Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 42

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

42. The Admiral

A/N: So, I liked Squall. But kind of like Hit and Run (which I also liked) cannon Tim and Abby aren't in the same place Shards Tim and Abby are. Sooo... I'm snagging some details from Squall, and ignoring others. (See post story note for more on that.) Anyway, this chapter might not precisely match up with what you saw on Tuesday night.

He guesses it was bound to happen sooner or later. For some bizarre reason Fate seems to enjoy tossing their dads at them, and since his dad actually is in the Navy, the odds were even higher than say two separate cases involving Tony's dad.

Doesn't mean he's happy about it.

Doesn't mean he couldn't have happily gone for the entire rest of his life without running into that man.

But it doesn't matter, because there's a job to do, and he's got to do it.

He stands in the doorway and watches Abby stab the dummy with a syringe over and over. Part of it is just for comfort, getting to watch someone who doesn't think he looks terrible, and won't make a snide shot about his love life. (He knows Penny told the Admiral about Abby, and he very clearly remembers being thirteen and his dad chewing him out about being fat and how he'd never keep a girl if he stayed that way.) Part of it is just liking to watch her work. She looks like she's enjoying this, but somewhat frustrated at the same time.

And part of it is wondering how much she knows about what happened today. He's guessing she already knows about the Admiral being on the ship, because if the look on Palmer's face when he realized what was going on was anything to go by, Jimmy had his phone out and was texting like mad the moment Ducky pulled the ME's van out of the parking lot at Norfolk.

She stabs the dummy again, and he's been lurking long enough. Time to get moving.

He and Abby don't argue. Not really, not about important things. Sure, fussing over what they'll watch on TV or what's for dinner happens, and she can get snappy and he gets sarcastic, but for big things, it just doesn't happen. They walk away, take the time to get themselves right, and then go back and talk.

And that works, for both of them.

Because they both need that quiet time in their own heads before they can let someone else in. And they both respect each other enough to let them have that quiet time.

So he walked out of the lab.

And it's not that she's entirely wrong. There are things he wants to say to the Admiral. But what she is wrong about is that it would make any difference. He doesn't need liberation; he cut himself free years ago; he needs acceptance and appreciation. His dad isn't going to give him what he wants, and since that isn't going to happen, spending more time yelling at him won't serve any purpose.

It's not that he needs to say the words, he has, and he backed them up with action. He needs his dad to hear them, and change because of them, and that just isn't going to happen.

Tim doesn't go straight home after work. For an hour he drives around, not really paying too much attention to where he's going, just letting the miles slide by.

This isn't just about him and his dad, it's also about Abby and hers.

And it's about empathy, and understanding the dad shaped hole in her life is a whole lot different than the dad shaped hole in his.

He gets to a stop light and fires off a text. Are you at your place or mine?

Yours. You ready to talk?

Yeah. Home in twenty minutes.

Have you eaten?

Not yet.

I'll order something for us.


They eat first. Just getting it out of the way. Not really talking, a few words here and there on incidentals, like making sure the new place gets the deposit check, and how she has to remember to file her taxes this weekend, and that it's Easter on Sunday, and she'd like to go to Mass early. Little things like that.

And when the leftovers are packed up, and the silverware washed, he leads her to his bed, because this is a bed sort of conversation.

They don't undress. Maybe this is a naked sort of conversation, too, but right now he wants clothing, he wants an extra bit of a shield between him and these words.

He lays on his back, on his side of the bed, and pats hers. She follows him, laying on her side, head propped on her hand.

"Have at it," he says to her. 'Cause honestly, he's not sure he can start this one.

"He's your dad, Tim. You'll miss him, miss the chance to have had him in your life. I don't want you to regret this."

"He's not my dad. If I've got a dad, it's Gibbs or my grandfather. He's just the guy who got my mom pregnant."

"I think he did a bit more than that."

"I don't think shitting all over my life counts."

He stares at the ceiling for a moment, and then turns to her, looking into her eyes as his hand caresses over her stomach. "If you're going to do this, it should be important to you. It should be like breathing." He rolls her onto her back and kisses her stomach, and then looks up at her, resting his chin against her hip. "If you're going to make a baby with someone, that someone and that child should be the most important thing in your life. It should be your joy, and the reason you get up in the morning and the reason why you want to come home at night, and not just some massive disappointment.

"And as far back as I can remember I have been a disappointment to that man. As well as I can remember, my mom and I were never, ever important to him."

He's staring at her, eyes and voice earnest. "And I have been standing up to him my whole life. I didn't go to Annapolis. I'm not in the Navy. I'm a Federal Agent. I'm a best-selling author. I've hacked every secure system that matters. I've killed people to protect others, and I've put killers away, and when none of that made me good enough in his eyes, I shut him out because I don't need someone who will never approve of me in my life.

"I know you loved your dad. I know you still love him. I know you miss him, and I know you wanted more time with him. And I get how important he is for your life, but my dad is toxic, and I don't want him in mine."

She pets him and smiles, gently, at him. "Then why did you call him after you saw Penny?"

"How did you know I did that?"

"You were sad for days after, wouldn't talk about it. So I did some checking around, found an interesting phone number, and went with it."


He's quiet, not sure what to say, he's honestly not entirely sure what made him dial those numbers last year. She waits, gently petting his hair, letting him think about it.

"Hope. We hadn't talked for seven years. I'd gotten onto the best Major Case Response Team. On the job less than a year, and I was on Gibbs' team. I called to tell him, thinking maybe that might..." His voice trailed off, remembering that call. He'd been so proud, and the Admiral shot him down in less than three minutes. "But it didn't. He just got on me about wasting my time and potential. And that was it. I was done with him. But Penny said he loved me, though evidence for that is awfully thin on the ground, and I was hoping that maybe seven years gave him some perspective. Maybe being gone would have made him decide he wanted me around.

"It didn't. I crack a case that saves hundreds of thousands of lives, protect his mom, my grandmother, and he's still pissed I'm not in the Navy. Pissed I'm not the guy designing the sort of weapon we stopped.

"He doesn't love me. He's never loved me. He was in love with an idea of who I was supposed to be, and when I didn't want that role, he got my mom pregnant again, but Sarah was a girl, so obviously she couldn't do it, so he doubled down on me. And by seventeen I was done. I quit Junior ROTC, I turned down Annapolis and said yes to Johns Hopkins, and I left his home and never looked back.

"I've mastered more skills than most people dabble at. I've got credentials out the ears. I've excelled at everything I've put my will to. And eight years ago I figured out that he was never going to pet me for it. I picked NCIS for him, the CIA and FBI both gave me better deals. NCIS was an olive branch, a compromise, but it wasn't enough. Being the best at what I liked was never going to be good enough for him."

She strokes his cheek, and he closes his eyes, then scoots back up to lie face to face with her as she rolls back onto her side.

"I hate this. I'm thirty-five, but he shows up, and suddenly I'm fifteen again. I won't be the man he wants me to be, and I hate feeling how disappointed he is in me."

She drapes her leg over his, and kisses him. "He's a moron."

He looks at her, smiles a little, it's a depreciating look, not a happy one. "Be nice if he was. But he's not. He's smarter than I am, probably than Penny."

"Then he's an asshole, which is worse."

He shrugs. "That's true, but... well, just like your body needs one, the world seems to need assholes, too."

She laughs at that. "Yeah. I suppose it does. He's good at what he does?"

"They don't just hand out flag rank to anyone. So, yeah he's good at that. An appallingly bad husband and father, but he's good with a fleet of battleships."

She takes his hands in hers. "And you were supposed to be good with them, too?"

"Yeah. I'm supposed to have command of my own ship by now. I should have a XO asking me for orders. I should have an Annapolis ring, preferably one commemorating beating the crap out of Army in football." He holds up a hand that's completely ring free. "He didn't want a son; he wanted a clone." She kisses his hand.

"What would I want with a ship?"

"No idea."

"I'm the only Omega in a long and glorious line of Alphas."

"Penny's an Omega."

"I'm the only Omega male in a long and glorious line of Alpha males. Girls can be Omegas or Betas or whatever. He's fine with Sarah. She can be a writer. She gets a poem published in the school lit journal, and he's got it tacked onto the wall of his cabin. I'm a fucking New York Times best-selling author, three times over now, and I'm not living up to my potential." He shakes his head. "God, I hate this. See, fifteen all over again. He sticks around too much longer and my skin is going to start breaking out."

"It's okay."

"No, it's not. It's really not. It's just the way it is, and it's not changing."

"Would you want it to? Be the man he wants you to be, or make him the man you want him to be?"

"No on the first, definitely no on that. And sure, who doesn't want their parents to love them?"

"Penny says he loves you."

"Penny loves me. And Penny loves him. So I think she thinks he has to love me. But I don't think he does, and even if he did, what does it matter if he loves me, if he can't be in the same room with me without disappointment radiating out of every pore?" A short bitter laugh escapes his lips. "I'd rather he was just mildly fond of me, but proud of who I am. Like Gibbs those first few years, he didn't get me, at all, but he at least noticed I was useful. I'll take that over being a disappointment any day."

"Nothing about you is disappointing." He smiles a little at that as well, but it's still not a happy look. "And anyone who isn't full on insane knows that."

"And yet he is. My great grandfather was the first McGee at Annapolis, and that was a big deal then, because it was during the Irish Need Not Apply days, but his dad was hooked into the Boston political machine, so he got in. He was a sub commander in World War I, basically the most dangerous job in the Navy at the time. He never made admiral because the Germans blew him to pieces in 1918. But my dad has his medals, and there are a ton of them, on display in his office at home. My grandfather was a First Lieutenant, three years out of Annapolis when Japan hit Pearl Harbor. He was there, one of the first men to get to a gun and shoot back. His ship sank, but didn't roll over, so he kept firing until there were no more shells, water up to his knees. He finished the war a Captain, but that wasn't enough, so he became a naval aviator. Between World War II and Korea, he was one of the men learning what to do with aircraft carriers. Landing on them, designing them to work better. He was an admiral by the end of Viet Nam. And when he died, back in the '80s, all nine hundred of his metals and flag ended up in my dad's office, in a display case, next to my great-grandfather's.

"You ever see Ferris Bueller's Day Off?"

Abby nods.

"If I had had a Ferris in my life, I would have tossed those fucking medals off a cliff." Tim shakes his head, half-trying to imagine what his dad would have done if he had done that. He guesses the odds are fifty-fifty that he would have gone hot and beat the ever living shit out of him, or gone cold and tossed him out of the house.

"He loved the fact that I was good at math and computers. Had visions of me working on artillery or something, coming up with new and better ways for the Navy to kill people. He hated that I was so 'soft,' and decided it was his job to spend the parts of my childhood when he was home 'toughening' me up.

"The summer I was fourteen, he took me on a boat every single day. Trying to beat the seasickness out of me, like being seasick was something I was doing just to piss him off. Ten hours a day on the weekends. I lost something like thirty pounds that summer, I was so sick. I'd be throwing up, and he'd be drilling me on trajectory arcs. My mom put a stop to it in August when she was buying a second set of new, smaller clothing for me. Why would I even want someone who does things like that in my life?"

"I don't know. I'm sorry."

He tilts his head a little, lifting his eyebrows, his expression saying nothing either of us can do about it.

"You know what really terrifies me?" he asks.


"That he did it, and I'm going to have to testify against him. His lawyers will rip me apart, angry kid getting even with his dad. They'll rip you apart, fixing the forensics because you're my lover."

Abby looks deeply non-plussed by that idea. She has yet to meet a defense lawyer she couldn't chew up and spit out, so she takes the conversation in a slightly different direction.

"You think he did it?"

"Not really. I'm not feeling it."


They lay there quietly for a few breaths. Her fingers trace down his arm, gently stroking his palm. She kissed him, and he sighed, enjoying the comfort of that touch.

"What was your dad like?"

She smiles, he's been gone long enough that she can enjoy the good memories without puddling up. "He was sweet and gentle. He'd put you in mind of Palmer a little. Curly, brown hair, sometimes inappropriate stories, glasses. He loved cars. They ran a car salvage/junkyard, and when something cool came in, he'd snag it and rebuild it. Deaf, so the house I grew up in was either really quiet, or very, very loud. Music and movies loud enough to feel them, that sort of thing. Or long conversations done entirely by hand." She signed at him for a few seconds, getting the point across. "He had a really expressive face. Lots of looks, like Gibbs. Both he and my mom could read lips and talk, but if it was just the two of them, they preferred to sign.

"I rebuilt the roadster, and the Harley, and he was the guy who taught me how to do that.

"I was a little girl in the south in the '70s so I was supposed to be pretty and polite and find myself a husband right out of high school, and he told me that was complete crap. His girl was going to college and making a life for herself. I didn't have to be a blonde debutante. I could be as weird as I wanted to, and he loved me for all of it."

Tim smiles at her. "That's the kind of man I am going to be for our kids."

"I know."


A/N: So, I write ahead. (Granted I couldn't do all of this one before I saw Squall, but got a good two thirds of it done ahead of time.) And at this point I've got more than 250 more pages of this story, and John McGee needs to be around for some of them. So... he's not dying in the Shardsverse. What was the actual case about? No idea, but not a dead doctor. Likewise, I need more of an edge from Shards John McGee, so he's considerably more of a bastard in my version.

I really enjoyed Tim and Adam together, but it doesn't fit in this story, so, alas, the absolutely brilliant "You work with Ziva? All day? Every day? Really?" scene that's been bopping around in my mind isn't getting into this. (Though it might end up being a stand alone at some point.)

This chapter also marks the end of me trying to base what I'm doing on the cannon. We're into all imagination land from here. Will I continue to incorporate stuff from the actual show? Oh yeah. Especially back story details, yes indeed. But I've got story to tell and I don't want to wait for each new eppy to update.

Happy reading everyone!

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