Saturday, July 13, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 134

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

134: Christmas 2014

Ducky's "Friend"

His grandmother swept him into a warm hug seconds after she got into Gibbs’ house, Ducky at her side.

“What are you doing here?”

“I knew I was going to be in DC for the holidays, and Ducky thought this would be a pleasant surprise.”

“Ducky?” Okay, yeah, they’re friends, but Ducky’s never brought a “friend” to their annual Christmas party before. Granted Penny’s in town, and she is family…

Ducky smiled up at Tim and took Penny’s coat from her to hang up on the hooks at the door. “Yes, I’m between campuses right now, he’s been kind enough to let me stay with him this week. After the third I’ve got a spot as a guest lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania for their next semester.”

Or they’re not just friends, and his ability to pretend they’re just friends has just been shot to hell and gone so…

“Uh huh.” Tim’s giving Ducky a look best described as just because you’re almost eighty doesn’t mean I won’t kick your ass if you hurt my grandma. Ducky laid a gentle hand on his arm and nodded.

“Abby!” Penny wrapped her in an enthusiastic hug, then pulled back, hands still on Abby’s arms, and spent a moment really looking at her. A slow smile spread across her face. She looked at Abby, looked at Tim, and quirked an eyebrow.

Tim quickly glanced at Abby, saw her minuscule nod of affirmation and quietly said to Penny, wrapping his arm around her, kissing her cheek, “Yes, in July. Ducky’s probably got a copy of the sonogram picture on him.”

“You don’t?”

“Of course I do, but we haven’t told everyone yet, and if I whip one out, it’s pretty obvious. Ducky does it and everyone’ll assume it’s Sammy.” He pulled back from Penny and took Abby’s hand.

“Oh.” The fact that Penny knows who Sammy is makes him think her relationship with Ducky is probably quite a bit further along than he suspected. The fact that she didn’t know about their baby reminds him that Ducky is an excellent keeper of secrets.

“How long are you in town?”

“Until the second.”

“Unless we catch a case, Shabbat is at Ziva and Tony’s tomorrow, I bet they’d be happy to add an extra chair to the table.”

Tony came over, kissed Penny on the cheek, and said, “She’s already been invited.”

“You knew she was here?”

“Of course, hence the invite. When it looked like this party might be snowed out we made plans to shift this Christmas surprise to our place for tomorrow.” He nodded toward Gibbs’ living room. “My dad and L.J. are in there somewhere, I’m sure they’d like to say hi.”

“I’ll find them in a sec.” She hugged Tim one more time, kissed his cheek, and said, “You’re looking really good, Tim. Being married agrees with you.”

“Yeah, it does.”

Tim has always been vaguely aware of the fact that for a lot of people, the real kick of Christmas is having small children to give presents to.

And while it’s true that Amira, Emily (who was with her mother this year), Kayla, and Jared filled some of that need, they’re all sort of old for it.

But this year, it became absurdly clear that the extended Gibbs clan was a group of people who were craving grandbabies, and suddenly there was a ten-month-old baby girl with big hazel eyes, curly brown hair, and a wide drooly grin, just waiting to be doted on.

Molly Palmer, of course, won’t remember this Christmas. But everyone else noticed that Ducky especially, but Gibbs and Senior as well, went a bit bonkers on the Christmas presents. And the fact that LJ and Jackson also showed up with presents for a baby girl, might suggest that there’s a pretty strong hankering for great-grandbabies as well.

So, Molly sat, adults cooing over her, basking in their attention, laughing baby laughs, and grinning a six toothed grin, as Breena and Jimmy opened most of the presents, and she played with the boxes, chewed on the wrapping paper, snuggled the stuffed corgis (presents from Ducky), and had as much of an absolute blast as a ten-month-old can.

Senior was holding Molly with one arm and had the other one wrapped around Ziva. He stared right at Tony and said, “This! This is what it’s all about.” He kissed both of the girls. “Wife, children, family! And you aren’t getting any younger. Fifty’s just around the corner, Junior, and if you don’t want people mistaking you for your kid’s grandfather…”

Tony rolled his eyes and mumbled something along the lines of, “Yeah, Dad.” As Senior continued on about wanting grandbabies and how a pregnant woman is the most beautiful thing on earth—flirting very heavily with Breena as he did it, and eyeballing Abby in a way that strongly suggested that he’d noticed her breast size was larger, and he knew exactly why that had happened—and how if Ziva was pregnant come wedding time she’d be so beautiful people would go blind by staring directly at her.

Eventually he wound down on that and then his gaze drifted over to Tim and Abby, and he said, grin on his face, “How about you two, any plans in this direction?”

Abby had been standing in front of Tim, leaning against his chest. She turned to toward him, the expression on her face clearly signaling Now? They’d been talking about how to announce it, and so far the mass email/Facebook update seemed awfully impersonal, but would spread the news really fast. She was eleven weeks along, so trimester two was right around the corner, and a better opening wasn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

Tim kissed her shoulder, then said, “Yeah, we do.” He raised his voice, “Hey!” That got the attention of the crowd. “All yours, Abby…”

She twined her fingers in his, seeing everyone watching them. “We’re having a baby in July!”

Granted, this wasn’t news to a lot of the crowd at Gibbs’ Christmas party, and for that matter, it wasn’t precisely news to a bunch of the people who weren’t supposed to know about it, either. (Vance is looking remarkably unshocked, for example.) But there were still lots of hugs and congratulations along with the traditional questions: are you going to find out if it’s a boy or girl (yes), what are you hoping for (girl), name ideas (yes, but they kept that under wraps and left it with the somewhat vague ‘family name’), and a decent amount of commentary about how this place was going to be hip deep in babies next year.

"Fornell and Wendy"
For once Fornell wasn’t scowling at him.

Now, maybe part of that was that Emily was with her mother this Christmas, which meant Fornell wasn’t trying to protect his now fourteen-year-old daughter from the idea that romance, men, and babies were a whole lot fun. (Fornell was firmly convinced that a career as a nun was a really good choice for Emily. Those ladies get a great education, go on to do important things, usually actively making the world a better place, and stay way the hell away from men. Both Emily and Diane laughed in his face when he said that to them.)

Of course, it could be that the reason he wasn’t scowling was hanging on his arm, sharing a cup of eggnog with him, and laughing with Gibbs about something.

Wendy Eccles was warm, pleasant, fun to be around, and for the life of him Tim couldn’t understand what she saw in Fornell.

But whatever it was, he appeared to be responding well to it, because Fornell’s been smiling all day, and actually congratulated him about the baby.

Still, the idea of Fornell with a girlfriend, let alone one who wasn’t some version of acid-tongued Diane, was just a whole lot for Tim to wrap his mind around. And the idea of Fornell flirting, which he thought was what’s going on as the two of them share the cup of eggnog, let alone being affectionate, (Yes, that was Fornell’s hand resting gently on Wendy’s hip.) really blew Tim’s mind.

Amira was asking Breena and Abby, “Is it weird?”

“Weird?” Breena replied.

Amira, now ten, and starting to look like she might share Mike’s long, lean build, stared at Breena’s tummy. “Having a person inside you? All squirmy and stuff.”

Abby shrugged. “She’s about the size of a golf ball. The docs say she moves around all the time, but I can’t feel it yet. So mostly, for me, I’m just really tired all the time.”

“I am so glad to be past that. More glad to be done throwing up.” Breena patted her tummy. “Sammy’s pretty quiet. Molly felt like she was training to be a gymnast in there, but Sammy’s just chilling out. Really, it doesn’t get weird until the end, when you can see them moving around. That’s kind of weird. Like, you’re on the sofa, and then your stomach suddenly bulges and shifts. That’s almost creepy.”

Jimmy kissed Breena’s neck, handing her a cup of punch. “Not creepy at all. You get to feel her scooting all over the place, but if you’re the dad half of it, it’s not really real until you can see that little elbow or whatever poking out. And toward the end, you can sort of play little games with them, tap on the stomach and see her kick back. That was so cool.”

Amira just stared at Jimmy, eyes wide. “That’s weird.”

Abby put her arm around Jimmy. “Yeah, but we love him anyway.”

“So, how far along are you?” Wendy had drifted over and asked Breena.

“Nineteen weeks.”

“Wow! You look amazing! I would have guessed closer to sixteen weeks. I know with my second boy about ten minutes after the pregnancy test turned positive I was in maternity jeans.”

Breena half-smiled. About ten minutes after the test had turned positive she had gained five pounds. Two months later they and five of their buddies were gone. “I had morning sickness so bad I was throwing up twice a day even on the anti-nausea drugs. I’ve only been feeling good for the last month.”

Wendy winced, and Amira looked like she was seriously reconsidering ever having children. “I’m so sorry. I remember being sick like that. Not fun at all.”

“Yeah. Only upside is that I look great. Losing ten pounds over the course of the first trimester’ll do that. So, how old are your kids?”

“Trevor’s twenty-six, John is twenty-four, and Dave is twenty-two. We had them over at my place last night.”

“Any grandbabies?”

“John has a little girl.”

The girls continued to chat about the soon to be babies McGee and Palmer, and got to know Wendy Eccles a bit better.

“You got it done?” Fornell asked as Gibbs led him into the basement.

Gibbs flashed Fornell his of course I have it done, I wouldn’t have brought you down here if I didn’t look.


Gibbs handed him the intricately carved rosewood jewelry box. Three months ago Tobias had asked him if he could make one for him. It was small, delicate, a rose carved into the top, and inside there was a space for the ring that was currently sitting in Tobias’ sock drawer, waiting to be put into a box worth giving to a woman you want to marry. “When you going to ask?”

“New Year’s.”

Gibbs smiled at his friend. “I like this one.”

“You liked the last one, too.”

Gibbs smirked. “I think you should marry this one.”

“Me too.” Fornell grinned. “Let’s get back up there before they notice we’re missing.”

“I’ve got to ask, McGee, did you get taller?” Senior asked.

“It’s the boots; he always wears those things with the skirt, Dad.” Tony handed his father another cup of Jackson’s eggnog.

“No, it’s not the boots,” Penny added. “By the way, I really like the kilt, Tim.”

“Thanks, Penny.”

“It’s always good to see your playful side come out, and even better to see a man who doesn’t feel pressured to conform to patriarchal societal norms of the gender binary.”

“Uh… thanks. And no, I’m not taller. Just have better posture. Started doing some yoga with Abby, and I’ve been standing straighter because of it.”

“Yoga!” Penny’s grinning about this, and he’s really hoping she’s not about to start asking about Tantra, while both Senior and Junior DiNozzo look really surprised by that.

“Yeah. It’s… um… a lot harder than it looks, but it’s good exercise.”

“Exercise?” Tony didn’t buy it. “No, no, no. Exercise involves moving around, fast, heart pumping, sweat pouring down your body. Exercise is not twisting yourself into a pretzel and breathing deeply.”

“I didn’t say it was a sport.”

“That’s because you aren’t totally insane.”

Palmer headed by, plate of goodies for Breena in hand, and stopped. “What’s not a sport?”

“Yoga.” Senior said.


“It’s also not exercise.”

“Really, Tony?” Jimmy was suddenly looking very cocky.

“Really. Meditation, sure. Stretching, yep. Exercise, nope. You aren’t sweating; it isn’t exercise.”

“Uh huh. Here, hold this.” He handed the plate to Penny and did something. All Tim knows is that it was graceful, elegant, slow, and then Jimmy was doing a handstand, feet in the air, supporting himself on his forearms, and from there he got into a one-handed handstand, and then, once again, slowly, gracefully got himself back out of it, then hopped back up, took the plate from Penny, and said to Tony. “If you aren’t sweating, you’re doing it wrong. Gotta give this to Breena.”

Tony and Senior just stared at the place where Jimmy had been. Penny blinked slowly, then said to Tim, “Can you do that?”

He shook his head, eyes wide. “Nope, and even if I could, I certainly wouldn’t in a kilt.”

That got the other three laughing.

Things were starting to wind down, getting quieter. Because of the snow most of the crew had decided that heading home earlier than usual was a good plan. Tim was helping to wrap up some of the food when he looked over and saw something that made him smile. He got a quick picture of it, and then went to find Gibbs.

“Hey, you want a copy of this?”

He showed Gibbs the shot of Jackson on the easy chair, Molly sleeping on him, sucking her thumb, snuggling one of the stuffed corgis, as he patted her back.

Gibbs nodded.

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