A Random Acquaintance
Written for the Like Felix and Oscar Challenge
Starts pre-NCIS, with one crossover character from Supernatural, and moves into the show timelines by the end. Not in the same 'verse as A Friend in Deed
Warning: Canon crossover character death
Summary: Tim's new college roommate is definitely not what he was expecting.
Disclaimer: I own neither NCIS nor Supernatural.
Tim McGee stood on the sidewalk and stared up at the stone edifice in front of him. This would be his home for at least the next few months, provided he didn't flunk out of his first semester at MIT. It was going to be a real challenge, entering college, especially this one, at the tender age of sixteen, but Tim had always faced such hurdles head on as he took his father's constant admonishments to heart: you can do better.
He hefted his duffle bag over his shoulder and steeled himself to climb the three flights of stairs to his room on the fourth floor. The particular dormitory, Random Hall, did not have elevators, and Tim reflected that is was just his luck to wind up in a building without such a convenience. The upside, he mused, was that least he'd be in good shape by the end of the year.
After what seemed like an eternity, he finally reached he top floor, panting from the exertion, and leaned against the wall to rest for a few moments before he walked down the hall to find his room. He had been assigned to a double, and while he was not terribly looking forward to sharing a room with a stranger, he figured that at least his roommate should be somewhat like himself. After all, he was at one of the premiere "geek" colleges. It would be nice to be surrounded by people who understood that being smart was not a disease, unlike the jocks he had dodged through three years of high school.
Tim reached the end of the hall and turned left. He passed several doors, some already covered with Sci-Fi memorabilia and Far Side cartoons, and finally reached the number listed in his orientation packet: 415. He was surprised to find the door bare, save for a small whiteboard with a strange symbol carefully drawn in the center. Tim stared at the drawing for a full minute before deciding that he had never seen such a thing before, and was fairly sure he didn't want to know what its purpose might be. He inserted his key in the lock and gave it a twist before turning the knob and cautiously opening the door. The room appeared to be unoccupied, so he stepped inside without announcing his presence and dropped his bag on the unmade bed by the window. Without warning someone tackled him from behind and he fell face down on the bed. His years on the wrestling team had conditioned him to prepare for such contact, and with a well executed move he had his attacker pinned beneath him. He stared down at the person and recoiled in surprise, giving the person and opening and soon they had switched positions.
"Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?" asked his attacker, a young man a couple of years older than Tim himself, and Tim sputtered in reply.
"Tim McGee, and this is my room. Who the…heck are you?"
The young man grinned. "Well, since this is my room, too, then I guess I'm your roommate." He hopped to his feet, giving Tim space to sit up, and held out his hand. "Name's Ash."
"Short for Ashton, but calling me that warrants an ass-kicking."
"You're a freshman?"
"Junior. Been a fun couple of years, but I'm looking to blow this joint ASAP. Taking a double load this semester."
Tim could only stare at the other kid in shock. With his long hair, holey jeans, and sleeveless plaid shirt, Ash looked like he would be more at home in some redneck bar than taking college classes.
"What's your major?" Tim managed to ask.
"Comp Sci. What's yours?"
"Uh, the same, but I'm leaning towards computer forensics for my area of specialty."
"Forensics…you want to be a geek cop?"
"Yes, I do. Why?"
Ash snorted. "Cops don't know Jack, man. They don't know what's really going on."
Great, Tim thought. He's also a conspiracy nut. This just keeps getting better and better.
"Well, then I guess it's up to this 'geek' to help them figure it out."
"Whatever." He glanced at Tim's duffle that had been knocked to the floor. "That all you brought with you?"
"Penny, my grandmother, she's bringing the rest to me later. I could only bring so much on the bus."
"Why didn't your parents bring you?"
"My father's overseas, and my mother…she's taking care of my little sister. I came out here on my own."
"California. Alameda Naval Base."
"Huh. That's a long damn trip by bus."
"Tell me about it," muttered Tim and Ash grinned.
"Could be worse. Tell you what: I'll help you get unpacked and then we can go get some chow. I know an awesome bar a just few blocks away."
"Not old enough, sorry."
"You think I am? The owner doesn't care, as long as you don't actually drink."
Tim just shook his head. It was obvious to him that Ash was operating on a completely different wavelength. He would definitely take some getting used to…
Tim threw his pencil across the desk and sighed in frustration. I'm never going to get this right. He had been working on the same problem for over two hours, and he kept hitting roadblocks. There seemed to be no way to make the program do what his professor wanted, and Tim began to wonder if the man intended him to fail. With a sigh, Tim went to retrieve his pencil and had just made it back to his desk when the door flew open, revealing his strange and often irritating roommate.
"Tim, my man, what are you doing? There's a party downstairs, lots of chicks looking for company."
"I'm busy, Ash. I've got to get this done by tomorrow morning."
"What are you working on?"
"A program for Professor Ryken's class. I honestly think the man hates me."
"Well, he kind of hates everybody. I've wondered plenty of times if he's possessed or something."
Tim just shook his head. Ash had shared with the younger man his beliefs concerning the existence of ghosts and demons, and Tim had refrained from commenting on Ash's apparent mental stability. Or lack thereof.
"I don't think he needs any paranormal excuse for how he is."
"Eh, probably not. What's giving you trouble?"
Tim reluctantly handed Ash his notes and stretched a few times as he waited for a verdict.
"Here. This is your problem. If you replaced this string with…" Tim listened with growing admiration as Ash walked him through the steps to achieve what the professor had required, and also felt more than a little embarrassed that he hadn't seen the solution himself. After he completed the steps that Ash had suggested, he typed the information into his computer and started the program, relieved to see it work as expected. He swallowed his pride and turned to his roommate.
"Thank you. I…I'm not sure I would have figured it out on my own."
"It's cool, man. I've got plenty of tricks up my sleeve I'd be glad to share. Now, about that party…"
Tim groaned. "Ash, it's really not my thing. Sorry."
Ash studied him for a minute before coming to a decision. "OK, man. That's fine. You want some company?"
"You don't have to…"
"Hey, the party kinda sucks anyway. You know what would be more fun?"
"Planning the hack for this year. Something really…bitchin'."
Tim chucked. He had heard about the yearly pranks, or 'hacks' for which MIT students were famous. It would be interesting to see if he could come up with something truly memorable.
"OK, you're on."
Ash grinned. "There's hope for you yet, kid."
Tim watched as Ash tossed a few more shirts and pairs of jeans into his well-worn duffle bag and an overwhelming feeling of guilt washed over him.
"Ash, man, I'm sorry. This is all my fault…"
"Ain't your fault, Tim. Those assholes shoulda left you alone."
Tim's cheeks burned with embarrassment as he remembered the taunts and insults thrown at him by two very large engineering majors who had decided the shy, quiet seventeen-year-old was the perfect target for their abuse. Their verbal assaults had escalated to minor physical torments, and Tim had been willing to ignore and avoid, just as he had done with the bullies in high school. When Ash had seen what they were doing, however, he had other ideas. Tim was not sure who was more surprised by the older man's reaction: himself, or the two aggressors who had suddenly found themselves on the other side of an ass-kicking.
"I can't believe you broke Nigel's nose," Tim muttered and Ash laughed.
"He deserved it. Dude needed to learn to pick on someone his own size."
"Yeah, but the administrators didn't see it that way. You know you can appeal their decision…"
"Nah. I don't think there's anything here left for me to learn, anyway. I have all I need to do the job I should have been doing all along."
"Yeah, but without a degree…"
"Don't need one where I'm going, Tim. The people I'll be helping don't care about that. They just care about getting the job done."
"Where will you go?"
"Got some friends out west that will give me a place to crash in exchange for my computer magic. Everything's cool."
"You'll…you'll keep in touch, right?"
Ash gave Tim a friendly punch on the arm. "Better believe it. Let me know how that hack works out, alright?"
"I will. I promise."
"Cool." Ash zipped up his duffle and grabbed the box that contained most of his computer stuff that he hadn't already shipped to his new home. He took one last look around before turning to Tim. "Looks like this is it, kid. Take care of yourself. Comprende?"
"I will. Thanks, Ash, for…for everything."
Ash grinned. "Peace out, dude," he said, and walked out the door.
Tim watched Ash leave and sank down onto his bed as a sense of loss washed over him. A unique part of his life has passed. The rest would certainly be boring in comparison.
Tim slowly dialed a number on his cell phone and waited. Finally the call connected.
"Hey Ash. It's Tim."
"Hey, Kid, long time no talk. How's it hanging?"
"I hear that. Been up to my eyeballs in deep you-know-what. What's eatin' ya?"
"You remember my friend Jim Nelson? The guy who helped me to get through FLETC?"
"Yeah. What's up?"
"He's…dead. Killed in a terrorist attack. His whole team is gone."
"Aw, man, that sucks. Sorry to hear it. You need me to do anything? I got a big project going right now, but if you need some help, I'll be there."
"No, it's OK. It's just…good to hear your voice. Helps me to remember I still have…a good friend."
"Friend to the end, that's me. Sure you don't need anything? Shoulder to cry on, shit like that?"
Tim laughed for the first time in days. "Nah, I'm good. Maybe the next time I actually manage to get some time off, I'll come out for a visit. We can try a few old hacks on some unsuspecting locals."
"Sounds good, man. Let me know. I'll make sure Ellen has a guest room ready for ya."
"It was good to talk to you."
"You too, kid. Catch ya later."
"Yeah, later. Bye, Ash."
Tim listened to the recording and frowned. "The number you have dialed is no longer in service. Please check the number and try again." He followed the instructions and when he received the same message, he felt a chill down his spine. Something was definitely wrong.
"What are you doing, McGee?"
"Nothing, Ziva. I'm just trying to reach an old friend. Apparently his number isn't working." He reached into his wallet and pulled out a worn piece of paper with another number, which he quickly dialed.
"The number you have dialed is no longer in service. Please check the number and try again."
"What in the hell?"
He turned to his computer, pulled up a search program and typed in 'Harvelle's Roadhouse'. He read the title of the first link that popped up and froze.
"McGee? What is wrong?"
He ignored his co-worker and clicked on the link, his heart sinking as he read and absorbed the information.
…destroyed by fire…total loss…remains found and identified as…
He made a dash for the men's room and once inside he leaned over the sink, desperately trying to control the nausea that burned his throat as he pondered his friend's fate.
Damn it…this shouldn't have happened…he didn't deserve that…if only I had gone to see him before…one last time…
Tim slammed his fists against the counter and hung his head as the tears burned his eyes.
Another friend…gone. When does it end, damn it? When?
He glanced up at his reflection and at the person standing behind him before lowering his eyes so she wouldn't see his loss of control.
"I'm OK, Ziva."
"No, you are not. What happened?"
"I…the friend I was trying to call. He's dead. The place where he lived caught fire, and…there were no survivors."
He felt a hand on his shoulder. "I am sorry for your loss."
"How long have you been friends?"
"We've known each other since college. He...he was someone I always thought I could count on. He was there for me when I needed it. And now…"
"I understand. He was someone very special to you, yes?"
"Yeah. I've never met anyone like him…he was definitely one of a kind."
Yes, there really is a dorm at MIT named Random Hall.