Thursday, February 7, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 9

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

9. Waiting

It turns out, what he was waiting for was Abby to get out of mourning.

He works on being a good friend, and as a good friend, who's spending more, quite a bit more, time than is strictly necessary in the lab, he's noticed she's a wreck.

It's true that Abby's Goth isn't about keeping people away. It's not a shield the way his Geek is. If you ask Abby if she's a Goth, she'll tell you no, she's a scientist. He didn't get what she meant by that back the first time he heard it. But he does now. Her Goth is about containing death, and keeping it in a tidy box where she can deal with it, and lately it's gotten out of that box, and it's completely freaking her out.

He knows her parents died in a car accident when she was sixteen. He suspects that's when she dyed her hair, put on her black, and got her Goth on.  Maybe if she could immerse herself in death, maybe if she could make friends with it, show it she was a beautiful person, full of love and kindness, it would stay away.

Of course, it doesn't. She keeps up her end of the deal, but it doesn't. It can't.
He wonders sometimes what she was like when her hair was blonde and her clothing unbedecked with skulls and bone.

She's working full out, all the time, keeping her mind busy with cases, trying to keep death away. He works more too, looking for excuses to be in the lab, but he goes home most nights achy and bleary from tiredness, leaving her still in the lab, alone.

So he judges that now is the time to be a good friend, and trying to do anything more than that would be very bad timing.

And so, he waits.


"Hmrhg?" She's slumped on her desk, and he wasn't sure if she was entirely asleep, or just close to it, but either way, actually laying down would help.

"Come on, it's time to go home. Or at least time to crash in your office."

She looks up at him, eyes bleary, face so sad. "I've got work, McGee."

"Nothing that needs to be done right now. It's after twelve."

"Then why are you still here?"

He can see her getting defensive, and decides right now that she won't react well to the idea that he's been keeping an eye on her and is worried, so a not-too-far-from-the-truth lie is in order.  "I went out with Tony for dinner and then came back here to finish up paperwork. I just got done, was on my way out, and saw your car. Come on, I'll take you home if you're too tired to drive."

"I don't want to go home."

"Why not? You've been working late a whole lot lately." This would be a massive understatement. She's been working non-stop lately. He knows she's freaked out from the bombing. And he's been leaving encouraging words to Ziva, because, well, if any of them know how to get through something like this, it's her.

She doesn't answer, and begins poking at her computer. He moves to her side, and turns her chair toward him. "Come on, talk to me."

"I can't. If I talk it becomes real, and if it's real, it can get me."

He pulls her close, wrapping her in a warm hug.  "When was the last time you got a full night's sleep?"

"Since before the..." She doesn't finish that sentence.

He kisses the top of her head. "And you're not going to sleep tonight, are you?"


"Then if you can't sleep, let's see if we can get you some rest and relaxing. Come on." He tugs her gently to her office, and lays out the mat she sleeps on in there, putting Bert at the one end, to act as a pillow. "Lay down, boots, lab coat, and collar off, and I'll give you a back rub."

He turns his back, not sure why, she's not taking off anything particularly interesting, but still, privacy and all.

Bert's flatulent bleat let him know she was on the mat. He turns and finds that she has taken off her shirt.


Her eyes are closed. "It's not a problem is it?"

"Nah. I've seen your back before." In his dreams, when he closes his eyes, during a decent percentages of his fantasies. Yeah, he's seen her back, and he loves it dearly.  "Do you have any oil or something like that?" If she's going to take her clothing off, he might as well do a good job of it.

"I've got some hand lotion in my desk."

"Okay. I'll get that."  He rummages through the top drawer until he finds a bottle of Jergens Original Scent.  Then he heads over to her stereo. Her iPod is in there, and he takes a moment to sort through it for something soft and soothing. Nothing is really jumping out at him as fitting the bill, until he sees The Airborne Toxic Event. Another minute has a playlist set. Sure, it's sad and wistful, but at least it's not a hard thumping beat best played on maximum volume.

The Graveyard By The House kicks off the playlist. It certainly seemed like an Abby song, and it kind of touched on why they were here, so why not?

Tim sits on the floor next to her. If they were dating, he'd straddle her hips. But they aren't dating, so he sits next to her, and twists, a little awkwardly, squirting some of the lotion onto his hands.

He'd call it artificial cherry scented. Not unpleasant, but it's not that distinctly Abby scent either. It's probably a note in the scent he thinks of as Abby, along with the tang of Caf-Pow, the high, perfumy scent of her fabric softener, a mellow, artificial-cucumbery scent that's her hair conditioner, and a dark, black roses and dragon's blood, scent that he knows is her perfume.

His hands know the routine. Granted they haven't done this, skin on skin, in years, but he's certainly given her back rubs, and received them many times over the years.  With the sorts of hours they work, getting time for R&R is hard to do, so they work on each other.  He's worked on Ziva, and though he'd never admit it, Tony, on occasion as well. The only one who never seems to need any back work is Gibbs, and Tim suspects that's because Gibbs isn't technically human.

"You know, I've never given Gibbs a backrub." It probably seems like a random opening line, but if he's going to just keep his voice lulling away in a sort of cloud of white noise, it's not a bad start.

"I think you'd have to shoot Gibbs with a tranquillizer dart before he'd let a guy give him a backrub." She sounds a little sleepy as she says that. He hopes it's a good sign. His hands slide over her skin, long, soft strokes designed to encourage sleep.

"You're probably right about that. Though maybe Fornell..."

Abby giggles a little, and he's happy to see her do that. "There's an image. The two of them giving each other backrubs and complaining about their ex-wife."

"How did they both end up married to the same woman?"

"I think, and I don't know for sure, because Ducky won't give me all the details, but anyway, I think she was married to Gibbs, and things weren't going so hot. So somehow, she met Fornell through Gibbs. Maybe they were working a case together or something."

"You know they're friends, right? I mean, real friends. Tony tells me he's run into Fornell at Gibbs' place a whole bunch of times. They hang out and have dinner at least once a week."

"Interesting. So maybe he's invited his buddy over for dinner. Maybe it's happened a lot. Somehow Mrs. Gibbs falls for Mr. Fornell, and rapidly becomes Mrs. Fornell."

"She left Gibbs for Fornell?"

"I think so. And if not, it looks like there wasn't too long between the divorce and starting things up with Fornell."


A Letter To Georgia started to play. Soft, sweet, slow, and melancholy. Just about perfect for this.

"I love this song," Tim says while he leans more of his weight into her back, stretching her spine.

She sighs, looking like she's enjoying the touch. "I didn't know you liked Airborne Toxic Event."

"You were playing them down here a while back, and I liked it, so I downloaded it when I got home. I got The Indelicates and Stars from you, too."

"So you've raided my soft rock collection."

"Not sure I'd call it soft rock."

"Okay, not 'soft rock', but my not-so-hard music."


They talked like that, random gossip, little bits and pieces of fluff, for almost an hour. Tim kept trying to let the conversation drift off, but Abby would keep bringing new things up. When Duet ended and the music finally stopped, Tim rested his hands on her shoulders, just letting them sit there for a moment.

"I was kind of hoping you'd fall asleep."

"I know."

"If I tuck you in, will you at least try?"

"If I sleep, I'll dream, and if I dream..."

He waited for her to finish that sentence, but it didn't seem like an end was coming.

"What'll happen if you dream?"

"My nightmares will come back."

He stood up and turned his back to her again. "Put your shirt back on."

A few seconds later she said, "Okay."

Abby was sitting up on the mat, twisting her neck, and flexing her shoulders.

Tim sat down next to her. "When I was a kid, there was a series of novels I loved. One of the characters had chronic nightmares. He'd wake up, night after night, screaming. And his brother, who loved him dearly, would offer to stand watch, and keep the nightmares away." He patted Bert. "Lay down, get some sleep. I'll stand watch and keep the nightmares away."

"You'll be Caramon?"

"You've read them?" His eyes went wide. Sure, a lot of people had read the DragonLance books, and Abby was likely to be the kind of person who had done that, he just didn't think she'd still remember them thirty years later.

"Of course. I wanted to be Tika, but I always had a soft spot for Raistlin."

"Everyone did."

"Who were you?"


"The man who went on the eight year long quest to win the woman he loved."

"Something like that." He squeezes her hand, signaling he knows this is more stalling. "Now, lay down. Tonight I'll be Caramon and guard your sleep."

Hours later he jerks awake. He's sitting, back against Abby's desk, his legs draped across hers. He rubs his eyes, twists his very sore neck, and looks up to see Gibbs is standing over him, finger to his lips signaling quiet. Abby's laying on the mat, sleeping.

Tim doesn't see an easy way to get up without waking her up. He's got to get his legs off of hers, and spending the night sleeping sitting up against her desk means that everything below his hips are asleep. Gibbs puts the Caf-Pow on Abby's desk and offers Tim a hand, levering him off the floor.

He limps out of her office after Gibbs. Gibbs slides the door to her office shut.

"Whatever it was you did to get her to sleep, thanks."

Tim's wincing as he turns his head to the left. "Broke my spine, I think. But, yeah, she needed the rest."

"You did good, Tim."

Tim nods, feeling very happy to hear that. "Thanks, Boss."

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