Author's Note: This is my first NCIS fic. I've only written one other fic, and it's for Law and Order: Criminal Intent. It took me about a year to write and is around 35,000 words, so you've been warned—I'm long winded and slow. But I hope you stick with me. I love NCIS. In particular, I love the great chemistry between the characters (although I do admit to loving McGee the most). With that said, I'll write as fast as it comes to me!
Disclaimer: I'm an unemployed, just-graduated college graphic designer. If I owned NCIS, I'd be on a sunny island somewhere with a strong tv signal, plenty of mangos and an infinity pool. But since I don't, I live with my parents. In Boston. So don't sue me!
Sarah McGafferty stood by the window, waiting for her father to wander out into the moon-drenched back garden. She did this every night. It had been six months since she moved back in with her dad. Six long, emotionally exhausting months. She was, by nature, a nurturing person, but she was also barely 25. She didn't feel like a fully-formed adult, yet, much less the kind of person who was able to take care of someone who's mind was failing so fast.
In her head, she had always compared her father to a retired Navy battleship. Thick-sided, tough, and intimidating. Yes, she loved him, but truth be told, ever since she was a little girl she had thought of him as "Captain" (with a capital C, always), and not really as "daddy." He had retired when she was 15, to take better care of her and her Mom, who was already diagnosed with cancer back then (cancer with a little c, always, because even when she was fifteen, she had still somehow believed, with all her heart, that her father, the Captain, could take on her mom's cancer in a fight, and win.)
She had lost her mom a year ago, and had moved back in with her Dad, ostensibly to keep him company, but mostly because she was worried about him. She had recieved several phone calls in the months preceding the move. Once, her Dad had been found wandering the street in full navy dress-whites, mumbling to himself. Once, a neighbor had reported not seeing him for almost a week. Highly unusual behavior for Dad, who's daily personal shedule you could normally set your clock by. Up at 6, brisk walk for an hour, breakfast, read the paper, work on his boats, lunch, another walk, etc.
He was an impossible bottle enthusiast. Ships in bottles. It seemed that even if he couldn't be commanding a real ship anymore, he had to at least be in charge of a miniature fleet, all of them floating sturdily in his study, flags flying high. She had always found this hobby endearing. It took some of his rougher edges off. She remembered as a kid running in and hopping on his lap while he was sitting, more often than not staring into space, his little tools laid out in front of him. He would always take off his gold-rimmed glasses and give her a kiss on the cheek. She remembered loving him the most when he was in there, tinkering.
Now she watched as a figure silhouetted in the light from the back porch. Here he came. He always tried to wander out at this time, barely before midnight. Sometimes he would be talking to himself, saying unintelligble things. He never recognized her, when she went out to retrieve him, bring him back into the kitchen, to make him warm milk and tuck him in. A lump rose in her throat. How could things go so badly, so fast? Six months ago he had seemed ok—a little distracted, but still himself. Now he just stared at her with eyes like dull marbles. Muttering. Christ, he was only 66. The doctor's had said early onset Alzheimer's. She shook her head, firmly, and stood up to go downstairs to bring her Dad back inside, pushing the sadness back. She wasn't going to let the Captain see her cry. Not even if he would never remember it.
She never saw the figure behind her in the darkness. The blow was so hard that she felt the curtain of reality skid to one side, as if someone had yanked a movie projector out of whack. Then, darkness came rushing in. Then, nothing.
A few days later…
It was the end of a long, hard case. Be honest with yourself, Tim, he thought. Weren't they all long and hard, recently? It had been a serial rapist, focusing on army wives. He had turned out to be a SEAL washout, angry at the Navy for percieved injustices, and trying to prove his manhood. There had been a brief firefight when he had been found. McGee had felt as he always did during gunfire—as if someone had injected him with amphetamines. And afterwards, numb, sluggish, drained. It's not like I'm any help in a fight, as it is, he thought. I always just stand there with my gun aimed, shouting "Federal Agents," like a moron, while Tony and Ziva kick ass. He shrugged off the depression that was threatening to settle on his shoulders. Buck up, he commanded himself sternly. Abby had invited him to a show later on, some band called Kinetic Dimension, a screaming, head-banging monstrosity that had, of all things, an electric violinist, who was a friend of hers. He hadn't had the heart to turn her down at the time, he had still been keyed up and unsettled. When were these things going to get easier? He had been a field agent for some time now, but he still fell to pieces after a little bit of gunfire.
He reached the door to his apartment and fumbled around for a second before locating his keys. He was just going to go inside, make himself a bowl of soup, and call to cancel on Abby. It was a wimp move, waiting to call her and cancel instead of doing it in person, but he really hadn't felt up to it. He heard a soft rustling of footsteps behind him, and jerked around. The woman he saw there was a mess. She had a few butterfly bandages on her head, just at the hairline, and a huge bruise that looked relatively fresh extending from her temple to just below her jaw. For all that, she was young and extremely pretty, and there was something familiar about her…
"Tim?" She asked, in a voice that was just above a whisper. "Tim is that you?"
"Uh….yeah," he squinted at her, trying to place her. She looked at the ground, and then up again, and he was startled to find that her eyes were swimming with tears.
"Hey, Tim," she said in that same soft voice. "I'm sure you don't remember me. Why would you? I wouldn't remember me either. But my Dad, he…" her voice wavered a little. "He still talks…talked about you. Like he was proud."
He was still squinting at her. Some vague memory from his past, from the old neighborhood flitted through his mind.
"Sarah?" He asked, grasping for a name. "Tom McGafferty's daughter? Is that you?" She smiled a little at this. She really was very pretty.
"You remember," she said. "Good." And then she started sobbing in earnest.
They sat in McGee's living room as he poured her a cup of coffee. Her sobs had petered out after a few minutes, but she looked drained, and Tim noticed her take a bottle of painkillers out of her pocket and dry-swallow a few.
"What happened, Sarah?" He asked as he sat down across from her.
"I'm sorry to be dumping all of this on you," she said, and her voice was a little stronger than it had been before, like a girl getting over initial shyness. "I know I haven't seen you in, oh, 17 years or so." She smiled wrily. "I admit I don't even remember you very well. I was pretty young when we lived next door. But Dad. Dad remembers..remembered you." The tears came back, a little. "I'm sorry about your Dad, by the way."
McGee was a little touched by this. His Dad had passed away several years ago, but up until then he and Tom McGafferty had remained close friends, regardless of the distance between them. They talked on the phone every week, and, yes, he did remember now his Dad mentioning to him when Sarah had gone to college in Maryland. 'You two should get together,' he had said, but Tim, newly a field agent, hadn't followed that up. He was busy and anyways, what would a 19 year old girl want with him hanging around?
"Thanks, Sarah," he said. Then, carefully, "How is Tom, by the way?" He had noticed her uncomfortable use of the past tense, the way the mention of her dad seemed to bring on her tears. She bit her lip.
"Look," She said, "I know you're an NCIS agent. Dad told me. I didn't…I mean, you know, he was crazy about the Navy, but I never bothered to look up what that really meant. I sort of figured it was like the FBI. But." She stopped, and bit her lip again, twisting her fingers together. Then burst out, "You have to help me, Tim. No one believes me! I mean, they all just act like he wandered off! And maybe he did, but the police are just treating him like some senile old man. And they keep saying they don't have time for my calls. And— "
Tim put a hesitant hand out to rest on her arm, relaxing a little when she didn't flinch away. "Wait, Sarah, what happened? Did something happen to Tom?"
Sarah looked at him with a miserable, scared face.
"Dad was kidnapped, Tim," she said. "He was kidnapped and no one is going to do anything about it."