Monday, April 15, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 60

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

Chapter 60. Being An Adult

Tim woke with a jerk. His heart was pounding, his body covered in sweat, and the spike of adrenaline from the nightmare made sure he wasn’t going to fall back to sleep anytime soon.

He checked the clock. 4:17. That was later than he’d managed to sleep any night in the last week.

“You okay?” Abby asked.

“I will be,” he said gently. “Go back to sleep.”

He hadn’t figured out how to get himself out of the nightmares without waking her up. The first night she had gotten up with him, but really, he just wanted to be alone after he pulled out of those dreams.

She’d taken it pretty well when he explained that. She wants to be there to comfort him, but right now he needs the space to be in his own head, and she’s willing to let him have that space.

So she went back to sleep, and he got up, pulling on a pair of pajama pants and heading for his office.

He doesn’t actually remember what he’s dreaming of, there are no images that go with the heart pounding terror, just the fear. Hell, that might be the entire dream. It might just be blackness and cold fear. Not like he didn’t just do that.

He detours to the kitchen, grabbing a glass of water, and then flicks the light on in his office.

Light helps. It pulls him the rest of the way out of the dream. It’s not that he’s afraid of the dark these days, it’s just that his whole mind, whole body knows he’s not in that freezer if there’s light.

He sets the glass on the window sill and opens the window. Muggy August air flows in, and he stands in front of the window, head bowed, thumbs pressing into his eyebrows, letting the humid, late summer heat soak into him.

He’d talked to Wolf yesterday. Talking to the crisis counselor is mandatory after you almost get killed. Short talk, about twenty minutes of what he’d been up to lately, mostly how his life had changed in the last ten months. Wolf listened to him, asked a few general questions, and then took one of his cards out of his pocket, filled it in with a date and time (10:00 AM September 25, 2013) and said to him, “I know you need the time to get it right in your head before you can talk to me about it. Take the time. Six weeks, we’ll talk again.”

Tim nodded. That sounded better than staring at the clock trying to fill an hour with meaningless blather.

“I want you to think about something between now and then. Last time you almost got killed, you dealt with it by putting your life in order. And that was good. That was constructive. Your life is in order now. You’ve got just about everything you’ve ever wanted, and are moving towards the things you don’t yet have. So the question is, now that you don’t have something to chase to keep fear away, how are you going to deal with it?”

And the answer is, he doesn’t know.

And he could see that Wolf knew he didn’t deal with the fear the first time, didn’t even try to. He pushed it aside as fast as possible, and threw himself into getting the life he wanted, and he didn’t let it touch him.

He rubs his shoulders, staring at his reflection in the window, listening to the birds starting to wake up. May 12, 2012. August 6, 2013. Too many close calls too close together.

He turns, takes a few steps, sits at his writing desk, and stares at his typewriter. Then shakes his head and gets back up. Burrowing into McGregor is just another way of not dealing with it. Then he looks at the typewriter again, maybe not. Writing the next chapter is a way of not dealing with it. McGregor isn’t dealing with anything like possibly dying, he’s off hacking the CIA to wrangle the intel they need.

But McGregor is a safe way for him to deal with the things that happen to him, a way to give himself the space to think about it, and while there’s no place for this in the current novel, there’s no reason why McGregor can’t have a short story, or that this can’t be a theme in the next novel. Hell, worst comes to worst, he can write his own damn fanfiction. Not like he’s the only author who occasionally wants to play with his characters in a way that doesn’t fit with the cannon.

write his own damn fanfiction
He pulls the page out of the typewriter, and finds a fresh one.

He’s ten pages into it when Abby knocks on the door.


She pokes her head in. “You going to work?”

He blinks. “What time is it?”


As late as he can push it and still get a (very) fast shower, shave, breakfast, and in the car in time to get there by eight.

“Yes, but I’ll be in late.” Tony’s not back until tomorrow. Gibbs hasn’t been cleared for anything other than desk duty. And Ziva’s still ducking Wolf, so she isn’t cleared to be in the field, either. They won’t mind if he shows up late or takes a half day. Hell, if he gives these pages to Wolf, he’ll get cleared for active duty before the rest of the team. That might win him some brownie points from Gibbs. “I’ve got to get this out.”

“Okay. You want some coffee?”

“Yeah. Thanks.”  

She’s back a few minutes later with a mug of coffee, just the way he likes it, and kisses his forehead while he types. He nods a little, and smiles when she does it, but his mind is on the page, in McGregor’s head, or his own, hard to tell right now where the line is, but that’s the point of this. 

He didn’t hear it when she headed out.

By 10:00 he had twenty-five pages next to him, and was feeling... better? Probably. More sure of himself, yes. Somewhere around page thirteen he fully shifted out of McGregor and into himself, and that was a good thing.

And he also knew what he needed to do. He’s not putting fear aside by this. He’s not hiding from death. He’s preparing for it. If the first step of being a real grown-up was getting a life worth living, the next step is accepting you won’t always be here, and making it as easy as possible on the ones you leave behind.

He stood up, stretched for a moment. Noticed the empty coffee cup next to him, and got a refill along with a bagel and a banana.

Then he headed back to his office, and this time to his computer. Most of this wouldn’t take too long. He got online, headed to his bank, and set Abby as his next of kin and beneficiary. He did the same for his IRA, for his money market account, for the 401K, and his investment account. She’d been his medical proxy since 2006, so that wasn’t an issue.  He went to the NCIS human resources benefits page, and set her up as the beneficiary on his life insurance and pension.

One last thing. He called in to the NCIS switchboard and asked to be connected to Legal.  They could see him at 11:30.

He texted Ziva, letting her know he’d be in after lunch.

By two, when he was back in the Bullpen, his will was done and would be filed before end of business that day.

Once he got to his desk, he packed up the pages he’d written in one of the red interoffice mail envelopes, put Wolf’s name on it, along with a note saying he wanted those pages back eventually.

Gibbs and Ziva watched him do it, but didn’t ask any questions. And right that moment he felt the lack of Tony in the desk next to them very acutely.

He’ll be back tomorrow.

And then he settled in for three hours of paperwork.

After dinner he took Abby into his office, gave her all of his passwords, a copy of his will, and took her through all of his accounts.

He wasn’t sure how she’d take it. Beyond setting up a joint checking account for rent, food, and utilities, they’d kept their finances separate. He hoped she wouldn’t be annoyed that he put her on all of his accounts without asking first. And she wasn’t.

She was sad. Not that he had done it, but that it needed to be done at all.

She half-smiled at him, trying to lighten the words, and said, “No happy endings.”

He shook his head. “Not in real life. Eventually it’ll be just one or the other of us.”

“I never thought I’d envy my parents.”

He looked at her, confused. From everything he’s heard about them, there were a lot of great things about Gloria and Thomas Sciuto, things worth envying.

“The way they died. Didn’t have to deal with any of this.”

“Oh.” Her parents had died together. “I’m not sure leaving your young kids behind counts as the happy ending, either.”

“Not for us, at least.” She sighed. “I’ll see the guys in legal tomorrow, get my stuff in order.”

“Thanks. I was thinking, since we don’t have any family nearby, how about asking Jimmy and Breena to be the guardians for our kids?”

She smiled, eyes tearing. “I think they’d be a really good choice.”


It certainly hadn’t been a light or fluffy evening. But when they got to bed he was feeling easier than he had in ten days. And that night, he slept until morning, waking up at his usual time.

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