Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 234

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

Chapter 234: The Adventure Continues

“So, how are you doing?” Jimmy asked Tim as he pulled out of his parking place. It’s the first bit of time they’ve had alone since before Kelly was born.

“Besides freaked out by the blood?”

“Besides that. There’s something wrong with you if your wife is bleeding in front of you and you’re cool with that.”

Tim tilted his head, acknowledging that. “Good. Happy. Tired. Little scared.”

“That’s normal, too.”

Tim nods, not paying too much attention to Jimmy or the car ride. His mind’s pretty firmly back at the hospital with Abby and Kelly.

“When we get to your place, get a nap. I’ll check your kitchen, do a grocery run for you, but you get a nap.”

“Don’t want to be gone that long.”

“Trust me, you need it. You’ll sleep better in your own bed. And there’s absolutely nothing going on over there right now that Jethro can’t handle.”

“I know but—“

“Doctor’s orders. Get that nap. She does the heavy lifting on taking care of Kelly. You do the heavy lifting on taking care of her, and you can’t take care of her if you’re fried. Besides, I’m the one with the car, so you’re stuck there until I take you back. Might as well get a nap.”

“Did you and Gibbs plan this?”
Smug Jimmy.

“Didn’t need to. That sofa in your room folds out into a bed. You’re out of it enough you haven’t figured that out. That means you aren’t safe to drive, and you really need some sleep.”


Jimmy’s smiling as he watches the road.

“You’re looking awfully smug.”

Jimmy reached over and squeezed Tim’s shoulder. “Just enjoying this. Welcome to fatherhood.”

Tim laughed at that.

They got to Tim’s house, walked in, and Jimmy pointed up the stairs. “Go, sleep.”

And, well, yeah, bed felt good. Laying full out felt good. (He quickly reminded himself to give both Jimmy and Gibbs a headslap for not pointing out the sofa folded out, thus leaving him with a kink in his neck from sleeping on the too short sofa.) And for about a second he noticed that not worrying about needing to leap up and tend to Abby or Kelly was pretty nice too, but only for a second, because the second after that, he was asleep.

Waking up a few hours later, feeling like he’s been drugged and is trying to pull through a murky haze of physical and emotional tiredness, Tim realizes that part of what is happening is that humans are, more or less, diurnal.

And he’s adjusting to naps 24/7.

Laying in his bed, rubbing his eyes, he’s got no idea what time it is. Daytime, but it could be 10 in the morning or 5 in the afternoon.

But after a moment, he realized the nurse came in in the morning, gave Abby the all clear to get up, so it can’t be earlier than late morning. So he finally looked over, saw 2:55 on his clock, and realized he’d been asleep for four hours, and that Kelly was now a full day old.

Jimmy was right, he did sleep better in his own bed. Enough room to actually lie down was good. And that might be part of feeling drugged. He’d actually slept instead of dozing.

But he did slowly get up, and dressed, and snagged clothing for tomorrow. When they’d go home. Together.

He noticed something, he still had on Abby’s wedding and engagement ring. He shuffled through her collars, wrist cuffs, and other jewelry and found what he wanted, it’s a plain, white gold chain. He worked off her rings, threaded the necklace through them, and then put it around his neck. When he got back she could wear her rings again. One step closer to normal.

He headed into Kelly’s room, fingers resting on her crib. Tomorrow, afternoon maybe, she’d be sleeping in here.

He heard the footsteps, but didn’t turn until Jimmy put his hand on his shoulder. When Tim turned, he said, “Tomorrow.”

“Yep. Feeling better?”

“Nope. Feel like all my joints are glued together.”

Jimmy laughed a little. “That’ll be true every time you wake up for about two months.”

“Wonderful.” Tim held up the bundle of clothing he needed to put in his go bag. “I’m ready.”

“Let’s get you back, then.”

Tim turned toward the door and then noticed something. Previously the room had been set with the crib against the far wall, changing table/dresser on the wall to the left, rocking chair in the middle a few steps from the crib. But something new had wandered into the nursery.

It was one of those tray table things they’d gotten as wedding presents from Fornell.

And sitting on it was several bottles of water, some apples, protein bars, a little bowl with nuts, and a bag of M&Ms.

“Jimmy?” He knows he didn’t put it there, and he’s awfully sure there is no such thing as a snack fairy, which means Jimmy must have done it.

“Nursing mamas need to eat. A lot. Since she won’t be able to go up the stairs more than once a day for the first week, when she’s up here, she’ll be up here, can’t sprint down for munchies. And when you’re up here, you’ll hopefully be sleeping, and won’t want to be running down to fetch munchies. So, I stocked up the nursing station for the first shift. Did the same with your sofa. Wasn’t entirely sure where’d she want to be, but right now your sofa, right in the prime TV watching spot, is hers.”


“No problem. Breena’s mom did it for us while we were still in the hospital. I remembered Breena really appreciated that, so I did it for Abby.”

“Molly coming to visit today?”

“Breena’s bringing her over with dinner. She’s been babbling non-stop about the new baby. Can’t wait to see Kelly.”

They were in the car when Tim asked, “What’d you get?”

“Stuff you need. Stuff you don’t know you need.”

“Like what?”

“About six half gallons of ice cream, protein bars, fresh and dried fruit, lots of nuts, eggs, milk, basically lots of fat, calories, calcium and protein, all the building blocks of good milk. ‘Course, if Kelly’s allergic to any of this stuff, it’ll make her miserable, but let’s not try to jump that hurdle until you know if you need to or not.”


“Doubled your store of diapers, tripled baby wipes. Trust me, you’re gonna go through them way faster than you think you will. Cloth diapers.”

“We weren’t going to—“

“Not for that. Use them as spit up bibs/clothing protectors/handy wipes for anything that might come out of Kelly. They’re cheaper and more useful than seventy million paper towels. Think we’ve got like 100 of them and never seem to have too many, and we’ve never actually used one as a diaper.”

“All right.”

“Didn’t see any nursing pads, so I got them, too.”

“Some went with her to the hospital. Rest are in our room.”

“I know Breena was going to pick up some nursing bras for her. Can’t really get those ahead of time.”

“She told me they had that planned. So, what do I owe you?”

Jimmy shook his head. “Year from now, pay it down the line to Tony. Looks like they’re gonna be working on a little DiNozzo awfully soon.”

“Yeah, it does.”

When they got back, Gibbs was walking the halls with Kelly. She was awake, fussing a little, but not full out crying.

Gibbs handed her over without having to be asked, and said, “Just finished eating. The doc’s in doing a wound check for Abby.” Tim doesn’t need an explanation for why Gibbs didn’t stick around for that.

He takes Kelly, who decides this is a prime moment to go from fussing to full on crying, and heads back to their room, patting her back, shushing away. “Help me out, is this the I need to burp cry or the I’m sleepy cry?”

She cried louder. It wasn’t much help.

“Diaper change?”

Three more steps got them back to their room. The wound care specialist was in, checking Abby over, he caught the tail end of, “…everything looks good but if it gets red, hot, or starts leaking any sort of discharge you need to see your doctor.”


The specialist looked up at Tim. “I was just telling your wife that everything looks fine…” and then proceeded to give him the full wound care instructions and things to look out for, as well. “We’ll do one more quick check tomorrow morning, but assuming everything looks fine, you’re going home tomorrow around lunch time.”

It’s a bit difficult to have a conversation with a small crying person in his arms, but he’s got the feeling the specialist has done this more than a few times before. So he nods, repeats back the instructions, and feels a general sense of pleasure at the idea of getting home with Abby and Kelly.

When the specialist left, he sat on the end of Abby’s bed. “Did she burp?”


“Diaper changed?”

“Gibbs got it when she woke up.”

Tim grinned at that. “So he does change diapers.”

“He does when I give him puppy eyes about grabbing three more minutes of sleep.”

He outright laughed at that. Then laid Kelly on his legs, looking up at him, and said to her, “You’re fed and burped. Is all this about a wet diaper?” as he began unswaddling her and checked.

“Nope. Dry diaper. Sleepy?” He followed the how to swaddle directions and ended up with a very loosely wrapped baby who could kick her way out of the blankets.

Abby watched his efforts, not saying anything, but after a minute he handed Kelly over, and she did a… better job. Neither of them produced the perfectly smooth and snug bundle the nurses or Gibbs managed. 

But, not having managed it, they stumbled onto the issue. Too hot. Babies might in general like having a snug little bundle to keep all their limbs in place, but they also don’t enjoy overheating. And having gotten a bit of extra ventilation, the crying stopped.

Abby took her cap off. “It’s what, ninety out there?”


“Maybe she doesn’t need a hat.”

“Maybe not.” He noticed Abby was looking awfully sleepy. “I think we’re gonna get a walk. How about you get some more sleep?”

“That sounds really good.”

He kissed her and headed for the waiting room area. He doesn’t know how they set it up, but at any given time at least one someone who wants time with an awake Kelly will be out there.

Sarah. She sees him and smiles, and he goes to sit next to her.

Kelly’s laying on his lap, and he’s trying to get this swaddling thing worked out. He’s guessing a big chunk of the current fussing is based on little arms and legs flailing around and supposedly swaddling is the answer to that. It shouldn’t be hard, but for whatever reason the neat, tight little bundle the nurses and Gibbs and Jimmy and Breena can all produce with basically no effort at all turns into an adventure in remarkably ineffective origami when he’s in charge.

“You want me to do it?” Sarah asked.

“When have you ever swaddled a baby?”

“Let’s see… How about nine thousand times over the three years I was babysitting for the Millers?”

Getting better
“Oh.” He tucked the blanket over Kelly, snugged it in close, and managed to get her into a rather lopsided bundle, but she at least wasn’t flailing anymore, and he could claim the hole at the bottom was additional ventilation for her so she didn’t overheat. “And no. I don’t want you to do it. I need to learn how to do this, and I’m not if you guys keep doing it for me.”

“No problem.” She sits next to him, gently stroking her niece’s cheek. Kelly turns toward her, looking in her general direction, with an expression Tim thinks means, this is nice, where’s the milk? But it could also be, feeling sleepy or mild pique.

Understanding entirely non-verbal communication from someone he’s just met is tricky.

“So… Mom was pretty happy you sent her a picture of Kelly.”

He rose his eyebrows, feeling a little surprised. He hadn’t realized he’d done that, but thinking back, he knew she was on the family list and he hadn’t taken her off.

“I’m guessing by that look it wasn’t intentional.”

Tim shook his head. He picks Kelly off his lap and holds her close, his chin on the top of her head, feeling her in his arms, hands really, inhaling that sweet, milky, baby scent.

Sarah watches them, waiting to see if Tim will say anything, but he doesn’t, so she says, “What do you want me to do?”

“How do you mean?”

“With mom and dad. Penny filled me in and…” Sarah squeezed his shoulder. “Whatever you want or need. I’m here.”

“Oh.” They’d never gotten around to that lunch with Penny, so they haven’t talked about this, and to some degree he’d rather not. For another long moment he held Kelly, feeling the soft, warm weight of her against his skin, and with that comes a level of clarity. “He held you like this, you know… Well, not exactly like this, you were a few months old when he got back. But mom certainly did…”

“And you did.”

“Yeah. We were both a lot smaller then.” He sits there, holding Kelly, hearing her breathe and the soft, little chirpy sounds she’s making. “This sort of focuses things. They’re your parents, and they didn’t fuck you over, so… Do what you like. I’m not going to hold it against you or think less of you if you keep a relationship with them. I’m not going to make you pick, me or them.

“Not gonna do that to Penny, either. She did this, too, for him. Felt his fingers close around hers and fell instantly, unbreakably in love.” Her hand is out of the swaddle, and his finger strokes over the back of her hand, flits over her fingers, still amazed at how tiny her hand is, and feels four fingers clasp around his.

“What about you and them? Mom was pretty excited to get your text.”

“That was an accident. I forgot to take her contact off my family list… I’ll forgive her eventually. I’m angry, really angry, but I don’t want to cut her out completely. Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday and she should be here for this, but…” He lets it trail off. It hurts that she isn’t here, in a way he wasn’t expecting, but he knows that right now, seeing her would hurt even worse.

Sarah wraps her arm around him.

“Things will stay the same with Dad. Penny tells me that he asks you for updates on me, pictures and stuff… No pictures for him of Kelly or any other kids we may have. He doesn’t get to be anywhere near my children. He doesn’t get to know them, even second hand. That’s something you can do for me.”

“I can do that.”

“Maybe he’d be okay with Kelly, because she’s a girl, but I’m not risking it.”

“It’s okay. I won’t pass anything on. Won’t answer questions about you guys anymore.”

Sarah’s hand rests on his, her fingers between his on Kelly’s back. “He did this for you, too, you know?”

Tim closes his eyes, feeling those words, and the sensation, the emotions of this, brand new baby, his child, in his hands, and all the hopes and dreams and fears and love. “Yeah. I do. But it didn’t work. He didn’t fall in love with me. He fell in love with an idea.” He kissed the top of Kelly’s head, silently promising her that no matter who or what she wants to be, that he’ll be there for her. He looked back up at Sarah. “So, what are you going to do?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Watch him a lot more carefully if I have kids. I don’t think he’ll get to go on one on one sailing trips.”

“Good plan.”

“He’ll be stateside again in a few months, probably see him then.”

Tim nodded at that.

“What about you and him? Glen and I get married, can both of you be at the wedding?”

Tim shrugs. Spending time near his dad’s really low on his to do list. Napalming his sister’s chance at her daddy giving her away for her wedding also isn’t something he wants to do. “I promise you I will not start anything. I can’t promise I won’t end it if he does. I’m pretty much done with taking shit I don’t have to, and he’s at the top of the list of guys I’m not taking any more shit from. Last time I saw him we were in the same room for less than five minutes, with Gibbs, investigating a murder, and he still decided to make a few cracks about my weight and love life. I’ll play by the rules if he does, but if he doesn’t…” There’s something else he probably doesn’t need to be thinking about.

He shifts the topic, to something a little more relevant right this second. “So, are you and Glen getting married?    

Sarah shrugged. “Talking about it, a little. Not entirely sure if he’s the one.”

“Unless you want to have five or six of these little dudes, I don’t think you need to rush.”

“Nah. How’d you know Abby was the one?”

“Spending almost a decade dating other people and having them come up short compared to her was a clue. But for that almost decade it didn’t much matter because she didn’t want the same thing I did, so I did date, and looked at other people, because we were never going to be happy if I kept wanting this,” and he kissed Kelly’s head, “and she kept wanting a collection of friends with benefits. I lucked out, eventually she decided she liked the idea of where I wanted to go, and agreed to go there with me. But that was just luck. It doesn’t work that way for a lot of people, maybe even most of them. So, is Glen the guy, or is there a guy who kind of looks like him that you haven’t found yet, or he hasn’t become yet?”

“Don’t know. Good question to think about.”

They sat together for a few more minutes. “You gonna tell me about your super top secret editor’s meeting?”

That got a smile out of Sarah. “Super top secret. Like, really, not to be spread around.”

“Who am I going to tell?”

“Your agent? Your publisher?”

“I’ll keep quiet.”

“In December I hand in the last of the Levi books, and with that my contract’s over. My editor, agent, and I are breaking off and starting our own imprint.”

Tim’s eyes went wide. “You’re starting your own publishing house?”

“Yeah. Multi-media, all web-based, all social media, podcasts, ebooks, mini-movies. We’re going to cater to the tumblr fans, and give them everything they want.  Tons of content and we’ll run it as a subscription service, like cable. We’ll let the fans play, too, not just consume. Tons of fan created content. If we can get it off the ground, it’ll be awesome. Right now we’re setting up the list of authors we’re going to headhunt.”


“Yeah. You know who Amanda Hawking is?”

“The little girl who wrote those troll books? Sold a million of them on Amazon before she was twenty-six?”

“Yeah. We’re studying her playbook, and going to work it, but with professional production values.”

“Very cool.”

“I really hope so.”

“And you’re the brand name star?”

“One of them.”

“You’ve got takers?”

“A few.”

Tim smiled at that, very happy for Sarah. She stroked Kelly’s cheek. “I think she’s asleep.”

“Then we’re going to go lay down.”

“Good plan, you look like you need a nap.”

This time, he headed back to their room, gently put Kelly in her bassinet and noticed that yes, the sofa did fold out, so he spread it out and got to lie all the way down and that was a whole lot better than trying to sleep sitting down on it.

“Feel like another visitor?” Breena’s voice this time, though he’s heard a variation on that question from everyone in the family now.

“Sure,” Abby says, which was when he really woke up enough to notice she was up and nursing Kelly.
He noticed the scent of egg rolls and broccoli and chicken, and sat up rubbing his eyes. “Visitors with food are especially welcome.”

“You have to be really gentle with Aunt Abby and Kelly,” Jimmy says to Molly as they walk in. She’s in his arms. Yes, she can walk, but these days seems to have two speeds, running like crazy or ambling along at toddler speed, which is really, really slow.

So, assuming they want to get somewhere and not have her get into everything around/bump into other people, Jimmy usually carries her.

Molly’s nodding at that, eyes wide, bright smile on her face, Jimmy and Breena’s smiles wrapped together and amped through the innocent joy of a life untouched by any real sorrow. Tim felt around for his phone and started to film this, figuring that they’d all want footage of the first time the girls met.


“Yep. There she is.” Jimmy gently put Molly down on Abby’s bed, next to Abby, who was holding Kelly. He kept a hand on her, ready to yank her back fast if need be, but letting her get close on her own.


“Molly, this is Kelly,” Abby said. 

Kelly kicked free of the blanket and Molly saw her foot. Thin little foot, narrow sole, tiny toes. She looked at it, very gently, very slowly traced her finger over Kelly’s foot, said, “Baby foots,” and started to laugh.

Tim felt himself laugh in answer. Abby smiled, might have wanted to laugh, but that hurts too much right now. Jimmy kissed the top of Molly’s head, and Breena grinned at her.

“You were that size when you were born,” Breena said to Molly.

“No.” Molly’s shaking her head emphatically. The idea that people change, that she’s been changing is just way beyond Molly’s 16 month old mind.

“Okay. You’ve always been this size,” Breena said while setting down the food.

Tim almost says something like your little brother or sister will be this size, but remembers that Jimmy and Breena haven’t told Molly about the new baby yet. Mostly because she just won’t really get it. Plus the idea of waiting six months is another thing completely beyond her sixteen-month-old mind.

Jimmy’s taking her shoes off and then holds Molly’s foot up to Kelly’s foot. “See how much bigger you are?”

That Molly gets. She’s about twenty-five pounds now, and compared to Kelly looks like a giant. Though three days ago Tim was awfully convinced that Molly was the tiniest little baby girl on Earth.

Kelly finishes the breast she’d been working on, and Abby holds her up to burp. Molly inches a little closer, standing, little wobbly (Jimmy still has a hand on her, making sure she won’t fall into Kelly or Abby) and kisses Kelly’s forehead. Kelly twists her head and sort of squints at her.

For a second there, you could feel the collective ‘Oh How Cute!’ from all the adults.

Molly, after being told
she couldn't play with
the remote.
Then Molly noticed the remote to Abby’s bed, and that was the coolest thing ever, which resulted in some less than happy moments while she had a bit of a melt down over not being able to play with it. And Kelly started fussing, having to burp and not burping is uncomfortable and this whole eating thing was a lot easier when the food was just directly deposited through her umbilical cord.

And like with everything else in life, the precious moments are just moments, and parenthood is a whole lot more cleaning up messes and managing the desires of small people than basking in the glow of cute baby joy.

And so, the four of them, now all parents, got to it.


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