She was his childhood friend, the one he hadn't forgotten about over the years. He'd seen her first when he'd gotten lost in the caves behind the small village that his family lived in. He'd gone up there with what he'd thought were friends and who ended up being the nemesis of his existence; namely those bullies that made his life a living hell because he was different. He enjoyed his schoolwork and learning more than running around a track or throwing a football.
He had taken the precaution of putting a few things into his school backpack; namely a flashlight and a few extra granola bars (yet another bone of contention between him and the others, he liked granola) as well as his lunch sack and a well worn copy of Tom Sawyer. He had also borrowed his grandfather's lighter as the old man had often told Tim that you never knew when it might come in handy.
Tim had followed the rest of the guys up into the caves, and hadn't paid too much attention to the other boys once he saw the fascinating striations of minerals that lined the cave walls. He'd gone in deeper, his flashlight piercing the darkness and he looked around wondering just what all the minerals actually were. That was when he'd first seen her. She was blonde and about his own height, wearing an old fashioned dress, one made from sackcloth if he was looking at her correctly. He held out his hand and was surprised by how cold her hand was when she returned the handshake.
"Hi, I'm Timmy, umm Timothy McGee. How did you get in here?"
"I'm Hope Cimmerian. Did you come to play with me Timothy McGee?"
Tim scuffed his tennis shoe on the cave floor. "I was hoping to explore the caves today."
Hope tilted her head, "I can help you explore, if you want to play for a while too."
Tim looked around and nodded slowly, thinking he may as well look around. Besides, it would be nice to have a friend to play with, even if she was a girl. He looked around and noticed the faint dust on the floor just as the light from the entrance faded. He dropped his flashlight briefly and as it fell it shined towards the front of the cave. Laughter filled his ears and he realized the other boys were going to try and trap him within.
"Yippee!" Hope's excitement was catching however and Tim couldn't help wondering if maybe Hope was as lonely and lonesome as he was. He picked up his flashlight and started to follow her deeper inside when he heard the small rumbling and as he turned he saw the final boulders being pushed and/or dropped into place. He stayed where he was temporarily, not wanting the dust to blind him more than it already had. As the dust cleared, he shined the light towards his new friend, blinking when the beam appeared to go right through her.
"Are you okay, Hope?"
"I'm okay, Timmy, are you okay?"
"I'll be okay." He sighed as he picked up his backpack and followed her deeper into the cave.
"What's wrong Timmy?" Hope asked as she led him to a darker recess.
Tim sighed again as he confessed, "I had just hoped that for once they weren't actually picking on me. I should have known better."
"Does this mean you don't want to be my friend?" Hope said her lower lip trembling and Tim shook his head.
"No, I will still be your friend Hope. Would you like a granola bar?" he offered and she smiled at him.
"Thank you but I'd better not. It must be close to luncheon." She asked and Tim blushed when his stomach growled in response to her question. He offered her part of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but she shook her head again saying he would need it more than she would. Tim nodded but saved half of the sandwich just in case she changed her mind and followed her further into the cave. On and on they walked but Timmy wasn't afraid. As they rounded the next corner however, he stopped and stared when he saw the stark white bones on the floor. Bones that were still covered by a dusty moth-eaten dress very similar to the one worn by his newest friend. "Hope? What is that?"
"That was me a long time ago Timmy. Are you still willing to be my friend?" Hope's voice was forlorn as if she was used to people running away from her once they saw who and what she actually was.
He couldn't help thinking he should be afraid of her, that he should run away but as he looked into her sad blue eyes, he could still see the lonely person within. The person who despite being a ghost was still wanting to be a friend. He nodded and she smiled. "Yay!"
Almost eight hours pass outside the cave. Inside, Tim and Hope talked about their separate lives, how he wanted to be like his dad, but knew realistically he was more like his mom. He was more of a bookworm, he liked to learn, and he loved to listen to stories. Hope recalled reading from the bible with her parents, going to church on Sundays and picnics on the mountainside.
When Tim questioned her about how she ended up in the cave she admitted that she had been picking wild flowers and gotten caught in a rainstorm. She'd run into the cave seeking shelter but the cave entrance had flooded and she'd run deeper and deeper until she'd eventually ended up in the back of the cave. She'd never been able to escape.
Another four hours pass, and when his parents finally managed to get the cave entrance unblocked they find him curled up on the floor, near the entrance to the cave. He had managed to drag Hope's remains to the entrance per her request. His mother gasped when she saw the white bones and Tim's dad couldn't help swallowing hard as he imagined his son being those bones if not for one of the boys getting a guilty conscious and coming over to tell them about the prank they had played. As he sleepily opened his eyes, Tim could see Hope still waving at him thanking him for being her friend. He waved back and his dad asked, "Who are you waving at Timmy?"
"That was my friend Hope. She stayed with me til you came to find me." Tim replied as sleep overtook him once again. His parents looked over his sleeping form in confusion then shook their heads in mutual agreement. They weren't going to try and figure out what he meant as it was probably just his imagination keeping him company.
Tim however never really forgot about Hope. He had looked up the name Hope Cimmerian and found out that while Cimmerian wasn't a common name, a little girl named Hope had disappeared in those same caves almost fifty years prior to Tim coming there. In the time since then, several people had come up to the caves and run away screaming about a ghost or a shade haunting the area around it. The other boys had known of the local legend, and figured that Tim would be crying or screaming for help by the time he was eventually found. They couldn't have known that Tim's soul had reached out and seen Hope for what she was, a lost soul searching for a path home.
Hope never forgot about Tim either. The little boy who believed in her, who kept her as his friend, who talked to her throughout his childhood. She stayed with him the night of his car accident, and watched over him while he fought to live and encouraged him as he battled to walk again. She cried when he lost his friends over the years and helped them all find the true light to the path of everlasting love and hope.
But there was one thing she could not do and that was intervene in the path of his love life. She watched sadly as he started to lose some of that wonderful spirit that had drawn her to him so many years ago. His own hopeful soul started to despair, as he wondered if he could ever find that one special woman. And then one day, she crossed his path. Not intentionally, at least not at first. She started out as an interloper, someone who did not believe or whose own battered soul had started to lose the light that drew Tim's attention to her.
As much as she didn't know just what Timothy McGee saw in the dark haired woman, Hope could tell that this was the one for her friend. His heart, his soul had found that light within her and spent the next few years searching for ways tell her and not being able to due to time and circumstances getting in his way. Hope waited patiently for her chance to help her friend and then it happened.
His friend, the one woman he wanted as more than friend was sent away. Tim uttered a small prayer hoping for her safe return and that was Hope's cue.
But the woman was tough and mentally resistant to all of Hope's endeavors. She needed help and she asked around seeking those who would be willing to help two souls finally be able to unite. She found it in the source of the one person, or soul that Ziva David might actually listen to.
Hope looked at Talia. "Can you help me get through to her? Can you help me let her know that he won't give up hope on her until she's brought back home?"
Talia nodded her head enthusiastically. She had been trying for weeks to keep her big sister alive, and had almost despaired at the darkness creeping up on Ziva's soul. Together the girls headed for Somalia.
Ziva raised her head. Despite the drugs, the light deprivation, the pain, she would not give in to Saleem's demands. There, in the darkest recesses of her mind, was the light she had always focused on, her sister Talia.
Talia wasn't alone this time however another little girl was with her and she smiled when she heard the two talking, whispering and giggling to each other. Talia came over to where Ziva's mind and soul was hiding and gave her a hug.
"Hello big sister, this is my friend Hope."
"Hello Hope. I haven't seen you here before."
Hope smiled, "My friend Timothy McGee sent me. He wanted to tell you not to give up hope. He's going to find you. He needs you to come home."
Ziva smiled back at the pretty and yes, persistent blue-eyed blonde. She looked at the little girl not quite sure why she was there. "I don't remember Tim ever mentioning you before."
Hope shook her head. "Tim helped save my soul a long time ago, when he was just a child. He never forgot about me however and I've never forgotten him. Despite the circumstances of how we met, he played with me and became my friend where so many others had run away."
"What circumstances?" Ziva asked as the drugs clouded her mind once again.
"When you get back home, when you feel safe within his presence again, ask him about the caves and a little friend named Hope."
Weeks later, as she's helped through the darkened halls by both Tony and Tim, Ziva remembered the conversation. She couldn't concentrate however on exactly what she needed to ask and it was another month before she remembered the blonde little girl who had come to her in one of her darkest hours.
She waited impatiently until Tony and Gibbs left for the night, then casually asked Tim if he could drive her home. Nodding in agreement, he escorted her home and when she asked him if he could come in and talk to her he hesitated briefly.
"Please, Tim, I need to talk to you. Hope has told me to ask you about the caves and a little girl named Hope."
Tim stared at her in surprise and followed her inside. He started to ask questions, but Ziva stopped him with a finger to his lips. He sat down on the sofa and looked at his hands, wondering just how to explain a childhood friend. He couldn't help wondering why that particular friend when Ziva came over and taking one of his hands in hers sat down next to him.
"Tell me about Hope. Please?"
Tim looked at her, at the pleading in her deep brown eyes and knew that she was asking for something but was not quite sure yet just what that something could be. Tim sat back on the sofa and was mildly surprised when she sat closer to him.
"Who was Hope Tim? What did she mean to you and why did she come to me? Why did she tell me you needed to have me come home?"
Tim swallowed as he told her about the friend he'd made a long time ago. Ziva leaned closer to him while he was talking and when he finished his tale he put an arm around her. When she made no protest, he looked down at her wondering why she'd been so insistent about him telling her who Hope was and what she'd meant to him.
"Hope really was one of my best friends Ziva and as for why she came to you, I can only guess that she heard me asking, praying and yes, hoping for your safe return."
Ziva snuggled closer and asked him again, "Why did you need me to come home?"
Tim pulled her into his arms and leaned down to kiss her, "Because I wanted my soul to be complete. I wanted my heart to be fulfilled. I wanted to finally be able to tell you how much I really and truly love you."
As she accepted his kisses and relaxed against him Ziva could almost sense a healing light being wrapped around her own battered soul and asked him what Hope's last name was.
Tim thought back to the caves and the conversation carefully as Hope had only mentioned her last name the one time. He smiled in triumph as he had been almost too distracted by Ziva's kisses when it finally came to him.
"She said her last name was Cimmerian. I remember looking for her, but not being able to find her."
Ziva sat up, gasping in shock and horror as she realized just what Hope had been.
"Cimmerian...it means darkness Tim. Hope had been there to take your soul not be your friend."
Not a normal little girl looking for a friend but a soul seeker or worse a soul taker. Only a lost little boy had seen beneath the darkness to the lonely soul within and turned her into something new, something special and magical; the invisible childhood friend.