Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 246

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

Chapter 246: The Path

Breena came over on Friday afternoon.

Abby certainly looked better Tuesday evening, and even more better on Wednesday, but last night was her first night home, her first night on, so Breena wanted to check in and see how it had gone.

When she got there, Abby was up, so was Kelly, and as much as a ten day old baby can play, they were playing.

She doesn’t know where Tim is, but guessing by the disjoined, this-is-the-hardest-thing-on-earth, I-can’t-believe-people-do-this-on-their-own text she found on her phone Wednesday morning, she’s going to guess he’s crashed out in their bed, sleeping.

Kelly was looking fairly alert. Molly wanted to be running around and loud, which assuming Tim is actually sleeping probably isn’t a great plan, so Breena said, “Let’s get a walk.”

“What is it with you and walks?” Abby got up slowly. Standing up from sitting down is still a somewhat ouchy proposal if she doesn’t do it carefully.

“They’re good for you. Come on, time to get out of the house.”

Once again, they’re moseying along on amble speed. Breena’s got Molly’s stroller with her, but right now Molly’s tearing around, running all over the place. Fifteen minutes from now, though, she’ll probably want a ride.

“Soooo…” Breena asks as they get to the end of the driveway.

“Yeah, it’s better. Maybe not great, but better.”

“Still hurting all over?”

“Just my boobs, and just when it’s getting onto feeding time.”

“That’ll be true for a while longer, and then every time you scale back a feed, too.”


“Eh… Just part of the job,” Breena says dismissively. “So, really, you doing okay? You look better, but…”

“I am better, but…” Abby looks up at the sky, then back at her house, but not at Breena. “But I’m not me.”

Breena nods at that. “After Jon died… after I got pregnant again… I felt better, but… the woman I was before he died, she’s gone. Because I’m not that woman anymore. You aren’t the Abby you used to be, either.”

“I liked that Abby. That Abby… I don’t know… Could hook into a sort of easy happiness. And I still can’t find that.”

“You might still have some sort of low level depression. Might just be tired.”

“Maybe. I’m certainly tired. My body feels wrong. Not hurting, too much, just… not mine. My emotions are still all over the place. Mood swings like crazy.”

“But they are swinging? You’re getting highs and lows?”

“Yeah. Well, not as high as I used to get, but moderate highs, and none of the lows are as low as they were either, but still crying over stupid stuff.”

“That’s normal.”

“It might be, but it’s not normal for me.  It’s just... I liked the person I was.”

Breena shrugs. “I liked the old Breena, too. But both of those women are gone.” She thinks about that for a moment. “They were steps to being the women we’re going to be. We were girls, and lovers, wives, now mothers. There’s a cycle… a path I guess... And each step takes what came before and adds to it, but...”

“But the old steps are gone and can’t come back.”

“Right.” Breena put her arm around Abby’s shoulders. “And if the new you is more serious, less playful, we’re still going to love you.”

Abby leaned her head on Breena’s shoulder. “Even Peter Pan had to grow up eventually.”


Instead of a stroller, Abby had put Kelly in the Baby Bjorn so she was strapped to her chest. She tilted her head down and kissed the top of Kelly’s head. “Peter Pan was always my favorite. And I had a good, long run of being twenty-eight forever. But I’m forty-two. I’m married, with a baby, and when I get back to work a whole department of people to run. The days of just being me are over. And maybe that’s part of this post-baby freak out. There’s no aspect of my life anymore where I’m just me. Everywhere I look someone is depending on me.”

Breena smiled at that.

“And it’s not bad, maybe… Just… Different.” 

“Responsibility with a great big R.”

“Yeah. The one thing Tony and I always had in common, that fear of having to be in charge of anyone else. That’s why he’s skittish about kids. That’s why he’s not the team leader.”

“He’s getting there. On his own path.”

“Yeah. And I guess I am there.”

“Yep. This is the new you, new life.”

Abby patted Kelly’s bum. “This is the new life. Me… I guess I’m feeling pretty old right now.”

Breena laughed a little at that. “Not that old. Still got Tony beat by five years.” She kissed Kelly’s head. “And one of these days, she’ll decide to sleep through the night, and you’ll get rested back up, and you’ll feel like playing again. The new you has more responsibility, and the new you is a mom and a wife and a boss and all of that, but you’re still Abby, still into black and skulls and music so loud your teeth vibrate. And maybe in the late spring, when this one’s getting onto a year,” she stroked Kelly’s hair, “and this one,” she petted her own belly, “is about six months old. You and Ziva and I are going to get all dressed up, and we’re going to take our guys dancing, and we’re going to have a blast at it.”

That got a smile out of Abby. “It’s our turn to pick the club, right?”

Rock 'n' Roll Jimmy
“Yeah. You’ll finally get to see Jimmy in eyeliner.”

That got a small laugh.

“I told you he finally did that, right? Apparently Tim convinced him that his dick wouldn’t fall off if he tried some makeup,” Breena says with a wide grin. “He’s so pretty.”

“Don’t tell him that; he’ll never put it on again.”

“I know that. I was… enthusiastic… in my approval of that look,” Breena said with a giggle. “Positive reinforcement and all.”

“Pavlov’s eyeliner?”

“Something like that.”

“What color did he pick?”

Tim in green and gray eyeliner.
Abby was right, it's subtle. 
“He’s a guy… Black.”

“Of course. Did I tell you I got Tim into some green and gray?”

“No. When was that…” 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 245

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

Chapter 245: Scattered

Tim McGee with a plan is a much happier guy than Tim McGee without a plan.

It doesn’t even have to be a good plan. Though he certainly prefers good plans to bad plans. But the here’s what’s-going-to-happen, here’s-why, here’s-how, and when thing provides him with a very nice and secure safety net.

So, driving home, prescription in his pocket, grocery list on his phone, step by step plan to put into action on Operation: Getting Abby Feeling Like Abby Again he’s feeling a whole lot better than he was a few hours ago.

Abby on the other hand, is just really tired.

Right now, for her, everything else is just drowned in joint-gluing tired.

So, he dropped her home, got her settled on the sofa for a nap, hoping that being home alone will let her sleep, and decided today was the day he was going to attempt to run errands, on his own, with Kelly.

There’s a story Jimmy has told both Gibbs and Tim, but not Breena, (and certainly not Abby or Ziva, though, should Tony join the Dad club, he will eventually get this story, as well) mostly because he’d appreciate not having his wife think he is a complete and utter idiot when it comes to caring for their children.

But, after Molly was a week old, and Breena’s parents had returned to their own home, he found himself in the house with an exhausted spouse and (because this was before the discovery of Mylicon) an extremely crabby baby who had been crying for, basically, every single second she’d been awake that day.

So, in an effort to get Breena a little sleep, he packed up Molly, got in the car, and went to get some groceries.

While driving to the grocery store, Molly did, finally, fall asleep.

Now, at this point in the story, Jimmy always stresses the fact that he had gotten, maybe, six hours of sleep in the previous four days, and he also stresses the fact that it was February, so it wasn’t too hot out.

And by the time he’s finished stressing these things, most people (by which we mean both Gibbs and Tim, since they are the only ones who have heard this story) have figured out what happened next.

Namely, that with a sort of single-minded determination that only comes from being so tired you can’t remember your name, Jimmy got out of the car, carefully shut the door (didn’t want to wake Molly), quietly opened the trunk, got the stroller out, set it up, and was three quarters of the way through the parking lot, toward the grocery store when it occurred to him that he did not, in fact, actually have Molly with him, and she was, technically, still located in the car.

Gibbs does not have a story like that. And not because he was so amazingly on top of everything that he just did everything right.

No, he does not have a story like that because he did not, in fact, go out alone with Kelly until she was eight months old.

Now, part of that was being deployed from the time she was four to eight months old. Part of that was they lived on base, so there wasn’t a huge need to really go places. And part of it was it was 1982, and people didn’t much expect dads to be off, on their own, with brand new babies.

But, by the time he did go off on his own with his Kelly, he was well past the stumbling, blind tired newborn in the house part of the experience, and thus, that first trip to the park with just the two of them went awfully smooth.

So, Tim’s not exactly feeling like he’s got much of a hurdle to jump to do better on his first solo outing. Just doing it in the first place, and then successfully getting her out of the car will rank him above Jimmy and Jethro on this.

He does get her out of the car, into the stroller, and from there into the grocery store. She’s cooperating with this endeavor by sleeping.

Which he’s thinking sounds like an awfully good plan, get home, grab a nap…



He can’t get a nap when he gets home. Pharmacy says it’ll be half an hour to get the prescription ready, then check out, fifteenish more minutes to get home again and…


He’ll get them home, and it’ll be nursing time for Kelly again. And while Kelly eats, he’ll need to get food for him and Abby. (He makes a bee-line to the meat counter and stacks as many steaks as he can in the little storage area under the stroller. Then puts half a dozen of them back because he needs to get Abby more than just piles of beef.) Once that’s done, maybe he can get a little rest until the ten feed, and driving Abby to Breena and Jimmy’s. (That reminds him. He checks his phone. Yep, message from Breena, asking what’s going on. He flashes her a quick text back.) So, he and Kelly will probably be home around 11:30, and maybe he can catch another quick nap then, but really, he’s not looking at any solid sleep until… shit… 2:00.

There’s a Starbucks attached to their grocery store, and he’s staring at it as he heads toward the frozen veggies, planning on getting spinach, kale, broccoli… Is broccoli high in iron? He googles that on his phone and finds that, well, no it’s not great, but it’s got lots of vitamin C which makes it easier to absorb iron from your other food, so he tosses a few bags on top of the steaks, next to the spinach. Then he checked the spinach, saw it had even less iron than broccoli, and decided that he probably needed to recalibrate what he considers a ‘good source of iron.’ After a minute of that, while another shopper, gently, pushed by him, it occurred to him that he’d completely lost track of what he’d been doing.

Which was not supposed to be standing in the grocery store, thinking that if you can get 6% of your daily iron requirement from a serving of broccoli and 41% of it from a serving of beef that calling broccoli an iron-rich food is insane.

No, he had been pondering applying a dose of caffeine to his system in an effort to get to 2:00 AM. But, as he looks back in the direction of the Starbucks (no longer visible behind the frozen food) it occurs to him that if he does have a real coffee, he’s not going to be able to sleep, even though he’d like to be sleeping, for any of those little bits of downtime he might get.

And, more importantly, it’s not going to help him focus. He might not feel so tired, but he’s not going to be any less scattered.

Still, coffee, black, rich, strong coffee with lots of milk and sugar. He’s got the image of coffee beans, the ones dipped in dark chocolate in mind…

Wait… is chocolate a good source of iron?  More googling. Fuck! Yes it is, well, maybe not fabulous, but twice as good as broccoli, so, off to the candy section he goes.

He’s shoving bars of dark chocolate next to the steaks when something about beans (coffee beans, cocoa beans) triggers a faint memory.

He googles edamame, which Abby not only will eat, but actually likes, and bingo!

And off he headed for more frozen veggies.

Tossing them under the stroller, he’s pulling up the number of their favorite Pan-Asian place, ordering beef and broccoli, roasted edamame, and beef lo mein, he can grab that en route home, and have dinner done that much faster.

Okay. So, game plan on.

He’s in line, waiting to pay for his food, pretty out of it, kind of just staring into the distance, when he noticed the lady behind him had said something.

“Excuse me?”

She smiled kindly at him, looking pretty amused. “Babysitting?”

He thinks about that for a moment. Jeans, ratty t-shirt, black circles under his eyes, hasn’t shaved in a week, or gotten a shower in two days (he’s suddenly aware of the fact that he forgot deodorant after his last shower, and isn’t sure if he brushed his teeth this morning, so he grabs a pack of gum, popping a piece in his mouth, putting the pack on the checkout belt), God alone knows what his hair looks like (well, God, and everyone else at the market, but he doesn’t.), the bottom of his bicep cuff tattoo is visible, so’s his wrist cuff, and he’s got a black leather diaper bag over his shoulder.

He knows he wouldn’t pay anyone who looked like him to take care of a child.

“No. She’s mine.”

He gets the sense that he’s missed some of the context of what the lady behind him had said, because it looks like that wasn’t the response she was expecting, but she regrouped and said, “She’s beautiful. How old is she?”

“Seven days.”

“Letting Mom get some rest?”


Then the cashier was ringing up his purchases, so he grabbed his wallet, dropped it, tried to pick it up, dropped it again, and finally managed to locate his credit card and pay.

Driving home, he thinks he might have the context for what the lady behind him at the grocery store was saying, namely, “This isn’t really your job, is it? You’re just helping out, so here’s a cookie for trying.”

That pissed him off enough he wanted to turn around and go find her and yell at her.

This is his job; he’s not just helping out, and any bitch who wants to act like he’s not really a fucking parent because he’s the dad can just go straight to Hell, and God help the next woman who calls him a babysitter, especially if it happens before he gets some real sleep.

Home again home again.

He leaves Kelly in the car while he takes the groceries in. She’s sleeping, though probably not for all that much longer, so he doesn’t want to disturb her until the last possible moment.

Abby’s on the sofa, eyes closed, and… yes, fluttering, good. He’s making sure to look really carefully when it comes to checking if she’s actually sleeping, because he’d certainly thought she’d been sleeping before.

The food he’d put next to her before sleeping, however, was un-touched, so that didn’t thrill him.

Food, sleep, medication. It really shouldn’t be that hard, should it?

He brought dinner in. Then carefully got Kelly out of her car seat, but carefully wasn’t good enough, she did wake up, and by that point it was close enough to her next meal he didn’t think she was going to be going back to sleep until after she ate.

“Okay, sweetie, let’s get you cleaned up. Then dinnertime. Sound good?”

Kelly kept fussing.

To change her diaper outside, or take her in…

He circled to the other side of the car, laid out a blanket on the seat, and took care of it in there. Maybe 
Abby was already awake, but if she wasn’t, buying her three more minutes of sleep seemed worth it.

He made a mental note to restock the diaper bag. They’d been out a whole lot longer than expected and were down to one diaper and no wipes.

When they came in, Abby was sitting up, looking awfully sleepy, and rubbing her eyes.

He sat next to her, Kelly in his arms. “Feeling any better?”

“Meh. Hungry.”

“Good. I’ve got food. And you know what?”


“Dark chocolate has lots of iron in it!”

That got a smile. A real smile. Sure, not a light up the room, everything feels better smile, but there was actual, genuine pleasure in her look, and it lit him up.

He kissed her. “I love you.”

She nodded at that, and squeezed his hand, and said, “Sounds like Kelly’s hungry, too.”


Abby rearranged the pillows and got into nursing position. Tim handed Kelly over.

“I got us beef and broccoli, beef lo mein, and roasted edamame.”

“Sounds good.”

“Let me get the groceries put away, and I’ll get us dinner, too.”

Three minutes later, he was on the sofa, next to her, feeding both of them bites of dinner (Yes, Abby will eventually learn how to nurse one handed, but it hasn’t happened, yet.) when Abby asked how the trip had gone, and looked interested in his answer.

And right that second he’s just so happy he can barely stand it. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 244

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

Chapter 244: A Plan

So, when they made the appointment for 1:30, two days after she was born, they didn’t know that Kelly would want to eat at 1:00.

Which means, in addition to getting Abby calmed down, there’s still the fact that Kelly will wake up soon and want to eat, and it takes her about an hour to eat.

And, if he’s understanding the bits of words he’s getting between sobs, suggesting formula for the next feed is unlikely to go over well.

If it was any other appointment, he’d say fuck it, reschedule, and just let Kelly wake up and Abby feed her.

But there is absolutely no shot, at all, of them missing this appointment. Come Hell or high water, Abby’s getting to the doctor.

So, when Abby inhaled between sobs, he turned her face toward him, and said, “You haven’t failed her, at all. She’s fine, and right now, we’ve got to get moving on feeding her again. She’s gonna want to eat when we need to be heading to the doc’s, so if you could pump now, then you could be feeding her when we’re in the car.”

He stopped after that, hoping he’d not just set off another wave of massive emotional flailing, but… nope… That seemed to go well. A plan of action seemed to be working for Abby. So he hopped up, found the breast pump and a bottle, and she got to it.

He sat next to her, watching her do it, and, since previously, Kelly had always been on her breast when she’s done this, he hadn’t seen how it looks from the outside and… Wow. She doesn’t even need to pump at first, just petting the breast a little and holding the bottle over her nipple sends milk squirting.

It’s really impressive, and he’s awfully glad that nothing of his is that full or swollen, because that’s some highly pressurized milk.

Abby’s not talking again, but at least she’s not crying either.

So… Maybe… Worst it can do is fall flat. Probably won’t make her cry.

“You taste it, yet?” he asked with a little smile, hoping it might lighten the mood.

That startled her a little, and he can’t tell if the you’re insane look she’s aiming at him is because he didn’t just assume she’d tried it, or that he’d even ask if she would.

But after a few seconds of that, she nodded at him and said, “Yes, first day.”

“What’s it like?”

“Sweet. Doesn’t taste like much of anything really.” She’d hit the point where it wasn’t squirting right out, so she took the bottle away, snagged a drop on her finger and held it out to him.

Tim smiled at that and licked it off her finger. “Yep. Sweet. Not much beyond that. Kelly really likes it, though. When I give her formula, she just looks at me like, ‘Nope. Not Mom’s. I’ll consent to eat this ‘cause I’m hungry, but it’s not the real stuff.’”

That got a little hint of a smile out of Abby. He kissed her, arm around her shoulders, cuddling close to her.

“You taste the formula?”

“No.” He shook his head. “Doesn’t smell good to me.”

Mood swings. That’s what the little voice is saying. On one level hearing it again is something of a relief. On another level, she’s not feeling much in the way of a need for an extra narrator to tell her she’s being irrational.

She knows she’s being irrational.

Or maybe not. Five minutes ago…

Well, she knows it now. And, the wasted, despondent, the whole world’s awful feeling has passed, so that’s good. And at least right now she can also feel that Tim asking about breast milk is kind of funny, maybe, if you squint a little. It doesn’t feel funny. She’s not wanting to laugh or anything. But at least she’s a bit aware of the fact that someone else might consider that funny.

She wipes her eyes again, while Tim screws the bottle into the breast pump.

“I hate this.”

He looks back up at her. “I know. We’re gonna get you fixed.”

She rose an eyebrow at him and said, “Last I checked, I wasn’t a puppy.”

He almost spilled the milk he hugged her so fast and hard at that. Then he looked sheepish about it, made sure it was secure, and far enough away that he wouldn’t spill it, and hugged her more carefully. When he pulled back he said, “It’s been a long time since you made a joke.”

Abby nodded at that.

As per standard NCIS operating procedure, they are in the doctor’s office five minutes earlier than need be.

Trying to feed a baby in the car while getting to said appointment was interesting.

All Tim can say on that is that he’s glad he wasn’t the one who was doing it.

Kelly found the whole driving, moving, noise, thing unsettling. Add in hungry on top of that, and she was in a less than wildly pleasant mood. Then Abby got the bottle out, and Kelly was under the impression that bottles are a Dad, or maybe Pop, thing and having Mom, giver of milk, offer her one threw her for a loop. A loop she did not appreciate.

But eventually she did get a little of the milk on her tongue, and decided it was the real thing, and went to work on her bottle.

Thus ending up with her madly sucking away, enjoying her meal quite a bit, right when they got to the doctor’s office, so there was quite a bit more complaining about having said bottle removed from her mouth while transitioning from car seat to stroller.

So, yes, they did get to the appointment five minutes early.

They were also pretty frazzled.

And Kelly wasn’t exactly thrilled with them, either. (Though when Mom picked her up as they were walking through the parking lot and let her finish up her lunch while they headed in improved her mood.)

Janice, the receptionist, took one look at them as they headed in, smiled kindly, and then cooed appreciatively over Kelly, doing a very good job of sounding like Kelly was indeed the most beautiful baby girl in the history of baby girls

Then she dropped the bombshell on them. “Dr. Draz called in a few minutes ago. She’s in a delivery right now, so she’s going to be at least an hour late. If you like we can resch—“

“No,” Tim said it flat and fast. “We’ll see whoever can see us first, and if that’s Draz, that’s Draz, but Abby is getting seen today.”

“Okay. You can wait here, or head to the cafeteria where there’s wifi and snacks. If you want to go, we’ll text you when someone can see you.”

Tim looked at Abby, and she shrugged, very visibly not caring where they ended up. “We’ll try down there, maybe head back up here if it’s too loud for Kelly.”

An hour and twenty-seven minutes.

Okay, it’s not the end of the world, but that was a much longer wait than they had been hoping for.

They went to the cafeteria, got some drinks, walked Kelly around a bit (there’s a pretty nice garden area right outside of the cafeteria) but by half an hour of that Kelly was asleep and Abby was looking pretty droopy again.

So, back up to the Doc’s, and settling into the waiting room. Abby rested. Kelly slept. Tim felt nervous. What if this isn’t something with an easy fix? Worse, what if this isn’t something that has a hard fix? What if she’s just… broken?

But eventually, the nurse called Abby’s name, and there was more cooing about how darling Kelly is, which Tim certainly appreciates, but… He knows she’s the cutest baby girl in the history of baby girls, what he doesn’t know is what’s wrong with Abby and how to fix it, so he’s not exactly focused on how cute Kelly is.

But the nurse gets them set, and they go through the traditional motions of getting Abby’s weight and blood pressure (higher than usual) and asking what’s going on, so Tim told her, and the nurse did seem to think this was serious, writing everything down, telling Abby to get into a gown, and that Dr. Draz would be there in a minute.

Getting into the gown was the first time Tim had seen Abby mostly (she kept her bra on) naked since the day after Kelly was born. He’s not a doctor. Beyond his first aid badge as a Wilderness Scout and the CPR/First Aid training all NCIS Field Agents are required to have, he has no medical training, but even with all of that, he really doesn’t like the way her incision looks.

It’s a lot more red and puffy than he thinks it should be.

He touched it, very gently, and yes, it’s hot.


She just shrugs a little.

“Has it been like this the whole time?”

“Don’t know. Haven’t looked. It’s been sore the whole time.”

He just nods at that. Part of him wants to yell at her for not taking care of herself, scared and angry and tired all want to bubble up and out at once, but he clamps down on it. First of all, that’ll be worse than useless. Second of all, he saw she was sliding away, knew she was drugged, and didn’t think to check, either.


Dr. Draz knocked quickly and came in. Since Tim was already looking at the incision, there didn’t seem to be much need for hollow pleasantries, so she got right to it, which Tim appreciated.

She checked the incision, and when she gently palpated it, Abby shrieked and almost levitated off the examination table. “I take it it’s tender?”

The glare Tim sent her indicated that joking wasn’t going to go over well.

She listened to Abby’s symptoms, made a lot of notes, nodded a lot, and then said, “You’ve definitely got an infection. You might be anemic as well. So, in a few minutes Amanda will be back, and she’ll get a blood sample. We’ll run a full test on it, see how you’re doing. You’re going on antibiotics when you get home, but the CBC will give us a better idea of what sort. We might give you an Iron booster while you’re here. Are you still taking your pre-natal vitamins?”

Abby shook her head. “Don’t think so.”

Tim knows he hasn’t been giving them to her. “No. Should she be?”

“Wouldn’t hurt. We’ll see how her red blood cell count is.” Dr. Draz gently squeezed Abby’s knee. “We’re going to see what’s going on with you, and hopefully some antibiotics and iron will have you feeling better.”
Abby didn’t smile at that. Tim did.

And then Dr. Draz turned to Kelly, cooed over how big she was getting, how pretty she was, and thanked her for being such a good sleeper so she could have that conversation with her parents without interruption.

By the time Dr. Draz was back with the results of the CBC, Kelly was once again awake, and nursing away (which involved some interesting contortions, because there are no pillows here, no arm supports, and Abby’s now got a brand new sore spot on her left arm from the blood draw), because it had been three full hours, and you can’t tell a seven day old, now’s really not a convenient time to eat, how about in an hour?

So, soft suckling sounds went along with, “We’ve got the results back, and yes, your white blood cells are high, red cells are low, and your blood sugar is a bit off, too. We’re going to give you a shot of iron to get your red cell count up, and for as long as you’re still bleeding I want you taking iron supplements and eating high iron food.”

“Red meat; leafy, dark green veggies; milk…” Tim said, making sure he’s remembering what to get correctly.

“Yeah, if it comes from a cow or Popeye sang it’s praises, you’re good.” Draz fished out her prescription pad. “I’m also going to write you a script for Cipro. If the heat and swelling on your incision hasn’t gone down in two days, I want you back here.”

Nods from Tim and Abby.

“When was the last time you ate before seeing me?”

“Food, or anything?” Tim asked.

“Real food.”

He looked at Abby, she’d mentioned having breakfast, but he knows she slept through when he ate lunch, and then there was crying, pumping, and off to the Doc’s…

“Have you eaten anything since breakfast besides that shake?” He’d gotten her a vanilla milkshake at the cafeteria.


Draz made a note of that. “Okay, hopefully that explains the low blood sugar. With any luck, the iron and antibiotics will have you feeling better and you won’t need the reminder, but, you have to eat. Kelly eats every three hours, and you should, too. Some sort of snack, and at least three real meals. You’re down twenty pounds from the last time I weighed you, and yes, I know you’re holding seven of them and that between the water weight and the placenta, that’s most of that twenty pounds, but given how much bigger your breasts are, that means you’ve probably lost seven pounds of fat. That’s too much weight loss too fast.

“Keep eating. A lot. Even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. If you’re nursing and back to your pre-pregnancy weight in a month, something is wrong. As long as you’re nursing you should be no less than five pounds heavier than you were pre-pregnancy.”

Tim and Abby nodded at that, too.

“I want to see you back here in a week. If you’re not feeling significantly better, we’re going to start talking about post-partum depression and how to cope with that. I’m not a fan of medicate first and ask questions later, mostly because anti-depressants are very serious medications, so we’ll start with lifestyle changes, but if medication is where we need to go to get you enjoying being yourself again, that’s what we’ll do. Yes, being upset post-baby is normal. Yes, being exhausted is normal. But you’re supposed to enjoy this, too. So let’s get you back to the point where you can enjoy this.”

More nodding. Tim’s very much on board with this plan. Abby doesn’t precisely look like she thinks enjoying anything ever again is on the menu, but she’s also not looking like it’s impossible either.

“For now, as much rest as you can get. Your friend who came up with the alternate nights plan, go give her a hug from me; that’s a really good idea. Eat. Take the meds. This is a really hard job, and you’re doing it sleep deprived, sick, and loopy from pain medication. That’ll make anyone feel horrible.”

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 243

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

Chapter 243: The Rollercoaster

This is useless and futile and stupid.

They’re driving toward Breena’s house. Kelly’s in the backseat, asleep. Tim’s not saying anything, and Abby’s drowning in failure.

Feed the baby.

Everyone else in the whole damn world manages to do this just fine without going bonkers, but she can’t. Breena didn’t need to run away from Molly to cope with this. She did just fine.

But Abby can’t. Her mind won’t shut down. So instead of lying, tense, in her own bed, watching the gray night get darker and then lighter, and the red glow from the numbers on the clock, and the green glow from the baby monitor flickering away, she’s going to Breena’s so she can spend the night staring at an entirely different set of glowing lights, not sleeping, aching, drowning in overwhelming failure.

And tomorrow they’ll go to the doctor and she’ll get poked and prodded and it’ll just be more futile. There’s nothing wrong with her besides epic failure.

Beside the fact that she can’t do the one thing every woman on earth was designed to do.

Tim drops her off, leaves the engine running, Kelly in her seat, and walks her into Jimmy and Breena’s, kissing her gently, whispering, “Sleep well,” and heading off.

Like I’m not sleeping by choice. Like all I have to do is just change my mind, and then I’ll be able to sleep.

Breena takes her upstairs, and yes, the bed is soft, and comfy. And there’s some chamomile tea, which smelled pretty good, and was actually fairly tasty, and…

“She asleep?” Jimmy asked when Breena came back in from checking on Molly and Abby. It’s their pre-bedtime routine, while he’s brushing his teeth she goes and just looks in on Molly. This time she added Abby to the list.

“I think so. What’d you put in the tea?”

“Very mild sedative. Low dose, too. She’s already on pain meds, so I didn’t want anything to mess with that. Just enough to take the edge off and help her brain shut down.”

“Looks like it did. She was saying that she’s not been sleeping, and that everyone thought she was because she’s been so quiet, but right now she’s snoring…”

Jimmy nods, rinses out the toothpaste in his mouth, and says, “Let’s hope that’s a good sign. Breast pump already in there?”

“Yeah, and extra bottles. Hopefully she’s tired enough she’ll sleep right through and just be really happy to see Kelly come morning feed time.”

“Let’s hope.”

Trying to sleep and still be awake enough to get up for each feed is fucking impossible.

Tim is getting very, very clearly why Abby was having such a hard time shutting down. With him being the one who’s got to wake up enough to grab her (because before, when she started to ask for food, Abby would poke him, he’d go get her, get her cleaned up, and then bring her to Abby.) means that every time he hears a little chirp or squeak through the baby monitor he jerks back to full on awake trying to figure out if it’s food time.

He did that straight through the 11:00 to 1:00 AM sleep time.

Finally, at close to 2:00, having just laid down again after the 1:00 AM feed, as he was staring at the flickering green light of the baby monitor, seeing it light up brighter every time Kelly breathes or sighs or makes some sort of little noise, he turned the damn thing off.

She’s less than thirty feet away. Her door is open. His door is open. He will hear her when she cries. He does not need to hear every baby sigh.

And with that he was able to sleep from 2:30ish to 4:00, when, shockingly enough, he was indeed able to wake up at the sound of Kelly requesting breakfast.

Granted, he was feeling just about numb with tired by the time he had the bottle made up and in her mouth, and he might not have done the most thorough clean up job on the diaper change, but he did get out of bed, get food into her, get her burped, and then got her back into her crib and him back to sleep a bit after five.

And apparently at some point Abby got home, and must have fed Kelly, but he slept through that, waking up at close to nine with a panicked jerk, found Abby in bed next to him, dozing from the looks of it, but she opened one eye when he jerked awake.

“Hi,” he said when his heart stopped pounding.


“Feeling any better?”

She shrugged. “Little bit.”

“Did you sleep?”

“Yeah. Think Jimmy slipped me a mickey. I was awake. There was tea. Next thing I knew it was 6:30, my boobs were going to explode, and Jimmy was gently poking me to get up.”

Tim smiled at that. “You got home, fed her, and…”

“And we hung out for a little bit after, I had some breakfast, and she went back to sleep about eight thirty.”

Tim’s nodding, that sounds about right.

“You want to go back to sleep? I’m up and on duty now.”

“Gonna try.”

“I turned off the baby monitor. That helped. Maybe we could get you some ear plugs, too,? See if that makes it easier for when you don’t need to be on?”


She didn’t look enthusiastic about that, but it’s also the longest conversation he’s had with her in… maybe two days, so he’ll chalk that up to things moving in the right direction, and headed downstairs to see about getting himself some food.

If you haven’t slept for a while, and then you do sleep, you tend to feel really awful after you wake up. Abby had read something about that’s your body’s way of screaming: ‘Please, give me more sleep. I want the sleep. Sleep is good! More sleep!’

Her body is screaming for more sleep, and maybe it’s because she was able to finally shut down, maybe it’s just left over whatever the hell it was Jimmy stuck in that tea, but, hearing Tim bustling around downstairs, she was able to fall back to sleep again.

And then woke up at noon, feeling still out of it, still mired in hard sleep and sick and aching and God, her boobs really were going to explode, and when she saw the clock there was a stab of utter, blind panic; she’d slept through a feed. Which meant Kelly had to have been crying, fussing, and she slept through it.

Her baby needed her and she slept.

There was a drowning wave of guilt that went with that. A paralyzing sensation of even more failure, and once again, sobbing.

Which got Tim’s attention. She doesn’t know what he’d been up to, but suddenly he was there, holding onto her, petting her back, saying something, she doesn’t know what, doesn’t care. It doesn’t help, can’t break this pain.

Her baby needed her, and she didn’t wake up.

Okay, Tim’s good on the idea that getting Abby more sleep is an excellent plan. He’s right on that one.

He’s not sure if her sobbing uncontrollably on their bed, saying something about Kelly needing her and failing, is good.

She’s making noise, and communicating with him, so that’s… better? Ish? Maybe?

Or that little, quiet voice Gibbs had mentioned to him finally died and she’s full out gone.

Either way, they’re going to the doctor’s in an hour, so hopefully they can put a plan beyond get more sleep into action, and please, please, God, please, find something to make this better.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 242

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

Chapter 242: Help

One of the facts of the funeral industry is that you rarely have off time, per se. Funeral homes don’t really close. But, like with any other business, every person has their own specialty, and those take place at different times.

Breena’s a mortician. (Her mom is the Funeral Director, so she handles the front of the house, along with her sister. She and her Dad take care of the bodies.) So her part of the job usually takes place over a fairly set number of hours. Usually in the morning.

So most days she works from eight to one, maybe two if they get a lot of people in.

Which means most days she picks Molly up from daycare, they play a little, then nap time, more playing, eventually Jimmy gets home, dinner, and then they have some time with each other once Molly goes to bed.

It works pretty well.

And it also means it’s fairly easy to swing by Tim and Abby’s once Molly’s up.

Because Breena’s mommy senses are tingling, hard. Something more than just baby blues is wrong with Abby, and that needs to get nipped in the bud. 

Tim’s looking awfully glad to see her when she comes over. Abby’s nursing Kelly, and Breena goes to sit next to her. She’s not talking, not really all there, and it… it just hurts so see her so out of it.

Breena goes to get Abby an extra drink, and Tim tags along. “What sort of meds is she on right now?”

“Tylenol 3, now. It’s got codeine in it, but she was like this yesterday on Percocet.”

“Okay. She sensitive to opiates?”

“Not that sensitive. Morphine just made her really happy.”

“All right. When was the last time she was out of the house.”

“Day we brought Kelly home.”

“Once she’s done nursing, we’re going for a walk.”

“Sounds good. I’ll keep the girls busy.”

And so, post-nursing, Breena gently cajoled Abby out of the house, and started a slow amble around the neighborhood.

Once they got out of sight of Abby's house, Breena said,“Talk to me, Abby, come on I’ve been there, done that, and have the milk and spit-up stained commemorative t-shirt.”

Abby just shrugged a little, looking awfully listless.

“I’m not Tim. You aren’t going to say anything that horrifies me. You probably aren’t going to say anything I didn’t think myself. Just let it out, because it’s never going to get better if you keep it inside.”

She shrugged again.

“Come on.”

Abby slumped a little, and Breena wrapped her arms around her.

Finally Abby said, “It’s never going to get better. It can’t get better. This was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made, and I can’t fix it or make it better because she’s a person and Tim adores her so if I want him I’ve got to keep her, and I just don’t…” and from there Abby lost her words as she sobbed on Breena’s shoulder.

“Hey… It’s okay to feel like this. It’s okay,” Breena said quietly while rubbing Abby’s back. “It’s okay.”

“I don’t want anything bad to happen to her. I just wish she was gone. Wish we had never done this. I feel like I set fire to myself. Everything hurts all the time. It’s unending, a constant, sucking black hole of never ending need that I’m feeding myself into, breaking into millions of pieces and it just never ends.”

“It’s okay, Abby.”

“I’m so alone on this. I can’t really sleep, can’t really relax because there’s just me. If something goes wrong, I can’t count on him.”

“Oh, honey.” Breena keeps petting Abby's back, hating seeing her so gone and desperately hoping they can get her better.

“I can’t ever turn off. I don’t want her. Don’t want him. Don’t want me, even. Don’t want anything. But I can’t turn off, can’t relax, can’t fail." Abby sounds utterly crushed as she's saying this. "Too many people expect me to be perfect, so I’ve got to do it. It just never ends. There’s no breaks. No free time. I’m trapped, chained to a seven pound person who needs me all the time, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“I felt the same way when Molly was little.” No she hadn’t, not even close, but right now Breena figures Abby needs someone to talk to who’s been there way more than she needs the truth. “You are going to get through this. I did. You are.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. If I have to pick you up and drag your ass through, you’re going to get through. Look, you may need medication for this. And that’s okay, too, but maybe, first, we could try getting you some sleep?”

“Can’t sleep." Her eyes are wasted, dead, staring off into the distance, not seeing the tidy houses and neighbors going about their summertime. "If I sleep something might happen, so I’ve got to be there and able to deal with it.”

“No, you don’t. Tim’s got this.”

“I lay there, eyes closed, trying, but I can’t sleep. They think I’m asleep because I’m so quiet, but I can’t sleep.”

“If you came to my house, do you think you could shut down?”

“I can’t go to your house; I’ve got to feed her.”

“No you don’t.”

“But formula—“

Breena knows they’ve been over this once, and she knows how Abby got on the c-section thing, so she’s assuming this is just a symptom of not having the rational part of her mind in charge. “No. You do not have to breastfeed every single meal. She will not starve, and you need the rest. She’s doing a one AM and four AM feed, right?”


“Those two. You’ll do a bottle for them. Tim’ll get the first three nights, and if you have to stay at our house to let him do it, we’ll do that, but you have to sleep. By three nights your breasts won’t be killing you, Kelly won’t be expecting to nurse those feeds, and then you two can alternate nights, which means at least three nights a week you’ll get eight straight hours of sleep. And with any luck, once you get closer to rested you’ll remember why you love Kelly and why you wanted to make babies with Tim in the first place.”

“It’ll hurt.” She just looks so defeated by that. Like one more pain on top of all the other pain is the straw that’ll not just break the camel’s back, but kneecap it, hamstring it, and then slit its throat and piss on its corpse.

“I know, honey, but we have a breast pump at my house. You pump enough to take the edge off, it takes ten minutes, you go back to sleep. Next night Tim’s got milk for one of the feeds and formula for the next, and by the time three days are up, your body is used to it. You need the sleep. You need the down time, and if you have to come to my house to get it, you come to my house. We’ve got a perfectly good guest room with a very comfy bed and absolutely no little babies that need to be fed every three hours.”

Abby doesn’t look like she’s buying it. But she also doesn’t look like she’s going to fight with Breena about it.

“Come on, we can’t figure out if this is just you so tired you can’t see straight or something worse until you get some sleep. And maybe, if you can get that sleep, you’ll start to feel like you again.”

Abby doesn’t look like she’s buying that either.

“Tell me about hurts all over. What’s going on with that?”

“I just ache, all over. The incision aches. My breasts ache. My joints ache. Hell, my teeth ache.”

“Okay, that’s not normal. You’ve got a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, right?”


Breena sees that answer and suddenly gets that Abby has no idea what day it is. “How’s the bleeding going?”

“Still pretty heavy.”

“How heavy?”

“New pad every two hours.”

Breena places her hands on Abby’s forehead, but doesn’t feel any fever. Of course, Abby’s also on Tylenol, so if she did have an infection, that might be stopping any fever she might have.

“You and Tim have to make sure to tell the doctor that. If you’ve got an infection or if you’re getting anemic, that’ll mess with how you’re feeling.”

Abby nods, listlessly.    

“Come on, we’re going around the block, at least once, getting you some fresh air, some sunshine, and a few exercise endorphins.”

Abby shrugs, letting Breena lead her.

This is why TV in the 70s/80s rocked.
When they got back, Tim had Kelly in her crib, sleeping, and was watching the Muppet Show with Molly. Elton John was belting out Crocodile Rock while Muppet Crocks in danced around.

Breena walked Abby up to their room, got her settled and said, “Rest. Tonight you come to my place, and we’ll get you some solid sleep.”

Abby nodded and laid down.

Then Breena headed down.

Tim looked at her expectantly.

“She’s not sleeping, at all.”

“What? She’s in bed all the time.”

“She might be, but she’s not sleeping. She can’t shut down. She’s on constant alert. But we’ve got a game plan. She’s gonna rest, do the dinner feed and the bedtime feed, then she’s coming over to my place tonight, where, with any luck, she’ll be able to shut down and sleep. You’re on tonight, tomorrow, and the night after, and if she’s got to stay at my place to sleep, she will.”

Tim nods along with that. “Not a problem.”

“If we’re lucky she’s just so tired she can’t find her way anymore. If not this is full on post-partum depression maybe edging onto psychosis, so I want you to take this very seriously, if a few nights of sleep isn’t perking her up, both of you are going to the doctor to see about some medication for this. Don’t just let this slide, and if she’s still not talking to you after a few nights of sleep, I don’t care how much she doesn’t want to go, you’re taking her to the doctor’s. Kelly can come to our place, we’ll keep watch over her, but you make sure Abby gets whatever help she needs.”

“Okay. That, I can do. I will carry her in if I need to.”

“Good. She’s telling me she’s still bleeding heavily and aches all over. Make sure the Doc knows that. She might be anemic or have some sort of low grade infection and that could be knocking her for a loop.”

Tim nods, grabbing his phone and taking notes.

Breena checked the clock, 5:30, getting onto dinner time. “Molly and I are going to head home. You bring her over to our place after the 10 o’clock feed, and Jimmy’ll bring her back in time for the 7:00 AM one.”

“She’ll be over at your place around 11.”

“When’s her appointment tomorrow?”

“One thirty.”

“Give me a call when you get back.”

“Will do.”

And plan in place, Breena gathered up Molly to head home and get ready for dinner time.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 241

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

Chapter 241: Father's Day

“Everything still on schedule?” Jimmy asked Breena as he hopped into their car after Bootcamp.

“Tony texted three minutes ago. Abby’s awake. Kelly’s awake. Tim’s awake.”

“Good. You got the present?”

Breena rolled her eyes at him. “You think I’m going to forget the Father’s Day present when I’m driving to the Father’s Day gathering?”

Back in the beginning of June, after they had the c-section scheduled for the 18th, with, supposedly, the day they’d be coming home the 21st, Father’s Day, Abby had given the Father’s Day present she’d gotten for Tim to Breena, along with a promise to make sure he got it. Abby had been pretty certain that they’d be a bit too pre-occupied to remember it, otherwise.

Jimmy’d been talking to Tony about it. (Tony had asked what his weekend plans were, so he mentioned bootcamp, and that Breena had something special planned for him for Father’s Day breakfast, and then over to Tim’s to drop off his present.) And Tony mentioned that he and Ziva had the present that Tim and Abby wanted to make sure that Gibbs got.

And from there a plan was born.

It’ll be a pretty fast visit. Presents, quick dinner (Penny and Ducky are bringing it), and off again. They don’t want to cut too much into Tim or Abby’s rest time, or do anything that might stress Abby out, but an hour to exchange some presents, enjoy each other’s company, and have a good meal seemed like it’d be welcome.

And, of course, the dads in question do not, (they hope) know this plan is in the offing.

Jimmy shrugged at Breena. “Just checking. Getting her out the door can take a lot of attention, and I know I forget things,” he said, looking back at Molly, sitting in her car seat, babbling about going to Uncle Tim and Aunt Abby’s house and seeing the baby.

Jimmy flashed a quick text to Ducky, waited a few seconds for the response, and said, “Ducky and Penny are about ten minutes out.”

“Okay, and Ziva’s got Jethro, no problems?”

“None at all.”

“Great. So how was Bootcamp?”

“Fun. Different. I feel like I need instant replay when I go up against Ziva; she’s so fast.”

Breena smiled at that.

“She tells me Draga would like to join in, but wanted to see how we felt about it first.”

“And how do you feel about it?”

“Eh. I’d rather he didn’t join in, but can’t think of a good way to say it without sounding stupid.”

Breena was surprised by that. “Why not?”

“It’s just… If it’s just us and Gibbs or Gibbs and Ziva, it’s… not a pissing match. We’re bad at this. Maybe not on a cosmic level or anything, and we’re getting better, but, Tim and I, we’re still bad at it. And just the three or four of us is fun. It doesn’t matter that we’re bad and they’re better, and… Look, Draga’s probably a great guy. Ziva likes him. But I don’t need my ass handed to me on a weekly basis by some twenty-nine-year-old flyboy. But I don’t know how to say that and not be a jerk.”

Breena nodded.

“And on top of it, he’s new to DC. His last posting before FLETC was Colorado, so he’s not close to any of his friends, and is probably looking for something to do on the weekends, so I get why he might want to come along, but…”

“What’d Gibbs say about it?”

He didn’t. Just kind of looked at Ziva and shrugged. I’m sure there was more to that look than I was getting, probably something about their team dynamics and leadership and something with Tony, but Ziva seemed to get it, so I don’t think it matters if I got it all or not.”


“You sure it’s okay we stay for dinner?” Tony asks Gibbs as he and Tim ‘start to get ready for dinner.’

“Just making chicken on the grill and salad. Adding two more chicken breasts isn’t a problem,” Tim answers, though he’s the one on salad duty.

Tony heard a car pull up and grins. Tim’s talking to Gibbs about Bootcamp, so he missed the sound of car doors opening and closing, but he didn’t miss the sound of his front door opening, and Jimmy and Breena’s voices, as well as Molly shrieking, “BABY!”

Tim and Gibbs are both looking pretty surprised. Tony put an arm around each of them, steering them out of the kitchen and into the living room. “Or, how about we handle dinner, and you two relax and enjoy your Father’s Day.”

Of all the things Tim might have expected, surprise Father’s Day celebration was nowhere on the list. Sure, he’d decided he wanted to do those pictures for Jethro, but somehow the idea that Father’s Day would roll around and he would be a Dad hadn’t occurred to him, at all.

But he is a Dad, and he’s home, with his family, sitting next to Abby, who’s holding Kelly, opening a card, with, ohhh…. He really likes that.

It’s a tattoo idea. A small green dragon, this one properly fierce looking, not a ‘my little dragon.’ It’d go on his calf, with a slim knotwork band circling the rest of his leg. If they have other children there’d be room for other bands. Eventually, when they know they’re done with babies, they could close it off, with two bands one above and one below the main design, that would circle his leg completely, one for each of them.

Yeah, he likes that a whole lot.

There’s a gift certificate for it, but no set appointment date, which makes sense because he knows this’ll take a while and he’s got no desire to wander off long enough to get it done, not now. But eventually… Oh yes.

He kisses Abby. “I really like it.”

“Good.” She nods, and there’s a hint of a little smile on her face. He hugs her tight and kisses her again, trying to get across how pleased he is, and hoping maybe some of his joy could rub off on her and light her eyes back up. But the best he gets is a little glimmer of… something, maybe it’s joy.

He passes the sketch around, and everyone seems to approve, though Tony makes a crack about never getting him out of the kilt once he’s got something on his leg to show off.

He laughed at that. “No point to having them if no one ever sees them.”

Ziva looked at him, amused, cool smile on her face. “I wouldn’t say that. Sometimes it’s nice to have a secret that only intimate friends get to see.”

Tony smiled at that, looking a little cocky, and Breena added, “That’s right, you have one, too, don’t you?”

Tim takes a minute, thinking about exactly how much of Ziva he’s seen, and how he’s never, ever seen a tattoo, so where said tattoo would have to be, and laughed a little at that.

“I stand corrected, Ziva. So, what is yours?”

Ziva smiled wide and mysterious. “Like it’s exact location, what it is, is a secret.”

“This started as McGee’s idea,” Ziva said as Tony handed Gibbs a nicely wrapped rectangle.

“Then he passed it off to us,” Breena added, “Because there was one bit that they weren’t able to get for themselves.”

“Then we got it for safe keeping and timely delivery,” Tony wrapped up.

Gibbs slipped his finger under the pretty silver paper (He’s thinking Breena was in charge of wrapping as well as whatever the last bit was, because he cannot imaging any of the boys, let alone Abby or Ziva owning or using silver paper with little pink and white flowers on it.) and carefully ripped it apart at the tape.

Under the paper he found a three part frame, and in that frame was three pictures. The first one was him with the boys at Tony and Ziva’s wedding. The last one was him with his girls, also at Tony and Ziva’s wedding. And the middle one, the one Jimmy and Breena must have taken, was from the hospital. He’s holding Kelly in one arm, and Molly is sitting in his lap, his other arm around her, looking at her cousin, very gently touching her face.

All the girls got kisses (including the two baby ones), and the guys got some affectionate hair ruffling. He got to Tim last, and looked at him with a combination of thanks and what inspired this?

Tim just shrugged a little, and said, quietly. “You mentioned not having pictures. I know we’re not them, but… Thought you might have like having some.”

Gibbs nodded, smiling, and sat down, looking over the shots again.

Ducky, sensing this was probably too much emotional touchy, feely stuff for the guys in this crowd to be comfortable with, suggested that they grab some dinner, which seemed to make everyone more comfortable.

And so, dinner, grilled chicken (not cooked by Gibbs), salad (not made by Tim), watermelon, and cupcakes were had and enjoyed, as well as some adventures in fathering stories from Gibbs and Jimmy.

As they were cleaning up, Tony pulled Gibbs aside and said to him, “You don’t need to come in tomorrow.”

Gibbs gave him the Really, you sure? look.

“Unless someone turns up dead, I’m good with Ziva and Draga. Stay here, be a Dad, it’s good for you.”
Gibbs looked from Tony to Ziva, not able to put the idea into words, but still getting across, Tim and Abby aren’t my only kids.

“Yeah, but they’re the ones that need you right now. I’ve got work. Someone dies; I’ll call.”

Gibbs nodded at that.

And of course, less than ten seconds after that nod ended, his phone, Tony’s phone, Ducky’s phone, and Jimmy’s phone all rang at once.

Tony got his first. Dead Marine out at Quantico.

And so, as quickly, and as much of a surprise as Father’s Day was to start, it ended. And to Tim it does feel pretty weird to watch them head out, getting ready to go and find the dead man’s killer, and not go along.

Breena, Molly, and Penny stuck around to make sure everything got cleaned up. Penny mostly kept an eye on Abby and Molly, keeping the little girl occupied and making sure she wasn’t too rough with Abby or Kelly.

Tim was putting away the extra food while Breena rinsed off the cutlery, sticking it in the dishwasher.

“She been like this the whole time?” Breena asked, and he didn’t need any clarification that she’s talking about Abby.

“Pretty much.”

“When’s her next doctor’s appointment?”


Breena nods. “Make sure you mention it to her. This isn’t normal.”


“She still bleeding heavily?”

“Maybe? Why?”

“If her iron levels are off, that can depress mood.”

“I’ll mention that, too.”

“Good. She’s going to get better, Tim.”

“I know. But the girl who designed that tattoo’s not here right now, and that scares the hell out of me.”

Breena nodded. “You gonna be okay on your own tomorrow?”

“If I’m not, I’ll call.”

“Even if you are, give me a call anyway. After nap time we’ll swap. You take Molly, and I’ll get Abby out of the house for a bit.”


Breena hugged him. “No problem.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 240

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

Chapter 240: The Fifth Day

So, in one of the books he read, and no, at this point Tim has no idea at all which one it was in, there was something about how for the first three days babies more or less sleep all the time, and you get to this point where you’re feeling a little cocky about how easy it is to get them to sleep and that just possibly you’ve got this sleeping thing down and really, it’s not that hard.

And then they wake up.

And the universe laughs long and hard at your idiot-new-parent hubris.

And so, on day four, when Tim was starting to feel like maybe he did have a handle on this baby thing, Kelly woke up.

It amazes Tim how one tiny person, a person smaller than the bags of sugar he used to buy for his coffee, can suck the energy out of the three adults currently devoting their time to managing her.

Even Gibbs keeps falling asleep holding her.

It’s like she’s some sort of energy sink. Like the food and sleep isn’t what’s giving her the energy to grow. Psy Vamp, Psychic Vampire, a term he hadn’t thought about since college, like she’s some sort of tiny Psy Vamp draining them of any and every desire to do anything other than sleep.

Or maybe it’s that she slows down time. The constant buzzing distractions of life fade away when caring for a newborn, and with the distractions that keep your mind busy offline, all you want to do is nap.

He’s worked around the clock many times. Worked flat out, just catching cat naps, subsisting on caffeine and adrenaline for days at a time.

But this is different. He can feel his time sense slipping away, not sure if it’s day or night. The fact that it’s been gray and rainy isn’t helping, no sunrise, no sunset, just gray and darker gray and then occasional thunder storms to liven up the dark or not so dark gray.

Life’s slipping into three hour shifts, long, long, long three hours shifts when he’s awake for a full one, dealing with a tiny person who is now very awake and interested in letting everyone in the universe know that, and much, much, much too short when he’s trying to sleep.

And at least he and Gibbs can share them. Abby’s got to get up for all of them, and he can’t imagine how she’s doing this because he feels wrecked, and he’s not the one who got cut open, he’s not the one healing up from major surgery, and he’s not the one who’s providing food 24/7 for this tiny person.

He crashes most of the day, when Gibbs is there. Gibbs heads home to his own place at night, so Tim is on for those hours, and poor Abby’s got to do them all.

She’d been crashed out, utterly exhausted at four AM, so he’d headed down to get a bottle, let her get some more sleep, which she really, really looks like she needs, and she just about bit his head off, because apparently skipping a feed hurts like a son of a bitch, so while he’s got permission to feed Kelly, apparently it’s not a great plan to actually execute.

“Come on, Kelly, sleeping time. Please, baby, sleep.” He’s pacing around their downstairs, patting her back, begging her to sleep. Done about twenty-five circuits of their floor plan, desperately trying to get her to settle down.  Somehow, Kelly decided that her really-active-let’s-play-with-Dad-time would be from 4:00 to 7:00.

She’s alert, awake, crying, for God alone knows what. She’s fed, changed, burped, comfortably warm, and he’s stripped her down twice to make sure nothing was pinching her or uncomfortable.

If she wasn’t five days old, he’d be thinking she’d doing it just to piss him off.

And honestly, he’s awfully tempted to think she’s doing it just to piss him off even though she is five days old.

“Fuck it.” He headed into the living room, booted up the Playstation, turned on Twisted Metal Black, which he hasn’t played in forever, laid down on the sofa, Kelly on his chest, still complaining about life in general, and started to play.

He’s terrible at it. Hasn’t played in years and completely fried to boot, but the music is loud, the controls are easy, and by some miracle (perhaps putting his DNA together with Abby’s means he’s got a proto gamer on his chest) Kelly shut up and in five minutes fell asleep.

He played for ten more minutes, making sure she’s really asleep, then kissed her forehead, turned off the game, and crept up the stairs to put her in her bed and catch a few more hours of sleep.

He hit their bed, almost asleep, and heard Abby say, “Were you gaming?”

“Yeah. Needed some distraction. I was starting to get pissed at her and that’s not good.”

He feels her nod.

“What were you playing?”

“Twisted Metal Black.”

“Old school.”

“Yep. Were you able to sleep at all?”

He felt another head shake from her. Tim’s better at sleeping through a crying Kelly than Abby is, but neither of them are good at it. He looks up and sees it’s 5:55, an hour before Kelly’s due to eat again. “How about you pump now, and I’ll take the next feed, see if we can get you four solid hours of sleep?”

One more nod, then the feel of her getting, very slowly, out of the bed.

Abby’s silence is disconcerting.

He knows she’s more tired than she’s ever been. (He sure as hell is, too.)

But baby blues (he hopes, please let this be baby blues, please let it get better and soon) are hitting her hard, and she’s not talking much at all. She’s sort of ghosting through the day, sleeping every minute she can, not smiling, not laughing, not speaking.

The pain meds probably aren’t helping her mood or sleepiness all that much. Though she’s starting to take less of them. Just two doses yesterday, so that’s good, right?

But… he doesn’t think she’s actually said more than ten words to him today.

He tried to get her to talk a little, but she just looked at him, so, so tired, and headed for bed, where he tucked her in so she could get another nap.

He headed downstairs, to where Gibbs is, and said, “This’ll get better, right?”

Gibbs nods. “Only been five days. And she’s still on meds. Go get a nap yourself.”

Abby and Kelly are, for the moment, sleeping. He should probably be sleeping, too. He’s certainly tired. Really tired. Amazingly tired.

But he’s also pretty smelly. Hasn’t gotten a shower in… Two days? Three? He rubs his face, like that could tell him, but he hasn’t shaved since the morning before Kelly was born, so it’s not like the length of his whiskers is illuminating on this particular subject.

He knows it’s been longer than he likes. A lot longer than he likes. Mostly because, for the last five days, if given the chance, he sleeps, which means he hasn’t been in the shower a whole lot.  And Kelly hasn’t exactly been kind when it comes to keeping him smelling good.

So, yeah, he needs to get a shower before he wants to rip his own skin off or knocks Abby out with his funk.

Hot water felt good. Felt really good. Even woke him up a little, helped to shake the sort of round the clock, no sense of time, Zombie shuffle he’s been living in for the last however long.

Soaping up, thoroughly, because it has been a while and he really does prefer to be clean, reminded him that part of his body had certainly wanted some attention lately and he’d just been too tired and preoccupied to deal with it.

But, in that it’s standing at attention, and his hand is curled around it, he’s thinking that maybe he’s awake enough to take care of this, and the whole you-can’t-get-off-I-can’t-get-off-thing is over, so…


Oh, that’s...

And done.

He’s honestly kind of relieved that Abby wasn’t there for that, because at no time did he ever want her to get to enjoy a re-play of his first time with the glorious fun of got off before it was all the way in.

And it did feel pretty good, though mostly in a he’d probably been one day, maybe two, tops from another wet dream, so just dealing with the backed-up, swollen, really dude, get off and do it soon, sort of sensation was awfully nice.

But more than that, just being clean and warm felt good, and getting out, toweling off quickly, and then crashing into their bed for another cat nap, was okay, too. Sure, hours of sleep would have been better yet, but, well, like with jerking off, these days he’ll take what he can get.

When he headed back downstairs, Gibbs was nowhere to be found. Abby was sleeping on their sofa. And Tony was sitting at the kitchen table, initialing his way through a stack of paperwork while Kelly cooed and kicked her feet in the bouncy chair.

He was a bit surprised to see Tony there, and Tony read it on his face. “Gibbs and Ziva are off killing Palmer at bootcamp.”

That gets a little smile out of Tim. He picks up Kelly and tilts his head toward the back porch. For once, it’s not raining: really warm and humid, lots of wind, the sky is still gray, and it looks like another thunder storm is probably due in the next hour. But him and Tony and Kelly on the back porch means more quiet for Abby, so outside they go.

“Working hard?” Tim asked, sitting next to Tony on the bench that’s tucked against the back of their house.

“Signing all my stuff. Signing all his stuff. Forgot how much more paperwork goes along with Team Leader. Looks like you’re napping on the job,” he says with a grin and a little shove.

Tim laughed. He knows exactly how black the circles under his eyes are right now.

“So, how is it?” Tony asked Tim.

“Tiring. Like… running a marathon.”

“When have you ever run a marathon?”

Tim flashed him his exasperated look, and Tony grinned at him, enjoying joking with him. Tim rolled his eyes. “Just go with me. Any given step of it isn’t a big deal. It’s just moving forward. One step. Another step. Two more. And on and on. But you don’t get to stop. And you don’t get enough down time. Gibbs and I can at least swap, but Abby’s on all the time, and she’s so fried.”

Tony nodded at that. When he and Ziva came over to fetch Gibbs and make sure Tim and Abby had someone else in the house, Abby was feeding Kelly, and he’d never even imagined that she could possibly look that tired. His little Energizer Lab Bunny needs new batteries.

“None of this is hard. Some of it’s pretty gross. Been a dad…” he had to think, figure out what day it is, and then count, twice, to figure out how long he’s been doing this, “five days, six if you want to count Tuesday, and I know vastly more than I ever wanted to about all sorts of fluids that I’d really prefer stay located inside Kelly or Abby’s bodies, but it’s not hard. It’s just… twenty-six miles of steps, and that’s hard.”

Tony nodded at that. “Still think it was a good idea?”

Tim kissed the top of Kelly’s head. He was holding her back to his chest, so she can see the leaves waving around. (Well, really, for her, it’s just a dark gray blur, but it’s new and moving, so she’s fascinated.) “Oh yeah. Whether or not Abby still thinks that is up for debate, but assuming she ever gets six hours of sleep in a row again, I think she’ll come around. How about you? How’s team leader?”

Tony smiled a little. “Any given step of it isn’t hard, but all together…”

Tim nodded back.

“I’m ready for it. I know what I’m doing. Draga’s slipping into the groove pretty easily. He’s working really well with Ziva. He still thinks I’m the idiot who’s been promoted above his station, but that’ll get settled eventually, and he’s not actively challenging my control.

“Three instead of four is a little more of a challenge, but not too much more. We’re just a little slower because I’ve got one fewer guy to put on different leads.

“The fact that I’m not actually the team leader and have to keep getting Gibbs’ approval for some things is kind of annoying, and I can see he feels that, too. ‘What’re you calling me for, DiNozzo? You know what to do. Just go do it.’ But I’ve still got to whip it past him, so I do call.”

Tim’s noticed Gibbs wandering off to take the occasional call.

“How’s he doing?” Tony asked.

Tim smiled at that, too. “He’s happy. In a way you’ve never seen him happy. I know he’s going back to work tomorrow, and you’ll have him back again, and he’ll go back to being Gibbs, but, well, he’ll be back for dinner tonight, stick around, see for yourself.” He paused for a second, and then said, “Stick around and meet Pop.”


“That’s what Kelly’s gonna call him.”

Tony had an especially satisfied looking smile on his face at that. “Happy Gibbs… You mean that smiley, goofy guy we got back from Mexico with the mustache?”

Tim laughed a little. “Times six. He’ll walk her around, singing her Elvis songs, with a big grin on his face. And yeah, I don’t think he’s touched a razor since Kelly was born.”

“Hmm… That some sort of new dad dress code?”

Tim rubbed his own, rather whiskery, face. “I’d cut the hell out of myself if I tried it. You know the biggest difference to life with a kid?”


“A week ago, a lot of little shit mattered. Stupid, little, niggly things that don’t have any real importance, like shaving or putting the laundry away, mattered last Monday. And today, they just don’t. In some ways, it’s really liberating. The dishes don’t get put away, what happens? Oh, nothing. We take them out of the dishwasher and eat off of them.

“And really focusing. Kelly, Abby, food, sleep, diapers, enough clean clothing to keep us somewhat dressed, and that one might get dropped when Jethro goes back to work, and that’s it. Nothing else, at all, matters.” He laughs a little at that. “Right now, my whole job is keeping Abby rested enough to maintain a fingernail hold on sane. Everything that doesn’t contribute to that isn’t important.”

“How’s she doing?”

“I don’t really know. We get little glimpses of her, so she’s not totally gone, but… She’s had major surgery, so she’s healing up from that, she’s still bleeding—“ Tony looks alarmed at that, so Tim adds, “It’s normal, after you have a baby, you bleed for like a month. Kelly eats every three hours, and it takes almost an hour to feed her. I try to take some of the feeds but not nursing really hurts, so I might get her a few more hours of sleep, but then her boobs start to scream at her. She’s on pain meds, and they make her sleepy, which can’t be good on top of how tired she is. It’ll be another week at least before her hormones even out...

“I’m worried. Breena’s saying this is still normalish, but to keep an eye on it. On Tuesday we’ve got a doctor’s appointments. A final wound check for Abby, so I’ll bring it up then, and see what Dr. Draz has to say about it.”

“Okay.” Tony looks at Kelly, hanging out on her daddy’s chest, watching the oncoming storm clouds, looking pretty calm. “You think you’re gonna do this again?”

“I would, in a heartbeat. Yeah, I’m exhausted, but…” Tim’s got a tired, but soul deep smile on his face. “Nothing else is like this, at all. We made a person. I mean, look at her…” He stroked her face, and she turned toward his hand, sucking on his finger. “This is love turned to life, and my life devoted to nurturing and protecting that. This is… all the purpose I’ve ever wanted or needed.

“But, I’ve got the easy job. So, I think Kelly having a little brother or sister is Abby’s decision.” He looks up from Kelly to Tony, thinking, hard. “Okay, I know my short-term memory is shot right now, but have you actually held her, yet?”

Tony shrugged a little, not signaling that he didn’t know, more an admission that he’s not really comfortable with babies.  

“Come on. She’s not gonna bite you. Here.” Tim put the spit up diaper over Tony’s shoulder, and then handed Kelly over.

“Now, be nice. Uncle Tony’s a little nervous,” he said to Kelly. She looked up at her Uncle, that mildly confused look on her face.

Tony looked from her to Tim and back to her. “You look at me like this, sometimes.”

“Abby’s said that, too. Besides the lips, I think she looks like Abby. Jethro does, too.”

“Was he wearing his glasses when he was looking at her?”

“Don’t think so.”

Tony nods at him, reminding him that Gibbs’ up close vision isn’t exactly what most people would call good. “So now what?”

“Just hold her. Hang out. She likes being sung to. ‘Bout five minutes her eyes’ll get droopy, and I’ll take her to her crib and devoutly pray to any and every god listening that I can successfully lay her in the crib and get her to actually close her eyes and sleep in there.”

Tony laughed at that. “Didn’t know you were a praying man.”

Tim smiled back at him, then leaned back against the house and closed his eyes. “I’m usually not. Poke me in three minutes.”

“Not a problem.” He looked at Kelly, and said to Tim, “I’m a bad singer.”

“Neither of us care.”  

Ton stood up, Kelly snuggled on his shoulder and sang quietly while pacing, “I can only say these things to you while you’re sleeping/I hear the hum from the wire as the sounds of the morning creep in/I lie awake and pretend you can hear me…”

And Tim caught a three minute cat nap listening to Tony butcher the Airborne Toxic Event.