Disclaimer: Just the usual 'I own nothing of the show'
Summary: Someone's got stuck in an awkward situation that triggers off a childhood memory.
A/N: My second fanfic story! Reviews – be they good or bad – are always welcome.
The Hardest Part
"True courage is like a kite; a contrary wind raises it higher."
- John Petit-Senn
It was a long climb up.
He couldn't believe he was doing this. Why exactly was he?
Duty? His innate sense of duty?
There was this quote that illustrated pretty well how he felt right now. How he'd rather not feel, more like.
"The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty."
But... his duty was stronger...wasn't it? Ooooh... still... this didn't make the climb any shorter!
The man closed his eyes and shook his head to clear it of any thought. Yup. That would be nice. No thinking, just doing.
No use. When he opened his eyes and raised his head again, viewing the length of the ladder from the point where he was standing up to the roof, he simply felt his insides turn to mush and his legs to jelly.
He leaned his forehead against the cool iron rungs and stifled the moan that threatened to burst from his throat.
No, he could not allow fear to rule his actions. He had a job to fulfil. His team trusted him. Letting them down because of fear was not an option.
Besides that, he'd have to move it. What was the point, deliberating for eternity when his team mates needed his assistance?
He gulped and took a deep breath.
Having reached a decision, he licked his lips, grabbed the ladder and dragged himself up, rung after agonizing rung.
Don't look down.
Don't look down.
Uh-o-ohhh, it's a long long way down!
Despite his fear for heights, the young agent managed a fair pace.
Then, it happened: about halfway up, he froze.
His mind jerked back to that summer day when he and Danny, the boy next door, were flying their brand new kites in the fields.
"Oh no! No-no-nooooooo! Daaaannyyyyyyy!" Tim hollered, stepping back in an attempt to avoid Danny's kite which, because of some rogue wind gust, was rapidly closing distance with Tim's.
They collided nevertheless and, no longer in control, both kites fluttered down with the wind into a solitary tree.
Danny yanked at his lines, but to no avail. The beautiful kites were stuck up there in that big tree.
Tim didn't hesitate and in his peculiar gangly gait, he ran to the tree and stood there, contemplating how best to get up. His eyes roamed all over the tree, looking for foot- and handholds. Once the assessment was completed, he gave a satisfied nod which Danny took as an indication that Tim thought the task feasible.
Tim then turned to his friend who had joined him. "Lend me a hand, here, Danny."
"You're not going to climb up there, are you? Jeez! Tim!" He cast his friend a dubious look, which Tim chose to ignore. "C'mon, Tim. Don't do it!"
But then, when it became clear to him that Tim wasn't going to back down anyway, he shrugged in defeat and obligingly cupped his hands to help Tim up. After three years of hanging out with the tall, gangly youth, since his family had moved to this neighborhood, he knew his friend wouldn't quit once his mind was set on something.
Tim, using that analytical mind he was gifted with, had already worked out the best path up. He saw the tree as a big map of footholds and handholds. He reached a large branch, from where it was easy work to get onto the next, gradually clambering his way up. Higher and higher.
As he stood there, shading his eyes with his hands and following the progress of his friend, Danny could easily visualize all sorts of potential dangers happening to Tim. In his mind's eye, he saw his buddy crash and break a leg, his neck... anything! He might even get himself killed... and that for just a stupid thing like a kite! He moaned and closed his eyes. He really didn't want to witness this. He couldn't shake this feeling of dread. A premonition.
There they were. Just a little bit more... Tim's green eyes shone with triumph. Just a little bit closer. Oh yes-yes-yyessss...
He half lay on one branch, his right arm wrapped around it and his left reaching as far as he could to get hold on one of the lines.
He grunted with the effort and tugged, first gently, then a little firmer, inched a little closer... and next... what Danny had dreaded, happened.
Tim – eyes wide with sudden comprehension and fear – lost his foothold and frantically tried to grab the branch with both his hands, hoping to regain his balance and some hold. But his fingers slipped and his short cut fingernails, in his effort of digging them in the bark, only gathered dirt – none of the purchase that would keep him from falling.
As in the distance, he heard his friend cry out, but his senses were too overloaded as he tried to understand what was happening to him. He was falling. His small, slender body brushing one branch and then striking another on the way down... it seemed endless to him. Like in those nightmares. He heard more cries and didn't realize they were his.
Then... it was over. His body hit the ground with a sickening thud that drove all the air out of his lungs and he just lay there, flat on his back, spread-eagled, eyes staring up in utter wonderment at the green canopy of that treacherous tree, wearing two brightly colored kites like a trophy.
Then the world spun out into blackness...
Agent Timothy McGee took another deep, trembling breath and slowly opened his eyes. He realized he'd been a little out... a second... no more... He directed his gaze to his hands which were in a deadlock on the supports of the ladder, knuckles white from the strain as he held on for dear life.
He sighed, swallowed and licked his dry lips, forcing himself to relax.
Yes, he could do that. He used to climb trees... until... No, don't go there again!
"McGee!" An urgent voice whispered in his earphone. Well, 'whispered' is a grand word for the vehemence of the caller's enquiry.
"On..." Why was his voice cracking, now? He cleared his throat and tried again. "On my way, Tony."
He made a mental switch and bravely continued his ascent. It didn't take long to reach the top of the roof where he paused, out of sight of anyone who might be on the top of the building.
Wrapping his left arm around the supports, he raised his right arm to his mouth and whispered in the wrist mike.
"I'm here. What's the status?" Man, but his voice was deep.
He tentatively peeked over the parapet to ascertain himself it was safe to continue his climb onto the roof. Only then did he heave himself over the side onto the safety of the roof.
The climb had left him breathless and his heart was nearly bursting from his heaving chest. He leaned back against the low wall for just a few seconds trying to get back a hold on his body before taking out his Sig and nodding his readiness to Tony at the opposite end of the roof.
They both scrambled to their feet and cautiously made their way to the stairwell.
Tim composedly held his Sig cocked and ready as Tony cracked the door and stepped into the stairway and straight to the right to let Tim inside.
Then, there was a terrific pandemonium as they first registered running footsteps on the stairs, the metallic sound of a door on the lower floor clang shut, more running footsteps and shots being fired that echoed tenfold in the concrete shaft. It all converged into a cacophony of sound.
Everything seemed to happen at the same time.
The wild eyed suspect scampered the stairs, headed straight towards them, followed by Ziva and a couple of flights further down, Gibbs. McGee trained his service weapon and ordered the man to freeze. The man aimed at Tim as Tony, in an attempt to push his friend out of harm's way, caused Tim to loose his balance and tumble down the concrete steps to the landing where lay still, crumpled like a rag doll and unconscious.
The perpetrator's shot went wide but Ziva's had not, and she hit him in the shoulder. She swiftly closed the distance with the man and deftly put the cuffs on him, while Gibbs passed her on the way up to where Tim lay unmoving.
Tony scooted down the stairs and knelt next to his friend.
Tim's eyes opened to mere slits, searched and found Tony's worried gaze.
"Mm 'kayyy..." Tim muttered.
Tony bent closer and gently cupped Tim's face with both hands, speaking softly to him in soothing tones. "Sshhh, buddy. No talk. You'll be okay. You're not now, but you'll be just okay, Tim."
"Sssrryy... frr... kk-ites... Nexttime...," and he was out again.
He would be okay. Tony promised.