Chapter 62: Kids
“Have you talked to Ziva?” Tim asks as he steps into the bathroom. “Oh, God, that smells like toxic waste. How can you stand to have that on your head?”
Abby looks up from rubbing the dye into her hair.
“You get used to it after a few times, and for me, a few times was back in the mid-nineties.”
“Okay...” He opens the window. “So, have you?”
“I talked to Ziva today.”
“And...” It’d been a week since they got back from the beach and he doesn’t want to be constantly badgering Ziva, but he is certainly curious.
He sighs with relief. “And Tony dodges the invisible bullet.”
“Something like that.”
“Is she going to tell him she might have been?” he asks.
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask. You aren’t, are you?”
“NO! The idea of you pregnant just about freaks him out. Ziva pregnant is probably a full on, curled into a ball, rocking back and forth, whimpering panic attack.”
“Yeah. We talked about it a little when he helped me move. He seemed pretty freaked out. He’ll be a friendly grown-up for Palmer’s kid. But he’ll be an uncle to ours, and that’s already one degree of separation too close for him right now.”
“Why do kids frighten him?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never asked.”
“Maybe you should.”
“Maybe. Could make for an entertaining next stakeout.”
“If she had been, you think he would have been okay?”
“Eventually. And if he needed something that scared him more than a baby to get him right, I would have held a gun to his head until he was.”
Abby starts to smile, and then notices that Tim isn’t joking.
He shrugs a little—No way in Hell he’d let Tony walk away, no matter how scared he might be—and reaches for his toothbrush, ready to change the subject. “I got my yearly email from human resources telling me that if I don’t use up some of my vacation days, I’m going to lose them.”
NCIS does allow you to save up vacation days. It does not allow you to save them for more than three years at a go. So, in that he’s never used up a full year’s worth of vacation days, each year for the last six years they’ve sent him an email telling him his days from three years previous are about to expire.
“I’ve got forty-three vacation days saved up, and I’m willing to bet you’ve got even more. How about we use some of them to go somewhere?”
“What is this vacation thing of which you speak?”
“It’s this crazy idea that you take a little time, and don’t go to work. You go do something fun. How about it? You, me, somewhere where the leaves change colors and fall actually happens.”
She thinks about that for a minute. “I’d have to give them enough notice to find someone to cover the lab for me.”
“So, say, I don’t know, a week, maybe two, just you and me, in October.”
“You think we could actually take ten days off?”
“I don’t think it’s impossible.” By which he means that they’ll both have their computers and likely end up working at least some. “Think about it, Tony and Gibbs used to solve crimes with only Kate. They can probably get along for two weeks without me. And if they can find someone who’s half decent with the lab—”
“Simmons out of Norfolk is pretty good.”
“Like Simmons, then maybe you could leave for a while, too.”
“Where would we go?”
“I was thinking Texas. I’d like to introduce you to my mom and step-dad.”
“Taking me home to meet the parents?”
He smiles and puts the toothpaste on his brush. “One parent, one step-parent, and I’ve never lived in their house, so it’s not precisely home, but yeah, that’s the general idea.”
She smiles at that. “I’d like to meet your mom and step-dad.” She thinks about it. “If we got two weeks off, we could swing by New Orleans and you could meet Luca, Melody, and Harper.”
“That sounds good.”
Four days later he was on a stakeout with Tony, staring at yet another building where absolutely nothing was happening.
“That’s out of the blue.”
“Thinking about Palmer, and baby Palmer. And wondering if you can get all the way through the christening without a panic attack.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Good.” Tim sits there quietly, watching the building, hoping Tony will take the opening and just talk about it, because he’s not going to ask again.
“They don’t bug me as much as they used to.”
“That’s good. You still looked pretty creeped out seeing Breena’s tummy.”
“She’s got a person in there. It’s creepy.”
“We’re mammals, Tony. That’s just how it works.”
“I know that. Doesn’t make her having a kid in there any less weird.”
Tony’s staring out the window, using the binocs, not that he needs them really, the curtains are closed, so they can’t see in.
He doesn’t put them down or look away when he says, “They’re loud and messy and always sort of damp or sticky. And you never know what one of them is going to do. So you’ve always got to be watching.”
“True enough.” That matched his memories of when Sarah was little pretty well, but he’s fairly sure this is just Tony warming up to getting to the real reason.
“They smell bad, too.”
Tim shrugs. “Sometimes. All people do.”
“Kids need you.”
Tim nods. And there is it.
“They really need you. All the time, no matter what. You don’t get sick days or vacations. If you get bored or scared, you can’t leave because they still need you.”
Tim nods at that, too.
“Get bored and leave, get scared and leave, that’s sort of my MO. I don’t like being needed. That’s part of why Ziva and I work. She doesn’t need me. She loves me, she wants me, and if I screw this up, it’ll hurt, but it won’t break her. But you leave a kid, and you break them.”
Tim thinks that Tony might be selling himself short on that, but he’s not sure, and figures that by this point Tony knows Ziva better than he does. “You need her.”
“Yeah, I do, and that scares the hell out of me, too. But we’re talking kids, right?”
“If either of our dads had given a crap about us, do you think we’d be so tied to Gibbs?”
Tim shrugs, he knows for a fact that needing a dad is a big part of why he’s still at NCIS, and definitely why he’s still in the Major Case Response Team. “Abby adores him, and her dad was around.”
“But he’s not anymore.”
“True. At least your dad is trying.”
“Yeah, he is. That scares me, too.”
“He’s seventy-eight. And if we get close, that means one day I’ll have to say goodbye to him for real.”
“It’ll hurt, no matter how it happens. Ziva hadn’t even seen her dad in two years when he died, and we both saw her when...” He lets that trail off, the memory of Ziva weeping over her father still bright in his mind. “You might as well try to get something you can enjoy now.”
“Probably. But anger would be easier than sorrow.” Tony lets that idea linger for a moment and then says, “Every time I see him lately, I see the man I’m afraid I’ll become. It’s not like I don’t see the similarities. Not like I look at him and can’t feel the part of me that’s like him.”
“How do you mean?”
“I know my mom was the love of his life. And I know he fucked around on her.”
Tim looks surprised, best he knows Tony was eight when his mom died, and that’s the sort of thing you hopefully don’t know about until you’re older. “How do you know that?”
“I caught him, once. At the time, I was too young to know what I had seen. He told me his secretary was helping him find something under his desk, but once I got older, learned what a blow job was, I figured it out.”
Tim pulls up his sleeve and takes his watch off. Then he takes Tony’s hand—Tony looks especially startled by that.—and places his fingers on his pulse. “Feel that?”
Tony nods, looking really disturbed.
“I might be devoted, but I’m not dead, let alone blind. I check out the waitress. So does Palmer. Hell, so does Abby if she’s hot enough.” Tony takes his hand back as his eyes go wide.
“Abby likes girls?”
Tim smiles. “Some of them.”
“Have you two ever...”
“Nah. Just the two of us, and it’ll stay that way. She tells me she’s okay with a girl joining in, as long as I’m okay with a guy, and, well, I’m not.”
Tony nods. “Yeah, that’d be a deal breaker for me, too.”
Tim nods and puts his watch back on. “Anyway, the point is, we all look, we all think, we don’t all do. It’s just part of being alive. Though it’s nice to know I’m subtle enough at it you haven’t noticed me doing it.”
“I feel like I’m out with a couple of married, Mormon, Boy Scouts when I’m with you and Palmer.”
“Jimmy and I spent high school and college getting shot down. And if you’re pretty sure a girl is going to respond to you checking her out by slapping your face, you get really good at looking and not getting caught.
“So you’re saying your stealth ogling technique is self-preservation?”
“Something like that. A woman catches me looking, it’s because I want her to. So, these days, only Abby catches me.”
Tony thinks about that, seems to appreciate it.
“Still, I also try to limit temptation. Like, okay, I haven’t been in the break room for a while, because that’s where the cookies and candy are, and it’s a whole lot easier to not eat the cookies if I don’t see them.”
“So I don’t go to bars by myself. I don’t flirt with anyone other than Abby. All of my female friends that I spend time alone with are married or so close it doesn’t matter. And sure, I’m still looking and still thinking—You might think pregnant Breena is creepy, but I sure as hell appreciated her in that bikini.—but I’m not going to do anything about it, and that’s all that matters.”
Tony’s giving him the are you insane look. “Breena in the bikini?”
“Oh yeah!” Tim nods enthusiastically.
“You are one sick puppy.”
“Did you somehow not see her boobs?” Tim is gesturing as he says this in a way that gets across exactly what about said boobs impressed him.
“You like them big?”
“Big, small, in between, they’re all good. I have yet to see a breast I didn’t like. And I noticed hers were especially fine in that little green bikini.”
“Okay, yeah, that was nice.” He's got a fairly dirty grin on his face as he says that.
“All of her is nice. And so is Ziva.”
“Yeah, she really is. Wait, you were checking out Ziva?”
Tim rolls his eyes. “Not blind, not dead.” He shakes his head a little. “Super-hot Israeli assassin turned Federal Agent playing in the surf in a wet bikini in front of me, let alone screwing on a recliner, and, yeah, I’m looking. You gonna tell me you weren’t looking at Abby naked on the beach?”
“I did not look at Abby naked on the beach. Mostly because Ziva was standing right next to me. I did however look at Abby, naked, sprinting down the steps, and I most certainly looked at Abby in a bathing suit on the beach.” Tony smiles. “I didn’t know she had that many tattoos.”
“I think there’s fourteen of them.”
Tony looks puzzled. “You don’t know?”
Tim shoves him gently. “I know exactly what she has on her skin, but like, she’s got the two little angels on her shoulders, they’re a matched set she got at the same time, so is that one tat or two? Or the stitch marks on her arm, there are nine of them, one tat or nine?”
They sit there quietly watching the house.
“You ever wonder if you have any kids?” Tony asks.
“Rarely. Every woman I’ve slept with has known how to get a hold of me if she wanted to. And I’ve always been careful.”
Tony nods. “I do. More than enough women who didn’t know how to get a hold of me later, not always careful, and even careful doesn’t work all the time.”
“Condoms work something like 98% of the time, and you’ve been dodging that bullet for years?”
More quiet. Tim gets the idea that Tony’s half-hoping someone will move in that house and kill what he’s saying, and half-hoping to get it out.
“I see kids, and I think about how many I may have failed. How many brown-haired, hazel-eyed people are out there without a dad? My first time, I was sixteen, snuck into a frat party, hooked up with a girl, both of us drunk, no condom, never got her name, never saw her again. For all I know there’s a twenty-eight-year-old out there somewhere with my eyes.”
Tim shrugs, not sure how to be comforting for something like this.
Tony shakes his head. “Hell, I’ve been at this long enough it’s possible I have grandkids. In college, my team made it to March Madness all four years, final four two of them. Girls all over the place. Two, three a night if I wanted them, and trust me, I did. Spring break, more orgies.
“Anyway, I was with Jeanne, and she took me to a baby shower for one of her girlfriends, and there were kids all over the place, and that’s when it finally hit me: sex makes babies. And babies are a ton of work. Dumb, right?”
Tim nods a little, not unkindly, but aware that Tony would deal better with a little teasing to break the intensity of this. “Yeah, I had that figured out by the age of nine.”
“And since then, kids have scared me, I’ve been much more careful, and my dad sleeping with every woman he can catch disgusts me. Because, for all I know, I’ve got a dozen half-brothers and sisters all over the world, also all without a dad.
“So that’s it. That’s the thing with me and kids.”
Tim nods. If this was Palmer, he’d probably give him a hug. But it’s Tony, and Tony would think that was weird, so he doesn’t know what to do besides hope that someone moves out of that house and gives them a way to get out of this.
Maybe God was listening, maybe it was just luck, either way a blue Suburban pulled up and three guys got out, which meant he and Tony had something else to think about.