My name was special agent Caitlin Todd, and I died in an instant.
I left behind a sketchbook, a box of junk in storage my brother forgot to claim, and a fading stain on the roof of a warehouse.
Not that it mattered. After five years, I was forgotten in all but name. It's human nature.
Tony didn't know what he started when used my name as a code to Gibbs during that siege at the school. One of the probies' there picked it up and it was still being used twenty years later, long after anyone remembered who I was.
Poor Tony. He needn't have felt so guilty for it.
The sketchpad lay in Gibbs basement in a drawer next to the whisky. He took it out sometimes, looked through it and wondered.
But this is not about me.
Gibbs' legacy was a boat missing the last layer of varnish and a set of rules only Ziva remembered in total. He died in action, fighting for his country.
That's what he thought in those ten seconds before he died, and that's what the official report said.
A gunfight, just like mine. But your death shot was lost in the rain, and no one saw the sniper in the third storey window.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs was executed by an American drug lord, and his gut never told him it was coming.
Seven years after I first met Gibbs, he died.
Oh, what a funeral.
Never knew this many people would miss you, did you Gibbs?
But they did, and they all came. You had a guard of honour and everything, and you would have hated it.
There were many things Tony wanted to do, right then through the music and speeches.
To stop Ziva, who was singing softy under her breath in a voice that made his skin crawl.
To tell McGee to stop, just stop standing like that.
To cover his ears so he couldn't hear Abby's horrible, open mouth sobs.
And of course, go back.
No one saw the kill shot.
You never could have through that rain, Tony, but you keep thinking about it.
Not even Gibbs saw it.
Maybe he should have closed his eyes, because when the coffin passed something broke. He looked up, away, at the mocking sky of blue and cloudless wastes.
The tears fell out as if it was just gravity, and they burned down his face as the coffin was carried out in the quiet.
There was no wind. There never was, is, will be at times like this, and all he hears is Ziva's soft, alien singing and Abby.
Abby. She'd been watching, seen Gibbs die on a computer screen. She never should have been, and now as she clung to Ducky we both wish it hadn't been her to see him die. McGee is on her other side, face like stone and half supporting her, but she doesn't notice.
All the time Tony wonders at the sky and oozes like a sponge, until people start to move towards the grave and the final moments of Gibbs.
He doesn't see as he sinks down, doesn't want to.
At least they buried him with his family. I wish I could say they were happy together, but I don't know.
I don't know.
Afterward, Ziva touches his face, makes him look down.
Ziva isn't crying, because she was taught from birth that crying was weakness, and she won't till she is alone and she can scream the walls down with no one to hear. Later she will, and she'll break her hand punching a wall.
But that is later.
She is smaller than him, yet he still manages to bury his face in her hair, smelling of chrysanthemums. Her holding him is the only thing keeping him standing, and he focuses until the sounds of death fade away and all there is her and the smell of her hair.
You never could have held me like that, Tony.
Abby ended up with the sketchpad, taking it one night when they had gathered in Gibbs's basement to sit in silence. Abby found it searching desperately for alcohol, because Tony had drunk the place dry and was singing softly with his cheek resting on the sweeping curves of wood.
Ziva is sober and staring, and no-one can really tell what McGee is doing.
Abby found the whisky, found the sketchpad underneath.
She found the picture of Gibbs, and broke down all over again.
Half drunk, Abby later slid it into the lining of her coffin, forgot about until McGee found it weeks later, and in the end he took it because he couldn't stand to see the pain it caused her. It sat under his typewriter for a while, and he never got around to opening it.
Abby never did recover, but then she was never given the chance to. She got sick a lot, after Gibbs died. Tony and McGee stopped bringing her Caf-Pows, as she never seemed to touch them anymore. She was wreathed in silence.
Stomach bug, flu, cold. She got better from one only to be hit by another.
But she ignored it, because she was trying to do what she did best. Hunt down Gibbs's killer, though any forensic evidence she could.
They never got used to the silence in Abby's lab.
Tony was leader again, but there was no Gibbs to come back. Ziva was quiet, and Tony wondered what went on in her head much like he had before, but now there seemed to be no chance of knowing. He never managed to ask why her hand was splinted in the months after.
At least people stopped saying he was trying to be Gibbs, even though he knew that he was. Maybe they liked the reminder.
The Director stayed away, Ducky didn't come by as often.
Tony should have stopped hating himself for not holding them together.
Abby came but was angry or upset by turns. She slapped Ziva once for her lack of grief, but this time Ziva didn't hit her back.
The months crawled by, and Abby stopped coming out of her lab, though Ducky started to visit her more. Tony saw the creases on his face when he did and waited for the bomb to drop, because he couldn't hear the wind and that was always a sign.
Ducky saw the signs in Abby, even though she didn't care enough to see it.
The continuing colds, a cough that wouldn't go away.
She wouldn't go, wouldn't know, until Tony and McGee forcibly took her to the hospital one Tuesday morning.
By Tuesday afternoon, she was in chemotherapy.
Things moved so fast, and it seemed to Tony that by Wednesday Abby's hair had fallen out and her eyes had sunk, but it must have been months.
Not that it mattered. The Chemo and the Cancer fought a war in Abby, and no one knew who won, but either way it killed her.
It was sudden, but all death is. They had thought she had had weeks at least.
Ducky got the call, and Tony found him shrivelled in his chair.
He didn't have to ask.
All he did was blink, and wonder what he'd done to loose them both within the year.
But that perhaps wasn't the worst. Tony found out later from Director Shepherd that Abby had asked to transfer out of NCIS, and was due to leave a week after she died.
A fortnight later, a new forensic specialist was installed. Thin and reedy, he didn't ask about the dog collars he kept finding, though he gave them all to Tony. He found Bert in a drawer one day, left it on Tony's desk.
He disappeared later, and Tony had the suspicion that Ziva took it.
But he didn't ask and she didn't tell.
Two months after that, McGee transferred to the FBI, and the first thing Tony knew about it was his empty desk.
He never did forgive him for that.
When Ziva left, she didn't leave much behind.
But that was the way she was trained to work; thought it would have annoyed her to hear that 'Barking up the wrong bush" was still repeated by Tony years after they parted, even if no-one had a clue what it meant.
But she would have been sad to know that Tony kept her picture stuffed in a box under his bed along with a sketchpad he had found in McGee's desk.
Tony never really learnt why, though he knew it was something to do with her father and Mossad. He knew it was urgent, because he let himself into her apartment a day later and found only her drawers empty, with everything else still in place.
Though she had taken her toothbrush, and his.
Director Shepard had not forgotten Gibbs, and her eyes clouded over occasionally when she looked at Tony. They were when he asked for Ziva, so he never got his answer.
Only a letter, a month later.
One word, for all that. He wondered who Ziva was hiding from.
Poor Tony. There was so many things he was wishing for, right then.
People learnt soon after it was a bad idea to mention her name while he was within hearing.
Then it was only Tony and Ducky.
Tony was in charge of a new team, and it was Tabula Rasa; all probies; none of them knew about what had happened, and Ducky had the sense not to tell them.
Tony – eventually – was able to store his grief away. But it was always there, compartmentalised. It didn't shrink, but it became a familiar place in his head. There were other people, other agents, other girlfriends.
Ziva travelled like a ghost, working for Mossad, but it got worse (if that was possible) in the Middle East and after three years she decided to head back to the States, even with the risk.
Maybe there was someone she missed.
She never made it though. Her father got her in the end, and she died for what she had done to Ari, even though she was buried beside him.
It was probably a good thing they didn't know exactly how you died. You were brave, but he still broke you. It would have broken Tony to know what he did.
McGee in the FBI heard first, passed on the call to NCIS.
He never heard how Tony took it.
Ducky retired after the death of his mother, leaving Palmer as the extremely capable but long-winded medical examiner of NCIS. He died in his sleep a year later, and he deserved such a restful way. McGee came to his funeral, saw Tony from afar, but their paths didn't cross.
Not till much later.
Tony. You became greater than Gibbs.
You learnt from his mistakes (you never married), but you ended up with a temper like his.
McGee transferred to the FBI after Abby, and he shone there without Tony to overshadow him, away from the good and bad memories.
Seventeen years after I died, twelve after Gibbs and Abby, eight years after Ducky, McGee was called into NCIS as the leading member of the FBI.
It hadn't changed as much as he hoped, and he stopped when he saw it was DiNozzo.
DiNozzo had gotten old.
Still single, still with that grin, his hair had grey at the temples, (though he had kept most of it, unlike McGee).
But he had still aged. There was a coldness there that McGee didn't recall.
He met your eyes, McGee, and you were both guarded. Your conversation was worse, and you could see his team blinking with curiosity.
You asked about the case, heard him complain about the new forensic examiner.
"There's no one like Abby."
It was a surprise to you both that he said it, and you saw him wince slightly. The man at your old desk frowned in confusion.
"No," you said, "there's not."
You realised your thumb was rubbing absently against the band around your ring finger, and you stopped.
McGee and DiNozzo, like Fornell and Gibbs.
Gibbs would have laughed to see them, black coffee in hand, and Jenny Shepard smiled when she saw them, though it was small and fleeting.
Though people would always wonder why the agent from NCIS always called the top agent in FBI 'Probie', or why McGee let him.
McGee had never lost that softness he always thought was weakness (no one else did, McGee. We knew, even if you didn't), and it still shone through.
They still used your conference room, Gibbs. Tony was more like you than you realised; he couldn't take authority any more than you could.
Tony lead a new team, and McGee was glad it wasn't him; too many memories. They met outside of work sometimes, and conversation would gradually led to you, to back then.
It was an anniversary, though they didn't want to think hard enough to remember which.
Neither of them was sure who thought of it, but somehow they were there.
It was cold, though; there was a chilly wind from the north, and McGee huddled with his hands around his coffee.
In the twilight, Tony was gazing out towards the west, coffee cooling by his side. Thinking, but McGee couldn't tell what about.
They're on my roof (that's what they call it, in their heads if not our loud. The graves of us all are too far apart, and this is all they have).
"Won't Laura be missing you?"
Tony didn't look, McGee didn't flinch.
"She knows where I am."
McGee had married, of course. Tony never met McGee's wife, or his kids, and he didn't think he wanted to. He didn't think he would be able to keep his face blank as he saw how he had called his first daughter Abby.
It was dark, now, and starting to rain.
"Probably better get going." McGee said it into his coffee cup.
Tony reached into the bag, laying them out around the stain as McGee picked up both coffees.
The rain was coming down harder, and Tony placed his umbrella so it covered the candles.
One for Gibbs, Abby, Ziva, Ducky, and me.
It had been McGee's idea, so it surprised him slightly that it was Tony who lit them.
They stood back, watched for a moment.
In the darkness, five candles flickered.
I'd like to think that maybe they were watching too, but for all I know it's just me out here.
I hope not. It gets lonely, sometimes.
Tony spoke abruptly.
"Do you miss her?"
McGee looked over. "Who?"
Tony smirked slightly, sadly. "Take your pick."
McGee said nothing. There was no point.
Tony's mouth twisted sardonically. "Semper Fi, Probie."
The candles glowed, dancing in the wind.