Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 150

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

Chapter 150: Call Out

Sunday morning, Gibbs eased the door to the McGee house open. It's unlocked, and right now he was wishing those two hadn't decided to mimic him on that. Tim and Abby's cell phones are both on the little table near the door, and he can see Tim's showing the four calls they've given him.

Gun out, he scans the downstairs, looking right and left for signs of trouble, but he's not seeing anything. Gibbs holsters his gun. He's rapidly coming to the conclusion that phone on the front table, and Tim and Abby upstairs in bed probably means Tim didn't hear the call.

Now what? Part of him just wants to find a convenient chunk of wall and pound on it until Tim shows up. Part of him knows that if Tim's sleeping, Abby is too, and while she will have to show up at the lab, she doesn't need to get there for at least three hours, and he doesn't want to cut into her sleep. She's tired enough as is without him waking her up early.

They're all tired. He doesn't think anyone on his team has slept well for almost two weeks now. But the rest of the team is still holding themselves together pretty well because they don't have tsunami-sized waves of hormones sloshing around their systems.

Tired, pregnant, mood-swingy Abby sobbing in her lab because something reminded her of Jonathon is something he'd really prefer to avoid.

Which means he needs to go upstairs.

To their bedroom. With them in it. I.E. the last place on earth he wants to be at this particular moment in time.


He heads up quietly. Last thing he wants to do is get shot by Tim because he thinks the footfalls on his steps are a burglar. Gibbs was up there right before the wedding, so he knows which room is theirs. Top of the steps all the way down the hall on the right.

The door is open. Makes sense, not much reason to close it when it's just the two of you.

He pokes his head in fast, if too much of Abby is visible, he's going back downstairs, getting Tim's phone, tossing it in the room, and then calling.

But they're under the blanket, spooned together, Tim on the outside, wrapped around her, their legs tangled together.

He eases in quietly and pokes what he's hoping is Tim's foot.

Tim jerks, looks around fast, sees Gibbs and relaxes, though Gibbs tenses up when his brain realizes what he's seeing on Tim.

"What are you doing in my bedroom?" he asks quietly, sounding confused.

"Call out. You didn't answer your phone."

Tim rubs his face and then winces when he does it. "Okay, I'm up."

Gibbs stands there, waiting, eyes wide, wondering what the hell happened to Tim. Tim doesn't move. This last for about thirty seconds before Tim says, still quietly, "Remember that peep show comment from Lejeune?" Gibbs turns and heads out of their room. He's halfway out the door when Tim adds, "Put some coffee on when you're down there."

Gibbs nods and heads downstairs, shaking his head. Why it is out of all his team members only Kate could be relied on to wear pajamas?

As he's rummaging around in their kitchen, he wonders why Tim's got a black eye and some really ugly fresh bruises on his shoulders, arms, and chest. He's really hoping Tim didn't flip out and beat the hell out of someone, because judging by how bad he's looking, that someone is really likely to press charges.

But that can't be it, because there's no way Abby wouldn't have called him if something like that had happened. And for that matter, he really doubts Tim wouldn't have called him if that had been up.

No way to know now, so he lets it go, and finds the coffee, scoffs at the decaf in his hands, there's no point to coffee if it's decaf, and then sets up Tim's machine to brew.

Seven minutes later, Tim is downstairs, dressed, shaved, and except for the black-eye, looking fairly professional. His hair's a bit messier than normal, but not unreasonable. He takes the coffee from Gibbs, sucking it down fast.

"Sorry, Jethro, looks like we can't hear the phone from the upstairs. It'll go on my dresser from now on."

Gibbs nods.

"What are we called out for?"

"Dead Marine outside of Quantico."

Tim grabs a bagel, writes a quick note for Abby on the whiteboard on the fridge, and says, "Let's go."

They're in the car when Tim says, "Thanks for not waking her up."

Gibbs nods. "Do I want to know how bad the other guy looks?"


Really, you're gonna play dumb with me? Gibbs' look said.

"Jimmy'll be fine."

That shocks Gibbs badly enough that he pulls the car over, stops it, and turns toward Tim. "You got into a fight with Palmer? What the hell happened?"

Tim holds up a placating hand. "Nothing like that. He was telling me about how angry he was, and how there was nothing to be angry at, nothing to hit."

"So you volunteered to let him hit you?" Gibbs is so shocked he's sounding almost flustered. "I know you don't spend a lot of time in the gym, but the large bags hanging from the ceiling are there so people can hit them!"

Tim rolls his eyes. "He'd get bored with a punching bag, or his mind would wander because it wouldn't hold his attention. He needed something to get himself out of his head. Actually fighting does that. Otherwise, I would have suggested using a punching bag, I mean, this isn't precisely comfortable, and getting like this was a hell of a lot less comfortable."

Gibbs stares at him, and Tim's not sure if that look is admiration for stepping up for his friend or scorn for being so stupid about it. He does know that once he got Abby calmed down, which took some doing, (having told her he was in bad shape, and her actually seeing him were two very different things) and explained (again) what had happened (and why) she had an awfully similar look on her face.

"What do you do when you're really angry, Jethro? One of three things, right? Drink, fuck, or fight. He can't drink, not enough. Diabetes means getting more than buzzed is a bad plan for him. Even if he felt like it, and I really doubt he does, fucking's out for at least the next two-three weeks, maybe longer. But I could fight with him. So we went six rounds, and by the time we were done a lot of his anger was burned off. Maybe not the best way to handle it, but we'll both heal up, and at least as of Friday night, he seemed to be doing a little better."

Gibbs takes Tim's left hand and turns it so he can see how bad he hurt himself, purple-green bruises decorated split knuckles. "No gloves?"

"This isn't something either of us ever does. We don't have gloves. And no, we didn't have tape, either. Or face gear."

"You can see okay out of that eye?"

"I'm fine. Just sore."

"Jimmy's okay?"

"The only things you can see are the split lip and his hands."

"You split his lip?"

Tim's really tempted to roll his eyes again. "I wasn't trying to. I'm not Ziva. This isn't something I'm very good at. I meant to get his shoulder, he dodged into my hand, and I couldn't pull it in time. I think that's how he got my eye, too. We weren't trying to hurt each other. He just needed someone to fight it out with, so I did it."

Gibbs nods at that. "You've been a good friend to Jimmy. And now I'm going to be a good dad, to both of you. Every Sunday from now until your daughter is on the outside, both of you are spending an hour training with me. It's been eight years since I've seen you in the gym for any combat training, and if you're accidently splitting Jimmy's lip, you're too rusty. If he's accidentally hitting you in the eye, same thing."

"Errr…" Ending up with even less free time was not how Tim had hoped this would work out.

"Both of you need to be in good enough shape to put the Fear of Dad into future boyfriends, so training starts on Sunday. And you're spending an hour with him at the range every week until he's as good as you are with a pistol."

"Ever since he got kidnapped, he hasn't wanted to have anything to do with a real gun."

"He might feel differently about it now. And even if he doesn't, he still needs to know how to use one."

Tim shrugs, and winces, his ribs are pretty sore and that motion hurts. "Could we maybe start this the Sunday after next, when Jimmy and I won't still be eating handfuls of Advil every four hours?"

Gibbs shakes his head. "I'll take it easy on you the first week."


"McGee, are you all right?"

"What on earth happened to you!" Ziva sounded really concerned, while Tony sounded shocked.

"I'm fine." Which was as far as he got before Jimmy and Ducky showed up with the gurney.

"Palmer did you…" Tony was probably going to ask something like, 'see what happened to McGee,' but he turned to look at Jimmy, saw the split lip, his chin and jaw had bruised up to go with it, as well as bruised hands and said, "Did both of you go out, get drunk, and beat the hell out of someone at a bar?"

"No, Tony, they didn't." Ziva walked over to Jimmy, stared at the bruises on his face, her finger just ghosting over it. "That was done by someone's left hand." And then went to Tim and stared at his eye, looking like she knew exactly how tall the person who hit him was just from the bruise. "Do you want to explain this?"

Tim shrugged and looked to Jimmy, his expression letting Jimmy know that he'll keep this as private as Jimmy wants. (Gibbs excepted. Tim's personal rule number one means Gibbs is always excepted.)

Jimmy shrugged, too. "Tim let me fight out my anger. I needed it. He was there. Do you need more than that?"

"Nope," Tony said very quickly. He knows that expression, knows that tone of voice, and knows that's a man who doesn't want to get into whatever it is.

Ziva nodded at him. "If you ever need it, I am here, too."

Jimmy closed his eyes and manages a bit of a smile for her. "Thanks, but Ziva, I can't hit you. I know you're tough. I know you're a better fighter than I am. I know you can kill a man with a bar of soap. But you're still a girl, and I can't hit you."

She smiled at him, hoping a little gentle kidding goes over well. "Jimmy, the reason you cannot hit me is because I'm too fast for you."

"That too."

"Seriously, though. I'm good enough at this neither of us will get hurt, and you'll still get a good work out." She stepped closer to him, and said quietly, "And if you do need to hit, to land the punches, and to take them in return, I know how to do that and not visibly harm you, and how to not let you hit anything important. Neither you nor McGee can afford to damage your hands or eyes."

"Thanks." He hugged Ziva quickly before hurrying after Ducky.

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 149

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

Chapter 149: Too Damn Small

Gibbs has a problem.

What's new about that? He usually has several of them at any given time, and some of them come back over and over. But this is the first time he's run into this particular one.

His basement is too damn small.

He started on the Shannon back in '12, when he knew retirement was on the horizon and wanted to get her done in time to sail off shortly after they make him leave NCIS. He figures that'll be the best way to handle those first few months. Get out to sea, away from the job, and just let go, cold turkey, come back a few months later and hopefully find something to do with himself on land.

So, now, as January of '15 is coming to a close, with a year to go until retirement, Shannon is getting pretty close to done. He's got a year to work, and about ten more months' worth of work to do on her.

But he's got two more jobs ahead. He needs to have a Chuppah done by April 4, (3rd really, apparently in Jewish weddings there's some sort of ceremony the night before involving signing the contract, and then the next day there's the ceremony he thinks of as a wedding.) and while McSciuto might not be due until July, he wants the crib done by the beginning of May. On the off chance he shakes his head, hell she, ends up coming early, she'll need a place to sleep.

So, the question is: try and finish Shannon up fast, move his shop upstairs, or try to squeeze three projects into a space that was already tight for one...

The Chuppah is primarily lattice work. It's got to be light, beautiful, flexible, and, because it's got to get from his place to the park where they're having the ceremony, collapsible. But it's also got to be strong enough to hold all of the flowers, vines, and lacy fabric that'll get draped around it. Once he's got all of the pieces cut, he can get them screwed together upstairs. But it'll be a two-step finishing process. The real finishing will happen before he gets all the pieces assembled, but he'll need to do a good, solid post assembly clean up as well, and the basement is where he's got his ventilation system for dealing with the dust that goes with that.

Then there's the crib. That'll require real joinery, serious planing, every piece has to be straight and square, and he's sure as hell going to do some carving on it, though he's not entirely certain what.

Since Tim and Abby are talking about a forest theme for the nursery, he knows one thing, the legs of the crib are going to be unshaped trees. He'll take the bark off, mostly because he knows little kids are rough on furniture and it'll get knocked off if he leaves it on. He wants the look of natural wood growing up from the floor. And there'll have to be a space on the back for the picture Abby wants to paint, but beyond that, he doesn't have a set idea, yet.

He's been debating putting off any real design work on the crib for finding out if McSciuto is a girl or boy. Everyone thinks she's a girl. Gibbs does, too. And if he's designing for a little girl, that'll make some of this easier. But at the same time, they don't know yet, won't until the beginning of April, and he's fairly certain this crib is not only going to be used by one child.

'Course, they have more than one kid, he can make more than one crib. And if they are going to have more than one, those kids are going to have to be pretty close together. Abby might look the same age Tim is, but Gibbs knows she's not. So, anyway, McSciuto might still be in this crib when Baby B shows up.

Gibbs is feeling like he's just talked himself into doing a girl's crib, until he once again remembers that they don't actually know that McSciuto is a girl.

Damn it. Okay, he can pick out the wood. That's a start. And then he can move onto the Chuppah. By the time that's done, they'll know for sure if she's a girl or boy, and then he can go from there.

He's thinking walnut for the slats, dark, almost black stain, and then the cross pieces can be maple, almost white. He sketches that out, quickly, looks at it with the natural tree legs and crumples it up. That didn't look right at all. He spends a few hours fooling around with different ideas, not really liking anything he was coming up with, besides the idea that some sort of small dragon should be crawling up one of the legs, face perched on the top, looking into the crib. He likes that idea a whole lot.

So he puts those sketches aside, and goes to work on the Chuppah.

The Chuppah's easier. That should be oak, strong, solid, slow-growing, but long-lived. He can see the pieces in his mind, long, tall, strong. He glances over to his band saw, knowing he's going to be ripping a whole lot of wood soon.

Which once again brings him to the problem of not having enough room. The band saw is packed up in the corner, because the Shannon is taking up most of the space.

He stands up, places a hand on her hull. That part is done. Normally his next step would be building the interior, followed by the deck. But if he puts the deck on her first, or at least something to keep the rain out and the hull intact, he can move her out, do his current projects, and move her back in.

And, if he's willing to let go of the secret of how his boats get out of the basement, Tim and Tony will help him do it, which would speed things up even further and make getting her back into the basement once he's done with the Chuppah and the crib easier.

Gibbs checks his watch. It's seventeen thirty on Saturday. So, grab a little food, then come back down here and get four hours of work done. They're on call this weekend, and he's got a feeling something is going to happen, so he wants to get to bed earlier rather than later.

His plan set, and one more problem checked off the list, Gibbs headed up to the kitchen.


Shards To A Whole: Chapter 148

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

Chapter 148: Too Stupid To Live

There is a term that Tim's come in contact with on several occasions. He's never seen it outside of discussions of writing or characters, so he's not sure how common it is outside the writer/reader community, but right now, as he's fighting with Jimmy, it's springing to mind.

That term is Too Stupid To Live. It's used when the character in a story does something so ridiculously stupid that you, the reader, start rooting for them to die.

There are times when Tim is pretty firmly convinced that he is indeed too stupid to live. Usually, he tries to avoid that, but, well, as the title implies, he's too damn stupid to figure out where the problem is ahead of time.

But, as Jimmy's fist goes crashing into his eye, he's rapidly coming to the conclusion that yes, today he is indeed too damn stupid to live.

The idea of helping Jimmy to fight out his aggression seemed like a really good one until the actual fighting started. And then it dawned on Tim that A: he carries a gun for a reason. B: that reason is to avoid having to get into fist fights. C: this really, really hurts.

Part of the issue is that, while Tim has been trying to avoid hurting Jimmy, and it's true that for the first two or three minutes Jimmy was also trying to avoid hurting him, as the fight got going and the adrenaline got pumping, Jimmy's control vanished.

What's also true is that Jimmy has no technique, can't really see because he's not wearing his glasses, is angry on an existential level, hurts worse than anyone has ever hurt, is high as a kite on endorphins right now, and is way stronger than anyone his size has any right to be.

So, to put it nicely, Tim's getting his ass handed to him on a silver platter.

He's also vaguely aware of the fact that there were probably preparations they could have taken besides just changing into sweats. Like, he's thinking that head gear might have been a good plan. (Very good plan, Jimmy just dodged into one of Tim's punches, and Tim's not entirely sure how much of the blood dripping off his hand is from Jimmy's now split lip or his now split knuckles. This is also when the idea of taping up their hands occurs to him.) But, as he manages to sweep Jimmy's legs out from under him, he's fairly pleased that they were at least smart enough to take their shoes off.

Jimmy gets up slowly, and Tim stands there, open, waiting, breathing hard.

"One more round?" Jimmy asks. They're calling a round fighting until one of them goes down. That was, he thinks, the end of number five.

"As many as you need." And yeah, that's probably stupid too, but fight aside, Jimmy actually seems a little calmer now, well, maybe calmer isn't the right word. Less angry? Yeah, that's probably better. Of course, he's also, like Tim, pretty close to exhausted, too, so he might just not have enough energy to be angry.

Jimmy nods and charges him. Tim managed a decent sidestep and got him in the back with his elbow, but Jimmy was already whipping around and punched him in the ribs.

Part of fighting is that it goes by way faster than you think it should. If he was doing this with a game controller, hitting buttons, he'd be able to do it fast enough to react to Jimmy and think a few moves ahead. But as it is, doing this live means he feels like he's constantly playing catch up.

But the good thing about this going faster than expected is that it's probably less than three minutes later that he's on his back, staring up at the ceiling of the gym, aching from his hair to the soles of his feet, gasping to get his breath back.

Jimmy gives him a hand up, pulling him back into standing up.

"You okay?"

Tim nods, finally able to inhale again.

"More?" he asks Jimmy.

"I'm done."


"Tim," Jimmy's looking at him, eyes wide open and earnest. "Thank you."

"Anytime." And as they head for the locker room, Tim knows he means it. As often as Jimmy needs to do this, he'll be there for.

They peel off sweat and blood soaked clothing, ready to hit the showers, which right now sounds really, really good to Tim. He looks at himself as he hangs his towel outside the shower stall and moans softly. He's covered in bruises, and since he knows a little something about how this works, he also knows that they're all going to get worse before they get better.

"Tim." Jimmy's in the next stall over, and likely doing a pretty similar inspection of his body.


"Cold water. Hot'll feel better, but it'll make the bruising and swelling worse."

"Great." He hates cold showers. Hated them before he almost froze to death and absolutely abhors them now. And right this second the idea of putting his extremely tender, hurts to look at wrong body into icy cold water seems like getting to enjoy a sneak preview of Hell.

He still cranks the water all the way to the cold side because Jimmy is right. He remembers enough of his wrestling days to know that if you put hot on bruised, battered flesh you end up even more swollen, stiff, and sore.

"Did you tell Abby what we were doing?"

"Told her we were working out. What'd you tell Breena?"

"You were helping me deal with my anger."

"They're going to flip out when they see us." See, this is part of the too stupid to live thing. Coming home to a pregnant wife beaten to a pulp is a bad plan. She's going to take one look at him and freak out.

"Yeah." Jimmy sighs. "She's going to yell at me for being stupid."

Tim nods, steps into the water, shrieks when it hits his skin, because God, icy cold water beating down on bruised skin is every sort of horrible he can think of, and says, "Abby's going to do that, too."

He hears a low moan from Jimmy, so he assumes that means he's stepped into the water as well.

"Did it help?"

"Yeah. It did. I may just be too tired and sore to feel it, but I'm not angry right now."


The human body is a wonderfully designed machine. For example, when it experiences pain, it produces chemicals that fight that pain. Those chemicals are called endorphins. They act as a pain reliever and mild euphoric.

The fact that Tim knows that was part of suggesting fighting to Jimmy. Endorphins make you feel better, they lift your mood, and that effect can last for hours, days even. That's why they suggest you exercise if you're depressed.

However, the pain fighting aspect of endorphins wears off pretty quickly after you stop doing whatever it was that caused the pain in the first place. And while Tim is well aware of how this works when it comes to certain amounts of discomfort he's experienced chasing an especially good orgasm, he wasn't aware of how fast it was going to wear off in relation to a fight.

Basically, he was only a few blocks away from the Navy Yard when his seatbelt started to really hurt his shoulder. Which was not to say everything else about him didn't hurt, too, but as per the Gate Theory of Pain, you really only feel what hurts worst, and the belt pressing into his very tender, very bruised left shoulder really hurt.

He was at a stop light, about ten minutes from home, debating sending Abby a text to warn her that he wasn't in quite the same shape as he had been when she last saw him two hours earlier. He could either send that text, and then have her worried about him from now until he got home, or not send it and shock the hell out of her when he got in the door.

He sent the text.

Two seconds later his phone was ringing. He set it on speaker and put it in the cup holder.

"You got into a fight with Jimmy!? What the hell were you thinking? Jimmy's so fragile right now; how could you possibly start a fight with him?" She continued on that vein for a bit, and he was thinking that texting: Got into fight with Jimmy, look pretty bad, home soon, explain then was yet another sign of being too stupid to live.

"What could he have possibly have said to piss you off so much, especially right now, that would make you fight him?"

She actually paused for breath after that one, so he replied, "'I'm so angry, and there's nothing to do with it, nothing to hit, and screaming at fate doesn't help.' So I volunteered to fight him to help get the angry out."

"Oh." Dead silence. "You couldn't have put that in your text?"

"I should have."

"How bad are you?"

"Lots of Advil and ice packs when I get home."



"Did it help him?"

"I think so."

"I'll have the frozen peas ready to go."

"Thanks. Should be home in three minutes."


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 147

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

Chapter 147: Comforting Words

"How are you doing?" Yesterday had been Jimmy's first day back, and also the last day of a hot case, so beyond a quick visit, Tim hadn't had time to get down to Autopsy.

Today they're filling out paperwork, and no one is going to say anything if he and Jimmy take an extra-long lunch. So they did.

Jimmy shrugged a little, his voice is pretty flat. "Not so bad. Everyone here has lost someone and knows what this feels like, sort of, at least. Tony's made some dumb jokes, but that's it, they're dumb jokes, designed to try and make me laugh. Ziva's brought food for us every day since you and Abby left. But 'well-meaning' assholes out there in the rest of the world keep saying horrible things to us.

"Why would you say, 'You'll have other children'? Yeah, it's true. We will, and if the genetic testing says we shouldn't try naturally, we'll adopt more kids, but why would you say that?" Flat is very rapidly being replaced by anger steeped in stupefaction. "If I told you my best friend died, you wouldn't say to me, 'You'll have other best friends.'" Jimmy stabbed the one of the pieces of chicken in his salad over and over with his fork. "One of the ladies at church said, 'Well, at least Molly's healthy.' You wouldn't tell someone who's mom just died, 'Well, at least your dad is healthy.'

"One of them said to us, 'You've got to trust that God knows what He's doing, and this is for the best.'" He shook his head, looking so tired. "No, I don't have to trust in that. I don't have to trust in anything. Trusting in a God who builds your hopes up and crushes them just for kicks is really damn low on my to-do list right now, thank you."

The stupefaction in his voice vanished, replaced by all anger. "I almost hit the woman who said it'd make us stronger. Would have done it if she had been a guy. I was perfectly fine being a cream puff, married to a cream puff, raising a little cream puff, dreaming about a new little cream puff, and I would have very happily lived my entire life never dealing with anything harder than being annoyed with Ed. The idea that it'll make me tougher isn't any comfort." He closed his eyes for a second, made himself calm down, and then looked at Tim again, who was pretty much just sitting there, across the booth from him, hoping to be useful by giving Jimmy a shot to say whatever he wanted or needed to.

"You know why they tell you not to tell anyone you're pregnant at first?"

Tim shook his head. Sure, he's familiar with the whole so-you-won't-have-to-tell-everyone-if-you-miscarry thing, but he's also sure that's not where Jimmy is going with this.

"It's so the rest of the world doesn't have to deal with your grief. If you don't tell anyone, then when you lose a baby you're just sad on your own, and if someone asks, you wave it away, force a grin on your face, and pretend to be all right. Every single one of those thoughtless 'comforting' words has been about only one thing only, shutting us down. 'You'll have other babies, so don't make me have to deal with you in mourning.' 'It's God's will, so stop making me uncomfortable by being sad.'"

"I'm so sorry."

"I know." Jimmy shook his head. "How hard was that? I'm sorry. I wish this didn't happen to you. I know it hurts, and it's not going to be better anytime soon, but I hope you heal quickly. And then shut the fuck up! How hard is that?" He wiped a tear away.

Tim shrugged. I'm sorry and then shut-the-fuck-up has always been his way of dealing with grieving people. "How's Breena doing with it?"

"Angry, frustrated, sad… We both are… At least I can go to work and deal with the fact that what I do puts killers away. She's just surrounded by dead people."

"She went back to work?"

"For about an hour. Then one of the suppliers asked how the pregnancy was going, so she told him, and he said something about us having other babies, and Ed blew up at him. Apparently ripped him a new asshole, twice." Ed had been at their place when he got home, and seemed to really enjoy giving Jimmy the full play by play on what exactly he had said to that idiot. And for the first time ever, Jimmy completely approved of something Ed had done. "How bad at tact are you when Ed's schooling you in how to behave? Then she went home and spent the rest of the day snuggling with Molly. The only good thing about working for Ed is that he'll let her take as long off as she likes, and if she never wants to see a dead body again, he'll support her in that, too." There are a lot of things that are true about Ed Slater, that he doesn't like Jimmy, has no filter between his mouth and his brain, and values money and the security it buys too highly are all on the list. Him being a bad dad isn't.

"Tim. I really appreciated what you did for us, and for me."

"Jimmy, you're living my worst fear. Whatever you and Breena need, I'm here for."

"Thanks." Jimmy sat there, ate the piece of chicken he'd been mauling with his fork, and thought for a minute.

"You guys had the nuchal fold testing, right?"

"Yeah, Wednesday."


Tim hadn't been sure how to handle this. My baby's healthy and yours just died is way out of his depth, so he figured this would be another good shut-the-fuck-up topic, so he hadn't mentioned it. But if Jimmy's going to out and out ask, he's not going to lie about it. "And it came up clear. Everything's good, as best we can tell."

"I'm really happy for you." Jimmy looks like he's on the verge of crying again. "Do you have new ultrasound pics?"

"Yeah, four of them. I wasn't sure…"

"I'd like to see them."

"Okay." Tim pulls them up on his phone. Kelly's still too little to tell if she's a boy or a girl, but she's looking a whole lot more like a baby and less like a shrimp.

Jimmy just stared at the first shot, his finger tracing along the curve of Kelly's spine.

"You sure you want to see this?"

"Yeah." Jimmy closes his eyes, and then opens them again, looking at Tim. "It hurts, but… I'm still really glad for you guys. And I still can't wait to meet your little girl. And I don't want you feeling like you can't be happy around me. I need all the happy I can get these days. Breena does, too."

"Okay." So he points out toe buds and finger buds, and how she's about the size of a golf ball, all stuff Jimmy knows, but it's still a big deal for Tim. He shows Jimmy the shot of the two tiny feet, and Jimmy smiled a little at them.

And then he started crying.

Tim put his phone back into his pocket and switched seats, sitting next to Jimmy and rubbing his back.

"It's just so fucking unfair!" Jimmy bites out, staring at the ceiling.

"I know."

"And I'm so angry," he won't look at Tim as he says this, because he's having an easier time keeping himself under some semblance of control by staring at the seat across from him. "And there's nothing, no one to be angry at. There's nothing to hit, and screaming at fate is useless."

Anything you need. There's nothing to hit. Tim thinks about that for a second before saying, "I'll fight you if you think it would help."

That got Jimmy to turn and look at Tim, surprised him enough it broke some of the sorrow. "Tim?"

Tim shrugs at Jimmy. He doesn't much like fighting, but if it might help, he's game. "There's a boxing ring in the gym. Having something solid to fight might help."

"I don't want to beat the shit out of you."

"I'm not volunteering to be a punching bag; you'd get bored with that too soon. A real fight would hold your attention and give you a shot to work out a lot of the fight or flight chemicals in your system. Won't help with sad, might help with angry. Ziva'd be game, too, if you wanted to go up against someone who's actually good at hand to hand."

Jimmy thought about that for a moment. "That's part of why she started training again when her father was killed."

"Maybe. Needing to be in good shape for what came after was a lot of it, too. We're made to run, physically run, away from the things that scare us, or turn around and try to kill them. You can't run from this, and you can't fight it, but you can fight me or Ziva or Tony, or hell, I'll run with you if you like. It certainly can't make things worse, and it might make you feel a little better."

Jimmy thought about it. "What are you doing after work?"

"Dinner with Abby, eventually. Tony and Ziva were going to do Shabbat, but they didn't think the case would get wrapped in time, so that's not on for tonight. You want to do something?"


"Run or fight?"



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 146

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

Chapter 146: Testing

He wasn't sure how to say it to Abby. He was pretty sure she'd agree with him, but they haven't talked about it, and she might not, and, the appointment was coming up, tomorrow in fact, and he had to talk to her about it because just whipping it out in front of Dr. Draz was a bad plan.

So after dinner, as they were settling down to relax on the sofa, he said to her, "No matter what the test comes up positive for… I don't care what might be wrong with her, I don't want to abort Kelly."

Abby gently touched his face. "And if she's sick and hurting…"

He kissed the palm of her hand. "Abby, unless keeping her alive means that she'll be in constant pain or hooked to a machine, unable to survive on her own, I want to keep her. If she's not normal… We've got money, we've got family for support, and I can quit my job to take care of her if need be."

Abby snuggled in next to Tim, laying his hands on her just starting to show belly, and kissing him gently. "Tim, did you think that would be a problem for me?"

"I really hoped it wouldn't. But we haven't talked about what if…"

"We probably should have. Unless she can't survive on her own, I want to keep her. If I'd had any reservations about keeping her, I wouldn't have risked getting pregnant."


"You scared?" she asked.


She nodded at that. "I'm refusing to worrying about it."

He looks at her, and she half-smiles, and they both know that's more a statement of intent than truth. Abby's forty, almost forty-one, and both of them are more that good enough at math to know how fast the Down's Syndrome rates skyrocket at her age.

She gives him that half-smile again. "Either the DNA did what it was supposed to, or it didn't, and either way there's nothing we can do to change it and nothing we're going to do about it besides love our child and give her the best life we can."

"Good. I'm still scared."

"Me, too."

Once again they were in a dim room, staring at a grainy white-on-black screen, trying to make out features as the ultrasound tech scoots the wand around looking for a good view.

Finally she finds it, and the image of Kelly's head, neck, upper back, and arms becomes clear.

She doesn't look much like a shrimp anymore. That's very clearly a baby.

The tech is using her mouse to make different measurements, and Tim wants to pound her with questions, all along the lines of 'is this what it's supposed to look like,' but the tech doesn't know. It's her job to measure, not diagnose.

When she finishes that, she checks Kelly's heart, which was quickly thrumming away. Tim squeezes Abby's hand as they see the tiny throbbing, almost blur of her heart pumping.

She points out finger buds and gets a shot of Kelly's feet. It's very possible he cooed a little at the two tiny feet on the screen. Abby certainly did.

And after, holding a new stack of ultrasound print outs, he waited for Abby to get dressed, and to then see Dr. Draz, who would look at all the measurements and say if Kelly looked okay.

They sat in her office, looking at the scans, not really talking much, just flipping through them. He took photos of them for his phone, and then sent them to her. And they waited.

About ten minutes later Dr. Draz came in, smile on her face, mouthing the correct pleasantries, which he doesn't have much patience for today.Just get to it.

He's not sure if she read it off his face, or having done with the "How are you?" "Nice day out there." "Blah, blah, blah," she's ready to get to work, but she opens their folder, looks over something, flips through a few pages and says, "Everything looks fine. All of your baby's measurements were within the normal range."

And for the first time in more than a week Tim felt like he could breathe again.


Shards To A Whole: Chapter 145

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

Chapter 145: A Funeral and A Prayer

Of all the funerals they've been to together, this is the one that hurts the worst.

For Kate there was the fact that Ari was dead. Gibbs had killed him. And if vengeance is hollow in the light of grief, it's better than nothing.

For Jenny, at least she went out on her own terms. Instead of wasting away, or letting the bad guys win, she took control and ended things the way she wanted them. Tim's not sure if that really helped or not, he wasn't close enough to Jen to really need the comfort, hollow though it probably was. But in the long run, he doesn't think that helped, much.

All of that was true for Mike, and he had a good, long life to go with it. Though as Tim gets older, Mike's sixty-three years seems less and less like a long life. But it still didn't make standing there with Abby, crying over him, any better.

This is like Jackie Vance's funeral, times a million because Jimmy and Breena are family and Jon, or at least the hope and idea of Jon, was beloved. There's nothing to say, no platitudes that help.

This is the lightning strike, the out of control car that barrels through your living room wall. There's no context that comforts. Nothing you can do to protect yourself from it.

This is the paralyzing horror of random chance, the roll of the die coming up wrong.

And at this funeral, Tim didn't even try to not cry.

They got home and just crashed on the sofa. He pulled his tie loose and popped the top button on his collar as she kicked off her heels.

"I hate this suit."

"Huh?" Abby looked at him with puffy, red eyes, and an air of bone-deep, weary sorrow about her.

He shook his head. "I only wear it to funerals. Haven't worn it since Mike's. Right now I just want to set fire to the damn thing."

She looked at their fireplace, fifteen feet away on the opposite wall. "That would require getting up."


"Do you want to get up?"

"No." Fifteen feet might as well be the other side of the Earth right now.

They just sat there. Tim picked up the remote, turned the TV on, remembered they'd gotten rid of cable in favor of all streaming content a month ago, and turned the TV off. It's not that he wants to watch anything, he just wants some blank, meaningless noise in the background, wants the empty, hypnotic feel of just flipping through the channels.

"You hungry?" Abby asked. There had been food at Jimmy and Breena's after the funeral, but neither of them had felt like eating. Tim wasn't sure if a funeral followed by a… wake he guesses—wakes in his world are loud, usually drunk affairs, with stories and songs, and this was anything but that—at Jimmy and Breena's made sense, but her parents thought it would help, and well, he figures that if anyone gets the details of the whole mourning thing, it's the Slaters.

"Nope. I'll get you something if you want it."

"Not now."

They just sit there, his arm around her, her head on his shoulder, her legs over his.

The last time they hurt this bad… he shook his head… they've never hurt this bad, not together.

Kate was probably close for her. And that certainly hurt him. Hurt in a lot of different ways on a lot of different levels, but when it came down to it, he didn't love Kate. He liked her. He really liked her. But they'd only really worked together for a year, and he was Probie to her, even if she didn't call him that the way Tony did.

Mike was closer. His death held a similar combination of sorrow and fear. But the intensity is different. This is a thousand times sharper because it happened to Jimmy and Breena, and is so close to their own life.

He kisses the top of her head, hand stroking idly over her knee.

She took her hand in his and dragged it up her leg, his palm on her mound.

"Abby?" They haven't made love since the night before they found out about Jon. He knows he hasn't felt anything even remotely like sexual desire since then, and he was fairly sure she had felt the same way.

She cups his face in her hands. "I just want to not hurt for a little bit."

"Oh." Yeah, it'll work for that. His thumb starts a slow, gentle back and forth, and she relaxes into him.

Eventually she's reaching for his fly, shifting from sitting across his lap to straddling him. He's not even particularly hard. Enough to get it in, and that's all that matters. This isn't about pleasure, it's not even sex as sex, it's barely comfort, just surcease.

It's what you hope to find when you reach for a bottle. But Abby can't do that right now, and he won't.

And in the end they were crying again. And that doesn't help, either. Doesn't make anything better.

There's just clinging to each other, hoping time will be merciful and peace will eventually come.

"Does it help?" Tim asked as he sat on the second-from-the-bottom step in Gibbs' basement. It's well after one AM, and Tim figured that after lying in bed, staring at the ceiling for three hours he wasn't going to fall asleep anytime soon, so he headed to Gibbs' place.

Gibbs poked his head out of the Shannon.

"Does what help?"

Tim shrugged. "Never mind."

"You sure?" You look like you need to talk was on Gibbs' face, but he's also not going to press Tim for words.

"The pastor kept talking about the promise of eternal life. That one day we'll all meet again. You believe that, right?"

Gibbs nodded as he got out of the boat.

"I don't. Jimmy doesn't. Does it help?"

"Sometimes. Not right now. Not this close to it. This close and nothing helps. Later's not much comfort when you need something now. But later, when the pain dulls down some, yeah, it helps. Makes it easier to get through the hard times."

"Abby's been praying."

"Not a bad plan."

"Not sure I like the idea of a God who gets off on dangling the idea in front of you that if you beg hard enough, He might do what you want, but really He's going to do whatever the hell He was going to do anyway."

Gibbs shook his head, sighing, and sat next to Tim, wrapping an arm around him. "Your dad's a real son of a bitch, isn't he?"

Tim snorted at that. "No, he's an asshole. Calling him a son of a bitch is an insult to my grandmother. And yes, he is a complete asshole who gets off on that, too."

Gibbs pets the back of Tim's head a little, shaking his own.

"You pray because it makes you feel better, Tim. God's gonna do what He's gonna do whether you pray or not. You don't do it because if you ask hard enough the hand of God comes down and cups a little protective shield over you and yours. That's not how it works, not for anyone I've ever met. You do it because it helps you see better, clearer, and sometimes it gives you the perspective you need to find some peace. You do it because sometimes you need a place to scream 'This sucks' and 'I hate it' and 'It's not fair' and 'Why me' and 'I'm scared' and all the rest of the stuff the rest of the world calls whining. And you pray, because if you're any sort of decent man, and I know you are, sometimes you heart is so full of love and thanks that there's nothing else that makes any sense to do."

Tim nods, he knows that feeling.

"You pray, Tim, because the world is hard enough, and being alone just makes it that much harder. You pray because you need it. And, look, maybe it doesn't help, maybe nothing changes and nothing gets better, but it feels better, and sometimes you need that to keep you going."

"Sometimes I wish I believed. Wish I could make myself do it."

Gibbs didn't say anything for a long time, but finally he said, "I know they're waiting for me."


Seeing ghosts.
"My girls, Mike, too. They talk to me, sometimes."

Tim just stared at Gibbs, eyes wide.

"You think I'm insane."

Tim's shocked enough by that he tells the truth. "It sounds insane."

Gibbs smirks a little at that. "Which is why I don't tell people about it."

"Like, voice in your head?"

"No. I see them, too. Been almost dead enough times that sometimes they visit."

"Oh." Tim nodded a little, his eyebrows high, but that sort of makes sense to him, too.

Gibbs squeezed him a little tighter. "It works out, Tim. And in cases like Sammy… Jonathon… I don't know how. Maybe when they're together again he'll be the man he would have been. Maybe not. I don't know. But it works out. I do know that. One of these days, you'll meet my girls, and I'll be damn proud to introduce you."

"God, Jethro." Tim took a long shaking breath, and looked away, trying to stop his tears.

"Hey. Hey," Gibbs said soothingly, rubbing his back. "It's okay to cry when you're having this bad of a day."

"It didn't happen to me."

"Of course it happened to you. Your best friends, your nephew. You're allowed to grieve for that. It happened to all of us."

"No Jethro," Tim wipes his eyes. "It didn't happen to me, to us. She's forty, and there's like a one in seventy chance there's something seriously wrong with our baby… and… it's stupid, and it feels horrible, really, really horrible, but it's almost a relief. A sort of, lightning struck Jimmy so it won't hit us sort of thing. And that's shit, because it doesn't work that way, but there's still a sense of relief."

Gibbs kept rubbing Tim's back. "That's okay, too, Tim. Anyone who's been in combat has felt that. The bullet didn't hit you. He'll never say it, but Tony felt it when Kate died. He felt terrible about it because he's a good man, but it was there and it was real."

"Did you?"

"No. But… especially then, I wasn't as attached enough to my life to feel it."


"I felt it when the bomb went off. Me and mine came through. Those other poor bastards didn't, but we had a few minutes of charmed life. Made it a whole lot easier to go to Dearing's house."


"Yeah. He didn't punch my ticket the first time, so it wasn't going to happen. You take whatever comfort you can find where you can find it, especially for the things where there's nothing you can do. And this especially is something where there's nothing you can do."

"That's not entirely true."

Gibbs expression let Tim know to keep talking.

"Wednesday we've got an appointment for the Nuchal Fold testing. I don't know why Jimmy and Breena didn't have it done, probably because they're 'low risk,' but it tests for trisomies…" Gibbs doesn't seem to know what that means. "What Jonathon had, and Down's Syndrome, and a few other things. And if it's negative you sigh with relief and go on. But if it's positive, they do more testing, and then more, and then eventually you're only left with one choice: stop your baby's heart or not.

"Jimmy said that Sammy's heart not beating was a relief, that they didn't have to make the choice. And now, after eighteen hours of labor, and Breena'll bleeding for weeks, now I wonder if he would have rather known and been done earlier, when Sammy was still small enough for a D&C."

Gibbs shook his head, he doesn't know the answer to that, and doesn't want to imagine it clearly enough to try and figure the answer out. "What about you?"

"I don't know. I'm not sure I want to know. If we don't find out, then I can keep pretending everything is fine."

"Odds are that everything is fine. You find that out, and you don't have to pretend."

"Yeah, I know. But if things aren't… We'll do the twenty week scan no matter what, find out if she's really a she, so we're talking about two more months of not knowing."

"You're talking about pushing finding out far enough back so that no matter what the answer is, the decision is out of your hands."

"Yeah. In Virginia it's twenty-two weeks. If something is so badly wrong that you can just see it on an ultrasound, we'd still have time. But if it's questionable, and they wanted to do more testing, the clock would run out on us."

Tim spent a minute staring at the wall in front of him.

"I feel like such a coward for not wanting to know. Making the hard decisions, that's what being the parent is all about, right?"

"Yeah, Tim."

"You've got to do it, and you can't let the rest of the world do it for you."


Tim exhaled long and slow, and Gibbs sat next to him, keeping a hand on his shoulder, and let him think.

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 144

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

Chapter 144.

They got the call from Gibbs a little after nine. "I know you don't want to hear this, but one of the two of you has to show up. I've got a ton of evidence and no one to run it."

"But…" Tim's really not feeling like doing anything beyond watching Molly, and right now his duty to Jimmy and Breena and Molly trumps everything else.

"I know, Tim, but Molly doesn't need both of you watching her, and Palmer and Breena don't know or care if you're both there or not. Vance has someone coming up from Norfolk tomorrow, but we need someone to run the lab today. I don't care which of you does it. I don't care if you show up and it's slow, or Abby comes and gets it done, but it has to happen because I cannot tell Wallen's widow that we are doing nothing to catch her husband's killer. She's grieving too, and it's our job to help."

Abby was listening to the call, so she said, "I'll come in. The faster this gets done, the faster we can both be back here."

"That works."

Molly was getting fussy. She's got no idea what's wrong, but something is. Her schedule is off, she didn't get to nurse in the morning, she's not playing with the ladies at daycare, which seems to happen on a pretty regular basis, but when that happens she's with her mom and dad, and they aren't here, either.

Tim feels like he's a wits end. He's already only about two seconds away from bursting into tears, because whenever he's not actively thinking about anything else, he can see the look on Jimmy and Breena's faces as they left this morning and each time he sees it, it rips him apart. A crabby baby on top of that isn't helping his control.

And of course the fact that he's close to bursting into tears just makes Molly crabbier.

It's like the most perfect vicious circle he's ever seen.

So he bundles both of them up, pops her into her stroller, and realizes that trying to take her for a walk when there's four inches of snow on all the sidewalks is futile.

She's fussing even more, now. Apparently she was in favor of a walk and considered him getting her ready for a walk, stepping outside, and then turning back around immediately to be cruel teasing. So he takes her out of the stroller, pops her into her car seat, and heads toward Jimmy's car.

"Come on. Let's go for a drive. Maybe, if I'm lucky, you'll fall asleep, and I'll get some lunch for us."

She seemed to approve of that. So off they went.

Ducky came by at dinnertime, food in hand, looking haggard.

"News?" Tim asked.

Ducky opened the bag and laid out Chipotle for both of them, putting a bit of carnitas, rice, and guacamole in front of Molly. She grinned and tucked into it. Apparently rice and guacamole is her idea of very tasty and also a lot of fun to play with.

"Breena was at seven centimeters when I left. They think everything will be done by morning. She'll stay there for at least a day to make sure the infection doesn't get too bad and that she doesn't have any adverse reactions to the antibiotics—"

Ducky sees Tim's look. What infection? is pretty clear on his face.

"Apparently the last time she could remember feeling him move was two days ago. So, they are assuming that's when he died. In cases like this, they automatically administer large doses of antibiotics because—"

Tim's nodding, he doesn't want to hear the end of that sentence. He's seen enough dead bodies to know what happens to one if it spends two days in a warm, wet, bacteria-rich environment.

He looks at his burrito and wraps it back up.

"When was the last time you ate something, Timothy?"

"Lunch. When was the last time you slept, Ducky?"

"The night before last."

"You want to crash here?"

"No. Ed has been on his best behavior, or is just too sad to talk, either way, I want to make sure Jimmy has someone to shield him."

Tim nods at that. "I understand. You safe to drive?"

"Yes. Part of training for both medical school and the military involved going long periods of time without sleep. As long as I eat, rest when I can, and maintain a steady intake of tea, I'll be fine for two days."

"Okay. So, you're going back after dinner."

"Yes, I wanted to check in on you, spend some time with Molly, and then I'll be able to report back to Jimmy and Breena that she's fine."

"She is. Little crabby and unhappy because everything is upside down right now. But we're doing okay."


Tim's phone buzzed. He glanced at it, and said to Ducky, "That's Abby, she's done with the evidence."

"Then she'll be here soon."

"Forty minutes."

The official time of birth and death for Jonathon Christopher Palmer was 4:06 AM January 8, 2015.

Jimmy and Ducky came home a bit after dinner. Jimmy didn't say anything, just took Molly and held her close, crying the whole time.

When she started sobbing in response to him, Tim gently took her away, got her calmed down and put to bed.

Once that was done, he headed out of Molly's room. The door to Jimmy and Breena's was open a few inches, and he could hear soft crying and Abby's voice murmuring something. He figured it being open was an invitation to go in, but wanted to check in with Ducky first, so he headed downstairs.

Ducky was sitting on the sofa, a plate with some dinner on it on his lap, eating with a sort of mechanical precision that looked significantly more like a man fueling a machine than one savoring a meal.

"It's over?"

"Yes. Breena's sleeping. Between the pain medication and her exhaustion they don't expect her to wake up until the morning. Her sisters are with her right now. They sent Jimmy and the rest of us home to get some rest, too."

"You think he'll sleep?"

"I put a mild sedative in the coffee I gave him before we left. Between that and how tired he is, it should knock him out."

"When can she come home?"

"Tomorrow, maybe the next day. It was as 'easy'," his voice goes sharp with scorn on that word, "as such things can be, which is to say beyond utter horror, but she'll heal. Given enough time, they both will."

"Did they get to hold him?"

Ducky's eyes tear up, and he nods. He wipes them, sniffs, and says, "We all did. He was ten inches long and weighed fifteen ounces. He had perfect little fingernails."

Tim's crying and nodding. "What happens now?"

"Breena's parents took him for cremation. There'll be a service on Saturday."

"Okay. Are you staying tonight? I can move our stuff out of the guestroom if you want it."

"I am staying. And I am fine on the sofa. I'm a going to finish this, get a long, hot shower, and then go to sleep. In the morning, I'll take Jimmy back to the hospital. Abby, too if you're okay with Molly on your own."

"We'll be fine."

Tim headed upstairs, eased the door open to Jimmy's room, and found both of them on the bed, Abby holding Jimmy. He wasn't crying anymore. Tim wasn't entirely sure if he was still awake, so he crept up quietly.

Jimmy looked up at him, so much for being asleep. "You want me to stay?"

Jimmy nodded, so Tim sat next to him, and wrapped his arms around both of them.

And that's how Jimmy spent his first night home, sleeping fitfully, held by his two best friends.

Breena came home a little after dinner the next day, and Tim and Abby stayed with them until the service after the funeral was cleaned up and everyone else had left.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 143

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

Chapter 143

An hour later, they're both numb with cold, covered in snow that's melted and frozen into their hair, but Jimmy's finally cried out. For now, at least.

"I should go back in," Jimmy said, voice rough and raw.

"Okay. When do you have to be there?"


"Abby and I'll take Molly for as long as you need."

Jimmy nods.

"Do you think it's okay for Abby to come?"

"Yeah. I think Breena could use some Abby hugs. I know I do."

"Okay. I'm going to stay out a bit longer, give Abby a call. I'll crash here, make sure you're up and out in time. Just, rest, as much as you can."

Jimmy laughed bitterly at that, picked up his glasses, and headed into the house.

He hit Abby's contact on his phone and a few rings later said, "Hey. Did I wake you?"

"No." She sounds really tired, though. "Not going to sleep tonight." Good point. He's not feeling like he's going to get any sleep, either.

"Jimmy wants you to come over."

"I'll be there in half an hour."

There are a lot of things he wants to say to her right now, a lot of feelings, but it's cold, and he should head in soon, and the sooner he's done talking the sooner she's on the road, so he says, "I love you, Abby."

"I love you, too." He can hear that she got what he was trying to say. Then she asks, "Do you have any more details?"

He swallows, forces his voice to stay steady. "Yeah. They think it was trisomy 13, which is apparently a condition where pretty much everything that possibly could go wrong, does. They've got to go back to the hospital in the morning to induce labor."

"Oh God."


"You're still here," Ed said quietly. He was slumped on the sofa, open beer in his hand, but Tim could see the bottle was still full.

"Where else would I be?"

Ed shrugged. "Thought you left. Where's your Goth?"

"Home. She's ten weeks pregnant and we weren't sure if Breena would want…" Ed nodded understanding that. "Jimmy says it's okay, so she'll be here soon. Spend some time holding Breena, she's really good at hugs. Help me with Molly in the morning. Are you guys going to drive them to the hospital?"


"You take the guest room; we can camp out on the sofa."


When Abby came in the door, she'd clearly been crying. Clearly been crying pretty much the whole time since he last saw her.

She also had two large bags in one hand.

"What's that?"

"Pads, nursing pads. Her body doesn't know…" Abby didn't finish that sentence and switches to, "She'll give birth, and then her body'll do what it's supposed to do after that. Her milk will let down, and she'll bleed, probably for a couple weeks, maybe as long as a month or six weeks, and I was thinking that they might not want to have to go out and get them."

"Oh." Tim closes his eyes and slumps a little further into the sofa, his heart breaking even more for Breena. It just kept getting worse. A constant reminder every minute of every day for weeks.

"Yeah. I'll head up."

"I think they'd like that."

He jerked when he felt the sofa cushion shift. Abby snuggling in next to him. He hadn't thought he was asleep, but judging from the fact that she had gotten down the steps, across the living room, and onto the sofa without him noticing, he probably had been.

"Sorry. Didn't want to wake you, but I just needed you to hold onto me."

"Yeah. I know." He rubbed his eyes, shifted onto his side, making more room for her, and wrapped around her. "They asleep?"

"Ish. More like they hit the point where they're so exhausted they just dropped."

He nodded, familiar with that feeling. "What time is it?"

"Little after three."

"I told Jimmy I'd make sure they were up and ready in time."

"Shouldn't be a problem, Molly wakes up before they need to leave."

"Good. I googled trisomy 13." Which is part of how he deals with bad things happening. Learn everything he can about them, and once Ed headed upstairs he was just sitting there in their living room, unable to sleep, uninterested in TV, and staring at the wall was useless. So he got on his phone and read everything he could find on it. Then, because the part of his brain that had been doing a pretty good job of keeping him from worrying about this in regards to Kelly had been completely shut down, he researched pretty much any other genetic abnormality he could find, starting with Down's Syndrome and only stopping when the battery died on his phone.


"And it's like Down's Syndrome, sort of. Three of the thirteenth chromosome instead of three of the twenty-first. Most of the time it's a random mutation, a one in ten thousand chance. But there is a gene you can carry that passes it on, as well. No way to tell without testing for it. It's bad. Apparently there's a really bad version that's basically always fatal, and then there's a not quite as bad version that's just usually fatal."



"What's it actually do?"

"Brain damage, heart damage, kidney damage, eye damage, palate damage, polydactyl hands and feet, I think there was other stuff, but I'm not coming up with it right now." He lay there, his chin on her shoulder, breathing in her scent, his hand cupped over her belly, like somehow just his hands could be a shield against horrific fate.

She squeezed his hand. There was really nothing to say. "Let's try to rest."

He kissed her shoulder, holding onto her tightly, wishing, like a little boy, that it could be yesterday again.