Friday, May 31, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 106

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

106: Errands

No one tells you that part of a wedding is running ten million errands the day before.

And no one tells you how hard it is to give a damn about them when you found out you’re going to have a baby less than an hour earlier.

What he’d like to be doing is sitting at home with Abby, maybe making love, definitely basking in the we’re-pregnant glow.

No one likes errands in DC traffic.
What he is doing is running back and forth to different airports. Sarah moved to New York three years ago, and she and her boyfriend Glenn were coming into Dulles at ten. His mom and Ben were coming into Reagan at one. Luca’s family was coming into Dulles at three. It’s his job to get them all picked up, to the Adam’s House, and settled in in time for the rehearsal tonight.  

And in between that, he’s also got pick up his suit. Sure, he had to put his reception suit together on his own, that’s not the sort of thing he could rent, but the formal morning suit he’s wearing for the ceremony, that he could and did rent, so he’s got to go get it.

Which means he’s spending a lot of time in Jimmy’s car (Tim switched cars with him, since neither he nor Abby has a car with a backseat.) enjoying the glorious joy that is DC traffic, and mostly just stuck in a sort of blank headspace where the only thing really going on is the immense shock of BABY.

It feels really weird. There’s this huge, everything in his life is about to go sideways immensity to it, but there’s also this sort of gentle blankness, too.

Part of him wants to jump around and tell everyone. Even strangers. He’s chatting mindlessly with the guy waiting next to him at the luggage carousel that’s been assigned to Sarah’s flight, doing the usual, glad-the-flight’s-on-time, who-are-you-waiting-for thing, and the guy next to him congratulated him on the wedding, but he’s feeling this desire to just talk.

He keeps it in check. With the exception of Gibbs, they aren’t planning to tell anyone until after they get back from their honeymoon. Won’t tell most of the world until the first trimester is over. Because if something happens… He quickly shuts that train of thought down. Just the idea of it makes him feel sick to his stomach, and he really doesn’t need that right now.

"Sarah McGee"
A crowd of people are heading toward the carousel, and it takes a moment, but he spots Sarah and waves. She waves back and a minute later he’s hugging her, and a few seconds after that she’s introducing Glenn, who Tim probably should have paid more attention to because this is the first of the boyfriends he’s been introduced to, but he’s kind of distracted.

Fortunately, as the groom, everyone expects him to be distracted.

As he was driving them towards the Adam’s House, Sarah mentions that they’re moving back to DC shortly after New Year’s, and that does get Tim to start paying attention to this Glenn guy, because obviously his sister must be serious about him if she’s not only living with him but moving to a different city with him.

Apparently he’s giving Glenn a pretty good version of his interrogation technique because Sarah sends Glenn to the front desk to get their key cards, pulls Tim aside, glares at him and says, “What are you doing?”

This is where it occurred to him that, just possibly, he hadn’t been making polite, introductory small talk. “Talking?”

“Like hell, you’re acting like Dad.”

Tim stared at Sarah, one eyebrow high, looking exasperated. “Please. Like The Admiral would even notice you’ve got a boyfriend, let alone take any interest in the guy.”

“He met Glenn when he was in New York for Fleet Week and likes him.”

That yanked the metaphorical rug out from under Tim’s feet. “What?”

Sarah calmly said, “He visits when he’s in New York.”

“When did that start happening?”

“When didn’t it happen? He always drops by when he’s within 100 miles.”

Tim sighed, shoulders slumping. “Of course he does. And let me guess, he has signed copies of all of your books in his office next to the flags and medals.”

Sarah looked a little chagrinned at that because the answer is yes.

Tim gritted his teeth a little and reminded himself that it is not Sarah’s fault that their dad is an ass, and that she doesn’t owe it to him to cut their dad out of her life, especially since, besides never being around, he’s always been nice to her. “And how is he?”

“He’s Dad. As long as you don’t expect him to be anything other than Dad, he’s fine.”

“Great.” He and Sarah had talked about that before. He’s fairly sure Sarah and Penny have, as well. If there is one thing he and his dad have in common, it’s the fact they both wish the other one was someone else.

“I take it we aren’t going to see him tomorrow?”

“Not unless something goes horrifically wrong.”

Glenn catches the tail end of that as he heads back with the keys. “What’s going horrifically wrong?”

Sarah takes his hand in hers. “Nothing. Just our Dad.”

“Is he okay?”

Tim’s a little surprised to see that Glenn looks genuinely worried, and his opinion of the guy rises.

“To the best of my knowledge, he’s as okay as he ever is. Let’s get you settled in. Then we can grab some lunch and go get Mom and Ben.”

“That sounds good,” Sarah says, and they head up toward their room. “So, tell me about the house? You all moved in now?”

And that got them on a comfortable topic.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 105

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

Book III: The Father

Chapter 105: High Tech

Of course, when you are waiting with baited breath, there’s also something to be said for high tech.

Friday morning, Halloween, Abby said, “Why would they wrap them up like this?” She pulled at the plastic wrap on the box, trying to find an edge to slip her fingernail into.

“Here.” Tim took it from her, whipped the knife he kept on his keychain out, and slit through the plastic and the box under it. He gave it a yank, harder than he intended, he’s a bit excited, ripping it open and flipping two six-inch-long wands and an instruction/information pamphlet out.

He bent down to pick one of the wands off the bathroom floor. They only need one right now, and it’s not like this is rocket science, so he’s not feeling a need to read the directions.

“Rule number nine always comes in handy,” Tim said as he cut the pregnancy test out of its protective covering. He handed it to Abby, and stood there waiting, expectantly.

She looked at it in her hand, and then stared at him. “Shoo, McGee.”


“I’m not peeing in front of you. Out of the bathroom, now.” She gestured to the door.

He walked out, shut the door, and stood back to it, staring blankly at the boxes in front of him. Night before last they got the bedroom fully unpacked, but the boxes were still piled in the corner. “I’ve seen you do almost everything else.”

“And this is one thing that gets to stay in the mystery category.”

“You’ve seen me pee.”

“And when you take the pregnancy test, that’ll matter.”


A very slow minute goes by. “Are you going to keep calling me McGee?” She didn’t do it nearly as much as she used to, but, especially at work, he’s still McGee.


“As of tomorrow, it’ll be your name, too.”

“Hadn’t thought about that.”

He heard the toilet flush, and waited another minute for her to open the door.

She did, and he looked expectantly at her. “Well?”

“I haven’t looked. I wanted us to see it together.” He saw it sitting on the back of the toilet, readout side down. He took two steps and reached for it, but she grabbed his hand before he can pick it up. “It might not be able to tell, yet. The box said as early as seven days before your period. Today is the first day it could possibly tell.”

“If it’s negative, we can do this tomorrow.”

“Or the day after. We might be busy tomorrow.”

He smiled. “Yeah, we might.” But he was sure that no matter how busy they might be tomorrow, if need be, they’ll find the time to do this again. “You ready to see?”

“Yeah, I am.”

He flipped it over, and felt electric joy arcing through him, making his knees go weak, and a dopey grin spread across his face. She was squeezing his hand hard as they just stared at the tiny gray on gray readout: Pregnant.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 104

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

Chapter 104: October 30th

“Earth to Tim!”

He jerked a little at the sound of Jimmy’s voice, sloshing his coffee.

“You’re a million miles away. Thinking about the wedding?” T-minus two days, and his last day at work until the middle of November.

No, not really. Thinking about Abby, wondering if the pregnancy test would turn positive, wondering about a baby, flashing between images of a little girl and an little boy.

He shrugged a little, said, “That, too,” and returned to stirring the cream into his coffee.

Jimmy nudged him over a few inches so he could get to the creamer and began to doctor his own coffee.


“Eh.” He shrugged at that, too. No, he’s not nervous about getting married. His vows are another subject all together, though.

“Vows still killing you?”

Tim turned to lean back against the counter in the break room and face Jimmy. “Yeah. I’m a writer. I’m a good writer. People pay me money to put words on paper and express thoughts. I’ve got a book’s worth of poetry I’ve written for her. And yeah, some of it’s dumb, but none of it is bad, and she loves all of it. This shouldn’t be so hard.”

“So, what’s the problem?” The only issue Jimmy had had with his own vows was cutting them down. He could have happily gone on for a good half hour, but Ducky had, after reading them, gently suggested that he needed to cut at least half and better yet seventy-five percent of what he had, because no one, not even Breena, wanted to stand there for that long.

“How do you wrap up a life in, at most, a minute?”

“You’re not writing a eulogy, Tim. This is a wedding. You live the life, and your vows are just the broad outline of how you’re going to do it. Stick the pen in your hand, think about how much you love her, and let yourself go.”

Tim blinked slowly, remembering Palmer’s vows, and sighed. “Jimmy, I say this as someone who loves and respects you immensely, but you have no filter between your brain and your mouth, and you really needed one for your vows. You went on for six minutes, and yes, Breena loved them, but everyone else was silently begging you to get done. And if I take your advice and just let go, I will sound like a moron, blathering away Hallmark Card style in trite, and likely rhyming, verse, and it will be a disaster.”

Palmer raised one eyebrow and took a sip of his coffee, then said dryly, “If the reports I got from Ziva are right, you have no idea what my vows were because you were only paying attention to Abby.”

“I caught enough of them. What was the thing about butterfly kisses?”

"She loved that!"
“She loved that!”

Tim nodded, that was true. Sure, he hadn’t been paying much attention to Jimmy or Breena, but even he noticed the fact that Breena had been staring at Jimmy, completely enraptured as he said his vows. “Yes, she did. Everyone else cringed, but she loved it.”

Jimmy smiled smugly. “And when it comes to your vows, that’s all that matters.”

Tim sighed, fairly sure he can’t make himself ignore everyone else at his wedding the way Jimmy did. “When we’re alone together, I may indeed, actually, probably will let go and blather away and be happy as a clam about it, but not with forty other people watching.”

“Okay, Tony.”

Tim rolled his eyes and drank some of his coffee. “Don’t start that.”

“Stop acting like him if you don’t want me to rag on you. He’s too cool to say what he really feels. Fine. News flash, you aren’t and never have been. I’m not either. And no one expects either of us to be cool about getting married. We’re allowed to be soft and romantic and sappy about it.”

Tim thought about that for a moment; that actually was a pretty good point. “You might be. You go off blathering away and what happens? Nothing. Ducky shrugs a little at you, and starts talking about the history of wedding vows. I’ve got to work with Gibbs and Tony and Ziva.”

“Come on, what’s the worst that happens? He calls you McRomeo for a few days, and Gibbs slaps you upside the head during the reception? Like that’s a problem.”

That was probably true, but when it came down to it, it was an excuse. “It’s a problem for me, okay? I want it to be beautiful and meaningful, and…” he looked around for a moment, trying to find the right word for this, “real. It’s too important to be mushy and sappy. And it’s got to deal with the fact that there’s darkness here as well as light. That it’s not all going to be good times, and I’m still going to be there. That this is me, laying my life at her feet, giving her my everything, and building a life with her forever.”

Jimmy smiled, warmly. “That sounded just fine to me.”

Tim snorted. “I’m not marrying you.”

“Thank God.” Palmer sipped his coffee. “You said, ‘too.’ What else has you standing in front of the creamer just staring at it for two minutes?”

Tim thinks about it for a second, but decides Abby won’t mind him talking to Palmer about this. “Did you and Breena plan to get pregnant?”

Jimmy grinned at him. “Oh.” He laughed a little. “Yeah, I remember this. The only time in your life where you’re sitting there thinking, ‘Come on period, show up faster!’”

“More like, ‘Don’t show up at all,’ but yeah, that’s the basic idea.”

“You know they have tests now that’ll tell you a week before her period’s due.”

“Yep, got one sitting in the bathroom already.”

Jimmy laughed. “How long have you been trying?”

“Six days.”

He rolled his eyes and slapped Tim on the shoulder. “Please. Took four shots before we got Molly.”

“You two start right after you got kidnapped?”

“Month before actually, but that certainly added some… intensity to it.”

Tim grinned. “Intensity, there’s a good word for it. If she hadn’t been on Depo last summer, we’d probably have a kid by now.”

“It’s what we’re built for, you know? Make more life, and nothing sharpens that need more than almost dying. We didn’t even get into the house the first time. We were in the car, in the garage, and nothing mattered more than that at that second.”

“Yeah, I remember that. Hell, you almost getting killed got both of us thinking along those lines…” He remembered the frantic up against the wall sex when they got home that night. Smirked a little at the idea that Palmer was doing pretty much the exact same thing at the exact same time, and then pulled his mind away from sex to what sex does. “I can feel it every time I’m not really thinking about something else. Is she pregnant? Did we just make a baby? Am I about to be a dad?”

Jimmy squeezed his shoulder. “I’ve done this twice now, and I can say getting surprised is a lot easier to deal with than planning it out.” For Labor Day, Team Gibbs was on call, so they had gotten together at Jimmy’s for a cook out. No calls came in, and shortly after everyone had sat down for dinner, Jimmy and Breena announced they were expecting a second baby in May. 

“New baby was an accident?”

“Not exactly. Not really trying yet, but not really doing anything to prevent it either. But since we weren’t charting, there wasn’t any sort of waiting with baited breath, trying to make the calendar go faster sort of thing.”

“Okay.” Tim gets that and could see how that would be appealing. And really, they have sex often enough that it’s not like there’s any shot of missing an ovulation unless he gets sent away again, in which case it wouldn’t matter.   

Maybe, occasionally, there’s something to be said for low tech.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 103

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

Chapter 103 Vows and Rings

October 26th

He’s sitting at his desk in his office, pad of paper in front of him, good pen in hand, and a nice blend of tea that Ducky gave them as a house warming present in a cup next to him.

They moved in four days ago, and this is the only room in the house that’s completely unpacked and ready to go.

Two desks, one with his computer set up, the other, which he’s sitting at now, with his typewriter. His bookshelves didn’t take too long to put back up again, and filling them with books and computer gear took him about an hour.

His workbench ended up exiled to the garage, which he doesn’t mind. It’s kind of nice to have a separate space for his different sets of tools.

The rest of the house is in various levels of unpacked, but this one room is done.

And the reason it’s done is staring him in the face. A piece of almost blank paper sitting in front of him. It’s been almost blank for a long time. And as part of procrastinating on getting it less blank, he got his entire office set up.

He’s got one word written on the top of it: Vows.

Writing your own vows is a brilliant idea, until you’ve got to actually sit your ass down, put pen to paper, and come up with the little bastards. Then it’s suddenly every bad dream you’ve ever had about public speaking wrapped around having to bare your heart to everyone you know.

To make matters worse (and this was something Tim never anticipated biting him in the ass) he’s a writer, so his vows should be smooth, elegant, polished. They should be profound and beautiful, haunting even.

And he’d rather shoot himself in the foot than end up sounding like Palmer, saccharine sweet words that puddle into a mush of Hallmark Card romantic goo.

Even if Abby is the wind beneath his wings (which is true), he sure as hell isn’t about to say it.

Not like that.

So this almost blank piece of paper has been sitting in front of him for months, taunting him with something worse than writer’s block. This is fear that the words won’t do the job, that they can’t be strong enough, beautiful enough. Failure, writ large, about the only phrases that have ever mattered this much to him.

He’s got pages of free writing from this, (mostly variations on the theme: I won’t be my dad, and here’s why.) and even a few bits he likes, but something that works, a draft he can shape further, nope.

He stares at the paper some more, knows inspiration isn’t going to strike right this second and wanders into their bedroom to do some more unpacking.

October 27th

While choosing the wedding rings is not the sole province of the groom, fetching them once they are ready and keeping custody of them until the wedding is.

So, it’s lunchtime and he’s on an errand, time to fetch wedding rings.

With Palmer and Ziva, who are both claiming that it is their duty to go with him and oversee the pickup operation so they may report back to Abby on the suitability of said rings. (She’s in court today. They’ve already testified; he’s scheduled for tomorrow, so he can’t go see her at the courthouse today, while they can.)

Because, you know, the entire six hours between lunch time and both of them getting home for dinner is just too damn long to wait to see them.

The jeweler, not the same one who did the engagement ring, spends a moment looking for his order, and then places a small white box in front of him.

Tim opens it and picks up the rings. Ziva and Palmer looking over his shoulders.

They’re wide for wedding bands, but they’re supposed to be wide, it makes it easier to see the pattern on them.

He doesn’t remember how he found mokume gane metalwork for wedding rings. But he does know that once he saw it that that was right for them. The technique, laminating layers of metal together, and then folding them over and over to produce a finished product that looks like it has a wood grain has been around forever in Japan, but is fairly new in the States.

Their rings are black titanium, steel, and platinum. Mostly black with whorls of gray and brilliant silvery metal.

Ziva and Palmer are standing next to him, looking at them, saying nothing. Tim slips his out, and puts it on, for a second he’s just checking to see if it fits properly, but that fades into the feeling of having it on his hand.
He rolls it around on his ring finger, feeling how right it is there.

“Ziva, can I borrow your hand for a moment?” Ziva’s smaller than Abby is, but her right index finger is pretty close to the same size as Abby’s ring finger.

He puts it on her finger. “Feel good? Fit nicely?”

“Yes, McGee. It’s good.”

He takes it back off and slips it onto his ring finger, though it only goes to the top of his second knuckle. He smiles looking at them.

Putting Abby’s back into the little box wasn’t too hard, but he found himself feeling reluctant to take his off.

Palmer sees it and says, “Saturday. Not too much longer.”


The rings are sitting on top of the piece of paper, right next to what is still the only word he’s got written on it.


He plays with them a little. Slipping hers onto the tip of his index finger, and spinning his. It glints gently as the light hits the little whorls of platinum.

The rings were easy to get made. Black titanium, because they both like it. Because the tats and the wrist cuff are black. Because her engagement ring is black. Because black is them, even if he doesn’t wear as much of it as she does. Steel because it’s hard and strong and useful. Platinum, because it’s bright, shiny, beautiful and rare. 

He knows there’s a language of flowers (even if he doesn’t know how to speak it) and thinks there should be a language of metals. Gold, for classicists and tradition. (Ziva and Tony’s rings, even though they haven’t picked them out yet, will be gold. He’s sure of that.) Silver for purity. Steel for strength. There’s something in him that really likes the symbolism of steel in a wedding ring, because love should be like steel, strong, hard, able to withstand what comes at it, and a good foundation to build on. Titianium for... the future and forever.  Platinum for light made liquid and then frozen into form.

“Hey.” Abby pokes her head into his office.

“Hi. You just get home?” He waves her in. He’s noticed she won’t go in his office without express permission, and though he’s told her she’s always welcome, he also really appreciates that there’s a space in their home that’s his and his alone.

“Yeah.” She comes in as he slides his chair a bit further away from the desk. She sits between his legs and holds out her hand. He puts them in her palm. She slips hers on her ring finger and just stares at it.

He squeezes her, and her head comes to rest on his shoulder.

For a while they just sit there, cuddling. He’s got one arm around her back, but his free hand finds hers, and touches her ring finger, feeling the cool metal on warm skin.

“Put mine on me?”

She looks up and grins at him, wide, happy, eyes bright and shining with tears.

“Are you crying?”

“A little.”

He looks a little disturbed by that. “Good crying?” Crying Abby is a pretty rare thing. Crying happy Abby is… well best of his knowledge this is the first time it’s happened. Part of him wonders, hopes this is the first sign of a pregnancy. And part of his is aware of the fact that this whole getting married thing is pretty damn emotional, too. He knows he’s been feeling everything really intensely these last few days, and doesn’t think it’s going to go away until after the wedding, so there’s no reason she wouldn’t be in a similar boat.

“Oh yeah!” She slips it onto his finger, holding his left hand in hers, looking at the matching rings. “Jimmy and Ziva told me they were beautiful, and I couldn’t wait to get home and see them, try them on, feel it on my finger, see it on yours, and there it is and it just feels so good! I mean, look at them, on us, wedding rings. We’re getting married on Saturday!”

He kisses her. “Yeah. We are.”

She plays with the ring on her finger. “I don’t want to take it off.”

“Me either.”

“Ziva said you needed a crow bar to get it off to take it home.”

He smiles wryly. “It wasn’t quite that bad. Still... What do you say? Go out, elope tonight? Take it off for an hour and then let me put it back on you for the rest of your life?”

She shakes her head, fast. “Oh no. Everyone is getting dressed up and partying with us.”

“We can still do the party.”

“You’re just trying to get out of writing your vows.”  She laughs gently, looking at the remarkably blank piece of paper in front of them.

“It’d probably be easier if it was just the two of us and a Justice of the Peace.”

“No performance anxiety?”

“Something like that. If I get up there and say something stupid, Tony will beat me with it until the day I die.”

“You aren’t going to say anything stupid.”

He shrugs. He’s fairly sure he’s got a well-nigh infinite capacity for embarrassing himself. “How about yours? If I could read them...”

“Uh uh.” She kisses him quickly and smiles. “You get to hear them when we get married. They’re a surprise.” He sighs. “You’ll like them.”

“I’ll love them.”

She looks at him seriously for a moment, and then takes off her ring and his. “We already live together. We’ve been having sex for years. And maybe...” she rests his hand on her belly. “I’d like something to be... I don’t know, different, about getting married. Something new. Something you haven’t seen me do over and over. I want to stand up there and give you something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. I want this to be more than just a fancy party.”

He pets her face and nods, understanding that.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 102

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

102. October 23, 2014

The plan wasn’t to have move in day and ovulation day be the same day.

That just happened to be the way it worked out.

After Abby’s temp dropped in August, three weeks after her last Depo shot, they were both pretty pleased at the idea this might be easy. But all of September came and went and nothing happened. And okay, yeah, that’s not wildly unusual. It can take a while for all the artificial hormones to work their way out and for a woman’s body to get back on a regular cycle.

But Tim would be lying if he said he wasn’t at least starting to get concerned about the fact that Abby’s forty now, and this is probably just the Depo wearing off, but it might not be, and if it’s not then they’ve got some big things to talk about.

But he wasn’t thinking about that as he brushed his teeth that morning.

Mostly, he was thinking about how the moving truck was going to be there in less than an hour, and that he’s really hoping this is their last move for a good long time because he’s not a huge fan of moving, while trying to remember if they had already packed up the coffee maker, hoping they hadn’t because some coffee would be good, and then Abby skipped in, thermometer in hand and said, “Ninety-seven four.”

And that killed all thoughts about coffee and moving. (Okay, almost all thoughts, he’s still aware of the fact that the movers are going to get there at eight, so there’s something of a hard deadline here.)

The rational part of his mind knew that sperm can live in a woman’s body for up to seven days, so the rational part knew that, since they’ve had sex every day this week, they they’ve got this covered. That it was entirely possible one of them had already hooked up with the egg and baby McSciuto could already be in the works.

But the rational part of his mind also ran off about two, maybe three tenths of a second after what she said registered. And the Yes-Sex-Now-Make-Baby-NOW! part took over.

He was already wearing his boxers and jeans, but before he’d even gotten his toothbrush put back he was unbuttoning them, and the look of pure sex Abby was shooting him as she carefully put the thermometer down confirmed that she was on the same page he was with this.

And like their first time? Second first time? Like after their 80’s cover band date, he doesn’t have any very clear memories of the sex. No good chronology, he couldn’t tell you how many times they kissed, or if she took his jeans off or if he did, but the way it felt, that burning sense of all-consuming NOW; the overwhelming importance of each thrust, and the immense awareness of life, of her heart beating and his and both of them possibly making another heartbeat with this; the vivid feeling that this was love made real, a verb sliding into a noun, and that sex had never, ever mattered more to him than it does now; that he remembers.

And he remembers after, sitting on the bathroom floor, her in his lap, his face pressed against her shoulder and throat, her chin against his temple as they both rested quietly, breath slowing, calming down. She was holding his hand, and he had his other hand on the small of her back. He traced his fingers up her spine, settling his index, middle, and ring finger on her throat against where her pulse throbbed, and felt each exhale of her breath against his ear, and he just felt lost in how very alive they both are, and how important and amazing that is.

Sure, a quickie in the bathroom wasn’t the most “romantic” sex ever. But he’s not going to complain, because that was definitely some of the most intense sex they’ve ever had.

After a few more minutes they broke apart, cleaned up, and got ready for the day, because in ten minutes the movers were going to be there and the real world doesn’t stop existing, and there’s always stuff you’ve got to do. Like loading boxes into your car, and making sure all your furniture ended up in the right rooms, and packing up the last-minute items. No matter what else you’re doing, that doesn’t go away.

Granted, every time he saw her over the course of the day, he’d look at her and grin, and she’d grin back, and a few times they both just broke into happy giggles, causing the movers to look at them like they were crazy. Which made both of them giggle even more.

Sometimes happy is too big to stay inside. Sometimes it has to burst out, and right now, watching Abby unpacking the plates, looking up at him with a big happy grin, it came out in giggles instead of tears.

They would have liked to have been able to move in a bit before October 23rd. By that point, the wedding was barely a week away and moving in and getting ready for all of that was more than they’d been hoping to do all at once.

But between the late closing, and the fact that the inside of the house had needed some work the first week they had it was spent painting, refinishing the floors, and installing new carpets, so the 23rd was the earliest they could move in.  

It’s true that having real movers mean that this time it was a lot faster than the last time they moved. But faster and fast aren’t the same thing, and it was a very full day.

So they were both pretty tired at the end of that day. But not so tired that, when he spooned up behind her, she didn’t rub up against him, and not so tired that he didn’t take advantage of it. And yeah, it was pretty relaxed and lazy, slow burn sex, not firework sex.

It wasn’t as intense as the first round, but that extra edge of life and the idea of real sex was still there, still setting his blood on fire, pulling extra depth and pleasure out of each touch, each move.

And after, as they spooned together, ready to spend their first night in what would hopefully be the home they shared for the rest of their lives, instead of his hand settling against her chest, it pressed gently against her belly. She squeezed it. Neither of them said anything, but they were both thinking, wondering.

Her breathing was slowing down, edging toward the easy in out of sleep, and some sort of niggly little thing was chewing on the back of his mind, not letting him rest. It took a minute, but he finally got it.



“Happy anniversary.”

She laughed a little, kissed his hand, and snuggled in closer to him. “Best two years of my life.”

“Yeah, mine too.”

She pressed his hand back to her belly. “Next one’ll be better.”

He kissed her shoulder. “Yeah.”


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 101

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

Chapter 101: The First Dance

Some things about planning the Sciuto-McGee wedding weren’t so easy.

One thing Tim had really appreciated about Jimmy and Breena’s reception was that they did the first dance right away, so everyone could just party as they saw fit, instead of having to wait around for it.

So, they had decided to do that for their wedding as well.

And promptly ran into a brick wall.

Both Abby and Tim like music. She’s more into it than he is, but he likes it quite well.  Basically her tastes are narrower, but deeper, and his are broader but less intensive. The issue is that the circle of music she likes and the one he likes, there’s just not much overlap.

And to make matters worse, they couldn’t find a good song that had it all. It needed great lyrics and you had to be able to dance to it. Abby had tons of great music from a dancing perspective. Not so great on the whole love you forever and ever front. Tim had music with fabulous lyrics, especially for a Halloween wedding, he’s almost sure The Airborne Toxic Event somehow crept into their life and wrote The Graveyard by the House for them, but you can’t dance to it. Likewise, Mumford and Sons The Ghosts That We Knew, and the ‘bury my heart next to yours’ seemed especially appropriate for a Halloween wedding, and once again, you can’t dance to it.

For about three minutes he thought Heaven by Bryan Adams (and yes, that’s how far back in his music collection he went) might do it. Great lyrics, perfect lyrics, okay, maybe not the best dancing beat, but it would work. She listened to the first thirty seconds and said, “Eighties anthem rock?”

“Our second first date was an eighties cover bands.”

She’s giving him a I can’t believe we are so desperate for music you came up with this look. “Yeah, but, it’s not dance music. This is stand in an auditorium waving around a lighter music.” Which she demonstrated, sans lighter.

So they went looking for something else.

They even had a great second dance song. It was too raunchy for a first dance, but You Shook Me All Night Long was a perfect second dance. Somewhat naughty lyrics, good beat, fast enough to move to, yes, perfect second dance song.

But that first dance... That was a killer.

They’d been sitting on the floor of the living room, listening to their different MP3s, playing songs for each other, when Tim finally found something that might, sort of, kind of, if you squinted a little, work.

“How about this?”

He stood up, held out his hand to her, and she stood as well. He settled his right hand on the small of her back, hit the play button, and laced his left hand with her right.

Guitar, drums, fairly steady and slow beat. Okay, that worked. A basic box step melded into the music easily.

“What is this?” Abby asked.

“You’ll recognize in a second.”

She grins at him, knowing what this was.

“Little sappy?” she asks.

“We’re getting married; we’re allowed to be a little sappy. Besides, this is the original version, not the remakes. How sappy can Classic British Invasion Rock be?” He pulls her tighter to him, his face near her ear, and sings along with a low voice,

Your love is all around me, and so the feeling grows.

It’s written on the wind, Violins in the classic wedding march add to the guitar and drums. it’s everywhere I go

So if you really love me—

“What’s this if stuff?” Abby says.

“Okay, it’s not perfect, but keep listening.” He spun her away from him, and then pulled her close again as the beat shifted. “At least this one has decent lyrics and we can dance to it.” He kisses her and then goes back to singing along when the lyrics picked back up.

You know I love you, I always will, my mind’s made up by the way that I feel

There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end, ‘cause on my love, you can depend.

A few more beats sans lyrics, and they’re moving pretty comfortably together to this.

I see your face before me, as I lay on my bed.

I kinda get to thinkin’ of all the things you’ve said

You gave your promise to me, and I gave mine to you

I need someone beside me

In everything I do.

Abby’s smiling at him, maybe this song will work. Maybe the hunt is done.

Once again the guitar trips over beats in an almost percussion like manner, and it’s very clear these are the same guys who did Wild Thing. And as that happens, he dips her low, and pulls her back up to continue the rather slow box step.

The second half of the song was exactly the same as the first half, just repeated. So no new territory there.

It’s written on the wind, it’s everywhere I go

So if you really love me, come on and let it show

Come on and let it show...

She kisses him as the music winds down. “Not loving the end. All in all pretty good, and if we can’t find anything else, then, yeah, I like it.”

“You think we’re going to find something else? We’ve been at this for two months, and the DJ wants a song list soon.”

“True. Okay, play it again.”

He did, and they danced through it, figuring out where their feet went and how to slip along to the music.

She was nodding by the end of it, and he took a minute to set it up with You Shook Me All Night Long right after.

“How is it we’re going to end up with a classic rock wedding?” she asks as he dips her low at the end of Love Is All Around.

He shrugs, pulling her back up, hands settling on her low back, starting to move to You Shook Me. “It’s halfway between Jazz and Industrial?”

She grins. They’ve already danced to You Shook Me many times, so her body knows where to go when, and his does, as well. This is a lot sexier, a lot more playful than Love Is All Around, and both of them like it.

He kisses her, and sings against her lips, ...was the best damn woman I had ever seen... Then winks at her and grins as her as she pulls back and shimmies a little in front of him.

He held the beat for a few lines, and then ran his hands down her sides to end up on her hips and pull them against his. She told me to come, but I was already there.

Her head dropped back and they both happily danced to it, fast, and for the most part not too close. But when they got to the chorus, she pulled him close, her right leg sliding up his left, and sang along, You shook me all night long. His hand dragged down her arm as she stepped back, looking at him with sex in her eyes when Workin’ double time on the seduction line hit, then he pulled her back into him, curling her into his arms, her back against his chest, adding a grind, and a kiss to her shoulder and neck. She pressed his hands to her hips and shimmied against him.

Both of them were smiling when that song ended.

She turned back around to face him. “Okay, yeah, that works.”

“Good. So we can tell the DJ what the first two songs are?”

“I think so.”

He pulled out his phone and fired off a text. “So we don’t change our minds.”

She laughed. “So, now what?”

“We’ve got envelopes to address.”

“I’m starting to think your idea of just sending out emails was a good plan.”

“Too late for that. We bought the invitations, might as well use them.”

And, so music picked, out they settled down to address envelopes.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 100

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

Chapter 100: Thom E. Gemcity Is Getting Married

A huge, and Tim knew from experience, very heavy box, was waiting at their door when they got home on September 10th.

“What is that?” Abby asked, looking at it.

Tim grinned at her, even though the return address was hidden on the underside of the box, he knew what it was. “Half my favorite part of being an author, half debilitating finger cramps.”

“So, it’s not a wedding present?”

“Oh.” Huh. That was a possibility. “I was thinking it’s the finished copies of The Traitor Within. They send me a few hundred of them to sign.”

“A few hundred fit in that box?”

“No, more boxes are coming. But you’re right, this might be a present.”

She opened the door, and he bent down to pick it up. “It’s the books. No one is getting us a present this heavy.”

He carried it into the house, put the box on the kitchen counter, and grabbed his knife to slit through the tape.

He’s smiling as he does it. This is familiar enough that he’s not shaking the way he was the first time he slit open a box filled with copies of a book he wrote, but he’s still excited. Still feeling the rush that goes with knowing something he made, something he lived and breathed and made real is about to go live and get shared with the rest of the world.

Abby’s standing right next to him, feeling the excitement of this moment. And sure, she’s seen all of the mock ups for the cover art, and the more or less put together version that was the proof copy, as well as the ARCs that went out to the reviewers, but this is the first time either of them get to see the real, finished, going on the market October 15th, people have already pre-ordered it on Amazon version, and she is bouncing a little at it.

Like all of the other Deep Six books the cover is a sort of menacing indistinct blur of mostly red on white. It feels nicely solid in his hand (this is the first hard bound copy he’s seen). And it smells the way a new book should, paper, glue, slight tinge of ink.

One of the perks of selling a lot of copies of your book is that your publishers are often willing to cater to some eccentricities on the part of a successful author. And Tim’s already got a reputation of being eccentric with a capital E. But, with handing in actual electronic documents, instead of making them deal with his typewritten pages, he got some wiggle room for a new bit of oddness.

Specifically, though he’s been through several edits, a proof copy, a mock up, and an ARC, up until this point the dedication page has never been in any of the copies that were sent to his home.

Sure, he wrote it and had it done the same time as the rest of the book, but he wanted it to be a surprise for Abby.

Deep Six had been dedicated to Penny, because she was, without a doubt, the most supportive person in his world when it came to his writing. She’d been his first reader for years when he was younger, always happy to lend her eyes to his work, and so he didn’t have to think about it when it came time to write the dedication for Deep Six.

Sarah got Black Rock. She’d spent hours helping him beat the plot into submission when his editor handed the first draft back to him and said, “Great characters, the stuff with Tommy and Liza is wonderful. But you don’t have a mystery here, and your readers, they want a mystery.”

Gibbs got Foreign and Domestic. Well, in a ‘round about sort of way. He wasn’t going to flat out write: For Leroy Jethro Gibbs, because without you I don’t have a story. And he wasn’t about to refer to Gibbs as his muse. That would be, well, weird, and not in a good way, but in a get headslapped sort of way. So Foreign and Domestic got dedicated to all Marines past and present, and if he was only really thinking of one Marine when he wrote that, oh well. 

He watches Abby flip through the pages of Traitor Within. She’s read it already, so it’s not like what she’s seeing is a shocking new plot twist or anything.

“Why so many copies?” she asks, still flipping through.

“So I can sign them. Collectors like them. They send me a five hundred copies, I sign them, and they ship them to the bigger bookstores. They’d like me to do actual book signings and tours, but, not going to happen.”

“Why not?”

“First off, I’m supposed to pay for a tour out of pocket. Theoretically that’s part of what my advance covers. Secondly, I’m a big enough name that the books sell, but not so big that people will line up around the block for me, so a book signing means sitting in a book store, just waiting around for people to show up and chat with me. I’ve got better ways to spend the day. Third, the only way the tour makes sense is if I push everything into a few weeks around when the book comes out, and spending three weeks around release time traveling everywhere isn’t my idea of fun, let alone what I want to do with my vacation time. I don’t like planes to begin with and hopping between three cities in one day, no. Finally,” he opens a copy to the dust jacket and the picture of him on it, “the more people associate this,” and it’s certainly him, just a very well photographed version of him from 2010, “with Thom E. Gemcity, the more I can be Tim in real life.” 

She’s nodding like that makes sense, and he sees her flip to the front of the book, looking at the title page. Then she flips to the next page and sees it. He feels a wide smile creep across his face as her eyes scan over the dedication page.
For Abby:

The sun who lights my world.
The home at the end of my journey.
The life that makes mine whole.



And she was in his arms, kissing him, book forgotten on the counter.

He thought of something an hour later, as they were making dinner. “Do you want to be in my biography?”


“I’ve got a Wikipedia page, and Twitter, and Facebook, and a website, and all of them have some sort of personal section about me. I keep it pretty short because...” And he let that trail off, they both remember exactly how insane his fans can be. “Right now mine has that I’m a federal agent, that I support Wounded Warrior Program, and I’m the older brother of Sarah McGee.” Sarah’s first novel had come out two years ago, and the fourth one was due out in two months. She was a lot faster at getting them written than he was, but she was also writing young adult paranormal romances full time.

Abby’s eyebrows were high as she stopped cutting up celery and looked at him. “You have a wiki page?”

“Thom does.” He pulled two pork chops out of the fridge. “You didn’t know that?”


“Come on.” They head for his office, dinner on hold. He turned on his computer and brought up the page. It was a fairly standard bio. There was the traditional shot of him, same one from the cover of his books, along with one of him with his sister in the personal section. “My publisher set it up originally, but every month or so I check it and change it if need be. So, do you want to be on here?”

“Can I pick the picture of us?”

“Sure, if you want. Or no picture.”

“Oh no. If I’m going to be on this thing, there has to be a picture.”

“You want me to update all of my stuff.”


He watched her mess with her phone. She was staring at something. “You tweet?”

He looked over her shoulder and sees she’s just followed Thom on twitter.

“Rarely. There’s a guy at the publisher’s office who does most of it. Usually when I’m doing it it’s something like this.” He took out his phone, and headed for the kitchen, quickly signed the first book, snapped a shot of it open on top of the other books in the box, and fired off 1 down 499 to go.

He heard her laugh from the office, and went back to join her. 

“So how would you add me to your wiki page?” she asked, looking up at him.

“In 2013 Gemcity got engaged to forensic scientist Abby Sciuto. Something like that?”

“Kind of bland.”

He shrugged. “It’s a Wikipedia article. They’re all sort of bland. What would you like?”

“How about stick a spoiler in there for Most Precious about McGregor and Amy getting married?”

He shook his head. “Can’t. Not allowed to leak things like that.”


“Yep. That’s part of my contract.”

She didn’t look like she believed that. Not that he was lying to her, but that someone at his publisher would think to put that on paper and get him to sign it. “Your contract is that specific?”

“Yeah, it is. I’ve got a list of things I can ‘let slip’ and major plot points aren’t on the list.”

“Huh. Then, sure, kind of bland is good.”

He shifted over to the edit page, and started typing. She flipped through the pictures of them on her phone. “How about this one?”

It was a shot from the last Shabbos at Ziva’s. She was sitting on his lap, arm around his shoulder, and he had his hand on her back. They were both laughing at the story Ducky was telling, and Breena had snapped the pic of them.

“That’s a good one.”

She sent it to him, and he uploaded it.

The next morning he had seventeen congratulatory emails from different fans in his Gemcity account. And one somewhat cranky one from the publicist who worked for his publisher and was assigned to him, wanting a formal engagement picture, as well as a blurb about the wedding, and once they got married a wedding picture so they could do a press release and take care of this properly.

He was staring at his computer screen, wishing this hadn’t just bit him in the ass that hard, and hoping Abby wasn’t going to be annoyed with this.

Tim headed into the kitchen, saw Abby eating her breakfast and said, “So… um… yeah…”

She’s staring at him, looking nervous. “What, new delay on the house?”

“Oh. No. At least not that I know of.” The current owners hadn’t expected to sell so fast, and now they were scrambling around trying to find a new place of their own. They’d ended up with the closing set for the middle of October, which they didn’t much like, but at least it made getting their apartment sub-letted easier. “Nothing like that. I hope. No. I got an email from my publicist—“

“You have a publicist?”

“I share her with about twenty other authors.”

“Really?” Once again Abby looked surprised. It occurred to him that he might keep the author part of his life a little too quiet if even she had no idea of how involved it was.

“Yeah, really. Jennifer Manz. She’s in charge of making people want to buy my books, and keeping me in the news whenever a new one comes out. We’re not exactly good friends because she wants to splash me all over the press, and I want to hide. Anyway, she’d like a formal engagement portrait of us to send out in the press release.”

Abby just stared at him.

“Apparently it’s pretty standard that if you’re going to let the world know you’re engaged to then make sure everyone knows. So, she wants to do a release, and would also like some wedding pictures and something about how we met and...” And he let it trail off because she looked like she was about to burst out laughing.

“It’s not a big deal, Tim.”


“Really. I like the idea of an engagement portrait.”

“It’s not too invasive?”

“I don’t mind if the entire world knows we’re getting married.”

“You sure? This is like, blurb in People Magazine, public.”

She grinned at him.

He smiled. “Cool.”


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 99

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

Chapter 99: August 2014

This time a year ago, he was practically freezing to death. Which must be why this year he’s on the verge of heat stroke.

Camp Lejeune in Jackson, NC, aka Hell, is where they’ve been for the last four days, and with the way this is going, probably three more, and while Tim used to be awfully sure he’d never complain about being too hot again, he’s getting to the point where that’s unlikely to be true all that much longer.

It’s a man hunt. An infuriatingly frustrating (and hot) man hunt.

Matthew Toph killed his wife and his wife’s best friend. Then he ran. And finally he made a call on his cell, and they traced it. That was stupid. Unfortunately, that’s where stupid stopped.

Apparently, he decided that the best place for a Marine on the run to hide out was a place filled with thousands of other Marines. There are so many stationed at Lejeune that no one knows everyone else. Wear the right uniform, do something useful, look like you belong, and no one is going to notice you. Add to that the fact that at any given time there are hundreds of Marines being shipped into and out of Lejeune, and blending in, hopping a transport, and getting far, far away from his dead wife and her buddy isn’t going to be a problem.

At Lejeune he’s just one more Jarhead in an endless sea of Jarheads.

They were able to get the base shut down as soon as the call got made, so they know, sort of, where he is, and they know he hasn’t left.

But they still have to find him, and there are over 150,000 people at Lejeune. So it’s not like they can just call the CO and have him find the guy.

They’ve got to really hunt for him.

Through every single building.

In what is approximately 100% humidity, 110 degree heat, and with blood sucking mosquitos the size of helicopters bearing down on them every time they go from one building to the next.

By day three, Tim’s starting to think he might have had a better time in Afghanistan.

On the upside, with over 150,000 people and over 11,000 acres to search through, they did get some help. It’s not just the four of them out there, so that makes it a bit easier. And on top of that, as the senior team, they each have a team of their own, sort of.

Gibbs, Ziva, and Tony are all running agents, making sure the search happens.

Tim’s on logistics. Which means, for all practical matters, he’s in charge of the hunt. Somehow Vance got the idea that good-with-computers equaled logistical-expert, so he’s the guy who’s making sure they don’t keep going over the same ground again and again. And while computer expert does not in fact equal logistical expert, he does realize his skill set has the most overlap with logistics, so it’s not too far outside the bounds of reasonable that he’d be in charge of this.

Tim's phone
They’ve also only got twelve men, so he’s running the logistics from his phone and laptop, while also searching.

Which is, honestly, nerve wracking. He screws this up, and the likelihood of looking like a good choice for head of Cybercrime is going to be shot to pieces.

But he’s got the perimeter secured. Plenty of Marines around to take care of that. He can’t stop traffic from coming in and out, people have to eat, and Marines need to get to where they’re going, but, once again, lots of warm bodies around who can be put on search duty, making sure Toph hasn’t hopped a ride out with an empty supply truck.

Next up was tracking down anyone at Lejeune that Toph knew, all 318 of them. They all got shoved in an auditorium, while their places were searched. No sign of Toph, but the dogs got a hit on him in one of the rooms, so there was a lead.

He put Gibbs on interrogating Blen, the Marine who’s room Toph had been in, and let the dogs chase down the scent, feeling like maybe this was really going to be done soon.

Which came crashing down when it came out that Toph had been stationed here for six months three months ago, and the reason the dog caught the scent was because Blen and Toph had roomed together back then.

Any scent trace was useless. No way to tell a dog that yeah, he’s got the right scent, but we need the new scents, not the old ones. He kept the dogs at it, no reason not to, but got used to the idea that it wasn’t likely to be turning up anything useful anytime soon.

Which left searching piece by piece and pulling the perimeter tighter and tighter, hoping to catch Toph in his net.

Day two and three he got every civilian who can leave out. Last thing he needs are big crowds this guy can hide in, let alone someone easy to grab and use as a hostage. But sorting through all of them, making sure Toph didn’t toss on some civies and just walk out, took a lot more manpower.

Then he locked down anyone who didn’t have any vital business and made sure that every person in lock down was accounted for. Between those two moves that got 110,000 people out of the search pool. 

Which still left a ton of people and a lot of ground to cover.

Tim's staring at the map, chewing on his pen, willing ideas for how to do this faster to come to him.

He jerked a little when he felt a hand on his shoulder, then looked up and saw it was Gibbs.

“You’re doing fine, Tim.” He noticed that shortly after talking about Shannon, Gibbs stopped calling him McGee when they’re alone or off duty. He kind of likes being Tim, but it’s still a little unsettling. Sometimes he wants to look behind himself and see who Gibbs is talking to.

“Wish I was doing this faster.”

“You and everyone else.”

“So, what do you have for me?”

Gibbs marked off a large square of the map, the wilderness training area. “Dogs are done with this. He’s not in there.”

“Good.” Tim had been hoping to use infrared to search for people in the wilderness areas, but there are close to fifty men who were in the middle of a month long, out of contact, wilderness survival training run, and the CO was extremely displeased at the idea of trying to yank them out. So they went in with the dogs, looking for Toph.

He grabbed his cell and flashed a text to the man in charge of maintaining the perimeter. Tim lets Lt. Grener know that he can move his Marines to the south and east sides of the wilderness area. The net around Lejeune is slowly getting tighter.

He rubbed his eyes and checked his watch. Eight thirty, sun would be gone any minute, and that would end any outdoor searching they could do.

He checked the map again, noticed that the mechanical bay, a huge complex designed to take care of literally tens of thousands of vehicles and hundreds of thousands of other tools and equipment, was right next to the western perimeter.

“Once the sun is down, switch your guys to the mechanical bay. Take Ziva’s and Tony’s too. Let’s get that completely done tonight, and then we’ll quit for the night.”

Gibbs nodded, grabbing his cell, taking a moment to get it to the right screen and then slowly texting his team. It’s been a year, but Gibbs was getting the hang of his smart phone. He looked up from his cell, slipping it back into his pocket. “On it, Boss.”

Tim shook his head. “That’s just flat out wrong.”

“On it, Tim.”


It took two hours, but they got the mechanical bay searched, and found something useful. Back in one of the storage areas there was a cot, a few changes of clothing, and Toph’s gun.

Finally, something to go on.

First thing in the morning. Yeah, they’d all like to do it sooner, but the dogs have to sleep. Just like you can’t tell them find new scents not old ones, you also can’t tell them, “I know you worked all day, but now we need you to do all night, too.” Well, you can, and they will, they’re dogs after all, and really eager to make their handlers happy, but if you want good results, you’ve got to let them rest. And Tim has no interest in blowing this because the dogs didn’t get enough rest.

So, whenever it is they wake up, they’ll be back at it, and hopefully this time, with a hot trail, they’ll find Toph.

Because Lejeune is the Marine training ground, it’s also where a lot of Marine graduations happen, too. So there’s a ton of fairly decent motels and hotels nearby. That’s the upside of being away from home, at least he’s in a decent hotel: comfortable beds, soft sheets, AC works, wifi is reliable, and the coffee maker is functional.

Downside, he’s sharing a room with Gibbs, again.

Upside, this one has a bathroom, with a door, with a lock, and functional hot and cold water, all of which Tim appreciates.

Sure, Tony gets to snuggle up with Ziva every night, and yeah, he’s jealous of that. (Really jealous. Almost slapped Tony upside the back of the head when he sauntered down to breakfast, big I-got-laid-this-morning smile on his face.) But he’s got some privacy and can at least text Abby every night.

Still, by night four, it’s worn thin.

“Problem?” Gibbs asks as they walk through the lobby and he heads to the front desk to get his own room.

“Yeah. You snore and get up before the crack of dawn to do calisthenics in our room. I want sleep.” And yeah, all of that is true, but…

Gibbs just stares at him, then grins. “Sleep?”

Tim rolls his eyes.

Gibbs smirks. “Tell Abby I said hello.” 

“Quit smirking. You would have done the same thing if you could have.”

That gets a raised eyebrow as they walked toward the room they share.  

“Don’t give me that. If texting had been around in the ‘80s, you’d be able to do it as fast as you speak and one handed.”

Gibbs laughs and opens the door. “Letters. We wrote letters back then.”

“I’m sure you did,” Tim says, shouldering his go bag, handing Gibbs the second key card to his room. It’s standard procedure to have someone else on your team have a key to your room. “See you in the morning.”


Skype is the bestest friend of the man away from his sweetie.

Yes, indeed.

He sent Abby a text. Skype, 10 minutes?  And then hopped in the shower. Cool water rinsing away the day’s sweat feels awfully good. When he gets out, his computer is chiming at him. He hit the answer button, while drying himself off.


“Hey yourself,” she says. He can see her face and upper body, she’s got on one of his gray t-shirts and is sitting up against the headboard of their bed. The square in the bottom where his picture goes is still black. “Where’s Gibbs?”

“In his own room, on the other side of the hotel. He says hello.” Finally the picture of him, sitting against the headboard of the hotel bed pops up. He’s got the computer on the bed next to him, so she can see him from his knees up.

“Good!” She grins at him, eyes traveling over his body. “Ohhh… naked and wet! What’s on your mind?”

“You.” He’s toweling off his hair. “Getting home as soon as possible.”

“How’s it going?” She asks while standing up and moving out of view.

“Not bad, might have a lead. Where are you going?”

“Didn’t know you were on your own when I made the call. Getting into something more interesting. What kind of lead?”

He likes the sound of more interesting. “We found where he was hiding out. And whenever the dogs wake up, we can set them on tracking him again.”

“That sounds good.” He hears a drawer open, and the sound of clothing hitting the floor. “So tomorrow night, maybe the day after?”

“Yeah, maybe. If we’re lucky. If he hasn’t vanished. If the dogs can trace him. They keep getting caught up on all the different scent trails of this guy.”

“You’ll get him.”

“God, I hope so.”

“You will. You guys always do.”

“Never run a manhunt before. And this one… he could slip through so easy. I’ve got to trust that over 2000 people are all doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.”

“They are. And you will get him.” And with that she slips back into view.

For a long minute he just stares at her, then he says, “Oh God, baby, I really like interesting.” She moves the computer a little so her whole body, kneeling on the bed, is in the shot, and he drags his eyes from her feet to her head. “Yep,” he’s nodding his head, eyes glued to her image, “love interesting.”

Interesting was a scarlet corset, with black laces, black garter belt with red ribbons and those black stockings with the red laces up the back, and a black lace choker with red beads. With the way she was kneeling he couldn’t tell if she was wearing panties or not, and he was enjoying the anticipation of not knowing.

“I thought you might. So… what would you be doing if you could get your hands on my interesting self?”

He grins, hand drifting to his lap, wrapping around his dick. “You know, that’s the best question I’ve had all day.”

“Really? Sounds like you had a pretty depressing day.”

“It’s getting better by the second. So…” His eyes continued to drift over her. “I think I’d be kneeling behind you, then gently shift your hair over to your right shoulder,” she did as he said, gathering it up in her fingers and slipping it over, “and start kissing your ear, down your neck, and then tug on the collar a little with my teeth. That sound good to you?”

“Yeah. I’d twist my fingers in your hair, and run my right hand over your thigh.”

“Mmmm…” Yeah that sounds like a good start.

“What would your hands be doing?”

He thinks about it for a second. “On your hips, finding out if you’re wearing panties.”

She shifts a little, so he can see the unbroken line of naked skin from the top of the stocking to the bottom of the waistband on the garter belt.

“No panties, then,” he says with a grin.

She smiles widely at him, and he loves that look, all beautiful joy and wicked sexiness, and it’s just so good, and the fact that it’s aimed at him feels even better. “Nope. Didn’t think I needed them.”

“Not today.” He licks his lips and pulls a little on himself, watching her trace her fingers from the top of her stocking to the crest of her hip. “Anything you want me to do with your interesting self, today?”

“Lots of things.”


“Like getting me out of this outfit, laying me out, getting me off with your tongue, fingers, and cock.”

He grins and sighs. “God, baby, if I could…”

“I know. I’ve been really turned on today. Everything is getting to me, and I want you, here, in our bed, in my body, right now!”

“Good. Want you too. Want you so much. I’d be kneeling behind you, kissing your neck and shoulder, and then I’d start unhooking the corset.” It’s got laces up the front, but they just provide fine control for the size. About twenty hook and eye closures up the back actually open and close the corset. “Kiss my way down your back as I got it unhooked.”

“That sounds so good.” She turns so her back is to the camera, and unhooks the corset. Takes her longer to do than it would have taken him, but he would have been able to see what he was doing.

“Run my fingers over your tattoos. Really light, the kind of touch that makes you shiver.” He can see her ghost her fingers along the angels at her shoulders. “Follow my fingers with my tongue and teeth, just dragging them over your skin, making you squirm.”

“Talking about it is making me squirm.”

“Yeah, and doing it’d be better.” He rubs his hand over his dick a little more firmly and wishes he had brought lube with him. Nothing he can do about it. Not like he’s never gotten off with just a hand and spit before. “I’d settle against the headboard, like I am now, and pull you to sit between my legs, back against my chest, your legs over mine.”

She shifts around so she’s back against the headboard, computer in front of her, legs wide.

“God, you’re so beautiful.” And he’s not sure if it’s four days away or something else, but right now she’s just so fabulously delicious. Everything about her is just screaming sex at him, and he wants her so bad.

She smiles, then slips her index finger into her mouth, licking the tip of it, and then sucking on it.

He groans and squeezes himself. 

“I’d lick your earlobe, nipping at it a little, and my hands would find your breasts, soft, slow strokes.” His right hand mimics what he’d be doing, while his left continues to slowly stroke his dick. She grins and starts to touch her breasts, pleasing herself with her touch, making him harder as he watches.

And he likes watching, loves seeing her fingers on herself, and he hopes she’s enjoying seeing what he’s doing. He spreads his legs a little wider, cups his balls, gives them a gentle tug, and watches as her hips start a slow roll to go along with the way she’s moving.

Her nipples are hard, pink, begging to be licked, sucked, and he can’t do that, wants to, but can’t, so he takes the story somewhere else.

“Get you off with my fingers, cock, and tongue, right?”


“Then scoot up a bit, and slide onto me.” Abby shifts from sitting to kneeling, spreading her legs, spreading her lips with her fingers, and letting him watch as her middle finger slips over her clit.

“Fuck, baby! That’s one of my favorite sights. You wide open with me deep inside you. We’d have the mirror in front of us, and I’d have one hand on your breast, the other on your clit, rubbing you off while you ride me.”

He spits on his hand, getting it wet and slick, and goes back to stroking himself, long and slow, eyes glued to her fingers on her body, staring, savoring every detail.

“Wanna watch you get off.”

She bit her lip a little, and rubbed faster.

“So beautiful, baby, watching you makes me feel so good. Love this, love you all hot and wet. I’d be right up behind you, fingers moving light and fast, rolling your nipple, pulling it a little, kissing your ear and shoulder, and talking you off, just like this.”

Her head drops back, and she’s got that intense expression, the one that would look like pain to a stranger but he knows means she’s about ten seconds away from getting off.

“God, Abby, can’t wait to feel you come on me. Want to feel your body pulsing against mine. Feel you slam down on me, squeeze me tight, and call out my name.”

“Fuck! Tim!” Her hips were moving fast, jerking, and her breath was coming in fast, panting moans.

“You look so good, want to eat you, want to feel you, need your body rippling on mine like I need air.”

Her chest was flushed pink, and her whole body twitched, hard, and he knew that was it. He let his own hand relax, forced it to stroke slow and light as she slumped back on the bed, panting.

“Watching you get off will never get old.”

She opened her eyes slowly and grinned lazily at him. “Glad to hear it.” Then she looked at him more carefully. “You don’t look done.”

“I’m not. You said you wanted to get off on my cock, fingers, and tongue. That’s cock and fingers. Catch your breath a little, and we’ll get to tongue.”

“That sounds good.”

“Glad to hear it.” He stops stroking and just holds himself. “If I was there, you’d be slumped against me, breathing softly, and I’d have my face pressed against your neck.”

“Yeah. I’d turn my head and kiss you, long and sweet.”

“Yes, please.”

“Run my fingers through your hair, hold your hand in mine, and suck your tongue like a candy.”

“Oh!” His hand starts to stroke again.

“And I’m thinking, if you’re going to be getting me off with your tongue, I should return the favor. So how about you scoot down, lay on your side, and let me put my mouth to good use, too.”

He scooted down and laid on his side like she said, shifting the computer so he was in view from his hips to head. “Good?”

“Yeah, I can see everything I want to.”

“What, no foot porn?”

“Ummm… Do I look like Jimmy to you?”

“No, baby, you really don’t. And I can’t even begin to explain how good of a thing that is.”

Laughing, she lay on her side, one leg propped up on their headboard and angled the computer so he could see her from her neck to knees.

“Like that?”

“Any chance of your face getting in the shot?”

“Maybe.” She sat up, and for a moment he had a very up close shot of her bosom as she messed around with the computer and then lay back down. This time all of her was in the shot.

“Much better.” He went back to stroking his dick, waiting to see what she’d do next.

“I’m thinking I’d start fast, suck you all the way down in one long pull, and then slide back get my lips really wet, keep them tight, and then slip them over the head again and again.”

He groaned a soft, “Oh fuck,” spit on his hand again, held his fist tight, and began to work just the tip.


“Shit, yes, good. Before I lose it, I’m taking your stockings off. You told me to get you naked, and I will. Gonna slip them down your legs, using my fingers and kissing as far down as I can.”

“Do you actually know how to work a garter belt?” She’s worn one before, but he’s never taken it, or the stockings, off.


She’s just staring at him, looking amused and a little disbelieving. And that sort of broke the rhythm.

He rolls his eyes a little. “Tony’s not the only one who watches movies. I saw Bull Durham.”

She doesn’t look like she believes that at all. “You watched a baseball movie?”

“I watched a sex movie with some baseball in it. I was fourteen and one thing my Dad was happy to let me do was watch sports type stuff. So, I grabbed a bunch of movies that were at least somewhat sports oriented, and only watched the good parts.”

Abby laughs.

“So, yeah, I haven’t actually done it before, but since I watched the good parts about nineteen million times, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how a garter belt works.”

He mimics the finger motion involved in releasing a stocking, and Abby grins, she traces her fingers up her leg slowly, and then flicks off the clasps, and eases the stocking down her leg.

He watches her ease them off, eyes devouring the supple curves of her legs. “What I wouldn’t give to be able to kiss you right now.”

“I know. Have you here, wrap my legs around you and kiss you deep and slow.”

“Oh yeah.” He’s stroking himself, hand moving faster, watching her fingers slip along her thigh, then gently easing over her pussy. He can see the shine on her fingers as she lifts them to her mouth and sucks them. “I’d suck you just like that. Lick my juices off your cock. Taste me on you, lean down and pass it back to you.”

He inhales slowly. “So hard, God, you’ve got me so hard. I’d slide down you, kissing and licking your chest and breasts and stomach, then settle between your legs, slip your lips apart and kiss you right. Soft and deep with lots of tongue and my fingers inside you and my tongue on your clit, stroking and sucking, and making you writhe against the bed and push your hips up against me for more.”

He’s watching her pussy, her fingers circling her clit, one finger slipping inside her.

“God, baby, that is so hot. You’re all pink and wet and taste so good and feel even better, and God, I’d fuck you so hard right now, make you come over and over, make your whole body shake and clench around me.”

She adds a second and third finger pumping in and out and he groans, then shifts his computer so she’s got a better view of his hand flying over his dick. He stops for a second, spitting on his hand, wanting this to be wet and slick, like her body would be, and then he thrusts slow and hard, keeping his hand tight, rippling the fingers a little, eyes glued to her pussy on the screen.

She slows her own hand, matching his pace, long deliberate strokes, the kind that pull every last second of sensation out of each motion, and he sees her body go tight and then start to twitch against her fingers, and hears her moaning, high pitched and breathy, and with his right hand he manages to shove the computer over a little because cumming on the keyboard would just be a mess, and with a few more strokes he’s squirting into his hand, feeling the tingles through his whole body.

He rested for a few seconds, enjoying the last few soft pulses, and then grabbed for his towel and wiped up, then re-angled the computer so she could see all of him.

“I’ve missed you.”

“I know. Miss you, too.”

It was well after midnight by that point, and between the long days and the orgasm he’s beat.

“I’m gonna fall asleep in a minute. I love you.”

“Love you too, baby. See you tomorrow, I hope.”

“Me too.”

And with that he flicked off Skype, moved just enough to get under the blankets, and crashed into a deep sleep.

4:45 his phone was buzzing.  It took a few tries before he managed to grab it. “McGee.”

“Dogs are awake.”

He rubbed his eyes, feeling like he was mired in sleep. “Get on it. We’ll be there soon.” He sent a text to everyone’s phones, letting them know it was wake up time, and then rolled out of bed, cranked the shower to icy, and hopped in, hoping the shock of it would actually get his eyes open.

It worked, a little. Mostly it just made sure he was cold, cranky, and sleepy.

Gibbs was sitting on his bed, holding a coffee when he got out of the shower. How that man functioned on no sleep was something Tim was never going to understand.

“Dogs up?”

Tim nodded, taking the coffee, drinking down a third of it before it occurred to him he was naked. Screw it.  He headed to his go bag and started to get dressed, slipping on his boxers. Not like Gibbs never saw a naked guy before. Granted, when they room together Tim changes in the bathroom, but he’s too tired for modest and doesn’t have the energy for scuttling about hiding his privates, plus Gibbs would probably see that as a sign of weakness, and just, well, screw it. Guy walks into your room without waiting for you to answer, he deserves what he gets.

“I thought you had three of them.”

Tim’s so sleepy he has no idea what that means.

“Three what?”

“Tatts. You told DiNozzo you got one on your ass.”

“Oh. Yeah.” He rubs his eyes again. “Didn’t want to explain the one I really got.” He touches the code on his left delt. “Didn’t think Tony’d ever see the real one.” He sucks down more of the coffee and pulls on his shirt. It’s his last clean one.

“Think they’ve got laundry here?”

Gibbs shrugs. “Hopefully won’t need it.”


“So, what’s the plan?”

“Let me get my map.” He opens his laptop and boots it up. “Okay. I’ll put Ziva and her guys with the dog team. Have them on hand if the dogs find him. Tony and his guys’ll take the south west corner. Your team is going to go through the warehouses in the north east corner. I’ll tag along with Ziva’s guys today, keep sending updates on what we’ve got, move you guys around as needed.”

“Sounds good.”

At six thirty, while he was sucking down his third coffee of the morning, he felt his phone buzz.

Any chance of you getting home tonight? From Abby.

It’s not impossible, why?

Temp dropped this morning.

He just stared at the phone for a moment before it clicked that she was ovulating, then fervently cursed any and every fate that had him stuck in this godforsaken chunk of mosquito infested hell instead of home with her.

“McGee?” Ziva’s voice, really startled. She’s staring at him like she never imagined hearing, let alone had ever heard, any of those words come out of his mouth, and it occurred to him that she probably hasn’t.

“I’m fine.”

She just stared at him for a moment, but then backed off.

Tim wrote. If my luck holds, that just ensured we’re not home for at least two days.

And hold it did. There’s only so fast the dogs can go, and August in North Carolina means rain. Lots of rain.

They got five hours of tracking Toph, found out that he’d been watching their perimeter and from the looks of it, trying to find a way to get through it, and then the heavens opened up in a massive downpour, thunder, lightning, and gallons of rain sluicing down, washing away everything.

They were hunting through the kitchens when an idea occurred to Tim. He flashed Gibbs a text: Dress whites, you only get one set, right?

A minute later he got back Normally. You can buy more if you want them, but most Marines only get  one set.


He checked his map, and yeah, the warehouse that held the uniforms was on the outside of the perimeter.

Five minutes later, General Phelp, commander of Lejeune, was staring at him like he was insane. “You want me to order what?”

“Everyone into their dress whites.”

“No. They’re for formal use only. It’d be an insult to the uniform to wear them for regular duty.”

There’s a wall in Tim’s mind. It keeps the part of him that wants to yell at people for being idiots, his own fears, most of his anger, and a lot of his other emotions nicely contained and allows him to function in a pretty efficient manner without making too many enemies.

And standing there, in the commander’s office, looking at a guy who could be a clone of his dad, a clone of his dad staring at him with that exact same you’re-an-idiot look his dad used to give him, placing greater value on a uniform than on catching a killer, let alone the fact that getting home fast has never, ever mattered more to him than it does right now, and that wall broke into a thousand pieces.

Phelp had been sitting down, had invited him to sit, too, so he had, but as that wall cracked he stood up, placed both of his hands onto Phelp’s desk, and leaned so he was towering over the man. His voice went low and stayed soft, but there was an edge to it that very rarely made its way out of him. He made sure to stare Phelp in the eyes for a good thirty seconds before he said,  “Look, asshole, the uniform doesn’t care. You can’t insult it because it’s a piece fucking fabric. I’ve got a killer to catch, and if you order your guys into white, my guy’ll finally start to stick out. He’s been using the fact that he looks like every other fucking Marine in this god-forsaken hell hole to his advantage and it ends now. If I tell you I want them all to paint themselves blue, you will get on that fucking phone and order it because as soon as Toph decided to hide here, SecNav put me in charge of this base. Now go and do it!”

Phelp just stared at Tim, and in retrospect Tim figured he must have been looking pretty scary, and it was possible one of his hands ended up on his gun, because when Phelp picked up his phone and gave the order, Tim stood all the way up, noticing that both of his hands weren’t on the desk anymore.

Tim listened, nodded, and calmly said, “Thank you. Let them know that if anyone can’t find their whites to contact us immediately.”

He got a phone call from Vance an hour later. “SecNav put you in charge of Lejeune?”

He really doesn’t want to do this, so he sounds pretty testy as he says, “You put me in charge, he put you in charge, it’s close enough.”

“I put you in charge of the logistics of the hunt.”

He’s gritting his teeth, very temped to tell Vance off, too, but Vance actually is his boss, and more than that, he’s someone who’s earned his respect. “You want me to find Toph?”


“Then why are you wasting my time?”

And suddenly he just knew that Vance was smiling. “Because hearing you cussed out the commander of the largest Marine base in the US was the best laugh I’ve had all week, and I would have happily paid money to see it.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Go get him, McGee, and if Phelps gives you any more shit… Well, actually, it looks like you already know what to do.”

“On it, sir.”  

Shifting everyone to whites helped. It meant that Toph couldn’t move. The civilians were off base, so he couldn’t just toss on a pair a of jeans and a t-shirt. Anyone in drab immediately got grabbed for questioning, so he couldn’t show himself in the uniform he had been wearing.

Finally, they weren’t hunting a moving target.

But helped and captured weren’t the same thing at all.

At five thirty he sent a text back to Abby. Not gonna happen. Even if we grabbed him right now, I’m still eight hours away.

Damn it


Still working?


We’ll talk later then?


He closed up the text window and grabbed some food, unable to even begin to try and put into words how disappointed he was because it doesn’t matter how good you are at Skype sex, you can’t make a baby with it.

Gibbs walked with him back toward his room, he waited for Tim to open the door and followed him in.

“You do know we aren’t rooming together anymore? Right?”

Gibbs sat on the edge of the bed. “Ziva said you got a text, started cursing, and then wouldn’t tell her what was wrong. You okay?”

Tim sat down next to him. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

Gibbs sent him the cut the bullshit look. “Vance told me you cussed out Phelp, too.”

Tim flashed him a somewhat self-depreciating and amused look. “I’m thirty-six, Boss, and work for the Navy. My dad’s a sailor. I grew up on Navy bases. It’s not like I’ve never heard, let alone said, the word fuck before.”

Gibbs smiled dryly. “Not where any of us have been able to hear you.”

Tim laughed a little at that. “I suppose not.”

“What’s wrong? Everything okay at home? Something happen with the house?”

That was a good guess. It just happened to be wrong.

See, Tim had thought that if he walked into a bank and said, “I’ve got a 65% down payment,” that they would have been very happy to see him and offered him a loan for the rest on really great terms. But, as the rather unhappy and embarrassed banker explained to him, if you’ve been the victim of identity theft five times, and if you paid off your student loans within two years, bought your car outright, and then paid all your other bills every month on time, therefore never carrying a balance, you ended up with a credit score of  542. Then he got to sit there and listen to said very embarrassed banker explaining how unfortunate it was that he didn't have what banks were traditionally looking for in the way of a credit history and 17% interest was the best he could possibly do for you.

So, for once, he and Abby not being legally married actually came in handy. Sure, the terms for the mortgage in just her name weren’t ideal either, but they were way better than in his name. And it wasn’t like they were going to hold the mortgage very long. He was hoping to have it paid off shortly after he got the last of advance money for Most Precious. Still, it took a little while to get it worked out, but after three weeks they had the financing set up, and at least as of now, things were going smoothly and they were just waiting to get the inspection report back. Which was supposed to happen today or tomorrow, but since Abby hadn’t mentioned it, tomorrow looks like the correct answer.

Tim sighed. “Not the house. Last I heard that was fine.” He wasn’t sure if what the problem actually is is something he wants to talk to Gibbs about. Palmer, sure. He could see talking with Palmer about this, but Gibbs… He thought of some of the things Gibbs told him about Shannon, and that gets him talking.

“The only thing that’s not okay about home is that I’m not there. We’re trying to get pregnant, and today was ovulation day.”

A smile was tugging at the corners of Gibbs’ lips, and Tim was fairly sure that’s him being happy about them working on having a baby, not laughing at him for being away from home.

“It’s not the end of the world or anything, but, it’s... just really disappointing.”

Gibbs nodded and squeezed Tim’s shoulder. 

“Been waiting forever to start a family and we’re finally getting on it and… I’m here, so there’s another month of waiting.”

Gibbs nodded again.

“And, I get it’s not a big deal, not really, but, she’s forty, Boss, almost forty-one, and we don’t have all the time in the world.”


“So, yeah, just, frustrated and disappointed. And less than four hours of sleep doesn’t help. And Phelp was being a dick, standing there talking about insulting a uniform. And I just watched him for a second and felt that little thing inside me that kept me from killing Tony all those years break. And when it did, it hit me, I’m not under his command, and I can say whatever I want to that man. He doesn’t like it; I don’t care!”

Gibbs laughed. “Good. Less time caring about what other people think is the way to happiness.”

“If you say so. Look, it’s late. I want to talk to Abby some, and I’ve got to see if they have a washing machine and dryer anywhere around here. See you in the morning?”


Gibbs got up, and when he was standing at the door, Tim said, “The coffee this morning was really nice; I appreciated it, but tomorrow, wait for me to answer the door first. I don’t feel like giving you anymore peep shows.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, you aren’t that pretty.”

“Abby thinks I am.”

Gibbs smiled and left.

10:47 the next morning Toph gave himself up.

And Tim considered it the height of self-control that he didn’t beat the guy into a pulp for not doing it twenty-four hours earlier.

Though two weeks later, when Abby’s period showed up, he was awfully sorry he didn’t.