a/n - That was a bit of a surprise, the latest chapter was one of the least reviewed of all.
Could a group like Moore's get this far without someone stopping them in real life? That's a very good question and one I hope stays with you after you finish this story. Are we so busy looking for the devil at our doorstep, that we refuse to see the one that grew up inside the house? Radicals come in all shapes and sizes, but perhaps the most dangerous ones are the ones who try to fit in, to take the honest and true beliefs of a society and twist them to thier own perverted means.
Overall, your response and comments to this saga have been amazing and I thank each and every one of you. Since this old computer of mine can rarely open my email anymore, I'll use this opportunity to say that every piece of feedback left on the site has been read and cherished. A new story, Wishing upon a Memory, starts on Friday, it is four chapters, and the one after that is in the works and will start showing up here immediately following Wishing.
And now the epilogue:
It was fitting that it rained the morning of Jason Myers' funeral. Even the expansive awnings designed to cover the mourners could not keep back the dampness that chilled their souls. This was a funeral unlike any seen by most of the FBI agents there. It was a sign of respect for other agencies to send a few representatives when someone fell in the line of duty, but this time the agents from NCIS were sitting with the family and teammates of the fallen agent. Even the Director of NCIS was sitting next to Director Haas.
Emily transferred easily from her father's lap to her Uncle Tim's and curled up in his arms. He kissed the top of her head and gently rocked with her as the preacher told of sacrifice and eternal life. After the final goodbyes were said, Gibbs pulled back with Ziva and Tony to allow Tim a few minutes with the men who had been at his side throughout this nightmare.
It was a battered group that sat together quietly as the mourners quietly slipped away; Tobias and Hank with matching crutches, and Ron's arm still in a sling. The few visible bruises and scrapes would suggest that the fourth man had gotten off easy, but they knew differently as bullet wounds and broken bones would heal in time.
"You sure you won't reconsider?"
"I'm sure, but thank you, Tobias. Your offer meant a lot."
"You going to be all right?"
Tim didn't answer right away, which was enough of an answer for Fornell. When the helicopters arrived at the raid, the most fervent believers had run into the burning barn rather than be captured. Two dozen bodies burned beyond recognition and no way to identify most of them. No dental records, no DNA samples, no living relatives of Edmund Moore could be found to prove or disprove if he was even in the camp that night.
Tim and his family were in a state of limbo as it wasn't possible to determine if the threat was gone or just carefully hidden. After several difficult and painful discussions with both Fornell and Gibbs, it had been decided to keep his family in the witness protection program.
Changing the subject, Tobias asked an easier question as he looked over at his daughter who was sitting on Violet's lap. "Emily's going to be at the next level of the science competition next week. Are you going to be able to make it?"
Unable to stay away from his hurting man any longer, Gibbs had finally sent his other agents on their way and quietly come up behind them. "He'll be there, Tobias. I'll make sure of it personally."
"Good, and would you make sure he gets some sleep between now and then?"
Gibbs gave a short huff at that; he'd heard about the threats to handcuff McGee down to force him to rest during the worst of the case. "I'll do my best. Are you guys going to be all right getting home?"
Ron pointed with the thumb on his uninjured side. "Julia has her minivan, we'll be fine." He stood and helped the other two pull themselves upright. "We'll see you later, McGee."
By an unspoken arrangement, McGee had been staying at Gibbs since the night of the raid. Once home, Gibbs changed out of his suit and snagged two beers before heading down to his basement, knowing that McGee would be joining him soon. They had both downed half of their beers before Gibbs broke the silence.
"You didn't take Fornell up on his job offer."
Tim chuckled as he picked at the label. Nothing got past Gibbs – eventually. "It was a great offer, and they're a great team, but they're not my team." He didn't have to look up to see the smile on his boss's face. "Besides, no matter how much I would work at it, that desk would always be Jason's, you know? I mean, sure Kate's desk is now Ziva's and that doesn't bother me, but Jason died for me. He saw that grenade and he chose to save me instead of himself. That's a hard thing to live with, especially if…"
"If you might be dying anyways?" For the last four days Gibbs had tried to find a way to carefully bring this up. Trust McGee to drop it in his lap all wrapped up and tied in a bow. "How long have you known?"
Tim never looked up as he told of his first exposure to the disease that decimated his family. "When I was ten, we visited my grandfather. His muscle spasms were so bad that when I tried to hug him, he accidently hit me and knocked me down. After we got home that night, Dad explained what was wrong with Grandpa and how it was probably going to happen to him someday too."
McGee just shrugged and kept going. "Dad wasn't planning on living with it. I heard him and Mom talking about it one night. When he was still in the Navy, before he was officially diagnosed, he requested the option of a future one-way mission, so that his death would have some meaning, but after he got sick he kept putting it off. He said he had to go to Sarah's dance recital, and then I kept winning science fairs and he always, always went. Then one day he was too sick. It sounds ironic, doesn't it? He was too sick to die, so he had to suffer for years."
Sitting on the floor of Gibbs' basement, leaning back against the wall, Tim looked impossibly young. He didn't look up when Gibbs knelt down in front of him, so Gibbs spoke to the top of his head. "I can't imagine what you're feeling but I can tell you one thing. No matter how bad it got, no matter how much your dad may have suffered, he never regretted one day he got to spend being your dad." Gibbs pulled Tim closer, letting his cheek rest on the top of Tim's head. "I can tell you something else. What you faced, what you accomplished, you made sure that your dad's death did have meaning and he'd be so damned proud of you."
They were so raw, so laid open, that Gibbs could no more stop asking than he could stop breathing. "The sealed file in your records, you've made the same request haven't you?" The silent nod he received almost broke his heart. "Promise…" Gibbs cleared his throat and tried again. "Promise me one thing." After a moment there was another nod. "Promise me you won't just disappear, promise me that you'll give us a chance to say goodbye."
"I… I promise."
It wasn't officially a funeral the second time Mitchell McGee was laid to rest, but a somber group of mourners were present. Grateful to the son who had saved countless lives, the SecNav provided a private jet.
Once the interment was finished, Tim stood over his father's grave and said his last goodbyes. While his father's body had been tucked away in the FBI lab, the headstone had arrived and been placed over his then empty grave. Tim ran his fingertips across the words 'beloved father' just once before turning away. Tony was right beside him and wrapped his arm around his partner as they walked away. Ziva joined them a few steps later and the two of them guided him to Gibbs. Surrounded and protected, he was finally able to grieve for all that he had lost.
Gibbs pulled back and nodded to Tony, allowing he and Ziva to walk Tim back to the car. Once they were out of sight, he returned to the grave to say his own goodbyes.
"You raised a fine man, Mitchell. Wherever you are, I know you're proud of him. I am too."