Chapter 58: True Love Is Not Just Fluffy Kittens and Rainbows
They went home about 2:00. Tim was having a hard time staying awake, and sleeping in the chair next to Tony just wasn't a good plan.
He hadn't really slept the night before. He kept swimming through exhausted half-dream/memories of the men he killed, Tony not breathing, and falling, slowly to a floor colder than ice, colder than he was, but in the dream, the door didn't fling open and Dornie wasn't immediately running in and picking him up.
Abby got him home, and he crashed into their bed, still in the clothing he had almost died in, asleep less than a minute after his head hit the pillow.
This time, he didn't dream.
It's dark, and he's hungry when he wakes up. The clock says it's 8:42.
He heads toward the kitchen, wondering where Abby is, and then hears water running in their second bathroom, which is weird. They don't really ever use that bathroom, don't really need it. And Abby rarely gets a night-time shower. Not like it never happens, and it's true they didn't get one this morning, but why wouldn't she be in the bathroom off of their bedroom?
He knocks and hears a muffled, "Yeah?"
So he goes in, and stops dead.
She's sitting on the floor, back against the tub, tap and ventilation fan on, arms wrapped around her knees, sobbing.
He's right next to her, arm around her shoulders less than half a breath later.
She looks at him, face puffy, eyes red and bloodshot. "I didn't want to wake you up, but I couldn't keep it in any longer."
Tim suddenly gets that she's had an absolutely horrific two days as well, and that she's been being strong for him, making sure he had someone to cry on when he needed it.
"Hey." He's petting her hair, and gets her settled between his legs, snuggled into his chest. "I've got you."
This time he held her while she sobbed, letting her tears soak into his shirt, trying to soothe her by just being there.
Eventually the sobbing slowed and she turned around, still crying, straddling his thighs, staring into his eyes. He was expecting sad, but furious is there, too, and it takes him by surprise.
"You do not get to die on me." Her voice is low, soft, raw from the crying and shaking with anger.
He nods. She punches him, hard, on the shoulder, and he rubs it gently.
"You do not get to dangle this perfect fantasy life in front of me: married, house, kids, grow old together and then take it away by dying on me! You don't get to make me want that, need it, and then take it away!" She takes a fast, shuddering breath. "You don't get to make me need you and then go away." She's blinking as the tears stream down her face. "You don't." That was almost a whimper, her hands clenching on his shoulders.
His hands wrap around her back, and he kisses her. "I'm not going anywhere."
Wrong answer, though he's not sure if anything he could have said would have been right. She hit him on the shoulder again, and once again, this isn't just a little annoyed tap, there is rage and terror in this hit, and it hurts. "You don't know that! Kate went out there and never came home. Jenny didn't come home. Mike didn't come home." Another fast, hard, shuddering breath. "My mom and dad didn't come home!"
"I'm here now."
She's sobbing again, whole body shaking in his arms, but she doesn't want to curl into him, he can see that. "You let go! You let go of Gibbs and Ziva and Tony. You were going to lie down and die!"
He's too close to it, the memory of letting go of Gibbs is still too fresh, and he can't keep his own voice or tears under control as he says, "If I had kept holding on, we all would have died."
"You didn't know that!" She hits him again, both fists slamming into his shoulders, and he takes her wrists in his hands, holding tight, accepting that she's furious and terrified, but not willing to let her beat it out on his skin. "You don't get to let go! You don't ever let go! As long as you are breathing, you will hold on. And if it's you or Ziva, or you or Tony, or you or Gibbs, you pick you!" She didn't yell the last bit, her voice dropped and went soft, but he knows she has never, ever been this angry at anyone before, and she has never meant anything the way she means that.
He doesn't say anything to that, not sure what he could say. Tony, Ziva, Gibbs, they're his partners, and he'd throw his life in front of theirs without thinking about it. But if he does that, she'll be here, alone, and Tony and Ziva and Gibbs aren't him, they aren't the life, the love she's come to count on, they aren't the future they both desperately want.
He can remember telling Wolf that you can be married to the job or married to your spouse, and he can see from the way she's looking at him a choice is coming up.
"You said say the word, I'm saying it. Get the desk job. I'm not sitting there again, watching our life fade away, powerless to do anything about it."
He kisses her forehead. "I'll talk to Vance in the morning."
She stares at him for a moment, breathing hard and fast, not looking at all relieved by him agreeing to do it. He can feel from the way she's trying to move her arms that she wants to hit him again, but he's not going to let her do that, so she throws her head back and screams.
He hopes the water and the ventilation fan is enough to at least muffle that sound. Now would be a very bad time for the neighbors to call the cops.
But it seemed to help. She's still crying, but looks calmer when she says, "Don't talk to Vance. Without you in the field they all would have just vanished, and..."
And they both know how badly things could have gone if they hadn't shown up in time to stop those guys. She can do the math as well as he can, but being handed a flag at the end of a funeral, no matter how many lives you save by dying, doesn't make saying goodbye any easier, and it doesn't make the loss of the one you love best any less painful.
For a long minute they sit there, watching each other. He doesn't know what he can say to her, not sure if there is anything. Because, like when Jimmy and Ducky got kidnapped, the best he can say, the best he can ever say is 'today it wasn't me' and especially right now, that's just not enough.
Eventually, enough time passes and she relaxes a little. He lets go of her wrists, and she wraps her arms around his neck. He touches her face gently, and she turns into his hand and kisses his fingers. Her eyes close, and for another minute she just breathes, slowly, getting herself under control.
Then she opens her eyes. "The first time we dated, after you gave me the first poem, I was lying next to you in the coffin, watching you sleep, and I could feel it, if I let myself, I'd fall in love with you, and not just the so-happy-I-like-having-you-around-love, but the my-life-melts-into-yours-and-you-become-just-as-important-to-me-as-breathing-love, and I couldn't take it."
He, obviously, doesn't remember that part of it. But he does remember waking up with her staring at him, and smiling at her, loving having her near, reaching up to kiss her, and watching her more or less jump out of the coffin, run into the shower, and then tell him about how she didn't want anything beyond friendship and sex when she got out. "That was the morning you told me you didn't want anything serious."
She nods, and he strokes her shoulders and arms. "Yeah. I loved my parents like that. And Ziva's right, you don't get over it. You just get through it. But losing it breaks you. I'm not the person I was before they died. I wasn't going to let that happen again."
"Why'd you change your mind?"
She smiles a little. "Kyle. He has a girlfriend he adores and a lot of really deep, intense relationships; he reminds me of who I used to be before they died. And I liked that version of me. And keeping a wall between me and really loving something wasn't working. It didn't keep fear away. It didn't make life better. It didn't make it hurt any less when Kate or Jenny died. It didn't make burying Mike any easier. It just made my life shallower because I didn't get to really enjoy them.
"And you asked me out, and I realized I didn't want shallow with you. That of everyone in my life, you were the one I didn't want shallow with. I bought my bed the next day, because I wanted a place for you in my home, in my life."
He kisses her gently. Lips stroking over hers.
She pulls back after a few seconds. "But I can't lose this. I can't lose you. And I am not okay with you almost dying. A bullet comes out of nowhere, and there's nothing you can do about it, fine. That's fate. That's the speeding car going the wrong way. And if it happens, it happens. But you promise me, no matter what, if it's in your control, you come home! You do not ever let go again."
And that was the change. He's not Tony's partner anymore, he's Abby's. She comes first. Honor, duty, love, all of these have bound him to Tony, Ziva, and Gibbs, but now she has first claim on them. Family first, Gibbs has said, but he had to lose his to get to the point where he could live that. And now, above and beyond the others, Abby is family. And he's not entirely sure how to balance his work and her, but he's certainly going to figure it out.
So he kisses her, gently, and holds her face in his hands while he says, "If it's in my power, I will come home. As long as there is breath in my body, I will fight to return to you."
Her eyes close as he says that and she inhales deeply, and opens the slowly, holding his gaze with hers. "Make a baby with me? So, that, if something happens, if you ever aren't here, you're still here."
There's an electric rush that goes with her words, a full body thrill that's unlike anything he's ever felt before. It's not pleasure. Pleasure is part of it, but this is more intense than that, it's more real, more meaningful. This might be ecstasy, in the original, religious sense, or as close to that as he'll ever feel.
Her lips crush against his, both of them fighting with their clothing, tearing at it, with an almost frenzy of desire to get naked fast. God, please, yes!
The thousand feelings of the last two days distilled into her body on his and the smooth, hot, tight roll of her hips against his, all of it moving toward life.
Yes. Life. Fuck. And again, yes! Her body on his. Her soul under his hands. Love and terror, agony and joy wrapping into each other and thrusting towards life stretching into forever.
And if death is eternal, and if you can't cheat or win, this at least pushes it off a little further. This motion, this joy, this white-hot electric pleasure rising and falling like breath puts extinction off just a little further, buying life a generation more.
If there's anything that does a better job of letting you know you're alive than sex for the purpose of making a child, Tim doesn't know what it might be.
She's warm and soft in his lap. He holds her close, lips on hers, his left hand buried in her hair, right on the small of her back, her arms wrapped around his shoulders. She broke the kiss, head falling back, and he licked her throat, kissing greedily, feeling her pulse under his mouth.
And right that minute he's never been more alive, and has never been more grateful for that fact.
Hours later, a thought occurs to him as they're in the kitchen wolfing down a large plate of scrambled eggs. Both of them were famished and neither had felt energetic enough to make anything even remotely complicated.
"Wasn't your last Depo shot like, two weeks ago?" He sounds disappointed as he asks, because he knows it's true, and that shuts down a lot of the post-sex, maybe-baby glow.
She thinks about that, sees the look on his face, and then grins at him.
"Get me pregnant ten weeks from now?"
He feels the smile spread across his face, wide and happy, the first gesture of unalloyed joy in two days. "My pleasure."