Disclaimer : I still own nothing, but each and every mistake.
Author's note : I must admit I'm a bit surprised by the response this story received. I'd like to thank everyone who's read, favorited and followed thus far. I'd also like to personally thank Rogue Tomato, sopmire, scousemuz1k, Optimisticat, Gottahavemyncis, megamom2, Precious Pup, smartkid37, Scat2010, TriNkIes, Belker and AgentD.6 for the reviews. I really appreciate your thoughts.
This chapter wraps the story up.
Hope the end lives up to the expectations.
5:38pm - Unknown Place –
There's a gentle rocking that lulls Tim from sleep. His right eyelid is pried open. A bright light attacks his retina, swings away, and returns. As the assault moves onto his left eye, McGee tries to pull away, struggling against whatever immobilizes his head and his arms.
A strong hand rests on his shoulder, squeezing hard.
"It's okay, Agent McGee, you're safe," a woman's voice sings.
That is an angel's declaration.
McGee relaxes, his eyes open long enough to examine the ambulance's ceiling. Its sirens echo through him, a lullaby that calls him to oblivion.
"Stay with me, Tim. I need you to stay awake," the paramedic begs.
He's already gone.
Monday, August 19, 1996 – 7:59am – Department of Physics – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA –
Tim blinks awake in a large lecture hall. Seated in the front row, he's confused by the blackboard behind a professor's desk and the group of chattering teenagers scattered about. It takes a few minutes before he realizes that he's back at his first class at MIT.
A bespectacled man exits from a door adjacent to the blackboard. On his entrance, the babbling stops, the room falling silent. Stretching out his arms, he commands his audience with a broad smile. Tim instantly recognizes his scientific hero, Eoin Marsh.
It's Marsh's work on string theory that inspired McGee to enjoy MIT before he joins the Navy. If his future is his father's, the next four years are his.
"Welcome to MIT, kids," the professor starts, "this is Introductory Physics One for Engineering Majors. I'm Dr. Marsh and I'll be guiding you through this semester. But before we jump into our lecture, would someone mind telling me something about physics?"
There's quiet conversation amongst the students as they debate his question. Slowly, a few hands rise throughout the classroom. Wanting to offer his own idea, McGee meekly raises his own before dropping it to his lap. Marsh claps, pointing to Tim.
"Laws are absolute," Tim offers quietly. He knows it's an important concept, but he can't remember quite where he acquired it. Marsh approaches, stopping just in front of McGee's chair.
As Tim catches his reflection in Marsh's glasses, he sees himself a few weeks shy of eighteen. He always knew he was gangly and awkward, but he's amazed that he looks worse than he ever felt.
"Care to repeat that so the class can hear, son?" Marsh asks, pushing his spectacles higher on his nose. McGee loses sight of himself.
"Laws are absolute," Tim repeats, so loud that it reverberates throughout the classroom.
He cringes. A few seats back, someone lets out a slow exhale. Unwittingly, Tim unleashes one of the greatest debates in the theory of modern physics.
"You're right," Marsh explains, stepping back. McGee grins triumphantly. "But only partially." Tim's smile falls away. "You see, son, a law is absolute until it is disproven. Then another law is made, which is later disproven and yet another law is made. Every law exists, seemingly, only to be disproven. Which leads us to surmise - ?"
Marsh looks expectantly at Tim. His cheeks flush as McGee drops his eyes to the graffiti on his desk.
"That nothing is absolute," the brunette next to McGee volunteers.
"Correct," Marsh nods, smiling. "If you take nothing else from my class, remember that physics parallels life. There are no absolutes. Every moment is a compilation of all those previous, but it is also a blank slate. Let nothing define you, but yourself. Go forward to make waves and create your own paths. See how many laws you can create and just how many more you can disprove."
As Tim reads a scrawl that suggests he engage in self-relations, Marsh pauses in front of the desk. The professor raps on it, commanding McGee to glance up.
"So, son, are there any absolutes?" he asks, meeting Tim's wide eyes.
"No, sir," McGee answers, feeling his face scorch.
Tim suddenly remembers how he spent his time before adulthood : lanky, clumsy and self-conscious.
Marsh turns around, heading towards the blackboard. As McGee pulls out his notebook, the pretty brunette next to him leans over.
"You need to wake up," she states, voice serious.
"What?" he whispers, trying not to distract the professor.
"You need to wake up," she repeats.
Before McGee can speak, Marsh spins to face him.
"Wake up, Tim," his mentor yells.
McGee fades out of the moment he chose to follow his own path, not his father's. His last conscious thought as the room ebbs away would terrify him, but he has no time to reflect on it.
Only death is absolute.
September 14, 2005 – 8:51pm – Anne Arundel Medical Center, Annapolis, MD –
Lurking somewhere between the conscious world and MIT, Tim listens to two different voices imploring him to wake. One is a siren's song, pulling him back to the days of his youth and self-realization. The other is an older man's offkey melody, tugging him towards his present and self-actualization.
Tim wonders why he doesn't hear his future.
Indecisive, McGee desperately tries to linger in limbo before the male voice becomes louder.
"Come on, Tim, wake up," the voice repeats.
As his consciousness and body reunite, Tim gasps awake. Bright fluorescent lights assault his eyes. Groaning, he slams his eyelids close. When he turns his head, McGee learns that it has its own heartbeat.
"Attaboy, Probie, come on," Tony encourages, his voice deep and raspy.
Tim opens his eyes again, staring at the white drop ceiling above him. It's only then he realizes that he's lying in a hospital bed. Glancing towards the sound of DiNozzo's voice, he sees his senior agent leaning forward in a vinyl chair. His suit has been replaced by a set of sweats that are several sizes too small.
"Tony?" Tim starts, blinking slowly when DiNozzo starts to undergo mitosis. Breathing hard, he opens his eyes to watch the two slam back together.
"I'm fine," he says, rising from the chair. He leans over, trying to pull the pants towards his ankles. DiNozzo can't seem to accept that they might be meant to be capris.
Tim laughs and Tony smiles appreciatively.
"Are you sure, Tony?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." He crosses his arms, frowning as the sleeves ride up over his elbows. "That bastard Baker tried to drown me as soon as the Coast Guard boat showed up. Lucky for me, he's not very good at it. I got discharged from the ED a little while ago."
Tim can't believe that DiNozzo still manages to squeak by on chance. Maybe he should pick the office's next round of lottery numbers.
"You mean you signed yourself out against medical advice?"
"Well, I promised I'd follow up with a pulmonologist tomorrow. I had more important things to check on," DiNozzo explains, looking sympathetically at Tim.
McGee touches a hand to his face, wincing at the pillowy flesh under his fingers. He notices the bandages around his wrists where he was restrained. There's an IV buried in the back of his right hand.
"How bad is it?"
Tony presses his lips together, averting Tim's gaze. As he starts to talk, a bald, short man in a white coat wanders into the room.
"Agent McGee?" the doctor asks, his face unreadable. Tim nods, the doctor sighs with relief. "Glad to see you're finally awake, I'm Dr. Matt Austin. How are you feeling?"
"Been better," Tim replies, blinking hard as he tries to figure out why life seems shifted to the left. He touches his face again, learning that his right eye is swollen shut.
As the doctor sets his jaw, he nods. DiNozzo drops his eyes to the floor.
"You took one hell of a beating, son," Austin explains, looking McGee in the eye. "We've been giving you IV fluids to replace what you lost while you were sick. After you passed out in the ambulance, we did a CT to rule out any cranial hemorrhage or facial - ."
As Austin rambles off medical jargon, Tim notices black spots start to litter in his vision again. Unconsciousness carries McGee away before he can even ask why his teeth are moving.
"Come on, Probie, not again," DiNozzo says, his voice sounds hoarser than before.
Shuddering, Tim wakes to see the Austin and Tony standing tensely at the edge of his bed.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to bore you back to sleep," Austin laughs, his smile fades when Tim and Tony don't. "But Agent McGee, you should - ."
"Are my teeth supposed to be loose?" Tim interrupts.
He's been desperate to know the answer ever since Davis disappeared off the boat. It seems like the best time to ask, seeing as he's still conscious.
"No, son," the doctor laughs again. "But sometimes a punch can injure the alveolar bone and make them mobile. They'll firm up again in a few days. But you should know how lucky you are. There's no sign of intracranial hemorrhage on the CT. Although you do have a particularly nasty concussion. All your other injuries are isolated to soft tissue only. There are some pretty significant ecchymoses on your face and contusions elsewhere on your body. We'll need to watch that edema around your eye."
Tony glances toward McGee for a translation. Tim shrugs to let DiNozzo know MIT and Johns Hopkins take him only so far. Understanding medical nonsense is beyond his brain even in its optimum state.
The doctor sighs plaintively, like he's always misunderstood.
"You're going to look like crap and feel like hell for a few days, but nothing's broken. You have a bad black eye. I want to keep you overnight for observation due to the dehydration. If you're okay enough for discharge tomorrow, you'll need someone to stay with you for a few days until you check in with a neurologist for to rule out a cerebral contusion, er - a brain bruise. Do you have any questions?"
Pressing his lips together, McGee shakes his head. As the doctor starts out the door, he points accusingly at DiNozzo.
"Pulmonologist, tomorrow, got it," Tony promises. With a nod, the doctor vanishes.
"Where's Gibbs, Tony?" McGee asks, remembering the last time he saw his boss.
"I think he's probably beating a confession out of Baker and his friend by now or he's dredging the Atlantic for Davis. He stopped by long enough to make sure I was breathing and you weren't dying," DiNozzo explains, face slightly forlorn.
Tim smiles when he finally realizes that Gibbs protects them by methods that only their boss understands.
As McGee wonders what unspeakable tortures Gibbs is unleashing on Baker, DiNozzo pushes two chairs together. Stooping, he retrieves a pillow and blanket from the floor.
"Hey Tony," Tim starts, DiNozzo stares at him intently. "Than - ."
"So, Probie," Tony interrupts, clearly uncomfortable, "you still like that dinosaur cereal?"
Tim cheeks blaze, barely visible under the bruises. The words of gratitude vanish from his tongue as his mind switches to the breakfast food groups. For some reason, cereal sounds good. His stomach growls, apparently forgetting its attempted self-destruction.
"Well, then I need to stop by the store before they discharge you."
"What?" Tim stares incredulously at DiNozzo.
"Since you're going to be staying with me for a while, it's probably a good idea to have some food in the house." Tony's rasping laugh sounds painful.
"But Tony," McGee starts, "shouldn't I - ?"
"Did you buy a couch yet?" Tim shakes his head. "Well, then I guess you're bunking at my place until you feel better. I've got a better movie collection anyway."
As Tim settles back into the bed, Tony grins broadly at him. When DiNozzo looks at McGee, the lines between superior and subordinate blur into friendship. It's the first time the junior agent ever noticed the respect present in his superior's eyes.
Tim realizes he's just disproved an absolute and fabricated a new one.
"Say, Probie, speaking of movies," DiNozzo says, "I'm not sure why, but I'm in the mood to watch The Usual Suspects. How's that sound?"
So, thoughts? Still love it? Dislike the end? Indifferent?
In case you don't know, The Usual Suspects is the movie that Tony quotes at the beginning of the story. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend that you check it out.
Hope you enjoyed. Be seeing you in future works.