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.”
“Plenty of rules we just skipped.”
“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.|
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.|
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.