Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 260

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

Chapter 260: The Bluff and The Con

“So, who are the Godparents?” Father John asked when they met the next Sunday. Once again they were in his office. This time in the daylight. (Tim was right, it did get good light.) He and Abby were on the too hard sofa, Kelly was in her car seat, snoozing.

“Breena and Jimmy Palmer.”

“Okay, good. Which church are they with? I’ll call their Priest and check up on them.”

“St. Mary’s Episcopal.”

Father John looked up quickly from the piece of paper he was going to write their information on. His expression was disappointed. “That’s not a Catholic Church.”

“They aren’t Catholics,” Tim replied.

“Then they can’t be the Godparents. One or both of them can be a Christian Sponsor, but you need to have an actual Catholic in good standing for a Godparent.”

Tim took a breath; he doesn’t like doing this, especially cold, it’s a lot easier to do something like this pissed off, but, now or never.

“No. It’ll be Jimmy and Breena or it won’t happen at all. They are involved in Kelly’s everyday life. They are good people. They are her guardians if something happens to us. They’re her godparents.”

Father John settled back in his seat, smiled gently at them, and said, “I’d like to do it. I met both of them at your wedding. They seem like lovely people. But I can’t do it. Cannon law states that Godparents have to be Catholics in good standing. They have to be living role models of what a true Catholic life looks like. To be perfectly frank, if one of my parishioners were to come in and ask if you” he was looking at Tim, “could be godparent, I’d have to turn him down. This needs to be someone who can, by example, show how to live a Catholic life. So, no, it’s not enough to be a good person. It’s not enough to be a Christian. You have to be Catholic. You have to be dedicated to it. I know some priests don’t take this duty seriously, but I do. As you saw, when I get a request for someone I don’t know, I call their parish and talk to their priest and make sure they’re up for the job. So, I’m sorry, but it can’t be Jimmy and Breena. What about your sister? I remember giving her communion at your wedding.”

“Anyone else is a moot point. As I said, it’ll be Jimmy and Breena or it won’t happen at all.”

Father John smiled again. “Tim, I understand what you’re trying to do here, but it’s not going to work. I cannot give you what you want. I wish I could, but I can’t. You can find a good Catholic to stand up as a Godparent, and if none of your family will work, I can absolutely guarantee you that Sister Rosita will, and will be happy to take on the job, and Jimmy and Breena can be Christian Sponsors, but that’s as far as I can go on this.”

Tim shakes his head. “Look, if you can’t bend or get a dispensation, that’s fine. You’ll do what you can do. But there’s only so far I can bend on this, too. It’s them or it’s not at all. Godparents should matter. It shouldn’t just be a meaningless title. And if it’s anyone other than Jimmy and Breena, it will be a meaningless title.”

“You’ll put your daughter’s soul in mortal danger—“ Father John is making that appeal to Abby, but Tim pulls his attention back to him.

“No, you will.” Tim stares at Father John, expression cold, but he’s feeling pretty jittery on the inside, really he hates doing this when he’s not feeling pissed. “I don’t believe in souls. That I’m here at all, that I’ll go this far, is out of love for Abby.” He squeezed her hand, as much to take comfort from her touch as to let her know that he hopes this’ll be done soon. “I don’t believe in magic water that washes souls clean, and I certainly don’t believe in a God that cares about the application of said water, let alone a God who would hold anything I do against Kelly. If all of this is real, I highly doubt he’ll blame her for me being an ass, and if He does, He’s not worth my faith. But if you believe this, if you want the chance to do your job and save the soul of a helpless infant, you’ll find a way to make Jimmy and Breena her Godparents.”

John holds his gaze, not looking away, not blinking, and he very calmly says, “Then it won’t happen.”

Tim can feel there’s something… wrong… in the way John says that, but he doesn’t know what. He’s being played, but he’s not sure how. So he says, “Fine.”

He looks at Abby, and they got up, and head out of Father John’s office, and normally, about now, as they’re walking through the church and to the parking lot, is when John should fold but, oh shit, they’re getting in the car and pulling away, and yeah, that didn’t work at all.


Abby’s looking amused. “So, you’re officially calling that a failed bluff.”

“I’d like to give it a day or two more, but, yeah.”

“If it’s the rule, and he really can’t…”

“I know. There was something hinky in the way he was looking at me, though. Like there’s a part of this that I’m not getting.”

“There might be.”

They drive another mile before Tim says, “Do we have to be Catholic?”

That really surprises Abby. But after a bit, because he does just sit there quietly, letting her think about it, she says, “Is this about not having to fold on that bluff?”

He nods, looking a little embarrassed by that, but he’s not going to try and play her. “Honestly, yeah, some. Maybe a lot. No one loves going in and saying, ‘I was wrong.’ But, it’s not entirely about that. Okay, Jimmy and Breena are our first choice. We love them. They’re going to be involved in Kelly’s life. They’re basically her back up parents. Great. But they aren’t good enough because they aren’t Catholic. Gibbs isn’t good enough, because he’s not Catholic. My sister and Grandmother who at least live in the area and will be involved in her life, they don’t pass muster because they aren’t Catholic enough. We’ve got to pull in your brother--who is a fine man, but will probably spend less than three hours with Kelly in the next five years--before we’ve got someone who qualifies in our family, because he’s a ‘Good Catholic.’ He won’t be there for her. He’s not going to be a major part of her life, he won’t be an example of anything, because he lives a thousand miles away, but he’s okay. And… I just hate this meaningless shit. I hate this it has to look right rather than be right crap.

“And sure, going back and saying, ‘I was just kidding, Luca and Melody Sciuto’ll do it,’ will sting my pride, but when I asked you to back the bluff, I meant that I’d go through with folding if it came to it, and I will, but… Do we have to be Catholic? Maybe we could go somewhere that’s more focused on the Christian part of it and less on the doctrine? I mean, Jimmy and Breena’s Pastor didn’t give us any crap about being Catholic. He knew we’d be there day in and day out, and that’s what mattered. That just makes a lot more sense to me.”

Abby thought about that, too, and Tim let her. He’s not going to rush this. She’s been a member at St. Sebastian’s for fifteen years and actually Catholic her whole life. He knows this matters to her, but which brand of Christian they are doesn’t matter to him. It’s like soda. Since he doesn’t drink it often, he doesn’t care if the stuff in their cupboard is Pepsi or Coke.

Of course, it doesn’t matter to him because that’s how he sees them, as brands. His identity isn’t attached to it in any meaningful way. But hers is… so, if it matters, he’ll go back, and Luca will get the job, but… maybe it doesn’t matter.

It was a day later, (Father John hadn’t called, looks an awful lot like he knows this is a bluff and he’s going to let Tim fold on it) when Abby asked him, as they were eating lunch, “If we weren’t Catholic, what would we be? I mean, how do you see this working?”

“I don’t know. I mean, I know you’re Christian, I know you want to be part of a church, and I know that point isn’t negotiable.”

She nods at him.

“And I know I’ve promised to do this with you. That because it’s important to you, I will do it. So, I’m certainly not thinking about dropping it all together.”


“And I know there are things we don’t like about being Catholic.”

“Also true.”

“Plenty of rules we just skipped.”

She nods.

“And I was in the car, driving home, and it hit me that I don’t know what it means to be Catholic to you. I know what it means to be Catholic to me. It means I’m with you, and you’re Catholic, but… We’re pro-gay marriage. We’ve got condoms in the dresser. We’re not vehemently pro-life. I mean, neither of us would have blinked if Jon’s heart had still been beating and Jimmy and Breena had decided to terminate. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but I’ve killed people, more than ten of them. We started having sex, lived together, and made Kelly all before we got married. Neither of us like the anti-woman stuff. Sister Rosita’s got, what, three master’s degrees in different religious topics and both of us think it’s ridiculous they won’t ordain her. And sure, both of us like Francis, but I can’t imagine you think he’s infallible. So, just… What does it mean to be Catholic, for you?”

Abby didn’t answer that, and he can see she’s thinking.

“So, if it was just up to me, Jimmy and Breena’s church. Our family is there. Some of them at least. If Gibbs had a church, I’d be fine with his church, too. But that’s all this is to me, a place where our family gathers. That’s why I slipped into Shabbos so easily, if you were going to ask me to design a religious service, that’s how I’d do it. At home, with your family—“

“And good food and wine.” She smiles at that.

He nods a little, acknowledging that’s definitely part of the draw. “That doesn’t hurt. You’re never going to have a hard time selling me on celebrations centered on good food. But, I know this is more to you than just a place and family, so, what do you need from this?”

She shrugs. “Still thinking about it.”


Last year's blood drive.
They decided to head in for the Blood Drive on Wednesday, which worked out pretty well on several levels. First of all, it gave him a chance to drop off a thumb drive with his report and all of the data on it for Leon. Secondly, giving blood is always good. Third, dropping in to say ‘Hi’ to everyone was good.  Fourth, Abby wanted to make sure her lab was still in one piece. And, fifth, it let him bounce an idea off of Ducky.

Abby hasn’t said anything else about the baptism or being Catholic or anything along those lines. But he still can’t shake the feeling that he’s being played and as per Rule 36: if you feel like you’re being played, you probably are, so he wants to check up on this.

But he can’t spot the con. No idea how it’d work. Obviously there’s something in there he can’t see, but he can’t see it. But if anyone could see it, would know how he’s getting played on this, it’d be Ducky.

So, while Blood Services got a hold of Abby, he and Kelly headed down to Autopsy.

Quiet day. No murders on tap, so Autopsy isn’t up to much. Several years ago Jimmy had asked to get up to speed on the sorts of psychological profiles that Ducky does, so on quiet days like today, when the paperwork is done, and the bodies are settled, he snags a textbook or two and starts reading.

Ziva gave, too.
But an excuse to quit the books and snuggle a baby girl are certainly something he doesn’t mind.

And Ducky, who had been drinking his tea, listening to a symphony, and working on a report of his own, certainly didn’t mind a diversion.

“Not that we aren’t thrilled to see you, Timothy, but what brings you down?” he asked while setting his cup of tea on his desk.

“Thought Kelly needed to see her Uncles.” Tim smiled, handing Kelly off to Jimmy. “Well, that’s part of it. There’s another part as well...” He explained the situation to Ducky and wrapped up with. “I felt like he was playing me, but I don’t know how. I figured that since you know everything about everything, that if anyone could spot the con, it’d be you.”

Ducky smiled at that. “I appreciate your confidence in me, Timothy, and while it’s true that I can ‘spot the con’ as you put it, I do not actually know everything about everything.”

“Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter if you can tell me the secrets of the universe, but I would like to know what he’s got going on.”

Ducky smiled in a manner that seemed to indicate he had more than a few of them on tap, as well. “A formal baptism is not, in fact, required. Catholics, and for that matter, most Christians, believe that any follower of Christ can baptize if necessary. Back in the pre-scientific age, holy water and oil was part of any midwife’s kit. If it looked like the baby wasn’t going to survive until the Priest got there, she was empowered to take care of it.

“My guess is that he’s planning on taking care of the matter behind your back, because from everything I’ve seen, he is a good man, so he is not going to leave your daughter in mortal peril because you are being a stubborn fool.”

Jimmy shook his head. “How crazy has the world gotten when your priest is planning on conning you?”

Tim nodded absently at that. Good point, but not what he’s focused on. “You think I’m being a fool?”

“I think that’s how he would understand it.”

“Ah.” Tim waited a few beats, looking at Ducky, silently suggesting that he’s still waiting for the answer to his question.

Ducky smiles gently at him. “I do not think standing up for the things that matter to you is foolish. I do think placing this much weight on something that, in the long run, likely does not matter, might be. And I do think that if this is causing any friction between you and Abby, then it is definitely foolish.”

“No friction. We’re fine. Just… figuring some things out. Mostly about symbols and how much they matter and… Do you believe in God? I know you and Penny go to church every now and again, but I don’t know if you did before.”

Jimmy’s watching this, interested, somehow in all the hours, all the stories, all the conversations, that’s one they hadn’t gotten to.

“I believe in God. I do not believe in dogma. I believe that for most of humankind religion is a tribal marker. It’s a way we sort ourselves into in groups and out groups. I believe that for much of human existence religion has made a place for itself by providing a useful order to the universe and a system of laws to produce some level of functional society. And I believe that those laws are, for the most part, and with many exceptions, a positive good. The basics of almost all systems of morality come from religious grounds. And I believe that the idea of sacred is important, vital, to a properly functional life. Is that helpful?”

“Yeah. Thanks, Ducky.”

Gibbs took that moment to head into autopsy. He didn’t even have to say anything. Jimmy just handed Kelly over straight away.

Gibbs smiled, kissed the top of her head, and gave her back to Tim. “Not why I’m down here.”


“You haven’t released Bufford’s body, yet?”

“No, he’s still enjoying our hospitality.”

“Good. Need to double check something…”

Tim waved goodbye to them and headed up to find Abby. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 259

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

Chapter 259:  Job, What Job?

Monday morning.  Abby’s napping. Kelly’s almost checked out. (She’s hanging out on his chest for the time being, but he’ll be taking her upstairs soon.) So, theoretically he’s got time to do some stuff.

Like, maybe take a glance at his computer.

Maybe wade through the mess of emails and data that’s been accumulating.

Sounded like a plan.

Damn, this thing is useful!
He has to admit, he thought the baby sling was kind of dumb at first, and was absolutely certain he wasn’t going anywhere near it, because wearing something that looked like a baby hammock across his chest and shoulder just seemed silly, but having two free hands to work with while Kelly settled down was awfully nice.

Computer on, booted up, gmail up and… Wow, ton of emails. He runs two fast searches through them. Okay, three of them are interesting. Two from Vance, and one from his editor looking for a clue as to when the next book will be done. He’s about to fire off the response to that when he noticed Kelly’s awfully still. He looked down. Her eyes were droopy and she’s barely sucking the pacifier.

So, taking Kelly to her crib put a pause to handling his email. But getting her down only took a few minutes. While he wouldn’t have believed it when she was brand new, he’s now starting to agree with Breena that Kelly’s a good sleeper.

Kelly down meant he had probably a good two, maybe two and a half hours of free time.

So he got to work. First things first, he sent that response to his editor. He had about twenty-thousand words to go on the next Deep Six, and he’s got no idea when he’ll get it done. Before October 1st, which is his deadline for the rough draft, but beyond that, no clue.

Next up, emails from Leon. The first one wasn’t terribly interesting, just housekeeping stuff, likely written by his secretary, a reminder that they were switching to a new system for handling their paperwork, and that once again NCIS would be hosting Virginia Blood Services and that last year 82% of NCIS had donated and this year, they’d really like to see that number get up to 87%.

Tim made a note of that, if everything was going well, he’d stop in and give blood. So far he’s given every year.

The next email was much more interesting.

This one was a personal letter from Vance concerning the information he’d been getting about Tim’s test.

At the end of each month each Department Head sends a report to Vance listing what’s happened, what needs to happen, how things are going with their departments. As June faded into July he’d been especially interested in the report from Cybercrime. It was, as Vance put it “disappointing.” No mention of the test. No mention of all the computers going bonkers all at once. Nothing.

The other interesting bit was that Stephen Manners had asked for an appointment to see the Director, and had asked him why he’d been hacked by “Kevin Hussein.” Vance had told him it was a security test, and that between the Port to Port killer getting access to their building, and Dearing’s attacks on Navy weaknesses, he periodically has different branches of NCIS check up on each other. As a former NCIS employee who left in good graces and had a great security clearance, he had “asked Kevin” to run periodic checks on Cybercrime.

Tim tried to remember which one Manners was… Then it clicked. He was the one who programmed straight through the attack. Good. Someone noticed, checked up, and actually found the trail of bread crumbs he’d left.

He kept reading: The thing I found most fascinating about my conversation with Manners was that, from everything I could see, he had no idea that anyone else in Cybercrime had been targeted. Likewise, he appeared to have never thought this was something worth mentioning to Jenner. He took this straight to me.

He left my office under the impression that “Kevin” had chosen him at random.

Hmmm… Okay. No communication at all in that department. He made a note to pay especially close attention to Manner’s logs so he could see how Manner tracked his attack, and wondered if he’d noticed he was still being monitored.

He sent that as a follow up question to Leon, along with a few lines about how he was getting ready to wade into the data to see what exactly they’d all done in response to the attack.

Then came all the rest of his email. Tons of it.

He was cruising through it, deleting most of it as stuff that didn’t matter, redirecting a few to Tony or Ziva with a quick note about how he’d be back in the office on the 20th.

The two from his mom he hovered over with his mouse and decided not to open.

Not today. He’s in a good mood, he’s getting useful stuff done, he doesn’t need to know what’s in those emails. If it was really important, Penny or Sarah would have told him about it.

He was in the process of forwarding another one to Ziva when he took the time to really read it. And really reading it, he smiled.

Ngyn, Cybercrime tech who noticed the attack while it was happening, had emailed him to find out what was going on.

So, he told her a variation of the same story Leon had spun. Namely, as the best guy with a computer outside of Cybercrime, he’d been picked to run the occasional check on them. He didn’t elaborate on who’d been checked, but did let her know he was pleased she had noticed she’d been hacked and found he’d done it.

He blind forwarded Ngyn’s letter and his response to Leon.

He added her logs to the things he was going to check first, and continued to slog through his emails.

Okay, he’s moving a lot more slowly than anticipated, (or maybe there was a hell of a lot more email) or Kelly’s not sleeping as long as normal, but the soft cry of a small person looking for her next meal curtailed his progress.

He stood up, got to the doorway of his office, and then heard Abby heading to Kelly’s room, so back to his desk.

Data time.

At some later point Abby poked her head in, and he thinks he sort of grunted in her direction. Then coffee materialized next to him, and he was awfully happy to see it. (Decaf or not, the act of drinking coffee is part of the rhythms of how he processes data.) And though he wasn’t paying any attention to it, apparently the Magic Coffee Fairy kept providing refills for him because at no point did he reach over and find an empty cup. (Which is usually the trigger that lets him know to get up, walk around, stretch, go to the bathroom, get a snack/meal, do something other than work the data.)

At some much later point he noticed that: A: He was hungry. B: It was dark out. And C: He hadn’t gotten any naps and it was his night for the 4:00 feed so he was going to be hurting for sleep.

He wandered out of his office, blinking at the light coming from the living room, and found Abby sitting on the sofa, Kelly in her lap, patting her, must be post nurse burp time, watching some sort of TV show. Abby looked over at him as he flopped onto the sofa and paused the show.

“Haven’t seen you that buried in a computer in a while. Good stuff?”

He rubbed his eyes and forehead, and scanned the room for a second, checking the clock. After 10:00, great.

“Yeah. Sort of. Got into the raw data from my test.”  Kelly decided to punctuate that statement with a burp.

“Here.” She handed him Kelly, and he settled her on his chest, in the baby sling. (He was a little surprised to still be wearing it, apparently he didn’t take it off after getting her down.) She looked from her mom to him, seeming a little confused at getting shifted all of a sudden. But Abby got up, and gestured for him to follow her. He did, ending up in the kitchen, sitting at their table (where Abby pointed to) and less than a minute later was looking at salad and left over Thai style chicken fried rice from the night before. “Eat, before your blood sugar completely tanks.”

He nods, taking a bite. “Thank you.”

“I made it up for us, called out to you, you didn’t answer, so I headed into the office, said your name twice, you still didn’t answer, so I figured I was on my own for dinner.”

“Oh, God,” he shook his head. “Sorry about that.”

“Tonight, it wasn’t a problem.”

“Maybe not, but don’t let me do that. Go in there and poke me. It’s not good to be that deep into it.”

“House wasn’t on fire, you weren’t alone, and Kelly wasn’t bugging me. We’re good.”

He exhaled heavily, then ate another bite.

“So, what’d you find.”

“Let’s put it this way, if there was any little nagging voice in the back of my mind that thought this wasn’t fair to Jenner, it died this afternoon.”

Abby rose an eyebrow.

“How are you going to track down Cybercrimes and protect people if you can’t keep your own department tight?”

“That bad?”

“Worse? I don’t know. From what I can tell, Jenner decided the test had to be some sort of prank. Okay, given that everything was saved, and what actually happened, that wasn’t an insane take on the subject, but he barely checked anything, just made sure none of their data had gone missing. Two of his guys mentioned that their computers had gone wonky, and he checked them, too.

“No follow up.” He grabs another fast bite of the rice, the smell and taste of it reminding him, vividly, that he hasn’t eaten since breakfast. “He didn’t check in with anyone else. He checked enough to see that the hack had come from NCIS, which was one of the false trails I laid. It didn’t actually; I fired it off of my computer here. And then he just let it lie. He didn’t even bother to go through and see who’d pulled it. I mean, imagine for a moment that all of a sudden our team had our guns stop working properly. Can you imagine Gibbs looking at them, and then deciding that Tony must have just pulled it as a prank, and then did nothing about it?”

“I can imagine him thinking Tony might have pulled it as a prank, but Tony’s head would ring for a week from the force of the headslap.”

“Exactly. And you can bet we’d all get slapped for letting him mess with our guns, too.”

“Yep. Nothing happened to the techs for letting themselves get hacked?”

“Not that I could see. Now, maybe they do have a prankster down there and things like this have happened before, in which case I picked the wrong damn test case. But… Anyway… No leadership on this. From the looks of it, they aren’t talking to each other, either.

“Seven of twelve of them just let it go. Once everything went back to normal on their systems and they realized they hadn’t lost anything, they went back to work. Five of them decided to see what was up. All five of them used exactly the same technique for the first three levels. Three of them decided to let it go when they hit enough dead ends. One found “Kevin.” He went straight to Vance, and I wonder if he’s also got Jenner’s job in his crosshairs. The other emailed me directly.

“Ngyn, the one who emailed, also buffed up her internal security. Manners, the one who went to Vance, didn’t. Though he might decide to, because Vance told him the test was a sort of internal audit, that he has different branches of NCIS check each other periodically to see how good we are.”

“So, you’re not taking over the A-Team.”

“They may not qualify as the Bad News Bears. I’ve got to see if I can get into HR and find out how Jenner was hiring.”


“Help me figure out if he’s just not good at locating talent. Or if it’s so bad down there it just sucks the life out of them. Or… I don’t know. I just want to know what made him think, hey, you, person who had your entire system go insane for ten minutes and then you did nothing about it, you’re the guy I want to put in charge of hunting down criminals.”

“I can see that.”

He took another minute to just eat and then said, “Next test’ll be interesting. Right now Ngyn’s the only one in position to even notice it happen.”


“Oh yeah.”

Abby stole one of his cucumber slices. “How good is the security on your work computer?”

“Good, at least, I think it is.”

“Might want to buff it up. If you’re making them look bad, and any of them figure it out, you might get a nasty surprise.”

“Good point. I’ll have to add an extra layer of defense or two.”

“What’s the next test?”

“Once I’ve finished sorting through the data and what exactly it was each of them did, I’m going to give them enough down time so Manners and Ngyn aren’t on edge, maybe a month, and then I’m going in and breaching whichever cases they’re working on. Not going to screw anything up, but I am going to snag at least one bit of classified info off of each of their computers.”

“After that?”

“After that, I’m going after their personal computers and phones.”

Abby squinted at him, thinking for a minute. “That’s illegal, right?”

“Probably. Might have to find a way to deal with that.”

“Lots of jobs are requiring prospective employees hand over their social media so they can check up. That’s considered legal…”

“Good to know. I’ll have to send it by Leon. Don’t want to end up in jail for testing how good my soon to be employees are.”  

“Yeah, I’d prefer you didn’t end up in jail, either. I mean, I still have the McGee defense fund that I set up back when that guy was sniffing around from you hacking the CIA—“

“Really?” That had to have been close to five years ago now.

“Okay, I’ve got the bucket I was collecting it in. Remember we went out to dinner after you caught him, I paid—“

He laughed, understanding. “You mean my defense fund paid.”


“Wasn’t that take out Chinese?”

“Defense fund had $32.57 in it.”


“Gibbs put in twenty.”

“Even better.” He laughed at that. “Good to know that you all were willing to pay the big bucks to keep me out of jail.”

“Anything for you, baby.” She leaned over and kissed him.  “So, what happens now?”

He looked down, checking Kelly, who had been sucking away on her pacifier, adding little burbles and coos to their conversation, but was looking like she might be starting to think sleepy thoughts.

“Were you planning on going to sleep when she went down?”

“That was the idea.”

“Okay, I’m still too wired for that. So, I’m enjoying your company, but if you want to go to sleep now, I’ll put her down.”

“I could use the extra down time.” She stood up and kissed him. He wrapped his hand around her neck, and kissed back, soft and gentle, not sexy, just saying I-love-you without voice.

She was heading toward the stairs when he said, “Abby.”


“Thank you.”

“For what?”

He stood up and crossed over to her, resting his hands on her hips, and his forehead against hers. “All of it.”

She smiled, pecked his lips, and headed up to get some sleep. He looked down at their daughter and said, “So, feel like hanging out with me while I finish dinner?”

She didn’t say anything.

“We keep kind of odd hours here. It’ll probably get more regular as you get older, but right now, sometimes I work all night, and sometimes Mom does, too, but we’re going to make sure we spend some time with you, when you’re awake, every single day.” 


Monday, November 25, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 258

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

Chapter 258:  Sunday

They were getting ready for church for the first time since Kelly was born. Honestly, Tim would much rather skip it and sleep, but Abby wants to go, and he can sort of zone out there, so they’re going.

And zone out he did.

There is literally not one single idea in his head as to what the service might have been about.

But he did notice when Father John came over to pet Kelly, coo over her, and ask when they wanted to do the baptism.

And thus, August 2nd 2015 became the day that Kelly was going to get baptized. They made an appointment to bring in the potential godparents to meet Father John before and get everything set up, and went home.

It wasn’t until driving home that something hit him.



“Breena and Jimmy aren’t Catholic.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Father John’s not going to like it. Godparents are supposed to be Catholic, good Catholics, right?”

She thinks about that for a moment and comes to the conclusion that since the whole point of Godparents is to promise to renounce Satan and sin in the place of the kid and then promise to help raise them Catholic that yes, being Catholic is usually a pre-req for being a Godparent.

He sees her understand that.

“How important is getting her baptized to you?” Because it’s something he could very easily just take or leave.


“Okay. Will you let me try to bluff him? You can get dispensations or something, right?”

“Maybe. What’s the bluff?”

“That if he won’t go for Jimmy and Breena we’ll walk away and not get her baptized. If it doesn’t work, we can… Get Luca and Melody up? Hell, who else do we know? Sister Rosita?”

“Kyle’s Catholic.”

“You both got adopted by Catholic families?”

“We both got placed with Catholic Charities, so, yeah.”

That made sense. “Okay, but he’s not going to work for the same reason my sister and Penny won’t, he’s living with someone he’s not married to. So, will you let me try the bluff?”

“Sure.” She knows the symbolism of family is more important to him than any of the rest of this. “I’ll back you on it. Maybe, if we’re lucky it won’t be a big deal at all and you won’t need to bluff.”

“We can hope.”


A second later she’d gotten up and grabbed their daughter from him, holding her at arm length.

It’s possible he could have been more covered in baby pee, but it would have required a concerted effort and likely more than one baby.

“What happened to you?” she asked, trying not to laugh at the look on his face.

“I don’t know. I was putting her down, singing the lullaby, and then we were both soaked.”

Abby broke and started laughing. “How about I finish up with her, and you get a shower?”

“Thank you.”

A few minutes later, she slipped into the shower behind him.

“She’s down?”

“Yeah. Diaper was on backwards.”

He sighed, feeling world-class stupid. “Maybe I am too tired for Bootcamp.”

“Go and hang out. You don’t have to fight. I was just going to get a nap. Bring us home some Thai.”

He nods, rinsing the conditioner out of his hair. “Feels weird to get a shower before Bootcamp.”

“Yeah, guess that’s not how it usually works. Still, don’t want to go covered in pee.”

“Nope. Get smelly enough working full out, don’t need to add baby pee on top of that.” He rested his hands on her hips, and switched them around so she was in the full stream of the shower, and began to soap up.

She’s watching him soap up, rubbing foamy bubbles all over his skin, and he’s not playing with it, not showing off or anything (because Abby knows what getting the job done looks like, and what showing off looks like, and right now, he’s just getting the job done) but it’s occurring to her, in a way it hasn’t since before Kelly was born, that Tim’s an attractive guy, and wet, naked, soapy Tim, hands rubbing all over his own skin, is certainly reminding her that once upon a time, there was this thing they used to do on a very regular basis, and she really liked it, and it might be nice to do that again, and soon.

Though, she’s still bleeding, so, probably wait a bit longer before getting fully back to it, but still, some messing around would be good. They’ve been doing good on making sure to get at least some cuddle time in every day, but it’s been a week since there’s been anything that produces orgasms, and right now, she could certainly go for one.

So, she steps a little closer to him, nipples rubbing lightly against his chest, hands on his hips. “I like how you smell when you work out.”

That got an amused smile out of Tim. He put the soap down and wrapped his hands around the small of her back. “Really?”

“I like how you smell all the time, but hot and sweaty, flushed, working out hard, yeah, I like that. Like all of it.” Her hands trailed up his arms, and over his back, mapping his muscles.

“Huh.” He’s grinning.


“Maybe I won’t race to the showers after next Bootcamp.”

She smiles and kisses his bottom lip, gently. “Won’t Jimmy and Gibbs wonder what’s up?”

“They might.” He licked his lips. “Of course, if you were to call and ask me to get home sooner rather than later…”

That got a grin out of her. “Some sort of unspecified ‘family emergency.’”

“Some sort of itch that only I can scratch.” His hands, which had been on her hips slipped down to stroke over her bottom.

“I imagine I could think of some need that only you could fulfill. Something that had to happen right that second.”

“You could call with a very specific request.” He kissed her throat, licking her earlobe, and said quietly, “The sort of thing that I’d be willing to drop anything to attend to.”

She looked into his eyes, enjoying the heat and wicked joy lighting them. “Yeah, I think I could do that.”

“Uh huh.” He kissed her lips, soft and wet, and she kissed back, tongue slipping against his, encouraging more depth and pressure.


He wriggled against her, rubbing his whole body along hers. “Good?”

“Oh yeah.”

He traced his hand up from her thighs to her shoulder, and stroked along her chest. “Can I?”

She got what he was asking, and it has been less than half an hour since she finished nursing, so probably okay. “Sure, just, might squirt you.”

He grinned. “Not a problem. Not like I’ve never done it to you.”

She laughed a little at that. “Never from having your nipples played with.” Then his fingers slipped down, gently mapping out the curves of her breasts, and she sighed, head resting against his shoulder, purring softly. She’d forgotten how good that felt.   

“Missed that?”

“Oh yeah.” She met his lips with hers, enjoying his skin on hers, and the delicious things his fingers were doing. Then the familiar, foot fallings asleep tingle that meant her milk was letting down hit, so she took his hands in hers, resettling them on her hips.

“Abby?” He looked concerned, eyes searching hers, afraid he’d done something that hurt.

She pointed down. After all, they’re in the shower, he can’t feel the difference between the spray of the water or a spray of milk.

“Oh.” But he can certainly see it. “You want to stop?”

She kissed him long and hard, rubbing against him, holding his hands. Then broke the kiss to say, “Does that feel like stop?”


“Exactly.” She took him in hand, stroking slow and firm. He groaned at it, hips moving along with her hand.

“You’re not going to tell me to go get a condom, right?” he asked between kisses.

“Wasn’t planning on it.”

“Okay, I’ve got an idea. Turn around.”

She did, her back to his chest, and he pulled her close to him, his dick between her legs. He started with long, gentle thrusts, rubbing his dick against her, and she sighed at that, rubbing in counter point, keeping everything slow and steady.

It’s not exactly their usual play, but it’s close enough, he can read her body more than well enough to know when just gentle brushing isn’t enough, so his fingers slip between her legs, adding more pressure, more directly applied. And she knows the way he’s moving, feeling the tension in his legs and arms, and thrusts back harder, squeezing her legs a bit tighter together.

She feels the build, his fingers slipping over and over, cock rubbing just right below them, his mouth biting gently on her shoulder as her body goes tighter and tighter, drawing in, focus clamping down to his fingers on her clit and the aching pleasure of being on the edge of spilling over.

God, so close, just a little more, little faster, and it’s hard to move because she doesn’t want to risk losing that delicious slide of his fingers, but it’s not quite fast enough. She can feel him jerking against her, knows he’s on the line or falling over it, and a hot, wet rush hits her clit, separate, different from the spray of the shower, and that was enough, that wet pulse in addition to the slide of his fingers sent her over, tingling and purring.

A minute later, she’s feeling very calm, very happy, and he’s flush against her back, making that soft, almost purr sound which always means she’s got a very happy Tim on her hands.

He gently kissed the nape of her neck. She squeezed his left hand and said, “Yep. Naptime sounds awfully good right about now.”

She could feel him smile at that.

“I’ll admit, I’m not feeling particularly motivated to go anywhere right this second.”

She stepped back, turned, and kissed him.

“Bootcamp not sounding so hot right now?”

“Get pounded on by Jimmy and Gibbs. Snuggle with you in bed…” He smiled at her while snagging the soap again. “For some reason, Jimmy and Gibbs just aren’t winning that one.”

She giggled, and he began to soap up her back.

“Well, it wouldn’t break my heart if you decided to stay here.”



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 257

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

Chapter 257: Tony's Bad Day

Tony was not having a good day.

Okay, honestly, he hadn’t been having a good month. Three weeks technically. Since Draga showed up, and McGee left. But today should have been a good day. It should have been a great day. Long weekend, not on call, cook out at Gibbs’, should have been great.

Last night had been great. Okay, didn’t start great, he’s been trying to figure this whole Draga thing out, and it’s stressful, so he’s been stressed by it. They’d been talking about where Draga’d be in the family, how much access he’d get, and talking about it was making him tense, because Draga’s not family, and he’s already overstepping his lines, but they don’t want to shut him out, but bringing him in even closer isn’t going to help teach him what the lines are.

First time he’s been Boss in almost a decade and it’s already going badly.

And he’s not sure how to fix it.

So, yeah, stressed. For three weeks.

But after everyone went home, Ziva’d offered to help him relax, and that was excellent. He was awfully relaxed by the time they’d finished with that. He was so relaxed he couldn’t have named his problems, let alone worry about them.

So, sleeping the sleep of the very relaxed and extremely satisfied.

And then it was morning. The morning of what should have been a fine and bright day, and fine and bright days end to start a certain way, but…

But then the thing happened.

Or more precisely it didn’t happen.

And it’s never not happened before.


And okay, yeah, it’d been less than twelve hours since the time before. And yeah, he’s forty-eight. And he has been stressed. But, that’s never happened before. That’s something that happens to other guys. Old guys. Usually, he’s awfully reliable in the morning, (cause, sure, that’s never happened before, but he has noticed that things are slower than they used to be) and, God, making it worse, she’d taken care of him, and he was planning on returning the favor with great vigor and enthusiasm, and he did, but part of returning the favor didn’t happen, and she had to notice, even if she didn’t say anything.

So, he wasn’t exactly dancing about with a spring in his step and joy in his heart that morning.

But, okay, it happens. Eventually. To every guy. At least that’s what they say. So get over it. Party to go to. Delicious food to eat. Fun to be had. Maybe by the end of the night Little DiNozzo would be showing signs of life again, and all would be well with the world.

And they got to Gibbs place, and it was going pretty smooth. They were having fun. Tossing around the Frisbee, showing off the fireworks he’d gotten for later, (As residents of Maryland, they can get legal fireworks, and as cops they had no problem getting them back across the state line to where Gibbs lives in Virginia.) just happily chilling out with his family on the Fourth.


Leon and his family shows up, and okay, that makes things a little less relaxed, but still good. He might be the Boss but that gets put on the back burner at parties. At least, Leon’s always been good about not making everyone toe the line when he’s a guest at Gibbs’ place. But Tony’s not perfectly comfortable with his full goofing-off self when Vance is around. He can’t fully relax and be fun and silly the way he likes to be.

But Jared’s just shooting up. Kid’s got to be fourteen now and at least six feet tall, and even better, he’s a rabid basketball fan and player. He had a Wizards t-shirt on, so they got talking. Jared’s looking at trying to play for college (has Duke in mind) so Tony was happy to talk about that. After all, if there’s anything he knows a whole lot about, it’s a good long college ball career.

Senior and Delphine showed up a few minutes later, so he spent some time chatting with his dad. That went well. Though he’s confused as to why Senior’s in DC right now, chasing some vague business deal, something to do with contracts for the ACA, but usually his dad handles real-estate-type deals, and he’s got no idea how that would work into the ACA.

Though maybe he was just looking for an excuse to get together.

Jimmy and Breena and Molly were there a few minutes later, and schmoozing the girls always makes Senior happy, and Molly certainly seems to enjoy the attention, so that worked out. (Until Ducky and Penny got there about ten minutes later, and Molly decided she wanted her Duck, toddling off to him as fast as her little legs could get her there, shrieking ‘Duck-eeeee!’)

Then Draga got there. And Flyboy’s just been looking for an excuse to show off. What sort of single guy brings a cake to a pot luck? A homemade cake. A nicely decorated homemade cake. Single guys bring drinks, chips, and maybe, if they’re feeling really frisky pre-made vegetable trays to pot lucks. They do not stand in a circle of the ladies explaining how they like to bake and swapping recipes.

They sure as hell don’t do it looking like… like one of the extras from Top Gun, one of the extras about to shoot the volleyball scene, while they do it.

Fornell’s standing next to him, shaking his head, elbows Gibbs and says, “Where do you keep finding these guys? Palmer was a bridesmaid, McGee’ll show up in a skirt, and this one bakes?”

“Test pilot for the Navy, Tobias. Flew experimental planes at six times the speed of sound. Off an aircraft carrier. At night.”

“Fine.” Fornell shakes his head, and Tony sighs, nodding, exactly on the same page with him. “How’s he working out?”

Tony was about to answer that, but Gibbs shook his head a little and said, “He’s settling in.”

Tobias caught that shake and looked between the two of them curiously.

So, instead of blowing off some steam Tony just nodded and said, “He’ll do.”

Fornell looked at the two of them, caught something in Gibbs’ look and decided he needed to go check on Emily and see what she and Wendy were up to.

“Not outside the family, Tony,” Gibbs said quietly. “Fornell’ll likely work with him a time or two before he retires. Don’t poison the well.”

“Fine.” He picked the Frisbee back up. “Toss it around?”

“Gotta get the meat on. Grill’s hot enough for it. Bet Jimmy and Jared’d be up for it.”

And they were, and that was fun. Tossing around the Frisbee with the guys, while the girls laid around on the porch, chatting with each other, occasionally making appreciative comments or whistling when he or Jimmy made a good catch, that’s always good.

The backyard was filling with the scent of very yummy grilled things.

All was well.

Then Draga got free of Penny. (Who knows what they were talking about, but he, Penny, and Ducky seemed to be having a lovely chat.) And he came over to join the toss. Kayla winged the Fribsee right at him, and he was in the game, laughing with them.

Frisbee break
It’s not even that Draga’s a bad guy or anything. No, he’s too damn smart to be a bad guy. He never does anything over the line. He’s always helpful. Shows up early. Stays late. Kind of like McGee back in the day. But unlike McGee, he doesn’t know his place and won’t stay in it.

Speaking of McGee, he shows up, and…

And Draga’s not stupid. He’s been looking for a chance to show off for Ziva for weeks now, and McGullible fell for it. Like anyone besides Abby gives a shit about his tattoos? No, Flyboy just wanted a chance to show his own skin off.

And Ziva twisted the knife deeper, staring at him, eyes dragging all over his skin, just about oohing at him, and Tony just wanted to smack the living shit out of Draga.

Warrior culture, woad, (what the hell is woad?) tribal marks, sacred honor of trust among warriors, blending the power of sea and sky and the eagle into his skin. Bullshit. Ziva’s lapping it up, but he knows it’s crap. Draga’s just laying it on with a trowel trying to impress her. Probably told that line to a million girls in every port the Navy’s ever landed at.

And it’s working. She’s impressed. He knows what Ziva looks like when she’s watching a guy she likes, and she’s liking what she sees.

Then, to make matters even worse an hour later the wonder twins are laughing at him over it, saying he’s flipping out because Draga’s younger and hotter and fuck, okay, that’s not wrong, but it’s not right, either. He’s worked with younger, hotter guys, that’s not a problem, no it’s the fact that Draga’s trying to fuck his wife, that’s the problem. But they’re just chuckling away ‘cause he’s not hitting on their wives, so it’s all a fucking laugh riot to them.

And Gibbs, who is supposed to understand this, who’s supposed to be in his corner, just lays down even more crap, and it is not his fault that Gibbs didn’t once mention his wife was named Stephanie, and look, you start dating a new woman while you’re still married to the old one, and you’re dumb enough to get caught doing it, she is going to get pissed, and she is going to do something about it, and if that means picking up your new hire in front of you, well… you fucking deserve it, asshole.

That was good.
The No Shame story helped, and he thinks Gibbs knew it would, that’s why he told it. And being the only guy to notice Abby was listening in was good, so he was starting to perk up. Ziva on his lap being all warm and soft was nice. And maybe there are a few stories he wouldn’t mind telling her later that night.

So that was good.

Firecrackers, sparklers, dessert, (And damn it, yes, Flyboy’s cake is good. It’s really good. It’s some sort of white chocolate, pistachio, raspberry mousse thing, and it’s delicious, and yes, he had seconds, or he was going to until he remembered Palmer’s comment about losing some weight, and damn it if he isn’t getting soft around the middle. So he gave Ziva the piece of cake, making it look like he’d grabbed it for her.) and more stories were good. He was starting to feel pretty relaxed and mellow again.

He was relaxing on one of the wooden porch chairs, Ziva on his lap, beer in hand, watching the kids blow stuff up, all was good. Vance and Gibbs get talking about past military adventures. Then Draga adds a few of his own. Ziva starts to talk about her time in the IDF. Fornell has stories from his time in the Army during Viet Nam. Ducky’s talking about his time in the Medical Corp. Even his dad has a few stories about Korea, which got him and Ducky talking about it, because they’d both been there.

So, he’s on the porch, the only adult (well, male adult, somehow, the wonder twins have vanished) with no military stories to tell. Then Delphine got into it, with stories of how she used to help sneak people out of the USSR. (Of course she did.) And Penny used to design cutting edge weapons for the military while being married to an Admiral, and when Draga got talking about night landings on aircraft carriers, she got asking about it, and turns out Admiral McGee (Nelson, not John) actually was one of the guys who designed the damn things in the first place (and she was the person he showed the designs to first, get a second set of eyes to look and see if it was worth sending up the line), and Senior had been in the Air Force during Korea, so they’re all talking daring do with planes and battles and crap, then Gibbs starts adding in some of his Dad’s stories, and he’s sitting there like Breena and Abby with nothing to say because, something like, ‘This one time, I was in Afghanistan, and I was close enough I could hear the battle’ just doesn’t cut it.

He’s a cop. He’s saved lives. He’s been in gun battles. He should not be feeling inadequate because he hasn’t gone off to war.

But he is.

And maybe it’s not just about not having served. It’s that he’s the only one. (Even though he’s not. Where the hell are McGee and Palmer?)

And it’s that Ziva’s sitting in his lap, idly stroking his shoulder, staring at Draga, looking at him with respect. And fuck. That’s worse than lust.

Because that’s the kind of respect that took him years to earn from her.

The kind of respect he had to go to Somalia to get.

Wrap the party up with the wonder twins finally coming back, and finally he’s not the only guy in the group who didn’t enlist. But, that’s a badge of pride for McGee. So he’s not bothered about not having anything to add to story time. He’s happy as a clam to sit there with Abby, snuggling her, keeping an eye on the baby monitor. Laughing at the funny stories, and acting impressed at the dangerous ones, asking good questions to keep the stories going.

And Jimmy made a few sharp remarks in his direction, and glared twice, but wouldn’t say what was up when he got him alone. “Nothing you can do anything about.” What the hell does that mean? And if he can’t do anything about it, why is Jimmy glaring at him? He was fine before they vanished, and now he’s pissed. What, do those two talk about him behind his back?

An hour later he got McGee on his own, and asked what the hell was wrong with Palmer, and he said, “Jeanne.”

He couldn’t believe he’d heard that right. “Jeanne? Benoit?”


“What?” Of all the myriad things that could be wrong with Jimmy, a decade old case he hadn’t even been part of was ridiculous.

“Long story.”

“Why are you telling stories about Jeanne?”

McGee shrugs a little, which is completely useless. “That’s a long story, too.”

“Well, why would he be glaring at me about that? It’s been a decade.”

Tim’s staring at him like he’s a moron for not putting it together, but he’s not seeing it, at all. And then he did. Jimmy was Jeanne. “Fuck.” Someone played Jimmy, tried to get him to love her so she could get access to what she needed. He figured out something was off and broke it off, but it still had to hurt when he learned what was up.

“He say anything to you?” McGee asked.

“Just that I couldn’t do anything about it.”

“Well, you can’t.” Yeah, that’s useful McHelpful.

“It’s not like her dad was selling candy. He was a bad guy.”

“I mentioned that. Jimmy mentioned there were ways to get him that didn’t involve screwing his daughter, literally and metaphorically.”


“Talk to him about it. Not tonight, it’s getting late, but, eventually.”

“Great.” Jeanne might not be his least favorite topic, but she was up there. Every cop who’s been in it for more than a year has a case he regrets. One that was screwed from top to bottom and makes it hard to look in the mirror.

Jeanne was that case for him.

So, yeah, he was not in anything even remotely approaching a good mood when the party wrapped.

And picking the fight with Ziva was stupid, and he knew it while he was doing it, but she was talking about Draga, smiling about something he’d said, talking about how nice he’d been, and he just flipped out and started ranting about it.

“Nice? You think he’s being nice. Here’s a hint. This is what he’s actually saying to you: Look at how young and hot and dangerous I am. Look at my tattoo, Ziva! It’s huge and blue and commemorates how I used to fly experimental planes for the Navy and kill people in interesting ways, just like you did. Oh, you like motorcycles, I like motorcycles. Fast cars, I love fast cars, did you know I used to drag race? What, you don’t know what drag racing is? Oh honey, let me tell you this complicated story about me driving in the streets at 150 miles an hour with nitrous oxide boosted car I built myself. You love driving fast? One day I’ll  have to show you my really fast car. You can drive it, too! Then we’ll have sex, maybe while driving it! Check out my muscles, and the muscles on top of those muscles, and here, let’s talk some more about how I’ve got the biggest dick you’ve ever imagined seeing, and I can’t wait to show it to you. Bet your hubby’s looking awfully limp and soft and boring and old compared to me, right? God, he’s so dumb, he’s just letting me do this. I don’t think he’s even noticed. So, wanna hear more about how awesome I am? My shirt’s already off, let me get my pants too, look at how cut I am! And maybe after that you'll suck me.”

“Are you done?”

“Not really.”

Ziva just looked at him, shook her head, and then shut the door to their bedroom behind her, very clearly signaling that whatever the hell game he was playing, she wasn’t interested.

So, he got back in the car and drove around, eventually finding himself at Gibbs’ place, and sure, Gibbs isn’t exactly his favorite person right this second, but he’ll be awake and he won’t ask questions, so, he parked and in he went.

He’d actually gotten two steps down into the basement before it hit him the lights were off, which meant, for the first time ever, he’d managed to show up when Gibbs was actually sleeping.

Since when does Gibbs sleep?  Gibbs doesn’t sleep. Gibbs lives on coffee, bourbon, and cases.

Except he doesn’t now, because he’s changed.

Because everything is changing.

And really, when it comes down to it, that’s the problem.

Tony doesn’t like change. Granted that can be pretty hard to tell since most of the time he’s standing next to McSameThingHappensEveryDay and Leroy Jethro Wouldn’t Know A Change If It Walked Up And Bit Him In The Ass And Took His Leg Clean Off Gibbs. Compared to them he’s an exciting cauldron of happily bubbling opportunities and change.

You know, in that he hasn’t had the same breakfast order for the last ten years. (Okay, two, technically for McDiet. He’s switched twice and is back on his skinny breakfast.) But still, not like he’s been getting the same meal at the same diner at the same time on the same day every day since God spoke and diners were invented.

He wanders over to Gibbs’ sofa and lies down.

Nine years, ten in September, since he turned down Rota, hoping for his own team, but it had to be HIS team. Not some random collection of strangers.

And he’s here again, but it’s not HIS team.

He knew Gibbs would have to go for him to move up. That’s just the way it works. Can’t be the leader if the old leader’s still there.

But Tim wasn’t supposed to go. And Abby wasn’t supposed to just vanish. And sure, there would have to be a new guy, but the new guy wasn’t supposed to give him any crap. The new guy was supposed to do his job and realize that he was the Boss, damn it!

“Can’t give me better people.” He’d said that to Borin, and he meant it. But his people are leaving.

Because everything changes.

Okay, it was stupid to expect Tim to be his right hand man forever. He got eleven years. That’s a hell of a lot longer than most partners last.

But it’s not stupid to expect some sympathy about this. It’s not stupid to be annoyed at him and Jimmy cackling away, completely missing what’s going on, because neither of them are part of the day in day out of this right now.

Sure, they’re going to be doing something like this, sooner or later. Tim’s already moving in, silently killing Jenner without Jenner having a clue. (It never occurred to Tony that Tim might actually have political instincts. Their team, because Gibbs is in charge, has always tried to avoid the politics. Can’t avoid it entirely, but they try to stay out of it. But in one move he watched McGee cut Jenner off at the knees, and Jenner still doesn’t know his feet are no longer attached.)

Ducky and Penny sound like they’re making the kinds of plans that require more off time than you get at NCIS or American, so, yeah, Palmer’ll be stepping up soon, too. So, sure, they’re going to be doing this, too, taking over, developing their own teams.

But they’re not doing this. They aren’t balancing their wife with their underlings and dealing with some kid who thinks he knows everything there is to know.

No, they aren’t going to get cocky little bastards who used to fly experimental planes and manage to work in how dangerous their last job was into at least one conversation a day, with their wives. McGeek’s gonna get twelve little McGeeklets, who may, if they get really frisky, flash him a snide smile while defraging his computer. And Jimmy’ll have one guy, who he’ll hand pick for this. And knowing Jimmy, it’ll be another Ducky wannabe, some quiet, timid guy who’ll stay down there listening to the blather while making sure the pipettes are sterilized.

They’re not going to deal with asshole adrenaline junkies who couldn’t define the word fear if held at gunpoint.

They’re not going to have to manage guys who look at them like they’re bleeding twerps who don’t have enough brains to do a crossword, let alone solve a crime or handle anything particularly difficult. (And worse, they aren’t going to deal with guys who see every fucking detail and make them feel like ancient idiots because they can’t memorize the entire layout of a crime scene with all the details in one glance. Who the fuck is this guy, Sherlock Holmes?)

They’re not going to be sandwiched between a Boss and an underling, with no real place in the team because the slot up hasn’t opened yet, and the slot down doesn’t know it’s down and just


Part of the problem is, he knows he fucked it up the first time.

Part of the reason he didn’t take Rota, beyond wanting HIS team.

Handling McGee was easy. He was so thrilled to finally be a Senior Agent that he gave Tony no trouble, and hell Lee couldn’t have picked trouble out of a line up.  (Well, okay, she could, but they didn’t know that then, and she was awfully meek sitting in McGee’s desk carefully nibbling carrot sticks and making sure every scrap of paperwork was perfect.)

Managing Ziva… Because like Draga, Ziva didn’t just roll over and take his orders. She always had to challenge him. Had to make sure that he knew she was better, stronger than he was.

So he found a way to cope. To even the playing field. A technique that played to his strengths.

It was stupid. It was massively stupid. And he’s not sure if she was using him or if he was using her, or if they both used each other, but a campfire turned into movie night. (Because none of the three of them had seen the movie he was using as a reference to help make the case make sense. So he got McGee to put it up on MTAC that night. McGee and Lee watched and went home. Ziva spent an hour talking to him about it, and by the end of that they had a date for another movie.) Movie night turned into movies and beer night, and movies and beer night turned into drunk kissing night, and drunk kissing night turned into this isn’t a big deal, happens all the time in Israel, helps build trust and teamwork, and he’d almost backed out but she said, “Your team, Tony, your rules.”

And it was his team, and Gibbs wasn’t there, and…

And his team, his Ziva, was in trouble, and it was his job as the leader to save it, and instead of turning to him, instead of knowing that the team came first, she went to Gibbs.

And Gibbs looked at him, and basically told him to his face that not only had he fucked up, but that he knew how he’d fucked up. Called him McGee, and said that he wouldn’t have messed it up, like that. On the fucking case for two damn seconds and he knew.

And then Gibbs was back. And the last thing she said to him about it was, “His team, Tony, his rules.”

So, he took the assignment with Jeanne, and purposely let Ziva wonder and worry. Let them all wonder. And God that was a clusterfuck.

And they never talked about it, or Jeanne, or Somalia, or Paris, again. Not until the night after they killed Bodnar, and he was aimlessly wandering DC, looking for something, and something was her place, and they sat on her floor and just talked. No walls, no bullshit, no… them… covered in head to toe emotional armor. They let it go and just talked.

And things changed, for the better that time.

And they’re changing again.

There are things about himself that Tony hates to admit, though he knows they’re true.

He’s deeply insecure.

He’d rather follow than lead.

He hates change.

He’s terrified of failing.

And it’s easier to be angry and lash out than to deal with any of the above four.

And Draga’s really not a bad guy, and he’s not doing anything over the line, and neither is Ziva, but he can be pissed about it, or he can try to deal with the fact that isn’t easy, and on top of difficult it’s terrifying.

So he’ll be angry and try to keep his head above water, and hopefully figure out how to run Draga before the whole thing falls apart.

Gibbs was halfway down his steps when he heard snoring. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head a little. Someone got into his house, onto his sofa, and is sleeping on it, and managed to do that without waking him up. Time to get his hearing checked.

He waits for a few seconds, listening, and decides he knows that snore.


He turns around and heads back up to his room to get his phone. It’s a bit after nine, which is a very late morning for him, but he’s sure Ziva’s up by now. So he flashes her a text.

Got your man on my sofa. Everything okay?

Two minutes later, and he thinks it was that late because she was deciding how to respond, not that she didn’t get the text he got back, Well enough. Sleeping?


He can come home when he’s done sulking.

What’s going on?

I don’t really know.

This is not, by a long stretch, the first time Gibbs has found a sleeping Tony on his sofa.

It is the first time it’s happened since he started dating Ziva.

But they’ve got a routine for this. And Gibbs knows his role.

So, down to the kitchen. He’s not being especially quiet, but he not going out of his way to wake up Tony, either. He gets the coffee going and knows Tony’ll be up by the time it’s ready.

Back to the front porch, grab his newspaper (he’s noticed he’s the only guy on the street that still gets one) and back to the kitchen to see what’s going on in the world. (Not all that much.)

Tony stirred, seemed to notice Gibbs, and turned to face the back of the sofa, settling in for a few more minutes.

The coffee started to perk, and the scent of it began to wander through the house. Gibbs had his first cup, and began putting together breakfast. Nothing fancy, just eggs, but as the sound of them hitting the hot skillet filled his kitchen, he also heard the sound of Tony getting up, and then pouring himself a cup.

Gibbs stirred the eggs in the pan. He’s feeding Tony, so he’s scrambling them.

“One to ten. How stupid was the fight?”

“Am I judging based on fights with Ziva, or my own personal history of stupid?”

“Doesn’t matter.”


Gibbs turned from the pan and stared at Tony. “They’re partners. They have to have this. They need to get along. They have to trust and respect each other. They need the in jokes. They need that space between them that you can’t be part of. You’re the Boss, not the buddy, so you can’t be part of it.”

“I know. But…”


But I’m better at being the buddy. I know how to be the buddy. “It was supposed to be Tim.”

Gibbs shrugged.

“It was supposed to be a guy I trusted. It was supposed to be someone safe. And it was supposed to be someone Ziva didn’t look at…”

“Supposed to be someone she wasn’t attracted to.”

“Yeah. Tim, Ziva, one other, hopefully a woman. Or a newbie for Tim to latch onto. Let him have the Probie.”

“And the Probie was supposed to be a geek.”

“At least right now.”

Gibbs shook his head, and dumped some eggs onto Tony’s plate. “Like I said, sucks when some new, young guy shows up, thinks he’s hot shit, knows everything there is to know, and hits on your wife.”

He’s flashing Gibbs the you’re pissing me the hell off look. “I did not know she was your wife.”

“And you didn’t have to work with her, either. I get it. But you were the young, hot shit punk who thought you knew everything there was to know and that I was a dinosaur you were going to show some tricks to.”

“I did not.”

“Please. At least Draga knows he’s not God’s gift to investigating. I had to break twelve years of bad habits from you.”

“I was a good cop.”

“No, you had the makings of a good cop. Wouldn’t have hired you if you didn’t. But you weren’t when you started with me. You’d been coasting in a sewer of lousy to okay cops and had never actually seen what a really good one looked like until you signed on with NCIS. Now, you’re a good cop. You’re a great cop. You are going to be a good leader, too.  You picked a challenge to start with. And any guy with any spine is going to fight the guy on top.”

“He’s not fighting you.”

“He’s not stupid. He knows I’m on my way out.”

“McGee never fought.”

“He did. Took me four years to figure out he was doing it.”


“I barely know how to turn the damn computer on. You can send email, and that’s it. You think he’s spending five minutes explaining what’s going on, in font of other people, like Abby or Vance or Borin, because we needed to know? No. He’s making us shut him down and admit he’s the brains.”


“They all do it. Even Jimmy’s playing off Ducky now.”


“Draga’s going to be the better cop. Aubrey was going to be the easier teammate. We’re the best team. You picked the better man. It was the right decision. Managing him’s the new challenge. But eventually, we will hit a case where you will pull out the stops and save his ass, and he will see you. Just like you finally really saw Tim after we got Ziva back. Just like Kelso case.”

“Long time ago.” That was the first case where he got to see that Jethro wasn’t just phoning it in, killing time between bottles of bourbon by showing up at work.


“I didn’t think you were a dinosaur.”

Gibbs smirks at that. “You thought I had to be some sort of massive burn out to be my age and working as a Navy Cop.”

“Jethro, you were.”

That got a head tilt, acknowledging that. “Might have been. Still a good cop.”

“Yeah.” Tony took a bite of his eggs. “What the hell am I going to do with him? Yeah, he’s getting along with Ziva great, but he still thinks I’m a fool.”

“Don’t be the fool. Class clown only works when there’s a teacher to play off of. The buddy only works when there’s a Boss breathing down your neck.”

“I don’t want to be you.”

“You don’t have to be, and it wouldn’t work if you tried.”

They both ate quietly. Gibbs knows where this needs to go, but he also knows he can’t make the suggestion, Tony’s got to get here on his own.

He’d finished his eggs, still not saying anything, and was standing up to get another refill on the coffee.


The tilt of his head told Tony to keep talking.

“I can’t be the Boss if you’re still the Boss.”

Jethro nods at that.

“I’m not the Leader if every big decision has to go through you.”

He nods at that, too, leaning against the counter in his kitchen, sipping his coffee.

A very long minute passes and he can see Tony thinking about it, getting ready to commit to what has to logically come after that.

“Jethro, I want you to step down as Team Leader.”

Gibbs nods, and smiles a little. “Not calling you Boss.”

“You don’t have to. That’s going out with you. Ziva’ll break me if I even suggest it, and McGee won’t do it, at least, not without a ton of sarcasm.”

Gibbs nods at that. “Until Tim gets back, I’ll work more on breaking in Draga. Can’t and shouldn’t keep him away from Ziva, but if half of the time I’m with him, that’ll be fine. Tim’ll be back week after next, get him into the mix. Draga’s doin’ okay on the computers but he’s not smooth, yet.”


And there was the biggest change of all. Leroy Jethro Gibbs had given his last order as the Boss of Team Gibbs.

Tony exhaled low and slow, simultaneously terrified and excited at the prospect of Team DiNozzo.