Book Two: The Husband
Chapter 59. In The Basement
Gibbs is in his basement, working on... he’s still not sure what it is. Probably not another boat. At least nothing in there looks like the skeleton of another boat to him, but still, what else would he need a stove and curved bookshelves for? Not like he’s going to build a cabin in his own basement.
Well, knowing Gibbs, maybe he would.
“What’s on your mind?” Gibbs asks as Tim stands on the bottom step.
“First off.” He handed Gibbs a new phone. “I don’t have it wired up yet. I want you to get used to using it before I do that. Don’t want you accidentally blowing off your own hand.”
Gibbs nods, staring at the smartphone, feeling the surprisingly solid weight of it in his hand. There are no buttons on it, and he’s thinking this is going to take some getting used to. He looks up at Tim an says, “Next up?”
Tim sits down on the second-from-the-bottom step. He takes off his badge and looks at it.
|Abby's my partner.|
He looks at Gibbs, who for once doesn’t have an expression that wraps everything up nice and tidy, and looks at his badge again. “Is it time to ask for the transfer to Cybercrime?”
Gibbs shrugs. Tim searches his face and can see Gibbs doesn’t know the answer, or maybe he does, but like Tim, he’s got two different ones. No, he doesn’t want the team he’s spent ten years building ripped apart. Yes, this is exactly who he wants for Abby’s husband, the man who will value her and their children above all other commitments.
“How did you handle being married and a Marine? Would you have hesitated to save someone at the cost of your life? Was it there in your mind that if you died, she’d be alone, crying?”
Gibbs shrugs again, and gets up to pour both of them a drink. This isn’t or, at least for him, can’t be, a cold sober conversation. He drinks his, and Tim holds his, not really feeling like drinking right now.
They sit there quietly for a long time. Eventually, Gibbs says, “I always told myself it was for the greater good. I was saving lives, protecting people. And that was true. And she believed in that, too. She knew I loved my job, she knew it was important, and she supported me in it. We were married for twelve years, and in twelve years she never complained to me about the job. And after she died, I hated myself for that job. I hated all the lost years. I missed five years of her life. I missed three of Kelly’s nine years. Shannon kept a journal, and after... I read it. And she was scared, and she was alone, a lot.
“I wasn’t there to protect them. I wasn’t there to save them. And in the end, I wasn’t there to comfort them. They died alone.
“I failed both of them. And that will always be with me. What we do, it’s a shit substitute for having been there, but knowing I help others, keep other men out of my position, it’s the only thing that lets me sleep.” Gibbs shakes his head, and Tim gets the sense that “sleep” is a euphemism for “kept me from eating my gun those first few years.”
Gibbs sees Tim get it. Sees him understand why he has to be the best, has to push them harder, has to put more guys away faster than anyone else, and he continues, “I won’t lie; I want you on my team. I want you working for me, finding the pieces that save lives and put killers in jail. You are a damn good agent, and whoever takes your place won’t be nearly as good. But if you want Cybercrime, and you want to be there for Abby, every day, every night, I will understand and approve.
“She’s your wife, Tim,” and his look says, even if you are taking your sweet time on getting ‘round to actually marrying her. “And she should come first, and when you two have kids, they’ll come first, too. We’ll take second for as long as you can give it. But when it’s time to go, I think you’ll know. It won’t be a question; it’ll just be a fact.”
Tim closes his eyes, sighs, and takes a drink.
“I don’t think it’s time, yet.”
“I don’t want to be the man who breaks her heart.”
“I know. And I know she’s not cut out for this, not for the rest of your lives. Shannon was alone and scared, and she never said anything about it to me because she believed in it just as strongly as I did. She was willing to lose me to protect others. But Abby isn’t Shannon. Shannon never lost anyone. She didn’t know what it felt like. She hadn’t already put her life back together around the hole a loved one leaves.”
“I saw you writing to her at Palmer’s wedding. And I knew you’d both grown up enough to be with each other. And I knew that meant we’d lose you. Tony and Ziva do too, even if they aren’t saying anything about it, yet.”
“I don’t want to screw you guys, either.”
“I know, Tim.”
“It’s a lot easier to just live for yourself.”
Tim fiddles with his glass. “You mind if I just sit here for a while.”
Gibbs stood up. “You want any more?”
Tim looks at the barely touched bourbon in his hand. He sips a little. “I’m good.” Gibbs pours himself some more and sets the glass on his workbench.
“She was really angry at me when we got home.”
Gibbs nods. When he’d gotten his first Purple Heart, Shannon had been extremely displeased that he’d earned it. “She still angry?” That might be why Tim was here instead of with Abby.
“Not so much right now. But I think we both needed a little time on our own.”
Gibbs nods at that, too.
“She pushed it aside to be there for me.”
“She’s a good woman, Tim.”
“I know.” He shakes his head a little. “Just feel like a jerk. I didn’t even occur to me she was having a hard time until after we got home from the hospital and I woke up and found her crying.”
“I doubt she’ll hold it against you. You’re allowed to be a little self-centered when you almost die.”
“I guess.” He drinks a little more and sits there quietly. Gibbs goes back to his project and begins working.
Tim watches him sanding something. There’s a gentle, soothing sound to it, soft and raspy. He can easily see how this might get you into a good headspace.
It was maybe twenty minutes later when Tim says, “You knew I was writing to her at Palmer’s wedding.”
“Pen and paper. Unless you’re filling out a form, I’ve never seen you use pen and paper.”
Tim nods at that.
“When did you figure out we were together?”
Gibbs looks up. “Borin. Even you aren’t that bad at asking women out. You had someone in mind for those tickets, but not her. Two hours later, you’ve got a date with Abby. I’m not a genius, but I can do that math.”
“You didn’t say anything.”
“What would I have said? Hey, McGee, get your ass in gear and marry that woman.”
Tim looks amused. “You really loosen up when you drink, don’t you?”
“You could have said, ‘Hey, no need to sneak around. Rule twelve doesn’t apply here.’“
“When you transferred to my team, you were dating Abby, right?”
“Did I say anything to you about twelve then?”
“Wanna guess why?”
“Oh.” In retrospect, that made a whole lot of sense.
“Yeah. Have I ever said anything to you about twelve?”
Gibbs just looks at him. Tim sips his drink and says, “Huh.”
“If I couldn’t be there for Abby, who did I send to take care of her?”
“Whose home did I have her stay at when she needed protection?”
“Who do you think got you sent to Mexico with her?”
“I’m not saying twelve is just a guideline or made to be broken. Twelve is there for an awfully good reason. But twelve is something I’ve never worried about with you.”
“Tony’s a different story?”
“Yeah, and so am I. Wrote twelve years before I met Tony. But you seem pretty good at not letting your balls do the thinking.”
Gibbs takes another drink. “What I couldn’t figure out was what the hell was taking you two so long.”
Tim shrugs. “We’d already broken up once. Didn’t want to risk our friendship if it was going to happen again.”
Gibbs seems to think about that. “You were going to marry her, back the first time?”
Tim shrugs again. “Probably. But it wasn’t just up to me.”
“No it wasn’t. And you two needed the time apart, maybe not that much of it, to get your heads straight.”
“Yeah.” Tim takes another drink. “Was the thing with Diane a test?”
“Did I pass?”
|"I didn't let Fornell shoot you, did I?"|
Tim shakes his head and rolls his eyes a little. “How did you end up married to her?”
Now it was Gibbs’ turn to shrug. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Were you drunk?”
The look Gibbs gives Tim indicates he’s not the only one who loosens up when drinking. Then he glances at Tim’s glass and notices he’s had about two teaspoons of bourbon in the last hour, so it’s not the alcohol. Gibbs gets a very satisfied look on his face, enjoying Tim actually being relaxed around him.
“Not the whole time.” Gibbs looks at the empty glass next to him. “Drinks to relieve his Messianic complex?”
Tim holds out his hands in a placating gesture. “They don’t let me write the blurbs on my books. Some guy in marketing does that. The words ‘Messianic complex’ do not occur anywhere inside the book.”
“Uh huh.” Gibbs’ look now says Cut the bullshit.
“They really don’t.”
“And the guy in marketing came up with that out of the blue?”
“Nope, my editor gave him a quick write up, which I did write, and the words ‘Messianic complex’ might have been in that.” Tim smiles, a little.
Gibbs just looks at him.
“Please, you three were Probie-ing the ever living shit out of me. It was fun to get some back.”
Tim takes another drink, and Gibbs puts down his tools, leans against his workbench facing Tim, looking like he’s actually expecting to talk for a while.
“Why did you take me to Afghanistan?”
Gibbs smiles at that, and Tim’s not entirely sure, because he doesn’t think he’s ever seen this expression before, at least not on Gibbs, but that might be salacious joy in his eyes. “Because coming home from Afghanistan is a hell of a lot of fun.”
Yep, he’d read that expression right. “That’s what those looks were about.”
“What looks?” Gibbs asks.
“You pretty much spent all of the last day smirking at me. I almost hit you.”
Gibbs laughs and shakes his head. “Never seen you that keyed up. Didn’t think you could get that keyed up. And I knew what was going to be waiting for you when you got home.”
|"I was doing just fine..."|
“If all you got was laid when you got home, you’re not doing it right,” Gibbs says dryly.
Tim shakes his head and laughs. “Okay, not just laid. And yeah, getting home was a lot of fun.”
“And next time the job takes us to the other side of the world, I’ll take Tony and let him have a real homecoming.”
Tim thinks about that and smirks. “That’s the single dirtiest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
“That’s ‘cause you didn’t know me when I was on active duty.”
Tim looks at him curiously.
Gibbs shrugs. “I wasn’t born this old, you know?”
“So what is taking so long on the you two getting married? Last I heard you had the stones picked out.”
“Picked out, purchased, taken to the jeweler, ring designed, and now the guy is taking forever to get it done, but supposedly he’ll be done by the end of the month.”
“So go be a hard ass and speed him up.”
“What, did you get a new date in the pool?”
“No. Just be nice if you’d get married before I’m too old to walk her down the aisle.”
“Well, unlike my mechanic, who is replaceable, this guy isn’t. You want filigree work, really good filigree work, you go to him. And if you want it done right, done perfect, you wait until he gets done.”
“This better be one hell of a ring.”
“I can show you a picture of the sketch if you like.”
“Nah. When you get it’ll be soon enough.”
Tim nods and stands up. It’s not exactly late, but he’d like to get home before dinnertime. “I should get going.”
“You want to come with me? Abby’d be happy to have you over for dinner, too.”