Chapter 107: The Rehearsal Dinner
At the rehearsal dinner, Tim noticed something. Contrary to how general demographics worked, he was sitting in a group with three elderly single guys, and only one single woman.
And while it’s true that usually only members of the wedding party and out of town guests go to the rehearsal dinner, Penny was in attendance as well, because she wanted some extra time with Tori and Sarah.
And she was getting that extra time, and also, a lot of extra attention.
Which she appeared to be enjoying.
For the most part, Ducky hung back. He’d catch her eye and smile, or wink, but he kept his distance. Tim knew from talking to Penny that though the two of them had hit it off, and gone on a few fairly promising dates, their combined schedules meant that they rarely got to see each other. They went out for drinks, had a pleasant time, made plans to see each other again, and then Ducky caught a case, then she had a lecture in Europe, and he caught another case, then he had a lecture series, then she was teaching a seminar in Georgia, and so forth and so on.
Given the pace of their schedules, they decided to be friends, and Tim decided that he was quite happy to believe that they just liked to get together for a pleasant dinner now and again and nothing else happens.
And if Ducky appears to be in an especially fine mood after the two of them get together, well, Penny is a lovely and brilliant woman, and spending time with her is fun, and Tim absolutely has no interest in knowing anything else on that topic, thank you very much.
Tony was standing next to him, watching Senior chat up Penny, and said, “So, they hit it off and get married, what does that make us? Step-brothers? No… I’d be your uncle, right? Uncle Tony.”
“God, that’s a horrifying thought.” Tim said.
Then Jackson swooped in, drink in each hand, and neatly cut Senior out of the picture as Penny smiled. “Her and Jackson, that’d make Gibbs--”
“Still your boss.”
The three of them watched Jackson flirt with Penny, which she handled with a pleasant smile, grace, charm, and a fairly definite brush off. Tim looked across the party and noticed Ducky appeared smugly pleased.
“You think those two…” Tony asked.
“They’re friends,” Tim answered, probably a bit quicker than was strictly necessary.
|Bride and her Bridesmaid|
He and Gibbs watched the party for a little while, and then Gibbs said, quietly, “Can we talk in private?”
“Sure.” Tim looked around, wondering what Gibbs would want to say to him without an audience, hoping this isn’t the hurt my daughter and I’ll kill you slowly and messily conversation, because, honestly he thought they were past that, and noticed that there was a small area behind the bar where they could talk without too much attention being paid to them.
He nodded in the direction of the bar. Gibbs saw it. And they headed over.
Tim waited for Gibbs to start, and eventually, he did.
“Tim, I know Abby’s family would normally pay for this, or at least help out, and...” he slid a check into Tim’s hand.
Tim unfolded it, and it took a moment before his mind could make the numbers on it make sense, finally, ten thousand dollars registered.
His first response, which he acted on, was to wrap Gibbs in a massive hug. Gibbs handled that by going stiff, looking confused, but then he sort of melted into it and hugged Tim back. Tim found himself thinking of this as the Godfather exception to the no hugging guys rule. On his daughter’s wedding day, (okay, rehearsal dinner day) the Godfather will grant hugs.
Tim stepped back and said, “This is the sweetest thing anyone has done for us, thank you. Really, thank you. But... look... I’ve got to be honest, we aren’t hurting for cash.”
“Weddings are expensive.” By which Gibbs meant this particular wedding looked God-awful expensive because Tim and Abby aren’t pulling any punches on this. From what he can tell Abby’s ceremony dress (because she’s got one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Something about dancing in hoop skirts and corsets...) was more expensive than his last two weddings combined. “You just closed on a house, and I know what you make.”
Tim nodded. “You’re right. This is expensive. And look, this isn’t a I’m-too-proud-to-accept-your-help sort of thing. If we needed it, I’d take it in a heartbeat. But I don’t want you thinking we’d do something we couldn’t pay for. We’re not going into debt for this.”
Gibbs didn’t quite believe that, but he was also confused because he could tell Tim wasn’t lying. Apparently it showed on his face.
Tim read the look, and pulled Gibbs a bit further away from the rest of the wedding party. “Yeah, my pay grade isn’t too impressive. I know that. But... okay, I don’t like to talk about this. Abby knows, but I’d rather no one else did... So, anyway, the advance for The Traitor Within was three hundred thousand dollars. Right before we closed, I got the first draft of Most Precious in, so they sent me the first third of that advance.” Tim smiled a little. “We’re good on cash.”
Gibbs stared at him, disbelieving. He did it for a full minute, which felt like forever to Tim, and made him want to squirm. Finally Gibbs said, “They pay you hundreds of thousands of dollars to write about me?”
Tim shrugged. “All of us really. Foreign and Domestic was mostly about Ziva. Palmer had a lot of action in The Traitor Within. Most Precious is mainly Abby and me.”
Tim resisted the urge to say, “I’m a good writer,” and came up with, “People like these stories. They like reading about us. You’ve got fans. Lots of them. Some of them even write further adventures for you. If you were to go to Fanfiction.net and search Deep Six, you’d find over fifteen thousand stories.”
Gibbs looked somewhere between intrigued and horrified. “What do they write about?”
Tim thought for a moment about what they actually write about, mainly Gibbs and Tony screwing each other silly, and decided that he was willing to break, or at least seriously bend, his don’t lie to Gibbs rule on this one.
“New adventures, new romances…”
Gibbs just stared at him, waiting for more.
“Many of them like you with Ziva,” he said it fast, voice low.
Intrigued vanished and utterly horrified replaced it. Tim decided not mentioning the stories with him and Tony was a good idea.
“They write about me and Ziva?”
Tim felt the blush creeping up his cheeks. “Yeah, together, like romantic and... explicit.”
“Yeah, I got that, Tim.” He shook his head, and Tim decided to get back to the topic at hand.
“So, look, this is amazingly generous, and if you mean it as a gift, we will happily take it, but if it’s about helping us out, it’s still amazingly generous, but well, I know what you make, too, and I don’t want you putting yourself out for us.” He was holding the check, looking at it, trying to figure out a way to get out of this with some sort of grace.
Gibbs took Tim’s hand and closed it around the check. Then he hugged Tim, who was utterly surprised by this.
Abby bopped over a second later, looking amused and slightly annoyed. “You told him, didn’t you?”
“No, Abby.” Tim shook his head a little. “I swear, I’m leaving it to you.”
“Then why are you guys hiding way over here, and why is he hugging you?” she asked Tim, but she was looking at Gibbs.
Gibbs shrugged, smiled a little, and pulled Abby in for a hug. He had an arm around her when he asked, “What do you think Tim told me?”
She looked at Gibbs, beamed at him, unadulterated rays of Abby joy bathing him, and said, much more calmly than both he and Tim were anticipating, “We found out this morning. We’re pregnant!”
“And you tell me you don’t need this?” Gibbs eyed the check in Tim’s hand as a huge grin spread across his face, the sort Tim had never seen on Gibbs before, but if he had to guess, he’d call it pure happiness.
“We don’t, Boss, but there’s nothing in the world we want more than a crib made by you.”
Gibbs hugged both of them, kissing Abby on the cheek. Abby cried. Tim pretended he wasn’t crying. And Gibbs pretended he didn’t notice as he held both of them close.