Chapter 164: Thursday
Thursday morning, he offered to drive Abby into NCIS.
He's not going to work. Between the wrath of Ducky and the fact that he tried to write a little last night, re-read what he came up with, and very promptly concluded that he wasn't nearly with it enough to do any sort of real detail work for more than ten minutes at a time, he's not willing to go near a case. He messes up a few pages of Deep Six, and well, it's annoying, but he re-does them later. He messes up on someone's financials, phone records, or God, worse, trying to break into someone's system, and that's a really big problem.
But he does want to talk to Ducky.
And Gibbs took Abby home Tuesday morning, so if he drops her off they don't end up with both of their cars at the Navy Yard.
Plus he is going a little stir crazy just laying around at home, so getting out for an hour isn't a bad idea. Maybe, if he's feeling really energetic, he'll grab some food.
But mostly, he's going in to talk to Ducky. Get this done with. And if he's talking to Ducky about it, then he needs to talk to Abby, too.
He's turned on the ignition and is pulling out of the driveway when he says to Abby, "I said some really awful things to you."
Abby nods. "Nothing I haven't already heard you say." Tim's eyes went wide, and he looked utterly shocked and horrified. That confirmed something she'd been pretty sure of for almost two years now. "You talk in your sleep sometimes, baby."
His mouth opens and closes a few times but nothing came out. Finally he says, "I didn't know that."
"Yeah, I was pretty sure you didn't remember it. You'll toss around sometimes, start cursing, and I'll poke you. Sometimes you wake up enough you seem to notice I'm there, most of the time you just quiet down and settle back to sleep."
He's thinking frantically, trying to come up with something to anchor this to his understanding of both himself and reality, but he's not coming up with anything. "I don't remember those dreams."
"I know." She stroked his hand. "I'm glad you don't. You don't seem happy while it's going on."
"I'd imagine not." If he's cursing in his sleep, the kind of cursing he was doing on Sunday, he knows what he has to be dreaming about when it happens, and yeah, not happy at all. "Does it happen a lot?"
"Every other month?" She shrugs a little. It happens often enough that it's part of the routine now, and rarely enough that it's not an everyday or every week sort of thing. "It's one of the ways I know you're stressed. It started after the case where you saw your Dad again."
"It was really… disturbing… the first few times it happened. But you'll notice I've never said anything about you and him patching things up again. That man can rot in Hell for what he's said to you." Her voice is hot and dead serious as she says that.
That's the single most hateful thing Tim's ever heard Abby say about anyone, so he's fairly sure he must be replaying the Admirals' Greatest Hits when he sleeps.
"And I know you're really unhappy about saying those things, but, really, Tim, you weren't in your right mind, and what Ducky and I did was painful for you. So, I'm not going to say it was okay, because we both know there are some things you can never, ever say to people, but it made sense. Look, you were really pissed at me on Saturday, and you had no problem expressing how pissed off you were with a whole lot of fucks and shits, but you still said nothing even remotely like what came out of your mouth on Sunday. When you've got any functional filters in place, those words don't get out of your mouth."
"Yeah." He knows that, still…. "I hate the fact they're in my head at all."
"And I hate the fact that I said them to you, called you a slut, whore, and cunt." And those are just the ones he remembers. But he knows it went on longer than that, and he knows there were extremely degrading adjectives that went with them and that they were wrapped in some really hateful sentences.
"I know that, too. But, we're okay. I don't like hearing you say things like that, but I know you don't like saying them, and I really know you didn't like hearing them, either."
"And look, if you don't want to say anything to Ducky about it, he's not going to think less of you. You want to just let it lie, and it will."
"No. I don't want him thinking that… I don't want him thinking that's the kind of thing I'd just say, especially not to you."
"Tim, really, you were out of your head. It was very obvious that this wasn't the sort of thing you were just coming up with. He could tell you were remembering, not inventing."
"Which is almost worse. He's dating my grandmother."
"You don't need to explain, at all, if you don't want to, and you certainly don't need to cover for her. If he respects her less because of this… well, I know I do."
"I know you love her. And she's strong, and capable, and lovely, and encouraged you to be who you wanted to be, but she let him do that to you. I don't hate her or anything. I know you spent most of your childhood on the opposite side of the country from her. But she still raised him, and she didn't protect you, not well enough. Same reason why even though your mom is wonderful, I don't adore her, either. They had a duty to protect you, and they didn't."
He doesn't know how to respond to that. He's always thought of his mom as one more soldier in the trenches with him, and Penny was his life preserver. She read his stories, and praised his work, and sent him encouraging letters and the books his mom wouldn't let him read, and helped him find options other than the Navy, and…
And that's more than he's got room in his head for right now.
And, they're also in the Navy Yard parking lot.
"Timothy." Ducky's hand is starting to rise as he stands up when Tim pokes his head into Autopsy.
"Just here to talk. I'm not working," Tim replies as he walks in.
Ducky's eyes narrow, like he doesn't entirely believe Tim.
Tim holds up his hands, and sits down on the desk chair in front of Ducky's computer. "Really, just talk, and then I'm going home to get another nap."
"Good." Ducky sits at the desk next to him and begins to make both of them a cup of tea. "What is so pressing you need to get out of bed to come talk to me about it."
"I don't entirely remember what I was saying when you and Abby were cooling me down, but I remember enough of it, so I know it wasn't pretty."
"No. It wasn't." The look in Ducky's eyes is gentle, but there's no excuse or forgiveness in it, either.
"I don't usually… well… ever, say things like that."
"I know, Timothy." To the best Ducky can remember, until Sunday, he'd never heard anything beyond mild profanity out of Tim, and he's seen him in some pretty tight situations.
"My dad used to say things like that, and apparently it's still in my head."
Ducky nods, suddenly getting what was going on. The gentleness in his eyes deepens, forgiveness, excuse, and a soft, and very weary, sadness joined it.
"And I'm… horrified is probably the right word, that I said things like that. I know it's not okay to ever say things like that, no matter what."
"Which is why you don't ever say things like that." Ducky finishes up with the cup of tea and hands it to Tim. "He didn't just say them, did he? He said them to you, about you?"
Ducky clasps his hands over Tim's. "None of it was ever true, Timothy."
"I know that, now."
Tim drinks some of the tea, fast, and says, "I know you're good at keeping secrets, and I probably don't have to ask… but I'd really appreciate it if none of that ever got out."
"As long as you are my patient, nothing you say or do will ever be mentioned by me to anyone who isn't you or Abby."
"But, obviously, it still weighs on you. Maybe talking to someone about it would be a good thing."
Tim shrugs a little at that. A lot of thoughts are bouncing around his head right now, and he's not entirely sure what to do with them all. Once he's had more time to process it, he'll have a better idea of what to do next. "Maybe. Abby and Jimmy know about it, at least in the abstract. Abby's got more details of how and why it happened. Until last week Jimmy had a better idea of the sort of language he used. My mom was, not exactly there, he was pretty good about not usually having an audience when he was going to really curse me out, but she knew it happened. She was there the day I told him I wasn't going to Annapolis, heard that fight. Hell, the whole neighborhood did. Same thing with my grandparents. They didn't have specifics, but they knew it was bad. There was a reason why they let me stay with them any summer he was on land."
"Penny?" And this of course, touches both of them.
"Knew enough that she didn't think twice about offering to let me live with her as soon as I graduated high school. I was on the plane to Baltimore less than twelve hours after I got my diploma. She was teaching at St. John's then, and I was going to Johns Hopkins. I didn't turn eighteen until December, so I couldn't get an apartment in my own name, and the dorms didn't open until the end of August. Anyway, Penny knew he had been very upset about me not going to Annapolis, she knew what very upset meant, and she made sure I had a safe place to land after I graduated."
Ducky nods at that, and Tim adds, "You can talk to her about it, too. If you want. I know that… you're good friends and…" He flounders on that and lets it trail off.
Ducky squeezes his hand again. "Just because he didn't use his fists doesn't mean it wasn't abuse."
That stops Tim for a good minute as an entire paradigm of his life suddenly shifts. Ducky lets him sit there, thinking, and finally Tim smiles dryly, a not even a remotely amused expression on his face. He's kind of talking on auto pilot, thinking through it as he's saying it. "Kids like me don't get abused, Ducky. No one ever says that word, let alone thinks it. We get 'toughened up' or 'taught how hard the world is.' Pick whatever euphemism that makes it sound like my dad was looking out for me that you like, and that's what happened to me."
Tim cut him off with a shake of his head. "I'm an Admiral's grandson, and at the time a Captain-on-the-rise's son. Everyone in my family knew we fought, a lot of our friends, too. But no one's ever said that word, not even Penny. There have been 216 Four Star Admirals in the history of the US Navy. My dad is one of them, and my grandfather was one of them. You rise that far, you need connections. We're Irish Catholic out of Boston. The Kennedys were Jack and Bobby to my Grandfather, and though we left Boston a long time ago, the connections are still deep. Hell, the Admiral's on the President's task force for drone war tactics. He's probably designing new ones to launch off of aircraft carriers.
"Anyway, when you're that connected, everyone looks the other way, especially if you make it easy by not leaving any bruises. So, yeah, I know it was abuse," and right that second he does, though he's never thought about it like that before, "and he knew that, also." He's suddenly very sure of that, too. "But words don't show. No bruises, no broken limbs, nothing to go in your file or make any problems when you're up for review for the next level up. As long as you've got the perfect family on paper, nothing else matters."
"I'm sorry, Timothy."
"It's long done, Ducky. Long done. Anyway, I'm sorry you had to hear that."
Ducky nods at him. "It wasn't your fault."
He flashes an irked look at Ducky. "When I was a kid, sure. But once I was older? No, Ducky, I chose not to be the man he wanted me to be. I could have been. What I didn't have in sheer talent I could have made up for with brains and drive. I could have laid down, done the things he wanted me to, gone to Annapolis, became a sailor. But I didn't. I earned the words he threw at me. I own them. They're mine, and they're the marks of being the man I wanted to be."
"Ah." Ducky doesn't quite look like he knows what to do with that. "I meant saying them to Abigail and I. You said it was never all right, and I meant to touch on that, not…"
"I'm sure what we were doing to you hurt, and with your history with cold, it had to be terrifying. It was very clear that you did not understand why we were doing it to you. You were too weak to fight, so the last weapon you had, exceptionally crude invective, came out. Since you were in no mindset to be coming up with it off the cuff, we both knew it was something you were remembering. We were sorry it was so traumatic for you."
"Fortunately, I don't remember it all that well, either." Which isn't exactly true, bits and pieces of it are still really vivid, but he's already in really uncomfortable territory and has no desire to make it worse.
They heard the woosh of the Autopsy doors opening followed immediately by, "Tim, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be home, in bed!" from Jimmy.
"Which is where I'm going, soon." Talking with Abby and Ducky has left him feeling wrung out and ready for a good long nap. "Just needed to check in with Ducky."
"You couldn't do it over the phone?"
"Gibbs wants us breaking down a wall on Saturday."
"Ahh… yes… your bootcamp assignment," Ducky quickly figured out what their cover was and snapped into it.
"I wanted to know if maybe Sunday…"
"Maybe." Ducky gives him a stern look. "Maybe. Let's see how you are feeling on Saturday and go from there. I'm certain that Tony and Jimmy can help Jethro take down that wall without your help."
"Not just us, actually. Breena wanted me to ask if you'd be up to watching Molly. She really likes the idea of seeing the boat and joining in. Gibbs had told me it was okay if she wanted to come…"
"Certainly, Jimmy." Ducky smiles at that, looking like he's enjoying the idea of babysitting.
"I should get going. Got a nap to take and some Supernatural to watch after that." Tim stands up, and grabs his jacket.
"I'll walk with you," Jimmy adds. They're in the hallway, walking slowly, when Jimmy says, "Breena pointed out last night that Ohio State made March Madness this year."
Tim nods, he's aware of what that is. And after a second it clicks why Jimmy is telling him this. Tony is a rabid basketball fan and was a Buckeye.
"She knows we still don't have a bachelor party for Tony, and suggested we keep an eye on it. If they get to the Final Four, that would be something cool, that he'd like, and wouldn't involve us taking him to a strip club."
That perks Tim up. They'd been bouncing bachelor party ideas around for a while, without coming up with any ones that Tony would actually like.
"I'll talk to my cousin and see about what you have to do to get tickets."