McGee centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Head here.
Chapter 10. Almost Disturbingly Well-Adjusted
Things begin to shift when Wolf shows up. Tim's hopeful that maybe Abby might start talking to Wolf, because, from what he can see she's not talking to anyone. And she needs to talk to someone.
Which isn't to say that Tim, personally, wants to talk to Wolf.
He's in the conference room with someone who calls him "The Pensive Academic" and wants see how he's coping since the bombing. It's not exactly Tim's idea of comfortable, let alone fun.
He's getting ready to fill the hour with generalities when something occurs to him, Wolf might be useful for getting more advice about being in a good place for a relationship. Since actually moving forward on the relationship issue is currently stalled out, he's been doing all he can to try and be ready for a relationship, when the time is right to start moving forward. Maybe Wolf can help with that.
"This conversation is confidential, right?"
"Right. Nothing you say leaves this room. In fact, I barely keep notes, just a few lines to let myself know what is going on, like Dr. Cranston's 'Tribal Names.'"
"Hmmm..." Couldn't hurt to bounce this off someone who studies humans and how they interact for a living. "Well, then... I was frantically downloading the contents of my computer because, apparently, I'm a moron. I could have picked it up and carried it out of the building faster than putting it on a thumb drive." Wolf looks like he's about to say something, and Tim shakes his head, letting him know this is just backstory. "Then I was picking myself up off the ground, looking around at the destruction and thinking how amazing it was that I was alive, and apparently unhurt.
"It was kind of funny actually, I was thinking about how my neck was sore, like I might have pulled it when I fell. And how Tony and Ziva were going to tease me about how I got blown up, and all I ended up with was a sore neck. And then Gibbs was there, and we were talking, and then he was looking really worried, which scared me, because Gibbs is never worried. I looked down saw the glass, looked back up at Gibbs, and he had sort of cupped my face in his hand, and put his other arm around my shoulders, like a hug. It was really tender and gentle, and I almost wet my pants at that point because... well... Gibbs hugging me... If you're a guy and Gibbs is hugging you, you're about to die, so yeah, scared.
"He got me down on the floor and ran off for help, and I decided it was time to stop coasting through life. Time to start moving toward the things I really wanted."
"And what do you really want?" Wolf asks.
"Abby. A family. Are you married?"
Wolf held up his left hand, a gold band was on his forth finger. "For a little over a year now."
"You like it?"
"Yes. I do."
"How did you know you were ready for it?"
Wolf seems to think about that. Tim gets the idea that he rarely gets asked questions like this. Romantic advice probably isn't something that comes up too much being a crisis counselor for NCIS.
"I woke up next to Lisa one morning, and I realized I never wanted to wake up in a bed that didn't have her in it."
Tim nods. "Is that how you knew you were ready to get married, or ready to be with her?"
"They aren't the same thing?" Wolf seems genuinely intrigued with where Tim is taking this.
"My parents are divorced. Gibbs has been divorced three times. Tony's longest lasting relationship is with Ziva, and I think the reason that's true is because they won't let themselves be in love. I'm sure Ducky has half a dozen grand romances, but he's alone now. I don't have a lot of role models who have managed the whole married thing. Everyone I know has been in love, even Tony, but keeping it going seems to be an entirely different thing. Palmer tells me finding the right person is the key ingredient, but I'm worried it might not be. I'm trying to make sure that I'm in a good place to do the forever thing. It seems like forever takes more than just I-love-you and I don't want to mess this up."
"And have you drawn any conclusions from watching the people around you?"
"Almost. I'm thinking you can either be married to your work, or married to your spouse, but not both, because both doesn't work. But Vance is married, and happily from everything anyone can tell, and he's here all the time, too. Plus, even if being married to your job in general is a bad thing, Abby works here as well, so when I'm here, I'm near her. When I'm not in the field, I spend about half my time working in her lab. I reliably see her five days a week, for at least an hour or two a day, and we eat dinner together a few days a week on top of that."
"So, why haven't you two ever..."
"We did. When we first met. It didn't end badly or anything. We never formally broke up. Of course we were never formally dating, either."
"So, basically, one day you stopped having sex, and pretty much everything else about your relationship stayed the same."
"We didn't spend as much time together in the beginning. Though we spend more time together now than we did then. And we're much better friends now. Know each other way better now."
"But you did stop having sex?"
"Yeah. Nine years ago."
"Any relationships since then?"
"Nothing I'd call a relationship. A few catastrophes. A disaster. The inspiration for a horror story I wrote a while back. A few hopeful false starts that crashed and burned like the Hindenburg. These days, when a woman is interested in me, she's more likely to be a suspect in a murder we haven't found yet, a spy for a different government, Tony, or some other mess just waiting to happen."
Wolf ponders that for a moment, and Tim can see either of the two directions he's going to take this. Is he sabotaging his relationships so nothing lives up to Abby, or is he fixating on Abby as the only relationship in recent memory that wasn't a disaster?
"Are you sure you aren't clinging to the idea of Abby as a safe haven?" Choice number two.
Tim thinks about that for a long time. "That's not impossible. But she was the first thing I thought of when I realized I was hurt. She was the one who drove me home from the hospital, and held my hand that night, and when Palmer got engaged, and when other people have talked to me about love, or being in love, she's always the one who comes to mind. We didn't get to go to Palmer's wedding, and he hasn't gotten around to the party, yet, but even before all this, I had planned to get a few dances in with Abby."
Wolf seems to think this makes sense. "So, what have you been doing about this?"
"Nothing romantic. I spend more time with her. But she's hurting, badly, and the last thing she needs is me putting the moves on her. I can wait until she's feeling better."
"You'll think she'll get better?"
"Yeah. It's part of who she is. Kate died. Jenny died. Franks died. The world turns upside down, and we lose people we love. She takes a while to deal with it, cries on Gibbs' shoulder, and eventually comes through it. But, I'm hoping this is the last time Gibbs is the one she cries on."
"Are you jealous of Gibbs' relationship with Abby?"
"No. He might as well be her dad. And she might as well be Kelly." Wolf doesn't appear to know who that is. "Gibbs did have one good marriage. But his first wife and daughter were killed. Kelly was his little girl. Abby was very close to her father, and he died when she was sixteen. She and Gibbs found each other. He needs to be a dad. She needs a dad. So they just work. No, I'm not jealous, just hoping that the next time we have to mourn someone, that I'll be her number one man."
Wolf watches him for a while. "Tim, I think you're going to do just fine."
"Thanks. I can't say getting blown-up was fun, but I think it's been useful."
"How about professionally? Did getting blown up do anything about that?"
"Not really. I'm where I want to be, doing what I want, with people I love. A few months ago, Vance offered me head of Cyber-Crimes in Okinawa, and I turned him down. Gibbs will hit mandatory retirement age in a few years, and we'll have to break up then, but for right now, holding onto what we've got makes a lot of sense."
"You're willing to give up career advancement to stay with the people you love?"
"Yes. I don't do this because I have to. I make enough writing to support myself. I do this because it's important and because I'm happy here."
"You may just be the sanest person I've talked to all day."
"Thanks, I think."