Snow drifted around him and even though it was cold, nothing could compare to the chill that had settled deep in his soul. The day had been tough; sure, they'd got the S.O.B that had caused all the heartache over the past three weeks, but not before the bastard managed to take down someone special to him, leaving him alone in the world. Why did it always happen this way? Why was he destined to be totally alone in a world that seemed to want him to live in the darkest places of his soul? With a sigh, he pulled his knees up and rested his heels on the snow sodden bench so he could wrap his arms around his calves. The cold permeated through every inch of him, mirroring his icy heart and leaving him feeling as though this was his destiny; his lot in life by which he was never going to escape.
He looked over at the river and tried to push away the thoughts of death and self destruction that ran rampant through his mind.
I won't be missed and it'll be quick. Just one step! One step onto the thin ice and I can sink into the freezing water.
No. He couldn't do that. He couldn't do that the ones he loved. His family would never forgive him, especially Sarah. His father probably wouldn't be bothered, but hell, the relationship had never been brilliant to start off with. His mother though, his sweet beautiful mother who had loved and supported him no matter what. Recently he'd been talking to her a lot and even managed to talk to his father a couple of times. It was weird, but even Commander McGee had softened in his attitude towards his son. With a sigh, he rested his head on his knees and finally let go of the tears that he'd been desperately trying to hold back. It was a futile attempt at making the one he had lost proud, but why? That person was gone. Murdered by a single bullet that had ripped through his body leaving nothing but a cold, dead corpse that was a shadow of the strong, vibrant person they once were.
He could feel the warm tears cooling quickly on his face adding to the bone deep chill. They wouldn't provide any comfort; they wouldn't help repair the shattered man that was alone in a dark world that seemed to hate him. The wet trails that they left wouldn't guide him; they wouldn't help him find his way in life again...again...how many times had he put his heart on the line and poured his soul into a relationship only to have it trampled on? How many times did he have to keep doing this? Keep giving himself readily only to lose people that he held dear.
He looked up and let the biting wind freeze the tears on his face. He didn't care. He just wanted to be with his Love; his soul mate. He didn't want to live in a dark, torrid world that was out to torment him without the support of the person that loved him and not only sheltered him from the storms, but cherished him unconditionally and comforted him when it was needed.
"Tim." A distant voice called to him but he was so lost in the mire of the emotions that he almost missed it.
"Tim." There it was again. Why can't they just leave him alone? "I've found him!" That voice. Louder now, as if calling out to someone. He looked up and watched as Tony crouched in front of him before wrapping an emergency blanket round his shoulders.
"You've had us worried, Probie. You okay?"
Was he okay? Well the answer to that was easy. "No."
"You wanna tell me why you ran like that? I mean, one minute I was kneeling beside the boss waiting for the ambulance and the next I look up and see you hightailing it out of the building. Seriously, McGee. What the hell? We've been looking for you for hours."
"Sorry." Tim's heart clenched at the remembered chastisement that he knew he'd never hear again. 'Sign of weakness'.
"He's gone isn't he?"
Tony frowned at the raw, unadulterated pain in his Probie's voice and shook his head. "No. What...? Why would you think that?"
"No...? Tony, I walked back in and saw him laying there. I saw you kneeling next to him and heard you say he was dead. I..." Tim's voice was flat and monotonous. There was nothing in the world that could make this pain go away; no words of comfort, no soothing embraces...nothing. He was numb and lost in his own emotions.
"You heard me answer Ziva's question about the shooter, Tim. Gibbs got grazed by a bullet and was K/O'd for a bit but he's alright. He's alive."
Tim remembered the blood on Gibbs' face from where the bullet had hit its target an shook his head. "I saw the blood...so much blood..." Tim trailed off and closed his eyes to try and fight back the new wave of tears that threatened. "I saw...He's gone...gone..."
"Not goin' anywhere, Tim." Calloused fingers, so familiar in their touch, caressed the frozen tears that clung to his cheeks.
"You're dead." Tim whispered and felt his breath hitch as a sob tried to escape. "You're gone. I saw you. You're not real."
"Open your eyes. Come on, open them." Tim did what he was told and opened his eyes. Gibbs saw them widen before his young love broke down and collapsed in on himself. "Damn it! DiNozzo, I need help!"
"Boss? What's…? Crap. We need to get him inside. He's been sat out here for a couple of hours and its freezing."
Gibbs nodded and pulled Tim into his arms. "Call Ducky. Tell him what happened."
"Sure thing. Boss, you shouldn't be here you know. You have a concussion and..."
"Its mild. Nothing to worry about." Gibbs cradled Tim lovingly and rubbed up and down his arms to try and warm him. "Hear that, Tim. It's nothing to worry about. I'm alive and I need you to believe that. I need you to come back to me, okay. I need you." Gibbs hope that his whispered pleas would filter through Tim's mind. He sighed when he realised where Tim had come, and shook his head.
"Should have known you'd come here. I still remember that night you know. That was the first night I kissed you." Gibbs kissed the side of Tim's head and held him tight hoping beyond all hope that he hadn't lost Tim. Not like this, Tim. Not like this.
Tim felt himself waking up and opened his eyes to see the stark, white walls of a hospital room he didn't remember falling asleep in. Why was he here? And why the hell was he so cold?...cold...the bench by the river...the...the... "Jethro..." Tears started to streak down his face when he remembered what had happened. "Nooo..."
"Hey!" Strong arms wrapped round him from behind and Tim started at the warm body pressed up against him. "It's alright, I'm here..." Gibbs soothed. "I'm here Tim. I'm not dead."
"You're..." Tim shivered slightly and turned in the strong arms holding him. He rested his head on the firm chest and melted into the embrace listening to sound of the heartbeat beneath his ear. "You're here."
"I'm here." Gibbs agreed and pulled the warming blanket back up from where it had slipped down. "You nearly wasn't though because we nearly lost you. What do you think you were doing?"
Tim huffed slightly and nestled down into the warmth. "Tony asked the same thing."
"Hey." Gibbs waited for Tim to look up at him. "Why? We've talked about this. About the fact that if one of us dies the other has to go on. I can't stand the fact that you nearly died because you were grieving over me." Tim started to object but was cut off by Gibbs' finger tracing his lips. "Mild hypothermia, shock and when I told you to stay home this morning because you were getting sick, you should have listened. You've got the beginnings of the flu."
"I didn't think." Tim admitted quietly. "I saw you laying there, I saw the blood...Tony said you were dead; or I thought he did and I lost it. Everything I had...have...everything I wanted out of life and my hopes for the future were gone."
"Even if I was dead, you can't lose the hope and the drive to live. You just can't. Promise me."
Tim shook his head. "I can't. I love you too much. I'll try but I can't promise."
Gibbs pulled Tim tighter into him with a heavy sigh. "Then that's all I can ask."
"I can't believe you're alive." Tim whispered and placed his hand in the centre of Gibbs' chest.
"Not goin' anywhere."
"Good...that's good." Tim felt his eyes drooping and closed them listening to the regular thrum of the heart beneath his ear. With every beat, he found himself filling with the hopes and dreams that had been lost in the darkness of despair; a despair he never wanted to feel again. Just before sleep claimed him, he felt soft lips kiss his forehead and the last piece of ice that had frozen his heart melted away at the whispered words that came with it.
"I love you, Tim."