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."


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