Chapter 151: Bootcamp
And honestly, it never got much better than that.
It's not even that he's terrible at this. He's a cop, was raised by a Navy Captain who was bound and determined that he'd be able to throw a decent punch, and was on the wrestling team in high school. It's not like he can't fight. He's competent.
But all the guys around him have always been way better than competent.
And, sure, it's not PC, but the fact that Kate and Ziva (And probably Abby, though he's never gone up against her, and is perfectly happy to keep it that way.) were/are better than him was a hit to his pride, too. He was eight inches taller and seventy pounds heavier than Kate, sheer mass alone meant he should have won that fight.
So for him, Bootcamp was mostly a pile of not fun with a heaping side of embarrassment. Which is why eight years ago when Gibbs stopped demanding it, he stopped doing it.
Jimmy doesn't look like he's relishing this, either. From everything he knows about Jimmy, having his hands wrapped in tape in preparation for learning how to be more effective at beating on someone isn't his idea of fun at all.
But it's Sunday afternoon, and they're both in the NCIS gym, standing in front of Gibbs, who is grinning and looks like he's intending to really enjoy this.
And well, at least one of them should, right?
"The thing you have to keep in mind is that it is your job to keep the boys in line." Gibbs says as he tapes Jimmy's right hand. "Your wives will say things like, 'He's so cute,' or 'He's only six,'" That got both Tim and Jimmy staring at him in horror. "I'm not telling you to beat up the six-year-old who has a crush on your little girl, but it is your job to intimidate any boy who gets near her to the point where he knows in his bones that you are the number one male in the family and you will personally kill him if he ever hurts your girl."
Yeah, Gibbs had mentioned putting the Fear of Dad into future boyfriends, but this, both from a this-is-what-we're-doing perspective, and also from a this-is-the-longest-speech-Jimmy's-ever-heard-out-of-him perspective, is completely unexpected.
"Your job is to make sure he treats your girl like a princess and feels like earning your respect is the equivalent of winning an Olympic gold medal."
Jimmy and Tim think about that. That's a plan they can get behind.
Jimmy adds, "That's where Ed screwed up. Sure, he could kill me and get rid of my body really easy, but I couldn't care less if I ever earn his respect."
Gibbs nods at that. "It's a lot harder to do if you're a jerk."
Tim did not actually say, 'takes one to know one,' but Gibbs catches his look and says, "I'm a bastard, not a jerk. There is a difference."
"And that would be?" Tim asks.
"I've got very high standards, but you met them and won the medal. Jimmy can try from now until the end of the earth, and Ed'll just keep raising his standards because he's determined not to approve of Jimmy."
"That sound about right," Jimmy said.
"One day a man will show up, and he will deserve your respect, and he will be worth your little girl, which means you stop being her number one man. Ed's not willing to let that go. So he'll keep being a jerk to you."
Gibbs looks at Jimmy's hands and nods, they're properly taped up. He tilts his head a little, and Tim steps up, holding out his left hand to get it taped.
Tim realized something as Gibbs started taping up his hands. "This isn't just about our families, is it?"
Gibbs shook his head. "This time next year, Autopsy'll be yours, Palmer. Can't imagine it'll be all that much later that you'll be in charge of Cybercrime, Tim. No later than the end of '16 you'll both have guys calling you Boss or Doctor. Making them want to win your respect is important, too."
"And we're going to learn how to do that by fighting with you?" Jimmy asks, not seeming to think this is the most effective technique for that.
"Nope. Both of you already know how you're going to be leaders. This is just… the stuff your dads should be passing on to you about how to be a dad. And some of those guys who'll be calling you Boss, they're going to look at you like a dad, at least, if you're doing the job right."
"That's a terrifying thought." Jimmy shook his head.
"Not right away, but you'll both be in those jobs for a long time." Gibbs flashed them his amused smile. "Get some gray in your hair, and they'll start looking up to you."
"So you mean any day now?" Jimmy asks, dryly, the first of his gray hairs showed up last week and brought a few buddies.
"You're gonna need a whole lot more than the ten gray hairs you've got, Palmer. But yeah. When Ducky leaves, you'll get an assistant, and he'll be, what? Twenty-four? Gonna look like a baby to you."
"We were both twenty-four when we started here," Tim adds.
And Gibbs just nods, babies clearly on his face. "You're hands are done, too. Okay, Palmer, you can punch hard. You left enough bruises on Tim to prove that. But he told me you weren't aiming for his eye when you hit it."
"You're with me. Tim, see that punching bag?"
"Beat the hell out of it." Tim headed off to do just that. The sound of fists, elbows, and knees slamming into canvas punctuated the rest of Jimmy's conversation with Gibbs.
"What are we going to do?"
Gibbs headed over to his bag and found his pads. Then he took out some duct tape and put an X on the top of the pad. "I'm gonna move. You're gonna hit the X. And we're gonna keep doing it until both of you can hit the X no matter how fast I'm moving."
"What if I hit you?"
Gibbs look would be best described as if you hit me, Palmer, it's time to bury me because I'm already dead, but he's polite enough to not say that out loud. Instead he says, "Not getting hit is my job." He got into position, started circling the pad a bit, and Palmer whaled on it, hitting both nowhere even remotely near the X and hard enough that he staggered Gibbs.
Gibbs stepped back and straightened up, shaking his head slightly, amazed at how much force Jimmy had just nailed him with. "Stop. Precision, Palmer. Hit the X. Do it as soft and slow as you need to to hit the X. When you swap with Tim and take your turn on the punching bag, then you can hit hard. Again."
He started moving again, and this time Jimmy spent a good thirty seconds just tracking the motion with his eyes, and then hit, not too hard, but did manage to get the X dead on.
"Good. Keep it up." After about fifteen minutes where Jimmy slowed down to the point where he could land seven out of ten shots, Gibbs had him switch to his left hand, and started, at an even slower speed, all over again.
Several thoughts went through Gibbs mind while he was doing this. First of all, Tim was right, Jimmy did, and still does, need to fight it out. There's a ton of anger in there, and it needs to go somewhere. Gibbs knows all about that and is very glad that Tim's offering Jimmy a way to do it that isn't too self-destructive. He hopes hitting the range will be good for Jimmy, too. Secondly, Jimmy's a whole lot stronger than Gibbs thought he was. He tends to think of Palmer as a goofy, skinny kid, but there's a real man in there with some very serious strength. You could fill an especially small thimble with what Gibbs knows about yoga (and still have plenty of room left over), but if that's all the exercise Palmer gets, it must be really good for upper body development. Thirdly, no one ever taught Jimmy how to fight. Yeah, he can make a fist and throw a punch, but the part of the fight where his brain gets involved was never addressed. He's appallingly bad a figuring out where Gibbs is going to move next, and has a tendency to close his eyes right before his fist hits.
When Jimmy and Tim swap, Gibbs feels like kicking himself for not doing this with Tim more often. Eight years ago when it became clear that Tim was better with a handgun than anyone but Ziva, and that Ziva was going to be sticking around, filling the role of their combat specialist, Gibbs stopped making Tim hit the gym.
There just didn't seem to be much use to it. He always had a gun on him, Tony or Ziva always went out with him, and worst came to worst, eight years ago, he was good enough that he wouldn't get killed if he had to depend on his fists.
He's not anymore.
Tim's brain knows how to fight. Gibbs can see from the way he watches the X that he knows how to track it and how to anticipate where it'll go. He knows to hit for where it will be instead of where it is. (In fact, if he was doing this with a pistol, Tim wouldn't just be able to hit the X, he'd be able to shoot off each of Gibbs' fingers.) What he can't seem to do is make his fist land where he wants it to. He's reliably within four inches of the X, but rarely nails it. Which isn't a problem if he was trying to hit a guy in the chest or stomach, but does mean he can completely miss someone if he's aiming for his head.
Tim's also, and this confuses Gibbs, equally bad with his left or right hand.
He decides to wrap it up by having them spar with each other, wanting to see how they really fight. It occurs to him as they're sort of limply flailing around with each other that if he's going to have them do this, that starting off with it, instead of putting it at the end when they've been working hard for an hour, is a good plan.
It also occurs to him that Palmer needs contacts, because part of the reason he's got no control when he spars is because he can't see.
When they wrap up, Gibbs is developing plans for next week, and looking forward to it.