At a week shy of eleven months old, Molly Palmer is an adorable little ball of curly brown hair, a big, drooly eight toothed grin, and, with the exception of when she's teething, a possessor of a generally sunny disposition.
They spend enough time with the Palmers that she knows Uncle Tim, and lights right up when she sees him. Sure this isn't the usual routine, but time with one of her favorite people, a guy who dotes on her and is insanely good at blowing raspberries on her tummy, is always a good thing.
Tim has no idea of how much she can read/understand of the vibe of the place around her. And explaining why he was picking her up as he showed his ID and was checked off on the list of approved people to pick Molly up, sent the generally perky mood of her caregivers into a tailspin.
Still, he doesn't want her getting worried or agitated, so he slaps a painfully fake smile on his face, says, "Hey, Molly-girl," and sweeps her up into a hug and tickles.
"You and I are going to hang out tonight. Get some quality time together. Go easy on me, I haven't done this on my own since you were a month old, and we both mostly slept that time. Your Aunt Abby took pictures of it."
He just kept talking at her, letting her coo and babble back at him. She's not walking or talking, yet, but she's certainly interested in being part of the conversation, and she'll readily scoot toward whatever might be going on as fast as her little self can go.
Tim got her in her car seat, and then they headed back to Jimmy and Breena's.
He didn't really know what to do once he got there. It was barely 4:30, so probably not dinnertime for Molly, yet.
Tim went to the kitchen and found a sippy-cup. He poured some juice in it for Molly, and handed it to her. She seemed to approve, slurping it down.
"Probably a good idea." He got himself a glass of water. Then a thought hit. They'd been getting ready to paint the room that was going to be Sammy's.
"Let's go upstairs." Molly didn't have any comments on that, so up they went. One door down from Jimmy and Breena's room was Sammy's and yes, the door was open. Breena had painted some large swatches of the potential main colors along with different trim colors on the wall. The box with the new crib was leaning against the wall, Molly's old bassinette was in the middle of the room, next to the boxes with the baby clothing labeled nb, 0-3, 3-6, and 6-9. "Let's just close this door. They'll open it again when they're ready for it."
Being a cop, let alone a cop who deals mainly with murders and kidnappings means Tim routinely sees people on the worst days of their lives.
But the fact that you do it often, that it's your job, just makes you numb to it when it's a stranger's pain. When your two best friends walk into their home looking like they've been tortured, you can't shut down the way your own heart breaks for them.
Breena's crying. The kind of deep, distressed crying that's gone through sobbing to exhausted and beyond. He's fairly sure the only reason she's on her feet is because Jimmy's holding her up. And the only thing keeping Jimmy up right now is the fact that he can't, won't let Breena fall.
The last time he saw someone that wounded who mattered that much to him was when they were bringing Ziva back from Somalia. Once they were back on the plane, free and safe, he finally relaxed enough to really see how she was. And what she was was broken. Huddled in her seat, curled in on herself. Gibbs sat next to her, his hand on her shoulder, looking like he wanted to hold her, and sure that she couldn't take it.
Breena looks like Ziva did that day. Just utterly broken.
He was feeding Molly when they came in, mostly a job of fetching the cheerios she was tossing off her tray. He jumped up and was next to them in maybe three steps and then stopped, not sure if Breena wants to be touched or not.
Jimmy catches the hesitation and nods, and he wraps both of them into his arms. "I'm so sorry."
He holds both of them, crying with them, half aware of the sound of Ducky talking to Molly in the background. Eventually he pulled back a little to ask, "What do you need?"
"Just… keep watching her," Jimmy gets out.
"No problem. We're wrapping up dinner."
Jimmy nods, and they head upstairs to be alone with each other.
He sits next to Ducky at the kitchen table. "Do you know…?"
"No. I didn't press for details, and neither of them wanted to talk on the ride home." Ducky holds onto Molly, snuggling her, keeping her close to him, wrapped in his arms. Then, with a very deep sigh and an even deeper look of weariness on his face, he hands her back to Tim and says, "I have to go back. The autopsy isn't finished."
"Tony and Ziva are going to make sure Breena's car gets here. But they're not going to come in."
That made a certain amount of sense. Right now Jimmy and Breena are too raw for other people.
"Abby, Tony, and Ziva made the calls. They tell me Breena's parents will be coming over."
"I'll handle it."
"Good." Ducky kisses Molly one last time, lips lingering on her forehead in a way that makes Molly look puzzled, squeezes Tim's shoulder, and then puts his coat and hat back on before heading back to work.
As he's wrapping up Molly's leftovers, it occurs to Tim that it's been at least six hours since Jimmy ate last. And while he's sure neither of them wants to eat, Jimmy has to.
He roots around in the fridge, sure nothing he's going to come up with will taste good tonight, but he hopes to find something that'll stay down. At least, he knows he hasn't eaten because he's upset enough he feels like he wants to throw up, so he doesn't imaging Breena or Jimmy are doing any better.
Tim puts together a collection of cold cuts, cheeses, some veggies and fruits. Jimmy and Breena don't have anything he'd call comfort food, but comfort foods in his world are carbs, preferably sweet, baked ones, and Jimmy doesn't/shouldn't eat that.
Tim walks into their room, and finds Jimmy and Breena sitting on their bed, Jimmy holding her, both of them crying quietly.
He put the plate of food next to them, and wraps his arm around Breena. Jimmy pushes the food aside.
"Look, I know you don't want to eat. But you have to." Jimmy takes a half-hearted bite of a cucumber slice.
Tim nods. "Abby's called everyone and started to spread the word." He's rubbing Breena's back, looking her in the face. "She called your parents, and they're on their way. If you want to be alone, I'll keep them downstairs, but they want to see you."
Breena looks at Jimmy, and Tim can see her imagining Jimmy and her dad, and the wave of exhaustion at the idea of dealing with that slumps her shoulders even further. "Just Mom for now."
"Okay. I'll keep Ed busy. Molly's fed, and we'll do bath time soon, and then bed time."
"She nurses before going to sleep," Breena says.
"Okay. You want me to bring her up?"
"Not yet. She…" Breena's voice broke, but Tim thinks he gets the idea. Molly'll start crying if she's being held by someone else who's crying, and Breena can't take any more than is already on her plate.
"Okay, let me get back down to her. She's in the playpen but…" he doesn't need to say that keeping an eye on a ten month old who's getting this crawling thing down is a very good plan.
About half an hour later Ed and Jeannie were standing in the foyer at Jimmy and Breena's, also looking like the walking wounded.
"Where are they?" Jeannie asked.
"Upstairs, in their bedroom."
Jeannie nodded and started up, Ed a step behind her.
"Ed." He put his hand on Ed's wrist, and Ed stopped, turned toward him.
"You aren't going up there."
"She's my daughter, and she's just lost her baby."
"I know. But he was Jimmy's baby, too, and if you go up there, you'll say something that hurts him worse than he's already hurting. And Breena can't take you two squabbling. So you don't get to go up there. He'll come down eventually, and you can go up then. So for right now, you and I are on putting Molly to bed duty. I've been telling her that Grandpa is coming over, and he'll read her stories, and as best as she seems to understand, she's looking forward to it, so plaster a smile on your face and grab Goodnight Moon."
Ed closed his eyes, took a deep breath, steadied himself, and slowly opened them. "He… Did they find out…"
Tim shook his head. "I don't know. Breena thought he was a boy, so I'm just in the habit of calling Sammy he."
Tim realized that Ed was hurting, and that in his own efforts to be protective of Jimmy, he's been a jerk to Ed.
"I'm sorry, Ed. I'm being a jerk. But they're both really fragile right now…"
Ed nodded, forced a fairly sad grin onto his face, and headed into the living room, scooping Molly up, hugging her very close for a long time, and then tickling her.
About an hour later, when tubby and stories were done, and Molly had nursed, cuddled with both her parents, and been put to bed, Jimmy came downstairs. He let Ed know he could go see Breena and then just stood there in the middle of his living room.
He looked around, blankly, "Where's Abby?"
His shoulders slumped further. "Oh."
"She wanted to come, but we weren't sure how Breena'd feel…"
That clicked for Jimmy, and he seemed to think that might be a valid point. He's standing in the middle of the living room, looking so wounded, and Tim suddenly gets why Jimmy would want Abby right now.
Tim stood up. "Come on."
"Where are we going?"
"Outside." He grabbed both of their jackets and held Jimmy's open. Jimmy put it on. Tim had the feeling Jimmy would do pretty much anything he was told to right this moment.
"Because it's private." Tim took Jimmy by the hand, and led him to the picnic table at the back of their property. Once they got there, he cleared a patch of snow from the table, took Jimmy's glasses off, carefully set them down, and wrapped his arms around him, half shielding him from the cold air, half trying to be Abby for him. He felt Jimmy standing there stiffly. "I know you'd rather do this with Abby, but she's not here, and you still need it. We're far enough out Ed's not going to walk in and call us fags, you won't wake Molly if you're loud, and I'm not Breena, so you don't have to comfort me. I've got you, Jimmy."
And Jimmy crumpled into him, shaking and sobbing while Tim held him and rubbed his back. Eventually gasping sobs slowed down, and eventually Jimmy pulled back and sat down on the top of the picnic table. Tim sat next to him, keeping his arm around his shoulder, hoping his touch is comforting.
"They think it was trisomy 13, but they won't know until they do the tests. Something like ninety percent of the babies with it die in utero, and almost eighty percent of the ones who are born die within a year of birth, mostly within a month, and at this point, none of them have made it past six years." His voice was raw and hollow. Shell-shocked, that was the term that comes to Tim's mind.
"We've got to go back tomorrow so they can induce labor."
Those words felt like a punch to the gut and made Tim want to vomit at this new, extra layer of flaying pain on top of a bonfire of agony. Labor meant hours of pain, hours of waiting, meant this isn't just over and done with.
"They gave us a choice. We could do a D&E, which is fast, but…" Tim knows enough about this that he's got an idea of how a D&E works, so he's fairly sure what 'but' means. "Or induce, which is slow… but he'll be whole, and we'll get to hold him…" That set off another round of ragged crying, which slowed after a few minutes.
"Sammy was a boy." Tim squeezed Jimmy's shoulders a little tighter. "They didn't want me to see the scans, but I did the whole, I'm-a-doctor thing. Now I wish I hadn't, 'cause I can't unsee them. No eyes, cleft palate, no kidneys, a hole in his heart, less than a third the size brain he should have had. And she had to sit there, alone, seeing him on the ultrasound, because they were doing the 4d-look-here's-your-baby thing before they shut it down, and I wasn't there."
Tim doesn't say anything, because there's nothing to say. Just hearing about it makes his knees feel week and his stomach clench. He doesn't even want to try to imagine living it. He just sits there next to Jimmy, holding onto him.
"You know what's terrible?"
Tim shook his head, all of this is terrible, but obviously there's somewhere Jimmy wants to go with this.
"I'm relieved his heart wasn't beating. Because if it had been, then we would have had to decide to terminate or not."
"I don't think that's terrible. Having to make that choice is the only thing I can think of that would make this worse."
Jimmy stared at the sky. It's overcast, looks and feels like it'll start snowing any minute. He's working up to saying something, and Tim's fairly sure what it is, fairly sure that Jimmy needs to say the words, to make it real.
"My son's dead." Jimmy started sobbing again, and Tim held him, rubbing his back, crying with him, as the snow began to fall.