Sunday, December 8, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 264

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

Chapter 264: Clan Gibbs

When Gibbs was a child, church, Sunday dinner, and gathering with the whole family had been part of every week. It wasn't a huge gathering, not like this never-ending crowd of Slaters, but his parents, his Aunt, her family, his grandparents, and their siblings, all got together.

But in his family, the women were the glue. His grandmother died, and Sunday dinner limped along for a few years, his mom and his aunt keeping it going. But his mom got sick, and then she died, and his aunt didn't have the heart to do it on her own.

Shannon had lived in Stillwater when they were courting, and when he was in town, he went to church and Sunday supper at their home.

They'd moved around a lot, finally gotten settled in DC, and his mother and father-in-law eventually moved down, wanting to be closer to Kelly and Shannon. His dad even made it down a few times a year.

For two years, Sunday dinner was at his house. He doesn't think about that too much. Not that they aren't good memories. They are. But like a lot of his good memories, they hurt. Though that's starting to get better. Maybe not good, but it's not an open wound held together by tendrils of avenging anger and numbing booze anymore.

But like his birth family, the women were the glue, and when his girls died…

This time though, he's here for his boys. He's glad to see Tim giving Jimmy some back-up on this. Visiting your in-laws shouldn't be walking into a lion's den, but if it is, it's good to have friends at your back. And if they're going to invite him to come along, he'll come along and keep an eye on Jimmy's flanks.

Like with Tim's first visit, he's very aware that no one in this family is going out of their way to make Jimmy welcome.

Not that Gibbs is known for hospitality, but there is a bottle of Gin (And a bottle of Absinthe is in the works for a birthday present. No, it's not legal in the US. Some favors are in the process of being called in, and buddy of a buddy who'll getting home on leave soon should have a few bottles stowed in his luggage.) in his basement next to the Scotch and Bourbon.

There's black coffee strong enough to peel the tar off the roof, and it was handed to him by Jeannie within seconds of him entering her home. And sure, it may not be there for just him, but he doesn't notice anyone else drinking it.

So, he's welcome, and judging by the fact that no one else is drinking coffee, they have gone out of their way to extend a welcome to him.

But not to Jimmy.

The girls are mingling easily. Abby's been getting some interested looks. If he had to guess, she's explained her tattoos about nine times. But it's mostly curious, not much hostile. Though Abby being Abby tends to smother hostile with warm happiness.

And Kelly's got an adoring collection of bigger girls cooing over her. Something about tween girls, they like babies, especially darling little ones in a tiny pink sun dress. (Apparently Abby and Tim decided Kelly didn't need to break out the goth-wear for church.)

Of course, this is probably a very girl friendly house. His always was. Kelly and her little tribe of buddies giggling in his backyard, he can remember that very clearly, smiles a little at it.

Tim and Jimmy tend to stay together, and near him. They don't mingle as easily, but conversation around this group tends to range from business issues, to the Nationals, (Turns out Jimmy's a fan. Gibbs takes some ribbing for the Pirates, but the look of death killed it pretty fast. Then the idea that Tim doesn't have a team percolates through, and apparently that had about the same effect as walking into the Slaters' in a skirt and eyeliner. Wedding ring, baby daughter in his arms, wife who he's kissed a few times, it doesn't matter, the collection of Slater Uncles and Cousins are fairly sure he's gay. Can't be a man without a team. Tim just rolled his eyes.) and back to the business.

They spend so much time in their own little NCIS world, where everyone knows everyone else, that Gibbs has never had to really think much about who he is in relation to these people he's collected into his family. But, this isn't NCIS. The various Slaters have met him maybe three times.

He's a vaguely familiar face somehow attached to Jimmy.

And of course, there are some stories, and they can see who he came in with, but, "Oh, you're Tim and Abby's…" and that's how that sentence goes. It just sort of trails off, because they don't know where he fits.

First time it happens he just lets it go. Doesn't answer. Smiles, nods, shakes hands, moves onto the next introduction.

Second time, he catches Tim's eye, (Wants to make sure this is okay with him. He knows Abby'll be good with what he wants to say.) and Tim nods, knowing what that look means. So he says, "Kind of complicated, but Dad'll cover it."

"I thought you were Jimmy's boss." Breena's cousin says.

He shook his head. "Duck's Jimmy's Boss. I'm Tim's, or used to be, until last week."

"Long as you're there, you're still my Boss," Tim says.

"Something happen?" The cousin, Fred, asks.

"I'm retiring in January. He's taking over his own department soon. New member of the team just joined up. Slid Tony into the Boss slot to make everything run better."

"Oh." Fred doesn't seem to get that, but he's willing to nod and smile.

"It's disappointing, right?" Ed says. Gibbs had been standing on the back porch, leaning against the railing, watching the kids run around the backyard, grabbing a few minutes of quiet. (Okay, it's not quiet, there are five shrieking kids playing something tag-like, but it's also not making small talk with strangers. Maybe restful is a better word.) Ed joining him wasn't exactly what he was hoping for for this moment.

Ed's looking at him expectantly. Gibbs raises his eyebrows a bit.

"You have girls, and you want something for them, a kind of future, a man strong enough to be a… man. And they bring home these cute, fluffy things and expect you to think that they'll make great husbands."

It's possible that Ed isn't talking about Jimmy, though Gibbs doesn't think that's the case, but he might as well make sure. So he looks, pointedly, through the sliding glass door separating them from the dining room, at the twit that Amy's got hanging on her arm. Handbag, that's what Tony'd call him. And, really, he's probably not a bad guy, but as a cute, fluffy thing goes, he'll fit the bill.

Ed sighs. "Yeah. Him, too. He's a 'consultant' for graphic design firms. I think that's code for unemployed. I run a successful business, and she brings me a long line of unemployed or barely employed guys. But, you're a Marine, all Hoo Rah, and… your girls brought you the Clown and Tech Support. At least DiNozzo looks like he's got some backbone hiding under that Clown exterior."

Gibbs gives him a long, cold look.

"You, me, we aren't going to be around forever, and they pick cute. Cute doesn't keep the wolf from the door."

Gibbs' look was nearing absolute zero.

Ed is watching Amy talk with the Handbag, leaning into him, hanging on his every word as he strokes her back. "I worry for them. Don't want push to come to shove and for them to find out they've got no one to back them up."

And, yes, that resonates with Gibbs, but, nope, no one is saying that about his boys. "You think I know tough when I see it?"

Ed looks away from Amy to him. "Sure."

"Think I've seen my fair share of losers and creeps?"

"Probably yours are a few others."

Gibbs nods; that's true. "I am not disappointed in Jimmy, Tim or Tony. There are five men I trust with my life. Four of 'em I want at my back in a fight, and two of them are in your home right now, one's married to your daughter. Wolf comes to the door, Jimmy'll snap it's neck, and before it stops twitching, Tim'll shoot it between the eyes from 200 meters away with a hand gun. All of my boys are capable of defending their own nests, and they watch each other's as well.

"He was a cute fluffy thing." Gibbs remembered Jimmy from 2002. Cute and fluffy, good way to describe him. "I thought Jimmy was goofy as Hell when I first met him. But he's not anymore. He's as strong as any man needs to be. Losing a child ruins men. It breaks them, wounds them so they never get back up again. You see the funeral. I see what happens months, years, later. Jimmy didn't leave when they lost Jon, he didn't break, and he didn't let your daughter or granddaughter down. Push came to shove, and shoved him hard enough to flatten another man. Jimmy stood through it. You're worried he's not strong enough to be the man your daughter needs, then you're not looking. Man's made of steel. He wasn't when they started dating, but he is now."

Ed doesn't look like he knows what to do with that. Finally he says, "You can pick anyone in the world at your back, and you'd take Jimmy?"

"Any man in the world: Jimmy for hand to hand. Tim for a fire fight. Tony if there's a shot of talking our way out. Tobias if it's time to go out in a blaze of glory. And I want Duck somewhere safe, but able to see it all, for counsel."

Ed thinks about what Gibbs said for a moment and then says, "Any man. Let me guess, if we're talking anyone, it's Ziva for hand to hand, Ziva in a fire fight, Tony for talking his way out, and Fornell for the last stand."

Gibbs shrugs, that's not precisely wrong, but… "Not anymore."

That stuns Ed, more than anything else Gibbs has said.

"She's still a better fighter than the boys. Should be too, she's younger and trained for it her whole life. She's a better fighter than I am. Better than Tony. Jimmy can go six minutes with her, which is four more than I can—"

"Four more than you could have at thirty-seven?"

"She was thirteen when I was thirty-seven."

Ed gives him the, I know what you're doing look, but doesn't say anything else.

"I'm pretty sure she's not. But these days, there's always a shot she's pregnant, so, if there's any chance of getting her out of the fight, of making sure she's not the one at my back, I'd take it. Not gonna happen because she's stubborn as hell, but if it's my choice, she won't be in the line of fire."

Ed nods at that. He understands that in his bones. Women and children first, even if the woman in question is Ziva DiNozzo.

The sermon popped into Gibbs' mind. "You paying any attention to the sermon?"

Ed nods. "Enough."

"God gives us the lessons we need to learn in the people around us. That was the point of it. I don't think He forgot you when He was handing out lessons."

Ed smiles at that, acknowledging the point. "So, what am I teaching you?"

"Same thing He's trying to teach you with Jimmy, see the man inside the man."

"And what's your gut saying?"

"You're a jerk, but a good dad."

"Back at you."

"You could be a good father-in-law, too. Could be a great dad and make that daughter you love beyond anything else a whole lot happier by not treating her man like the enemy."

Ed shrugs at that. And Gibbs gets that as much as Ed does worry for his girls. As much as there is genuine concern, there's also a very large serving of him not wanting to be a good father-in-law, of him not wanting to share his daughters with another man. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Jimmy; other than the fact that he's not Ed.

Jimmy headed out a few minutes later. "'Bout time for us to head off."

Gibbs nods. He turns to Ed. "Thanks for the invite."

"You're welcome. Any and every Sunday, we're here."

This time the nod is aimed at Ed, not Jimmy.

Then Ed checked his watch. "Thought you said Bootcamp was at four?"

Gibbs nods, yet again. Ed had been asking about what it is they do on Sunday afternoons.

"It's ten past two."


"Doesn't take you that long to get downtown."

Jimmy lifts the corners of his mouth in a manner that could be called a smile, if you weren't paying attention or didn't know him well. "Gotta eat first, Ed."

"Of course. You're in a house full of food, but you've got to go out to eat."

Jimmy stiffened slightly. He could just take it, let it roll over him, like he does every week. But Gibbs is standing right next to him, watching, and he catches the faint, do it, you need to flavor of his look.

So he does. "Yeah, Ed, I need to eat. I need to eat every few hours when I'm awake, otherwise my blood sugar crashes, and that's a bad thing. And I'm standing next to a house full of food. Food all over the place." He looks at the cup in Gibbs' hand. "I see you've got Gibbs' drink. He's never been here before. You've only met him four times. But you've got exactly what he likes." Jimmy nods again, that not quite smile still on his face. He sighs. "But, yes, I have to leave your home to find food that won't make me sick. And I've got to do it soon, otherwise I'll start to feel woozy and won't have the energy for Bootcamp. So, it's time for us to go." Jimmy turned toward the patio door.

"Fine, go find food 'that doesn't make you sick.'" Ed rolls his eyes. "But really, how much energy can this take? According to Gibbs you mostly fight with Tim, and he's the precision shooter, not the muscle. Gibbs and Ziva train you, not fight you. When it's time to fight, you go up against the other skin and bones toothpick who's best skill is a gun."

Jimmy turns slowly back toward Ed, exhaling quietly. Gibbs is still flashing him the do it, you need to look at him. "Okay, Ed, you want to see what a workout looks like when a Marine and a Mossad-trained assassin are in charge of putting you through your paces? You want to see what training looks like? You want to see what us skin and bone toothpicks can do? Want to see how good even the least talented member of our team is when it comes to fighting? Hell, you want to take a shot at me? We meet up at four. Get your ass over to the Navy Yard and find out for yourself."

They're walking out of the house and Gibbs says quietly to him. "Glad you did it."

"Wonderful. Let's see if I can do this without embarrassing myself."

Gibbs puts his hand on Jimmy's shoulder. "You won't."

"Who are you texting?" Tim asks as he and Gibbs grab a table, and Jimmy orders himself some lunch.

"Letting Ziva know what's up."

"Stacking the deck in Jimmy's favor?"

Gibbs nods. "Like you're not going to pull your punches?"

"Not too much, I mean, I don't have to, not anymore. When we play to our own strengths, he's better. But he's going to be nervous, so I'll make sure it's close, but I don't intend to win any of our fights today."

"Exactly. Ziva's not going to throw any of them, but she'll probably move a little slower, telegraph her moves a little clearer."

Jimmy sits down, grilled salmon salad, bowl of three bean soup, and a diet Pepsi on a tray.

"How crazy is it that I can find a better low-carb lunch at a bakery than at my in-laws' house?"

Tim shrugs. They did this last week, and he had to admit, pulling into a Panera after leaving the land of carbs seemed strange to him. But, it is one of the few places Jimmy can get a decent lunch, fast.

"So this is what, fight club for geeks?" Ed asks, two minutes after finding Tim, Jimmy, and Gibbs at the NCIS gym.

"Come on, Ed, if you know enough to ask that question, you know the first rule of Fight Club." Tony says as he and Ziva enter.

"Tony?" Jimmy asks. Both Tim and Jimmy are pretty surprised to see him here today. He's never come to Bootcamp, probably for the same reason that Gibbs rarely fights. He's got a position and getting his ass kicked is not conductive to keeping it.

"Heard Ed was coming, decided I had to see this," he says with a big smile, clapping his hand on Ed's shoulder as Ziva gives each of the guys a hello hug.

"Great." Last thing Jimmy wants for this was a crowd.

Tony smiles. "Want to see the Gremlin take a bite out of his old man."

"The Gremlin?" Ed looks startled by that.

"What Tony calls Jimmy," Tim adds, you really don't want to know why on his face.

"Why?" Ed asks, starting to sound a little concerned.

Tony just shook his head and looked stern. "You ever see that movie? Sure, Jimmy looks like a stuffed animal, all cute and harmless, but hit the wrong trigger, and he'll mess you up! Breena ever tell you the story about how he drove a car into a suspect who was running away from us?" Ed shook his head. "Nope? It's a good story." Tony nods to the rest of them. "Go get started. I'll keep an eye on Ed." Tim, Jimmy, Gibbs, and Ziva headed off to warm up. "You know, Ed, Fight Club really was a great movie, but so many people forget the twist. Well, not forget it. Everyone knows the twist. They don't internalize it. They watch it and then stuff it in the cool story file, but don't change because of it. Kind of sad really.

"Edward Norton was brilliant in that movie. Starts off so soft and mild, letting everyone push him around. You never expect the twist. He's so good at just blending in and taking it that you never even suspect he's got Tyler Durden hiding in there." He smiles some more at Ed, who's staring to look a little nervous about this.

"Oh, well, enough movie trivia. So, what's your background with this? Jimmy got to this kind of late, but he's catching up, fast. And Tim, well… you've got to be able to fight to be a field agent. Can't pass FLETC without a martial arts proficiency. Me, I played every sport you can think of, and then boxing on top of that. First time I went up against Gibbs, I was dancing around, showing off, telling him how I used to box. I asked him if he'd ever boxed in the Corp, and he said no. So I was thinking I'd take it easy on him, and ten seconds later I was on the floor, and he had my arm pinned behind my back with his knee on my kidney. Then he told me, 'They taught us to fight.' And Ziva, well…" He looks at his wife, who is stretching with Jimmy and Tim, and smiles fondly at her. "Hey, Ziva," he calls out.


"If you had to sum up your training, how'd you do it?"

She's loosening up, leaning forward, her ankle on the top rope of the ring. "You said, 'They taught Gibbs to fight?'"


"They taught me to kill."

He smiles back at her and says to Ed, "They taught her to kill. And she's good at it. We ever need someone to go in unarmed, it'll be Ziva. So, Ed, you remember the last rule of Fight Club?"


Tony smiles, he's enjoying this way too much. "If it's your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight."

And while it's true that Tyler Durden's Fight Club turns men from cookie dough to carved wood might not be precisely true, it's close enough. Right now Jimmy and Tim are in the best shape of their lives. (Sure, Tim's not giving Pitt a run for his money muscle-definition-wise, but Jimmy is. This might be the difference between no carbs and just not a whole lot of them.) And Ziva's awfully lean and strong right now, too.

Gibbs has been looking better these last three months. Sure, he's not the guy he was in his Marine days, but… well, he's not getting there, yet, either, but he can see where getting there begins from where he is right now, and hopes to have gotten back to who he used to be within a year (okay, year and a half).

But, with Tony prattling on next to him, filling him in on exactly what they do at Bootcamp (Tony's making a lot of it up, telling a good story, because, that's what he does. Compared to Somali terrorists, playing Ed's like riding a tricycle. But Ed doesn't know that.) Ed's noticing that Jimmy and Tim are indeed thin, but they are not toothpicks.

And they are very, very much not skin and bones.

And he probably, no definitely, doesn't want to get into a fight with either of them.

Jimmy's focusing on Ziva.

He's decidedly not focusing on Ed.

Not at all.

He's not seeing Tony standing there, next to Ed, hand on his shoulder, narrating the action, filling in bits and pieces of stories of how Ziva used to kill or disable men with the moves she's using, and how he's dodging, evading, using her momentum against her.

He's not hearing about how a second slower and that kick would have gotten him in the jaw or how the thumb lock he's using on Ziva right now is something she taught them as a way to easily disable an opponent.

Nope. He's focused on "Ziva." He's so focused on "Ziva" that it's only now occurring to him that she should have handed his ass to him a few minutes ago.

And that actually does snap his attention away from "not focusing on Ed" to really focusing on Ziva. She sees it when she has his whole attention and ups her game to go with it.

That's when he gets it. They are not going to let him look bad. He doesn't have to worry about this, because they've got his back. Ziva's not going to let him win, that'd be way too obvious. But they won't let him look like a twit, either.

And with that he does start to relax and enjoy himself.

That's also, as he spinning on his back leg, landing a kick that Ziva dodged, when he realizes exactly what this is and why Tony's here, too. (And honestly, he wouldn't be shocked if Ducky, Fornell, or Vance were to decide to come play, too. Though he's kind of hoping they don't.)

It's a show of clan strength. The same way dragging the potential son-in-laws to church is for the Slaters. This is his clan, showing off that its strength means the literal ability to end your life should they desire to do so.

He catches Ziva's knee, blocking that hit, planning to use it to toss her off balance, but apparently that's what she wanted him to do, because by doing that, he's got both hands occupied and can't block the punch the follows up. He did manage to get her off balance, but dodging the punch sends him down, too. She's up faster than he is, so it's her round. She offers a hand, and pulls him up.

"Good round. Another?"


"This what they usually do?" Ed asks Tony.

"Sure. Warm up time…"

"That's warm up time?"

Jimmy's on his third round with Ziva. Gibbs and Tim are working with each other.

"Yeah, that's warm up time. Jimmy's better attacking than on defense. So right now, he's up against Ziva. Main thing he's doing is learning how to see what she's going to do next and block it. Tim's thing is precision. Give him a gun and he can hit a dime on the goal post from the fifty yard line, but when it comes to fist and foot, he's not quite that controlled. That's what he's doing with Gibbs, working on making sure he can hit a dime at full speed with his off hand in close combat. I imagine in a few months they'll get to knives, but right now it's all fist and foot."

"Why aren't you doing this?" Ed asks Tony.

Tony shook his head a little. "Do I look stupid to you? I don't want to get into a fight with them. Hell, I don't even like running after perps anymore. You hit a certain age, and you don't want to be a punching bag. Okay, sure, Gibbs is insane, and he likes this stuff, and Tim and Jimmy are endorphin junkies, but I'm not. I like not having bruises. I mean, do you really want to get into a fight with them? Actually, I guess you do, that's why you're here. So, you better start getting warmed up and ready, because if you go at this cold, they'll kill you."

Usually, after working with Ziva, Jimmy and Tim go up against each other. These days those are free fights, no holds barred (Okay, not really, by mutual accord and respect, eyes and balls are off limits, but there's no set rule against it.), do whatever you like, first one to hit the floor loses.

Usually, that's when Gibbs and Ziva regroup, go over strategy, watch what and how they're learning, and plan out what sorts of things the guys need to work on.

But this is very much not a usual week.

And Gibbs already has a plan in place.

He and Tim finish up, and as they're heading toward the ring he says, "You and Jimmy, two rounds, take it easy, Ziva and I'll keep Ed busy. He won't be watching you two much."

Tim nods. He doesn't know where this is going, but he gets the basic instruction here is conserve your energy, more stuff coming up later.

Usually, they go for an hour, hour ten if things are going well, and he knows today is going to run longer than that.

So, as Ziva slips out from between the ropes, Tim joins Jimmy, quietly giving him the heads up, and they face off.

Ziva heads over to Gibbs, her usual plan, but sees that Gibbs is heading over to Ed.

"Tony taking care of you?" Gibbs asks as they get closer. Ed's working on one of the punching bags. Tony's keeping it steady for him. His form is good, speed decent. Gibbs is getting the idea that Ed probably boxed in college or high school, remembered what he learned, but hasn't used it in thirty or forty years.


"Great. You're up with Ziva next."

"Ziva?" Ed stops dead and just stares at her.

"Yes," Ziva says, looking pretty happy at this.

Gibbs gives Ziva a stern look. "Ziva, no eyes, no balls, no throat, no finger locks. Ed's got to be able to use his hands tomorrow."

"Yes, Gibbs." She's smiling pleasantly at Ed.

Ed's looking terrified.

"You start with Ziva because she's good enough and has enough control to not accidentally hurt you. Even if you are swinging wild and don't know what you're doing, she won't let you accidentally hurt her. You start with Ziva, and once you get good, you end with Ziva, because she's the one who knows what she's doing."

"I can't hit a girl!"

Ziva just grins at him. Gibbs claps his hand on Ed's shoulder and smiles. Tony says, "If I was you, I wouldn't worry about hitting a girl." He fishes a fifty out of his wallet. "This is yours if you can manage to lay a hand on her."

Gibbs laughs. "Come on, Ed. Time to see what Bootcamp really looks like."

Ziva puts Ed through his paces. Gibbs and Tony watch Tim and Jimmy work with each other.

"What's the plan?" Tony asks Gibbs.

"I'm up against Jimmy next."

"Really?" Tony knows where Gibbs is going to take this, and… He gets it, but that Gibbs'll do it takes his breath away.

"Yeah." Gibbs turns to Tony. "You make sure Ed gets it."

"Not a problem, been doing that all day. So, you're really gonna let him win?"

"Let? Have you been watching what he's doing?"

Tony shrugs. "Not exactly what I meant. Until I started letting you win, you made my life a living Hell. Once Ed's gone, you gonna give Jimmy any crap?"

Gibbs shakes his head. (He has a somewhat different memory of how that went down, and DiNozzo letting him win isn't part of it. Though as he thinks about it, it's probably a good idea that Tony hasn't decided he needs to go toe to toe against Draga, and just possibly Tony learned that from his own experience of being the young half of the equation when it came to working with him.)

Tony's watching him think about it and says, "You're going after him after he's been up against Ziva and McGee."

"Gotta do something to even it up. Won't look right if he drops me one minute in."

Tony shakes his head. Palmer creaming Gibbs a minute in isn't anything he's ever going to believe can happen, even if he does actually get to see it live. It's like the sun rising in the west, it's just wrong.

"When did we get old?"

Gibbs laughs at that, very amused. There's a huge difference between ten and twenty years old. But not so much between twenty, thirty, and forty. But forty and fifty, which is where Tony is, oh yeah, lots of difference. Fifty and sixty, where Gibbs is, not as much, but he can feel it. "After Jimmy and I are done, we'll see if Ed still wants to take a swing at him."

"And if he does?" Tony asks.

"I don't think he's that stupid."

That got a chuckle out of Tony.

"Okay, Jimmy, you and me."

Both Jimmy and Tim are flashing very clear are you sure about this expressions at him. Gibbs nods at both of them.

Tim stares at both of them. Be careful aimed at Gibbs. And Abby'll pout at me if you hurt him aimed at Jimmy.

Jimmy's looking back at Tim with What the hell is wrong with you? He's going to eat me alive and pick his teeth with my bones, and you think Abby's going to pout at me?

Tim smiles at that. He's a bit more immune to the aura of Gibbs than Jimmy is.

Gibbs heads in and Jimmy's looking warily at him.

"Gonna be okay, Jimmy."

He looks at Ed. He's close enough to see, but not really hear.



"You gonna take a dive or something."

Gibbs shakes his head. "Won't need to."

Jimmy's not looking like he believes that.

"Focus on me. Enjoy it. Then go have a chat with him."

The Marines teach you to fight and kill. All four limbs working together to drop your opponent as fast as possible. It's not fancy. Not (especially in the '70s when Gibbs was learning it) elegant. It's the martial arts equivalent of napalm. The point is overwhelming, conquering force. As long as the job is destruction, it gets the job done.

Mossad teaches you how to strike fast and precise. Maximum damage for minimum effort. How to get exactly the target you're aiming at and no one, nothing else. It's the fighting style of a small force, that must, because of its size be stronger. The fighting style of David who's facing a never-ending line of Golliaths. A group of men who have to be able to take ten, fifteen, maybe twenty men off the board for every man they can afford to lose.

If Tim has a fighting style, it's watch and wait. See the moves coming at you, look for the hole, dart into it, and knock the other guy on his ass.

And if Jimmy has a fighting style, it's a hybrid of the above three.

Gibbs is fighting fierce and fast. He's been conserving his energy for the last hour, intentionally not fighting until now. He makes sure Jimmy is on defense, the weaker of his skill set. But, Jimmy's spent most of his hours getting beaten by Tim when Tim is on defense. He knows how to play it, even if it's not his best skill.

Defense is a patience skill. At least that's how Tim plays it, how he uses it to take Jimmy down. But fighting isn't about patience, not for Jimmy. He's got yoga for that. Fighting is speed and aggression and pumping blood and fast breath and spiking adrenaline and endorphins.

He'd dodging fast, hard punches, using his legs and forearms to block kicks, his extra two inches of reach keeps Gibbs from getting too close, and while he's at it he realizes this is the shot Gibbs is giving him. Gibbs was a sniper. Gibbs kills with a knife. Gibbs is patience and defense, and attacking fast and hard isn't his best skill. He's matching his weakness to Jimmy's but he's got to be sure that Jimmy's better playing to his weak side than he is.

Because Jimmy does spend hours a week doing yoga. Because he can focus when he wants to, focus hard and tight, and slow the world down to beating heart and aware breath. It's not that he can't do it when he fights, it's that he usually doesn't want to.

But right now, more than ever, he wants to take the time to do this right. So he's focused, more focused on a fight than he ever has been, and he channeling the patience he needs to do this right, to see where to hop in, and use Ziva's precision to hit exactly what he's aiming for.

And he sees it about two minutes in. Gibb's is balanced on his left leg. He saw Ziva do a version of this, kicking at his head and taking his ankle out from under him. He doesn't have Ziva's speed, can't do it in one move. But he thinks he can pull this off in two fast moves. The punch toward Gibbs' head is a feint, pushing him a little further back, forcing more weight on that back leg, over balancing him just a bit further, and from that punch he immediate drops into the sweeping kick that takes that leg out from under Gibbs, and a second after that he's up and standing and Gibbs is on his back on the ring, looking up at him, and, there's an awfully pleased smile on his face.

Jimmy feels the smile on his face as well.

Which means it's time for part two of this, have a "chat" with Ed.

Getting into a fist fight with your father-in-law is probably a ridiculously stupid idea. On the list of top ten stupid ideas, it's probably on par with going up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

And Jimmy isn't immune to iocane powder.

On the other hand, there's no shot Ed will respect him less for it. Unless he loses. But he just beat Gibbs. Just figured out how to own his defense. So he can't imagine Ed winning unless he was secretly a ninja back in the day. (For example, he's pretty certain he could take Ducky, but not enough to bet on it. He saw what Ducky did to those three Ninja wannabes. Ed, however, is a rather different story.)

So, as he gives Gibbs a hand up, sees the pride in his eyes, the go on, get him, in his look, he's ready for this. He faces Ed, makes sure he's looking at him. Then he checks with Gibbs. "You good?"


"Good." He headed to the ropes, leaning, forearms against them. He's hot, heart beating fast and hard, bright pink, dripping sweat, bit tired, and high as a kite on endorphins right now. For a few heartbeats he just stands there, staring at Ed. Then he runs his hands through his hair, mostly just moving it around a little, cooling off a bit, then wiped his face.

"Well, Ed, it's been an hour. I'm tired, so that'd even the odds some. You're all loose and warmed up." He sighed, stared down at Ed for a few more heartbeats, shook his head a little at how ridiculous this is. "You've wanted to take a shot at me since Breena brought me home the first time." He spread his arms wide, palms up, his hands are taped, so he can't exactly use his fingers to gesture, come on up, but he's getting the point across. "I'll even give you the first shot free." And then he smiled, cold, brilliant, challenging.

It's the smile of a man who just realized he can kill you with his bare hands if he feels like it. And he might decide he feels like it.

Tony said to Tim and Ziva, very quietly. "He's fucking terrifying when he wants to be."

"Indeed." Ziva said.

Tim nodded. He doesn't want to be on the other end of that smile. Ever. And if Ed's got more than three brain cells to rub together, he's about to shit his pants. (Gibbs standing behind Jimmy, arms crossed, grinning, insanely proud, is probably also not a comfort for Ed.)

The smile fell, and all they can see is cool contempt on Jimmy's face. "Well?"

Ed slowly shook his head. "Nope."

Jimmy nodded. "Good." He slipped between the ropes and headed down. Ed backed away from him, but in less than two steps found Tony and Tim immediately behind him, cutting off any chance of escape he might have. "Long time ago, I told you you didn't have to respect me, and you don't. No one gets respect by demanding it. Me telling you to do it won't make it happen." Jimmy smiled again, and hell, it's not aimed at him, but Tim's feeling a distinct desire to get the fuck away from that smile. "But you should respect me. I treat your daughter like a queen, my queen, and your grandchildren have been and will be adored every single day of their lives."

Ed nods, looking very nervous. He's got no idea what Jimmy'll do next. For that matter neither does Tony or Tim, but they're on high alert to back any play he comes up with.

"Like, I said, I can't make you respect me. But just like I fake it and am always polite to you, and you are always given a proper welcome in my home, from now on you will treat me with basic politeness. No more snide remarks. No more inviting me to a meal and then only serving food that will make me sick. We clear?"

Ed nodded again. "Yes."

Jimmy smiled one more time. "Great. Time to hit the showers."

Abby got a text about half an hour after that. It's from Tim. Everyone's fine. Jimmy stood up to Ed. Didn't have to hit him to do it. Details and celebratory dinner is at Ducky and Penny's as soon as we can get there.

She was at Jimmy and Breena's, heard the chirp of Breena's phone, probably showing a very similar message from Jimmy, and sent back a quick. Be there soon.

Two hours later, when food had been consumed, and celebratory beverages drunk, and the whole crew was in a very mellow, possibly even silly mood, when Jimmy said, "We should have a crest."

"A crest?" Tony's giving him the you are such a geek stare. But Tim's nodding, and Gibbs isn't horrified by the idea, but not sold on it either. Ducky warmed to it immediately, and ramped up into a full on history of heraldry.

Eight minutes later, after the cursory Crests For Dummies lecture by Dr. Mallard, Jimmy's sitting back, nodding along.

"A crest, or a tartan, or something. We don't have a name in common. But, something that says, Clan Gibbs would be good."

Abby's listening to this, not saying anything, but she's definitely paying attention.

Christmas is coming (well, in five months), and a symbolic gesture of family... Oh yes, she's listening, paying attention, and thinking.

They'd been home for a bit over an hour when Abby sat next to Tim, holding out a piece of paper to him.

It's a sketch, colored in with Sharpies, but he can see what she's thinking with this.

It's a shield, which makes sense, crests are done of a shield. It's broken into quarters by a solid gold line. Top right quarter is sable on argent. Top of that quarter says Palmer. In the center is the black cross of mortuary services, the black caduceus, (also of the mortuary service) outlined in white over top of the cross. Top left quarter is argent on sable. Across the top of that quarter is McGee. It's a computer sitting next to a microscope. Bottom right quarter, sable on azure, DiNozzo across the bottom of that quarter, below a knife leaning against a badge. Bottom left quarter Vert over Gules. At the bottom it read Langston-Mallard, and it's an open book, one page covered in equations the other page with a story.

And in the center, where the golden lines crossed was a partially unfurled scroll, silver over argent. At its top was Gibbs, then below that Rules, and below that 1. Never… it's small enough you can't read anything beyond the never.

Tim looked over Abby's shoulder, at her finished crest, and said, "So, I guess I know what everyone is getting for Christmas."

She smiled up at him. "You like it?"

"Oh yeah."

A/N: Sorry that one took a while. Next chapter's pretty long too, might take a while. (Though that one has a good breaking point, so might be two shorter ones and up faster.)

Argent=white sable=black azure=blue vert=green gules=red. And though Abby knows the names of the colors, she liked the look/modern symbology that goes with them better than the old.

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