Thursday, August 15, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 153

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

Chapter 153: Fathers and Sons

Gibbs is, in the immortal words of whoever Tony was quoting on Friday, "Too old for this shit."

And old was the one thing Gibbs never really thought he'd be.

Though maybe 'old' isn't precisely the problem. He doesn't mind the wrinkles or the gray hair. (Though needing glasses, now for both up close and long distance, bugs the hell out of him.)

Out of shape may be more precise.

Gibbs doesn't pay all that much attention to his body. He feeds it when it gets hungry. Lays it down to sleep when it gets too tired (gives it coffee the rest of the time.) Puts his glasses on when he can't see. Washes it every day and "clears out the pipes" as needed. And that covers most of his bases.

In fact, unless he's got a girlfriend (which is the only time he does pay any attention to his body, well, what she's doing to it), his body is just this thing that moves him around from place to place, a lot like his car, and honestly, he pays more attention to the car.

Another thing that's true is that, unless, once again, we're talking about a girlfriend, he also doesn't pay all that much attention to other people's bodies, either. Sure, faces he watches with a whole lot of intensity, but, below the neck he just glances at to see if anything interesting is going on, and if nothing is, he ignores it.

This is triply true when it comes to male bodies.

Still there are certain things he expects his body to do, or well, be, and one of those things is be in better shape than Tim. But, as he noticed when sparring with the boys, somewhere along the line Tim lost a ton of weight and gained some muscles. (He had sort of vaguely noticed Tim was smaller, just because he doesn't pay attention to men's bodies doesn't mean he's blind. But he hadn't realized Tim had lost that much weight, let alone toned up.) Sure, he's not going to pass for a Marine anytime soon, but he's actually looking pretty good.

Which is causing Gibbs to look at himself in the bathroom mirror and notice posture, haircut, and attitude aside, he's also not going to pass for a Marine anytime soon.

In fact, he's looking a whole lot like what he is, a fifty-six year old cop who doesn't eat all that well, has twenty-five more pounds around his middle than he needs, and has let the younger members of his team handle running the perps down for the last five years.

And that's not acceptable, at all.

He's going to have grandkids to chase after soon, so he can't be puffing away, out of shape. And Tim and Palmer need someone to show them how this is done.

Okay, they don't, not really. Palmer's already good at this, and from everything he's seen of Tim with Molly, Tim's good at it, too.

But that still doesn't mean he can lay down on the job. As Abby said to him, he's the patriarch of their clan, and sure, one day he'll pass that over to Tony and move into Ducky's role of wiseman, but it's not nearly time for that, yet. And if leading the clan is his job, then he's got to be able to lead, no matter what that might mean, and with his particular clan, charging into battle is a definite possibility. So, first thing in the morning he's hitting the gym, and he's going to keep hitting it until he can find his abs again.

It's not that Gibbs is a particularly introspective man, which also isn't precisely true. He doesn't want to be a particularly introspective man, and a lot of the work he does is about not having to be introspective. If he's building, working a case, or drinking, he doesn't have to spend nearly as much time with his thoughts.

But right now, as he's slipping into his pajamas (sweat pants, Marines t-shirt) he's willing to let himself think, especially about this odd little family he's collected over the years.

It's funny, even with years in the Corp, even with decades as a cop, he never really expected to have sons. From the day Shannon told him she was pregnant, he knew he was going to be a dad to girls. And so, his girls were easy. He fell into the role of Abby and Ziva's dad without even really having to think about it. One day they were strangers, the next he had daughters again. Of course, he knows how (wants, needs) to be a dad to girls. Be there. Be useful. Try and be an example of the sort of man you want them to marry (respectful, honest, decent, not fooling around on them). Keep the bad guys away. Encourage the good ones. But mostly, be there.

With as different as Abby and Ziva are, that kept him pretty busy. Being there for Ziva is an entirely different set of skills than being there for Abby. But even with as different as they are, he felt like he had a good handle on what he was doing.

Sons on the other hand…

Sons started with Tony. Sure, he'd been a mentor and big brother before, but Tony needed a Dad, and Tony was the first guy he was willing to step up and do it for. And he's honest enough with himself to see that it's also ending with Tony. Tony's finished growing up. The clown prince of the frat boys is long dead. And while it's true that Tony will always love him, and that he'll love Tony, they're shifting from father and son to friends and equals. How'd Abby put it? He's Tony's Ducky?

Yeah, it's heading there. Though when he thinks about it, there's always been a certain reserve between him and Ducky. Partly because they've always been equals. Partly because so many years went by where he didn't let Ducky in. For almost a decade Ducky knew all about Gibbs' present, but nothing about his past.

Really, he's becoming Tony's Mike. There was never that space between him and Mike. And he likes that idea. Tony needs a Mike, and older, wiser friend who will slap him upside the head when he needs it, but mostly a man who will be there with him to enjoy the good times and make the bad ones more bearable.

Besides, Tony's got a dad. Senior's been stepping up his dad game over the last few years, becoming the man Tony needs in his life, which Gibbs entirely approves of. Both from the fact that the hole Senior cut into Tony's soul when he ran away from him after his mother died is slowly healing up, and from the fact that being there for his son is something Senior needs to do to be a good man, as well.

The First Son
Especially with a marriage, and likely, kids, in the not wildly distant future, Tony probably needs all the good men he can get surrounding him, and right now, Gibbs is pretty satisfied on that front.

Thinking of the good men in Tony's life brought him to the son he wasn't expecting.

That Tim would be Abby's husband he's known for… about a decade. When they broke up, he figured it was done. When year after year went by with neither of them falling for anyone else, he realized what they didn't: there wasn't going to be anyone else for either of them. So, he was on board with the idea that Tim would be Abby's husband. Eventually he'd pass the role of her number one man to Tim. But Tim was always so self-contained the idea that ever be closer to Tim than he was to Shannon's dad: warm, friendly, respectful, was something he didn't expect.

Honestly, he never expected to have this close of a relationship with any guy. Mike, Ducky, Tony, they all play by the rules. Close, soft, warm, huggy-type things happen with girls. That's why there are girls in the world, because a man needs someone to do that sort of thing with. The occasional affectionate hair ruffling and good job, usually steeped in humor, with very rare hugs, is how guys who love each other behave in the world as Gibbs understands it.

Hundreds of chats
Talking about feelings is something else for girls. Guys don't do that, not with each other. He's had hundreds of chats with Tony over the years, and they've mastered the art of not actually saying what they're feeling, but still getting the basic idea across.

But Tim didn't play by those rules. Tim finally, after ten years, showed up in his basement to talk and the first thing he did was say, "I love Abby," followed by, "Now tell me what love means to you."

So, Gibbs tried to answer him, because he understood that what Tim meant by that was I-intend-to-marry-Abby-and-I'm-in-research-mode, but trying to put words to those ideas, let alone for another guy, felt really weird.

Having Tim tell him that he considered him to be his dad shortly thereafter was even more confusing. Because Gibbs hadn't been doing much in the way of being a dad for Tim, and if Tim's standards for dad-like behavior were that low, something was seriously wrong.

Until he started dating Abby again, Gibbs had never done anything dad-like for Tim. He'd been a great boss and a good mentor, set high standards, taught him everything he knew about being a good cop, slapped him when he needed it, petted Tim when he went above and beyond the call, but they'd never watched a game together, (Hell, he didn't even know until Tony told him about the Beaver thing that Tim even liked any sport, let alone that he was a college football fan.) or hung out over dinner, or for that matter had a real conversation that wasn't work related.

It left Gibbs feeling flatfooted, and suddenly very curious about Tim's dad. He'd been vaguely aware of John McGee. He knew he was still alive. He knew Tim didn't spend Christmas with his family, but he also knew they weren't in DC or the surrounding area. Knew from overhearing Tony talk about him that the man was apparently full of physical courage. Knew from overhearing Tim that he was the kind of man who had no problem telling a seven-year-old the birthday card he made wasn't good enough. He knew they went seven years without speaking. And knew that he had to be a damn good Naval officer, both at politics and at running a ship, to make Admiral.

He didn't know Tim's parents were divorced. He didn't know John had been on a ship for probably seventy percent of Tim's childhood. He found that out by reading through John's file.

And he didn't know until seeing John look at Tim that whatever it was John wanted in a son, Tim wasn't it.

And, while there had been plenty of times where he wanted to slap Senior upside the back of the head for being an idiot, he was really surprised by how intensely he wanted to drag John out of that ship and beat the ever-living shit out of him for not respecting Tim.

Gibbs saw the look on John's face, saw the distain, and felt his hand clench. If ever a man deserved respect, it was Tim.

In the forty years Gibbs has been a Marine or cop, he's never seen anyone less naturally adept at any skill set go on to master one as thoroughly as Tim did with being a cop. When he got Tim transferred to his team, he never expected him to be anything other than handy with a computer. He knew he needed a geek to do the job, constantly bugging Abby to do the computer work wasn't a long-term solution, and he knew McGee would be good at it. He never, ever thought Tim would make a good field agent. And the fact that Tim proved him wrong won Gibbs' respect.

He was even more surprised by how intensely possessive he felt of Tim after seeing how John treated him. How that one day made Gibbs realize that Tim wasn't just his future son-in-law, but his son.

And thus, the accidental son, the man who earned his respect, who earned the right to say to him, "I am going to marry your daughter." (And it's true that Gibbs appreciates that Tim didn't ask permission. He told him he was going to marry Abby, proving he had gained the strength to be her husband. Just like he appreciates that Tony asked, proving he had gained the wisdom to be hers.) The man who earned the right to say to him, "Talk to me, tell me how you feel," and get an answer.

And while Tim may not play by the rules, at least he appears to know what they are. Gibbs has never had any sense that Jimmy's ever been aware of them.

He watches the two of them, and they put him in mind of Kelly and Maddie, and like with them, he realizes that you end up adopting your kid's best friends. That the people they love become your loves. (It hits him that this is how he got Tim in the first place. He was Abby's pet, and so, when he needed a geek to put on his team, he picked Tim instead of calling down to the new Cybercrime department for one of their guys.)

Son of sorrows
And, while it's painfully obvious that Tim wants a dad, it's also very obvious that right now, Jimmy needs one. 

Like Tony, Jimmy needs all the good men around him he can get. And Gibbs, who's walked this road, intends to be one of them.

So, the third son, son of sorrows, the one who doesn't know he's been adopted, yet.

But he will.

And like with Tim, he'll probably end up talking about feelings, and probably handing out hugs, and it's going to be weird, but… he's kind of looking forward to it.

One last thought occurred to Gibbs before he fell asleep, if he had been there from the day they were born, it probably wouldn't feel weird to talk with them about how they're feeling or hug them when they're hurting. Because a dad does that for his kids, even if they are boys.


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