23

Lacrimosa

Friday night was here at last and no new cases had landed on their desks, so the team had got away for the weekend on time. McGee had important plans for the night with his family, and he had been worried all day that work commitments would get in the way. Now showered and changed, he was in a cab on his way to meet them. It was his parent's wedding anniversary this weekend and he had got them tickets for 'Don Giovanni 'at the Kennedy Centre. They both loved Mozart, and he had been thrilled to be able to get them the tickets.

He had paid for them to have a suite at the Willard for the weekend, and tonight they were all going out for dinner, Sarah included. One of the joys of having some extra money to spend was that he could finally start to repay his parents for all the wonderful things they had done for him.

The cab pulled up outside the hotel and McGee paid the driver and strolled into the lobby – if his plans were working, a bottle of champagne should have been delivered to his parent's room, and they would all have a celebration drink before heading out to dinner. He headed for the elevator and up to the top floor, the door to Suite 103 was open – he smiled to himself - his Mom always had the door open for him if he was visiting. He walked in through the open door, and his life changed forever.

"NO! NO! God please no!"

McGee wondered who was shouting – then he realised it was him – he ran from his Mom – to his Dad – to Sarah.

"Please breathe, please – look at me!"

He looked down at his hands – covered in blood – how did that get there?

"Oh….Sweet Jesus….get help….ambulance..."

With trembling hands he gets his phone and dials 911.

"My family….they're hurt – it's really bad - please hurry – Willard Hotel Suite 103…"

The phone drops from his hands and he moves over to Sarah, lying on her back, her beautiful eyes staring sightless up at the ceiling – he cradled her in his arms.

"You'll be alright, the EMTs are on their way, Mom and Dad are hurt too…but help's coming – just hold on….hold on."

Within minutes Metro PD are on the scene. Two uniformed Officers move carefully round the bodies of Tim's parents checking for a pulse. They move over to McGee, the younger Officer draws his gun.

"Sir – you need to move away from the body."

"Not a body – it's Sarah – she's hurt."

"Sir – I'm Officer Lehman, can you tell me your name?"

"McGee….I'm…I work for NCIS – my ID is in my pocket."

"OK – would you let go of….Sarah is it? Let me see your ID."

Officer Campbell gets on his radio to Dispatch.

"Tell them to cancel the EMTs – it's too late - we need an ME and Homicide."

Tim finally let go of Sarah, placing her head gently on the carpet. He gets his ID and hands it to the Officer.

"Agent McGee, can you tell me – who are these people?"

"My….Oh…."

He runs into the bathroom and kneels retching into the toilet.

Officer Lehman checks the pockets of the male victim.

"Raymond McGee – must be his father – no wonder he lost it – hell of a thing! Looks like a professional job."

McGee comes out of the bathroom.

"Agent McGee – I think it would be best if you waited outside…"

"No…I need to wait for the ambulance – Sarah doesn't like hospitals – I need to go with her."

"Sir, listen to me please – this is going to be hard for you to hear….but they're gone, the ambulance won't be coming."

McGee looks at him, completely unable to take in what he is being told.

"Is there anyone we can call for you – family?"

"This is my family – please….Gibbs…I'll call Gibbs."

Gibbs is working on his latest boat, lost in the rhythm of sanding the wood when the shrilling ring tone of his phone breaks the mood. He is none too pleased when he answers.

"Gibbs"

"Boss….they're gone…."

The tone of Tim's voice tells Gibbs that something is very wrong.

"Who's gone McGee"?"

"My….Mom, Dad….Sarah….dead…"

Gibbs was racing out of the basement as he spoke.

"Tim, stay with me – were they in an accident?"

"No - killed – they're here – cops say no hospital….too late…"

"Where are you Tim?"

"Willard."

"I'm on my way."

On the journey to the Willard Gibbs contacts NCIS to make sure they get jurisdiction on the case – he wants his own people to handle this. He calls Ducky and Tony.

"Boss, how's he taking it?"

"How do you think Tony? We need to get there fast – call Ziva."

"Does Abby know?"

"Not yet – I'll call her – she'll want to be with Tim, will you swing by and pick her up?"

"Of course Boss"

Abby's phone rings just as she is about to leave for a concert. She checks the caller ID.

"Gibbs – please don't tell me we have a case – I've waited to see this band for months!"

"Abs, listen to me – this is really bad. McGee…."

"Tim! What's happened to Tim, tell me Gibbs - is he hurt?"

"Not physically – but his family – they're dead Abs."

"When? How? Were they in an accident?"

"No, they were murdered – Tim is at the scene. Will you come sit with him? I think he'll need your support tonight."

"Of course – Oh my...his family? Sarah?"

"All of them Abs."

"Oh no! I'll be right over."

"No Abs, Tony will call for you – I'm at the hotel now, you wait for Tony."

"Of course – hurry Gibbs – Tim needs you."

As soon as Gibbs gets to Suite 103 one man breaks away from the group by the door.

"Are you Special Agent Gibbs?"

"I am – where's Agent McGee?"

"He's still inside – we can't get him to leave….I'm Detective Needham, Metro PD – we got the word that NCIS are taking the case – can't say I'm sorry – it is one unholy mess in there!"

He steps aside so that Gibbs can enter the room. He takes in the blood stained bodies at a glance, but his eyes are drawn to the figure sitting in the corner of the room, he seemed smaller than the last time he had seen him – was it really only a few hours ago? His eyes were red, but he was not crying. Gibbs moves over to him and puts his arm on Tim's shoulder; he can feel the shaking under his hand.

"Tim…"

"Did you see….?"

Tim looked down at his hands, at his shirt, both covered in blood – the blood of his family. He looked up at Gibbs.

"What do I do now Boss?"

"You let us find the bastard who did this – and we will find him Tim – I promise you!"

"I want to…I need to be doing something…something that will…"

A sudden flurry of activity signals the arrival of Abby, Tony and Ziva. Abby blanches at the sight of the bodies and runs over to Tim - she puts her arms around him and holds him tight. For once Gibbs doesn't complain about compromising the crime scene. Tim does not even seem to be aware of Abby's presence, he looks right past her – his arms hanging limp at his sides. She stands right in front of him.

"Tim – look at me. Oh Timmy – please."

Tears run down her cheeks as she looks into Tim's vacant eyes.

"Be careful – you'll get blood on your clothes…so much blood…."

His eyes focus on her for the first time.

"I thought you had tickets for the Vampire Weekend concert tonight."

"I'm here Tim, I'm staying with you."

Gibbs sends Ziva to check on security camera footage for this floor. Tim should be able to tell them when he last spoke to his family – that would narrow down the search time frame. Tony had started to photograph the scene – but he keeps looking across at Tim – Tony, for once – is lost for words.

"Please Tony; say something – anything – I can't deal with this if you don't talk."

Tony opens his mouth – but still no words come out. He glances to the door as a new commotion signals the arrival of Ducky and Palmer. Ducky immediately goes over to Tim as Palmer stands open-mouthed at the entrance to this….he could only think of it as a slaughterhouse.

Ducky gently puts his arm around Tim's shoulder for a moment.

"Oh Timothy, I am so desperately sorry."

He signals to Jimmy and they begin their work. With infinite care he checks each body for vital signs, even though it was obviously a formality. He beckons Gibbs to join him by Mrs McGee's body.

"Jethro, I think you should get Abby to take Timothy away from here – he doesn't need to see this."

Gibbs nods, and looks across at Tim who is still staring blankly at the devastation around him.

"He hasn't cried."

"He will Jethro – he's in shock now – he needs time to try and come to terms with …well with this."

Ducky sweeps his arm around the room to take in the whole terrible scene.

"Tony - I need your car keys – I want Abby to get Tim away from…."

"Of course Boss – here."

He hands over the keys without another word. Gibbs now knew how upset Tony was – he hadn't even expressed any concern over Abby driving his beloved car!

"Tim – did you speak to your parents this evening?"

"Yes….Mom….she called at around 6.30 to say they had arrived and …how much they loved the room….Oh God…."

He started to shiver uncontrollably. Abby held him close.

"Abs – I want you to get him home – and stay with him."

"As if I would leave him alone."

"No Boss – I have to work – you have to give me something….the pictures in my head….I have to get away from them….When I came in…the door was open – but Mom always leaves…left the door open for me. I saw my mom and I thought…for just a second - when did she get that red blouse? Then…the carpet was red too. I felt for a pulse, I tried CPR...I called 911, I went to Dad…to Sarah…I …I was useless….I couldn't even save my own family! All I could do was call you. Don't you see? I couldn't save them – but I have to help find….who did this, please Gibbs – let me help?"

Gibbs sighed, but nodded his assent.

"OK – you two go back to NCIS, start working up a list of anyone – and I mean anyone - who may have a grudge against you or your family."

"Against me? Oh No! This could have happened because of me?"

"Calm down Tim – or I'll get Ducky to give you a sedative and you will go home – now are you up to this or not?"

Abby looked aghast at the tone Gibbs was using – but she saw the genuine concern in his eyes and knew that he was only trying to help Tim. Without something to do she knew that Tim could go mad with grief. She took his arm and led him out of the room. Tim stops as they get to Ducky.

"Ducky, will you be…will you? I don't want a stranger touching my family."

"I promise you Timothy, I will take the utmost care."

"I know you will – you always do…thank you."

Tim stumbles, Abby holds him again.

"Looks like I need your support right now Abs."

"I just wish there was more I could do."

"Just having you here helps Abs – really it does."

They make their way arm in arm towards the elevator leaving Suite 103 behind them.

Gibbs calls Ziva and gives her the time frame for checking security footage.

"We may have a lead Gibbs – the Concierge says that Ti…McGee ordered champagne for the Suite. Room service records show that it was delivered at 19.10, I am on my way to speak to the waiter."

"OK, I'll check the footage myself – that means we have a window of just 20 minutes from the time the champagne was delivered to when McGee arrived – let me know when you find the waiter."

"We've finished here Jethro – all the signs are of a professional hit – each….each victim has two gunshot wounds to the chest resulting in almost instantaneous death – at least I will be able to tell Timothy the truth – they did not suffer."

"Small comfort Duck."

"Indeed Jethro – but it will matter to him one day."

Ducky and Jimmy complete their sombre duties and the bodies of McGee's family are gently removed to begin their journey to NCIS.

Abby and Tim are seated at the computers in her lab going over case files, trying to find someone who would want to hurt Tim's family. Abby had attempted to light candles, but Tim had stopped her.

"Aromatherapy and creepy music are not going to help this time Abs – I wish they could."

She looked at him – there were shadows beneath his eyes and he occasionally rubbed them and shook his head as if to shake something from his vision. She could not even begin to imagine the pictures going through his head – but still no tears. She had cried herself when Gibbs called her, cried for his family, but most of all she had cried for Tim – his family torn from him in this brutal way. If this had been done because of a case Tim had worked – because of something he had done – she was really frightened that he would not be able to deal with that.

"I've been through everything Abs, I've never really taken the lead on any investigations – the only names I can come up with are Petty Officer Cove and Adrian Corbett, they were murdered because of my stupid book! Then there's Lieutenant Benedict – the man I …killed. God knows their families have reason enough to hate me - I need to check whether they had any relatives who may come after me because of what I did."

Tim gets to work at the keyboard again and doesn't seem to notice when the lab doors open. Jimmy comes in with several evidence bags, Abby signs for them – she looks inside – the bullets. She can feel Tim watching her.

"Do you want to go up to the squad room?"

"I'd rather stay with you – if you don't mind?"

"You can stay as long as you like."

She begins her work on the bullets until Tony comes through the door.

He hands Abby a memory stick.

"We have a possible suspect – can you run this against facial recognition software?"

"Right away."

Tony pats McGee on the back.

"How are you doing Probie?"

"Keeping busy Tony – it stops me…you know…."

Tony's eyes fill with tears – the change in his friend since they waved their carefree farewells earlier today was heartbreaking.

"You need anything….anything at all Tim – just let me know."

"Thanks Tony."

He turns back to the screen. Abby and Tony exchange worried glances but let him get back to his work.

"Where are Gibbs and Ziva?"

"They're interviewing the room service waiter who was supposed to deliver champagne. I'll go and join them – call me if you get anything."

Tony joins Ziva in the observation room.

"How is he Tony?"

"Barely holding it together."

"How can we help him?"

"By catching this bastard – or killing him."

"I prefer the latter Tony."

"So do I Ziva – so do I."

Gibbs slams the table.

"I have three bodies in autopsy – do not waste my time! I need to know why you did not deliver that champagne."

"Look I don't know anything about dead bodies…."

Gibbs leans across the table.

"I do not repeat myself – answer my question."

"I was on my way up to the top floor – a guy dressed in our uniform got in the elevator. He said some friends of his were in town and he wanted to surprise them. He gave me $100 to take my place – I swear I don't know anything else – I swear to God – I never thought anything like this could happen – you have to believe me!"

Gibbs turns and leaves the room.

Ziva and Tony meet Gibbs in the corridor outside interrogation.

"Leave him in there to sweat a little while longer – he's got nothing else for us – let's see if Abby has anything."

They find Abby and McGee bent over their keyboards – the screens displaying nothing but snow.

"What's going on Abs?"

"Gibbs! This is so hinky – I was running the picture from Tony and suddenly, this."

She gestures towards the screens.

"It's Langley, Boss."

"What's Langley Tim?"

"We're being blocked by the CIA…."

"Why would they be blocking this? It's just a routine ID check."

Ziva moves towards Gibbs and whispers.

"Unless the man we're looking for is CIA…."

She leaves the rest unsaid – but why would a CIA operative be doing something like this?

"Get the picture to that waiter – confirm that this is the guy who gave him the money – I'm going to see the Director."

"Jen – I need you to speak to the CIA."

"The CIA – why?"

"They're blocking our search for the bastard who killed Tim's family."

"How do you know that?"

"Because he backtracked the program or something – whatever it is he does!"

"You've got McGee working this case?"

"Of course…"

"He can't be in any fit state to contribute to an investigation."

"Believe me Jen – it's the only thing that's holding him together right now. He needs to work – he has a lifetime of grieving ahead of him."

She looks deep into his eyes.

"You should know that better than most Jethro. I'll see what I can do."

Twenty minutes later Jen calls Gibbs in the lab.

"Jethro – I need you in MTAC – now!"

When Gibbs arrives in MTAC he finds Jen involved in a video call with what looked like a 'suit' from Langley.

"Ah, here he is now. Deputy Director Kane, this is Special Agent Gibbs. Special Agent McGee is on his team."

"My condolences Agent Gibbs – your man has a hell of a lot to deal with."

"He will – but he needs to find who killed his family – why are you blocking our search?"

"You don't need to search any further – I can give you an ID – but you're not going to like it. Hell! I don't like it. The man in that picture – the man who killed Agent McGee's family - is Andrew Benedict."

"Benedict? The cop McGee….?"

"Yes, Agent Gibbs – Andrew is Lieutenant John Benedict's younger brother."

"We haven't confirmed him as the shooter yet – we don't have any forensics back."

"I'm afraid the forensics will only confirm what we already suspect, Director Shepard. Andrew had been on a Black Op for a while – we lost contact with him, then when we found him he had been held captive and tortured by….well by the people he had infiltrated. We got him back to the US, but he was in a bad physical condition – it was a number of months before he was able to recall any details of his captivity, or his life before that. Unfortunately, some bright spark in psych decided to tell him about his brother – thought it would be cathartic – break him out of the shell he had built around himself."

"They gave him McGee's name?"

"No Agent Gibbs – but they didn't have to. Andrew has worked undercover in some of the most hostile environments in the world – finding the name of his brother's ki….of the man who shot his brother – it was child's play."

"Is he physically capable of doing this?"

"Oh yes – Director – it would appear that finding out about his brother was cathartic, but not in the way his therapist wanted. From the day he got the news he worked twice at hard at his physical therapy, he wanted to get back in the field. That was never going to happen – he aced all his physical tests, but the psych evaluation – no way. He is finished as a field operative."

"Did he know that?"

"He got the papers last week."

"And it never occurred to anyone to let McGee know that this guy was on the loose!"

"Seriously, Gibbs – no. The reports indicated that Benedict could be a danger to himself – not necessarily to other people."

"Not necessarily to other people!"

"Jethro, calm down."

"There are three victims here Deputy Director; the mother, father and sister of a member of my team! That is not other people – that is family!"

"Kane – do you have any location on Benedict?"

"No – he was under observation, but as I said….."

"Yes, we heard – hostile environments – well he hasn't come up against NCIS before, we will find him – Special Agent Gibbs will find him – and we will make sure that the only hostile environment he ever has to worry about again is the inside of a prison cell."

Jenny signals to the technician to end the call. She turns to Gibbs and he sees tears in her eyes, whether they are tears of rage or tears of sadness he doesn't know – at least not until she asks.

"Jethro – how are you going to tell Tim?"

"I honestly don't know – he has to know, but whether he's strong enough to deal with this…."

They thought he was pale before – but now – his skin seemed to lose not only colour, but life. He backed away from them – trying to get away from what Gibbs was saying – he put his hands over his ears.

"My fault…..my fault…..Oh God! – it's all my fault – it should be me – not them."

His haunted eyes lock on to Gibbs.

"Why didn't he kill me? I killed his brother – not….not them. They're innocent – I'm the guilty one."

His voice was rising – he was on the verge of hysteria.

"Tim – listen – Tim!"

Gibbs slaps him gently on the back of the head.

"Tim – he wanted to hurt you – to break you – that's why he went after your family – don't let him win! You're in the hardest battle of your life now – but you're not alone – we're all here."

Tim's head snaps up – his face a mask of new horror.

"What if he comes after you? If he hurt any of you – we have to stop him!"

"That is exactly what we are going to do."

Abby continues to sift through the forensic evidence, Ducky double checks his autopsy results to make sure there is absolutely nothing he has missed.

Gibbs, Tony and Ziva go back to the Willard – they conduct more interviews, check more security footage, looking for Ziva's 'needle in a needle stack.'

Finally – a break. In the absence of any useful forensic evidence Abby had been checking facial recognition software against security footage from the Metro Center Station. She had found Benedict and tracked him getting on the orange line eastbound - he had surfaced again at Deanwood Station. The parking lot footage showed him getting into a Dodge Caliber, Virginia plates 6253 LGT.

"Get a BOLO on that!"

"On it Boss."

McGee – who had not said a word for hours, moved towards Gibbs.

"Boss…..can I come with you when…?"

"That's not gonna happen Tim – you know that as well as I do – look, you're exhausted – why don't you try and get some sleep?"

Abby slips her arm around Tim.

"Come on – you can lie on the futon and rest for a while."

He let himself be led away. If he lay down and closed his eyes, they'd leave him alone. But he couldn't sleep – even as he closed his eyes visions of blood-soaked, faceless bodies came flooding back.

He heard when the hit came back on the BOLO, he heard the rest of the team leave. He couldn't lie still any longer.

"Tim! You need to rest."

"You know what I need Abs – I need to cry. What's wrong with me Abby? They took me in, raised me as their own and I can't even cry for them."

"Tim, you will cry when you're ready. I can't imagine how awful it must have been to walk into that room and see….what you saw."

"I thought I could make them wake up – but it was like Erin all over again – only much, much worse. This was my family Abs, now they're….I'm never going to see them…..talk to them….hold them…please Abs, will you?"

She holds him close, so close she can feel his heart beating, too fast?

"Tim do you feel OK?"

He stepped back and looked into her eyes.

"No Abs, I don't think I'll ever feel OK again."

"I didn't mean….do you feel sick? Your pulse is racing, look at me Tim – do you hear me?"

Tim slumped to his knees and fell at Abby's feet. She ran to the phone.

"Ducky – can you come up here please? It's Tim, he…I think he fainted."

"Oh Lord! I'll be right there."

Tim opened his eyes to find a bright light almost blinding him.

"Ah, Timothy – you are back with us – now I want you to try and sit up, but slowly, we don't want you keeling over again."

The lab doors open and Jenny walks in. She takes in the scene at a glance and moves towards McGee.

"Tim, it's time – you can't stay here any longer – you need proper rest."

"No ….. please – I don't…..I can't…if I close my eyes ….I can't see their faces any more – all I can see is…blood…blood everywhere. On them, on me…"

He looks down at his hands.

"It's still there…it's all over me, their blood, my fault. He went after them because of me – tell me – how am I supposed to live with that – TELL ME!"

Ducky puts his hand on Tim's arm.

"My dear boy, I wish I could tell you, but I can't. What I can tell you is that if you don't get some sleep soon you will make yourself ill."

"If I sleep – really sleep – will I be able to see their faces again? I want to see their faces….please Ducky, help me."

He stands to walk out of the lab and stumbles against the door. They all reach to steady him. Jenny takes his arm.

"Tim – you can sleep on the couch in my office – come on – we'll wake you if there's any news."

Tim lay on the couch – tossing and turning – it was no use – he just could not sleep. He just kept replaying the scene in that hotel room – over and over again. Could he have done anything differently? If he had gone to Sarah first – could he have saved her? If he had been five minutes earlier, could he have saved them all? Could he have stopped the killer? But he didn't even have his gun – he was off-duty. McGee you are useless! A fully trained Federal Agent and all you did was put your family in the sights of a trained assassin.

Suddenly he knew what he had to do – he had to go and apologise to them – to see their faces one last time – to say goodbye.

He slipped out of the Director's office. Cynthia was at her desk.

"I am so terribly sorry to hear about your family Agent McGee."

"Thank you Cynthia…..you're here on Saturday?"

"Everyone is here – we all want to help in any way we can – would you like coffee, or anything to eat?"

"Eat? No….no thanks."

"I'll just call the Director and let her know you're awake."

McGee just walks past her and out of the office.

Jenny calls Abby.

"Is McGee with you Abby?"

"No….I thought he was sleeping in your office."

"He left a few minutes ago – I thought he would come to you – I just need to make sure he's not trying to join Gibbs – he can't be in on the arrest."

"Have they found Benedict?"

"Looks like it – if he comes to you – don't tell him yet – I want to be sure."

"Mr Palmer – you're here early."

"Morning Dr Mallard – I wanted to be sure all the paperwork is in order – the funeral director is coming for Agent McGee's family later."

Ducky gives him a warm smile.

"Thank you Jimmy – that is very thoughtful."

They walk into Autopsy together and are shocked to see McGee leaning against the drawers where the bodies are housed. He turns round when he hears the door open.

"I've been trying to pluck up the courage to open the doors – I could do it for Kate – why can't I do it for them?"

"Don't do this to yourself my boy – you don't need to see them like this."

Tim looks at Ducky – his eyes seem unable to focus, he blinks and shakes his head.

"Do they look as if they're asleep? Dead people are supposed to look as if they are asleep. When I saw them….in that room – they didn't look as if they were sleeping – they looked ….as if their lives had been torn away from them."

He suddenly focuses directly on Ducky.

"Who died last? Do you know? Which one had to watch the others die…?"

"Stop this Timothy!"

Tim suddenly started to sob – dry sobs that shook his body.

"I saw them and…I thought my heart….would stop….it carried on beating….why? They died….because of me….because I took….an innocent life…now…now they're gone forever….I want them back Ducky…..I need them…."

"I know…I know."

Ducky holds him until the tremors stop.

"Did you get any sleep at all?"

McGee shakes his head.

"Not until they catch him."

"Then at least wait somewhere else – this is the last place you need to be. Come along – I'll take you to Abby. I want you to have something to eat – and then you can lie down – one word of argument and I will give you something to make you sleep, whether you want it or not!"

They had just arrived in the lab when Jenny comes in.

"They've got him! He's under arrest and on his way here…..Tim – did you hear me?"

He slumps to the ground. Ducky checks his pulse and pupils.

"I suggest we make him as comfortable as we can here, and let him sleep."

"You gonna leave me chained like this the whole time?"

"Oh believe me – you want to leave those cuffs on."

"Why? Scared I might attack you if you take them off?"

"No – but if you were unrestrained I would have the perfect excuse to beat the living crap out of you!"

"Right Agent….Gibbs is it? Let's cut to the chase – you want a confession? You've got me! I shot Angela McGee, then I shot Raymond McGee and then I shot Sarah McGee – I shot them twice in the chest. The only thing that stopped it being a perfect evening was that I wasn't around to see his face when he found them. I thought about it – I figured if I waited for him – let him find them – then I could kill him."

Gibbs clenched his hands into fists – using every ounce of his willpower to prevent himself smashing those fists into Benedict's face. Behind the glass Ziva moves towards the door.

"No Ziva – he told us to wait here."

Tony is amazed to see tears spill on to Ziva's cheeks.

"That man has taken every member of Tim's family and he does not care! I know the pain that losing a sister can bring – and a brother….that this man can sit there – I want to rip his heart out of his chest!"

She suddenly starts to sob, and Tony, with tears in his own eyes holds her close. She was talking about a loss he could never understand, but if it was affecting their ice queen like this how on earth was McGee going to cope?

On the other side of the glass Benedict continued.

"But if I killed him – what fun would that be? He needs to suffer – like I've suffered. John was all the family I had left and McGee took him away from me – so I took his family. Now he has to live the rest of his life alone – like me."

"That's where you made a mistake Benedict – he's not alone – you may have taken his family –but he still has his friends – people who care about him. That's something you'll never have – because, unlike you, Timothy McGee is a good man, an honest man – and while you're sitting, rotting - alone – in prison, he will be rebuilding his life – without his family, yes – but with people who love him – he won't be alone – ever."

He sat motionless in the front row of the church. On his right Abby, holding on tight to his hand as if she was frightened to let him go – on his left Ziva's hand is resting lightly on his wrist. He had still not shed a tear, and now they knew that the moment he had been dreading was here. The others sat in the row behind. Tony leans forward.

"Do you want me to do it?"

Tim stands and turns to him.

"No thanks Tony – I need to do this."

He moves slowly to the lectern, touching each of the caskets as he makes his way to say his last farewell to his family. He looks at the sea of faces in front of him, takes a deep breath and begins.

"I'm supposed to be a writer – but…I just can't find the words…."

He hesitates, unsure of what to say, he sees Gibbs and Tony rising from their seats, ready to take over – he shakes his head.

"My family has always been the most important thing to me…now that they are gone a light has gone out of my life. My parents taught me so much, to tell the truth – be a gentleman, always – to stand up for what I believe. They wanted me to p…protect my sister - I couldn't do it – Mom, Dad, Sarah, I am so sorry I could not save you. Without my friends I don't think I could go on, but I will. That man tried to destroy me by destroying you – but he didn't reckon on the strength that you have given me. With your strength and your love I will carry on. I love you so much and I will miss you until I draw my last breath. I have to let you go now –I have to say goodbye - God Bless and 'Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.'"

Finally, as the pall bearers prepare to take the caskets out of the church and the haunting sounds of Mozart's Lacrimosa fill the air McGee begins to cry. Not the dry heaving sobs that had wracked his body in Autopsy, but silent tears that wet his cheeks, dropped from his chin and fell onto his shirt.

He felt Tony and Gibbs support him as they fell into step behind the caskets, just before the tears blinded him he saw Abby holding out her arms to enfold him in a gentle embrace. He saw Ziva, Ducky and even Jenny mutely supporting him, always ready when he needed them. He saw that he was not alone, he saw his Mom and Dad, he saw Sarah, and this time he saw their faces – he smiled through the tears and he held on to Abby, felt the others close by, and he let the tears fall.

THE END

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