Chapter 218: Mom
Tim felt his phone buzz and checked it. One word on the screen. Mom.
The call he'd been dodging for weeks. He checked his computer, saw the day, okay, technically more than three months.
The conversation he wasn't feeling like he wanted to have. At all.
On the other hand, it's night, after dinner. He's on paperwork, but Abby's working late, so he's just hanging out in her office.
He has time to take this now. He's not home. No excuse to avoid it, like he could be writing.
He's just not entirely sure he wants to do this. No, that's not right. He doesn't want to do this. But he's also fairly sure that putting it off forever won't make anything better or different.
So on the on the third buzz he picked up and said, "Hi, Mom."
"Tim? I thought I was going to get your voice mail again."
"Not today. What's up?"
"What's up with me?" She sounds surprised that he's talking like they just chatted three days ago. "Nothing new. What's up with you? You've been hiding since before Valentine's Day. Penny says you're busy, but I'm not buying it. You work ninety hours a week, write, have a wife, and before February still managed to talk to me every week. What's going on Tim?"
He sighs quietly, catches Abby's eye, she can see him holding his phone to his ear. He mouths the word 'Mom' and she nods. He heads to the ballistics lab. That way if someone not Abby wanders in, they won't hear/see him on the phone.
"Just finding a better place to talk. Still at work, waiting for Abby to get done and head home."
He drags a chair in and shuts the door. It's not wonderfully comfortable, but it's probably the most private place at NCIS.
He's still not talking.
"Is everything okay with you and Abby?"
"We're good, Mom. Real good."
"And Kelly's fine?"
"Yeah, kicking up a storm." He doesn't want to get into what's actually going on with Kelly and Abby.
"Your friends that lost the baby? Are they okay?"
"Yeah, Mom. Breena's pregnant again."
"Oh, that's so good!" She waits for a few beats, hears Tim very much not saying anything, not volunteering to say anything, and said, "So, everything in your world is fine, but you aren't talking. What is going on? Last I heard you were looking forward to Valentine's, then you dropped off the face of the Earth."
He sighs, and begins with, "A few days after that I got the flu…" And like with Penny he didn't censor himself, didn't pull any punches, and wrapped up with, "And since then I've been thinking about it. Well, really trying to not think about it, because mostly, I'm just really fucking pissed at you. You knew. The shit he pulled on me. You knew, and you let it happen. That summer he dragged me on a boat every damn day, you didn't stop it until I had lost thirty pounds. He spent two solid months terrorizing me, and every morning until August you let him take me out and do that to me. And all of those shooting practices. And the constant fighting… And, did you think that was normal or okay or… You're the grown-up. You were supposed to protect me from that!"
His mom is just silent. And he knows this flavor of silence. He's felt it before, been on both sides of it. It's the everything is sideways, the rug just got yanked out from under you but you haven't hit the floor yet, oh shit oh shit oh shit, keep it together, got to think, silence.
So he waits. He lets her think.
And finally she said, "I never thought about it like that."
That's a remarkably not comforting answer. He's not sure what a comforting answer would be, but it sure as hell isn't that. "Well how did you think about it?"
"We wanted you to be the best you could be. We wanted you to be strong and tough and capable of doing anything and everything you might want to do. You have so much talent, but you'd second guess yourself or get worried or let other people talk you out of things, and we wanted you to be able to stand up for yourself.
"So, you… agreed with it? He's threatening to have me gang raped by his sailors and you thought that was appropriate?"
"No. No!" He can hear she's upset, but he's not getting the sense she's surprised. The idea that John might have told her about that makes him feel sick. "That was too far. And I told him that." Fuck. She had known. He can feel his control slipping away, and he's scrambling to hold it. "But we were both afraid that you were so sensitive that life would beat you down. We thought you needed a thicker skin to survive and thrive."
"So you thought letting him do it to me instead was a good plan?" He realized he just yelled that, and took a deep breath, trying to stay calm.
"He's your father. I knew he wouldn't really hurt you. Knew he'd never push too far."
Unfortunately that broke his exceptionally tenuous hold on calm and he was yelling again when he asked, "What the fuck did you think was too far? Actually having me raped?"
"He never hit you. And the one time I was afraid he might, I made sure he wasn't alone with you."
Tim realized he was shaking from head to toe and was actually so mad he was having a hard time seeing. So, before he threw the phone against the wall hard enough to break it, he said, "Okay, Mom, I've got to hang up, throw up, shoot something, and cry." And he hung up before she could say anything else.
There is a sink in the ballistics lab, and he did throw up in it.
Then he emptied his gun into the ballistics tank.
He was crying and looking for something not too expensive to break into a whole lot of very tiny pieces when Abby ran in.
She came to a short stop, stared at him, eyes wide, and said, "You are not okay! What happened?"
Plastic test tube rack. He's got no idea what it's doing in the ballistics lab, but it'll work. He put it on the ground, hands still shaking and methodically stomped it into about ninety pieces.
"Talked to my mom."
"You see anything else I can break?" he asks, grinding bits of plastic into much smaller bits of plastic.
She looked around, but it's the ballistics lab: there's a tank for shooting bullets, the catch net they use to grab them back out again, a sink for refilling the water in the tank, a desk for taking notes, a shelf with ear and eye protection, several gun safes for holding weapons that are about to be processed or just were processed. Beyond that it's a seven by ten closet of a room with one tiny window up by the ceiling.
"Back in a sec."
It took longer than a second, but when she came back she had two more magazines for his gun and half a dozen glass beakers.
"Oh, good." He grabbed a beaker and threw it, hard, against the wall. Having it shatter into seventeen million pieces was satisfying. "Maybe you could go outside for a few minutes? I don't want you to get hit by flying glass."
He can see she's thinking about saying something along the lines of she'd prefer he didn't get cut by flying glass, but he can also see that she knows him well enough it's just not going to work, so she heads to the safety glasses, grabs one, puts it on him, and leaves.
He's simultaneously feeling very hot, rage, anger beyond anything he's ever felt before, and very cold, outside of himself. He's having a very precise, very determined, exceptionally destructive but controlled temper tantrum. He shatters each beaker, flinging it against the wall, breaks it into thousands of pieces and then grinds the pieces into dust. Then reaches for the next beaker and does it again.
He's not sure it's really helping, but it feels good—ish. Well, not bad. And short of calling up Jimmy, who is probably sleeping and would likely want to continue to do so, and asking him to fight, which would mean explaining this whole thing, again, and he doesn't want to, he's kind of out of ideas on how to burn some of this feeling off.
When he's down to two beakers he serious debates shooting them. He's got lots of bullets, but he decides against it. The walls in here are just drywall, nothing that'll really stop a bullet. So he goes back to throwing them against the wall.
Then reloads his gun, empties it again, reloads again, and empties that magazine into the tank, as well.
And when he was done, he wasn't shaking anymore and felt like he could probably put together complete sentences, so he opened the door, and found Abby standing in front of it, staring at it, holding Bert.
Her eyes went very wide and she said, "Do not move at all."
Two minutes later she was back with a small broom, a dust pan, and Ducky with a first aid kit.
Ducky just looked at him, horrified, and said, "Oh, Timothy! Please, hold still."
He's feeling like he should probably be a lot more worried about how they're acting, but he's not hurting, and his eyes are protected, so it can't be that bad.
Abby looked at Ducky. "Do I sweep him off, or…"
Ducky's looking him over, and he's just standing there, not really feeling anything. Like he's detached from everything and just watching with a vague, academic interest in the subject.
"Abigail, I think we need a comb."
"I have one in my purse."
"Good. Start at the top and work our way down?" Ducky, with a very disturbed look on his face, suggests.
Abby's back a second later with her comb and begins to very carefully, very gently comb his hair, saying over and over, "Please, baby, don't move."
It occurs to him that he might still be shaking, but he doesn't think he is. He thinks he's still. Though he's mildly curious why she's combing his hair, but not enough to ask about it. He's also mildly curious about the fact that Ducky has left, come back with scrubs, and is laying out both a lidocaine syringe and sutures.
Finally he asks, "Am I bleeding?"
Abby pauses in combing out his hair. "Yeah."
He almost nods, and she says, "Stay still."
"Why are you combing my hair?"
"You're covered in hundreds of bits of glass. We're trying to get if off of you without getting you cut to ribbons."
"Eventually, Timothy. But for right now we want to get the bigger pieces off."
Abby finished with his hair, which was when he noticed that she had thick, protective gloves on. She carefully peeled off his shirt, watch, and wrist cuff, got his belt off, and as this was happening he was aware of soft, gentle tinking sounds as more and more pieces of glass fell off of him and hit the floor.
Abby stopped with his belt. "Can't get your pants off without taking off your shoes."
"No, it's not, look down."
Hundreds of glass fragments glinted up at him from the floor. He also, for the first time, noticed the blood dripping down both arms. He'd had his sleeves rolled up, and apparently had gotten cut.
"Just keep holding still. I'll get this swept up, and we'll move onto the bottom half of you," Ducky said.
"Okay." He just stood there and waited, let them undress him. The good thing about the bottom half of him was he had on jeans and thick shoes, so a quick glance showed the bottom half of him was fine. Once he was clear of his glass encrusted clothing, he was able to put on the scrub pants, and Ducky had him sit down at Abby's desk.
Abby stood next to Ducky while he carefully removed fourteen slivers of glass from Tim's forearms and hands.
On the fifteenth one, Tim stopped counting and said, "This should hurt, shouldn't it?"
Ducky glances at Abby, looking very worried. "Yes, Timothy."
"I can't feel it."
"You might be in shock. As soon as we get your wounds dressed, we'll get you wrapped up and laying down."
"I should probably clean the glass out of the ballistics lab."
"I've got it, don't worry about it," Abby said.
"Okay." He nods a little, sighs, and says, voice very flat and matter of fact, he could be reading a weather report out loud, "So, my mom called, and instead of dodging the call, like I did with the last ten of them, I answered." He's not looking at them. Not watching Ducky take yet another piece of glass out of his arm. Really he's not looking at anything at all. He's thinking that if he could see himself, he'd probably have a thousand yard stare. He keeps on talking in that same eerie calm voice. "That was a bad fucking plan. Should have let it go to voicemail." His voice is still very calm as he says this, but he's starting to feel a bubble of hysterical building under that calm, and he's not sure if he should try to tamp it down or let it out. "And I talked to her about it. And apparently all of that crap with my dad was some sort of make-sure-Tim's-tough-enough-to-deal-with-the-real -world thing. Apparently they were worried I was too soft or sensitive or something."
He watches Ducky ease another long shard of glass out of his skin. He can see his own blood on the glass, and the way his skin pulls against it as Ducky tugs gently with his surgical tweezers.
"Apparently I wasn't hard enough then. You're pulling an inch long piece of glass out of my arm, and I haven't even winced. You think I'm hard enough, now?"
That's when Abby starts crying. She circles around behind him, pressing her lips to the top of his head, he's guessing that's one of the few places she's not worried about ground glass rubbing into his skin. The sound of quiet sobbing, and the feel of her lips on his body, her tears in his hair, brings him back, snaps him out of the numb, shocked, dead sort of place he'd been.
And first and foremost is the sensation that he'd been an utter idiot. He's married, with a pregnant wife who could go into labor at any minute, who could start bleeding any second, and the last thing she needs is him having a massive destructive fit. He has a family, and they come first, and he cannot be doing crap like this. Tim looks and really sees his arms and they look like he had to fight his way out of ten miles of thorn tipped vines.
"Oh, God, Abby! I'm so sorry!" He starts to reach up to comfort her, but Ducky holds his arm fast.
"Don't move. We still have a lot of glass to go."
He can definitely feel it now. It looks like his shirt did a good job protecting his arms and chest, there are only a few long scratches on them, but his forearms, hands, and face feel shredded.
Abby's murmuring against his head, "It's okay, baby. It's going to be okay."
He closes his eyes, realizing he's crying, might have been doing it the whole time. "She knew Abby." That bubble of hysterical broke, and he started to sob. "She knew and approved."
"Shhhh… You've got to stay still a little longer, baby." She's kissing the top of his head, petting his sides. "Shhhh…"