AN: Nagging Cube, I managed to get your idea in… hope it's not too contrived. And thanks!
The Rainbow Lake
Dougie McLeish was good at his job because he took that extra bit of care. Which meant, among other things, that he liked to be first on site in the morning, before the rest of his construction team arrived. Now, the foreman sat in his big, muddy GMC at the top of the hill where Arthur Hastings had sat not half an hour before, scratching his head in bewilderment. Not to mention horror.
The battered pantile roof that he'd left carefully propped up with secure jacks last night, now sat skewed on the ground, one side of it held up a little by two walls of the house which appeared to still be intact, so that it looked like Robin Hood's hat, set at a rakish angle, the chimney sticking up through it like an absurd feather. Dougie blinked away the ridiculous notion and brought himself back to reality – whatever had happened, what was left was only fit for the bulldozer, he thought incredulously.
He moved forwards slowly, crunching first gear of the standard transmission box a little in his shock, and rolled down the hill. His amazement was doubled when he reached the yard… his pillar jacks lay bent and bowed, beside a truck he didn't recognise; sitting on the ground in front of the Honda, securely tied up by its winch cable wrapped many times around him, was a large man, red in the face and almost apoplectic with rage.
"Hey, friend! Glad to see you! Crazy girl's tied me up… can ya get me out of this?"
"No, don't!" another voice, one he recognised, said frantically. "He pulled the house down… he trapped two –"
The man on the ground began to yell. "She's crazy, man… you goin' to take the word of a –"
As his language degenerated into its usual pit, the foreman frowned, and kicked the sole of his boot hard enough to make him yell and shut up.
"Hey. Don't want to hear that crap on my site. I know this little girl, mister." He moved Sunny's face slightly to inspect the bruise on her cheekbone, and the angry marks left by heavy fingertips on her neck. "What happened here, Sunny? Did he do that? And is that a baby I can hear crying?"
"I'll explain, Dougie… but you have to hurry… there are two men trapped inside the house…"
After that things seemed to move in slow motion for Sunny. Another truck came over the hill as the foreman made his plans, and the girl moved in a dream as she went back to pick Lucy up and comfort her, walking around behind the vehicle so she didn't have to pass Arthur Hastings. She could see Dougie crouched by the wrecked house, yelling something as his gang piled out of their pick-up, and they went to work efficiently. They used a fork-lift to lever up a section of the roof near the chimney, brought up a digger and moved the bucket under the raised edge so that the fork-lift could move on. They cut long slits in the green tarpaulin wherever they could see it.
"You got enough light in there? Can you see where you're going?"
A muffled reply came back to Dougie's question, but it seemed to encourage the constructors, and they began again with the fork-lift in another spot. A few minutes later two dishevelled figures in dusty, torn clothes staggered out from under the pantile hat, the Troublemint Twins holding each other up, to thank their rescuers.
Sunny tried to get up and go to them, but found she absolutely couldn't trust her legs. She sat on the back of the truck, thoroughly overwrought, holding Lucy and sobbing with relief and the release of tension, until they came to her, pausing to stare disbelievingly at the trussed up Arthur Hastings as they staggered across the yard.
Hastings in his turn glared at DiNozzo… but even more at the carefully wrapped parcel that Tim was carrying. He opened his mouth, then closed it and stayed silent, as Tony's look challenged him to do any different. Tim laid the painting carefully in the back of the truck; Sunny put out a cautious hand to touch it, and tears poured down her face. She tried to speak, but all that emerged was a gulp. Tony took his god-daughter carefully from her arms, and Tim wrapped his arms round her, sore ribs or not; holding her close until she calmed, as the constructors walked round the remains of the house, shaking their heads.
Lucy seemed to recognise the comforting thump of her godfather's heart, or maybe she was, in true female fashion, already good at spotting Thierry Mugler cologne, overlayed with subtle tones of plaster and rock wool; whatever, she calmed down at once. He walked about with her, but didn't stray far from the truck, which was rocked from time to time by Arthur Hastings' attempts to free himself.
Dougie McLeish came over, looking puzzled. He looked at Lucy and grinned as sappily as everyone did who met her; she blinked at him with solemn sapphire eyes before dozing off to sleep. "How the hell does a baby come into all this?" He asked wonderingly. "I guess she's not Sunny and Jamie's… I mean, they never mentioned having a child, and she's the wrong colouring…" It was an innocent remark, with no hidden meaning, but it set Hastings off again…
"That's right. That's a little white baby…not some mutt immigrant-" Dougie reached into the cab of his GMC, and lifted out a roll of duct tape. He hefted it from one hand to the other a few times, and Hastings shut up again. Dougie listened in mounting astonishment and sorrow, as Tony filled him in on the events of the past twenty-four hours.
"Poor kid," the foreman said finally. "They were going to get married and live here… Look, we'll assess what can be done here, I'll put it in writing, and wait to hear from her. We've got other work, she can let us know when she's ready. Tell her no hurry." He went back to his crew, and Tony went back to the back of the truck. His arm throbbed, and the ripped sleeve of his borrowed jacket was spotted with blood; his temple hurt and he felt slightly light-headed. He looked at Tim, whose fair complexion was a shade or three lighter than normal and streaked with grime, at the scuffed and torn shirt that showed through his open jacket and the few spots of blood on it around his ribs, and wished for Ducky. An agency sedan chose that moment to come over the hill. Gibbs; well, he'd settle for that.
The car disgorged its burden – Tam ran to Sunny, totally ignoring Alberta as he passed her, Polly ran to Lucy; Gibbs and Ziva marched to the 'twins' in their usual threatening manner. Tony and Tim smiled innocently back.
"You couldn't get him without knocking a house down to do it, DiNozzo?"
"Well, that's not exactly what happened, Boss…"
"DiNozzo, that's a house. It's obviously just collapsed."
"Oh, yes, Boss," Tim said obligingly. "And we did knock it down… or, we were in it so he knocked it down…"
"Yes, Boss," Tony confirmed. "But we didn't exactly get Hastings."
"No," Tim agreed. "Sunny got him."
Gibbs glanced across at the scrap of teenager, currently being hugged by Tam and Polly. "Sunny got him. How?"
Tony flashed that grin that made a strong former Marine want to reach for his hipflask. "Boss, we've no idea."
He sat down suddenly on the tail of the truck, and it was at that moment that Ducky trundled his truck over the crest of the hill. Right behind him came Patch Hastings' Saab 9-3X.
Before long, cleaned up, bandaged, dosed with sensible painkillers, and hot drinks courtesy of the construction crew, the two battered agents joined in with the rest of the actors in the day and night's drama, to fill in the gaps in each others' knowledge.
Polly hugged Patch, Sunny, Tony, and Tim, and probably would have hugged everyone else given the chance. When Sunny described how she'd fought off unconsciousness and the danger of dropping Lucy, grabbed the beer bottle and brained Hastings, Tam hugged her, and looked at her with such pride that Gibbs smiled to himself. The young man was too sensible to attempt an on-the-rebound approach, but maybe one day… and he was not being sentimental… one day, maybe the two people who had loved Jamie Hope would love each other and keep his memory between them… Gibbs mentally shook himself.
They walked round to the front of the truck, where Ziva had untangled Hastings from the winch cable and cuffed him to the bracket. They all felt that he might like to hear the whole story too. Considering that two of the women there bore the marks of injuries he had inflicted, it really was the least he could expect.
"Your friends are all under arrest, Mr. Hastings."
"Those savages are no friends of mine –"
"And you're also under arrest," Gibbs went on as if he hadn't spoken, "For conspiracy to murder, two counts of assault, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of attempted murder. One count of criminal damage, and we're seeing if there's some fraud in there somewhere." Hastings tried to speak, but the former Marine cut him off again. "If you've got any sense you'll listen while I read you your rights. No problem for me if you don't – long as I've told you, I've done my job."
His tone as he told Hastings his legal rights was flat and without warmth; as the others filled in gaps, the mood grew bleaker. "I would have died in there but for Tony acting quickly," Tim said, pointing to the house. "We could both have died when it collapsed, but for good luck. If Sunny hadn't hung on and not passed out, Lucy might have been hurt. Things could have been even worse."
As he spoke of the danger to Lucy, Polly gave an involuntary sob. Patch was holding the sleeping baby, almost as a lifeline; he'd received updates on what was going on from the time he'd first been reached by Gibbs, (who'd had to fight his way past one security conscious underling after another to do it,) but he'd had the least time to get to grips with what his father had done, and was still trying to pull himself together.
Tony put his arms round Polly, as her husband, arms occupied, looked down at his father. Hastings, who was beginning to realise that he didn't have a single friend in this gathering, saw the gesture, the whiteness of his son's face, and the expression on it, couldn't take it, and exploded.
"Don't you look at me like that, you snivelling wimp! Everything I've ever done was for you… you just never see it! We try to keep this country clean and pure for you to grow up in, and what do you do? Spend your holidays treating his friends –" He glared at Tam, who took a step forward, but Sunny drew him back. "You're siding with the likes of them against me… What sort of a man are you? Letting that gigolo put his arms round your wife while you just stand there looking weak… letting that little foreign tart look after your baby… I finally thought you were doing something useful when you joined the Navy, goddamit, but instead of fighting, what do you do? 'Mom, I've decided to be a doctor'! Treating prisoners as well as our own boys… 'They're human too'…Goody goody twoshoes… you sure you're not one of those don't ask don't tell fellers? You sure –"
Patch handed Lucy back to his wife, and stepped slowly right up to his father's feet. The older man fell instantly silent. "You're going to have to learn to keep your mouth shut, and your opinions to yourself, Dad," he said softly, "if you want to survive in prison."
Hastings gaped in outrage. "You're gonna stand by and see your own father go to jail?"
"You hurt Polly, Dad. You kidnapped our daughter. What do you think?"
Hastings simply didn't know when to shut up. "You ungrateful young bastard… if it was up to you the whole country would be overrun by mongrels – you're letting your ancestors down –"
"Enough," Ziva said softly, unlocking the cuff and hauling him to his feet, as a patrol car added to the crowding in the yard. "I would avoid the subject of forbears if I were you."
"Oh, yeah? And who are your forbears, Chiquita?" he snarled, guessing completely wrong. If he hadn't totally ignored Ziva throughout the christening, he might have been better informed.
"Maybe we have more in common than you think." Her tone was so loaded it snapped everyone to alert. "You describe your mother's father as Joe Myers of Hamilton, Alabama. But you know, he was Joshua Meierson, who came to the USA from Haifa. So enough already about ancestors."
Hastings spluttered and swore, until the Leos approached. "Racist, eh?" one remarked, hearing the language. He was six foot three, built like a sequoia, with a gleaming smile, skin the colour of seasoned oak, and features cast like a Benin Bronze. "Come this way, please, sir…" As Arthur Hastings disappeared into the police vehicle, and it rolled away, Patch Hastings dropped his head onto his wife's shoulder, to hide his tears.
Chesapeake Bay was a slatey grey-green under a January sky. It wasn't as cold as if there had been a wind, but snow was threatened, and Keshowse could smell it in the air. The Howakhan people had not had a medicine man to make such decisions for many years; "You have to be born one, Boketaw," the chief Elder had told Tony – so they had gathered together to decide what was the most auspicious place for the first building. The MCRT and Sunny watched, as the older men and women paced the land solemnly. Naantam Black, wearing a ceremonial necklace over his Marine uniform, bridging both worlds, walked with them. He would leave, and serve his country, and return, to be great one day among the leaders of his people. A line of bright feathered lances was finally driven into the hard earth, and they stood, fluttering bravely as Elders and watchers climbed back to the cliff top, to return to the village.
Once again, the school had been set out for ceremony, although this time wonderful smells floated from the kitchen. On this cold but special day, there would be feasting. On the low platform they'd used for the aborted signing not so long ago, an empty easel stood. In the body of the hall, no seats had yet been put out; everyone wanted to stand.
The whole village was there, with the few guests invited from outside, and as the Elders climbed the platform, and the chefs came from the kitchen to watch, the excited murmur died. Paspasat stepped forward. "You remember, I made a dreadful mistake in this matter before," she said slowly. "I will not make such a mistake today. Naantam, here is the deed you came to sign that night. Not a word of your wishes has been changed."
Tam signed, and the land was given to the tribe. The crowd parted, and Sunny came from the back of the room with a parcel wrapped in layers of glassine tied with string. It hadn't been unwrapped since Jamie had carefully swaddled it to hide it on the day he died. Tears ran down her face as she handed it, without a word, to Tam. He cut the string with a bone knife, and revealed the painting slowly and carefully, until the blazing colours once again saw the light of day. He looked at it himself for a long moment, with pride, and love, and sorrow swirling in his mind, then gave it to Keshowse, who set it on the easel.
There was silence in the room, until many breaths were released at once in a collective sigh. The colours glowed, and the ghostly silver mist drew the beholder in. The figure in the water was held for ever at the life-giving moment of emerging from a dark dream, as the colours swirled over and around him.
One person began to clap softly, others joined in, until the whole room sounded like pouring rain, which went on , and on…
When it finally ceased, Keshowse said, "Thank you, Naantam, for this most precious gift." He didn't need to say more.
Mats were unrolled, quantities of delicious food were brought out, and the feasting began. Tony walked slowly forward, and found himself stepping up onto the dais. A moment later he realised Tim had joined him. They looked for a long, silent time, then Tony said, "We saved it, McGee."
"Or did it save us?" Tim asked thoughtfully.
"You could be right."
"Maybe both," Tam said quietly from behind them. The three stood for a long time in companionable silence, each thinking their own thoughts, as they gazed at the Rainbow Lake.
AN: Did I go OTT with Arthur? I really wanted him to be irredeemably horrible. I also hope the ceremony scene wasn't too sentimental… Thank you for reading.