but he thought about it.

“I will never regret meeting you, Zahara,” he said, finally. “It’s the best thing that happened to me in a long time.”

They had only ever kissed once, but Tim leaned in, slowly and carefully, making sure that Zahara was willing. She didn’t back away or say anything. He kissed her, still holding her hand. She leaned in, responding to the kiss, but then, they pulled apart. She brought up her free hand and rested it on his chest, then leaned against him. Tim put an arm around her. He couldn’t do much more than that without hurting himself, but he did what he could.

“You said that you were worried about putting me in danger,” Zahara said, softly. “Does that still worry you?”

“A little,” Tim said. “I don’t think that I could ever completely set that aside.”

“Do you think that we could be together? That it could work for us?”

“I think we could try,” Tim said. “I want to try. Do you?”

“Yes, but it frightens me, still.”

“I won’t push you, Zahara. If you need time, I can give you time.”

“I only have permission to be here for a week.”

Tim smiled. “We’ll figure something out, unless you want to go back.”

Zahara pulled away so that she could look at him. She smiled and shook her head.

“I do not want to leave you again.”

“Then, we’ll figure something out.”

“Perhaps, Mr. Carew could help?”

“Carew? What does he have to do with it?”

“He is the one who brought me here,” Zahara said.

“Really? Why?”

“He wants you to be happy.”

Tim felt his brow furrow.

“What?”

“He said that he owes you a debt that he can never repay and that he would do anything you asked him to do because of everything he has done before. I think he wants you to be happy. If something can be done, he will do it.”

Tim was a bit flabbergasted at the realization that Zahara was suggesting Carew and doing so without any doubt. She didn’t have any of the history with him that Tim did. At the same time, hadn’t he suspected something like that himself before he’d gone to Marrakech?

“Maybe,” he said, doubtfully.

“He is upstairs.”

“Right now?”

“Yes.”

Zahara looked Tim in the eye. “You have been through a lot, Tim. I have made things harder for you. Now...maybe someone can make things easier for both of us.”

Tim took a deep breath and nodded even though part of him was scoffing at Carew really making anything easier.

“Okay.”

Zahara took his hand and they walked up the stairs together. Then, they walked into the living room and Tim was surprised anew to see Carew sitting on Gibbs’ couch like he belonged there.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

“Zahara only has permission to stay here for a week,” Tim said. “Is there any way that we could extend her stay?”

“Permanently?” Carew asked.

“Maybe,” Tim said, feeling his cheeks redden slightly.

“I think I could do something about that, unless you have connections, Agent Gibbs?”

Tim looked at Gibbs who just shook his head.

“Then, if you’ll give me a day or two, I can do something about that. Will you be needing to be driven somewhere else, Ms. Mokrani? Where will you be staying?”

“Oh. I had not even thought about it,” Zahara said, sounding a little sheepish. “I had only thought this far.”

“I have an extra room,” Gibbs said. “If that would be all right with you.”

Zahara was silent for a few seconds, considering it. Tim knew that she wasn’t exactly comfortable with the idea, but then, she nodded.

“For now, yes. I think that would work, but only for now.”

“Then, I’ll head home,” Carew said. “I’ll let you know what I find out.”

He stood and left the room. Tim couldn’t let that stand and he followed Carew out of the house.

“Wait,” he said.

“Yes, Agent McGee?” Carew asked, widening his eyes.

Tim wanted to ask questions. He wanted to see if Zahara had really understood Carew before. He wanted to demand answers, but then, as he looked at Carew, he could see that Carew would never open himself up that way. Not with many people and not just because it was asked of him. At the end of the day, there was only one thing he needed to say.

“Thank you,” Tim said.

There was a long silence where Tim felt that Carew could see all the things he wasn’t saying.

“You’re welcome, Agent McGee.”

Then, he walked to his car and drove away. Tim watched him go and then walked back into the house, feeling his back start to ache. He suppressed a wince as he opened and closed the door.

Gibbs noticed.

“Zahara, I’ll show you your room. McGee...”

Tim nodded, but he walked over to Zahara and took her hands in his own. Then, he squeezed them lightly and smiled at her.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” he said.

“I am glad to be here,” she said.

Then, she reached up and kissed him briefly on the cheek. She was just a little shorter than he was, but the difference in height wasn’t dramatic. Zahara followed Gibbs upstairs. Tim watched until she was out of sight. He still couldn’t quite believe how quickly that had changed. He had gone from telling himself that love just wasn’t in the cards for him to Zahara having thrown caution to the winds. She had come here, not knowing whether or not he would accept what she had to say.

Tim sank down on the couch instead of going to bed.

Zahara was here! She wanted it to work! He had a chance!

Would it work out? Who knew? But Tim was ready to make it work. He would let Zahara take it as slowly as she needed since she was the fish out of water here.

He sat there, digesting this sudden change in his life.

“Tim?”

Tim glanced over and saw Gibbs looking at him from the bottom of the stairs.

“She’s here.”

“Yeah.”

“I never thought I’d see her again.”

“You disappointed?” Gibbs asked as he walked over to sit across from Tim.

“No! Not at all. I just...never...thought about it happening.” Then, Tim looked up toward where Zahara was. “How will I introduce her to everyone else?”

Gibbs smiled a little. “Carefully.”

“Yeah. No kidding. I don’t want to hide it. That would be wrong, but I don’t want to overwhelm her, either. They aren’t really...known for being tactful.”

“I’ll tell them. You tell her.”

Tim smiled. “Okay.” Then, he had to ask. “Is this going to work out, Boss? Am I being stupid for wanting it? For trying?”

“No,” Gibbs said, firmly. “You’re not being stupid. Whether it works out or not.”

“I love her. When I saw her on the stairs, it was like the universe was holding its breath, waiting for her to speak. I know it’s ridiculous. I shouldn’t have reacted like this, but...”

“Tim, stop.”

“What?”

Gibbs leaned forward and looked Tim in the eye, to the extent that Tim felt a little uncomfortable.

“You are reacting like any normal person in love. It’s not ridiculous. It’s not stupid. You’re doing something normal. There’s nothing wrong with it. Stop questioning what you’re doing. Live your life. You have the chance to do it. Do it.”

“Do I really?” Tim asked. “This knife wound in my back is just one more scar. I’m literally covered with them, Boss. Do I really have a chance?”

“Yes,” Gibbs said, not looking away. “You have the chance. No one is taking it from you. Not this time.”

Tim looked down for a second and then back up. He could hear what Gibbs was saying.

“You don’t have to do this for me, Boss. I don’t...”

“I couldn’t promise you before,” Gibbs said, cutting him off. “I can now. You have the chance. No matter what.”

Tim felt his throat tighten ominously and he took a quick breath.

“Live your life, Tim,” Gibbs said.

Then, Gibbs got up and left Tim sitting on the couch. Tim sat there for another few minutes and then decided to go to bed.

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

Carew pulled up at his house and looked at it for a few moments before going inside. It was late and he assumed that Tamara would be sleeping. At the very least, he expected that she’d be in her bedroom. Quietly, he let himself into the house, but then, he walked through the house to the backyard. He walked to the middle of the yard and sat down on the grass. There was a bit of dew already, but not too much yet.

As he sat there, he thought about what had happened today and while he was definitely glad that things seemed to be working out for Tim, he could admit that he was envious. Tim’s problems, relationship-wise at least, were simply in getting it going. He had been open and honest with Zahara, and she had reciprocated. A far cry from the issues he and Tamara faced.

He sat on the grass for a long time, not really trying to think deeply about anything, just sitting in the relative silence. At what point would he feel tired enough to think about sleeping? He didn’t know, but he could wait.

After a while, he heard movement behind him and he tensed slightly.

“Levi?” Tamara asked, in a whisper.

He relaxed.

“What are you doing out here?”

“Sitting,” he said, not turning around.

“Why?”

“It’s quiet.”

“It’s quiet inside, too.”

“Yes, it is.”

He heard her walk across the grass and then he could see her kneel beside him.

“What’s going on in your head, Levi?”

“Many things.”

“Be specific.”

Carew suppressed a smile. Tamara was quickly relearning all the things he did to deflect. She had known them pretty well in the beginning, but thirty years of distance and outright separation had made her forget them.

“I was wishing things were different.”

“You were?”

“Yes.”

“What things?”

Carew turned to look at her. It was dark enough that he couldn’t really read her expression but light enough that he could see her.

“Can you deal with this?”

“What is this?” she asked.

“Me. All the complexities, difficulties and uncertainties that go along with making an effort to make me human again. When we started, neither of us knew what to expect. There could be some cautious optimism. Now, you can see where I’m at versus where I was. Is this something that you can deal with? I think it’s best that we not fool ourselves.”

“Is that what you think I’m doing, Levi?” Tamara asked.

“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking,” Carew said. “If I knew that, I’d know what to plan for.”

“Stop planning,” Tamara said. “What we’re doing can’t be planned. There’s no schedule. There’s no plan. There’s just us, working on a possible future.”

“And that’s enough for you?”

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t. Honestly, Levi, do you think I’m naive about this? I may not have lived the life you have, but I’ve seen your life, more than you might realize. I spent years trying to separate Levi Carew from the director of the CIA. I hated the director and I loved Levi. I always hoped that there would be a time when you were back. And I can see it in your eyes. Sometimes, Levi, you don’t hold back everything. Sometimes, I can see through the mask to the man you are. I can see the man you hide even from yourself, and I love him and I hope that one day you’ll see that there’s no weakness in being that man again.”

Carew didn’t know how to reply. So he didn’t. He sat there, staring at her, wondering what he had done to deserve the effort she was making. Then, Tamara stood and touched his cheek for a moment.

“Don’t stay out here all night. You’re not as young as you used to be.”

Carew smiled and touched her hand gently.

“I won’t.”

“Good.”

Then, she walked inside.

Alone once more, Carew thought about the different kinds of silence. Why outside and not inside?

Then, he shook his head and smiled at himself. Out here, he was alone in the silence. Inside, he was alone, but not because there was no one else around. Ridiculous? Probably, but it was true.

Finally, he decided it was time to go inside. He paused outside Tamara’s bedroom, actually wanting to go in. Then, he walked to his own room and went to bed.

...but he didn’t stay there long.

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 Post subject: Chapter 48
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:55 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 48

A foreign, and yet familiar, sound woke Tamara early in the morning. She lay there, with her eyes closed, wondering what it was. Then, finally, she woke up enough that she realized.

It was heavy breathing, bordering on snoring.

Quickly, she opened her eyes and sat up in bed, wondering who was in the room with her. Then, she smiled, although she was a little surprised.

Carew was sitting on a chair, slumped down and sleeping. She watched him for a few minutes, wondering why he was sitting there and obviously had been for a while. He was genuinely relaxed as he rarely was when conscious. This was when she could really see who he had been. The harsh lines smoothed out, and his eyes weren’t those black mirrors staring back at her. It had taken her some time to get over how strange his eyes were. In fact, the first time they’d met, she had almost recoiled when he looked at her. Then, she had seen that twinkle that he employed to cover up the hurt. He had denied that he was bothered by people’s reaction to his eyes, but she knew that it was more that he was used to it.

But then, she had noticed that his eyes weren’t really black. They were simply a very dark brown. It had been the first time they’d kissed. She was close enough that she could see the slight brown hue. Later, she had decided that it was fitting. What the world saw was strange and black. What she saw was simply a darker brown than was usual.

“Levi,” she said, softly.

He shifted from sleeping to awake in an instant and quickly sat up.

“What are you doing in here?” she asked. “That didn’t look like a comfortable place to sleep.”

He raised an eyebrow at her and nodded.

“It wasn’t, not at all.”

“Then, why were you there?”

He smiled slightly. “I like watching you sleep.”

“How long were you watching me sleep and how long were you sleeping?”

Carew looked at the clock by her bed and his smile changed.

“Too long and not long enough,” he said, “but that’s normal for me.”

“Which part?”

“The second. I don’t watch you every night.”

“Why don’t you sleep?”

“Thirty years of working for the CIA,” Carew said.

There was no regret in his voice, just a statement of fact. That was the hard thing about all this, Tamara decided. Second nature to Carew was showing nothing, even when telling the truth. But he was also telling the truth when she asked. It was just that he was still afraid of showing any weakness. Maybe it was time to take another step. The question was whether or not he would be willing.

“Levi...maybe it’s time to stop sleeping in different rooms.”

There was a slightly cynical smile, and Tamara knew why, even before he said it.

“That was extremely romantic, Tamara.”

“One step at a time, Levi. If you sleep better being in the same room with me, then, why not do it? And sleep in a bed instead of on a chair.”

“It does have some appeal. Are you ready for that?”

“Yes.”

Then, the smile became more amused. “My room or yours?”

Tamara smiled back. “You let me have the bigger room and I have the bigger bed.”

“Yes, you do.”

Then, he stood up, arching his back and started to walk out of the bedroom.

“Levi.”

He paused. “Yes?”

“Bri?”

“Still thinking.”

“Okay.”

Then, he left.

Tamara sat where she was for a few more minutes, considering the fact that he wasn’t outright rejecting her request but he wasn’t rushing to fill it, either. The next step was to prime the pump a little bit and see if she could get Bri to at least hear what her father had to say.

Carew could resist trying to put the family back together all he wanted, but Tamara was determined to heal whatever wounds could still be healed, and she felt that the chasm between Bri and her father could still be closed.

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

Zahara woke up with the sun in her eyes and was confused about where she was for just a moment. She sat up quickly and looked around. It was a very plain room. No decoration at all. Just a bed, a dresser and a closet. No pictures, no real color. It was strange to be in something so drab. Morocco definitely tended more toward color and movement. Was this what American decor was like? She hoped not.

Then, she smiled and got out of the bed. The last thing she needed to be worrying about was decoration. There was the whole issue of what she’d be doing with Tim and what she’d do overall while she was in the States and where she would stay.

What amazed her was how little issue she’d had with jetlag. Ahmed had warned her of it, but so far, she felt fine. Maybe it was the adrenaline.

She opened her bag and tried to decide what to wear. Finally, she settled on something simple and then, she wanted to shower. Flying was not a pleasant way to spend one’s time and she did feel dirty.

Carefully, she opened the door and peeked out. It appeared to be empty. The bathroom was just across the hall. Gibbs had shown it to her the night before. She walked across the hall and into the bathroom, locking the door securely behind her. Again, the room was very plain. It was utilitarian, not fancy. Zahara took her time figuring out the shower and then she quickly got ready for the day, not wanting to take up too much time.

Then, she walked down the stairs, hoping to see Tim. She didn’t want Gibbs to be the first person she saw. She didn’t really know him. Tim was the only bit of familiarity in this place. The house seemed vacant when she got to the main floor. She walked around, looking for someone, but it didn’t appear that anyone was around. Then, she heard a bark from outside. She walked to a glass door and looked out. Tim was sitting on a chair in the yard and a large dog was jumping around him. Tim was smiling at the dog’s antics, but it was clear that he wasn’t yet fully healed and he wasn’t participating in the exuberance.

She opened the door, and Tim looked up at her. He smiled with pleasure.

“Good morning,” he said. “I hope Jethro didn’t wake you up.”

“Jethro?”

“My dog.”

“Is that not Mr. Gibbs’ first name?”

Tim laughed. “Yeah, it is. My friend, Abby, named him first. Now, he won’t answer to anything else. Do you like dogs?”

“This dog is very different from what I have seen in Morocco and Melilla,” Zahara said.

“That’s because he’s a pet, not a stray. Jethro, this is Zahara. What do you think?”

Jethro ambled over to where Zahara was standing.

“Let him smell your hand. He needs to get used to your scent.”

Zahara nodded and held out her hand. Jethro started sniffing her hand and her fingers and her palm. Then, he licked her once and sat down, staring at her and panting.

“He wants you to pet him. He’s decided you’re okay.”

“Very well.”

She knelt down and began to pet the dog. His eyes closed and he continued to pant, enjoying the attention.

“How are you feeling?” Tim asked. “About being here?”

“It is...very different here, and I am not used to knowing no one.”

“That will change.” Then, he smiled. “Maybe sooner than you want it to.”

“What do you mean?”

“My friends will want to meet you, and they... are a bit...overwhelming at times, even to me.”

“Will they be angry at me?”

“No. But they might be a bit too welcoming.”

Zahara walked over and sat down beside him.

“Tell me about them.”

“Okay.”

Zahara sat and listened as Tim told her about the people he worked with and cared about. As always, she could see when he was thinking about something difficult and when he was just enjoying himself. And she enjoyed getting a larger view of who he was and what his life was like.

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

Initially, Gibbs had planned on just telling everyone all at once to save time, but then, he decided that they each needed different warnings. Tony and Ziva had already been surprisingly discreet in letting the others know about Tim’s gloom, so they all knew that he’d met someone and that it hadn’t worked out. Now, it was working out and their perceptions needed to change.

“How’s McGee doing, Boss?” Tony asked, as soon as Gibbs got off the elevator. He’d asked that every morning.

“Zahara showed up last night.”

“Who?” Ziva asked.

“The woman Tim fell in love with,” Gibbs said, bluntly.

“Wait. What?” Tony asked.

He and Ziva both followed Gibbs to his desk.

“She came over last night and she’s staying here for the foreseeable future.”

“She just showed up?” Tony asked. “And Tim was okay with that?”

“He loves her, Tony,” Ziva said. “Of course, he was okay with it.”

“Yeah, but he was so upset.”

“Because she didn’t seem to feel the same way. She came all the way here. She feels the same way.”

“And he’s not upset?” Tony asked Gibbs.

“Nope.”

“Okay. If he’s fine with it, so am I. Do we get to meet her?”

“This weekend. Tone it down,” Gibbs said.

Tony grinned. “Right.”

“I mean it, DiNozzo. She’s never been anywhere but Morocco.”

Tony got more serious. “Right, Boss.”

“What about Abby?” Ziva asked. “You know how she has acted about Tim’s interest in women in the past.”

Gibbs smiled slightly. “She’s next.”

Tony and Ziva both grinned and went back to their desks. Gibbs headed down to Abby. He hoped that she would be mature about this, but you never knew with Abby.

Her music was back to blaring now that Tim was back in DC.

“Abbs!” he shouted.

“Hey, Gibbs!” Abby shouted back and then was kind enough to turn the music down to tolerable levels. “What’s up?”

“Tim’s girlfriend is here.”

“Girlfriend? You mean the one who left him alone in the hospital and wouldn’t even talk to him?” Abby asked, sounding affronted.

“The woman Tim loves,” he said, firmly. “And you need to keep that in mind.”

Abby scrunched up her nose.

“She went through a lot, Abby. She came here to be with him. You will not say anything to her about leaving Tim alone. That’s between them. Not you.”

Abby still looked a little rebellious.

“Tim is happy to have her here and he won’t want you to be upset.”

“Oh, Gibbs. You’re so...manipulative.”

“I’m serious, Abby.”

“I know. I can behave,” Abby said. “Really. I wouldn’t be so forgiving, but if Tim is happy, then...I guess I’m happy for him.”

“Good.”

“Do we get to meet her?”

“This weekend, but nothing big. You can come over to my house to meet her.”

“Okay. I guess I’ll accept it.”

“You’d better.”

“I will!”

“Good.”

“Now, I have work to do, Gibbs. You interrupted me and I can’t have my music at the right level when you’re in here.”

Gibbs smiled and left her to her work. He heard the music blaring as soon as he stepped out of the lab. That had been the hardest one and even Abby hadn’t been bad. Now, it was the easiest one to tell. He went down to Autopsy.

As he walked in, he could see Ducky and Jimmy talking to each other while working on a body.

“You see how clean this break is, Dr. Palmer? There’s no splintering at all.”

“How would they manage that?”

“A very sharp instrument, but I have to admit that I’m puzzled.”

Then, Ducky looked up.

“Hello, Jethro. What brings you down? I haven’t had any bodies from you of late.”

“Tim’s girlfriend showed up at my house last night.”

Ducky straightened and Jimmy followed suit. Both were surprised.

“How did she know where Timothy was?”

“Carew.”

Ducky smiled. “Of course. What was the purpose of her visit?”

“To be with Tim.”

“Really?” Jimmy asked. “What did Tim say?”

“She’s still here and will be for the next while.”

“That’s wonderful!” Ducky said. “What is her name?”

“Zahara.”

“Sounds like the desert,” Jimmy said.

“Flower,” Gibbs corrected.

“That’s interesting,” Jimmy said, grinning. “They sound so much alike. Sahara, Zahara.”

“I take it that this is to tell us when we get to meet this woman?” Ducky asked.

“This weekend.”

“Perfect, so long as it’s in the evening. Dr. Palmer and I have to work in the morning and afternoon. We don’t have free weekends.”

Gibbs nodded.

“It will be.”

“Then, I believe that we will both be there.”

“Absolutely,” Jimmy said. “She must be amazing if Tim stopped thinking about all this stuff here and noticed her.”

Ducky chuckled. “A little clumsily phrased, Dr. Palmer, but true nonetheless. This must be a very special woman.”

“You’ll find out,” Gibbs said.

“Indeed we will. Thank you for passing the information along. Now, Dr. Palmer, shall we return to our investigations? If you’ll notice...”

Gibbs left them to their work and headed back up to the bullpen. Ducky and Jimmy were right. Zahara was special, and as far as Gibbs was concerned, as long as they both wanted to be together, he would do what it took to make sure it happened.

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 Post subject: Chapter 49
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:57 pm 
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Chapter 49

The rest of the week passed surprisingly quickly considering everything that was going on. Carew called to let them know that Zahara now had special permission to remain in the country for an indefinite period. So long as there was no abuse of that permission, it would likely be as long as they wanted it to be, with the understanding that, if her stay became permanent, she would be expected to go through the process to become a permanent resident. Typically, he said nothing about how he’d managed it, but he promised that the official form would be in the mail and get to Gibbs’ place before the next week.

Tim and Zahara spent long hours together, talking and, interestingly enough, working in Gibbs’ basement. Zahara didn’t know anything about carpentry, but she was interested in seeing what Tim did and when he told her about his intention to make some kind of Moroccan art piece, she wanted to help. Every evening when Gibbs got back, he would find them, either in the basement making plans, or on Tim’s computer, looking at tiles. They never actually starting building, but they did start designing. For Gibbs, it was nice to see Tim so distracted by something so unimportant. If nothing else, Zahara was good for Tim simply because she helped him see more than times he had to worry about being forced to work for someone else. Zahara herself began to relax as the two of them spent time together and she seemed less afraid and uncomfortable. It still wouldn’t be a good idea to have her stay in Gibbs’ house for a long period of time, but right now, it was helpful.

Finally, it was the weekend and Tim was a little anxious about having Zahara meet everyone. He wanted her to feel comfortable and welcome, and he didn’t want any of his friends to say anything about what he’d been feeling before or to overwhelm her with questions. He had told Zahara about how he and Abby had dated years before and that she tended to be overly affectionate with pretty much anyone. Basically, he was trying to make sure that everything went perfectly, even though he knew that it was unlikely to happen that way.

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

There was a knock at the door and Gibbs almost laughed at Tim’s expression.

“It won’t go away if you ignore it,” Gibbs said.

“I know.” Tim took a breath and then walked to the stairs. “Zahara, they’re here. Or at least one of them is here.”

“I will be down.”

Then, Tim took another deep breath and walked to the door. He opened it almost sighed with relief when it was Ducky. In fact, some of his relief must have shown because Ducky laughed.

“Don’t worry, Timothy. I won’t embarrass you.”

“It’s not you I’m worried about being embarrassing, Ducky,” Tim said.

“I know. Actually, I did make an effort to get here, first. I was hoping I could act as a buffer, if needed. Jimmy will be here, later, but I came directly from NCIS.”

Tim smiled. “Thanks.”

He heard Zahara walking down the stairs and he stepped aside to let Ducky come in. Ducky made a beeline for Zahara, smiling kindly at her.

“Hello, my dear. I am Donald Mallard.”

“The one Tim calls Ducky,” Zahara said.

“Precisely, and you may call me that as well, if you’d like.”

“I am Zahara Mokrani,” she said. “Tim has told me much about you.”

“Very nice to meet you, at last. I hear that you’re originally from Melilla.”

Zahara nodded. “Yes.”

“I have never been there. While we’re waiting for the others to arrive, might I ask some questions about your homeland?”

“Of course.”

Tim joined Ducky and Zahara in the living room. Tim sat beside Zahara on the couch while Ducky sat on a chair. As they chatted, Tim’s mind kept wandering. He had to admit that he was really nervous about what Abby might do or say (or both). Jimmy might have an awkward moment or two, but he wasn’t malicious. Tony and Ziva might be a bit over-the-top, but Abby could be nasty when she wanted to be.

The door opened without a knock, revealing Tony and Ziva. Tim stood up very quickly to intercept them, but Tony just grinned.

“Don’t worry, Probie. We’re on our best behavior.”

“Yeah, that’s what worries me,” Tim said.

“Sit down and introduce us to your girlfriend,” Tony said. He grabbed a couple of chairs and sat down.

“Zahara, this is Tony and Ziva, my teammates...” Tim said and then smiled. “And my friends.”

Ziva walked over to Zahara and took her hands. “It is good to meet you,” she said.

Zahara stood and they kissed cheeks.

“Tim has told me much about both of you,” she said as they sat down again. “I am glad to meet you.” She looked at Ziva. “Tim says that you are from Israel?”

“Yes, and I had to learn American