Chapter 81. December
“What’s on your schedule for tonight?” Tony asked him as they were heading toward the elevator at the end of work on a Tuesday a few weeks before Christmas.
“Quick dinner, pre-marital counseling.”
Tim shrugs. Tony knows that it’s not his favorite pastime. He’d much rather be spending those hours doing, well, almost anything else. “It’s not terrible. It’s just... I don’t know, designed for people who haven’t been together for more than a decade? Last week was about setting goals and plans for the future, and sure, I bet that’s useful if you’re twenty-two and don’t really have a life, but we’ve pretty much got the next thirty years figured out.”
Tony nods. “You mean questions about what your career goals are aren’t terribly enlightening?”
“Yeah, what’s the big surprise going to be? I’ll keep investigating until Gibbs retires or we have kids and then move to Cybercrime? Oh my. Everyone knows that.”
Tony stares at him and switches off the elevator. “I didn’t know that.”
That brings Tim up short. “How did you not know that?”
“We can start with you didn’t actually say anything about it to me.”
Tim nods. “Oh. I thought—“
“My psychic vibes would somehow suck that information straight out of your head, and you didn’t have to actually tell me? You’re my partner. You tell me things like this!”
Tim sighs. “I’m sorry I didn’t say it. After the freezer… Abby was really pissed about the almost dying thing. When I was talking to Gibbs about it, he said you and Ziva both knew I’d be going eventually.”
“Well, yeah, eventually. A long, long time from now. Not—“
“Not the sort of thing that has an actual end date attached to it?”
“Well, no set date yet. But, I won’t be staying any longer than he does, and depending on how things with kids go, maybe sooner. I’m not going to leave her a widow with a baby. Not if there’s anything I can do to avoid it, and there is something, so I’ll do it.”
“Yeah. She spent over two hours sitting in a van, not knowing if we were alive or dead, waiting, and then watched them carry us out. None of us moving, all of us blue, and she didn’t know if they ran you to the ambulance because you were in the worst shape, or if you were the only one still alive. And for right now, she still thinks what I do is worth that, but that won’t be true forever. So, I don’t know when it’ll be time, but the answer is sooner rather than later.”
Tony nods at that, too. Tim can see there’s sorrow in his eyes, but he makes a joke anyway, “You’re going to leave me with two Probies to break in at once?”
“Yes, that’s my plan. Make sure you’ve got two of them so each one takes half of the crap. I figure that’s the easiest way to make sure that your next Probie doesn’t kill you.”
“Like Dornaget would even try.”
“Uh huh. How’d you like that audit?”
“That was him?”
“Yeah, Tony, that was him. Don’t mess with Dornie. He might look like a creampuff, but he’s got some edges in there.”
Tony smirks. “And you’d know all about creampuffs hiding razor blades.”
“Just possibly.” And with that Tim flicked the elevator back on.
“So, you got career goals out of the way. What’s this week?” Tony asks.
“Today and next week are conflict resolution, which should be amusing.” He rolls his eyes a little. “I’m getting to know Father John better, that’s sort of nice.”
Tony nods a little at that, too.
“How about you?” Tim asks.
Tony had started taking instruction for converting to Judaism a few weeks ago. “How’s it going?”
“I hate Hebrew. These lips were not designed to make those sounds.”
“You’ll get it,” Tim says as the elevator opens and they head toward their cars.
“Sure, sooner or later. I can memorize bits and pieces pretty well. But it doesn’t help that Ziva can learn a new language in like, nine minutes, and I’m stumbling around with basic grammar and utterly destroying the pronunciation of anything I’ve got to actually think about.”
“At least she’s not getting revenge on you for all those years of corrected idioms.”
“Yet. One of these days we’re going to Israel, and I’ve got the feeling I’ll be doing whatever the Hebrew equivalent of Porcuswine is.”
Tim grins. “Karma’s a bitch.”
“Yeah, thanks. Anyway, Friday night, before sunset, her place. Shabbos dinner.”
Tim looks a little surprised at that but says, “Okay. Want us to bring anything?”
“Nah, we got it.”
“We’ll be there.” And with that they headed to their own cars, and from there, home.
They’re sitting in Father John’s office. It’s a pleasant book filled space. Probably has good light during the day, but they only manage to make it at night, so Tim’s never seen it in sunlight.
They’re on a little sofa; it’s not terribly comfortable, and Tim isn’t sure if that’s on purpose or not. Like, is it just a bit too hard because it increases the stress level of the people sitting on it, just a little, so that the sessions can work a little deeper on breaking through the I’m-so-in-love-can’t-think-straight sort of headspace a lot of the other couples who sit on it are probably in? Or is it just not a terribly comfortable sofa?
There’s a coffee table in front of them. Tim has a cup of coffee. Abby and John have tea.
John’s sitting in what appears to be a very comfortable arm chair, talking a little with both of them about the last week. But he finally gets around to conflict resolution.
“So, tell me about how you handled the last time you both wanted to do something with each other, but neither of you wanted to do the same thing?”
They both look at each other for a minute, digging through the memory banks.
Finally Abby says, “It’s silly.”
And Tim knows what she’s thinking, and yeah, it is. “Just, for background, it had been an awful week. Things like this don’t usually set us off.”
“Four days of this terrible case. Kidnappings are always the hardest. And this one—“ Abby’s shaking her head remembering it.
Tim fills in details. “Father died protecting his daughter, she got taken, her best friend got killed, turns out the mom and her boyfriend were behind it. It was just a bad, bad four days.”
“And any case with hurt little girls is worse, because Gibbs goes bonkers, and there is absolutely no downtime. Kidnapped little girls means you work until you collapse, and then he pokes you until you get up, and you work some more,” Abby adds.
“So, end of day four, we’ve got it wrapped, bad guys are in jail, and we get to go home.”
“And after a case like that, we both need down time.”
“Yeah. Case like that, you’re mentally and physically exhausted. All we want to do is just get home and veg. Put as much space between us and the job as possible. So, dinner, flop on the sofa, and then there’s TV. Easy, mindless entertainment.”
Abby’s nodding, agreeing with that. “We like a lot of the same shows so it’s not usually a problem.”
Tim says, “I hadn’t seen the latest Burn Notice, yet. And we’ve also got the last Game of Thrones on the DVR.”
Abby picks up the story. “And well, anyway, about five minutes of arguing over which one we were going to see took place.”
“I like Game of Thrones, but it’s not cool down watching for me.”
“And I’d already seen the last Burn Notice, and a story I’ve already seen isn’t going to pull me away the way I need.”
“And after about five minutes, where I’m getting sharp and sarcastic—“
|Or somewhat less than murdered.|
“And she’s getting manic and whiny.”
“I was not being whiny!”
He raises one eyebrow at her, and she shakes her head a little as if to say, Fine, I was little whiny. He continues on, “I realized something. I have a computer. She’s got a computer. So I pulled a quarter out of my pocket, flipped it, she called it, and then she watched Game of Thrones on the TV. I headed into my office and watched Burn Notice on my computer. Ta da, conflict resolution.”
Abby smiles at John. “See, silly. If we’d been a little less fried, or a little more willing to get off the sofa, the arguing portion would have lasted about thirty seconds and gone something like this: ‘I want to see Game of Thrones.’ ‘Okay. I’ll go watch Burn Notice in my office.’ ‘Good.’”
“And how did the rest of the night go? Were either of you hurt or bothered by that?”
Tim looks at Abby and she smiles. Then she says, “His show is shorter than mine, so he came in laid his head in my lap, and sat with me for the last twenty minutes of mine, not paying attention—“
“Not really awake.”
“Just hanging out. Then we had sex and went to bed.”
Tim strokes her neck. “No hurt feelings. We’re generally pretty good at this sort of thing.”
“It’s not like we just met each other. We’ve got how to deal with each other down pretty well.”
“And that’s pretty much how you deal with each other. Together when you like, apart when that works better?” John asks.
“Yes,” Abby says.
“We’re both pretty good with alone space.”
|Working in the same space|
Tim smiles. “Yeah when we’re home, I can write, she can read, we both listen to our own music, and maybe pet each other on occasion. But she understands that sometimes I really do need to be alone. And I get that she needs that, too.”
Father John just looks at them. They’ve been at this four weeks, and he’s feeling like he’s wasting their time. Most of the skills he traditionally helps couples with, they’ve got. “So, is there anything you would like to work on? What can we do that’s actually useful for you two?”
Tim and Abby stare at each other. Intimacy isn’t an issue. They’re really good at sex. They’re on the same page when it comes to kids. Sure she’s a believer and he’s not, but it doesn’t seem to bother her, and if she’s angsting over his soul, she’s never mentioned it. They’ve got similar politics. Money’s not an issue. Abby may act like a puppy, but she’s got the same cat-like need for alone time that he has.
Tim finally says, “My job. Maybe. Figuring out when it’s time to go.”
Abby’s staring at him. “I thought we were good on that.”
He smiles a little. “We are. Just thinking more about the timing of it. When you’re pregnant? When the baby’s born? Now?”
He shakes his head. “Not now. I mentioned leaving to Tony today. Hadn’t realized I hadn’t actually said it to him.”
“Bad?” Abby asks.
“He shrugged it off, but yeah, I could see he wasn’t happy about it.” He turns to Father John. “Want a relationship you can help with? Let me bring Tony in. Abby and I, we’re good. Me and Tony… Not quite so good.”
“Both, but different flavors of not happy. I tend not to talk to guys about…” he pauses to think about how to explain the wall he’s got with Tony in specific and other guys in general.
Abby cuts in, “Everything.”
“No, not everything. I talk to Tony about lots of things.”
“Yeah, but you talk more about his half of whatever it is.”
“His half is easier. His half doesn’t get me teased mercilessly.”
“He’s a lot better about that these days.”
“Yeah, he is. Which is why we talk more these days, too. But, anyway, all of the guys I interact with regularly are part of a pecking order.”
“Except Jimmy, who is someone I talk to about my half of this sort of stuff. But the other guys are somewhere on the pecking order, and since I’m usually at the bottom of that order, I keep myself to myself. And especially with Tony, not giving him any ammo is a habit. So, I tend not to tell him things, which bothers him because that’s left over from like five years ago, and neither of us are the same guys we were then. But, anyway, he tends to find things out last, and that hurts him.” Tim pauses, drinks some more of his coffee. “So, to get back to your question, he’s annoyed I didn’t tell him, and sad that our team really is going to break apart at some point.”
“How about you, does the end of the team make you sad?”
“Sure. I love who we are and what we do.” Tim looks at Abby, and she smiles and squeezes his knee. “But I’m getting something I love better out of this. We’re building a new team, and this is part of making sure I’m there to put that first.”
“What about Abby’s work? When you’ve moved over to Cybercrime, are you going to be annoyed that she’s still on the front line and working ninety hour weeks?”
Tim shrugs. “I don’t think so. I won’t know for sure until it happens.”
“Norfolk’s lab is shutting down January 2015. I won’t be working ninety hour weeks at that point. Or at least, not usually. And it’s not like he’ll be moving off the front lines, just fighting on a different front. Cybercrime doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, but they do important stuff down there.”
Tim smiles a little. “And by a different front, she means way in the back.”
“No. Just a whole different war.”
“That’s a good way to look at it. Whole different skill set, too. If Vance is serious, I’ll be the guy in charge down there, and that’ll be new.”
“Are you looking forward to that?” John asks.
“Actually, yes. I’ve been the low guy on the totem pole for a decade now. It’d be nice to be the guy in charge. Of course, as soon as that happens, Tony’ll start calling me Probie again.”
“In front of your team.”
Tim smiles dryly. “Exactly.”
John looks to Abby, “We know Tim’s willing to rearrange his life for your family, what about you? If Norfolk wasn’t shutting down, what would happen?”
She thinks about that. And Tim does, too. That’s something they haven’t talked about.
“I don’t know. It would depend on what Leon’s willing to do. I’m not interested in being an absentee mom. My own parents were amazing, and I want to do as good a job at this as they did.
“I can’t see leaving NCIS. But if I had to, I would. I get headhunted every year. Labs all over want me, so if Leon’s not willing to get me help, if he can’t figure out how to make sure I’m home on a fairly regular basis, then I will find somewhere else that is.
“But I don’t think that’ll be an issue. Leon’s a single dad. He runs the whole agency and still manages to get home most nights to see his kids. I think, even if we weren’t consolidating with Norfolk, that he’d find a way to work with me.”
“So, who will be taking care of the kids? You’re rearranging things, but you still have a lot of time both of you won’t be home.”
“Nanny?” Tim asks Abby.
She nods. “I can see taking a while off, maybe even six months or so, but I’m fairly sure all baby all the time would drive me insane.”
“I’m not categorically opposed to stay-at-home-dadding. But my guess is that I need to be doing something bigger than that, as well. Just novels and little people won’t fill the need to shut the bad guys down.”
“And you do need that?” John wants to know.
“I think so. We’ll find out for sure when the team breaks up. Either I’m in it for the people and the justice or just the people. It certainly isn’t for the money. If it’s just for the people, then maybe I will move onto being a stay-at-home-dad, because I can’t think of people who will matter more to me. But I think I need the justice, too.”
John glances at the clock. It’s five ‘til eight, which is their usual end point. He smiles at them and asks, “So, what that a bit more useful than conflict resolution?”
Tim nods. “A bit.”
Abby adds, “So next week is the last session?”
“We’ll see you then,” she finishes as they head out.
They’re in the car when she says, “Stay at home dad?”
He shrugs. “It’s not impossible. Does that bother you?”
“No. Just never thought about it.”
“Until ten minutes ago I hadn’t either. But someone has to be with them all the time when they’re little. I can work from home, so it could be me.”
She’s nodding. “It could be. Does it bug you that it won’t be me?”
“No. Not like it’s a surprise. At no point have I ever imagined you being a full time stay at home mom.”
“My guess is we’ll have the first one, and you’ll take some time off, and so will I, and we’ll see how it goes. We’ll hire a nanny, and see how that goes. And if we don’t like it, we’ll figure it out. One good thing, we’ve got options and we’ve got money, so it really is just a matter of what seems to work best.”
She smiles. “Yeah, it is.”
She sighs. “Probably not. I really hope not, at least. I’m sure Leon will work with me on it. But if he doesn’t or can’t… I’m not going to be your dad, Tim. We have kids, and I will be there for them. Like you said, if you do this with someone, that someone, and those children, should be the most important thing in your life. And you/they are/will be.”
“I’d kiss you right now if I wasn’t merging into another lane of traffic.”
She smiles. “I know.”