Friday, July 12, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 133

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

Chapter 133: Christmas Eve

Technically Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are NCIS holidays. And just like all other NCIS holidays, the different teams rotate through being on and off duty for them. The fact that Team Gibbs has worked every Christmas Eve since, well, Tim’s been there, has been because Gibbs makes sure their team has Christmas off, really off. In twelve years, they’ve never had a Christmas on call. Which doesn’t mean there haven’t been Christmases they’ve worked, but when that happens it’s spillover. Cases that went hot before Christmas.

But this year, something else went hot, or cold, really, on December 23rd, and was still howling along at full speed come December 24th.

Tim wonders if they’re going to start naming winter storms. This is the third winter in a row that a massive snow storm has shut the federal government down, and short of a body getting found/someone being kidnapped, NCIS is closed.

Which he isn’t minding at all. It’s the middle of the week, they’ve, provisionally, got today and tomorrow off, and since there’s nowhere to go, he doesn’t have to try and shovel the foot and a half of snow that’s fallen since last night off the driveway. (And he’ll admit that part of putting it off, and hoping he gets to keep putting it off, is that he’s awfully sure his main Christmas present is a snow blower. And no, he hasn’t peeked.)

So, he was enjoying his snow day immensely. He’d gotten a solid five thousand words in on the next Deep Six novel and was taking a break, gaming away, happily smiting evil right and left, (he’s playing a paladin, so he’s literally smiting) while Abby napped.

Then the power went out. One second he had his hand out, holy might coalescing, ready to utterly destroy the vampire before him, the next he was in a dim room staring at a blank screen.

Thank all that’s good and holy, they have natural gas heat, hot water, and range, so they can keep warm, shower, and cook without having to use any power.

Though, as he notices the sudden lack of any sounds in his house, like for example, the sound of the blower on the heat, he realizes that the thermostat, which tells the heater to turn on, requires electricity.

This was when the idea of getting a generator started seeming like a really good plan.

He headed over to the table his phone lives on, and picked it up to check the weather, and ran headlong into the issue of no one’s wifi was working.

It still worked as a phone, though.

“Hey, Tony.”

“What’s up, McGee?”

“Power’s out. How long is the blizzard supposed to last?”

“Let me check.”

A few seconds of silence passes. Then he heard Tony tell Ziva what was up, followed by the sounds of the TV clicking on.

“Supposed to stop snowing around midnight.”

“How much of DC is without power?”

“Damn it!” The sound of the TV in the background cut off, and he heard Ziva’s voice sounding annoyed about something. “About three quarters, and us now, too.”

“So, it’s not coming back anytime soon?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Okay. I’ve got to see if I can rig my thermostat to run on batteries.”

“Good luck on that.”

“Thanks. If I’m really lucky it won’t cost an arm and a leg to make it work on the house current again when I’m done.”

“You’ve got a fireplace, right?”

“Yeah. And three of those compressed wood logs that burn for three hours and look pretty and do absolutely nothing to keep you warm. How about you guys?”

“Gas fireplace. It’s not great, but we won’t freeze.”

“Good. Okay, got to get working while I’ve still got some light. The only thing less fun than trying to do this with no power is doing it in the dark.”

It really wasn’t that difficult. Wire clippers, a nine volt battery, some duct tape, and a flash light held between his teeth (Tim never noticed before that even in the middle of a sunny day the hallway the thermostat is on gets no light, what with the whole being located smack dab in the middle of the house thing. During a blizzard being able to see what he was doing without extra light was hopeless.) got the job done. It was ugly as sin, but the heat kicked back on, and that’s what mattered.

Meanwhile a thermostat that had a back-up battery went onto his to get list.

Fortunately, due to his honeymoon prep, they’ve got a ton of little LED candles. So he set them up around the house, checked on Abby, still asleep, checked the stove, beef stew was still stewing along, noticed that the oven needed power to turn on and regulate the temperature, so their plan for biscuits to go with the stew probably wasn’t going to happen.

Then he headed outside with a bucket, filled it with snow, and packed it into the empty spaces in their fridge and freezer.

He figured that was about all he could do, so back to the typewriter he went to work on Deep Six some more.

About an hour into that, as Tibbs, MacGregor, and Tommy were alone in the high desert at night, forced by darkness to stop chasing down a suspect, and for the moment, camping, one more thought occurred to him.

Back to the phone he went.

“Hey, Jethro.”


“Yeah. If I wanted to make biscuits without an oven, how would I do it?”

“Power out?”

“Yep. I’ve got a functional stove and a fireplace. Beef stew’s cooking just fine. I remembered Lonesome Dove begins with Gus making sourdough biscuits over a fire, and I figured if anyone I knew knew how to do that, it’d be you.”

“Do you have a dutch oven?”

“Maybe. What is it?”

“Big, thick pot with a tight lid you could put on the coals.”

“Sounds like what we make the jambalaya in.”

“Probably. Stick the biscuit dough in there. Put it on low coals. Stick more coals on the lid. Let it sit. When they smell done, they probably are.”

“Think I can do that on the stove?”

“Do you have a cast iron frying pan?”

“Yeah. Luca made sure we had one.”

“Put it on the burner, turn the heat low, make sure it’s good and hot, then put the dough in, stick the lid on another burner until it’s good and hot too, put the lid on the fry pan, it’ll probably work.”

“Thanks. You have power?”

“Only if I feel like turning the generator on. Don’t need it for sitting in front of the fireplace reading.”

“Okay, stay warm. We’ll see you tomorrow if we can.”

He assumed Gibbs nodded at him, then the line disconnected.

Abby woke up feeling really good. She was warm, comfortable, and for once, well-rested. She doesn’t remember the last time she woke up and didn’t want to immediately go back to sleep. Obviously it used to happen, but it’s been a while.

Granted, warm, comfortable and well-rested with a warm, and better yet, hard, Tim cuddled up next to her would have been even better, but it’s the middle of the day, so he’s off…

Which was when it occurred to her that she couldn’t hear anything. Usually Tim amusing himself has a soundtrack: game noises, music and battle sounds, or writing, which goes with loud Jazz. Even reading Tim isn’t silent; there’s always some music to go with Tim having a good time.

She opened her eyes and saw that their room was glowing with ten or so of the LED candles. For a second she was wondering if this was some sort of romantic Christmas treat when she checked the clock to see how late it was and realized they didn’t have any power.

And silent Tim suddenly made a whole lot more sense. If he didn’t have a good idea of when they’d get power back, he wasn’t going to burn through the charges on his devices just for something to listen to.

She headed to the window to try and get a better handle on how late it was, but that didn’t help. It was dark enough outside that she couldn’t tell if it was late afternoon and the storm was blocking the sun, or if it was already night.

She never realized how much artificial light their neighborhood uses. But now, staring out the window at softly edged dark, she could almost believe they’re the only two people on earth.

Kind of cool, really.

She’d been wearing a comfy t-shirt and flannel pants for napping, but decided candle lit dinner for two during a blizzard on Christmas Eve deserved something a little snazzier than that.

Abby grabbed a few of the candles, got them all settled on her dresser, and went looking for the white and cream peignoir. That under her black kimono would do the job nicely. She brushed her hair up into a high ponytail, and decided to head down and see what else was going on.

Halfway down the stairs, she heard the rattling sound of Tim typing at full speed.

On the way down, she noticed that he put the little candles all over the house, but there was no fire in the fireplace. So an idea began to form.

The good thing about writing Tim, well, sometimes, occasionally it’s annoying, but right now it’s working out well for her… Anyway, the good thing about writing Tim is that when he hits his stride you could pretty much run a gang of naked Hells Angels through the room he’s writing in, and he won’t notice.

When he’s in his story, he’s in it, and usually pretty happy to be there. (And like how Abby gets grumpy when she gets pulled out of nap these days, Tim pulled out if his writing is awfully grumpy, too. Yeah, he’ll deign to pay attention to you if you demand it, but you’re much more likely to get the sarcastic version of him.)

So, she doesn’t head into his office. Judging by the speed he’s typing, he’s well into the story.

Instead she headed back upstairs, grabbed their pillows, and the comforter off their bed, and took them back down to make a little snug nest on the floor in front of the fireplace. Off to the linen closet next, more blankets, comforters, and pillows.

By the time she was done, they had a very comfortable little space for dinner, sex, and post-sex snoozing.

She rearranged some of the candles, sticking more of them in the living room, on the mantle, making sure it’d be fairly light in there, and then went to go find some of the logs for the fireplace.

Tim hit a lull in his writing, and came out of the story with a jerk. The biscuits!

He didn’t smell anything burning, but he also had no idea how long he’d been sitting there, working on a scene where McGregor, Tibbs, Tommy, and Liza were defusing a bomb; he has no idea where it’ll go in the next story, or even if it’ll go in the next story. He’s got a box full of scenes that haven’t made it into stories, yet. But he’s thinking this might be the climax to the current story. It’ll all jell once he’s got a bad guy in mind.

He jumped up, sprinted toward the kitchen, and was very pleased to notice that he still didn’t smell anything burning.

Checking the biscuits showed him the edges closest to the pan seemed to be nicely brown. The tops were still pretty white. And poking them a little made him think they weren’t done yet. He debated trying to flip them over, and decided that probably wasn’t a great idea.

So he put the lid back on the burner, heated it up again, turned the heat almost off on the biscuits while the lid heated, and hoped that would take care of the whole getting them cooked all the way through before the bottom burns issue.

“Why are you cooking the lid?”

He turned toward her, and saw Abby leaning against the archway between the kitchen and dining room, kimono loosely belted over the white nighty, watching him with a smile on her face.

“Would you believe that Gibbs told me to?”

“Yes.” She closed on him, and wrapped her arms around his waist.

He kissed her, long and gentle. “Hi. Have a good nap?”

“Yeah, woke up feeling rested.”

“Been a long time since that happened.”

“Yeah. So…”

“Even distribution of heat. Trying to get the tops of the biscuits cooked before the bottoms are burned.”

“Okay. And heating the lid means you get heat from both sides.”

“Yeah. Just remember, you need a hot pad if you’re going to touch any of this.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. When did the power go out?”

“Two hours ago? Three? If I had my watch on, I’d know, but I don’t.”

“Any idea on how long until dinner’s ready?”

“No. Are you hungry?”

“These days, always. But I’m mostly asking so I can make sure the log’s burning bright and steady by the time we sit down to eat.”

He rose one eyebrow, and she pulled him through the kitchen, through the dining room, and into the living room, when he saw the nest she had made, he grinned.

“It takes about ten minutes to get them really burning, so…”

“So, light it up. We’ll eat in ten minutes, and if the biscuits aren’t ready… They’ll be good for breakfast.”

Ten minutes later, the log was blazing away, instrumental Christmas music was playing (Abby’s computer had been completely charged, so she was willing to burn some power in order to have music.) and she was laying on her side, propped up on one arm, kimono loosely draped over her, gaping a bit at the chest and hip, so the white and cream negligee under it was visible.

“Hey, you rea…” The question died on Tim’s lips as he stood in the archway between the living room and dining room, staring at her.

Abby sent him a hot, sexy look, slowly slipping her top leg up the bottom one, shifting so the slit in the peignoir fell open, silk slithering over her leg, leaving them bare, and then grinned. “Tim?”



He tore his eyes away from her legs and said, “Oh, yeah, dinner, right!” scurrying back into the kitchen.

A minute later he was back, a tray with two bowls, filled with savory, steaming stew, rich with red wine, rosemary, and garlic, a plate piled high with golden biscuits, and two mugs of cider, in his hands.

“They look great.”

He smiled. “Let’s hope they taste that way.”

It was sheer dumb luck he actually had the recipe on his phone. Normally he’d have just googled it before making the stuff, but he needed it to get the ingredients, so he actually saved it, and could get to it without wifi. Still, he was, well, fuzzy, on what exactly was involved in cutting butter and shortening into flour by hand, so… yeah… he’s hoping they taste good.

The stew was fabulous. They’d gotten it, and a bunch of other recipes from Luca, as a wedding present. The biscuits were… well, given the challenges involved in making them, pretty good, but yeah, they’ve both had better.

And sharing a meal, warm and comfortable, lit gold by fire and candle light, soft touches and hot looks interspersed between playful words and savory food while the storm raged outside. That was excellent.

“All done?”

Abby licked the back of her spoon, getting the last drop of the stew. “Yeah.”


“Do we have anything?”

“Ice cream, frozen blueberries, everything you need to make cookies, but no actual cookies, and no oven to make cookies with.”

“And let me guess, you aren’t going to let me eat raw cookie dough?”

“I’d really prefer you didn’t. Though I suppose I could make it without the eggs…” He looked like he might have been seriously thinking about it, and right now she wants him seriously thinking about her, not about cookies.

“Later.” Nothing on that list was making her think that she had to have food right this second. Tim in jeans, a button down, sleeves rolled-up, top two buttons undone, and bare feet, on the other hand, that was definitely sparking some cravings. Her eyes, and fingers, tracing down his body got that idea across.

“Okay, let me get this cleared away.”

Judging by how fast he was back, cleared away translated into put into the sink to soak, as opposed to actually washed up and put back.

He lay down next to her and she scooted a little closer, wrapping her leg over his hip, pulling lightly on the top button on his shirt as he kissed her.

His hand found her shoulder, easing it’s way under the kimono, shifting it aside so he can kiss her skin.

He tugged at it again, not having any luck getting it off.

Abby, gently pushed him onto his back. She straddled his hips, keeping her body high, only her calves touching his hips and thighs, and he took the end of the tie to her kimono in hand.

“Pretty bow," he said, his fingers ghosting over the tidy bow at her waist.

“Always put a nice bow on a present.” She grinned at him as he tugged on the tie, and tugged again to pull the kimono off, seeing it fall to a black silk puddle over his hips and her legs.

“Are you my Christmas present?”

“Always. But maybe it’s just that I like being unwrapped.”

He twisted his hand a few times, snaking the kimono up around it, and then tossed it aside. Tim placed both of his hands on her calves, just below the hem of the peignoir. “I was always very good at unwrapping presents.” He slid his hands up her legs and took the lace edging in hand. “Of course there are a lot of ways to unwrap presents. There’s the quick, impatient, rip all the paper off as fast as you can.” He gave her a wicked look, watched her eyes go wide, he can see she does not want this ripped off of her, and gave the lace a quick tug, hard enough to get the idea across, not hard enough to rip. “But I always thought that lacked finesse.”

He let go of the lace, and traced his hands, under the silk, all the way up to her hips, stroking over her legs, rubbing the backs of his knuckles gently over her thighs, and then quickly undoing the button and fly of his jeans. “And of course, some people prefer lifting a corner of the paper, so they can just peek.” He took his dick out and lightly rubbed it against her pussy, stroking over her mound, circling her clit with it, enjoying the look of pleasure on her face, and the flush slowly spreading across her chest. Then he tucked himself back in (a lot more difficult than getting out of his boxers in the first place). “Then they retape the paper. But I never thought that was very satisfying.”

Her eyes closed, and she swallowed hard, a pained look on her face. His hands returned to her calves, skin on skin, and he traced them up her sides, lace and silk slipping up her skin with them. “And then there’s carefully, slowly, taking the paper off. Teasing yourself a little with the reveal.” She raised her arms over her head, as he sat up, pulling the peignoir off, tossing it behind them. “That’s the one I always liked best.” He kissed her lips, her throat, her shoulder, propping himself with his hands flat on the floor behind him, and began to nuzzle and suck her nipples.

“I always preferred to rip the paper off as fast as possible,” Abby said as she made short work of the buttons on his shirt. “Might not involve a lot of finesse.” She pushed his shirt down his arms, and settled in close on his lap, rubbing her breasts against his chest. “But sometimes there’s something to be said for fast.”

He grinned at the feel of her naked skin on his. “Indeed.”

She scooted back on his legs, getting a good grip on his jeans, and he lifted himself up so she could pull them off quickly.

Abby looked him over, eyes tracing him from toes to forehead, a wide, lusty smile on her face. “But really, when it came down to it, I never much cared about the wrapping one way or another. I wanted what was under it.”

He pulled her close to him, sitting on his lap, chest to chest, lips to lips.

“And what do you want the present to do?” he asked, gently pulling her bottom lip with his teeth.

She rolled him on top of her, and he braced himself on his elbows and knees. “You sure?”

She knew that was him worried about thrusting too deep. “Yeah. Just don’t hike my leg over your shoulder, and we’ll be fine. Besides, right now your chest rubbing against my breasts feels fantastic, and we won’t be able to do it like this for all that much longer, so yeah, I’m sure.”

He rocked into her, sighing at her body around his, chest skimming over hers, and she moaned at the feel of his skin sliding over hers.

“Good?” he asked with a kiss.

“So good.” Her hands settled on his ass, pulling him forward.

He thrust again, getting his whole body into it, rubbing all of himself against her.

“Yeah, Tim, just like that.”

He cupped her face in his hands, kissing her soft and sweet while they rocked against each other. Eventually her hands found his, pressed them flat to the floor, her fingers twinging with his. And while this is a position they often start in, it’s rarely one they finish in. Being able to kiss her and look her in the eye while her body went tight on his, let alone while feeling her fingers clench between his, was a real treat. Spilling over the edge with her, watching her eyes lose focus as his world went blurry around the edges was another. And falling asleep as the embers died out in the fireplace, wrapped in each other and soft, fluffy comforters was the icing on the cake.

Though waking up the next morning to functional electricity and the sound of a snow plow clearing the two and half feet of snow off their street was pretty nice, too.

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