“Hey Tim, you okay?” Tony set down the plates he’d fetched in from the truck; Tim looked pretty beat, and today of all days Tony didn’t want him to miss out on anything.
“I’m good Tony, just…hard to believe you know, after everything…” Tim looked around and a smile transformed his tired face. “I can’t believe we finally made it.”
“You got us here.”
“Wasn’t just me, I had a lot of help.” Standing amidst the hustle and bustle in the bright, welcoming surroundings of the dining hall Tim marvelled at the distance they’d travelled in just a few months. He had made a promise and was determined to do something, only trouble was for a while he had no idea what to do for the best.
At first his thinking had gone no further than a vague idea of raising money to help the men and women who eked out an existence on the inhospitable streets of DC. He soon realised, useful though the money might be, there needed to be something tangible he could turn to so Shorty and Goliath would know he hadn’t forgotten them. Tim had only spent a short time in their company and yet both men had shown him nothing but kindness; Shorty had even offered Tim food before eating himself. That a man who had so little put the needs of another before his own had a profound effect on Tim, and had guided his actions in the months following his release from the hospital.
It was a visit from Reverend Chambers while he was still in Bethesda that turned Tim’s vague intentions into a definite plan of action. The Reverend had been an unwitting pawn in Cantwell’s murderous scheme; he’d been heartbroken to learn the food served by his volunteers had been contaminated by the potentially fatal drugs forming part of Aborah Labtech’s bioweapons experiments. As soon as he was allowed he’d asked to see Tim, needing to find some good amidst all the dreadful news the people on the streets had been hearing.
“You’re looking so much better Agent McGee; I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see you like this, you had us all worried.”
“I’m good thanks, getting stronger every day. How are things going with the food trucks?”
“Better; we’re rebuilding trust, it’s going to take time and patience, just like your recovery.”
Tim had smiled, it was a familiar refrain. “You’ve been talking to Ducky.”
“Among others; you shouldn’t underestimate what you’ve been through; everyone is so glad to see you this far along the road to recovery, they don’t want any setbacks now.”
“Me either Reverend, it’s just…I want to help, and sitting here, it’s…”
“Frustrating. I sympathise, and I fully understand your impatience, so much needs to be done.”
“Then why can’t I figure out what to do? I can’t seem to think straight.”
“A sure sign you are not fully recovered; there will be time have no fear. I’ve been working with the homeless for many years and there’s always more to be done, so much need for shelter and so many buildings standing empty…”
They’d chatted a little longer and when he was alone again Tim closed his eyes, his energy levels were nowhere near normal and the slightest exertion left him exhausted, he was close to sleep when his eyes opened wide; of course, why hadn’t he thought of it earlier? The building where they’d found Sergeant Roe’s body…the landlord told Tony it had been empty for months and he was finding it impossible to sell. It was close to the area frequented by the homeless, was it possible enough money could be raised to buy it? There was so much space lying empty so close to men and women who needed warmth, food, somewhere to get clean…
As soon as the idea took hold the plan seemed to take on a life of its own, everyone he approached for help offered everything he asked, and in many cases gave much more.
The first thing required to get the scheme up and running was money, he’d asked everyone he knew to contribute whatever they could afford, and for the first time in his life he’d used contacts from his college days, some of whom had made it big in the world of IT. His publisher came good, not only offering money herself but getting other authors to contribute funds and to agree to write a book of short stories to be sold in aid of the project’s long-term running costs. Before long the funding was in place and the purchase made, as Tim and Tony took the keys and toured the building their hearts sank.
“It’s…Tim, there’s a heck of a lot of work, this place, it’s…”
“A mess…worse than I remember. We can do it Tony, so many people have promised to help here, and Abby says her buddies from Habitat for Humanity will get us the materials we need at better than cost.” Tim kicked at the debris on the floor and sighed, this was a big job…
Tony had seen the disappointment on his friend’s face and was quick to offer reassurance. “Hey McFundraiser, you’ve come this far, I figure you’re not about to stop now.”
Tony had been absolutely right, as he continued his slow recovery and followed doctor’s orders to return to NCIS on a part-time basis only, Tim had thrown himself into co-ordinating and guiding the men and women who volunteered to help get the work done on the fledgling shelter. At one point Ducky had stepped in and ordered Tim to take a complete break.
“Two days rest or I will have you admitted to Bethesda, you can’t keep going at this pace Timothy.”
“But we’re having trouble with the zoning permits and there are suppliers waiting for delivery dates. I can’t sit around doing nothing.”
“You can and you will. Let us take on more young man.”
“You all have your jobs to do, I’m hanging around…”
“That is precisely the problem, you are not ‘hanging around’, you are doing too much and not allowing your friends to help. Do you not see how desperate Tony is to do more? He wants to help, to atone in some way.”
“Not again! I keep telling him to forget about spraying the stupid cat pee, it’s not important.”
“Perhaps if you allowed him to do more he would believe you.”
Reluctantly, but understanding the wisdom of Ducky’s words, Tim has loosened his hold on the project and allowed the others in. Tony was in his element, using his smooth-talking skills to get tired volunteers to work like they’ve never worked before. He’d called his dad and asked for help, and for once Anthony DiNozzo Senior had come good, one of his DC contacts had expedited the paperwork and their zoning issues were sorted without further delay. He also put Tony in touch with an architect friend who ‘owed him a favour’, and the plans for the interior of the building became reality under his talented hands.
As soon as the building work began their team of volunteers grew ever larger. Thanks to the online publication of Sergeant Roe’s pictures news of the project had spread quickly among the military; day after day men and women who had served with Sergeant Mitchell and Corporal Whately came forward and offered money, time, their skills. Whatever they offered was accepted gratefully and Tim was often left speechless by the progress a group of Marines or army engineers could make in a weekend. Gibbs worked alongside them, and however difficult a case the MCRT had been working proved to be, his cares seemed to fall away as he helped put a staircase together or build kitchen cabinets, working the wood, finding the grain, as always he could get lost in the pursuit for the natural beauty hidden inside every piece of timber.
“You’re real good at this Gunny, where’d you learn carpentry?” PFC Ernesto Cortez was a first-rate electrician who had spent every spare minute he had working on the project. He’d served with Robert Mitchell long before the man had become known as Shorty and had ended his days on the unforgiving streets of the city.
Gibbs put down his plane and took a swig of coffee. “Guess you could say I learned at my father’s knee.”
“Could you…? If you have the time, I’d like to learn.”
“Sure; here, why don’t you finish this while I take a break?” Gibbs guided Ernesto’s hand. “That’s the way, with the grain, easy does it.” He sat down and watched as the young Marine fell under the spell of the wood.
“Don’t blame yourself, you couldn’t know where he was.”
“Maybe I should have, all of us…we come home from a tour, reconnect with our families…no excuse, we should have done better by him, by all of them. Gibbs, you know what it’s like out there, we live together, could die together any day; as Marines we pride ourselves on not leaving a man behind, but what about when we lose sight of them, let them fall by the wayside?”
“You can’t live in another man’s shoes Cortez, Mitchell, he was a good man who lost his way, and remember this, you’re not the only one who should have done better, we see them almost every day, the people on the streets, and we walk away.”
“Until now…sure wish so many people didn’t have to die before we did something.”
“I hear ya; least now we should be able to make things a little better for the people still out there.” Gibbs smiled and patted Cortez on the shoulder. “You’re doing great, you and your buddies, we couldn’t get this done without you.”
“Seems little enough.”
“You do what you can like we all do, and every little bit builds up into one heck of a lot.” He looked round at the hive of activity in the hall. “We’re going to get it finished Ernesto, by winter there’ll be a place for them to come and find refuge.”
There were a few times when it seemed as if Gibbs’ promise wouldn’t be kept, the inevitable glitches inherent in any large remodelling operation caused a stumble or two. The work faltered occasionally, but everyone had a single vision of where they wanted to be. Not only did they want the centre open for the men and women who faced the prospect of another winter without hope, they wanted to do it for Tim. Back in the spring they’d almost lost him and before he was fully recovered he’d thrown himself heart and soul into this project, and where his heart went, theirs did too.
They worked side by side, doing any jobs they were able, and some they never dreamed they’d do. Ducky had rediscovered the simple joy of painting, whether it was a window frame or a wall, he loved transforming the old into new. Abby was in her element utilising her hard-earned Habitat for Humanity skills, Tony and Tim fetched and carried for whoever needed an extra pair of hands and learned a number of new skills, including how to plumb in sinks and showers. Jimmy joined them whenever he could, and when he was there Breena would help too, although the father-to-be made sure she did nothing more strenuous than making and distributing much needed refreshments. Ellie and Jake spent most Sundays helping to lay flooring and shopping for kitchen equipment.
The whole venture was the very essence of a community project, although in this case community had taken on a wider meaning than was the norm. That they eventually had the centre ready to open a week ahead of schedule was the perfect example of hope and endeavour triumphing over despair and adversity.
“Are you ready Tim?” Tony’s hand on his elbow startled Tim out of his reverie and back into the here and now.
“As I’ll ever be, you sure you don’t want to do this?”
“No way, this is your baby, you’re going to welcome our first visitors.”
“Do you think they’ll come? I mean, we’re outsiders, you don’t think they’ll resent us poking our noses here?”
“They’re hungry, cold…you’ve seen some of them here helping out, they want this place Tim, don’t you worry. Now go, open the doors.” Tony stood aside and watched his friend walk through the dining hall to the front doors. None of them had wanted a big fuss over the opening, as many volunteers as possible had attended a celebration the previous evening, a small token of thanks willingly funded by Ducky. The actual opening itself was to be a more reflective day, a time to remember the men and women who’d died on the streets, to look forward to the difference the new centre could make in the lives of those still spending their lives in an inhospitable environment.
Tim reached the doors, pulled them open and let out a sigh of relief; they were waiting, just as he’d hoped they would be. He ushered them in. “Welcome, there’s hot food ready and waiting.”
He couldn’t stop smiling as the men and women walked slowly into the hall, their eyes wide as they saw the tables and chairs ready for them, and Reverend Chambers and his volunteers lined up behind the counter waiting to serve the food.
“You did good work Tim.”
“Everyone did Boss. I wanted to say, the wooden frame you made for Shorty’s flag, it’s the perfect finishing touch for the dining hall.”
“It was an honour to do it Tim; you’re sure you don’t want to keep it at home?”
Tim shook his head. “Never seemed right I had the flag, and here…among the people who befriended Sho…Sergeant Mitchell, this is where it belongs.”
They stood quietly for a minute, smiling at Abby and Tony as they guided diners to their tables.
“Agent McGee! I thought we were going to miss it, DC traffic is crazy.” Tim’s hand was grasped by a giant of a man who was smiling even though there were tears in his eyes. “I know you told me there wasn’t going to be a big ceremony but I…we wanted to be here today. You’ve done them proud today Tim, not just Alan and Sergeant Mitchell, but all the people who’ve fallen on hard times.” Dan Whately let go of Tim’s hand and beckoned forward a slightly stooped and greying version of himself. “This is my dad, he wanted to meet
Tim reached out and shook the hand of Goliath’s father. “Your son was a good man Mr Whately, I’m sure he never meant to hurt you.”
Frank Whately was staring up at the wall above the serving counter. “You…you named the centre after Alan and his friend?”
“Can’t think of two better men sir.” He stood between Frank and Dan Whately and for a moment he was back on the streets, waiting in line for food, feeling cold, hungry…”I was only on the streets one night, but they helped me without thought of reward. Men like that, they deserve to be remembered.”
He guided the two men towards the kitchen. “Would you like to take a look around the place? A lot of Alan’s old platoon buddies helped out, new recruits who never knew him too, they just wanted to pay something back.”
“No one would have done this without you Agent McGee, Dan told me. You saw the good in my son, in all these people, long before I did. I wasn’t prepared to give him a second chance…” The tears spilled over Frank Whately’s lashes. “My son had to die for me to understand he’d done nothing wrong. I wish…”
“He knows Mr Whately, he knows you love him.”
“Thank you, I hope you’re right.” Frank looked up at the sign again, a smile replacing the tears as he read aloud. “The Mitchell, Whately Open Arms Center…sounds good Agent McGee, sounds real good.”
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.
Summary: A sequel to ‘Negligent Homicide’. Tim tries to make good on the promise he made at Arlington.
Categories: General > Family
Challenges: Thinking of Others Challenge
Challenges: Thinking of Others Challenge
If you haven’t read ‘Negligent Homicide’ the most important things to know are that it was an AU tag to (11.22) Shooter, that Tim spent a night with the homeless and was befriended by an original character named Shorty who lived on the streets. Shorty and other homeless people died as a result of eating food laced with an experimental drug and Tim became critically ill…
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