Chapter 239: Pop
Every home has its own patterns and rhythms, ebbs and flows of action, habits, and routine. Tossing a new baby into that home doesn’t so much disrupt those flows as knock them over, shake them up, recolor them, and then put them back in the wrong place.
And for as close as Gibbs is to Tim and Abby, he’s been to a greater or lesser extent, outside of those rhythms.
But not anymore. With the addition of Kelly to the mix, and him stepping into full Grandpa mode, he’s slipped fully into Tim and Abby’s home. He’s not an outsider anymore, at all, he’s home.
And he’s very welcome here.
He waited until 0630 to head over. And getting to their house, he crept in, if they were sleeping, he wasn’t going to wake anyone up.
Gibbs didn’t hear anything, so he hoped everyone was, for the moment at least, asleep.
Then he headed to the kitchen to make some coffee. In there, he noticed nothing that looked at all like breakfast had been attempted, so he started rooting around for something to make them for breakfast.
When he’s not eating take out/at the diner, Gibbs is a toast or oatmeal, eggs, and bacon guy. It’s not complicated, or for that matter particularly good for him, but it’s hot, easy, and he doesn’t feel hungry half way to lunch like he does when he tries the ‘better for him, low-fat’ stuff that various wives and girlfriends have attempted to feed him over the years in an effort to keep him alive longer.
His dad made it 88 years on a more or less all fat, all protein, all caffeine, all bourbon diet, he’s figuring it won’t do him any harm, either.
Tim wandered down a few minutes later, looking like the walking dead, the naked walking dead. Apparently pants really are optional at the McGee house, or Tim is really so tired that it just didn’t click that if he could smell coffee and bacon that someone else had to be in the house to provide those things.
Gibbs smiled at him, chuckling a little, and handed over the cup of coffee (one third caf/two thirds de-caf, good, hefty slug of milk, just the way Tim likes it.) and took Kelly from him.
He held her, noticing she was wide awake, looking pretty perky, and said, “You didn’t let Mom or Dad get any sleep at all, did you?”
Tim sort of grunted at him. Took a long drink of the coffee, sighed, seemed to notice he was naked, and headed right back out of the kitchen without saying a word.
When he headed back down, about five minutes later, having not just remembered that conversation with Abby about shifting their rather relaxed dress code a bit, but also having located some pants, he found Gibbs in their kitchen, Kelly held securely to one shoulder, while he, one-handed, scrambled eggs.
Tim had to admit he was pretty impressed by that.
Then he swooped over and grabbed Kelly because no one, not even the all-knowing, all-competent Gibbs is holding his daughter one-handed near a hot stove.
Gibbs laughed at that, too.
Tim just looked at him and said, “You’re lucky I’m not Abby, she would have yelled at you and cried.”
Gibbs nodded at that. “Rough night?”
“Let’s put it this way, we are never, ever trying co-sleeping again.”
Gibbs rose an eyebrow, not sure what co-sleeping was.
“Baby in the bed with us.”
Gibbs winced a little at that. “They don’t like sleeping alone. You do that and they’ll decide they want to sleep with you every night until they’re seven.”
“Is that the voice of experience?”
“I was home when Kelly was born, but got sent to Germany when she was four months old, for four months. We were out of Lejeune then, and Shannon’s family was still in Stillwater back then. So, little baby, no real support for Shannon, and Kelly was never a great sleeper. Was just easier for the two of them to sleep together. And of course I get home, and I want my wife back, but my daughter had other opinions on the subject and wasn’t happy at the idea of sharing Mom or being exiled out of the nice warm bed where Mom was because this strange guy showed up and wanted all of her attention.”
Tim smiles a little at that, holding his Kelly, petting her back.
“Probably four solid years where I’d be off, and then come home, and Kelly was always happy to see me until bedtime when she was less than thrilled to suddenly have to share Mom. I wasn’t winning any husband or father of the year awards on that one, couldn’t have been easy on Shannon, stuck between us, and I wasn’t exactly sympathetic to Kelly wanting bed space with Shannon.”
Tim laughed at that. “Rumors about Marines home on leave are not unfounded.”
“No, they aren’t. Especially since, unlike a lot of the other guys, I wasn’t hitting the red light districts.”
Tim rose an eyebrow at him.
“Most of the world isn’t too uptight about working girls. Prostitution is more or less legal in Germany, and it’s a less than two hour long train ride, depending on where you are, to Amsterdam where it was full on legal. Germany’s was the staging point for pretty much anything that happened in the Middle East, where there’s no booze, no women, no fun, so yeah, most of the guys partied pretty hard when they had off time in Germany.”
Tim smiled at that, too. Gibbs put two plates on the kitchen table, breakfast for both of them, and set a third plate in the oven on warm for Abby.
“She’s sleeping, right?”
“I really hope so. The nighttime deal we’ve got is I’m on baby fetching and poop removal duty, and she does the feeding and burping part.”
Gibbs nods, eating a bite of his eggs.
“So right now, with any luck, she’s sleeping, and I’m dealing with her.” He set Kelly in the bouncy chair, still on the kitchen table from last night, and she sat there, kicking around a little. Tim’s keeping an eye on her, having her arms and legs free to kick and play is good, but if she gets too much of it, she’ll get agitated. So he’s watching to see when she’ll want to get swaddled again.
“She doing better from yesterday?”
Tim shrugged. “Pretty quiet this morning. Didn’t look happy about Kelly not being in bed with us. But seemed resigned that if I was getting her, it wouldn’t be more work for her. I don’t know, maybe her sleeping with us is the right plan, but I won’t sleep if she’s in bed with us, and I just don’t see anything good coming out of both of us being exhausted all the time.” Then a thought hit him, and Tim got up, grabbed the plate out of the oven, dropped it back onto the rack, because it was hot, found a hot pad, and grabbed it again. “She can only go up and down the stairs once a day. Gonna take this up, that way she doesn’t have to come down if she doesn’t want to.”
He was half way out of the kitchen when Gibbs said, “Fork.”
Tim made a u-turn, grabbed some cutlery, and headed back up.
During breakfast, Kelly fell back to sleep. Shortly after that, Tim finished his food and Gibbs sent him to go sleep some more, too.
Eventually, while Kelly was still sleeping, Abby wandered down.
“Feeling better?” Gibbs asked. He was sitting at their kitchen table, cup of coffee next to him, reading something on his phone. Abby knew Tim had stuck a Kindle ap on there last year. She didn’t know that Gibbs had ever used it.
Abby shrugged. “Hungry.”
“Let’s get that fixed.” He got up. “Sit, rest, what do you want?”
She shrugged again. “Don’t have a taste for anything. Just hungry.”
While it’s true that Gibbs knows everyone’s drink orders, and a few little treats they all like, he’s not getting a drink or a little treat. So, he’s sort of floundering here with a request for something as vague as “food.”
Well, he’s floundering because he wants to get her something to remind her why she likes eating and that food is attached to pleasure and pleasure is a good thing. Sure, he can whip up a sandwich and a glass of juice easily enough, but he wants this to be something she wants but just doesn’t know she wants.
For a moment there, he was thinking now would be a really good time for Tim to wake up and take over, but Tim doesn’t have Gibbs’ near psychic level of perfect timing, especially when he’s dead asleep, so Gibbs is puttering around their kitchen trying to figure out what to feed Abby, who is sitting, quietly, looking awfully listless, at the kitchen table.
“Need more pain meds?”
She nodded at that.
So he got a dose, (had to fish out his glasses to read the dose and directions. That’s the real reason he’s willing to read on the Kindle ap Tim stuck on his phone, he can make the text big enough he doesn’t have to use his glasses to see it.) and the glass of cran-raspberry juice Abby likes, and gave them to her.
Finally, he decided that speed was probably more important than taste when it came to feeding Abby, so he used the last of the bacon he made and put together a BLT with lots of thick slices of tomato and three slices of bread.
He knows that part of Tim staying in good shape is not having lot of junk food around the house, but chips are really good with a BLT, and they just don’t seem to have any, though he thought the cashews might do pretty well in their place. Crunchy and salty.
Abby tore through the sandwich and nuts, and he could tell from the speed she was eating that that wasn’t enough food. There were peaches, and apparently Palmer had bought out every sort of ice cream in the store, so he dipped up a bowl of vanilla ice cream and cut up the peach, serving them up, too.
She tore through that pretty fast, too.
“No. Eat too much more, my stomach will start to ache.”
“Okay. Want more to drink?” He sort of remembered that nursing was thirsty as well as hungry work.
He looked at the glass next to her, and then went digging through their cabinets. “Do you not have any Caf-Pow glasses here?”
He filled up three regular sized glasses for her. “That should do you for a little while.” Then he made a note on his phone, next to the coffee note, to get some bigger cups. “You wanna go sit on the sofa, maybe be a little more comfortable?”
She nodded, got up, slowly, and headed in that direction. Gibbs took the glasses first, and set them on the little table next to the sofa. Then he carefully picked up the bouncy chair, and took it to the dining room table, where they could still easily see and hear Kelly. She stirred a little when he moved the chair, but didn’t wake up.
Then he headed over to the sofa, pulled the recline lever for Abby, so she could lean back easily, and sat next to her, realizing that part of why she didn’t recline it back for herself was that you have to use your stomach and back muscles to push it back, so he pushed it back, wrapped his arm around her, kissed her forehead as she snuggled in, and said, “Talk to me, Abbs.”
She was quiet for a long minute, and then finally said, “I feel like I’m splitting in half. Like I can feel the little voice that’s calm and rational and knows that none of this is the end of the world and everyone throughout all of history managed to do this just fine talking to me, but it keeps getting drowned out by this huge, scary, emotional, terrified, nervous voice that feels like if I ever close my eyes something horrible is going to happen.”
“I know how that feels. As long as it keeps talking, you’re still okay. It’s when it shuts up that you’re in trouble.”
Abby looks up at Gibbs, suddenly getting that Gibbs has been far enough gone that little voice completely vanished. “What if it shuts up? I'm so scared I'm going to lose it.”
“We’re here. We’ll help you find it again. We’ll keep you and everyone else safe until we do.”
“What if I can’t find it, what if it just goes?” She’s looking up at him with big, scared eyes.
“It won't. It's always there somewhere. Just sometimes it's hard to find. And if you need it, we’ll carry you until you can find your way again.”
“I feel like, if I stay quiet, I can still, sort of, faintly, hear that little normal voice.”
“Then you be as quiet as you need to be." He kissed her again. "Tim and I can deal with it. Wanna go get more sleep?”
“Not worth it. She’ll wake up and want to eat soon.” Abby looked at Kelly and back at Gibbs. “I swear I know why the cows moo, now. I’m so sore, I’m about ready to start mooing.”
Gibbs kissed her forehead, smiled, and said, quietly, “Mmmoooooo.”
For a second Abby just stared at him, utterly shocked, then she felt the laugh start. “God, Gibbs, don’t make me laugh. It hurts!”
He hugged her a little tighter. “Sorry. Just wanted to see you smile.”
“You’re making jokes and apologizing? Who are you, and what did you do with Gibbs?”
“Grandpa’s prerogative. I’m allowed to be goofy when I’m home with my family.”
Abby smiled at him, tearing up. “Yeah, you are.”
“Hey, stop that. Don’t want you crying over me.”
“Too bad. New mommy prerogative. I get to cry when and wherever I want.”
He kissed her again. “Yeah, you do.”
Eventually, Kelly did wake up, and Gibbs noticed one snag in the set up at the McGee house, changing table and diaper stuff is upstairs.
Abby can’t go upstairs.
So, once again he’s on diaper duty, which was never his favorite baby-oriented chore, but small crying person wants food and feeding her is going to be a lot more pleasant if she’s clean, so he grabs Kelly and heads up to the changing table.
It does shock him how fast it comes back. Before Kelly was born, he’s sure he hadn’t thought about the mechanics of a diaper change, let alone for a little baby, in more than thirty years. But his body remembers this.
His hands know the routine.
It seems like the wipes and diapers are better than they were. More snug. Less leaky. But the basics are all the same.
He was never a huge music fan. Most of the time it was just there. But humming or quietly singing something seemed to make his Kelly happy, give her something to listen to, maybe made him feel like he was communicating with her, when neither of them had much to say.
Shannon had always been a Simon and Garfunkle and John Denver fan. He has very clear images of her sitting in the rocking chair, nursing Kelly, gently rocking, humming Scarboro Fair or Leaving on a Jet Plane.
He tended to go back further. Elvis and memories of the days when his parents were happy, healthy, and getting along.
So, as he’s lifting up little legs, and wiping off a tiny tush, he’s quietly singing: “Wise men say/Only fools rush in/But I can’t help/Falling in love with you…” Kelly’s watching him, squirming a bit, crying a little, probably doesn’t like how cold the wipes feel on her skin.
He smiled at her, looking amused. “Yeah, my Kelly was never very impressed with my singing, either.” But he kept it up, moving to the next verse, wondering where the hell they kept the baby powder, because he’s not seeing any of it, and step three, after remove soiled diaper, remove baby poop, was apply powder, but if they’ve got it, it’s not here. So he puts the clean diaper on, snaps up the onesie, and swaddles Kelly nice and snug, holding her against his shoulder.
“Ready for lunch? I know your mom’s ready to feed you.”
He found Abby on the sofa, watching… something. He’s got no idea what it is, but there are two guys who are very clearly not FBI agents, not even TV’s idea of what an FBI agent looks like, they’re both way too pretty, investigating something, asking some really non-standard questions.
He sat down next to her, and handed Kelly over. “All cleaned up and ready to eat. Do you guys have baby powder?”
“No. Not good for them. They breathe it in, and it’s bad for their lungs.”
“Of course.” He and all seventy-million of his baby boomer compatriots all grew up just fine with baby powder and all of them managed to keep their kids alive while using it, but if it’s bad for babies, he’s not going to argue. (He may, however, mention to it Fornell, who he’s sure will sympathize. And, it occurs to him, Penny might, too.)
He got up, washed his hands, brought down some diapers, wipes, a few blankets, and set up a make-shift changing table on the dining room table, and sure, it might not be the most sanitary thing ever, but he’s figuring that’s the most functional place for him to do it.
Then he sat down next to Abby, wrapping his arm around her, watching her nurse Kelly and basking in this, being home, wrapped around his girls, feeling really, right, for the first time in years.
Two days later, Tim gave him a copy of the shot of all three of them snoozing on the sofa.