Friday, October 11, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 232

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

Chapter 232: Family

Gibbs stands quietly in front of the door. He listens carefully and doesn’t hear anything on the other side, so he doesn’t knock. He opens it, peeks in, and then slips through, walking silently.

They’re sleeping. Which he expected. He knows he and Shannon certainly crashed pretty quickly after the excitement was over, and he figured Abby and Tim would, too.

Even without hours of labor, or a terrifying and painful emergency C-section, just the days, weeks of waiting are exhausting.

He walks over to Abby, lying in a hospital bed. Hospital gown, exhausted sleep, IV tubes, all of that looks familiar, but it’s the smell, that sweet combination of blood and amniotic fluids with an undertone of Lysol that whips him back in time by more than thirty years.

He blinks, clears his eyes, and kisses her on the forehead. She murmurs something, shifts a little, and settles back into sleep.

Tim’s crashed out on the sofa. It’s too short for him to lay across it, so he’s sprawled out, head lolling on the backrest, both hands protectively clasped around the tiny bundle snoozing on his chest.

Gibbs gently sits next to him, looking at their little girl. Or not snoozing. Two bleary blue eyes are wide open and staring around.

“Hi,” he says it very quietly, finger tracing down Kelly’s cheek, the feel of her skin under his finger also whipping him back in time, and Tim stirs, opening one eye. “Go back to sleep, Tim. I’m going to take her for a walk.”

For a second Tim’s hands close a little more tightly around his daughter, and then he seems to realize it’s Gibbs, so he mumbles something like, “Okay,” and closes his eye again.

Gibbs gently picks up Kelly, cradling her against his chest, and heads into the hallway. Once out there he says, “Let’s let your parents get some sleep. They’ll need it.” He’s bouncing her a little as they walk, humming something tuneless.

He’s amazed at how this brings him back. It’s been thirty-three years since he held his daughter for the first time, and right now he’d tell you it was yesterday.

He kisses the top of her head, memories of kissing his own Kelly like this bright in his mind. “You were named after two incredible girls, Kelly Marie, and one day, when you’re a bit bigger, I’m going to tell you all about them.”

Right now he’s the only one at the hospital. Sometimes it’s good to be the Boss. Tony, Ziva, and Draga are still on the case, though at last update Sharpe had fallen for the Prisoner’s dilemma, and Tony was just on clean up with his confession.

Meanwhile, once Ziva and Draga got back, they’d have a signed confession to show Harper, so that should break him pretty fast.

Ducky and Jimmy had agreed to both stay at Autopsy. Working together they can finish everything up faster and get here that much sooner, and more importantly, stay that much longer. He hasn’t heard anything from Breena, but assumes she and Molly will be coming soon.

And yeah, it’s not Jimmy’s meet your little brother fantasy, but meet your cousin will be awfully good, too.

He identifies the dark-haired woman walking toward him by her stride and attitude before he can make out the details of her face, after all, his glasses are in his pocket.


She stops in front of him. “Is that her?”

Okay, it’s a kind of dumb question. Not like he’d be here, walking the hall with someone else’s kid. But it’s easy to get rattled when you’re excited, and he might have just as easily asked her the same thing if she’d gotten here first.

“Yeah. They’re getting a nap, so we’re getting a walk.” He stands at an angle so she can see her great-granddaughter’s face.

She pets Kelly, a wide, happy grin that puts him very strongly in mind of Tim on her face. “She’s the spitting image of Sarah.”

Abby looked like this
That confuses Gibbs. He was thinking this is what Abby must have looked like as a baby. He shifts his hold, cradling her so he can look at her face, finding a place to sit down so he can really look at her. He slips the little crocheted cap off her head, finding a fine fuzz of blond hair.

“Abby. Abby looked like this as a baby.”

Penelope sits next to him, leaning over, staring at her. “Maybe. I still think she looks like her aunt.” She fits the cap back on Kelly’s head. “Did you get any details?”

“Nah. They were both asleep when I came in. Got the same text you did.”

She smiles at that. “They look okay?”

“As okay as two exhausted, sleeping people can.”

That gets a laugh out of Penny.

Gibbs realizes Kelly hasn’t been properly introduced. “Kelly, this is your great-grandma.” He looks up from the baby to Tim’s grandmother. “What is she going to call you?”

“Penny. They all do.”

He nods. “Kelly, this is Penny. And when you can talk, you can call me Pop.”

“Can I hold her?” Just like Tim, he feels his hands curl around this little girl, not wanting to let her go. But he forces them to relax, he’s got to share.


Penny cradles Kelly to her shoulder. “God, it comes back. I haven’t done this since James was a baby.”


“Tim’s youngest second cousin. Three years.”

“I was thinking the same thing. But thirty-three years for me.”

Penny nods. Kelly begins to squawk, and Penny bounces her gently, patting her back, making shushing noises.

“She’s been awake a while. I’m thinking it’s naptime for her.” Gibbs holds out his hands, wanting to take her back, but Penelope doesn’t look like she wants to let go.

“You got to carry her out. I can take her back in. Show me where their room is.”


Penny stands up, her chin pressed against the top of her head. She pats Kelly’s back, walking with a little bounce in her step. Gibbs watches, approving of her technique, and Kelly starts to settle down.

“It comes back easy, doesn’t it?”

Gibbs nods at that.

They sneak into Tim and Abby’s room. Penny lays her down in the clear plastic bassinette next to Abby’s bed. He kisses Abby once more, whispering, “She’s beautiful, Abbs,” and heads back into the hallway.

A second after the door shuts, Penny’s phone buzzes. She takes it, and Gibbs hears, “Hello. Yes… Just saw her… Room 207, but everyone is sleeping now, so maybe an hour or so is a good idea... Uh huh... Call when you get here.” And then hangs up the phone.

“Who was that?”

“Sarah. She just got the message. Tim isn’t answering his phone, so she called me.”

Gibbs nods. “Get some coffee?”

“That sounds good.”

They’re in the cafeteria, at a table, with no coffee. Several seconds after stepping in and smelling the coffee, both Gibbs and Penny had opted for other beverages.

Gibbs sips his. “Anyone tell his parents?”

“John calls every few weeks. I’ll tell him the next time we talk. And I don’t know if it’s habit or if things are getting better, but he sent that text to Tori, too.”

“You’re still talking to John?”

Penny shrugged. “Arguing. Yelling. Trying to pound it through that thick, stubborn head of his that what he and Tori did was not appropriate. She got it. Or is smart enough to pretend to get it. Or at least was crying when I got off the phone with her. But she’s also never been disappointed in Tim. He’s still firmly convinced he didn’t go far enough because he couldn’t turn Tim into a sailor.”

Gibbs feels himself tense at that. “And if yelling doesn’t do it?”

Penny’s holding her coffee tightly and stares up at the ceiling, then looks back to Gibbs and shakes her head. “I don’t know. I’d like to think I know what I’d do. I know what I did in the past. Joining the peace movement could have killed Nelson’s career, and he wasn’t thrilled about me doing it, but when he saw what we were building... That wasn’t warfare. It wasn’t honorable, and it wasn’t about defending people. He didn’t stand in my way, but if he had, I would have gone.

“John’s my son, and if he can’t… If I need to, I’ll let him go.”

Gibbs nods at that.

Penny takes another sip of her tea. “This is almost as bad as the coffee smells.”

Gibbs sees her change the subject, and since there’s nothing else to add, he goes with it, taking a sip of his own drink. He has lemonade, which he suspects has never met a real lemon, or real sugar, and it’s entirely possible even the water is artificial. “You think they feed this to the patients?”

“I really hope not,” Penny says, getting her phone out and texting.

Gibbs raises an eyebrow at her, and then a few seconds later her phone chimes with a return text. “Doesn’t matter if this is what they feed them or not. I’ve got Ducky and Jimmy on bringing real, delicious, and nutritionally appropriate food for them.”

That got a smile out of Gibbs.

The rest of what he’s taken to thinking of as the Mallard branch of the family showed up next, without Molly.

He flashed Jimmy a curious look as Penny hugged Breena, and he said, “She’s still at daycare. She’ll want to hop all over Abby as soon as she sees her, so waiting until all the tubes are out is a good plan. Tomorrow or the next, we’ll bring her.”

Gibbs nods. Granted, he hadn’t thought about that, but it made sense.

Jimmy and Ducky waiting to see Kelly.
“Are they receiving visitors?” Ducky asked.

“Everyone was asleep when we were last in there, but I’d imagine quietly poking your head in to check wouldn’t be a problem,” Penny replied.

“I’ll go.” And Gibbs was off, headed toward their room, so he missed the smiles passing between Jimmy and Breena and Penny and Ducky.

This time when he got nearer to the door he could hear quiet crying and voices, so he poked his head in and said, “Feel like some company?”

“Sure,” Tim said, mid-diaper change. Which was apparently the reason why Kelly was crying.

“Gibbs! Oh, you’re here! Have you seen her, yet? She’s beautiful!”

Gibbs paused next to Tim to tickle Kelly’s tummy, which didn’t stop the crying, but did make her look away from Tim to him, and then took two more steps to Abby, kissing her gently. “Yeah, Abbs. She is beautiful. I was in here two hours ago. You were asleep. Kelly and I went for a quick walk, met Penny while we were out there. She thinks Kelly looks like Tim’s sister.”

Tim stares at his daughter, and tries to remember back, but the image of what Sarah looked like brand new just isn’t forming in his mind. “She might. Can’t really remember, right now.” Then he finished wiping her off, and got the new diaper on and snug, followed by the onesie, which Kelly seemed to appreciate, because she stopped crying.

“All nice and warm now?” Tim asked her, picking her up and taking her over to Abby. “So who’s here?” he asked Gibbs as Abby started getting ready to nurse.

“Penny, Ducky, Breena and Jimmy, Sarah should be here any minute, and whenever they get Harper taken care of Tony and Ziva will be along,” he answers, keeping up a very tight line of direct eye contact with Tim. Since Molly, he’s been aware of the fact that one of the biggest changes since he was a dad with a baby is that these days the girls will just whip out a breast and nurse babies like it’s no big deal.

And on an intellectual level he gets it. First and foremost it’s a sign that he’s family and part of the inner circle. Because while they will nurse in public, this is a lot less stealthy than how they behave when out and about.

And he can understand that it can’t be fun to have to excuse yourself from whatever is going on to feed the baby. And beyond all that, if anyone is going to leave because of nursing, he’s the one with the two working feet who didn’t just get cut open five hours ago, so he’d be the one to leave the room.

So, yes, he understands this and how it works.

And he doesn’t want to leave, but… okay, it’s still a little squirmy. So like with when Molly was getting a snack, he is keeping up a very strict not looking policy.

He’s staring at Tim, filling him in with how the prisoner’s dilemma worked, when Abby said to him, giggling, because apparently everything is awfully funny to her right now, “It’s okay Gibbs, you can look. You don’t have to pretend I’m not nursing. This is what they’re for.”

And, okay, looking back his reaction probably wasn’t the most mature thing he’d ever done. Or the kindest. And he was aware of the fact that Abby had to be on some sort of painkiller, but it hadn’t really hit him that she didn’t have any filters between her brain and her mouth.

But he is kind of uncomfortable, and he’s awfully good at spreading uncomfortable around. And, honestly, kind of giddy on grandbaby joy. So, still keeping up eye contact with Tim, he very gently smacked him upside the head and said, “If she thinks that’s what those are for, you aren’t doing your job.”

“Gibbs!” Abby sounded utterly horrified. “Oh no you don’t! You apologize to McGee right this second! If there was ever a man who knew his way around a breast it’s McGee. He’s practically a lesbian he’s so good with them. Some guys just don’t get it, they pinch and twist, like the dials on those old radios, you remember them, right? Of course you do, you’re old enough to remember those radios, but not McGee, not that you don’t remember those radios, do you? Off topic. He gets that different parts of the breast respond to touch differently, and he knows how to use the texture of my clothing to play with me, and you know nipples respond to touch differently than the flesh around them, and he figured out how to do this thing with his teeth, and how the flat part of the tooth feels different than the sharp part, and since I’ve been pregnant my nipples have been really sensitive-- Do you have sensitive nipples, Gibbs? Anyway, he figured out that he could do this thing with his eyelashes, oh my god, if you’ve got sensitive nipples, you’ve got to get someone to try it on you, feels—“

Which was when Tim finally jerked out of the frozen, watching-the-train-wreck-happening-but-unable-to-do-anything-about-it,-blushing-so-hard-his-hair-was-going-to-turn-red space he’d been in to say, “Abby, I don’t think Jethro needs that much detail.”

“I don’t, Abbs. And Tim, I am sincerely sorry I doubted your skill with breasts.”

“Uh… Thanks. Let’s not ever mention this again.”

Gibbs nodded emphatically at that, and then, already in possession of vastly more information than he ever wanted about Abby’s breasts, looked down to watch Kelly nursing away. Tim’s on Abby’s far side, half sitting on the bed, stroking Kelly’s head. Abby’s cradling her in her arms. And Kelly lay there, eyes closed, blissful expression on her face, sucking away.

“She’s a good eater.”

“Yeah. I was really afraid this was going to be hard, you read so much stuff about how hard it is, and how babies don’t know how to latch on, and how if you have a c-section they end up doped up and too drugged to eat properly, but other than the fact it feels really weird, it’s going pretty smooth.”

Gibbs strokes her cheek and arm, feeling her tiny fist under his fingers. After a second of that he remembered why he’d popped in. “Do you want everyone else to come in?”

Tim looked to Abby for the answer. “Sure, bring ‘em all in, time to celebrate, and celebrations are more fun with lots of people.”

“I’ll go get them.”

There are universal constants. Gravity. There are local constants. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. And there are social constants, and how people act upon seeing the new baby is one of those things.
So like in everyone else’s family, there are hugs and congratulations and “She’s so beautiful!” and requests for the full story of how Kelly got on the outside and speculation as to who she looks like.

Jimmy having a bag filled with really delicious smelling food might have been a little off the beaten path, but it reminded Tim that’s it’s getting onto dinner and he hasn’t eaten since breakfast. Abby’s still not feeling very hungry, but she does take a little plain (but yummy smelling) beef broth, while Breena holds Kelly and Penny and Jimmy pet her. (Ducky hovering around, beaming, getting pictures of everything.)

Looks good on you, too.
When Sarah got there Penny looked from her to Gibbs and Gibbs sort of shrugged indicating, that, okay, yeah, he can maybe, sort of see the resemblance. (But he still thinks Kelly looks like Abby must have as a baby.)

Eventually Ziva and Tony got there, and Ziva’s holding Kelly the way Abby held Molly when she was brand new, and Tony stepped back from slapping Tim on the back and watched Ziva do it, then crossed to her, wrapping his arms around her waist, head resting on her shoulder and whispered to her, “Looks good on you.”

A few minutes later Ziva handed Kelly over to Tony and whispered back, "Looks good on you, too."

And a bit after that, when Kelly was drifting off, and Abby was drooping, the rest of the family headed out to find their places in the waiting room. Like with Jimmy and Breena, the whole of the next two days will have someone here, ready to leap into action and fetch whatever they may want, or offer whatever help they may need, but they’ll retreat far enough back to give them time to rest alone as well. 


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