Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 249

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

Chapter 249:  Adventures In Parenting (I)

Gibbs was right, babies prefer to sleep on other people. They do not particularly like cribs, bouncy seats, car seats, or anything that isn’t warm and breathing, with a gentle pulse.

And, of course, during all of Shabbos, Kelly did not get put down once. She napped on Tony, and then Gibbs (and Ziva was right, he was a complete and utter baby hog.), then Penny and Ducky got some cuddle time, Ziva took a round of it, Breena got about two minutes before Molly got jealous about her Mommy playing with the new baby, burst into tears, and spent the rest of the night glued to Breena, and Jimmy rounded out the crew, though Molly was acting pretty territorial about him, as well.

Now, at the time, this was a lot of fun. Tim and Abby got to enjoy real adult conversation, a few hours of not being furniture, the restful sensation of knowing that they didn’t have to be on high alert every single second, and everyone else was enjoying baby time, so the idea that this might come back to bite them later was nothing that occurred to either of them.

But right now, at 10:55, as they’re driving home, and Kelly is screaming in her car seat, they are rapidly realizing that maybe letting her spend the entire time on someone else, or maybe just that much time out with that many other people, wasn’t a great plan.

If they weren’t going 70 on the Beltway, he’d be really tempted to pull over, get her out of that seat, and try to figure out what was wrong, but he’s got a suspicion, because she had happily nursed, let out a huge belch, then snuggled onto Jethro, and fell asleep in like two minutes, the picture of perfect contentment.

Then Gibbs put her in her car seat, and two seconds later the screaming began.  

Pop goofing off for Kelly.
Her little body noticed the warmth of Gibbs was gone, her eyes shot open, and then there was wailing.

And it didn’t stop.

And funny faces, humming, and promises of ‘Pop’ll be over tomorrow,’ did absolutely nothing to abate said crying.

And ten minutes (the longest ten minutes in the history of time) later, she’s still going strong.

“Walk me to my car,” Gibbs said to Tony about half an hour after the McGees left.

“Sure…” There’s a breath while Tony decides if this is personal or work related. He settles on personal, and finishes that sentence with, “Jethro.”

Gibbs nods. He guessed right.

They’re a few steps out of the apartment when Tony says, “What’s on your mind?”

Gibbs tilts his head a little. “What’s on yours? You’re looking… like you’re thinking hard.”

“Might be.”

“Want to talk?”

Tony reached out, placed a hand on Gibbs’ forehead, and said, “No fever. You look like Gibbs, but Gibbs doesn’t talk, so who are you?”

Quit being a smart-ass.
Quit being a smart-ass Gibbs’ look replied.

“Yeah, who the hell are you? That should have gotten a head-slap.”

“You want a head-slap, DiNozzo?”

“Better, Boss.”

“Don’t have to be Boss on this. Not if you don’t want.”

Tony shrugs. Sometimes Boss is easier than friend. Friends give you advice, but in the end you have to make up your own mind. Boss tells you what to do, and the responsibility for it lands on him.

They get to the elevator, and Tony absently notices there isn’t an off switch in this one.

Gibbs doesn’t say anything. Just inviting him to talk is enough, and he’ll wait until Tony’s ready to say something, and if that’s not tonight, it’s not tonight.

As they’re sliding down the floors to the parking garage, a thought hits Gibbs; he and Tony don’t really talk, not in a put thoughts and feelings into words and expressly communicate verbally sort of way. And they very rarely do it about anything personal. Best he can remember, the last really personal conversation he had with Tony was when Tony asked permission to marry Ziva, and that didn’t involve Tony having to express any doubts about anything.

So, Gibbs decides to broaden the offer. “Sometimes it’s good to have someone who’s done it around to bounce thoughts off of. Tim and Jimmy aren’t the only ones welcome in my basement. Still got that bottle of bourbon you gave me for Christmas down there, you’re welcome to help me drink it.”

“You haven’t opened it yet?”

“Not saying that. Just it’s not done, yet.”

“You’re slowing down.”

Gibbs shrugs at that. “Don’t need so much anymore.”

“Guess not.” The elevator doors opened, and they headed over to Gibbs’ truck. For a few seconds Gibbs waited before opening the door, but Tony didn’t say anything, so he opened the door, and finally Tony said, “Did you and Shannon plan to have Kelly?”

He turned back to Tony. “Not exactly. Knew we were going to do it sooner or later, and weren’t exactly careful. Next thing I know, I’ve got a letter from home that’s making me grin because I’m so happy I can’t hold it in, and so nervous I wanted to throw up.”

“But you were nervous?”

“I was terrified.”

Those words, the unshakable, unflappable, undauntable Gibbs was terrified seem to make Tony start to re-think. Gibbs smiles a little at that. He’s been watching Tony with Tim and Jimmy, and noticing that the fact that the two of them took to this whole fatherhood thing so easily, leapt right in, happy as little clams, is disconcerting for him.

Especially watching Tony watch Tim and Jimmy with their girls, the easy, comfortable way they handle the babies, how they both look like they’ve been doing it forever, and every time he picks up Kelly or Molly there’s that second of hesitation and am-I-doing-this-right.  

All of that was making Gibbs think that Tony could probably use a reminder that not every guy just hops into this easy. And it doesn’t mean you’ll be bad at it if you’re hesitant. And that it’s big and scary and it’s okay and normal to think it’s scary.

“Before Kelly was born, I’d never held a baby. Most of my buddies didn’t have them, and the ones that did... Well, that’s what girls are for; they do the baby stuff. At least, back then. First time I held her, I had to sit down. I was shaking all over, and my knees weren’t going to hold me up.” And yes, Jimmy knows that full story, but like with Tim, who probably could take that story now, he’s thinking that Tony doesn’t need that one.

But he does think, that even if he hadn’t been helping to hold Shannon down for the emergency c-section for the five minutes previous to getting Kelly out, and even if they hadn’t handed him Kelly while they were still trying to get Shannon’s blood pressure stabilized, that he would have been awfully shaky.

Tony nods at that, thinking. Gibbs gets into his truck. Tony closes the door for him, waves, and heads back to his apartment. Gibbs watches him in the rearview mirror, hoping that was useful.

Kelly’s screaming.

That’s the only word Abby can think of to describe it. Screaming at the top of her tiny, little lungs.

Abby had been sleeping, for what felt like less than ten minutes, and a quick check of the clock showed that it had been close to two hours.

Kelly’s not due to eat again for half an hour, and, thank God, this feed is Tim’s so she can go back to sleep, so she pokes him, and realizes that Tim’s not there. Which means Tim already has Kelly and a briefly whispered, ‘thank God’ slipped from her lips as Abby tried to get back to sleep.

Because she’s tired.

So tired.

She should have known better, but they were having fun, and a glass of wine with Shabbos dinner is traditional, so she had a glass, not thinking of how completely knocked out she’d be with a glass of wine in her system after not having any for nine months and being this tired.

It hit her, hard. It’s hours later and she’s still feeling woozy with tired. Like she’d just managed to take charge of the baby exhaustion thing, had gotten a handle on sleeping in shifts, and now she’s back to day three of feeling like she’s mired in exhausted.

Add Kelly crying straight through from her 10:00 feed to the 1:00 AM feed, so neither of them slept, means she just feels wrecked. So the fact that Tim’s got this, that he’s got Kelly and a bottle and she does not need to get out of the bed is making her deeply happy.

But she can’t sleep.

Because Kelly is screaming.

Part of her wants to jump up and take care of whatever it is.

Part of her wants to stay in bed. After all, the next best thing to sleeping is laying down.

And all of her knows that Tim is a perfectly competent father, and if she wants him to have a decent relationship with their daughter, she has to treat him like a dad, not just a babysitter, and that means letting him do the hard stuff as well as the easy stuff.

Or, as Breena said, ‘You might be better at this than he is, but you still have to let him do it. ‘Cause A: he’s never going to get better if you always swoop in and B: you stop being equals and partners if suddenly everything’s got to go through you. You don’t want to be the Boss of your house, so don’t be the Boss.’

But the screaming is killing her.

It feels like it’s been going on for hours. (Quick check, three minutes.)

Okay, she’ll wait for fifteen minutes, and if Tim hasn’t gotten her settled down, she’ll go see if she can help.

After the twelve longest minutes in the history of time she went downstairs to offer help and rapidly assessed not only what the problem was, but began to seriously reassess the whole competent parent thing.

Tim was lying on the sofa, dead asleep. Kelly was lying on her back, cuddled between his arm and side, screaming to the heavens.

And while it’s true that Abby’s heard babies in general do not care about if their diapers are wet or dirty, she’s thinking that since the smell of that diaper is so strong that there are practically visible poop rays emanating off of Kelly, that it is just possible that her diaper is so nasty she is complaining, loudly and emphatically, about it.

And it’s true that later, when she was less tired, Abby wasn’t exactly proud of what she did next, but she’s so damn tired, and if Tim were to wake up, she could get more sleep.

So she kicked him in the hip, and he jerked awake at that, looking like he’d been hit by a truck. (He’d also had wine with dinner, two glasses, and it’s probably hitting him just as hard as it hit her.) It took him a minute to figure out what was going on, but once he did he said, “Shit.”

She glared at him. “Fix it. I’m going back to sleep.”

One second he was warm, comfortable, and thank God, asleep.

He’d spent hours and hours and hours walking Kelly around the house, trying to get her calmed down but she wasn’t having any of it. Finally it was food time again, and she fell asleep nursing. Then he took her, put her on his chest, and let her sleep on him because he was too fucking tired to care anymore and anything that resulted in a sleeping baby was fine by him.

The next second he was on the sofa, Kelly was screaming and, from the smell of it, covered in poop. His arm and side are wet, and Abby was glaring down at him. Then it occurred to him, he’s not wet with sweat. June baby means you get used to having a damp, sweaty spot where said baby snoozes on you. It’s just part of a warm weather baby.

But that’s not what’s happened. He’s very gingerly getting up, holding Kelly, and coming to the conclusion that there has been a catastrophic failure of diaper containment.


His side, Kelly’s back, hell it’s in her hair, and on the sofa, and…

Abby glares again. “Fix it. I’m going back to sleep.”

He’s not even sure where to start. And Kelly’s screaming.

“Okay. Come on. We’re getting a shower.” He’s rubbing his eyes, wondering how the hell this could have happened. It’s all down his arm, and into the waistband of his pants. He didn’t think there was enough space inside Kelly to even contain the volume of poop necessary to produce this level of mess.

He gets them into the bathroom, and she’s still very not pleased with him, and Abby probably said something very rude when he walked Kelly through their bedroom. (Thus cutting into her sleep time, but right this second he’s having something of a hard time sympathizing. She’s in bed, and he’s not. The next morning when he found out that Kelly had been yelling for fifteen minutes before Abby woke him up, he felt bad about that.)

Once in there, he didn’t really know where to start. He’s got to put Kelly down, but she’s a tiny, screaming, squirming poop bomb, and anything soft in there will end up needing to be cleaned, and he doesn’t want to put her on anything hard.

Finally, and it took an embarrassingly long time to figure this out, (he blamed exhaustion for that) it occurred to him that he could take the towel off of the towel rack, lay Kelly on it, take off the poop encrusted onesie, put his own poop covered pajama pants into it, (He’s not wearing a shirt, and if he was more awake he might be debating as to whether that’s a good thing or not, but really, he’s too sleepy to care. At least skin is easy to clean.) and then fold it up into a nice little ball, and once they were cleaned up, he could toss it in the washing machine.

So, he got the towel down, got both of them naked, and turned the shower on. Once the water felt comfortably warm to him, he stepped in, and let the spray wash over both of them. Kelly seemed to like that. Well, she looked really startled and stopped crying.

Which was when he realized this is his shower, so he doesn’t have any baby soap in there. And while it’s true that he’s got the organic, ultra-gentle for dry-hair shampoo he uses on himself in here, and the organic, all natural, hand-made, unscented, castile soap Abby uses sitting next to it, it’s also true that he’s a new parent and hasn’t yet gotten to the point where he realizes soap is soap and that using the stuff he uses on his own skin and Kelly rubs up against every day on her will not result in disaster.

So, sopping wet, but at least no longer covered in poop, he and Kelly headed out of the bathroom, tromped back through the bedroom (More cursing from Abby. Really, he felt like an ass the next morning when he got the whole story.) grabbed the baby body wash, tromped back through the bedroom again, to the shower to finish washing up.

And thus, at ten (eleven? Fuck it, he’s too damn tired to figure that out) days old, Kelly got her first shower.

Once they were both clean, he got her into a fresh diaper and onesie, and put her in the middle of their bed to hang out for a few minutes. And yeah, he was less than thrilled to be using the steam cleaner on the sofa at 3:48 in the morning, but he figured that was probably not a stain they wanted to set.

And running yet more laundry at 3:52 isn’t his favorite thing, either. But he moved the wet stuff into the drier, and brought the dry stuff up, not caring about putting it away, just getting it out of the way.

None of that is fun or particularly satisfying. It’s just got to get done. But once it was done, he snagged a bottle, filled it with formula and water, and headed back to their bedroom, where Abby and Kelly were.

Abby’s lying on her side, eyes closed, looking awfully sleepy, hand on Kelly’s tummy, gently rocking her back and forth. Kelly’s quiet, kicking a little, looking like she’s in a pretty good mood right now. Maybe whatever caused that poop was what had her so unhappy, and now that it's out of her system she's back to being a fairly pleasant person.

Tim lays down next to them, extends his right arm, propping Kelly on his bicep, and Abby scoots a little so her neck is on his forearm. He shakes the bottle one last time, and holds it so Kelly can eat.

And he might not be in the best mood ever, and Abby’s not either. Kelly’s eating, so she’s happy. But it’s his girls in his bed, cuddled against him, and that feels awfully good. Abby kisses his arm, and gives him a little smile before closing her eyes and going back to sleep. He gently strokes the back of her neck, and would kiss her, too but he can't do that without dumping Kelly off his arm. So Kelly gets a kiss to go with her formula, and he closes his eyes, resting while listening to tiny gulping sounds.

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