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.


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