Chapter 191: Surveillance
Having half of your team gone means you spend a lot of time on rotation. Tim and Gibbs are playing backup for the other teams or doing paperwork until Tony and Ziva get back.
And stakeout is boring enough normally, but today it's god awful torture because it's not interesting enough to distract Tim.
Okay, so by this point in his life, Tim should know that endorphins make him do stupid things. They certainly shoot his ability to determine if immediate pleasure is worth longer term consequences to hell and gone. But, God the shaving was so worth it, and they are definitely doing that again.
But apparently he's squirming because Gibbs finally says to him, "You go roll around in poison ivy again?"
Actually that's a pretty accurate comparison. The last time he felt like this he did have that case of extremely unfortunately located poison ivy. Though best he can figure baking soda paste won't help this. (Though if he was at the Navy Yard instead of in a van listening in on a smuggling ring, he'd try just to see if it would help.)
"Gotta use the head?"
He's staring at Gibbs like he's insane for asking. "No!"
"Then quit squirming like a barely potty-trained kid."
And for what he thought was a good half hour, he focused on the case, kept an ear on the stuff they were recording, but, well, it's boring. Really boring. Yes, this is important intel. Collin's team has been working on this smuggling ring for eight months, slowly building up a mountain of evidence to take at least twenty-five people down, and they're all thrilled to have two extra bodies to keep an eye on things and get them a bit of down time, but God, it's boring!
So, he starts squirming again because he can swear he can feel it growing back in. Every single hair, and by now he's pretty well convinced he's got fifteen million of them on his balls alone, and they are all razor sharp and slowly creeping through his skin.
He felt the hand connect with the back of his head a split second before he hear Gibbs say, "Focus."
Unfortunately he was focusing on the hair growing back in.
Jimmy was dead right, this is like wearing a coat of liquid sandpaper. Sharp sandpaper.
But he's trying. He's keeping at least a quarter of an ear on the discussion the mic is picking up, but right now they're talking about getting groceries. Nothing even remotely interesting. Though it does remind him they're getting low on tea (in addition to everything else, they didn't do their usual Saturday morning grocery run this weekend), so he flashes Abby a quick text about that.
So, all in all, there was a good forty-five seconds he wasn't thinking about it, but as soon as the text was done, there was nothing else to pay attention to, so the scratchy, irritated, squirmy sensation came back.
Three minutes later, Gibbs stood up, kicked the swivel chair Tim was in so he was facing him, and leaned down toward him, hands on the arms of the chair, more or less the only position where Gibbs can tower over him.
"What the fuck did you do?"
Okay, Tim knows that's the Fear of Dad coming out, but he's got no clue why. Okay, yeah, him squirming around is probably annoying, but he doesn't think he needs this.
"There's only one reason a guy squirms like that, and it's a fresh case of crabs. What did you do!"
"Woah! No!" He's pushing the chair back, but can't get any further away from Gibbs because the chair is back against the desk, and waving his hands in front of him in a don't attack gesture. "Nothing like that, at all! Shaved all my hair off."
Gibbs stepped back, looking really confused. "What?"
Tim rubs his eyes, looking horrendously embarrassed, though he'll take this over Gibbs killing him for fooling around on Abby.
"We like to really celebrate weddings, so, Abby and I shaved it all off." He pulled up his pant leg a few inches, showing off a very smooth calf.
"Why would you do that?" Gibbs is somewhere between horrified, stupefied, and Tim thinks there might be a hint of titillated curious in there, too.
"It felt really good." He shrugs a little. "You know how her skin feels really good right after she shaves or waxes?" Gibbs nods. "Well, yours does, too. It's… um… really soft and smooth, and girls really like soft and smooth, too, so… yeah… anyway… Good weekend." Tim sighs. "This part now, growing back in, not so much fun."
Gibbs nods at that, too. "Save it for the beginning of the long weekend next time."
Another minute passes, and with it the adrenaline edge of Gibbs about to attack. And when that passed, Tim starts to get pissed. He looks at Gibbs and says, "Crabs? Why the hell would you go there? You really think I'd fuck around on Abby?"
Gibbs looks embarrassed, and Tim thinks that's the first time he's ever seen that expression on Jethro's face. "This is why you don't assume. Seen the way you're squirming more than a few times back on active duty, and it was always the same thing. First two guesses were wrong, so…"
"Well, not this time." His eyes are narrowed and he's feeling really insulted. "I love her, you know that, right?"
"Guys do dumb things when they're scared. Even guys in love. Kid on the way, less sex at home, wife's changing. It can be scary."
"I'm fine. Not scared, at all. I love the way she looks right now, and judging by the fact you won't let me be alone with her for more than three minutes when we're at work, I figured you had noticed that, too. As for sex, I'm the most-fucked guy you know. Got laid seven times over the weekend. Friday morning, Saturday night, Sunday morning, at the wedding, and three times yesterday. Tony, who is on his honeymoon with enough Viagra to put him into a coma, doesn't have those kind of numbers. When would I have even had time fuck someone else? Been a bit busy this weekend."
Tim thinks about it. "Did you fuck around on Shannon when she was pregnant? Is that why you thought that?"
That got the Gibbs glare of death aimed at him.
"And me even asking it is pissing you off, isn't it?"
"Back at ya."
"I'm sorry I asked."
They were sitting in the van, staring at the monitors, listening to more random chatter.
"Why'd you become a cop?"
"Huh?" Tim wasn't paying attention to Gibbs so he missed the question the first time he asked.
So Gibbs asked again. "Why'd you become a cop? You didn't train for it. No one in your family is a cop. You had options that paid better and would have been a lot easier."
"Jethro?" He doesn't know why Gibbs is wondering this. Seems pretty random given where they are and what they're doing. Granted stakeouts tend to lead to pretty random conversations.
"Fornell asked me a while back, and I realized I didn't know. I know why Tony's a cop. I know why Ziva is. I know why Abby's in her lab, and why Ducky's in Autopsy. I know why I'm here. But I don't know why you are, or Jimmy for that matter."
"Jimmy's here because he really likes it. When he started here, it was a gig to help pay for med school. He stayed when he graduated because he likes it here."
"I'm here because I didn't have the balls to break the law."
"I figured out really quick that what I liked about computers was the fact that I was better at them than almost anyone else. It was the first time in my life that was true about anything. And at my level, you don't keep score by money, it's about what systems you can crack, who you can take down. You've got two options, you can be Anonymous, breaking into other people's systems, blowing secrets away, or you can be me, keeping the secrets safe, going after guys like Anonymous.
"I'm a realist. I'm good. I'm damn good. I'm probably in the top 1000 hackers on the planet. And if I did it full time, I'd probably be in the top hundred. But that meant there'd still be plenty other guys who could catch me.
"And catching each other is also how to keep score. The guy who takes out Anonymous wins the big prize. And I didn't have the balls for it. But stick a badge in my pocket, and suddenly I can do what I like, and not have to worry about going to prison for it. Sure, there's still a target on my back, but it's pretty small because no one knows who Tim McGee is. But since I've been at NCIS, the number of times our systems get hit has gone way up because they have noticed that someone at NCIS knows what he's doing. Eventually someone will take me down, count coup on me. But I've got a badge, so I'm on the side of the angels."
Gibbs just stares at him, amazed.
Tim shrugged a little. "Eventually, once I got out in the field, started working with you guys, it became about saving people. Originally, it was about not going to jail for doing what I liked to do. That's probably true for a lot of the guys down in Cybercrime."
He smiled at Gibbs. "Like in the westerns. The guy who puts on the badge doesn't much care about law, he just doesn't want to hang for his crimes. And eventually he decides that justice thing is important, and the badge changes him, but that's not why he got it in the first place."
Two more hours creep by. Tim's back with fresh coffee for both of them. He's been wondering something, and since Gibbs just asked him about his life…
"Why didn't the shaving thing freak you out?"
"If I told Tony that, he'd be cracking jokes right and left, watching me out of the corner of his eyes like I'm radioactive, and almost as squirmy as I am. It just rolls off of you. I get the fact that nothing I do bugs Jimmy, nothing bugs him period, but… why doesn't it bug you?"
Gibbs shrugs. The look on his face saying, It just doesn't.
"Would have bugged my dad."
Gibbs shrugs at that, too.
He touched the cuff on his wrist. "Those bruises didn't bug you, either."
"Wouldn't say that."
"You know what I mean. You were concerned, not disgusted. Only time I've seen you disgusted when it comes to sex was Tony using those girls."
"That's disgusting." Gibbs takes a sip of the coffee, gives Tim a pay better attention look, and hands the cup back to him, taking the one Tim was about to drink from.
"Not disagreeing. But get a hundred guys together, ask them which is gross, taking all the hair below your eyelashes off or having sex with a fourteen-year-old who wants to have sex with you and snuck into a frat party to do it, and my guess is eighty or more of them will side with taking all the hair off over the girl."
"Tim, what are you actually asking me?"
Tim thought about that; he is kind of beating around the bush here. But he's also having a kind of hard time figuring out how to get closer to what he's wondering about. "I'm not sure if I really am."
"Try it. I don't like the question, I won't answer."
"How did you know about padding the cuffs?" Okay, still not on target, but a lot closer.
Gibbs smiles at that. "Became a cop in '91. Worked with guys who came up in the '70s and '80s. Rules were a bit different then, but one thing stays the same, leave no bruises."
"Expecting something else?"
"Didn't even own my own cuffs until after Shannon passed. The thing with the ropes I learned with her."
Tim raised an eyebrow.
"Her parents had a place in the mountains. We had some good weekends up there. Bed was metal, tended to squeak if you pulled on it too hard, wasn't as sturdy as I would have liked. We tried a few things, and she figured that if you put the rope under the mattress, that worked just fine."
Tim chuckles at that, smiling. "That why you don't get freaked out? Been there, done that?"
|Gibbs and Matheson|
"She?" Tim's eye's shoot up. Best he knows Gibbs was in basic back in '76-'77, before there were women on active duty.
"Yes. One of the first female Marines. She was a damn good Marine, fast, strong, knew what she was doing, took a ton of shit from the other guys and just kept going. She didn't much like me at first, either, thought I was hitting on her, just being subtle about it—"
Gibbs shrugs at that, too. "Already loved Shannon. Knew I was going to marry her. But she was far away and letters didn't come every day, and Mattheson was there. I just… liked talking to her." There's a soft look on Gibbs' face as he remembers his friend.
"Liked the fact she was there and not a guy?"
"I get that." And Tim does. For as much of his life as he's spent in male-oriented activities, he genuinely likes women, and just having them near is nice.
"But, point is, she was a good Marine. And it didn't matter that she didn't have the same kind of body I did. And ever since then, guy, girl, gay, straight, whatever, just didn't matter if you did your job the way it needed to be done."
"What happened with her? She a general somewhere?"
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"I was, too. Got the news two days before leave. Couldn't even tell Shannon why I was so down. My other girlfriend got killed? Finally told her a buddy bit it, never told her the buddy's first name."
"Would it have bugged her?"
"I don't know. Didn't want to risk it. Things were going so good; I wasn't about to do anything that might have messed that up."
Tim thinks there's some warning in that sentence, maybe his conversation with Abby last night has him primed for that, or maybe Gibbs really does know and see all that happens to those he cares about.
"You still talking about you and Shannon?"
"Mostly." For once Tim's having a hard time reading the look on Gibbs' face.
"You talking about me and Abby, too?"
"Am I?" And Tim gets the sense that he can't read the look on Gibbs' face, because Gibbs also isn't entirely sure what's going on.
"This part of why you were thinking crabs?"
"No. Just a feeling."
Keep talking, Tim's expression says.
"Okay, this won't work if neither of us talks. What's the gut sensing?"
"Just, not blind. I know you" And Tim understands he means him and Abby, not just him personally, "and the Palmers get on well. Get on a whole lot better than most couples ever will. Saw the way you and Jimmy watch the girls. Saw the way the four of you dance."
Tim nods, drinks some of his coffee, realizes at the wedding was probably the first time Gibbs ever saw the four of them play with each other, and goes back to listening to the feed. Lots to process all right.
One of the reasons he loves Gibbs is that Gibbs just lets him think. Sure he'll pressure Tim for answers, fast, if it's about a case. On the case he's Scotty, Gibbs is Kirk, and it's his job to get the Enterprise flying in three minutes flat. But if it's personal, he doesn't have to come up with snap opinions and decisions, he can take the time to weigh out what's happening and try to really wrap his head around it.
More than two years ago, when he was getting ready to start courting Abby, Tim hunted down advice to do a good job of it.
And he's not done processing. Lots of thoughts still bopping around. But maybe some advice would be a good thing, too.
"We do get on well. I love Jimmy and Breena and they love us. And I love Abby. She's my world. And we don't want to mess it up. This is beyond really good. It's excellent. Living the dream. Got the happily ever after, you know?"
"We talk about it… you know? With them." Tim's expression silently asks if Gibbs is getting what he's saying.
The look on Gibbs face lets Tim know he's following along without Tim having to be more explicit.
"And until yesterday that was just a game. Hot stories for each other. But, it turns out that Abby and Breena talk about it, too. In a maybe-we'll-actually-do-it sort of way."
Gibbs' eyes widen a little at that, and Tim nods.
"And look, I've got everything, I mean everything, I could have ever possibly wanted. And more than that, I know I have it. I've got the cake, the ice cream, the whipped cream on top, with the cherry and sprinkles, but, it looks like there might be a possibility of coffee to go with it.
"And I do not want to fuck this up. At all. I mean, how often do we get called in because some moron couldn't just be happy with what he had?"
Gibbs nods at that, too.
"But I'd be lying if I said I don't want it. It's my two favorite women on earth, together… What guy doesn't want that? And if it works… I mean… amazing sex with two gloriously beautiful women who love me… But if it doesn't…" Tim's shaking his head. "You got any advice?"
Gibbs' turn to think, and he does. Tim gets the sense that this is miles beyond the sort of providing fatherly advice he ever expected he'd have to deal with.
But after about ten minutes he asks, "This wouldn't just be sex, would it? There's a big difference between the girls do something special for your birthday, and making this a real relationship."
"I don't know. But, I kind of feel like if we could do it once, then we'd probably want to do it a whole lot. And I feel like if we could do it… then yeah, it'd be more than just a way to blow off steam on the weekends."
Gibbs smiles at that, sighs, and says, "Go slow. You guys become a foursome, none of us are going to care. Have fun, enjoy it. If it blows up, we're all gonna care. It goes sour, and you might rip our whole family apart. And if it goes great, we'll be happy for you.
"Wait until after Kelly's on the outside and you're settled into being parents, and Jimmy and Breena know the new baby is healthy."
Tim's eyebrows shoot up.
"Any of the girls suddenly stop drinking at celebrations and the gig is up. I take it they aren't telling anyone yet?"
"Just us, Ducky, and Penny. If things aren't right, and they have to terminate; they don't want to have to tell everyone."
Gibbs nods, that makes sense to him. "When'll they know?"
Tim does some quick math. "Middle to late June."
Gibbs seems to file that information and gets back on target. "Biggest problem I can see is you flip out when Abby flirts with someone else, and she does it for you. I can see you're generally okay with her snuggling with him. And I can see she doesn't mind Breena cuddling on you. And I could see both of you were happy as clams at the idea of the girls with each other."
Tim nods at that. He and Jimmy had spent a good five minutes just watching them dance with each other at the wedding, enjoying it a whole lot. Anyone who was watching could have seen that, and apparently Gibbs did.
"So, if you're gonna do this, have him kiss Abby, really kiss her, and you watch. You don't want to deck him; you kiss Breena. He doesn't want to hit you; maybe you can do it. Same for the girls. Make them watch. And then take the time to really think about it. Make sure you're really okay."
Tim gives him a self-depreciating look. "Good to get input from someone who can think about it with his brain."
Gibbs snorts a short laugh at that. "Tim, whatever you do, take your time and don't be stupid about it. You've got good instincts, trust 'em."