"Siblings must take care of each other when they are alone in the world." Lemony Snicket
Tim watched as the blizzard raged outside of NCIS, sipping at the last dregs of the coffee Abby had dropped off for him hours ago along with the mail that would surely be the last batch for a couple of days. No postman, no matter how dedicated, could brave snow like this.
He hadn't looked at the pile yet; he'd been typing. Ever since he'd been released from the hospital he'd try every day, and pounding against the keys hurt about twice as much as physical therapy. Still, McGee was determined to be as fast as he had been two months ago, determined that the incident at the house with the boys wouldn't stop him.
"Hey McGeeker," Tony said, leaning over his shoulder at peering at the lines of code McGee was writing. They were the last ones left. Tony had been down in the old archives, the ones still on paper to look up some information on the latest case, and McGee had been so focused on his computer that neither of them noticed the snow coming down until it was too late to try to bully their ways home. "Who do you know in Texas?"
"No one. My whole family's from Michigan." McGee said, not really looking up until Tony had the letter in his hand. "Do you really want to open that, Tony? Don't you remember what happened last time?"
"Strangely enough I do. Near-death experiences seem to be the only thing I can remember in high detail." Tony said, rolling his eyes as he broke the seal. "But look - no kiss. Besides, this one is addressed to the both of us."
"Really?" McGee asked, interest piqued. He finally took a good look at the letter and noticed it was quite bulky. "Who's it from?"
Tony was already taking out one of the many pieces of paper, his eyes darting back and forth across the lines. "You won't believe this – it's from those boys! The ones from the case where you…you know…" Tony half-glanced at McGee's arm, still a little shriveled from its month and a half stay in a cast.
"No way!" McGee said, snatching one of the papers from the pile that Tony had dumped onto the desk, eager to see how the boys he'd thought so much about in the past two months were doing.
Dear Special Agents Tony and Tim,
I don't know if we'll ever be able to thank you for saving us. It was a bad situation we were in, and sometimes I felt like we – the three oldest – were not cut out for keeping the Little Guys alive. But we did keep them alive just long enough for you to find us.
I hope that Special Agent Tim is OK. He was still real bad when Mrs. Mindy and Mr. Roger came to take us from the hospital. I'm real sorry he got hurt. I know what it's like to see your friends hurt and not be able to do anything about it.
Things are nice here in Texas. No one cept Don had ever been away from the East Coast, and it's real nice to know there's so much space in some places. We're all used to cities, you know? Cities and concrete and buildings and no trees. And here it's just a lot of space where you can run far away and yell at the top of your lungs and it's OK 'cus no one's going to hear you. We live on a farm here, a big farm that Mr. Roger says is really a ranch. Mr. Roger is a nice sort of guy, even if we were all a little afraid of him when we first got here. We'll be afraid of guys for a while, I think.
They're nice folks, these Texas types. I went to church for the first time when I got here and now I'm an altar boy only two months in. There's other kids, too. Girls. Boys our age. Jay got into playing football and Don found out that he's the nerdy type and the Kids are settling in just fine. Sometimes it's like nothing ever happened.
Except it did happen, you know? We were in that basement for months and we were hurt every night and we still managed to live through it. At church Father Mike says that it was God's will that we lived, and I believe that, but I also believe Mrs. Mindy when she says that it was because we were smart and resourceful and lucky that people showed up when they did.
I think you guys must deal with a lot of dead people with your job, and I just wanted to say that you saved six people from dying. In your jobs, I guess sometimes it feels like you can't do anything to stop the badness. We lived with that kind of badness, and we know that some people are just nasty and there's no way to change it. But you saved the six of us. You did a world of good in our lives. And you made an awful, horrible, unspeakable situation turn out OK.
We're getting better and we're going to keep getting better because you guys gave us a chance at living. Thank you.
McGee put the heel up to his hand quick before Tony could see the moisture in his eyes. The psychologist that the department insisted he see after being hurt in the line of duty said that he was just waiting around for closure, and he wasn't going to get any better until he made peace with what happened with the boys. This letter was the definition of closure. Adam was right: he and Tony had done something that changed the entire course of six boys' lives.
"Look at this." Tony said, holding out a snapshot for Tim to see. He took it, eyes scanning the slightly travel-worn photograph.
The boys looked the same for the most part. Two months hadn't done much to their heights or faces. They'd all filled out some – Southern food, Tim mused, would do that to you – and they'd all gotten haircuts. The biggest difference, though, were the eyes and the smiles. The eyes sparkled without fear, their smiles were wide without hurt, and McGee was sure that the letter was telling the truth. They were getting better. They were all getting better.
"And this one." Tony said, unfolding one of the letters on the desk.
The letter was obviously from one of the younger children and, indeed, the name Bobby scrawled in fumbling print along the bottom proved it was from the youngest child. It had a picture of horses and cows and people with smiling faces and it had only a few words on the top.
Dear Special Tim and Tony,
Thank you for saving my brothers. I thought we were going to die and now we get to live on a farm with horses and ducks and lots of food and we're not going to die yet. I don't know what I would have done if I had to stay in the basement without my brothers. We are going to be adopted and be a real family now.
"Wow." McGee said, looking at the paper and wondering if Abby could put it up in her lab somewhere, a reminder of why they did the job for those days when they seemed to be accomplishing nothing.
"Yeah." Tony said, smiling. He got up with a sudden bustle of energy, looking out the window at the swirling snowflakes. "Want to raid the vending machines for some dinner, Special Tim?"
"Always, Special Tony." McGee said, getting up without putting pressure on his arm, because sometimes pain was just a bitch. "I'm right behind you."
And McGee did trail Tony by only a couple of steps, with those couple of steps giving him time to think about how those boys he'd saved were becoming brothers, how he'd grown up without any brothers, and how lucky he was to have found a brother of his own.
It's so nice to be able to have a completely happy ending for once. Sometimes life does turn out like that. Sometimes you really can be completely and totally happy. Thanks to everyone for sticking with us this long. Have a happy and healthy 2011, and enjoy everything you've been blessed with.