Monday, January 6, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 273

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

Chapter 273: Work Out

He woke up with a jerk, heart pounding, bedroom dim with almost dawn sunlight.

It was his night, and he missed it. His job to get Kelly fed and he slept through it.

FUCK!  Yes, Abby will forgive him, but still, FUCK!

Apparently he wasn’t exactly thinking that, and may have, just possibly, said it out loud, because Abby moved when he did it. (He’s really sleepy and jittery with adrenaline and all in all, pretty out of it.)


“I’m so sorry.”

She’s looking barely conscious. “Huh?”

“You got Kelly, didn’t you?”

She shook her head. “No. I’ve been sleeping.”

His eyes went wide, and the first thing he did was more or less leap out of bed to check on her, but she was still in her crib, still breathing, still sleeping. He very, very quietly crept out of Kelly’s room, and crashed back into his own bed, suddenly feeling completely exhausted as last night hit and the adrenaline crash faded.

“She slept through?” Abby asks.

“She slept through.”

“Yay!” Abby said, tiredly, and then snuggled into him, and they both caught more blessed sleep.

Round ten he got out of bed feeling… He doesn’t really know. Not good. Not sick, that haunted, all-over-ill sort of feeling that went with Benedict isn’t there. Just, kind of on edge, like he knows something’s going to break if he pokes it, but right now it’s in one piece.

He decides not to poke it.

Like most Sundays he checks his phone first, and today there’s a text from Jimmy.

Molly’s got a cold, and Breena didn’t sleep well. Skipping church.

“Thank you,” he says quietly under his breath, and quickly sends back. Good, couldn’t feel less like it if I tried. Bootcamp?

By the time he finished with brushing his teeth and putting on some clothing, (More pjs. He’s home, he’s tired, and he’s not planning on going anywhere soon, so jammies work just fine.) he had one back. Hope so. See how Breena’s feeling when she wakes up.

What’s up?

More of the same, tired, nauseous, pregnancy dreams. Touch of Molly’s cold.

When she wakes up give her a hug from Abby and I.

Will do.

I’m going to hit the gym no matter what. Come if you can. I’ll understand if you can’t.

No problem.

He fired one off to Ziva: Bootcamp?


Sounds like you’re in a good mood.

And he realizes he’s got two other people who need to--

Or maybe not… Vance wasn’t going to tell him. He didn’t even get to figuring that out last night, and now it’s sitting there in front of him, and maybe if it had hit him earlier, he might resent it, but thinking about Ziva and Draga…

They don’t need to know.

They just don’t.

But you don’t lie to your team, not about stuff like this. Draga’s idea. Ziva installed the canister. He made the call, but they’re part of it. And they deserve to know…


Part of him really doesn’t want to say. Just let it go. Bury it. 

Would it stay buried? If it’s going to come out, he wants them to hear it from him. If it can stay a secret…

He heads downstairs, finds Jethro on the sofa (where else was he going to be…) “You want a hand getting to the porch? Suck up some sunshine?”

Gibbs looks up from his phone. (Probably reading on his kindle ap.) “Yeah, that sounds good.” He lets Tim give him a hand getting off the sofa, but not in getting to the porch, (beyond opening the door for him) and he accepts help in getting down onto the chaise.

“One more day.”


“On my butt for a week. Tomorrow is the last day.”

“You’ve got an appointment for a checkup on Tuesday, right?”


“I’ll take you. Or Abby will, if she wants to get out of the house some.” Tim smiles and heads inside, foraging for breakfast, and then heads out again, a few cold turkey sausages on a plate next to a peach.

“Where’s Abby and Kelly?”

“Abby said Kelly slept through the four AM feed, so to celebrate they went out to do some shopping.”

Tim thinks about that for a moment, about what sort of celebration Abby may have in mind for baby sleeping through the night (ish) let alone what sort of shopping it may involve. He’s very pleasantly intrigued by that idea.

“Cool.” He ate a few bites, enjoying the fact that it wasn’t oppressively hot, yet, and then got back on track when he remembered why he was down here chatting with Gibbs. “I’ve got a question for you.”

“Fire away.”

“Do I tell Ziva and Draga? Would you have told us?”

Gibbs thinks about it then counters with his own question: “What are you thinking?”

Tim makes a dismissive sound, indicating that if he had confidence in what he was thinking he wouldn’t be asking Gibbs about it.

“Gonna run your own team soon enough, tell me what you’re thinking.”

“If they find out, I want it to be from me. But they don’t need to know, not really. But if it gets out, and I don’t tell them, Ziva’ll rip my head off, and she’s smart enough the dead battery is bugging her, too. Bugs Draga, but I don’t think he’s got enough experience to put it together. The gas was Draga’s idea. Ziva installed the canister.

“He’ll take it bad. He already feels like he’s screwed this one because of the first bomb, add this on top of it, and that might be the end of him as a cop.

“Ziva… I don’t know. I’m not the one she talks to about this sort of stuff. She might just take it in stride, hazards of the job. It might really hit her, she was a handler who’s asset went off the rails. She was an asset out there, spent months, probably, hoping her back up would get her, and then realized they weren’t coming." Tim shakes his head. "She was an asset left to die. Getting her out was too expensive, so Eli didn't even try. And if I had known Ender was an agent, that's the same calculation I would have made for him. Too many people would have died if that house had gone up. 

“So, I don’t know. I know she’ll be really pissed if I don’t tell her and she finds out anyway. And I know that she doesn’t need to know. She probably wants to. She’d probably, I hope, be okay with it… Well, as okay as I am.”

“Are you?”

Tim exhales long and slow and eats a few more bites of his peach. “I don’t know. It’s not hitting me right this second, but I feel like it’s still there, waiting to hop out. Bootcamp is going to be interesting.

“Which gets us to the next point, can I not tell her? Say she doesn’t want to know. Say it won’t help anything. She’s always been able to tell when I’m lying and has never had any problem getting me to talk.”

Gibbs tilts his head in agreement, that’s been an issue, too. “I always thought that was because you wanted to tell her. You never seemed to have any problems not telling her about stuff you really didn’t want her to know.”

“And yet it always came out anyway.” Tim half-smiles. “But it’s entirely possible that’s true. And I haven’t tried to keep anything from her, besides taking her home for Tony to propose, in years. I might be better at it now.”

“Not craving approval so much now. You’d probably hold out better.”

“Great. So…”

Gibb doesn’t say anything.

“You ever not tell us what was going on?”


Tim’s expression is saying, go on tell me.

Gibbs shakes his head. “If I didn’t say then, I’m not now.”

Tim stands up and tosses the peach pit into the far back of their yard. He eyeballs the grass, gotta mow tomorrow.  Without turning around he retries the question. “Then how about this, she talks to you about this stuff, should I tell her?”

“As her friend, you should tell her. As a leader trying to keep his team working as well as he can... You’ve got the next week off, that’s time for you and her to get your heads on right. And that week’ll be shorter than the fall out that might happen if she finds out another way.”

Good, that makes sense. He turns away from the grass to face Gibbs. “Draga?”

“Draga doesn’t need to know. Draga especially doesn’t need to know if Tony’s going to can him or get him transferred. And that’s the last part of this, Tony needs to know. When we go back to work, it’ll be his team again, so he has to know.” 

Tim nods at that. He’d… forgotten isn’t exactly right, but stopped thinking about Tony as Team Leader. Not once during that week did he call to check in, (About the case. About Tony as an injured friend, yes, he checked in) or try to get any advice, or… anything. Once he took over and benched Tony, that was it. From Wednesday to Saturday it was his team, so that’s how he ran it. (He also made a quick mental note to give Fornell the heads up on that, too. He’s fairly sure CIA wants Ender’s cover in place but he’s also sure that whoever’s in charge of the FBI clean-up of this should know what’s going on.)

“I should probably go see Tony.”

Gibbs nods at that, too.

“You talk to him?”

“Commiserate about how much being on the shelf sucks?”

“Something like that?”

“Yeah. Talked with him a few times.”

“He okay?”

Gibbs doesn’t answer.  And it was in the silence of not answering that Tim notices something, Ziva never responded to his comment about being in a good mood.

He snags his phone out of his pocket and sends her. Are you in a good mood?

A minute later he gets back. Bootcamp 4PM.

So he texts: See you then.

“Jethro, she told me they were fighting, are they okay?”

“Unlike Ender, that really is something you don’t need to know unless they want to tell you.”

Originally, six (Really, six months? Only six months? It feels a whole lot longer.) months ago, when Bootcamp started, it was mostly about making sure Jimmy had a place to really work out his feelings.

Because fighting is good for that. You have to focus on what your body is doing, so you can’t be focused on the wider world. Stress makes your body produce chemicals that trigger a desire to run or fight, and if you don’t run or fight, those chemicals just hang around, linger, making you less and less happy, more and more tense, and often cause chronic-pain conditions. When you fight, your body floods with endorphins, which not only make you feel better, but they also help to shut down sad, afraid, depressed, and the like.

And when you fight, those walls you build to keep the crap away, to hold it in a safe place where it doesn’t touch you, they crumble, and you let your body do the physical work it needs to do to grieve and move on.

And so, when they began, it was about that. About letting his body do what it needed to do to get through the loss of Jon.

But they kept at it.

Because it’s good exercise. Because it feels good. Because time went by and there were Sundays where he didn’t need it so much, but Tim did. And every Sunday, Gibb is there, because… (Feels a little odd to say this, even in his own mind, but it’s true, so he might as well say it, even if it is only in his mind.) because they’re his boys and this is the kind of stuff you do for your boys. (The kind of thing Jimmy is desperately hoping he’ll have the chance to do for his own boy one day.)

And Ziva started showing up every week, and so far she’s been here because… Jimmy thinks it’s mostly because she likes it, and because she needs to practice. And maybe she’s here because Ziva misses having brothers, misses dad time, too, and this space here, where they beat on each other fills that need. (He thinks that’s probably kind of weird that his family’s deepest communication form is combat, but… it works, so it doesn’t matter if it’s weird.)

So far, though, they’ve never had a Sunday where they were there to let her fight off rage or fear or unhappy or whatever.

But in that she’s killing him, absolutely killing him, and not in a let’s-kick-this-up-a-bit-and-get-your-heart-pumping sort of way, but in a holy-shit-I-need-pads-or-I’m-going-to-die sort of way, Jimmy’s realizing that Ziva is not in a happy place.

Jimmy calls time before he hit the mat, holding up his hands in a ‘stop’ gesture. Any of them can stop any fight at any time for any reason.

He looks over at Tim, who’s just… brutalizing… the punching bag, and realizes that Tim’s got something going on, too.

For a second, he feels a surge of thankfulness at working in Autopsy, he knows this last case was an absolute bastard, but not for more than a second, because Ziva’s glaring at him for stopping things. She wants to fight, but he’s so far outclassed by pissed off Ziva, he knows he can’t give her what she needs.

“Tim!” He has to yell; Tim’s got earbuds in.

Tim stops, looks over at him, expression curious, as he takes out his earbuds.

“Get over here.”

Tim’s still in the dark, though he’s heading over. Ziva’s not looking nearly as annoyed. Two on one should be just what the doctor (literally) ordered.

“Have you ever done this before?” Ziva asks Jimmy as Tim slips between the ropes.

Jimmy shakes his head, hoping he hasn’t just signed his own death warrant. “But, we’ve danced together—“

“When the hell have I ever danced with you?” Tim asks as he catches that bit.

“You and me and the girls. Ziva’s killing me one on one. She’s going to kill you one on one. Both of us against her should let her get enough of a fight in to calm her back down, and not get either of us killed.”

Tim nods, smiles, and Jimmy’s seen that smile before, that’s the dark, predatory thing that hides in Tim and doesn’t come out a whole lot, but when it does...

Jimmy sees that smile and sighs, silently wishing Gibbs wasn’t flat on his back, an extra set of hands would be really useful today. “Okay, looks like both of you need this today. But when we’re done, we’re getting drinks and talking, too.”

Ziva shrugs, and Jimmy knows they aren’t the guys she usually talks to, but, you put your literal skin on the line to help your friend, you get to find out what the problem is. Tim nods, because for him, Jimmy is one of the guy he talks to. (And he was planning on telling Jimmy about it no matter what.)

Tim’s thinking this isn’t dancing. It’s really not. He and Jimmy would be a hell of a lot better at this if it was dancing. But the skills aren’t completely dissimilar. And when it is the four of them dancing, he does have to keep track of three other people, one of whom is Jimmy, and Jimmy’s doing the same thing, and they do have some level of skill at doing that. (Okay, they’re not going to be winning any dance competitions anytime soon, but everyone has a good time and no one gets their toes stepped on.)

See when you’re dancing either one on one, or one on one on one on one, two things are true, first off, there’s music, which helps you keep an idea of time and beat, and you’re moving slowly enough you can actually see what the other people are doing.

And he and Jimmy can sort of, kind of, okay, not really, but it’s better than nothing, communicate what they’re going to do by look, and kind of coordinate. If Ziva wasn’t so fast, they’d be better at it.

(If they’d danced as a foursome sometime between Ziva’s wedding and now, they’d be better at it, too, but for some reason there just hasn’t been any clubbing dates lately…)

But, as of this point, (round two) he’s only accidentally hit Jimmy twice and gotten in his way four times. Jimmy’s doing about the same with him.

And Ziva’s winning.

End of round two, another thought has hit Tim, he’s got unlimited music on his phone and two floors up and a few hundred feet over, he’s got speakers. Good speakers. LOUD speakers.

And, it still won’t be dancing with Abby and Breena, but he and Jimmy are both going to do better if there is music for this.

So he calls stop, tells Jimmy and Ziva what he wants to do, and goes to do it.

Nine Inch Nails. Full volume. Unless Abby’s playing it he hasn’t listed to them since college. But he knows it well enough to know what’s going to happen when. And he knows Jimmy does, too. No one their age who grew up in the States and went to college in the late '90s doesn’t know this music.

But Ziva’s five years younger and didn’t grow up in the States.

That smile pops up again. The first few beats of Mr. Self Destruct come up. Jimmy’s head jerks up when he hears it, and he shakes it softly, grinning, and mouths, you bastard at Tim. Yeah, he knows this.

This is going to be fun.

This is going to be the kind of fun that he really needs right now.

Better. This is a whole lot better.  Set beats both of them know, means he hasn’t gotten in Jimmy’s way and Jimmy hasn’t gotten in his since the music began.

Music, loud, thumping, vibrates through your bones, inflicting minor hearing damage music means that even Ziva’s moving with the beat, so they’re having an easier time anticipating where she’s going to be.

Music they know means that if he takes one melody (if NIN can be said to have melody) and Jimmy takes another, (Usually Jimmy takes the main lyrical line, and he takes the beat. He thinks that’s because Jimmy’s the singer.) they have a much easier time anticipating each other’s moves. Likewise, they’re doing much better at coordinating attacking and defending because there’s a steady beat holding the whole thing together. (Or as much as NIN can be said to have a steady beat.)

The fact that this music is as much rage and pain screaming at the sky as anything else, doesn’t hurt either. This music was designed to be yelled, designed to celebrate pain, channel it, force it into something tangible and real.

It’s a very good way to blow off even more of what’s bugging him. (It’s possible he may be singing along at some points, at least mentally, because he needs his breath to fight.)

Round six (Get Down Make Love) begins with the electronic beat, spoken voice, and moaning, and Ziva’s staring at Tim, “You listen to this McGee?”

“I did in college.”

She shakes her head, listening trying to map out the music, knowing that Tim and Jimmy will corner the music, use it as their guide.

“You, too Jimmy?”

“Trent Reznor dropped out of my college about five years before I went there. We fighting or resting?”

Ziva pivoted on her back leg, looking like she was aiming to kick Tim, but her right hand flashed out and would have caught Jimmy’s cheek but he got his forearm up in time to defend while Tim spun into an elbow strike that Ziva deflected with the kick she started the move with.

“We fight!”

By the second verse he and Jimmy are working together well enough for one to constantly be defending and the other to constantly be attacking and to swap back and forth between them well enough to keep Ziva off balance.

Round nine, Head Like A Hole, began. Two main musical lines: ‘Head like a hole, black as your soul’, has one sound. ‘Bow down before the one you serve’ has another. They blend and support each other. Like the way Tim and Jimmy are fighting. Jimmy takes the bow down refrain, Tim’s got head like a hole. Tim’s moving faster, more attacking. Jimmy’s slower, distracting, on defense.

Head like a hole, black as your soul, I’d rather die, than give you control. And sure it’s not real, not him, but he can feel it, hook into it, channel all the pissed off just want to beat the hell out of Ender into this, and he’s making Ziva sweat, literally and metaphorically.

And on what Tim considered a very well-coordinated move, in on the last run of ‘bow down’ Jimmy caught his eye a second before the line hit, and Tim knew, because he knew the music, what was going to happen. He slid slightly behind Jimmy, while Jimmy was engaging Ziva, but when the word bow hit, Jimmy dropped to the floor, and Tim kicked through where he had been, forcing Ziva’s balance back as she leaned back to dodge the kick. Jimmy, on the mat, grabbed both of her feet and yanked them out from under her.

Round nine, for the first time ever, Ziva hit the mat. 

Round ten, Ziva asked if they could sub in some of her music.

They took a ten minute breather, each adding three of their own songs.

He stayed with NIN. Jimmy tossed in the Mortal Kombat soundtrack, which Tim recognized. Hell, he even watched the movie back in the day. Perfect music. He’s got no idea what Ziva’s added. It’s not in English and he’s never seen it before, and steels himself to getting killed when her music comes on.

He flicked the play to random, music he didn’t know, had to be Ziva’s, began to shake the gym, and they got ready to go.

By the end of the playlist he knows he was feeling better, and he hopes Ziva is.

Next up, talking.


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