Thursday, August 15, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 156

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

Chapter 156: At The Range

"I hate guns," Jimmy says, looking at the weapons in front of him. It's Saturday afternoon, and as per Gibbs' instructions they are spending an hour at the range.

"They're just tools," Tim answers. At least as far as he's concerned step one of proper gun usage is to not fetishize them.

"Tools for killing people."


"I don't want to kill people."

"Yeah, well, it's not exactly my idea of fun, either. Sometimes you have to, though."

Jimmy realizes what he just said to Tim. "Oh. Shit. I'm sorry. I didn't… How many?"

Tim looks at his gun. "One more than I should have."

It takes Jimmy a minute to remember what Tim's talking about. Then it clicks, that case with the undercover cop. "I… I thought you didn't know for sure."

"I don't, no one does, but it doesn't matter. Look." Tim gestures for Jimmy to put on his ear protection as he puts on his and runs the target out its fullest extension. He quickly, steadily empties his magazine, and then pulls the target close, taking off his ear protection. All fifteen bullets tore through the head of the target. "I aimed at him. I pulled the trigger. I wasn't any worse of a shot then than I am now. Doesn't matter if it was my bullet or not. I meant to kill him. I shot at him. It's on me."

Tim touches one of the two guns in front of them, changing the subject. "So, this one is a Sig Sauer. It's the standard NCIS pistol. Tony, Gibbs, and I carry one and like them. Ziva prefers her Beretta." He touches the other one. "It's got slightly less recoil, which is nice for getting a whole lot of fast shots off accurately, but the trigger guard's a bit smaller, fine for her, she's got little hands, but I don't think it's as comfortable."

Jimmy nods, staring at them. "Really don't want to do this."

"You've got two girls who depend on you to come home every single night. So, you're going to do it. No more hoping the cavalry shows up in time. You're going to learn how to be your own cavalry."

Jimmy just kept staring at the guns in front of him.

"And for the record, I absolutely refuse to help Abby and Breena bury your ass because you don't like guns. If it ever comes down to you're going home or he is, the correct answer is you."

Jimmy looks away from the guns and up at Tim, looking mildly exasperated. "Tim, I think you're confused on which one of us is the cop."

"One minute later when you got kidnapped, and you and I would have never been more than friendly co-workers. Not gonna happen again. Next time you shoot someone, you'll kill them."

"Wonderful. I'm a doctor, you know. Killing people is the antithesis of my job."

"So's Ducky. You want him to come along next time?"

"This is going to be embarrassing enough without being out-shot by an eighty-year-old."

Tim shook his head. "Don't worry about embarrassing. It's physically impossible for you to be worse at this than I was when I started."

"I really doubt that."

"Uh huh. You know how you said when you asked Ed to marry Breena that he laughed so hard he cried?"


"I'm seven-years-old. My dad and grandfather, who were both apparently born knowing how to shoot anything that shoots, took me to the range to learn how to shoot a gun. They both laughed so hard they cried."


"Yeah. The only reason I ever got good at it was that Jim Nelson took pity on me at FLETC and decided I was too damn smart to fail out because I couldn't shoot. He spent hours working with me on it. I'd drill him on the book work while he got me through my gun proficiency. So, pick them up, find one that feels good in your hand, and let's learn how to shoot it."

Jimmy sort of poked the berretta. "So, your dad, what, just gave up?"

"Oh no… no… Don't think my dad ever just 'gave up' on anything." Tim's got a really forced grin on his face and is shaking his head as he says this. "He kept at it for years when he was on land. But when I was fifteen, he came to the conclusion that yelling at me while I had a loaded gun in my hands was a bad idea. Even though I flinched every time I pulled the trigger, I could still hit a guy six inches from my shoulder, leaning over me, calling me a worthless, cock-sucking cunt—"

"What?!" Jimmy looks beyond horrified.

"You ever heard the phrase 'curse like a sailor'?" Tim asks, voice very dry.


"You think it's a joke?"

"Apparently not," he says, eyes very wide.

Tim nodded. "Part of the reason I usually don't."

Jimmy thought about that. "Have I ever heard you curse?"

"I'd imagine you have, but no examples are immediately springing to mind. Gibbs and Ziva have, and Abby, of course."

Jimmy takes a step back. "Why are you cursing at her?"

"I don't only do it when I'm angry."

Jimmy looks a little confused by that answer.

"You think I've never talked dirty to Abby?"

"You know, honestly, I don't spend all that much time speculating about your sex life. Mine keeps me more than happy enough."

Tim smiled at him and said, "Anyway, he was cussing me out because I couldn't hit the target. I think the last time we did it, he saw the look on my face, and realized he was one step away from breaking the very thin thread of control that kept me from shooting him."


"Yeah. At least, I know I was thinking about it awfully hard. He'd been gone for six months, and second day home, after yelling at me for only having a 3.92 GPA and not being first string on the wrestling team, he decided we needed to go shooting, and he spent an hour yelling at me about it, and I was standing there, sweating, trying not to cry, hitting other people's targets, the back wall, the ceiling, the floor, but not my target, and I just stopped, stood there, gun in hand, at my side, and thought about the fact that I was fifteen, no record, model student, and everyone else in the damn place could hear what he was yelling at me, so they probably wouldn't put me in jail for more than six years, maybe just three, and that was starting to look awfully good.

"He stared at me, took the gun out of my hand, packed it up, saying nothing, and we went home and never went shooting again. So, you're not going to be any worse at this than I was, and I'm not going to yell at you. And I also know you're stalling. Pick one."

"Fine. I'm not just stalling." Jimmy picked the Sig up, held it in his hand awkwardly, and said, "I'm honestly curious about your dad, too. You never talk about him."

"And if you want, we'll talk about him, after we shoot. Like this." Tim showed Jimmy how to curl the gun into his right hand and use his left for support. "How's that feel?"

"Heavy. Solid. Like a gun?"

"Good. You sight down the barrel. Once you get it set, keep steady on the inhale, and gently curl your index finger in on the exhale. Slow and easy. Watch." Tim demonstrated his own technique. "Just relax into it. Find your center, block out the rest of the world, and then squeeze the trigger."

They put their ear protection back on, and Jimmy shot, and hit his target. Granted it's only twenty feet off, but still, he hit it. He looked at Tim, eyebrows high, looking really surprised. "It's actually kind of cathartic."

"Yeah. Fourteen more to go. Have at it."

He takes each one slow and easy, nice, relaxed pose, and just curls his finger into it. "You know, it's like yoga with explosions."

Tim thinks about that for a moment and shrugs.

"Really. You find your center, clear your mind, and then make your body do something while you hold the quiet."

"Don't say that to Gibbs; he'll turn you into a sniper."

"Not with my eyesight, he won't. Still, you think they'd let Breena come with us next week?"

They're at the NCIS training range. It's supposed to be personnel only, but… "We can try."

"She already knows how to shoot. Ed taught her. Still, it feels good. And I think she'd like something that feels good."

"Then bring her next week. If we can't do it here; there's got to be another range nearby."

"Abby should come, too."

Tim thinks about that. "I'd want to do some googling on that first. Run it by our OB. I don't think the shockwaves would be a problem, but…"

Jimmy nods, and Tim realizes that Jimmy's never going to smack him upside the head for being too protective of Abby again.

After the range, they decided to grab a quick coffee. At least, Tim figures Jimmy'll hold him to talking about his dad, so something that tastes good to go with that'll make it easier.

Tim brings their drinks to the table, and Jimmy wraps up a text to Breena, then asks, "You still think about it?"


"The undercover cop," he says, pocketing his phone.

"Oh." Tim exhales loudly. "Yeah. John Benedict. His name was John Benedict. Not as often as I used to. Not often enough to keep me from feeling guilty about moving on. But it'll be ten years in November, and I did move on, it's not there in the front of my mind anymore."

Jimmy fiddles with his cup. "He was going to kill us. No doubt about that at all. And I fired, hit him, dropped him, and all I wanted to do was throw up and cry."

"Yeah. Felt the same way. And then I found out he was a cop. So I did throw up, and cry. And Tony would tell you something pretty similar about the first time he shot someone." Tim figures that gets the idea across without breaking Tony's trust to never say anything about it.

"And now?"


"You've killed guys since then."

"Yeah. Got nine of them when we ran into the Sarin plot." The official report showed that all seven of the men he shot while defending the freezer had died, as well as the group leader, who bled to death after his hand was blown off, and one other guy who must have caught a bullet when they were running. "I was going home or they were, and it wasn't going to be them. I still had nightmares about it for weeks after."

"But you don't anymore?"

"Not about shooting them. Still wake up in a cold sweat thinking I'm back in that freezer again, feeling Tony pressed up against me not breathing. But that only happens after really bad days when I have a hard time getting out of whatever case we're working on."

"Your dad really called you a," Jimmy's voice dropped to almost inaudible, "cunt?"

Tim laughs dismissively, partly amused at the fact that Jimmy says the word like he's afraid it'll bite him, and partly because that's not the worst thing his dad has called him. Being called worthless, failure, and waste of talent bugged him a hell of a lot more than being called a girl or gay. "He learned his parenting technique from a string of really foul-mouthed petty officers. Apparently, if you scream at new sailors long enough, they get whipped into proper Navy shape. He was bound and determined to turn me into a sailor, so he used the same technique that worked for those guys."

"While completely missing the fact that you didn't enlist and were thus not particularly motivated to be a sailor."

"Yeah. I mean, I was, as a little kid. I'd do anything to make him smile at me. Who doesn't feel that way about his dad when he's six? But by the time I was ten perfect was the minimum requirement to not get yelled at, and I only got smiles for going way above and beyond."

"So you've been going way above and beyond ever since, pleasing everyone else around you, looking for the smiles he wouldn't give you."


"And you hook up with Gibbs who has pretty much the same set of standards, but who does pet you when you live up to them."

"Yep. And who doesn't take my failings as a personal affront."

"Failings?" Jimmy looks confused. Sure, he knows Tim isn't perfect, but he seems pretty good at his job. At least, not bad enough at anything to qualify as 'failing.'

"I'm six. My dad is taking me out on a boat for the first time. And he's hyped it up as the best thing ever. Nothing better than boats. Every good thing on God's blue earth is involved with boating and we're going boating! Yippee." It's possible that he could have gotten more sarcasm into that yippee, but not likely. "And we're going together, alone. One of the few times I can remember doing anything with my dad on my own. Wonderful." Once again, there's withering sarcasm on that word. "I get on the damn thing and within ten minutes I'm puking my guts out. And the first time he rubs my back, pets me a little, tells me it'll get better when we get further out, and then he makes me spend the whole damn day on the boat, and I spent the whole day feeling so sick I wanted to die. We get home, he tells me it'll get better, that I'll get used to it, and soon boating will be great fun. Shockingly enough, I didn't believe that. And even if it was going to get better, I was absolutely terrified of boats by that point. So the next week when he tried to take me out again, and remember, I'm six years old, I burst into tears, cried the whole way there, and then spent the whole day, because once again we had to spend all eight hours of that day on that damn boat, throwing up and sobbing. That time he started yelling at me to toughen up."

"You were six?"

"I might have been seven, possibly five. But not eight because we were back east that year, and I know it happened before we spent that year out of Annapolis."

"Why on earth did you ever sign up for anything having to do with the Navy?"

"I really am insane? No. I thought he might… approve, I guess. My last attempt to get a smile. It didn't work. Anyway, first time I'm on a boat with Gibbs, and well, yeah, I'm still sea sick, he tells me to sip some ginger ale and nibble on saltines. As long as I got the job done, it was okay that I was sick."

"Tim, getting nauseous on boats isn't a failing."

"It was in my family."

"Your dad is insane."

"Abby's said that, too."

"He pull a lot of that crap?"

"Enough so we're not speaking. Enough so that I'm dreading Sarah's wedding because he'll be there."

"Sarah's getting married?" That took Jimmy by surprise, he was fairly sure that was the kind of thing Tim would tell him, though if it happened recently...

"She's not engaged, but I assume it'll happen eventually. She and that Glen guy are moving down here in March."

"'That Glen Guy?'"

"You met him at the wedding."

"I remember. Just, you calling him that."


"I sometimes forget you're a big brother."

Tim shrugs at that. "Not too involved these days. Short of making sure my agent actually read her first novel, I haven't had to do too much looking out for her. You talk to Clark recently?"

"No. He sent a card and some flowers. My mom says he's too scared to call."


"Terrified of saying something stupid."

Tim doesn't know if Jimmy's talent for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time is a family trait or just him, so he says, "Maybe saying nothing at all is the better choice then."

"Maybe." He fiddles with his drink and sighs. "Twenty-six minutes."


"That's the longest I can go without thinking about Jon or feeling scared that something might happen to Breena or Molly."

"It'll get better."

"I know. How long before you could go half an hour without thinking about Benedict or the freezer or your dad?"

"When he's around, my dad still freaks me out, pisses me off, makes me feel fifteen and out of control again. I hate having him around. When he's not, months can go by without thinking about him. I don't remember when that shift happened, but it was after I started working at NCIS. After I stopped talking to him. After I moved to DC, changed my number, and told Sarah and Penny not to give it to him.

"It was a good year before I could go a day without thinking about Benedict. I don't remember it well enough to know more specifically than that. But I remember that a whole day had gone by, and then the next, and I hadn't thought of him, and I felt sick about it. So that kept it in my mind for a few weeks, but it kept drifting further and further away.

"The freezer…Which part of it? Nightmares every night for a solid week. Sporadically for months after. And every now and again now. If I don't get the time to fully pull out of work before sleeping, they come back. I couldn't make myself believe Tony was really alive until I touched him. That was a full day. I still hate cold, and I'm fairly sure that if someone ever gets murdered in a walk in freezer our whole team will bow out of that case; I know I can't make myself walk into one of them. Don't like pitch black, either. I get really nervous if that moment where my eyes adjust to the dark takes too long.

"All in all, I'd say it was probably six weeks before I could go half an hour without thinking about something having to do with that case. And the only thing that stopped the nightmares from being a nightly occurrence was writing it all out. I took five hours, wrote everything, staring off as McGregor, because there's a buffer between me and him, and eventually shifted into my own voice, into my own memories, that helped, at least, let me get some sleep. You sleeping any?"

"Yeah, but with help."


"No. Ducky wrote me a prescription. And I'm following the instructions."


"So, you just wrote?"

"I find it easier to deal with things if they're on paper. So, yeah, me, my typewriter, five hours and twenty-five pages later and I at least knew what the next step was."

"What was it?"

"I got all my affairs in order. Made sure that if something happened to me, Abby'd be taken care of." He smiles a little. "Stopped being a boyfriend and became a husband."

Jimmy nods at that. "Yeah."

"You can read them, if you want. Breena, too. They aren't good, but they're real. Give you a better idea of who I was right after than I'm doing by trying to talk about it."

"Has anyone else read them?"

"Abby. Wolf. Writing them got me cleared for active duty."

"I'd like to."

"I'll bring them to Bootcamp tomorrow."


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