Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 5

McGee-centric romantic fic. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

5. In The Dark

The pain meds wear off slowly. He's lying in bed, and she's still next to him, holding his hand. 

He knows Abby's not sleeping.

And he knows there's nothing sexual or romantic about this.  He's hurt. She's scared. They're best friends. So, it's dark, and it's night, and they're both in the same bed, not sleeping.

Just being near each other is enough.

For now.

He's told Abby he loves her before.  In fact, he's told her three or four times a year for probably the last five years.

Sometimes it happens when she's broken the case and he's feeling grateful. Usually, it happens when he just wants to let her know how she's his best friend and how happy he is to have her in his life.

The first time, after Cassidy was killed, was a little awkward, but after that, it's just flowed. Between his dad and Gibbs, McGee has spent more than enough of his life around strong silent types who don't express emotion. He's got no desire to be that guy himself.

Though he suspects that even Gibbs manages to regularly tell Abby he loves her. Because she's lovely and because she's just makes people want to be happy, and spread the happy around.  Even Gibbs has to melt in the face of how warm Abby is.

He squeezes her hand gently, and feels her squeeze his in return. Eventually, he drifts off to sleep, Abby holding his hand, by his side.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

38 Weeks: The Twenty-Fifth Week

A/N: Burn Notice romantic fluff with a side of angst. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Week twenty-five:

Sunday afternoon, they pulled up to Maddie's house for dinner and noticed something unusual. Jesse's Porche, Sam's Caddy, Madeline's Camry, and one more car.
A rental car.
"Fi, isn't that the rental car your mom was driving?"
"She was supposed to go home with Sean after the wedding."
"I know. I booked the round trip tickets."
"Sooo..." Michael has the tense, worried look on his face that pops up when a job starts to go wrong.
Fi doesn't have anything to offer him; she's just as much in the dark as he is. "I guess we'll find out in a few minutes."
They enter and see Katherine in the kitchen, mixing something up. Buttery, cabbagy scents, warm, heavy, and for Fi, comforting, creep through the house.
Fi kisses her mother's cheek. "Hello, Ma. Shepard's pie?"
"Indeed, luv." She nods toward the counter. "And soda bread. You're looking peeky, and need to put some more weight on. If anything will do that, this will."
And it's true, a diet of her mum's cooking will keep anyone who doesn't exercise intensely every day fairly plump. Low carb and low fat are two terms Katherine Glenanne has never run into and would find deeply insulting. Between growing up dirt poor during the war and post-war years, and her family's history with the famine, food in her home is always rich, satisfying, and abundant.
Sam comes in, inhales deeply, and walks over to Katherine, pecking her on the cheek. "Katie, darlin'." Fi's eyes go wide at the idea that Sam's managed to charm her mom. "That smells delicious."
"Thank you, Sam." He reaches out a finger to taste the bowl of whipped potatoes. Katherine gently whacks his hand with the back of the spoon. "You'll be tastin' it soon enough."
"Yes, Ma'am! I'll go say hi to Jesse and Maddie."
Michael gets a glass of iced tea, holding out the pitcher to both of the ladies. Fi nods, and he pours for her. Katherine looks at the glass of lemonade, mostly full, next to the stove, and he gets the message that she doesn't need a refill.
"So, Ma, not to be rude, but what are you still doing here?"
Fi rolls her eyes, suddenly feeling fifteen again. Her mother would never give an enlightening answer when a not terribly informative but blatantly obvious one would do. "I can see that. I thought you were going back to Ireland."
"I thought I was, too. But you're right, I like the sunshine. And I like the company. Maddie offered to let me stay here as long as I liked, and at least for now, that sounds splendid."
The part Katherine left out was the rather long conversation the day after the wedding between her, Madeline, Sam, and Elsa about how to convince Mike and Fi that running away was a bad idea. She'd been happily recruited into the plan to keep Mike and Fi in Miami, and if that meant moving there for the time being, or longer possibly, then she was game.
Babies are hard enough with your family to support you. On your own, it's nerve-wracking, so anything she could do to help tie them to Miami, she was willing to do. And though she hadn't mentioned it to any of the others, she missed babies. Toddlers and young children she could take or leave, but babies she adored, and right now, the rest of her grandchildren range in age from four to thirty-three.
"So, you're staying, just like that?"
"I'm stayin'. Your brothers and their wives will muddle along without me for the time bein'. Sam agreed to help me get my visa straightened away. That man must be part Irish; he's got friends smilin' at him on every corner of the earth."
"To say the least."
"Now, off with you two. I've got to get this set, and you know I hate cookin' with people underfoot."


Much later that night, after dinner was finished, Sam pulled out a manila folder. He'd been put in charge of setting up Michael and Fi's new identities for wherever they were going next.  "Are you really sure you want to do this? If you stay here, we've all got your back, and you've got the home court advantage."
"If we stay here, everyone knows where we are," Michael answered.
"True. I still think this is a bad idea." Maddie and Katherine had decided that letting Sam do the majority of the talking about why them running was a bad idea was a good plan. If they spent too much time talking about it, it was just two moms getting upset. If Sam talked about it, it had the weight of "good tactics" behind it.
"I know, Sam. We're not loving it, either."
"Fine." Sam handed them their new IDs. Jesse looked over Fi's shoulder and snorted a laugh. "Brad and Angelina Smith? Really, Sam?"
"Hey, I had to have some fun with this. I'm rewriting my best-friends lives and history."
Michael looked at him with a question on his face.
"Dude, you have never seen a movie, have you?" Jesse shakes his head. "You're Mr. and Mrs. Smith."
Michael still doesn't get it, but it looks like Fi is remembering something.
"Sam? What have you done?"
"Just christened you with a name befitting of your talents and exploits."
"You know, you look a little like her," Jesse says. "Not like anyone would mistake you for sisters, but you've got a similar bone structure, and hair."


After Mike and Fi left, Maddie and Katherine stared down Sam.
"You call that sellin' them on stayin'?"
"No, I call that planting the idea.  Look, ladies, a spooked Mike is a delicate thing to handle. You've got to hit him with the idea just right, and make sure it sits in the back of his head until he thinks he came up with the idea in the first place. Don't worry, over the next week or two, I'll keep subtly mentioning about how useful it is to have a lot of people watching your back, and sooner or later he'll have an epiphany moment, and all will be well."
"You're sure, Sam?"
"Maddie, don't worry. I've got a few things in the works. Tomorrow or the next day one of the ladies at the Carlito is going to tell him that someone's been looking for him. In another few days someone else is going to give him a gentle warning about someone tailing him. It won't be for anything bad. I've got a buddy who needs a hand, and this'll just help set the scene that there are people out there who will help Mike if he stays here.  Trust me, this time next week, week after at the latest, and he'll be sold on the idea that they've got to stay."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Characters of Note: Wim Brink

On my non-fiction blog... how-to fiction blog? My non-fiction blog about fiction? Whatever, on To Publish Or Not To I review self-published fiction. Every now and again I run into characters that I think are worth letting the rest of the world know about, so...

Say hello to Wim Brink. Wim's the main character in The Dancer's Spell.

He's a unique character, hard to like, but deeply interesting. The Dancer's Spell is set in 1905 as Mata-Hari-mania overtakes Europe. Wim is a devout man, devoted to his family, his church, his job, and entrenched in a stiff 1870s Victorian mind-set. He's a bit of a prig, honestly. And he's very much not the sort of character that wanders into most modern fiction.

I suppose what intrigues me about him is the pitch-perfect voice. He's so repressed and uncomfortable in his own skin, and in relation to the world around him, but he makes no apologies for it. He's an historical character in a piece of historical fiction who seems almost untouched by modern sensibilities. It's rare to see that, most authors seem to be tempted to form their characters into modern molds to make them more appealing to their readers, and rarer yet for that character to be a protagonist.   

So, I don't exactly like Wim, he's not someone I want to hang out with, but I think he is a great example of an author doing a very good job of making a living breathing man out of an idea, and better yet, staying true to the identity and times of that idea.

If you'd like to see the full book review, it's here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 4

Romantic McGee centric NCIS fanfic. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

4. Pho and GChat

Tim wakes up to clicking sounds. He's not at all surprised to see Abby sitting cross-legged on the side of his bed, a bag that smells yummy next to her, a laptop in front of her, open to gchat, and, he squints a little, Palmer chatting with her.


"You're awake."

He rubs his eyes, and sits up, slowly. It feels like his entire left side is on fire.

"How's Ducky?" He's a little fuzzy on what exactly happened between saying, 'It feels warm in here,' and now, but he does remember hearing that Tony and Ziva had been located, and Ducky had had a heart attack.

"Alive. Jimmy says he'll be fine, as long as he doesn't do anything stupid."

"Good." He closes his eyes and relaxes back against the headboard. The sound of Abby typing dies down, and he hears her close the computer.

"I brought food." She's not as perky as usual. Not chattering away.  He knows that means she's unhappy or scared, but he figures both are fitting for right now, so he doesn't press.


"The doctor said you're supposed to take it easy today and tomorrow. Nothing too heavy to eat, either.  Clear broth for you. They don't think the glass got through your abdominal muscles, but just in case, they don't want to risk anything too strenuous for your intestinal tract.  So I got us Pho. You get the soup part, and I get the noodles."  

"Sounds good." She stands up, picking up the bag. "Abby?"


"I love you."

She smiles sweetly at him for a moment, but he can still see fear in her eyes as she kisses his forehead. "I love you, too, McGee. Let me get this set for us."

And, okay, that wasn't 'I love you forever, let's get married, have bunches of kids, grow old, and die together,' let alone, 'I love you, let's start dating again,' but it's a start, a good first step, and it felt really good to say it to her.

And there'll be time for more than that it the future.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

38 Weeks: The Twenty-Fourth Week

A/N: Burn Notice romantic fluff with a side of angst. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Week Twenty-four

Fi's explosion knocked Mike, Jesse, and a man named Donovan off their feet. Mike stood up a minute later, head ringing, staring at the smoldering wreck of half a dozen trucks.
The only good thing about it was he was expecting something like that, so it took him less time to get his wits about him than it took Donovan.
"He's found us! Finley's found us! We have to run!" He got the stunned man moving again and glared in the direction he thought Fi would be.


Hours later, back at their house, they gathered with Sam and Jesse.
"I think Donovan's convinced that it's time to talk to the Feds. After that explosion, witness protection's sounding awfully good to him. Speaking of which," Michael shifted his glance from Sam to Fi, "I said enough to scare him, not blow half of the trucks in the lot off the planet."
"I saw his face, he was scared." Fi smirked, satisfied at a job well done.
"Of course he was scared, and half dead, too! This plan doesn't work if you kill the guy we have to get talking."
"There was no danger of that."
"No danger?" Mike takes off his shirt, and turns his back to them, showing off the bruises and scrapes from where he landed against the pavement.  He points at Jesse who is holding an ice pack to the back of his head. "Donovan had a bloody nose, ruptured ear drums, and a broken ankle."
"Exactly." Fi still looks smugly satisfied. "There was a car between you and the main force of the explosion, so you didn't take much of it. Jesse was shielded by it, too. Donovan was in the clear, so he got a full dose. You needed to sell the idea that the dreaded Chuck Finley wanted you both dead, and some real blood and pain does that very well."
"Explosions do that, period! You don't have to actually roast the guy."
"Guys, we can argue about this later. Right now, Donovan's ready to talk to my Fed, so I think it's safe to say the job is done, and we can put one in the win column," Sam said.
"Fine," Fi replied. "So tell us what was so important we ended up doing a job less than ten hours after getting home from our honeymoon?"
"Okay, you remember Agent Wood?"
"Yeah, we did that job for him to get the information on Nate," Mike says.
"Well, he had an accountant for the Teamster's Union who noticed some suspicious activity on one of the pension funds. That's Donovan. Anyway, he's getting ready to do some whistle blowing when he starts getting the be-a-good-boy, shut-the-hell-up, and we'll-make-it-worth-your-while treatment.
"So, he's thinking life just got pretty sweet. Nice new car, promotion, all the goodies are heading in his direction if he keeps his mouth shut.
"So, Wood called me to see if there was a way to go about convincing Donovan that he had to talk, so we came up with the idea of making him think that the big bosses thought he had already talked. We killed the bank account, wired the car to go boom, stuff like that. Which got him so scared he wanted to run. We just needed one more push to convince him he needed to run right into the arms of Wood."
"So that's what we were doing?"
"Yeah. And it looks like it worked, too. He called Wood right after you dropped him off, and supposedly they're talking now."

Much later that night, Fi went for a midnight snack. Normally she's not a big snacker, but lately whenever she's awake she feels like eating, and the small person who seems to enjoy punching her in the bladder means she's not sleeping for more than three hours at a time.
She's not sure if Michael didn't go to sleep in the first place, or woke up at some point and started messing with the computer. Either way, he's sitting at the breakfast bar, computer in front of him, looking tense.
"I think it's time we need to keep you away from gunfire and explosions," he says as she opens the door to the fridge.
"I'm serious. No more firing range, no more demolitions, no more C4 until after the baby is born." He turns the computer screen to her. "Look." He plays slow motion footage of the shockwaves of explosions. "I mean, they don't have a ton of information on the effects of explosions on pregnant women or their babies, but the MythBusters crew—"
"What's a MythBuster?"
"A TV show. I googled effects of explosions on a fetus and didn't get much. But a lot of clicking around got me to a TV show where they blow stuff up all the time, shoot things every episode, and one of the hosts got pregnant, and they stopped putting her anywhere near anything that went boom."
"This is the male equivalent of nesting, isn't it?"
"I think that's when I start adding the defensive fortifications to wherever we're living. This is just... protectiveness. Think about it, we all know what can happen if you get too close to an explosion, so let's not risk the baby. Donovan was a good hundred meters away from the center of that explosion and you still blew his eardrums out. Imagine what could happen to the baby if you got too close to an explosion." 
"Okay, no explosions, but no guns? Really? I'll be bored."
"Bored and safe."
"This is more of your you-hang-back-and-let-me-do-the-dangerous-stuff, isn't it?"
"Fi, you're carrying our child."
"I'm still perfectly capable of shooting a gun and triggering an explosive."
"I'm not saying you aren't. I'm saying I'm going to go completely insane if something happens to you, and worrying about it isn't helping either."
 "What about you? You think I don't worry about you off doing dangerous stuff, especially without me?"
That stops Michael. In truth the answer is no, he doesn't think she worries about him, not when it's about him having to deal with dangerous people, not for the kind of jobs they're doing now. Selling his soul, walking the dark path, and losing what's left of his humanity, sure, he knows she worries about that. Getting into a fight he can't handle? The idea that she might worry about that is both surprising and touching.
"How about we both take the next six months off? We can offer tactical support for Jesse and Sam, but stay out of any sort of active, get-shot-at, infiltrating sort of role."
"You think we can really do that? Sam'll show up with a job, we'll tell him what to do, something will go wrong, and next thing you know you'll be itching to get in costume and go save the day."
He shrugs. "True. But we can try."