Monday, July 15, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 139

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

Chapter 139: December 31, 2014

Almost empty
At 11:59:59, as 2014 was shifting into 2015:

The bullpen was silent. For once. It’s rarely silent. Technically there’s someone at NCIS every single hour of every single day of the year (emergency weather cancellations excepted.)

And then it wasn’t. Ralph Simmons has been the night janitor at NCIS for twenty years, and of all the teams at NCIS the one that fills the bullpen is the ones he knows best. Not only have they been there the longest (as a single team unit) they also work later than most of the rest of the NCIS employees. He knows them best because they’re the ones he sees most often.

As he emptied Gibb’s trash he noticed a few new pictures on the back of his wall. (Holidays almost always mean new pictures, and he always enjoys seeing them.) There are the now familiar ones from McGee and Abby’s wedding. (He can’t believe they all got dressed up like that.) And two new ones. One’s a blurry black and white shrimp-looking thing (but Ralph isn’t having a hard time figuring it out, scuttlebutt’s had it for months that Abby’s pregnant and a few days ago the official email went out.) the other is an older man who looks a lot like Gibbs, similar build, same blue eyes, but probably twenty-five or thirty years older, sitting on what looks like a comfortable arm chair with Palmer’s daughter in his lap.

He heads to Ziva’s desk. In the trash there are four wedding invitation mock ups. Ones that didn’t pass muster apparently. He looks at them and shakes his head. Yeah, not right for them. Sure they both have that classic elegant thing going, but that doesn’t mean anything with lacy little curly cues is a good plan.

She’s also added a new shot to her computer, Tony lighting the first candle on the Menorah, just below the one of the two of them dancing at McGee’s wedding.

DiNozzo’s desk looks just about the same as it always does. Though he does notice there’s a men’s formal wear catalog open. Apparently someone is looking for suits for his wedding. He looks at it closer and sees McGee/Palmer? written next to one of the suit styles.

McGee’s back wall also has the same black and white shrimp up. Just below the skull photo. (Ralph wonders why he’s got that. It’s been there for years, but it’s never made any sense to him. Granted McGee’s married to Abby, so maybe he just likes skulls.) And next to his wedding picture. (McGee kissing Abby after the vows.)

He empties out McGee’s trash and heads to the next cubicle.

At 11:59:59 Leon Vance was counting down with his children. He and Jackie had decided they were old enough to stay up for New Year’s five years ago.

It still hurt, not having her next to him while they did this, not kissing her a second from now, but it was getting easier to remember how happy this made them, and how much fun it was.

He hugs his kids and hopes this new year will be better, easier than the last.

At 11:59:59 Jimmy and Breena Palmer were asleep. At six weeks shy of her first birthday Molly Palmer (who is also, thankfully, asleep) does not grasp the concept of sleeping in. She’ll be up at five thirty no matter what, so they went to bed at their normal time. In the morning, they’ll joke about how once upon a time they greeted the New Year’s Dawn by staying up all night, not by waking up early, and how, on that once upon a time, they were naked and sipping champagne, not swathed in flannel and feeding Cheerios and bananas to an almost one year old.

And Jimmy will kiss his wife, remind her that Molly’s morning nap is only three hours away, and he’s certainly in favor of both of them getting naked then.

She’ll kiss him back, jerk a little from a round of especially energetic kicking from Sammy, and both of them will be thinking that life is pretty sweet, even if there is a certain lack of late-night-naked-champagne-sipping time.

At 11:59:59 Tim was saying, well gasping really, “Oh, God, Abby, just! Fuck! ABBY!”

At 12:04, she was cuddled into him, saying, “I told you I’d show you fireworks.”

He was breathing deep and slow, lazy, satisfied smile on his face. “You did.”

“And look, no driving, no cold, no trying to find parking.”

“I will never suggest we go out into the cold to see New Year’s fireworks again.”

At 11:59:59 Gibbs was sketching out plans for the inside of the Shannon. The hull was built, and though he’d had a general idea of what he was going to do with it when he started it, he has some new ideas now. Like, if, for example, he’s hoping to take grandkids sailing at some point, maybe having a few extra berths squeezed into it would be a good plan.

Happy New Year
At 11:59:59 Tony and Ziva were yelling “One!” as showers of glittery confetti, streamers, and balloons cascaded down around them. And before the first of the balloons hit the floor, Tony had his arms wrapped around her, and lips on hers, warm, soft, and playful.

He pulled back a few seconds later. “You know what I was thinking?”

She rubbed up against him. “Going home soon sounds like a good plan?”

He gave her another kiss, a very long, very hot look, and then flicked his tongue against her bottom lip. “Yes. I was thinking something else, too.”


“This is the last New Year’s I’ll spend with a girlfriend. This time next year, I’ll ring in the New Year with my wife.”

A wide, pleased smile spread across her face.

At 11:59:59 Dr. Donald Mallard was having a late supper with Penny Langston PhD.

They were having a somewhat serious conversation about his and possibly their future.

There are certain things that Ducky is quiet aware of, one of them being that he will be eighty in the spring, has already had one heart attack, and that when push comes to shove, Jimmy is doing more and more of the work around Autopsy.

He’s been debating having a conversation with Leon about this, and is bouncing the idea off Penny first. He’s not ready to retire, not yet. But he can see the point where he won’t be up to lugging bodies around, and where his vision won’t be good enough to catch the details the way he used to. And it’s not nearly as far off as he wishes it was.

When that day comes, he’d like to partially retire. He’d stay on as a forensic psychologist. Continue to help the team by profiling, adding what he can, but hand over running Autopsy to Jimmy. He’ll need a new space (“That cubicle next to Tim’s?” Penny asked. He nodded; that would work.) so Jimmy wouldn’t feel like he was hovering, and so he wouldn’t feel like Autopsy was still his.

She nodded at him, thinking that sounded like a solid plan, and asked him, “And if you were partially retired, what would you do with all of your new free time?”

He smiled at her. “I would like to spend it with the people who are precious to me. I know it’s certainly late in the game to be thinking about this, but I’d like to work on being a better family man. I have a feeling that in the not wildly distant future there will be a rather large crop of young people who have never heard any of my stories, and I’d like to share them. And that their parents wouldn’t mind me taking said young people out for walks in the park or the like to tell them those stories.”

In fact, he’s been enjoying spending time with Molly Palmer more than he thought he possibly could. He’d never felt any special desire to engage with infants before, but if he doesn’t get to see her regularly, he gets grumpy. One of his favorite Sunday afternoon (when they aren’t working) pastimes is taking her out for walks. From what he can tell, she seems to approve, as well. And while she doesn’t have all that much more to add to the conversation than the bodies in Autopsy do, she is a much more enthusiastic listener. And he has a very deep suspicion that he will also deeply enjoy spending time with Sammy and McSciuto. (To the point where he’s been googling three seat strollers so he can take all three out at once.)

“And I was thinking, that if I weren’t working all the time,” he took her hand in his, “that I’d be able to make dates with you on a significantly more regular basis, and actually attend them, and I was wondering if you’d welcome that.”

Penny smiled at him, squeezing his hand in hers.

“And if that worked out well?” she asked with an amused glint in her eye, enjoying the formality of how he’s addressing this. Yes, Penny is an old-school second-wave feminist, she burned her bra with the best of them and fought her way through a man’s world that didn’t know what to do with a brilliant scientist who happened to be female, but she also appreciates Ducky’s old-world gentility, knowing that it’s based in a deep respect for who she is and who she hopes to be.

“I’ve been enjoying having you here this last week, quite a bit, and maybe, if things continued to go well, eventually, you’d see fit to share a home with me?”

“Are you asking to court me, Dr. Mallard?” she asked with a playful tone. This is serious, but it’s also fun, and she intends to enjoy it.

He smiled at her. “In a manner of speaking. I’d imagine that at this point in our lives, a marriage would only complicate things for both of us. But a dear companion to share the winter of one’s life with is something I think I would like very much.”

A very warm smile spread over Penny’s face. “I think I would, too.”

New Years Fireworks
At 11:59:59 Tobias Fornell was on the back porch of Wendy Eccles’ apartment, which had a great view of the fireworks exploding over the Potomac, on his knees, holding an open ring box in front of him, as Wendy grinned at him, saying, “Yes!”

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