Monday, June 24, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 129

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

Chapter 129: Any Man Who Was Ever Worth A Damn

Tim was prepared for food cravings.

Of all the traditional pregnant dad jobs, being the provider of whatever food has to be eaten right now was something he was ready, willing, and able to do.

He was kind of surprised when there really weren’t all that many of them.

Mostly it was just frozen wild blueberries.

He’s got no idea what’s in frozen wild blueberries that Kelly might want, (Yeah, they call her McSciuto in front of the others. They aren’t planning on asking Gibbs about Kelly until they know for a fact she’s a she, but when they’re alone they call her Kelly.) but whatever it might be, she really, really wants it.

A lot of it. All the time.

They got a Costco membership for one reason and one reason only, they’re the only place nearby that sells five-pound bags of frozen wild blueberries. And yeah, they get some curious stares when they’re in line with only three bags of blueberries in the cart.

And they need them because Abby’s going through about two pounds of blueberries a day.

Which isn’t to say there’s not the occasional I have to have (insert name of food here) right this second or I will go insane. There’s been some of that. (Three days earlier when Abby had a melt-down because there were no candy bars with nougat in the vending machine caused everyone to just sit and stare at her in utter, speechless shock.) But for the most part, as long as Abby has a Caf-Pow cup full of frozen blueberries and a spoon handy, she’s good.

“I’m not helpless!” Abby said, standing next to the trunk of her car, glaring at Tim as he grabbed every single grocery bag in it.

“I know,” Tim said, groceries piled high in his arms.

“Then let me take some of them in,” she said as she slammed the trunk of the roadster shut.

“Nope. Though if you felt like getting the door for me this would be a lot easier.” Yeah, he can carry the whole load in one go, but he can’t do that and open the door to their home.

“You look like an idiot trying to get all of them in one trip.”

“Then I’ll look like an idiot. If I don’t grab them all, you grab them.”

“Because I can get them. Carrying a few grocery bags is not an issue.”

“Do you want to stand out here in the cold and argue with me about this, or do you want to open the door so we can argue about it inside where it’s nice and warm?”

Abby glared at Tim, again, but did head over and open the door, because honestly it’s pretty damn cold out there. Rumor has it that the thermometer might get to the low 30s today, but he’s fairly sure that isn’t going to happen.

“Thank you,” Tim said, stomping snow off his boots on the porch and heading into the kitchen, relieved to be able to put the groceries down, because honestly, it was too much to take in one trip.

“You pull your back doing that, and I’m not rubbing it.”

“I can hold you up for a half hour, the groceries aren’t going to be a problem.” And they aren’t from a too heavy perspective; it’s just awkward to try and hold a whole cart’s worth at one time.

He headed back to the foyer, hung his coat up, and put his boots away.

“I don’t like being treated like I’m made of glass.” Abby sat on the bottom step and unzipped her boots.

“I know.”

“So why are you doing it?” She took her coat off and handed it to him. He hung it up.

Tim shrugged. “Because I can. Because you’re the mother of my child and I want to protect, pamper, and baby you. Because this is the only time I’ll get to do this. Next time you’re pregnant, we’ll have an actual baby to baby. And because, if you slip on the damn ice because you were carrying a grocery bag and couldn’t see the path or something, not only will Jethro slap me upside the back of the head with a two by four, a two by four that Jimmy will go out and buy for him for precisely that purpose, I’ll deserve it because there’s only one job a pregnant father has and that’s keeping his wife in good shape.”

“And if I slip on the ice and fall and you can’t catch me because you’re carrying every grocery bag all at once?”

Tim stared her right in the eye and said, voice dead serious, “I’ll catch you. Eggs’ll get broken, but you won’t hit the ground.”

It’s possible that Abby could have rolled her eyes harder, but it’s not likely.

He shrugged and sighed at that. “Look, just chalk it up to insane pregnant daddy stuff, and leave it there. Jimmy did it for Breena. Jethro did it for Shannon. Tony’s going to do it for Ziva until she pulls a knife on him. It’s what we’re designed to do. Seriously, there’s only one reason men exist and that’s to keep their women and kids alive and well. If we were hunter-gathers, it’d be my job to kill the wooly mammoths, bring their bodies to you, and then fight off the wolves. The least I can do is drag some groceries in from the car.”

“Uh huh.” This line of argument was not impressing her. “Do I need to pull a knife on you?”

“I’d really rather you didn’t.” He’s leaning back against the door to the coat closet. “Is it that annoying?”

She’s sitting on the bottom step, arms crossed over her chest, looking angry and defensive. “It’s pretty damn annoying! I’m a grown woman. I’ve run my own lab for over a decade. And as Chip found out, I can handle myself. And it’s not just you. Suddenly Gibbs has also decided that anything involving any physical effort is just too much for me and I can’t be allowed to do it.”

“Gibbs failed the first time!” His voice was quiet, but very intense as he said it.

“What?” That completely derailed Abby’s anger, and confusion replaced it. She wasn’t following where he was taking this.

“His woman and child didn’t make it, and if you ever pump enough alcohol into him to shut down his defenses, like I have, he’ll tell you that. He failed at the job that mattered the most to him. He ran into your lab, in front of a bomb, to get to you because either both of you were going to die or neither of you, but he wasn’t going to bury you. He can take grief. Jenny, Mike, Kate, that was grief. But if he fails another daughter, and these days that’s you and Ziva, or another child, that’s our Kelly, and it’ll break him for good. He’ll crawl into that basement and eat his gun. So, no, he’s not about to let you do anything that might carry even the slightest risk of anything happening to you when he’s around. And God have mercy on all of us when Ziva gets pregnant because her on anything other than desk duty will drive him insane. He’s failed as many times as he can take; he’s not going to do it again!”

“He didn’t fail. No one could have… He didn’t fail!” Abby looked utterly horrified at not just that idea but that Tim would say it.

Heartbreakingly earnest.
He knelt in front of Abby, his hands on her shoulders, looking her in the eye, sounding heartbreakingly earnest. “We’re designed for one job and one job only: protect your woman and kids or die trying. Rule Number 44. You’re supposed to outlive us; that’s the point of it; that’s the goal. And if your wife and kids are dead, and you’re still breathing, you failed. And no, it wasn’t his fault. No, there was nothing he could have done to change it. It was completely out of his control. But he still failed. I know it, Jimmy knows it, Tony knows it, any man who was ever worth a damn knows it. And Gibbs knows it, feels it every single day.

“I’ve been with him for twelve years now. I sat in his basement and actually got him to talk. I’ve seen some of the pictures of Kelly and Shannon. And I know exactly how broken he is, and have a good idea of how broken he was, and the idea of being him scares the living hell out of me. So, look, I’m sorry this bugs you, but, just, please, take pity on me and let me do this.” She was softening, but wasn’t entirely convinced. And he was staring at her eyes wide, breath coming fast, sounding anything but calm or collected. “Okay, on a rational level, I know that you carrying in the groceries, or putting up the Christmas tree, or driving us home at night isn’t a problem. Yeah, the sane part of me knows that. But I’m still scared, and doing things for you gives me something I can control, because there’s seventy million things out there I can’t control.” His eyes close at that and he remembers everything he read in the high risk pregnancy pamphlets. Usually he’s pretty good at not thinking about it, but right now it’s very fresh in his mind. “I can’t make sure she doesn’t have Down’s Syndrome. I can’t make sure she’s healthy. I can’t keep your or her heart beating. But I can carry in the fucking groceries, I can shovel the snow, I can get up on the ladder to put the Christmas lights up, and I can drive us home from work, so, just, let me, okay?”

She wrapped him in her arms and held onto him for a long time, until his breathing went back to normal and he felt calm to her. Her head rested on his shoulder, lips against his throat, feeling his heart slow back down to normal. “Okay.” She pulled back and kissed his forehead, then smiled, trying to lighten things. “So, does carrying in the groceries extend to putting them away?”

He caught her desire to shift the mood and played back with her. “Nope. That’s totally your job.” He winked at her. “I just lugged the damn things in. You can put them away.” She snorted a laugh, and he kissed her quickly on the lips. “Come on, let’s get them put away.”

“Sounds good. Lunch after?” she asked as they headed into the kitchen.

“Sure, maybe some Supernatural after that?”

“For you,” Abby began taking food out of the bags. “I’ll be asleep before the first person gets murdered. Is it murder when a monster or spirit does it?”

“Probably not. It’s got to be illegal to be a murder, and the law doesn’t cover monster and spirits.” Tim held up the package of chicken breasts. “For dinner?”

“Sure. Stir fry ‘em with the broccoli?”

He nodded and located the broccoli, setting them aside.

“Okay, I’ll be asleep before the first person gets killed.”

“Then you can nap on me, and I’ll watch Supernatural.”


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