Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 61

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

Chapter 61. Labor Day

Labor Day weekend, a Federal holiday, a day for kicking back, relaxing, picnics, the last beach weekend of summer, and, best of all, Team Gibbs wasn't on call.

Which is why three quarters of Team Gibbs, Abby, and the Palmers were planning on doing exactly that, on the beach in the Outer Banks.

Three weeks earlier, as they had wrapped up what normally would have been Pizza Night, but was actually Thank God We're All Alive Celebration Night (grilling at Gibbs' house), Breena said, "Jimmy tells me you aren't on call for Labor Day."

This was met by nods and versions of, "Yep."

"My dad has a place in the Outer Banks." This was where Tim could feel himself, Tony, Ziva, and Abby all frantically thinking of excuses to get out of this, because while they love Breena, her dad is a whole other story. "He and my mom usually go there for the weekends during the summer. But they'll be in Tennessee for Labor Day, so the house will be empty, and Jimmy and I were wondering if you'd all like to come down with us for the long weekend?"

Tim looked at Abby to answer. He's not a huge beach kind of guy, not that he doesn't like it, he spent a lot of most of his summer vacations at the beach, but he'd rather do mountains than shore. Still going sounds fun to him. Abby, on the other hand, isn't so much allergic to sun as not its biggest fan, so he's not sure if she'd like to spend a weekend more or less laying about in it.

And while Tony and Ziva were jumping on a beach weekend with both feet, Abby gave him a little nod, so he said, "Sure, that sounds like a lot of fun."

Later that night, as they were getting ready for bed he asked, "Do you even own a bathing suit?"

She shoved him gently, grinned, went to her dresser, and pulled out a black tankini. He stared at it for a moment, happily imagining her in it. "How about you?"

It occurred to him the last time he had gone swimming he weighed twenty pounds less than he does now. "Yeah, but it's too small." He reaches over for his phone, and seven minutes later he puts it back down. "And now I have one that fits. Or, at least, I will in about three days when it gets here."

"It must be so easy to be a guy. You need clothing, and in less than ten minutes you've got it. I need clothing, and I need to remember which size goes with which brand and how they cut everything and they've got the torso long enough for me..."

Tim listens to her go on about women's clothing for a moment, agreeing with her that sometimes it is nice to be a guy.

"So, come on, romantic beach weekend, romantic beach weekend Breena and I more or less set up precisely for this. You, her, waves gently lapping on a moonlit beach." Palmer's wigging his fingers, mimicking the waves rolling in. "You gonna do it?" They're walking out of NCIS at the end of a not too long day, heading to their respective homes.

Tim sighs. Waves gently lapping on a moonlit beach actually sounds pretty good to him. "Ring still isn't done."

"Still?" Palmer looks disbelieving. "My God! What is this guy doing, mining the ore and smelting it himself?"

"Probably. Last I heard titanium just doesn't do this sort of work well, and he had to melt the whole thing back down again, mess with the alloy some, and begin from scratch."

Palmer rolled his eyes. "Damn it! I doubled my bet."

Tim stops, looks at Jimmy, and sighs. "Anyone have Halloween yet?"

"Nope, not yet."

"Idiots. Take Halloween."


"Really, it better be an awesome present."

"Pool's up to four thousand dollars. It will be."

"I am in the wrong career," Tony said to Ziva on Friday night as they got out of her car and looked at the house in front of them. "I mean, who knew there was this sort of money in funerals?"

They're standing in front of a sprawling blue house on the beach. Literally, on the sand, water about two hundred feet away, glinting in the moonlight, dunes to the left and right, the nearest house a small rectangle of light on the horizon. It's on stilts to deal with possible flooding, and a huge porch wraps around the first floor.

They had beaten the Palmers and... "You think she'll take his last name?"

Ziva looks at Tony with a question in her eyes.

"I was just thinking, with the way you drive, we beat the Palmers and... Tim and Abby? The McGees? McGeek and his Gothic Princess? McGoth? McAbby?"

Ziva thought about that while taking her bag out of the trunk of her Mini. Tony eyeballed the bag. "Awfully small bag."

"I do not have a lot of clothing in it." And then she smiled at him, eyes warm and playful. "And the clothing that is in it is tiny."

"Oh, you are so bad."

She smiled again, kissing him quickly, and then hands him his bag. "I think she will take his name. Do you think he'll ask while we're here?"

"No. Palmer says the ring's still being made, and with this much time invested in it, he's not gonna ask without it."

Abby's roadster pulled up, which killed that topic of conversation.

They got out, and Tim grabbed their bag. Abby stared at the house and said, "Wow."

"Yeah," Tony nodded. For a moment they just stood there and appreciated the view.

The sound of one more engine let them know Breena and Palmer had arrived. They got out, and Breena said, "It's even nicer inside."

Saturday morning: Six people playing on the beach, splashing about in the waves. Three of them guys. Three of them girls.

Tony and Abby getting a selfie.
It wasn't too hard to figure out which of the girls went with which guy. Of course, for Tim and Abby there were the matching tats. And even if they hadn't had matching ones, they were the only ones sporting any skin ink. And even if there hadn't been the ink, both of them in black bathing suits, and the wrist cuffs would have been a hint.

Palmer and Breena more or less radiated a sort of sweet, innocent, deeply in love fun that looked like it came right out of a 1950s beach movie. Okay, sure if it had been a 1950s movie, Breena wouldn't have been wearing a bikini four months pregnant, but that didn't really mar the vibe. And Jimmy, in a pair of fairly short and tight swim trunks and an open Hawaiian shirt, certainly fit the 1950s beach movie look to a T.

Tim remembered Jimmy's comment about forgetting what it felt like to wear pants, and realized Palmer's working on forgetting what it feel like to wear shirts this weekend. Granted, he doesn't often get a chance to show off in front of Tim and Tony, and flashing his abs all over the place just might be him doing that.

And Tony and Ziva, tanned, athletic, un-selfconscious and playing in the sand just looked right with each other.

Saturday afternoon: Breena's parents had decorated the porch with two of those double wide recliners with soft cushions and pillows.

He and Abby are camped out on one of them. He's got his laptop and is writing, all goes well he might just wrap this one up this weekend. She's curled, back against his side, on her right, reading a forensics journal. Both of them have earbuds in, listening to their own music.

Jimmy and Breena are on the other one. He's also reading, an actual novel, while she naps next to him. Tim half-notices that from time to time, Jimmy will stop, spend a moment watching his wife, and pet her stomach.

He catches Jimmy's eye the next time he does it. Jimmy smiles at him, and Tim pulls out his earbuds.

"I can feel her moving," Jimmy says quietly.

"It's a her?"

"I think she is. Won't know for sure for a bit."

"So, you're going to find out?"

"Yeah. What are you working on?"

"Deep Six book four. I'm about ten-thousand words short of finished."

"And am I dreaming of sleeping with dead people in this one?" Jimmy says, deadpan.

Tim flashes him a guilty smile. "Ummm... no. Pimmy Jalmer had an unfortunate accident in chapter two and died. The new assistant ME, James Relamp, is proving to be a very capable member of the team and has found the link between all the bodies, thus helping Tibbs and his team home in on the killer."

"Finally. Relamp?

"I'm bad with names."

Palmer's look says,Well, obviously. Then he says, "Necrophilia," snorts, and shakes his head.

"Hey, you've had sex in the morgue."

"Well, okay, yeah, that's true. But not with any of the bodies!"

"Breena got what that scene was really about."

Jimmy's just staring at him.

Tim shrugs. "Fine, my editor said, 'Sex it up,' so I did."

"Tim, if that's where your mind goes when someone tells you to sex something up, you are one sick, sick, sick puppy."

"It was that or make you Ducky's boy toy."

Jimmy shudders. Tim laughs, puts the earbuds back in, and goes back to writing.

Ziva relaxing on the porch.
Saturday night. Palmer and Abby had done the shopping. Tony and Breena cooked. Which means Tim and Ziva are on dishes.

Which suits Tim just fine. 'Round about an hour earlier he had noticed something. Ziva was holding beer, she was playing with beer, she even lifted the beer to her lips, but the one thing she wasn't actually doing was swallowing beer.

So, as he washes the dishes and she dries, he says, casually, "I noticed you aren't drinking." She smiles a little at that. "Any reason for that?"

"Maybe. I do not know yet, but—"

"You aren't taking any chances."

"No. I'm not."

He looks from their place by the kitchen sink across the dining room to Tony standing next to the TV in the great room, expounding upon their movie options for the night. He grins, remembering the insane rush that went with trying to get Abby pregnant right after he thawed out. That Tony and Ziva might have felt that way too was pretty cool. His eyes wander to Breena, four months pregnant, and he did a little math, wondering if she and Jimmy had come to the same conclusion right after he got kidnapped, and it had just taken a few cycles, or like he and Abby, had to wait for the birth control to get out of her system.

"I wouldn't have thought he'd almost die and decide he wanted babies."

"He does not know, and I'd appreciate it if he doesn't know."

Tim whips his gaze back to Ziva. "How can he not know?"

"I had an oops." He feels a little stupid at that, remembering that not everyone plans every baby in advance. Ziva continues, "Remember the Dawber case?"

"How could I forget?" It was their first real case after Tony got back on duty, and they had worked flat out for almost four straight days.

"I got so tired I forgot to take my pills."

"Oh. You're probably okay. I think you actually have to have sex when you've missed the pill for it to be a problem."

The look she gives him says very eloquently that she knows that.

"When did you even find the time..." And that trails off when Tim remembers that he and Abby had found time for the quickest quickie in the history of quickies during the third night.

They traditionally work days. But if a body gets found before they leave, they end up on the case. The first sailor, John Dawber, was found at 4:30 on Monday. They worked through Monday night and most of Tuesday. Normally they would have gone home to rest at that point, but the next body, Ian Mannin, was found at 4:30 on Tuesday, so they worked through that night. Wednesday, 4:30, all of them but Gibbs shuffling about like tired zombies, found them with yet a third dead sailor.

Midnight on Thursday, he and Abby had done everything they could. Every computer he had access to was looking for something, anything to connect the victims. Major Mass Spec was sorting through yet another batch of trace.

"We need sleep."

She nodded and laid out the lambskin rugs. He looked at them and realized he'd hit the point where he was so tired he couldn't sleep. Too many hours up and your brain gets stuck, it needs something to help shift the chemical processes, let it know it's turn off time. In the past, had he been single, he would have quickly jerked off in the men's room and crashed at his desk.

So he told her that and wrapped up with, "And if you aren't interested, I completely understand. I can take care of this myself. But if you are, I'd certainly appreciate a hand."

Abby looked at him, shrugged, and said, "I've had seventeen Caf-Pows today. I could use something to take the edge off."

And so, on the soft, fluffy lambskin rugs, there was four minutes of the most functional, least erotic or romantic sex of his life. (And yes, he was counting all twenty-two seconds of his first time on that list.) Followed by both of them crashing like a Fokker in a nosedive with the pilot dead at the stick, sharing Bert as a pillow, and sleeping like the dead for almost three hours.

Tim found the link. Abby still got the Caf-Pow.
He woke to Gibbs crouching in front of them, Caf-Pow in hand, jogging Abby's shoulder saying, "Talk to me Abbs," as Major Mass Spec beeped in the background.

He tripped over his feet and staggered to his computer, so tired that his eyes were barely willing to focus. He was half aware of Abby reading the results to Gibbs (basically, nothing in this batch is even remotely useful) and slowly his brain woke up enough to see what was on the screen.

"I got it, Boss."

Gibbs turned away from Abby to him. "What?"

"Their ID numbers are all prime factors of 13 and 23. I can't tell you who the killer is, but the next victim is one of these four sailors."

"Good job, Tim." He even got patted on the shoulder. And as Gibbs headed up to the bullpen to tell Tony and Ziva, he looked over his shoulder and said, "McGee."


"Zip your fly before you come up."

Tim, tired into utter silliness by that point, giggled, snapped into something that only looked like attention to someone who hadn't personally been in the military, fired off a salute, and said, "On it, Boss."

Tim realizes Ziva is staring at him, and he's just holding a dish under the running water. He smiles a little. "Thursday morning in the lab."

Ziva shrugs. "Tuesday night in the elevator."

Tim looks really surprised at that, and Ziva smiles. "Gibbs is not the only one who can switch off an elevator."

"Uh huh. So... are you going to tell Tony?"

"Only if there is something to tell. I do not think it would be kind to tell him unless I know for sure."

"You're probably right about that. So, if you are, is this good news?"

She shrugs again. "It would be for me. I don't think it would be for him."

He squeezes her hand quickly, not sure what to say to that. She squeezes his back, understanding his touch.

A minute later they finish the dishes, and join the other four. He catches the tail end of Palmer saying, "...homoerotic wank-fest."

"Wank-fest?" Tony says, disbelieving. "Okay, I get that you idolize Ducky, but, Jimmy, you aren't British."

"There's not a good American term for that."

"Circle jerk? Homoerotic wank-fest is more or less the definition of that," Tim adds, sitting on the sofa next to Abby, wrapping an arm around her. "What are we talking about?"

"Tony brought James Bond movies, but they're all the ones with Daniel Craig. Hence, homoerotic wank-fest."

"Au contraire, my sadly misguided Autopsy Gremlin, if it was just the three of us, you could accuse me of that, but you are forgetting, half of our group is female, and at least Ziva prefers Craig."

Ziva shrugs. "I prefer him out of the Bonds. He is the most believable spy out of the men who have played Bond. He looks ready to kill people."

"Connery," Abby says. "Craig's just too...Grrrr... Like Ziva said, ready to kill people. He's pretty enough, but he never looks like he's having fun. Like, you know how they talk about the guy who more Americans would like to have a beer with wins the Presidency? Okay, well, Connery'd be more fun to have that beer with. Plus that accent!"

Breena's nodding at that. "Brosnan. I like 'em tall, dark, and handsome. And that scene, in the Thomas Crowne Affair, where he's dancing with Renee Russo..."

"Nooo... The Thomas Crowne Affair starred Steve McQueen and no one else. That remake was an abomination." Tony looks pained at the idea of the remake. "Still, Palmer, if your masculinity is so delicate that it can't take Daniel Craig in a bathing suit, I did bring more than just Bond."

"I can take Craig. Skyfall was pretty good, even if he spent more time naked in the movie than any of the girls. I'm just wondering about why, out of all the Bonds, you'd pick him."

"Okay. Fine. I wasn't planning on saying it until tomorrow, but now's as good a time as any. I'm gay. Ziva's been my beard for the last four months. Gibbs and I are running away to New York to get married next week."
Tim's not sure if he's ever laughed that hard before.

Tim spends a minute before bed looking at himself in the mirror over the dresser, while Abby finishes up in the bathroom. He's naked except for the wrist cuff, he only takes that off when he showers. It only took two nights of sleeping sans PJs to decide he preferred it that way. So this time of night, when he's waiting for Abby to get done with her pre-bed routine, he's always naked.

He's certainly been in worse shape in his life, but he's thinking it might be time to rein in his love affair with sugar a bit.

It's not that he's been feeling particularly self-conscious about not wearing a shirt on the beach, (amazing how a regular diet of really good sex can help make you feel comfortable in your skin) it's just, well, next to Palmer's somehow zero percent body fat physique and Tony's you can still see that he used to be an athlete body, he's thinking that maybe it's time to get into somewhat better shape.

He doesn't need to be skinny again, let alone cut, but maybe few less pounds around the middle would be a decent goal. And he's thinking that basically, if he were to cut the snacks out, the amount of sex he's getting should take care of that.

Abby comes out, also naked, presses up against his back, wrapping her arms around him, resting her chin on his shoulder, and looks at him in the mirror. He twines his fingers with her, and she kisses him on the neck.

"Whacha doin?"

"Debating ending, or at least toning down, my love affair with sugar."

She runs her hand over his chest and stomach. "Wouldn't be the worst idea you've ever had."

He appreciates the delicacy of that answer. Not calling him fat, not demanding he do it, but supportive as well. "Nope. Not by a longshot."

"So, I saw you talking to Ziva while washing dishes. Did she tell you?"

He turns to face her, leaning butt against the dresser, his hands wrapping around her waist, pulling her hips flush to his. "You knew?"

"Sure." Abby wraps her hands around his neck and quickly kisses him. "She told me the day after she realized she had three more pills than she should have had. That's the kind of thing girls tell each other. You notice something like that, it's awfully scary, so you want to have someone to talk to. Breena probably knows, too."

"You ever have a scare like that?"

Abby shook her head. "When it comes to birth control careful is my first, middle, and last name. Just like your first time with no condom was with me, when the Depo wears off, my first no birth control time will be with you."

He smiles at that, feeling just ridiculously pleased at that idea.

They stand there for a minute, holding each other, his forehead against hers, both of them enjoying the comfort of another body, a different skin, next to their own.

She lightly licks his lip, and then turns to look at the clock. He follows her gaze, 11:53. "I was thinking, Breena's asleep by now."

He nods, not exactly sure where this is going. But Breena was sleeping about ten minutes after the movie began, so now, three hours later, the idea that she'd still be sleeping makes an awful lot of sense.

"And if she's sleeping, Jimmy probably is, too."

"Okay." That makes sense, too.

"And I bet Ziva and Tony are in their room." They'd certainly headed in that direction when the movie was over.


"And their room doesn't overlook the beach."

"Also true." He's getting an inkling of where this might be going and starts to smile.

"Wanna go skinny dipping with me?" Abby asks, huge grin on her face.

"Yeah." He nods as he says that, and leans over to grab his jeans.

"What are you doing?"

"Naked on the beach is one thing. Naked walking through the house where there's four other people, something else all-together."

She laughs at that, and steps back from him while he pulls on the jeans.

Abby stares at him for a moment, eyes tracing up and down his body. "I like that."


She hooks her thumbs into the belt loops on his jeans. "You, wrist cuff, tattoos visible, jeans, low and still undone, bare feet. We might be doing more than swimming."

He smiles. "You mean there was a chance we wouldn't have?"

She grins. "No."

She lets go, and he watches her head to the door, hips swinging with each step. "Aren't you going to put something on?"

She looks over her shoulder, grabs the towel that's hanging on the door knob and slings it over her shoulder. "Nope."

He laughs and follows.

There are four bedrooms on the top floor. (As Breena said, one for her and each of her sisters, and one for her parents.) They've got the one furthest down the hallway. It shares a bathroom with the room across from it, but no one is in that one.

Tony and Ziva are on the other side of the hall, and walking quietly past their room, they hear nothing. The Palmers are in the master bedroom, right next to the stairs, and Tim giggles silently as he hears soft voices saying nothing with words.

Abby mouths at him, "Or not sleeping," a huge smile on her face.

He nods, grinning.

He's two steps further down the staircase when he comes to a stop. The voices he's hearing now are very much not Jimmy and Breena, though from the sound of them, something pretty similar is occurring.

Abby stops right behind him, pressed against his back. Also hearing the same thing he is.

The door is fifteen steps (eight down, seven forward) in front of them. The great room is right next to them, but right this second, still shielded from view by the wall of the staircase. He can imagine, based on what he's hearing, where Tony and Ziva are. The sofa or one of the recliners. They might, depending on what position they're in, be facing away from the staircase.

If the front door was open, this would be a fairly easy decision. Just walk quietly out. But it's not open. It's closed and locked. So getting out will take at least a few seconds and make a little noise.

He turns to her, question in his eyes. After all, he's not the one who's naked.

She whispers into his ear. "Not like he hasn't seen me naked before."

"Yeah, but Ziva might not appreciate the audience." He whispers back.

"If she didn't want the chance of an audience, they'd be in their room, like Jimmy and Breena."

He nods. There is that. Though, at least in his experience, the chance of an audience is a lot more fun than an actual audience.

He takes two more, quiet, steps down and peeks around the wall. They're on one of the recliners, and from what he can see, they're both naked. Ziva's straddling Tony, rising and falling against him, her back toward them. If his eyes were open, Tony could see the door, but they aren't.

Screw it. If they see, they see. He'll stare Tony in the eyes and say something like 'Payback's a bitch, right Tony?'and head right out the door.

He gets to the door, quietly, and it seems like they haven't noticed. Getting it open makes what feels like a very loud clicking sound as the bolt slides out of the lock. He holds the door open and Abby shoots down the steps and out onto the porch.

And if Tony or Ziva noticed, they did a good job of not letting them know.

Abby drops the towel and wades into the surf. As he's shucking off the jeans he finds himself thinking that Abby was made for moonlit beaches. She's beyond lovely bathed in soft, milky white-blue light, skin wet and shining.

He's never made love outside before, or in water. Well, not ocean style water. The shower and the bath, sure, but water that moves on its own, that rocks and slips around and almost through you, that's different.

By the time they're shoulder deep, they're past the breakers, so there's just a sort of gentle rolling motion, and balancing with her wrapped around him is fairly easy.

Salt flavored kisses, water that supports, caresses, Abby's legs around his hips, her head back, skin sparkling with moon and starlight, and he's thinking maybe he does like the beach better than the mountains.

The girls were playing in the surf with Palmer while Tony and Tim messed around with the grill.

"Have a good swim last night?" Tony asked.

Tim grinned. "Yeah. Catch a late movie?"

"Something like that." Tony laughed a little and then rips open the bag of charcoal, pouring the coals into the grill.

"So, you two ever get around to ropes and things?"

Tony nodded.

"You like it?"

Tony smiled and changed the subject. "That looks better than I thought it would," he said, looking at Tim's tattoo as Tim piled the coals the way Gibbs had showed him. When Tim had designed it, it was a fairly standard Celtic knot. Once Sam got ahold of the idea, he spread the strands out a bit, and used the negative space to make it look like the black lines were carved out of the skin, and the red ones wrapped around his arm. The final result made his arm look like carved ivory wrapped in red strands.

"Thanks. Amazing what someone who can actually draw can do with an idea."


"Did it hurt?" He was kind of surprised Tony would ask that.

"Yeah. It hurt. It's like... like someone poking you with a needle tens of thousands of times."

"And you've got two of them." It occurred to Tim that Tony does not, at least to the best of his knowledge, have any tattoos.


"For her?" Tim was getting the idea that this is going somewhere beyond skin art, but he's not sure where Tony wants to take it.

"The first one was mostly for me, she was just the final push that got me moving. The second one was for her."

"What's with the wrist cuff? You don't take it off."

"Abby gave it to me." True enough, even if that wasn't the whole story.

"You are turning into such a Goth."

Tim looked at himself, black swim trunks, which he would have worn no matter what, black is his default color for swimwear, and a gray t-shirt, a skull with a rose coming out of one eye in black over a white arabesque across the stomach, chest and one sleeve. (Gift from Abby, but he really likes it.) Black leather wrist cuff with a silver snaps. The sleeves on the t-shirt were short enough that the bottom of the cuff tattoo was visible, even though the Python one is hidden. It occurred to him this is probably who he would have been in college if he'd been confident enough in himself to do it.

He shrugged, looking at Abby in her black tankini, actually playing in the sunlight. Sure he had spent several happy minutes rubbing SPF 70 sunblock on her, but, to the best of his knowledge, this weekend was the first time in years that she had been out to play in the sun.

"Not turning, it's always been there. But more of mine is coming out, and hers is taming down a bit."

"By which you mean she hasn't spent the entire day in the shade?"

"Something like that." Tim looked Tony over and thought he might know where this conversation is supposed to go. "Besides the bigger bed, any changes you're making for Ziva?"

"I spent four hours researching what's involved in converting to Judaism last week."

That stunned Tim. It's vastly more serious than anything he thought might have been going on with Tony, of course, almost dying probably did get him thinking some serious thoughts. It certainly had for Tim. "Yeah, I'd say that qualifies as a change. Does she know you're thinking..."

"Not yet. That's the sort of thing I'd like to have my own mind made up on before talking to her about. Think God'll forgive me if I sneak the occasional bacon cheeseburger?"

"I doubt He'd mind." He'd never talked religion with Tony, and honestly isn't sure how much he believes or doesn't. But in that Tim, at his absolute best, most reverent can get to the point of admitting that he just doesn't know if there's a God, he felt fairly comfortable in the idea that a likely non-existent God doesn't care about bacon.

Tony lit the grill, and they watched the flames. "Not so sure about the circumcision thing."

That really startled Tim. "Ummm weren't you already..." Yeah, he's been in the men's room with Tony, but he's never looked. One thing straight guy do not ever do is look. But since most American guys are, the idea that Tony might not be had never occurred to Tim.

"Yeah, but they still want a few drops of blood, from, you know..."

"Okay..." That was something Tim didn't want to think too hard about.

"How long did that tat take?"

"Four hours." Okay, in light of that, feeling a bit queasy about a drop or two of blood was probably silly. Still the idea of anyone with a knife getting that close to his privates made Tim feel squirmy.

"How long to heal up?"

"About three weeks."

Tony seemed to think about that as well. "And you got it for her?"

"With her. A sign, one that can't be taken off or changed, that I'm hers and she's mine."

Tony nodded.

They were sitting on the porch, just having finished dinner, talking about something. Tim doesn't remember what, now. He was sprawled on one of the lounges, Abby's laying down, her head on his lap, feet dangling off the side. Ziva sat on the floor between Tony's outstretched legs, leaning against his chest. Breena was laying on her side, Palmer sitting behind her, his hand gently resting on the curve of her stomach.

It was fun. It was happy and peaceful. And of course, it didn't last.

Palmer's phone rang first. Tony's a hair behind it. By the time that happened the other four of them were already starting to pack up.

Tim was in their room, stuffing clothing into their bag. Abby's phone was less than a foot away when it began to buzz.

"We're on our way."

"McGee?" Director Vance on the phone, not expecting to hear Tim's voice.

"Yeah. What's going on? Tony and Palmer have already gotten their calls. Abby's dousing the grill, so I picked up for her."

"Train versus troop transport north of Richmond. The train won. How long until you can get there?" Leon asks.

"Four hours?"

That seems to make Vance think. "Are any of you sober?"

"Ziva is. And the rest of us will be by the time we get there."

"Okay. Put your lights on and get moving."

"I don't think we have any."

He can feel the look Vance must have on his face. "Why would you not have flashers?"

For the same reason we don't have guns or badges, we're on vacation! "We just don't. We're not dressed for it either. Make sure someone has extra coveralls and boots for us."

"Fine. What are you driving?"

"We'll be in Palmer's car, since we've all got to get to the same place. Abby'll take hers to the lab." He doesn't add that Breena will likely end up driving Ziva's Mini home, because that's nothing Vance needs to know.

"Okay, I'll get a BOLO out on your cars. Floor it. No one is going to slow you down."

Getting through the police line was a bit of a challenge. No badges, no guns, and the four of them dressed for the beach. Finally a nervous looking junior agent radioed in and got the permission for the four of them to enter.

Entering, they found it was exactly as bad as you'd expect a train crash to be.

"Watch your step," Palmer said staring at millions of shards of glass and twisted metal. "We'll get our feet cut to ribbons if we aren't careful."

They found Ducky first. "Mr. Palmer, you are underdressed," Ducky says, looking at Palmer in a swim suit, Hawaiian shirt, buttoned for the first time all weekend, and flip flops.

"I'm dressed exactly the way I should be for what I'm supposed to be doing." Jimmy says as he steps into a pair of coveralls. "We were supposed to have today and tomorrow off. Even with Ziva driving"— And she had gotten frighteningly close to setting the land speed record for the trip from the Outer Banks to north Richmond. Twice they had seen flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror, to see, a minute later, those lights turn off.—"going home to get more appropriate clothing would have added two hours to the trip. I assumed you'd prefer I was here fast rather than in a tie."

"Correct." Ducky nodded.

"I'll grab some boots from the transport and be ready to go in a sec," he said, heading toward the body transport, grumbling about how every time he tries to take a vacation the world conspires against him.

Gibbs just looked at them, Tim and Tony in t-shirts and swim trunks, Ziva in a pair of shorts and a bikini top, all of them but Tony in flip flops, quirked one eyebrow, and then got them up to speed as they too hopped into coveralls and borrowed boots. Troop convoy heading from DC to Norfolk. The first transport went through the intersection, the second one got clobbered by the train, and no one could figure out why the guard rail didn't go down.

CSX was claiming the guard rail was working perfectly and that the signal was, according to their computers, down. The driver of the first vehicle and the third said it was up. The conductor said he was blasting the horn, but neither the first or third driver claimed to have heard it.

No one knew if it was a malfunction, sabotage, suicide/homicide by train, or if the drivers really just hadn't noticed.

What they did know was that twenty-four Marines had been on that transport, and as of right now, only three of them were still alive.

Every NCIS agent out of the Navy Yard was on duty, along with ten from Norfolk and another ten from Baltimore. It was time to get to work.

Forty-two hours later, the case was closed and they were standing in Vance's office. He had gathered them around the conference table, where there was a map of the east coast, with a circle around the DC area extending to Baltimore in the north and Richmond in the south.

Leon stared at each of them, rubbing his eyes. He looked just as exhausted as they all felt. They'd had just enough time to run home and change, grab a little food, but that was it. Everyone had been working full out for almost two straight days.

"I have checked with Legal, and they tell me that your off time is your own. That I cannot, in fact, order you to do anything when you are off duty. So I am asking you, as a personal favor, that when you decide three quarters of my best Major Case Response Team, half of my Autopsy department, and my entire Forensic lab should all go off on vacation together, that you please stay within an hour and a half of the Navy Yard." Leon points to the map. "There are many fun and interesting things to do in the greater DC area. Please, do them!"

Several quite versions of 'Yes sir' issued out of the five of them, then Leon dismissed them, and they went to their respective homes to drop from exhaustion.

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