Friday, June 7, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 115

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

Chapter 115: Things Don't Go As Planned

So there are things people usually do on their honeymoon. Sex. Sex is always on the list. Nice restaurants, that’s usually part of it. Sight-seeing, sure. Snorkeling, according to Gibbs, that’s popular, though they’re heading toward Charleston, SC, which isn’t exactly a snorkeling sort of place. Spending lots of time cuddled up, yep, very popular.

Downloading every pregnancy book available on Kindle and reading a bunch of them, well... That might not be common, but Tim sincerely doubts they’re the first couple doing it.

And, while they had planned to do honeymooning-type things while driving around the south, checking out Charleston, Savannah, Atlanta, back up to Richmond, and then home, something else needed to happen first, something that wasn’t going to be pleasant, and until it happened, nothing else was going to be fun, at all.

See, the thing is, caffeine is a drug. And like nicotine, withdraw isn’t pleasant.

And while caffeine and pregnant isn’t forbidden, the amount of caffeine that’s considered safe for a pregnant woman is about what Abby gets in two or three swallows with a Caf-Pow.

At first, as they were driving down, and Abby was getting more annoyed and irritable, Tim was thinking that pregnant mood swings were kicking in a whole lot earlier than he would have liked, and he was starting to get scared. She was viciously jabbing the iPod, looking for new music, complaining about there being nothing worth listening to on it, and he gets they don’t have the same musical tastes, but it was her iPod loaded with her music.

If she was this emotional five days before her period would have shown up, later on was going to be insane.

They had stopped for gas, and he’d gotten their usual driving fuel, gas for the car, Caf-Pow for her, coffee for him, and then she burst into tears while rambling about poisoning their baby and torturing her with what she wasn’t allowed to have, and he suddenly got what was going on.

She went to hide in the bathroom for a little bit. He got her a Non-Caf-Pow, filled it two thirds full, and topped it off with Caf-Pow, booked a few extra days in Charleston, bumped Savanah back, and cancelled Atlanta, fairly sure they weren’t going to be doing much of anything the first few days.

He was waiting in the car when she came out, about ten minutes later.

She looked at him, eyes red, and half-smiled, looking sheepish. “Sorry, I lost it.”

“Have you had any caffeine today?”

“No.” It was three in the afternoon, about the time she would normally be on her third or fourth Caf-Pow.

“Cold turkey is a bad plan.” He handed her the cup. “It’s two thirds decaf one third caf. When we get to Charleston, we’ll do some research and figure out how to do this without killing you.”

“Okay.” She gulped down the not quite as Caf-Pow, and sighed happily. “I can feel it tingling through me.” She petted the cup. “Oh, I’ve missed you, my love!”

He looks at her, shakes his head, and says, “It’s gonna be a long nine months.”

Piazza overlooking the garden
The good thing was it was a really nice hotel suite. Comfortable, attractive, good view of the historic district from the one side, and French doors that opened onto the piazza overlooking a lush green garden surrounding a fountain on the other. Tim had a pretty good suspicion they were going to be spending a lot of time in there, and unfortunately, not in a sexy-we-didn’t-get-out-of-bed-fucking-right-and-left sort of way.

They got there in time for dinner, had some, and started reading.

And yeah, cold turkey wasn’t going to be easy, or pleasant, but given how much caffeine is supposed to be safe for a pregnant lady, and how long it would take to get Abby down to that level if she eased off at a rate that wouldn’t hurt, well, let’s put it this way, it’s likely Abby would be wrapping up her maternity leave before she got down to the recommended maximum of 25 mg a day.

So, cold turkey it was.

And, for a good five minutes Tim thought about doing it with her. He’s a good husband (or will die trying to be one) and a supportive pregnant father, so quitting caffeine with her seemed like a good plan.

Tim & Coffee
Until he actually thought about it and then decided that if she was going to be irritable, in pain, and insanely craving a drug, there was no reason for him to be all those things, at the same time. Sure, he’s not as hooked as she is, but he drinks six twenty ounce cups of coffee a day. To say he’s got a major caffeine habit is not an exaggeration. He just looks like a piker because he lives with Abby and works with Gibbs.

He’s going to have a much easier time being a good husband if he’s not jonesing for a fix. When it comes down to it, he’s thinking both of them insane at the same time is a bad plan.

So for right now, he can taper down a bit (maybe get down to four and a half, okay five, twenty ounce cups), and once she’s off it and sane again, and probably after they get home because he’s not seeing much reason for him to be annoying to everyone when they’re on their honeymoon, he’ll cut it out, too, because he is a good husband and a supportive pregnant father and it doesn’t seem fair to him that she has to quit and he doesn’t.

View of Charleston from Waterfront Park
If there is anything lonelier than sitting alone on your honeymoon, Tim doesn’t know what it could be. And yet, here he is, alone, on one of the swinging benches overlooking the harbor, reading the kindle version of What To Expect When You’re Expecting, willing time to move faster.

Once they figured out cold turkey was the detox plan, all the rest of their plans got pushed back, and lay around and rest became the major goal for the next few days.

He’d been fine with the lay around and rest plan. Abby was hurting, caffeine withdraw causes headaches, and she was having a near migraine level experience, so she didn’t want to move. He was just sitting in bed next to her and reading or writing. He thought that was going fine.

About two hours into it, she rolled over, looked at him and said, “Tim, I love you, I always will, but I’m a little insane right now, and just hearing you breathe and click the next button on your Kindle is pissing me off. Get out of here. Do something interesting. Come back with dinner and tell me about it six hours from now.”

He was about to say, “Are you sure?” but she was already glaring at him pretty hard, so he scooped up his stuff, got dressed in the sitting room, and went out.

And while it’s true that Charleston is filled with cool things, they’re cool things he wants to do with her, not on his own.

So, he kind of failed on the do interesting things part of the assignment, but he figures he can make something up if she asks him about it.

He opened the door quietly. It’s dim in their bedroom; the sun’s not quite down yet, but it’s close, and she doesn’t have a light on. But he sees her roll over when he opens the door.

“Hey,” he says, sitting down on the side of the bed.


“You feeling any better?”

She sat up slowly. “Yeah. Still crabby and headachy, but it’s not as bad as it was earlier.”

“Good. I brought us dinner. You want to eat?”

“Yeah.” She stands up, heading toward the sitting room. “What did you get?”

He followed her out, pointing to the large collection of bags on the coffee table. “A little bit of a lot of different things. I wasn’t sure what you might want, and wasn’t sure if we’d be going out again soon. So...”

Part of the reason for picking Charleston is that it’s a great food town. There’s a little bit of everything there, and most of it is supposed to be good. On the way back to the hotel, he’d more or less popped into any restaurant that looked even remotely interesting and ordered something to go. He had everything from Asian fusion to soul food.

And doing that allowed him to come up with something of a version of what interesting thing he might have done, because he didn’t bother to use the GPS to find his way back to the hotel, and got a little lost. So he can tell her about wandering around Charleston.

Opening all of the boxes and grazing through what he had brought seemed to perk her up. A thought occurred to him. “Did you eat anything today?”

They’d had breakfast, but she booted him out around what should have been lunch time.


It’s true that most of the time they just sort of grab food whenever they can. Breakfast is pretty constant, but eating during the rest of the day tends to happen whenever, and both of them miss meals right and left, often making up for them with coffee or Caf-Pow.

“Mental note, if you aren’t constantly sucking down Caf-Pows, you need to eat real food.”

“I wasn’t hungry.”

“I don’t get hungry when my blood sugar drops, either. But I do get crabby, and I’m guessing that was part of my kindle annoying you.”

“Maybe.” She shrugged and took a bite of a sandwich. “Oh, God, Tim, this is the best thing ever! What is this?” She holds it out, and he takes a bite.

“I have no idea, but you’re right.” He looked at the box it had been in, and then the bag the box had been in, and hoped that it would trigger a memory of ordering it, but it didn’t. He took another bite. It was salty, sweet, crispy, savory, buttery, meaty, some sort of bird but not chicken or turkey, and just mind-meltingly good. He snagged one of the fries that were in the box with it. They were long and very thin and crispy and also amazingly good.

“When you feel up to going out, we’ll go back and figure it out. Have you had one of these fries?” He held one out to her, and she ate it from his fingers.

“Ohhhh!” She took another bite of the sandwich. “It’s duck. I can taste that.”

“Okay, I remember now. It’s duck confit with blueberry honey, on whatever sort of bread that is, apparently buttered and grilled crispy, with Belgian style fries.”

“Oh my god! We have got to go back there.”

He took the bag the food came in, folded it up, and put it in the pocket of his jacket. “So we can find it again.” Then sat down next to her, and took another bite of the sandwich.

She leaned her head against his shoulder, chewing happily. “So what did you do today?”

He told her about walking through Charleston, sitting at the Harbor, and watching the butterflies. It’s not so much that he’s got a thing for butterflies, but November in DC is basically winter, and down here it’s getting cooler, but it’s still warm, and the flowers are still in bloom, and there are butterflies everywhere flitting from flower to flower. And watching them flutter around, along with the palm trees, was just a really vivid sign that he was nowhere even remotely like home.

Not Tim's idea of the continental US.
Honestly, he’s having a hard time believing they’re in the US. It’s just so tropical here. He tells her about the brightly colored buildings and the way everything feels like the Virgin Islands or the Bahamas.

They finished the sandwich and fries, and he poked around in the bags until he found the one that had the bread pudding with hard sauce in it, and that was awfully good, too.

So, they were sitting on the floor, in front of the coffee table, backs against the sofa, feeling comfortably full, and well, Tim was in a pretty good mood, but Abby was starting to get irritable again, and he could feel her tensing under the arm he had around her shoulders so he said, “Let’s go to bed, you lay down, I’ll give you a massage.”

“Are you trying to get sex?” She’s giving him the don’t even try it look. Which up until this point he’s never seen in relation to sex. Messing with Major Mass Spec, touching her computer while she’s got it working on something, let alone unpacking her doll collection (he’s not allowed to touch it, at all), but not sex.

He rolls his eyes and flashes her his really? look. “Yes, but not tonight. Sooner this crap is out of you, the sooner you’ll be happy and fun and interested in sex again, and I think we’d both like that. So, even though you’re all prickly and doing your best impression of a pissed off porcupine, I am offering to rub your entire naked body, slowly, and with a lot of care, because doing that will help your body produce endorphins, which it probably needs, and help you flush the caffeine out faster, and then, even though, as I said, you’ll be both naked, covered in oil, and I will have been touching you for at least an hour, I will not expect any sex from you.”

And for the first time since their wedding night, Abby laughed.

“I love you.”

He smiled, quickly. “You damn well better. On the bed, now!”

She got up, pulling off her clothing as she headed to the other room, and lay down on the bed on her stomach, still smiling. “What if I want sex after you get done?” she asked as he fiddled around with their luggage looking for the oil.

“Then you better be nice to me. We’re married now, so I’m not just some booty call for when you’re feeling frisky.”

She laughs again. And he’s very happy to see she’s starting to come back.

“Did we bring massage oil?”

“I remember packing some. I think it’s in the bag with the toothpaste, shampoo, and soap. Not the toys.”

“Why would it be in there?”

“Because it can spill. The lube is in there, too.”

“Okay, that makes sense.” He heads into the bathroom and locates both the massage oil and the lube, and also sees some Tylenol, and bring all three of them out. No he’s not thinking there’s going to be sex tonight, but he doesn’t see any reason to make two trips, either.

He sits next to her. “So, what still hurts?”

She sighs, posture slumping. “Everything. Headache’s the worst part, but I hurt all over. It’s like a full body headache. Like... you know how you ache when you have the flu?”


“Like that.”



He rests his hand on her shoulder. “I’m really sorry you’re hurting.”

“I know.”

“Want some Tylenol?”

“It’s got caffeine in it.”

He got up and put the bottle back, saying, “Why would they do that?”

“Who knows?”

A few seconds later he was back, straddling her hips. He poured the oil into his right hand, and then rubbed it between his palms, warming it up. He laid both hands on the back of her neck, then slowly slipped them down her shoulders and arms, a long, gentle stroke designed to just feel good. He’s great at working the kinks out, the kind of touch that hurts good, but that’s not what he’s aiming for tonight. Tonight he’s just petting her, letting his hands soothe over her in slow, gentle-firm strokes, starting at her neck and working his way down her body.

And after an hour of it, when he lifted his hands off her feet, she was asleep.

So he got up, brushed his teeth, debated jerking off, because naked, oil covered Abby stretched out under him as his hands rub all over her body has him pretty hard, but doing that on his honeymoon is so terribly depressing that he doesn’t care how horny he gets, it’s just not going to happen, so he snuggled around her.

This really wasn’t how he thought their honeymoon was going to go.

He kissed her shoulder, breathing in her scent, remembered why they were doing this as his arm wrapped around her, and smiled, a little, before going to sleep.


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