Friday, August 16, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 160

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

Chapter 160:  The Basement

Jimmy's never been in Gibbs' basement. Of course he's heard about the boats. Who hasn't? But he always sort of figured that, well, they were some sort of exaggeration. Like, he builds model boats and they leave the word model out. Or they're the little two seat kind you go fishing in. You know, the kind of joke Tony would tell, mild hazing for the credulous.

He didn't really expect to see a full-sized boat sitting in the basement.

And, like with anything else that takes him by surprise, he asked about it.

"How do you get it out?"

"Palmer?" Gibbs sounds a little surprised to see Jimmy so soon, and honestly Jimmy's a little surprised to be here so soon as well. But Gibbs invited him, Molly's asleep, Ziva and Abby are no longer at his place, Breena told him to go, and he needs to talk.

Gibbs climbs off of the Shannon. He's just about got the temporary decking done. Another week and she'll be ready for outside.

"It's a boat. And you've got no doors."

"She. Boats are girls. This one's name is Shannon." Though really, he's stalling, debating on whether it's time to give up that secret, not that he was going to hold it all that much longer, but... Tell him. It'll be a good sign that Jimmy's really welcome down here. He points behind himself. "That wall was originally designed with garage doors, so it's not load bearing. Garage doors aren't good for wood working, too drafty, the wood gets too damp or too dry. So I ripped them out and replaced them with drywall. When the boat's done, I rip it out again, take her out, and then put it back up. Only takes about three days, but it keeps my shop in good shape."

"Oh." He looks at the boat and gently traces his fingers over her hull. "Who's Shannon?"

That shocks Gibbs, he thought everyone at NCIS knew that by now. "First wife."

Jimmy nods. He knows that story; he just didn't know her name. Gibbs watches him make a connection in his mind, and then he remembers the boat that came in after Mike got into that gun fight. "The Kelly, that was named after your daughter."


"How long ago did it happen?"

"Twenty-four years yesterday."

"Oh. Do you… do anything?"

"Not for a long time." Which isn't entirely true. He talks to what he's fairly sure is an imaginary Shannon on the anniversary of their death. But like the version of Mike that shows up from time to time, he's not entirely certain if she's in his head or if he's talking to a ghost. And honestly, at this point, he doesn't care, seeing her makes him feel better, helps to clear his head, and gives him hope. "But I always know when February 28th is. It never sneaks up on me."

Jimmy nods, fairly sure that January 8th will never sneak up on him. "I can deal with the sorrow, and Tim's right, though I thought it was insane, but fighting helps with the anger, but I can't shake the fear. I want them near me all the time. I've practically bubble-wrapped every surface in our house since Molly's started walking. And I'm just so scared for them all the time."

Gibbs nods back at him.

"Will it get better?"

"Sure. If you let it. But you've got to control it, because otherwise they'll feel smothered by it."

Jimmy nods at that. Breena's starting to get annoyed with the way he's constantly hovering. She understands, she feels that constant fear too, but him underfoot is starting to wear on her, which was a pretty big chunk of her tossing him out of the house, telling him to go talk to Gibbs. "How do you control it?"

Gibbs drags the two stools out from under his work bench and offers one to Jimmy. He also gestures to the bottles on the workbench, but Jimmy shakes his head as he sits, so he doesn't pour for either of them. "Best I can tell, you can't make it go away or tame it, only time does that. Every day you come home and find everything normal and everyone okay, gets you back in the habit of expecting okay, and that'll eventually tame the fear. Right now, all you can do is not let it own you. Right now, all you can control is how you act.

"Being a parent isn't for cowards. Nothing else will ever hurt like this, and nobody who hasn't been there will ever have a clue. And it's normal to want to protect yourself from ever feeling this way again."

Gibbs looks at the bourbon and the coffee cup next to it. Having a drink to go with this is really tempting. But if Jimmy's coping without drinking, supporting that is probably a good thing. So once again, he doesn't pour himself a shot.

"I didn't let myself love anyone for a decade after they died. Intentionally did not have any more children, and stayed away from women who had them. Abby was the first person I let in."

Jimmy just stares at him, and Gibbs is half expecting him to make some off color comment, but all he does is wait, and it occurs to him, that after more than a decade of working with Ducky, Jimmy is probably a pretty good listener.

"And that was dumb as hell. The fear won. It owned me, shaped my actions, and made sure that I and all three of my ex-wives were miserable. I didn't lose anyone during that decade, but besides Mike, I didn't gain anyone, either."

"You met Ducky then, right?"

"Yeah. And we were friends. But I never told him about my girls, never let him into my life until years later. Everyone knew I was a Marine, a sniper, a good cop, dependable in a tight situation, would marry any red-head that crossed my path for about ten minutes, and that was it."

Jimmy looks at Gibbs' left hand.

"You're still scared."

Gibbs rubs his thumb over his wedding ring. "Yeah. It doesn't go away. It never goes away. It does get better. Not letting it own you gets easier, too. But it's always going to be there."

"That's not encouraging."

"If you wanted feel good bullshit, you're in the wrong place."

"I know. I know the everything'll be all right, sparkly unicorns frolicking in meadows under double rainbows is crap. But I want it!" Jimmy looks away from Gibbs and sighs, then looks back at him. "I had as close to it as anyone ever gets, you know? And now it's gone."

dream about it...
"Yeah." Gibbs nods, smiles a little, not happy, but understanding where Jimmy's coming from. "I know. I had it, too, and then it was gone, and you can't go back, but you remember it, dream about it, and you feel like you're still there, and you wake up, and you aren't."


"You can't go back, and the future you wanted with Jon is gone, but your wife is still here, and Molly is still here, and you're still here. You're never going to be the same man; you'll be scarred for the rest of your life, but you're doing what you need to do to move forward. You're grieving but still being the man your wife and daughter need. You're never going to be the same, but eventually you are going to be all right."

"That's more encouraging."

Gibbs smiles at him. "Give Tim a call. Tell him to take Molly for a long weekend. Go away with your wife and remember why you married her, let her remember why she married you."

"How did you even know about that?"

Gibbs smiles again, giving him the I know everything look.

"I'll end up texting every two hours to see how she is."

"You think Tim and Abby will mind? He'll set up that security camera he got you for your wedding at his place if you ask him to. Go. Do something nice for Breena. Don't let the fear own you. I'm never going to tell you to take off work again, so take advantage of it."

Jimmy doesn't look convinced by this.

"You'll go, you'll worry, but you'll also have time where you enjoy yourself and Breena, and you won't be thinking about anything other than enjoying her. You'll feel bad about it when you realize it's happening, but that's normal. Go and enjoy it anyway. And when you come home everything will be fine. Molly will be okay. And you'll have an easier time with her out of your sight because it will be fine when you get home."

Jimmy pulls his phone out of his pocket, stares at it and was just about to hit Tim's contact button when Gibbs adds, "But not next weekend, because Shannon's almost ready to move outside, and on Saturday bootcamp is over here, and you, Tim, and Tony are helping me rip down that wall."

Jimmy nods, still looking up from the phone as he realizes something. "When did you start calling him Tony?"

"When he asked permission to marry Ziva."

"Oh. I prefer Jimmy to Palmer. Especially when I'm not at work."

"Okay, Jimmy. When we're not at work, Jethro is fine."

Jimmy hit Tim's contact button on his phone. "Hey, Tim…"


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