enthused_fish (enthused_fish) wrote in ncis_flashfic,

O Captain! My Captain! by Enthused Fish

Title: O Captain! My Captain!
Author: Enthused Fish
Challenge: Poetry
Characters: Gibbs, McGee, small smattering of Tony
Pairings: None
Word Count: 2604
Genre: Tragedy... Warning: Character Death

The metal slammed with sad finality. The clang of the lock the followed only emphasized the final resting place of two souls. They were locked together, the two men. One was chained to a wall, unconscious at the moment. The other was simply waiting for his life to end. He knew it was coming as well as his captors did. The ship may finally reach port, but when it did, it would be too late for him. He was marginally surprised that the thought bothered him so little. With a jolt, the ship set out. The other man in the room roused from his slumber.


"Back with us, eh, McGee?" Good. His voice was still steady. How long that would last was anyone’s guess, but the less Tim knew about his impending death, the better.

"What happened, Boss? The last thing I remember is..."


There was a tentative laugh. "Getting shot."

"How bad?" Gibbs asked quickly. He hadn’t had a chance to check Tim out after the operation went south.

"How bad are you? I saw you go down."

Gibbs thought for awhile about how to answer. He settled for vague. "Bad enough. You?"

Tim obviously knew what he meant and was silent for awhile himself. "Not bad enough," he finally answered. "Where are we, Boss?"

"On board. The ship just left port. We probably have a few days before it docks again."


Silence descended again, broken occasionally by the rattling of a chain. Tim kept trying to shift his position, letting out soft gasps of pain. Gibbs stayed as still as possible. He had made a tourniquet, but it was only postponing the inevitable.


"Yeah, Boss?"

"What are you thinking right now?"


"I know you, McGee. You always have something going through your head. What is it?" When the silence remained unbroken, he added, "What else are we going to do?"

"I was thinking about how much this situation reminds me of "The Pit and the Pendulum." I just hope it doesn’t get any closer."

"That is the wrong attitude to have."

"Hey, that story ended... happily... sort of. The guy didn’t die or go crazy which is rare for Poe. He was saved at the last minute. It’s just that I’m chained to the wall here and I don’t really want to have a scimitar falling toward me."

"Not much chance of that. Are you feeling seasick?"

"Strangely enough, no. I’m not. It must be getting shot. It calms my stomach."

"Well, stranger things have happened. Okay, McGee. I’m going to lay down some ground rules. Here is what we’re not going to do. Are you ready?"

"Yes, Boss."

Gibbs kept his voice as normal as possible. "First, we are not going to give into despair. Second, we’re not going to sugarcoat anything either. This situation doesn’t look good for either of us, but that’s no reason to avoid the fact or to lose all hope. So, no pits and pendulums. Got it?"

"Yeah, Boss."

"Finally, no more addressing each other by titles or last names."

The silence that greeted his final rule made Gibbs smile for the first time since the bullets had started flying.

"Why, Boss?"

"Tim, in all likelihood, I’m going to die. You may as well. I think that forces us into a position of greater familiarity than we’d reached before. Got it?"

"Yes... J-Jethro."

"Good job, Tim."

"Does it sound as strange to you as it does to me?"

"Probably not. It is my name after all."

"Oh. Right."

Again, they lapsed into silence.

"So, Tim, do you know any poetry?" Gibbs asked. He cursed the fact that his voice sounded weaker.

"Sorry, what?"

"Where were you hit, Tim?"

"Nowhere too serious."


"I’m not sure how many times. It sure seemed like every bullet was hitting me, but I think they’re all flesh wounds. In fact, I hurt more from being tossed around than I do from the bullets." Tim paused and then asked, "What about you, Jethro?"

"Do you really want to know, Tim?"

"Yes. I want to know how long I can expect you to still be there."

"Two bullets. One is lodged in my shoulder and the other hit me in the side. I’m still bleeding. I’ve slowed it down, but I haven’t stopped it."

Tim’s voice trembled but had an air of forced calm about it as he said, "I see."

"So, do you know any poetry?"


The swift answer surprised him.

"You do?"

"My dad is a literature fanatic. Sarah and I had to memorize poetry as soon as we could talk in complete sentences."

"It’s nice to hear that some of the younger generation is getting a classic education still. Recite one."

"Any requests?"

"The poem you so obviously had going through your head right now."

"But, Bo- I mean, Jethro. It’s the first poem I ever learned. It’s silly."

"Tim, we are locked in a boat, heading toward our deaths. Silly doesn’t matter."

"Okay..." Tim took a deep breath and recited, "My beard grows to my toes./I never wears no clothes./I wraps my hair around my bear/And down the road I goes."

"Ah, Shel Silverstein."

"You know him?"

"He was Kelly’s favorite poet."

"Which one, Jethro?"

Gibbs cleared his throat and blinked away the tears. "Oh, the thumbsucker’s thumb is wrinkled and wet/And withered and white as the snow./But the taste of the thumb is the sweetest taste yet./As only we thumbsuckers know."

Tim laughed. "Dad made Sarah learn that one. Do you know ‘The Bells’?"

"What’s with you and Edgar Allen Poe, Tim?"

"I don’t know. He seems fitting. Do you know it?" The question was an obvious challenge. Only Tim would offer the memorization of a poem as a challenge.

"Of course. Do you?"

"Let’s find out. I’ll take the first stanza and you take the next. You game?"

"I’m game. Go ahead."

Tim took a deep breath and began,

Hear the sledges with the bells—
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!

The challenge took quite awhile because, in addition to the length of the poem, they kept messing up the words and the order, but finally after an unknown period, Gibbs was nearing the end of the final set of bells, his voice softer, his breathing more labored than it had been...

Keeping time, time, timeAs he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells—
Of the bells, bells, bells—

Suddenly, he heard the soft voice of Tim joining in for the last few lines. 

To the tolling of the bells— 
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

"Well done, Jethro," Tim said quietly. He could hear the change in Gibbs’ state, and it frightened him. "I don’t want you to die." 

The statement was so simple, so heartfelt that Gibbs felt tears in his eyes. 

"I don’t want to die, either, Tim." 

"Can you tell how much... time?" 

"I’ve lost a lot of blood. I’m feeling lightheaded. It won’t be long." 

"We failed." 

"No. We didn’t, Tim. We got them out. That was the aim." 

"We got them out, but we didn’t get them away. What if...?" 

"No ‘what ifs,’ no ‘maybes,’ no questioning what we did. Tim, those people were worth saving and we did that." 

"We were expendable. That’s why they picked us." 

"No. They picked us because we were the best ones for the task," Gibbs corrected, although breathing was getting harder and seemed less important. "No matter what comes of this, Tim. We succeeded. We won. We will have given our lives to save others. That’s the job, and I can’t think of a better way to go." 

"That’s..." Tim’s voice broke. "That’s why I joined NCIS." 

"I know. You and I are quite a bit alike, Tim." 

The weak laugh stopped him. 

"Shush. It’s getting harder to talk now. Let me finish. You are completely dedicated to your job. It is what defines you, more than anyone else. I know that Tony and I have been compared, and I was quite like him when I was younger... but you and I, now, are a lot alike in what we value, in what drives us. You want to know that this hasn’t happened in vain, that you and I haven’t died in vain. You haven’t. That’s what you still need to learn. If you’ve done your job. If you’ve done your best and succeeded, then nothing that happens after that is in vain. Got that, Tim?" 

"Yes, Jethro." The voice was choked with tears, quiet and brooding. "Are you chained?" 

"No. They knew I was a lost cause." 

"Could... could you make it over here?" 


"Because, I hate the idea of being alone in here, but I hate more the idea of not knowing if you’re alive or not." 

Gibbs considered his current level of energy and the possibility of getting across the room to wherever Tim was. He didn’t blame him for not wanting to live with the uncertainty. 

"Okay, I’ll try, Tim. Recite me some more poetry... so I can follow your voice." 

"Okay." Tim wracked his brain which had seemed to work less and less as Gibbs’ death drew nearer. Then, in a moment of terrible grief, his mind settled on one his father had made him memorize and then analyze. The words were seared into his brain; he couldn’t forget them. 

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring.
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red!
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Gibbs was startled by the choice, and he heard the grief in Tim’s voice as he recited the lines without any hesitancy. He slowly pulled himself across the floor, arms shaking with the effort, his whole body shaking as it neared death. By the time Gibbs found Tim, he had finished the first stanza and fallen silent. 

Gibbs settled himself against the wall, near Tim’s right hand. "You... might... as well... finish it... Tim..." he panted. 

"Jethro... I..." 

"Remember. I... chose... this life... for... myself. It’s not so bad." 

"I remember." 

"Good... also, There is no dead."

"What is that?"

"You’ll remember. ...Go... on... then..." Gibbs’ body sagged and he felt Tim’s hand trying to brace him up. When Tim resumed his recitation, his voice seemed to come from very far away.

O captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up! For you the flag is flung, for you the bugle trills:
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths, for you the shores a-crowding:
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning.
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won!
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

"Jethro? Jethro? Boss?" Tim’s hand frantically flung out against Gibbs’ now-motionless body. He felt desperately for a pulse. There was none. He could not move toward him; the chains were too short. He began to sob and then he shouted, "O Captain! My Captain!" 


"When did you find them?" Tony asked grimly. 

"About an hour ago. We tried to help, but the one that’s still alive wouldn’t let us. He just sat on the decking and mumbled. He’s alive, but I don’t think he’s all there. He came out of whatever dream he’s in long enough to identify himself as NCIS. That’s when we called you." 

Tony strode past the man and down into the bowels of the ship. He stepped inside and reeled, both at the smell and at the sight which greeted him. Gibbs and Tim had been missing for a week. The men and women they had gone undercover to rescue had reported their capture, but that had taken some time. It had taken even more time to figure out that they had been put on board a ship. Now, the scene in front of him moved him to tears, although he didn’t which part was worse: Gibbs, lying dead on the ground, a bloody trail marking the path he’d taken to the wall, or Tim, chained to the wall, eyes vacant and bloodshot, his right arm cradling Gibbs’ head. 

"McGee? Tim?" Tony reached out toward the chains, the key to the locks in his hand. "I’m going to let you go, now, okay?" 

Tim didn’t answer, but more tears spilled from his eyes. He whispered, "O Captain, my captain." Once Tony released him, he moved, with more agility than Tony would have thought him capable and pillowed Gibbs’ head in his lap. 

Tony’s decision on which one was more heartbreaking was made when he heard Tim recite a poem, his voice cracked and choked with tears.

Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.

"Tim, you’ve got to let him go. Come on." 

Tim looked up at Tony, finally acknowledging his presence. "He’s gone, Tony. He died." 

"Are you alright, McGee?" 

"I’ll survive," he said weakly. 

"Come on." Tony reached out a hand to pull him up. 

"No! I can’t leave him alone!" 

"He won’t be alone for long, Tim. I promise. We’ll get some people to take care of him. Okay?" He held out his hand again. Tim nodded reluctantly and then fell against Tony as he gained his feet for the first time in days. They reached the open air, and Tim began to sob again. He let go of Tony and fell against the railing. 

"What is it, McGee?" 

Again, Tim just recited the poem.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won!
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

He lifted his head into the sea wind. "He’s dead, Tony. He’s dead." 

Tony pulled Tim into a gentle hug. The wounds of this event would take a long time to heal... for all of them, but for Tim most of all. When he pulled back and would have gone on, he was surprised to see a smile, a smile swamped with sadness and grief, but a smile nonetheless. 

"What is it, Tim?" 

"I forgot something, Tony." 

"What’s that?" 

Tim turned his face toward the sun, the first he’d seen in days. He thought his heart might break for sorrow, but he swallowed his tears and said, 

Ever near us though unseen,

The dear immortal spirits tread,
And all the universe is life;
There is no dead. 

Gibbs was dead, but he was not gone.

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