Two years later...

There was a pounding on the door and Tim paused only briefly from his frantic searching.

"McGee! I swear if you make us late for this I'm going to beat you senseless!"

"I'm coming, Tony! Just a minute!"

He'd had it. He knew it was right here somewhere...where?

Tony pounded on the door again and was joined by another set of hands.

"Tim, come on!"

Tim paused in his search again, ran to the door and opened it. "Just a second!" Then, he ran back to his bedroom.

Abby followed him into his bedroom and looked at the chaos.

"Tim, what are you doing?"

"I lost Ziva's necklace! I can't go without it," Tim said hurriedly returning to his search. "I had it just a minute ago, but I can't find it."

Tony and Abby both silently began to help him search. Neither suggested that he should leave without it. He hadn't gone anywhere without it, and this was an important event. Abby had Namir out in the car. Michelle was sure to have Ziva's knife with her. Obviously, Tony couldn't bring the piano, but he'd been playing it every day since moving back to his apartment. He'd been tempted to keep his playing to himself since it was so seemingly out-of-character, but Ziva's hope that he would make new memories kept him from hiding it. Instead, he invited people over and he played...occasionally, he'd even make them sing along like silly little kids. One thing he had kept secret was a series of attempts to compose new music. It wasn't very good, but he thought that he might have something to show for it someday.

They all knew how important the necklace was. Being late wasn't as important.

...Abby found it. As she held it up, it caught the light coming in from the window and shone on her face, highlighting the scars she would carry for the rest of her life. She had long since come to terms with them...and on Halloween emphasized them to add to her costume.

"Here it is, Tim," she said and watched as his face lit up, changing from worry to gratitude. "You'd think on today of all days you could keep it in your pocket."

"I changed my clothes at the last minute," Tim said, blushing, but he took the necklace reverently and put it in the pocket of his jacket. "Are we going to be late?"

"I don't think so," Tony said. "Not if we leave right now."

Tim smiled. "Then, what are we waiting around here for?" He playfully shoved them toward the door until they stopped protesting that it was his fault. They carpooled.


It wasn't the same...and that was right. They weren't rebuilding the past. They were creating a future. The Yard was full of people and it was only due to their special status that Tony, Tim and Abby were passed in rather than being kept out on the street. They parked in the spot designated for them and walked to the stage. Tim was relieved that he didn't have to speak this time around. They did still sit up front with the other members of NCIS headquarters, but only Ducky was on the stand...but he was joined by Vance and Eli David. Tim stood up to look for Gibbs, who wasn't there yet.

"He'll be here, Probie," Tony said. "Don't worry."

"I'm not."

Abby laughed outright, but Tim ignored her because he'd just seen Michelle and her boyfriend. She'd never walk without a limp, and her coordination was such that she could never be a field agent again, but she had been determined to return to NCIS, even if it was in Legal with no chance of becoming more than that. Choosing to date again had been a hard decision for her to make. She had initially felt as though she was rejecting Jimmy by moving on, but a few games of Scrabble with the others...and some encouragement as well...had given her the courage to try. It was too soon to tell what would happen but Will had come in with open eyes and so far was sticking with it.

Tim waved to them and they moved to the front to sit with the trio...and the ceremony started...with no Gibbs. Tim was worried but no one else seemed to be; so he tried to focus as Director Vance (no longer Acting, having acceded to the inevitable) gave a speech about the new building, about continuing their work and all the other inspirational things people said at an event like this. Then, he passed it over to Ducky. Tim was still distracted until he suddenly realized that the words Ducky was speaking were familiar.

"And there is a future. All of us here, whether we were in the building, outside it, or miles away, we are all survivors because we must survive the the loss. The loss of those we knew. The loss of happiness, of security, of tranquillity...the loss of peace in all its forms. We must struggle through the chaos."

Tim looked at Ducky and saw Ducky looking at him with a mischievous, but kind, smile.

"These are inspired words spoken by Special Agent Timothy McGee two years ago. He concluded in this manner: 'What we must do is rebuild. Rebuild our lives. Rebuild our hearts. Rebuild the symbol of who we are. We must rebuild NCIS, remembering our dead and letting their lives continue to mean something by struggling to prevent the kind of pain and loss we have felt. We must try to keep others from feeling what we have felt here.'" Ducky stared out at the vast audience and then looked back at the building, shiny and new behind him. "What most of you may not know, and here I must beg Timothy's indulgence, is that when he spoke those words he himself felt no hope for the future. He felt that all had been lost, that there was nothing left to live for...but he, too, struggled to rebuild his life. Like the building that has been constructed to take the place of NCIS Headquarters, brick by brick, block by block, he has rebuilt it. He is here in the audience today and tomorrow will return to his job as an NCIS Special Agent."

Tony slugged him and Tim blushed in embarrassment.

"He is but one example of a degree of courage and strength that I have rarely seen throughout my admittedly long life. I will not bore you with the details as it would be liable to take several hours." There was a ripple of laughter. "I could spend a further several hours telling you of the strength of Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo who fought not only against injury but also against his own independence to give himself the time to heal. Or Abigail Sciuto who didn't allow serious injury to dampen her infectious spirit. I could speak at length about Michelle Lee who was so stubborn that she refused to die, refused to give up and will also return to NCIS in the Legal department." Now, Ducky's voice became soft. "I can also speak of those few of us who emerged physically-unscathed...a state which at times seemed more unbearable than debilitating injury...or I could speak of the dead who are no longer with us, but who, given the choice, would have willingly given their lives to save others...and one who did, my assistant James Palmer." Michelle dropped her head and leaned against Will. "However, that is our past, and while we cannot and should not forget it, we must, as Timothy said, rebuild and move on. That is what we have done here. That is what we will continue to do. I know that I speak on behalf of all the employees when I express my gratitude for your support and for your aid." Ducky stepped back and the applause, although extended, was muted.

Tim didn't hear anything else, musing as he was on what Ducky had said...and wondering a little where Gibbs was. Before he knew it, everyone was standing, observing a moment of silence for those who had died. Then, he followed the crowd of NCIS employees into the new building for a private memorial service. Tim was off in his own little world, Ziva's necklace wound tightly around his fingers.

When they walked in and absorbed the differences, Abby was the first to point out a similarity.

"They kept the orange walls!" she said happily. Others laughed in response to her quip and that broke the pall that had fallen over them all. They talked, still in subdued voices, as they gathered in the bullpen...the new bullpen. It was larger, similar in design but different enough to cause them all to pause for a moment to absorb the newness.

That's when they saw it...or rather Tony saw it first and nudged Tim who stared in amazement. Gradually, everyone's attention was drawn to one wall...a memorial wall. What was amazing and spectacular about it was that it was made out of wood; the plaque itself, with the names, was metal, but surrounding it was an intricately carved wooden frame, with the NCIS logo carved in the top center. Giving it all one last polish was Gibbs. He turned around when he heard the whispered voices commenting on it and gave them all his patented stare, as if daring someone to make a comment, positive or negative.

"It's beautiful, Boss," Tim said after an awkward pause. Those who knew Gibbs knew that he was the one who had built it. It was his personal tribute. There was muttered agreement and the mass of people shifted over to the wall, looking at the names emblazoned there, admiring the work that had gone into creating it.

Gibbs came over and joined them. Ducky embraced him and told him how beautiful and how fitting it was. Even Michelle got over her, still present nervousness and complimented Gibbs on his work. Then, Director Vance called for their attention.

"I want to thank you all...not for coming here today but for coming to this building to work. For some of you, I know it was a sacrifice and struggle to get here. For others, you have joined NCIS Headquarters in spite of the tragic event which occurred a short two years ago. I'm not going to take a lot of time making speeches, but you should all know that this is going to be a readjustment period for all of us. We will have to come to terms with our new surroundings while fulfilling all our duties in the service of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. We have a long battle ahead of us, but I believe that battle is not uphill, nor is it impossible. Tomorrow, we will come to work as if this building has always been here, but we know that it hasn't, and we will always remember the tragedy...if only to help us to fight against those who would use those tactics in pursuit of their own selfish aims. There is to be a special banquet tonight where many important people will make speeches and compliment us on our fortitude. This time, here in this building, is our time to be with each other and to draw strength not only from each other but from our dead.

"We have a task to accomplish, and we can do it. So...let's do our jobs." Vance nodded and stopped speaking. No one applauded, but there was an affinity of spirit in the room that said everyone agreed.

The next few hours were spent exploring the new layout, claiming spaces and talking with each other. After a while, Tim returned to the bullpen, which was almost empty. He sat down at the desk which would be his and considered his choice to live and to return. That he had made the right decision was not to be doubted. Tim knew that this was where he was supposed to be.

"Tim?" Abby asked hesitantly from behind him.

Tim turned, saw the whole team there, all his friends, and smiled. "Just thinking, Abby."

"About what?" Tony asked.

"About my place."

"Is it here?"

"Yes. Yes, it's here. I couldn't be anywhere else."

"Then, come on, all the good food will be gone!"

Tim laughed and jumped up to follow. As they walked past the memorial wall, Tim stopped at Ziva's name. He pulled the necklace out of his pocket. It was no longer black and bent. He had carefully cleaned, polished and restored it. Ziva had not intended it as a reminder of how she died but of how she had lived...and her life had been a shining beacon, for all that she had used those words to describe him. He gave the wall a small salute and joined the others, talking and laughing as they walked together to join the rest of NCIS.

An Inspiration
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

However the battle is ended,
Though proudly the victor comes
With fluttering flags and prancing nags
And echoing roll of drums,
Still truth proclaims this motto
In letters of living light,
No question is ever settled
Until it is settled right.

Though the heel of the strong oppressor
May grind the weak in the dust;
And the voices of fame with one acclaim
May call him great and just,
Let those who applaud take warning.
And keep this motto in sight,
No question is ever settled
Until it is settled right.

Let those who have failed take courage;
Though the enemy seems to have won,
Though his ranks are strong, if he be in the wrong
The battle is not yet done;
For, sure as the morning follows
The darkest hour of the night,
No question is ever settled
Until it is settled right.

O man bowed down with labour!
O woman young, yet old!
O heart oppressed in the toiler's breast
And crushed by the power of gold
Keep on with your weary battle
Against triumphant might;
No question is ever settled
Until it is settled right.