Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 21

McGee centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 21: Christmas

"This is it?" Abby asked, eyes wide.

"That's it." Tim nodded.

Abby stood in front of her Christmas tree, a tall, wide spruce, boxes of ornaments next to it, starting at the one lone ornament in Tim's hand.

"You have one Christmas tree ornament?" She took it out of his hands and looked at it. It was an abstract spire of red and clear glass, with the price tag still on it. "And it's from this year."

"Yes. Got it on the way over."

"I thought the idea was we'd decorate the tree with our ornaments."

"And we will. They'll just mostly be yours. This is the first year I've ever bought one."

Abby seemed puzzled by this.  Of course, previous to this year what Tim might or might not have been doing for Christmas was pretty much entirely private. Sure there was It's A Wonderful Life and dinner at Gibbs' place, but beyond that, she'd never asked and he's never told.

"Don't you celebrate Christmas at all?"

Tim nodded. "I send out emails and presents. A Wonderful Life at MTAC. Open the presents I get Christmas morning. Call my mom, sister, and Penny around lunch. Christmas dinner at Gibbs'. But, no, I don't decorate or anything."

"No stockings by the hearth?"

"No hearth."

"No childhood ornaments?"

"I think my mom still has them."

Abby sighed. "I was kind of thinking the idea was decorate the tree, talk about Christmas memories, sharing stories that go with each ornament."

"I'll listen to your stories."

"None of your own?"

He shrugged. "How many variations of my dad was on a ship somewhere, and Santa never brought him home do you want to hear?"


"That was my childhood. Or how about during my teen years when he was home and we'd end up fighting because I wasn't turning into the perfect little sailor I was supposed to be? Or the massive, flaming, screaming argument the Christmas I turned down Annapolis and sent in my acceptance to Johns Hopkins?"

She stood behind him, wrapping her arms around him, and resting her head against his back. "I'm sorry."

She was still holding his ornament in the one hand, so he twined his fingers with the fingers of her free hand. "That's long past. But, no, I don't have any Christmas ornaments, and I don't have a lot of happy, warm, fuzzy Christmas memories."

She held him a little tighter.

He squeezed her hand. "So tell me about your Christmasses. You and Luca and stockings by the chimney with care."

Abby pulled back from him, ornament in hand, and laid it carefully on the table by the tree. "We'd always start with the lights. That's how Christmas began, the first Sunday of Advent, finding the box full of lights..." And while they wrapped the lights around the tree, Abby told him about midnight mass, Reveillion Dinner, Papa Noël, bonfires on the levees, and opening presents with her brother on Christmas morning while her parents sipped coffee with chicory.

Each ornament had a story. Tales of aunts, uncles, grand and great grandparents, many of which Abby had never personally met, made blown glass orbs come to life.

She talked about the family she no longer had, and here and there Tim remembered some of his own better memories and started to tell her about them: laying under the tree, looking up at the lights, eating candy canes with Sarah. The Christmas he was sixteen his dad was once again on a float, so their mom took them to the mountains, because they were stationed out of San Fran, and there's no snow in San Fran, so they were up in Northern California, in a cabin, watching the snow fall and drinking cocoa.

The tree looked pretty done to Tim, but his ornament was still lying on the table.

Abby looked it over, critically eyeing their work. "The last one is yours. Where does it go?"

One of the higher up branches appeared fairly empty, and it was near the ornament that had been Abby's favorite as a child, so he reached up and hung his there.

"It's like a family tree of memories. Not names or dates so much, but ideas, and bits of histories, and traditions." She says while wrapping an arm around him. He gazed down at her, brushing his palm against her cheek. "You belong on my tree, McGee."


She reached up to kiss him. "You don't have to thank people when you come home to them. Home's where you belong. And you belong here."

"Yeah, I do."

Midnight Mass isn't precisely something Tim's eagerly anticipating. Not the least because Tony was late with It's A Wonderful Life, so it's already 11:30, which means driving straight to St. Sebastian's on his own, instead of heading over to Abby's, hanging out for a bit, and then going together.

But Midnight Mass is part of what makes Christmas for Abby, so he's driving across DC, hoping that the place isn't so packed that he can't find parking.

The last time he went to church for anything that wasn't a wedding or funeral was six years ago, when Ziva was asking about how Christmas was celebrated, and they were telling her, and she asked, "Is there not some sort of worship service?" A quick survey of DiNozzo, Sciuto, and McGee rapidly found that yes, church was often involved, and given this particular group, that church would be Catholic.

So, that year, Abby, the only one of the group with a church she regularly attended, took them all to Mass, and they talked Ziva through the Christmas service. They ended up finding out that there are pretty large differences between Tim's Irish Catholic background versus Tony's New York Italian Catholic, and Abby's New Orleans Creole Catholic.

Then, later that evening, during dinner at Gibbs' they got him talking about growing up Lutheran in small town PA, which was an entirely different set of traditions. Followed by Ducky talking about a proper Presbyterian Christmas in Scotland.

The one thing they all agreed on was large quantities of food would be involved as well as some sort of evergreen and lights.

He pulls his car into a spot, luckily not too far from the church, and heads for the door. He's feeling horribly underdressed. Mass with the Admiral always meant wearing a suit, but Abby's promised him that he's fine in jeans, a jacket, and a nice button down.

"Sister Rosita says God doesn't care about what you're wearing," she had said, "just as long as you come." 

He sees Abby waiting by the door for him. She takes his hand, and begins to lead him in. She's heading toward a front aisle seat, and while he's got nothing against the front, he knows communion is going to be an issue if he's sitting near the aisle. So he steers them toward the far edge, where an entire pew full of people won't have to step over him to get to the Host.

They sit. "Why are we over here?"

"I don't take Communion, and this way no one has to trip over me to get to it."

She nods. He's guessing she's about to ask why he doesn't take communion, but the lights go down, the Priest comes forward, and suddenly they're in a softly glowing candle-lit chapel, filled with beautiful music.

It's true that Tim doesn't have a lot of use for church. He thinks that might even be true if weekly attendance hadn't been a sticking point for the Admiral. Hard science degrees at John Hopkins and MIT weren't exactly kind to religious faith, and his own need for logic and rules to explain what happens and how don't particularly mesh well with mysteries and taking things on faith. But he's also old enough and has seen enough to believe that grace, whether human or divine, does indeed exist.  So, these days, he considers himself a confirmed agnostic.

But it's also true that Tim understands the value of ritual, the need for magic, and the aesthetics of the sacred.  
And sitting next to Abby, singing the hymns, kneeling when kneeling is called for, in a room decked with sweet, cold smelling pine, lit by candles, and filled by people celebrating love and family, he certainly understands the beauty of this, and the desire for it.

After, Abby introduces him to her pet nuns. An immensely serene woman, Sister Rosita, clasps his hands, smiling, and says, "You're Abby's McGee! We've heard so much about you over the years. I hope we'll be seeing you again."

And while it's true this isn't something he would do on his own, he's feeling very sure this is something he will be doing again, so he says, "Yes, I think you will."

She left the Christmas tree lights on. So as they settle into bed, her room is lit by the glow of hundreds of tiny yellow-white lights.

He's on his side, spooned up against her, snug under warm blankets, feeling extremely content and peaceful. His right arm is under her neck, the left draped around her waist, hand clasped with hers, curled under her chin.

Abby kisses the tip of his index finger and asks, "So, why don't you take communion?"

He thinks about how to put that into words. Better yet, words that sound like something more intelligent than 'I don't want to be my father.' He kisses her shoulder, buying himself a few more seconds.

"Symbols should matter. If you're going to get up there and partake, it should be important. Maybe you don't have to literally believe that the bread and wine turn into the body and blood of Christ, but the idea behind that should matter to you. It should be important to who you are and how you understand the world. It shouldn't just be an exercise in going through approved motions to look like everyone else in the herd."

"And those symbols don't matter to you."

"No. Not for a long time, if ever."

"Then why go at all?"

"They matter to you. And going with you is another symbol, one I do believe in, that I'll be there for the things that are important for you."

He can't see her face, but he can feel her smile at that. She kisses his fingertips again.

"What symbols do matter to you?"

He has to think about that for a while. Sure, like any good role playing geek, he did design his own crest, with symbols that mattered to him, but that was back in junior high, and he's a somewhat different person now. Eventually he says, "My badge. The idea that I'm part of the line between order and chaos. That there's an agreed upon idea of how we'll interact with each other, and I'm part of what protects the people who follow the rules from those who don't. That I'm a gun or knife, an instrument of violence, but bound by honor, in the service of justice, for the protection of others. That matters to me.

"Words... They're the tool we use to try and expand the universe we know and see. How we share it with each other." 

She squeezes his hand. "They're good symbols, McGee."


He's dreaming of sixty-nining with Abby.  It's lazy and slow, and so so good. It's the kind of sex he can only have in dreams, the sort where he's completely focused on how good it feels, but still able to pay enough attention to what he's doing to keep her happy too.

He loves sixty-nine, but in real life it's an either or sort of thing. He can either pay enough attention to what he's doing to get her off, and miss a lot of what she's doing to him, or he can lay back and just enjoy it, which results in some less than coordinated tongue work on his part.

But in the dream, he's more or less swimming in sex. Her body is all around him, wet, fragrant, and beautiful. He can taste, see, feel, smell and hear sex. And it's perfect.

Sliding out of the dream takes a while. Probably because at least half of what he was dreaming about was happening, so he was having a hard time sorting out what was real and what was imaginary.

But eventually he figured out he was in bed, Abby sucking away on him, doing wonderfully erotic things with her tongue. He sighed and said, "Best possible way to wake up."

She let go of him, running her tongue up his dick in one long sweep, and said, "Merry Christmas," with a wide grin.

"Merry Christmas. Is this my present?"

"One of them."

"I like the way you do Christmas presents." She licked him again. "Flip around?"

She sits up so she's kneeling between his legs, shimmies out of the mistletoe bedecked boxer shorts she had slept in, keeping on the dark blue flannel pajama top she'd stolen from him, and flipped around to straddle his shoulders.

He sighs again when his lips make contact with her pussy. Regular sex happens kind of far away from the parts of him that he experiences most of the world through. Oral sex means that all of his sense organs are up close and involved in making love. Add in her going down on him at the same time, and it's full body, full brain, sex.

And it's also clear that this is going to be done a whole lot sooner for him than it is for her. She likes going down on him, enjoys it, but it doesn't turn her on the same way going down on her turns him on. She's just getting warmed up by the time she's got him on the edge of getting off.

So he relaxes back into it, letting it flow over him, licking and sucking because he enjoys it. Because the taste of her on his tongue, the sight of her pussy against him, and the smell drive him wild.

A few minutes later, when he's breathing normally again, he starts to work on her in earnest.  This time focusing on her isn't an issue, so he knows exactly where his tongue goes and how fast it should be going when it gets there. He adds his fingers to the mix, because stretch, slide, and pressure are always a good thing, too.

And when she's crying out on top of him, high-pitched breathy sounds of pleasure, he's thinking this is definitely the best Christmas morning of his life.

Abby's stirring the roux while he chops onions and talks to his mom on the phone. She just about shrieked with joy at the idea that he's spending Christmas with his girlfriend, cooking at her house, getting ready for the yearly dinner at Gibbs'. Likewise his sister and Penny took the news well. Sarah seemed especially amused by this, probably because she heard about Abby the first time they were dating, and has paid more than enough attention to Tim to notice that he's been sweet on Abby for years.

A bit later, while the aromatics brown, she calls Luca and tells him about Tim, which wasn't much of a big deal, and Kyle, which involved about a two hour long conversation. Among other things, she's going to be sending Luca a few swabs and some sterile packaging, so she can find out if the three of them are biological siblings, or just her and Kyle.

Meanwhile he's rolling little balls of cookie dough, getting them ready to bake for that night.

Tim doesn't remember exactly when the first Christmas Dinner at Gibbs' happened. He knows it was the year the first day of Chanukah and Christmas were the same day, but he's got no idea which year that was. Ziva was new enough that she hadn't had an American Christmas yet, but had been with them long enough to have gone from an outsider to family.

The first year, it was just the six of them.  And the tradition of doing it pot luck, each of them bringing something that meant "Christmas" to them was born. (Okay, Ziva brings Latkes, and now, in what is probably an ironic turn of events, it's not really Christmas for Tim until he's had a few Latkes.)

Tim makes cookies. Mostly because, while he's not a bad cook, he's also not a great one, and he can make a ton of really good cookies. They're just like chocolate chip cookies, but instead of chocolate chips he uses chopped up Andes mints. And, if they aren't anything that was part of any sort of traditional McGee Christmas, they're tasty, everyone likes them, and they travel well.

It's not Christmas for Abby without Jambalaya, so that's gently bubbling away on the stove.

Gibbs is always in charge of the turkey. It's his house, so he gets main course duty. (And often most of the side dishes.)

Tony usually brings mulled wine and cider. 

Ducky brings shortbread and the traditional Mallard Christmas Carrot and Coriander soup.

And for two years that's how it went. Then Jenny joined the dinner. And eventually the Franks clan joined in. Leyla and Amira still come. Fornell, some years with Emily, some years without, started attending four years ago.  Three years ago Palmer started to attend and last year he brought Breena. The year before last, Gibbs senior started to make it. This year LJ and DiNozzo Senior will be in attendance, as well.

It is, in all the best possible ways, a packed house.

Tim pulls up to Gibbs' place. Cars line the road and the driveway. He's not the last one there, but he's probably close. Heading from Abby's all the way across town back to his place (so he could pick up one of his own plates to put his cookies on, plus get some fresh clothing for today and another change for tomorrow) and then all the way back again to Gibbs', which is about fifteen minutes from Abby's, was annoying. He's thinking killing this whole stealth romance thing sooner rather than later is a very good plan. This weekend, definitely.

He walks in and notices one major change from previous years. This year, it looks like an entire grove's worth of mistletoe has been scattered about the place. Tim suspects that Senior had something to do with that. Not that he really needs an excuse to kiss the girls, but he probably likes it. Or maybe he's working on setting something up for Tony... The way he had looked when Ziva said she had never been to Tony's place certainly indicated he had plans for his son and Ms. David.

Tim's fairly sure that when Gibbs is in charge of decorating on his own there are just lights and a tree. But, like with the food, over the years the decor has changed, as well. Different members of the family coming over earlier and earlier to add to the atmosphere.

He knows Abby was here last week, adding her own touches to the place. He wonders idly if there's some special shop online that sells Goth oriented Christmas gear, because he frankly doesn't know where she got the little grim reaper in a Santa suit that she's got on Gibbs' mantle.*

It sounds like the party is in full swing, the buzz of many happy voices echoing out of the living room and kitchen. Tim threads his way through people, offering hellos and the occasional hug of greeting as he heads toward the kitchen. These days there are too many people for seated dinner, so it gets served buffet-style out of the kitchen, with everyone grabbing plates and nibbles.

Gibbs is carving the turkey in the kitchen, while Fornell stirs the gravy. Tim adds his plate of cookies to the piles of food on the table and says, "Anything I can do to help?"

"Green platter under the sink," Gibbs says, looking up and smiling a hello at him. Fornell sort of grunts something that could be taken to mean hello, or I'm still pissed you slept with my wife.

He grabs it, and takes the white one, now covered in turkey, putting that on the table and setting the green one next to Gibbs.

"Anything else?"

"Let everyone know food's on in five."

"I can do that." And he does.

He's leaning against the archway between the entry and the living room, talking with Ducky, feeling especially fine and mellow, (he's already had a few cups of Jackson Gibbs' addition to the menu: eggnog) when Abby walks by him.

"I think, Timothy, tradition must be served."

Tim gives him a questioning look, and Ducky points up at the mistletoe. It occurs to Tim that not only does Ducky know about the two of them, but he's had a few eggnogs as well.

His hand reaches out, fast, well before his brain got involved in the matter, and snagged Abby by the wrist, dragging her back a few steps.

"McGee?" He's still holding her wrist, his index finger gently stroking the skin just above her wrist cuff. He's thinking that a little playful wickedness is allowed at a Christmas party.  Not like he's going to take her upstairs for a quickie in Gibbs' bed.  Although... NO! NO! NONONONONO! Bad Tim, stop that! He'll headslap you with a brick if you do that. Plus you don't have a condom. Don't need one for oral. She's got those little red lace panties on under that plaid skirt, you could just—Really, stop that, she's staring at you, and you haven't answered her.

"Ducky thinks we have traditions to uphold."

Abby smiles at Ducky, and he beams back, a very mischievous glint in his eye.

Tim looks at Abby, a small smile on his lips, tilts his head a little and raises one eyebrow just a bit. She smiles at him, so he leans over and kisses her on the lips. It's just a kiss. Not making out or anything like that. He's not hugging her or anything. The only places they're touching are their lips and the hand he has on her wrist. It's just two sets of lips touching for a few seconds, and okay hers might have been slightly open, and it's possible that his tongue might have snuck out and given her a very fast lick, but still, there was nothing obscene about it. Long enough to appreciate the contact, not so long as to cause talk. And then he pulls back, lets go of her wrist, and continues talking to Ducky as she went on her way, both of them acting like this was entirely normal.

A second later Tony's standing right next to him. "Woah, McHotlips! What the hell was that?"

He grins at Tony, enjoying this way too much. "Mistletoe, and if you don't want to get kissed, you should take a step back."

Tony takes a giant step back. "That wasn't just a friendly peck on the cheek. You got Ziva earlier tonight and Breena, too, and there was no lip on lip action."

Tim smirks. Yeah, this is way too much fun. Push him further? Oh yeah. "Got a somewhat different history with Abby." Tony's just staring at him, looking like he's not buying this. So Tim calls out, "Hey, Abby."

"McGee?" She looks over at him from talking to Amira and Emily. Gibbs had made Amira a chess set, and she's showing the girls how to play.

"I ever kiss you before?"

She laughs. "Yeah, couple of times." And goes back to talking to the girls like nothing just happened.

Tim gives Tony a happy and satisfied look. Tony continues to stare at him, and then says, "What's gotten into you?"

Tim looks at the cup in his hand. "About three of these eggnogs. I think I've figured out the Gibbs family secret ingredient. Bourbon to go with the rum."

"Bite your tongue, boy," Jackson says, joining them. "It's whiskey and nothing but!"

"Yes, sir." Tim nods. "And it's delicious."

"As well it should be. But even if it wasn't, anything that gets you kissing pretty girls is worth drinking!"

"Indeed!" Ducky says, and the two of them begin talking about their younger years of lying in wait at Christmas parties, hunting the pretty girls. DiNozzo Senior wandered over, and from there the conversation got fairly bawdy, which Tim was actually enjoying, but mortified Tony, who scuttled away at the first opportunity.

He's lying in Abby's bed again. This time on his back while she cuddles against his side, her head on his shoulder. His fingers are idly petting her hair, and she's gently stroking his chest.

"Good Christmas?" she asks.

"Yeah, that really was." He takes her hand in his, slipping his fingers between hers, watching the way they fit together. "How about on Friday, after work, I tell Gibbs about us, and then we take this full on public?"

"I'd like that. It'd be nice to show up at a party with you, leave with you, and really kiss you while we're there."

"Yeah, it would." He smiles and kisses the back of her hand. "Friday then?"



*For some reason, Tim hasn't actually read Hogfather. Why, I don't know, but somehow, he just hasn't. Perhaps one day Abby will take him in hand and remedy this frankly perplexing lack in his geek cred. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

38 Weeks: The Thirty-Third Week

A/N: Burn Notice romantic fluff with a side of angst. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Week thirty-three:

Michael came home from the grocery store and found Fi rocking against the exercise ball.

"Hurting again?"

"Yeah. This helps some, but what I really need is about three extra vertabrae. I just need some more room for this kid to spread out."

"Well, how about you hop into your bathing suit and we hit the hot tub?"

"Michael, it's 110 degrees out there. The last thing I want to do is take my overheated body, go outside into the blazing heat, and then soak in water that's even hotter than that on top of it. I've got the AC set at 55, a frozen drink next to me, and I'm still sweating."

"I thought you might say that, so I got you a surprise."


Michael lifted a bag of ice out of one of the grocery bags. "I've got four bags of ice here. Get in your suit, give me about ten minutes, and I should have a nice, cool hot tub for you."

Fi smiled. Full body immersion ice water sounded really good. "That's perfect."

Five minutes later, Michael had dumped the ice into the tub, put a few candles around it, lit them, and was waiting for Fi.

Five more minutes later, and she still wasn't out.

Five minutes after that, and he decided to go in and see what was going on.

"Fi?" He headed toward their bedroom. "You okay?"

She was sitting on the side of the bed, in her bathrobe, glaring at her bathing suit.

"It doesn't fit."

"The wall is high. I'll kill the lights, and you can go in naked. No one will see."

"You'll see."

"I've seen you naked, Fi." He shucks off his bathing suit. "I'll go in naked, too."

"What if I don't want you to see?"

"Why wouldn't you want me to see you?" Michael looks honestly perplexed by this, which seems to lift Fi's spirits, a little.

But not enough. "Because I'm fat and puffy and saggy."

Michael stands in front of her, taking her hands in his. "Stop that." He tugs gently until she's standing, and then turns them around so he's sitting on the bed, and she's standing between his legs.

"Do you know what I see when I look at you?" he asks as he skims his hands over her shoulders, under the robe, slipping it off of her.

Fi looks down at herself. "Flab, grotesque ankles, and ugly blue veins?"

"No. I see my woman," he touches her wedding ring, "and my child," and his fingers caress her stomach, "and I see how you got this way. And, since I don't know exactly which time did it, I remember a week of the best sex of my life. I see you on top of me, your head back, hair wild, breasts jiggling with each thrust. And I see you right after that, when you dropped to your hands, so your hair fell around us and all I could see was your face, and your eyes staring into mine. I see you under me, legs around my waist, and I hear the incredibly sexy things you were saying to me while we rocked together. I remember us on our sides, facing each other, and your back to me. I remember you on your hands and knees in front of me. I certainly remember you handcuffing me to the bedpost for the longest forty minutes of my life, while you blew my mind—"

She's smiling now. "Michael, that wasn't your mind I was blowing, and of all the things we did that week, that's one of the few I'm certain didn't get me pregnant."

He shrugs, grinning. "Still a good memory. And I do see it when I look at your mouth." His fingers ghost along her lips.  "I remember putting you on the tiny counter in the kitchenette and returning the favor. And, yes, I know that didn't get you pregnant, either. But all of those memories are still in my head, every time I see you.

"So, I don't see flab. I see luscious, soft," he traces over her tummy and hips, "curves. And I couldn't care less about blue veins," he leans forward to softly kiss each breast, "because I love the way these jiggle each time you move, and how sensitive they are now, and how I can drive you crazy by petting them," his hands cup her bottom, "and if your ankles are less than perfect, I'd have no idea, because I haven't looked below your ass in a very long time. It's round and soft and fits perfectly in my hands and snugs against me when we're spooning, so that when you lift your leg over mine, and we find that angle where I can just slide in and set both of us off, I get to slip through a warm and soft embrace and that feels ridiculously good. So, it attracts my attention." He takes her face in both hands, and kisses her deeply. "How about we go get into our now nice and cold hot tub and make some more memories?"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 20

McGee centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

20. Laser Tag Date Night

"You look chipper, McGee."

"Thank you, Tony."

"So, what is it that has you in such a good mood this morning?"

The one thing Tim absolutely wasn't going to say was the truth: any day that started with sex was likely to see him in a very good mood. And any Friday that looked like it was going to end with him at Abby's for the weekend was even better.

"I'm just having a good day. Toast came out perfect. No traffic. As of this point, no one is dead."

"Uh huh... Your good mood wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that you weren't home three times this month."

"What, are you having me followed?"

"I... wait... no... Stick to the script, McLiar, we're talking about your mysterious disappearances."

"Tony, I do have a life beyond entertaining you."

"No you don't. You were home every night I came over for five years in a row. Suddenly you're gone. What's happening?"

"I have not been home every time you've come over."

"Yes, you have. Every night, for five years. Best I can tell, you never go out. Suddenly, a month ago, you start going out. What's up?"

"Really?" Tim thinks about that and comes to the distressing conclusion that Tony may indeed be right about that. Not that Tim never goes out, but if he is going out it's usually during the day over the weekend, and Tony usually drops by on weeknights. It's entirely possible that he has been home every single time Tony's come over in the last half-decade.

"Really. So, what gives?"

"You don't want to know."

"Yes I do! Is it a girl? Your mystery wedding woman?" Tony looks very excited at this prospect.

"No, Tony, it's not a girl." Tim stalls, thinking of a good lie.

"Then what is it that has you away from home?"

"Seriously, Tony, you don't want to know."

"God, McGee, you're killing me. What is it?"

"Table top role playing. I've been hanging out with a few guys, playing old school D&D."

Tony looks disappointed. "You're right; I didn't want to know that." Then he thinks about it for a moment. "Is it fun?"

"Yeah. I like it."

"Could I come?"

Tim looks at Tony with horror, simultaneously dealing with the fact that now he needed yet another lie, and that Tony might be bored and lonely enough to want to play D&D.

He touches Tony's forehead. "You don't have a fever. Who are you, and what have you done with Tony?"

"Look, the Call of Duty stuff was actually pretty fun. So, maybe it's not impossible that the other stuff you like might be fun, too."

"Unfortunately for you, Tony, the reason I'm in such a good mood today is because we wrapped up our campaign last night. And you're right, it was a lot of fun. But it's done now."

"Oh. Wanna get some pizza tonight?"

No, not really. I want to go to Abby's and have dinner with her. "How about we all go out? Bring Ziva, Abby, and the Palmers along. Let's not end up with any unhappy co-workers. Hell, if you want to try something fun, let's do Laser Tag. We'll put Ziva on one team, and the rest of us on the other, and she'll still probably win, but it'll be fun."

"McGee, we're cops. We run around with people shooting at us in real life. Why would we want to do a fake version of it?"

"It's a lot more fun when no one is shooting bullets."

"How about it, Jimmy? Pizza, beer, laser tag? Show off our manly fighting prowess for the girls?" Tim's asking, and Tony is standing next to him, looking like he's vastly too cool for this and trying to figure out how the hell he ended up involved in it.

"You mean get our collected asses kicked by Ziva," Tony adds.

"That, too."

Palmer grabs his phone and fires off a text. A minute later he gets one back. "We're in."

Tim grabs his phone and texts the address of the pizza place and the laser tag building to Palmer. "Eight at Del's?"

"We'll be there. Need anything special for laser tag?"

"Wear sneakers. Make sure Breena's got something to tie her hair back with."

"We can do that."

Ducky comes into view. "And what has you three conspiring?"

"Run Ducky, run. They're getting their geek claws into me, and if you stick around, they'll get you, too!" Tony says with a laugh.

"Just making dinner plans. Pizza, beer, laser tag. You're welcome to come if you like." Tim says.

"Alas, Timothy, I already have plans for tonight, but thank you for the invitation. Perhaps another time?"

"Anytime you want to come."

Tim nodded, and he and Tony headed back up to their desks. As the door to autopsy was closing he heard Ducky say to Palmer, "Mr. Palmer, what, pray tell, is laser tag?"

For once, he was home before seven. A Friday where work ended up early, traffic didn't kick his ass, and he had good things planned.

Okay, so dinner with everyone wasn't precisely what he'd been hoping for. He'd really been looking forward to heading to Abby's, but still, this worked, too.

And once again, he's carpooling with Ziva. This time he's waiting for her to pick him up.

He changes into a t-shirt, slipping on his sneakers. Not that he looks all that different from his usual work self, it's a tidy looking t-shirt, but if he's going to be running around, jumping about, ducking, weaving, and shooting, he might as well wear something really comfy.

He tosses a jacket on top, and is ready to go.

His phone buzzes, a text from Ziva letting him know she was waiting. Down in a sec. He flashes back.

Time to go play.

It's been a while since he played. It's just not all that much fun without the right group of people, and the group he used to play with kept getting married and having kids and next thing he knew six months could go by without a game.

So he wasn't entirely expecting to be recognized when he went in, but he was.

"Hey, Tim!" Seth Allane owned the place, and the two of them had been friendly. "It's been a while, where you've been man?"

"Just busy, Seth. These are my friends; we were hoping to play."

"Sure. Ten is open. They know how to do this, or should we do the safety routine?"

"I think I can get them through it just fine."

"Great." Seth hands them a bunch of clipboards. Usually he's required to go through the for-your-safety regulations and whatnot, but he knows Tim knows what he's doing, so he'll give him some leeway. "You know the drill, fill 'em out, grab your vests and guns, and out you go."

"Sounds good."

"I can't believe I agreed to this," DiNozzo says as he tugs on the vest.

"Just go with it, Tony. If you can get over what you think you look like, you'll have a lot of fun," Tim says, tightening his own vest. He turns to the girls. "Need any help?"

Palmer is already helping Breena with the top straps. Not that she needs it, but he's enjoying the touch. He kisses the back of her neck gently while he snugs the velcro into place.

Ziva grins, wide and happy. "Sure, McGee." She turns her back to him, and he does a competent job of getting her strapped in.


"I'm good." She was already in her own vest, and was playing with her gun.

Palmer and Tony looked ready, too.

"Okay, this is pretty easy." Tim picked up the gun. "Hold the gun like so." One hand under the stock, one on the trigger. "Point." He leveled it at Palmer's chest. "Pull the trigger." And one of the five lights on Palmer's vest lit up. "All five light up, and you're dead. When you're dead your gun won't work. You just sit where you fell until the game is over and we reset." Tim pointed to a switch on the panel in the middle of the vest. "Okay, see, there are four settings here, so we can set up teams, or play one on one on one on... You get the idea."

"Ohhh boys versus girls!" Breena chirped, looking vastly more excited by this idea that Tim thought was warranted.

"Fine. Guys put yours on 1. Girls on 2. That way you can't shoot your own teammates. There's a switch on the side of the gun that does the same thing. Get it set. It'll be dark and loud and smokey with flashing lights in there, so you might be a little disoriented at first."

"It'll be a rave. No problem."

"A rave where you shoot people, Abby," Tim added.

She grinned at him. "Who says that's something new?"

"Come on, let's go!" Breena said.

"One more thing," Tim said, "we get in there and the clock will count down from ten. Once it hits zero, it's go time."

"Great, let's go!" Breena was more or less dragging Palmer toward the door, eager to get playing.

The girls were killing them. After the fun with her lab assistant, Gibbs made sure Abby was rated with every gun he was. Apparently Breena's father was under the impression that good daddies take their daughters hunting, and that girl can shoot. And then there's Ziva, who in addition to being deadly with a spoon, let alone any form of firearm, has some of the best tactical training, especially for situations like this, that a person can get.

The three guys are pinned behind a large rectangle of foam. Smoke, flashing lights, and a pounding soundtrack add to the confusion.

"What I wouldn't give for Gibbs right now. He'd be up there." Tim points to a catwalk over them. "Somehow invisible, and picking off the girls."

Palmer looks up at the ceiling. "I've got an idea. I'm going to run out there like a maniac."

"This is different from your five other plans how?"

"Shut it, Tony, and listen. Look, I know I can't shoot for shit. I'll stay on this side, weaving, dodging, flinging shots left and right. That'll bring Ziva out of hiding, because she's their best distance shooter. While I'm running, Tim, head right. Tony, go left. Keep an eye on the far side. Ziva will pop out, and you guys light her up.

"Once she's out, I think you two can take Abby and Breena."

Tim nods. "That's not a bad plan."

Tony thinks about it and begins edging to the left. "Ready when you are."

With a deep, full throated-yell, Palmer went running out from cover. Weaving, dodging, shooting anything and everything, hell, he even executed a decent roll at one point.

"When did Palmer turn into Rambo?" Tony asked as he skittered to the next cover.

"Doesn't matter, he's flushed out Ziva. Shoot, Tony, shoot!" Tim yelled back.

"I hate to say it, but that was fun," Tony said as they relaxed over beer after.

"Yes, it was. I am surprised how much fun that is when they do not shoot real bullets." Ziva said, leaning back in her seat.

"I can't believe you can shoot like that," Breena said to Ziva. "How did you learn that?"

"That is a long story, and it's late." It was getting onto two. "Maybe next time?"

"Yeah. I want to hear that story," Palmer said. "How about we do this again the weekend after next?"

"I'd like that," Tim replied, fishing in his pocket for his wallet to cover his portion of the bill. "Ziva, you ready?"

"Sure. See you on Monday."

When they got into Ziva's car she asked, "Are you going home?"

"Yeah, she's heading back to my place after this."

"How much longer will you be hiding?"

"Not long, a week or two at most. Just waiting for the Diane debacle to die down."

"What actually happened? She had told me she wanted to do something exciting, stupid, and reckless, and then would not tell me if she had succeeded."

Tim shakes his head. "She wanted reassurance, and I was the closest male around. Maybe it was a good thing she was at my place. I'm pretty certain I'm the only one of the guys who would have only slept next to her."


"What does Tony do when a beautiful woman cries on him and wants to be told she's beautiful?"

Ziva nods. The likelihood of Tony refusing in a situation like that was more or less non-existent.

"And obviously Gibbs and Fornell found her attractive enough to marry. And the way they were trying to keep her out of their homes made me think both of them knew it'd end up in bed, and that would be a very bad thing."

Ziva nods at that.

"I wish she had gone to your house instead."

"I think he was testing you."


"You asked if I thought he knew about you and Abby, and I think he does. After your 'I had sex' morning, he knew. I think he was testing you. Because there is no reason why he shouldn't have sent her home with me. That's standard operating procedure. Females in protection only go to a male agent's home if there are no other options."

"So, did I pass or fail?"

"Passed?" Ziva shrugs. "He does not appear angry at you, mostly amused, so maybe it wasn't a train wreck."

"Fornell wants to kill me."

"Fornell looks at you like a puppy who had the gall to pee in his territory. Gibbs knows you're an adult and Diane isn't his."

"Small graces."

"So, the story about you and her and the blindfold, handcuffs, strawberry oil, and melted candles..."

Tim groans, rubbing his forehead. "Ugh. That strawberry goo is just nasty."

Ziva's looking at him like she found that comment to be very strange, and it occurs to him that for most people the strawberry oil would be the least objectionable thing on that list.

He smiles a little at her, and sees her look him up and down for a moment, like she's seeing him in a different light. So he says, quickly, "Anyway, Abby made that one up. Actually, any of the ones that don't go like this: Gibbs picked my lock, walked in, stared at us, Fornell showed up, started cursing, and then we woke up, completely dressed, and I nearly wet my pants because he was going to kill me, Abby made up."

"So, she was not worried about what might have happened?"

"No. She trusts me."

Ziva shakes her head. "Marry that girl, McGee. You are never going to do better."

"I know."


Monday, February 25, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 18

McGee centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

18. Asexual Teddy Bears and Diane

And then things went massively wrong. He was happily sitting in the lab, next to Abby, watching the train wreck happen, and then he was in the middle of it. 

The absolute last person he wants in his home is Gibbs' and Fornell's ex. Okay, maybe not the absolute last, if it's a question of say, Diane or his father, Diane wins hands down, but still, she's way, way down on his list.

She's bossy as all get out, which isn't something Tim really likes in a woman, hell, in people, because generally if you tell him to do something, he'll go do it. He likes making people happy, and being stuck in a room with a very unhappy person, who's also very scared and ultra-bossy is just not his idea of fun.

But, she said listen, so he listened. She wanted a shoulder to cry on, so his got cried on.

And, categorized under the heading of "no good deed goes unpunished," he got to wake up to the two scariest human beings he's ever known glaring down at him, with the single bossiest woman he's ever met, in his arms.

Not his finest hour.

Then he got to work, after Fornell made it pretty clear that if he was ever alone with Tim again, he was going to shoot him, and God, the stories... Seriously, does no one at NCIS have anything better to do than speculate on his love life? And why on earth does everyone assume he's the submissive one? He's not always, or even usually, the submissive one. Not to say being the submissive is a problem, it's not; he's had a lot of fun submitting. But still, if you think he'd end up tied up with Diane, you haven't studied how that kink works. Most dominant people in real life prefer the submissive role when it comes to sex. Really, who on Earth would think that Diane was attracted to Gibbs or Fornell because she likes men she can dominate?

And why does everyone always assume he's into kink? Okay, not that, under the right circumstance, and here he's thinking of with Abby, he'd mind being tied up, gagged with a stocking, though, really, stockings are ridiculously bad for that sort of thing, they're so stretchy it's hard to tie them properly, and if you do get one tied, it's impossible to untie one, you have to cut it...and... okay... probably better to stop thinking about doing that with Abby before he ended up embarrassing himself.

Palmer pulls him aside a few hours later and thwacks him, not very gently, upside the back of the head. "You know, one of the best techniques for maintaining a long-term relationship is not sleeping with other women!"

"I did not sleep with... Okay, I slept, but nothing else happened."

He thinks Palmer believes him and was just teasing earlier. But right now it's hard to tell because the expression on Palmer's face is very serious. "Doesn't matter. It's not about sex, well, it is, but it's not just about sex. Most women I know don't appreciate it when you spend the night lying next to another person, pressed up against them, listening to their stories. Hours of horizontal touch are for you as a couple, and no one else."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Sooo... how are things going with Abby? Breena gave me an update after the reception. Apparently you two were absolutely darling dancing in the hallway."

"Either they're going fine, or I just completely destroyed them. I'll get to find out in a few hours when I can get into the lab on my own."

"Well, let me know. You doing anything for lunch tomorrow?"

"Don't think so."

"Good, you, Abby, and I will get something."

"Assuming she's talking to me, that sounds good."

Better to seek forgiveness than ask permission. That's repeating over and over in his mind as he trudges his way to Abby's lab. She had been teasing him about having the Ex-Mrs.Gibbs-Fornell in his home, and couldn't wait to find out what gossip he had. But that was last night, and this morning...

"McGee." She doesn't sound particularly pissed at him, but it's possible she hasn't heard yet.

"I am so, so, so sorry." He stops a few feet away from her, and she doesn't step in to him. Could be this is about maintaining a decent distance, which is something they try to do at work. Or she could be about to eviscerate him.

She grins at him, and he's on the verge of relaxing, but part of him thinks this might be the trap about to snap down and break his leg in two. "What are you sorry about?"

"Sleeping next to Diane."

"Diane? Huh. You're on a first name basis now? I suppose that happens when you sleep with someone."

Spoiiing, snap, yes, he was in the trap. He felt nauseous. "I am so sorry."

"You told everyone else you just slept."

"We did just sleep. She wanted to talk about her marriage, she cried on me some, and then we fell asleep."

"Then why are you apologizing?"

"Errr..." That left McGee completely flatfooted. "I'm supposed to?"

"McGee," and finally she stepped up to him, close but not touching, "you're a teddy bear. You're soft and warm and cuddly. You're a good listener. I am not in any way surprised that a sad woman, who is clearly still in love with Gibbs, and maybe her husband, a little at least, and possibly Fornell, would want to spend a night hugging you."

"Thank you."

"Besides, if you want to keep us quiet, I can't think of anything likely to cause more talk than you sleeping with Diane."

"I was in Autopsy... God... The stories..."

"I started five of them." She beams at him.

He looked startled. "Why would you do that?"

"It was fun." She smiled brilliantly. "The stories everyone else was making up were just so blah... You woke up on the sofa with Diane, completely dressed. Like you'd be on the sofa or dressed if you two had been at it!"

Good memories.
"We've done it on the sofa," he says, a knowing look on his face and some very good memories in mind.

"Yeah, but we certainly weren't dressed after, were we?"

"Good point."

"Just because the ex-Mrs. Gibbs-Fornell... Gorbell? Fibbs?... looks at you like a big, warm, asexual teddy-bear, doesn't mean I do. And I will never, ever be mad at you for comforting a hurting person."

Tim took a half-step closer to her, leaning his back against her desk so he could see the doorway. From there he takes her hand in his, and whispers in her ear, "So, how do you see me?"

She kissed him, quickly, you never know when someone, like, say, Gibbs, will manage to get into the lab without making a sound. "You are big and warm and cuddly. But you definitely aren't asexual." Her free hand gently ghosted along the front of his trousers and he closed his eyes and sighed. "You're the ex-Wilderness Scout who's forgotten more about knot tying than I've ever known. And you're the guy who is never scared to play games. You, McGee, are a whole lot of fun." He smiles at that. "And it's Diane's loss that she'll never get to find that out."



"How would you feel about not keeping this quiet anymore? I think we've tortured Tony enough with my mystery woman."

"Rule number twelve be damned?"


She thinks about it for a while. "I'd like that. But not right this second. Maybe wait a little while for the scuttlebutt on you and Diane to die down."

"I can do that. Jimmy wants to have lunch with us tomorrow."

"As long as no one else gets killed or kidnapped I think that can be arranged."

19. Lunch With The Palmers

On Saturday they met the Palmers for lunch.

"So, does this count as your first real date?" Breena asked after they ordered.

Tim looks at Abby, feeling a little perplexed at the question. It occurs to him that he's not even sure what would constitute a 'real date.'

Breena smiles. "You know, first time out in public as a couple?"

"Nah. Anyone who saw us in that diner knew we were a couple." The hour or so they spent talking and making out wasn't what anyone would call subtle. "But this is our first time out with someone else as a couple."

"Well, congratulations anyway. And thank you for taking Jimmy into your confidence."

Tim's amused that Breena would thank him for that, but it pleases him as well. This whole trust thing has some nice side effects. One of which was being at a decent restaurant with Jimmy and Breena, getting to know Palmer's bride.

Tim can see why Jimmy loves her. She's warm, friendly, beautiful, and as the four of them get talking shop, smart as a whip. In some ways she puts him in mind of Abby. They have similar joyful personalities if very different aesthetics.

At one point, when the girls excused themselves, Tim said to Jimmy, "We are insanely lucky men."

Jimmy smiled and nodded. "Trust me, I know it. So, the rest of the world going to learn about your luck anytime soon?"

"Yeah, I think so. I'll let you know when it's not a secret anymore."

"Good. What do you think Gibbs is going to do?"

"I think he'll be fine with it. He might already know, but Ziva's not sure about that."

"Ziva knows?"

"She caught us at the wedding."

"Not that hard to do. Take a hint from someone who's done this a few times, don't wear cologne if you're planning on a secret quickie upstairs. Actually, for as long as you want to keep this a secret and can't keep your hands off her, skip your cologne."


"Yeah, she hugged me and Breena right after her toast. And you were busted!" Jimmy beams at Tim as he said that, enjoying this way too much.

Tim gives Palmer a somewhat guilty smile and shrugs. "It was fun."

"I'll bet. Anyway, Ducky danced with her right after that and noticed, too. He asked me, and I didn't say anything, and then the thing with Diane happened, and he was really pissed at the idea that you might have been fooling around on Abby, so I let him in on what was going on."

"He didn't let on that he knows, at all."

"He's good at that. Think about it, he's known Gibbs forever, and do you know anything about Gibbs from before you started at NCIS?"

"Only the bits I could get out of Tony."

"Exactly. You want someone who will take a secret to the grave, go to Ducky."

"Hey, what are you two gossiping about?" Breena asks as the girls come back.

"The excellent secret keeping skills of one Dr. Donald Mallard," Jimmy says with a smile and then proceeded to fill the girls in on the increasingly less secret nature of Tim and Abby's affair.