Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 274

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

Chapter 274: Out Of His Depths

“So, what are we walking into?” Jimmy asks Tim as he gets out of the shower.

Tim’s already sitting on the bench in front of the lockers, putting his socks on.

“Not certain. She and Tony are fighting.”

“What?” Jimmy wasn’t expecting that, case crap troubling both of them, sure. But that? Nope. Of course, he’s also been out of the loop this last week.

Hard case and Team Leader means Tim hasn’t actually talked to Jimmy about, much of anything, really, since, God, Monday probably. Hard case means no getting together for lunch and gossip. Or lunch and real conversation, or, hell, a lot of the time, hard case means just no lunch.

“You know what happened at the warehouse?” Tim asks. They hadn’t talked about it yet, and since they all survived, Ducky and Jimmy didn’t get called in, but he’s not sure what the scuttlebutt on it is.

“You all almost got blown up?”

“Yeah, that’s the gist of it. Draga trips the bomb. Gibbs yells at Ziva and I to run. We’re at the doorway, almost outside the building. I book off, find the biggest, most solid building and get my ass behind it. Ziva runs into the building, toward the bomb, to Tony.”

“Ohhh…” Jimmy’s wincing. Tim can see that’s the fear of the person you love most in danger. That’s his husband sense kicking in, and he’s getting pissed at Ziva on Tony’s behalf.

Tim nods, he felt it, too. But, that’s not the whole story.

“It gets better. According to her, he handled it in a mature and rational way by screaming at her and telling her that if she ever disobeyed a direct order from him or Gibbs again, he’d fire her.”

Jimmy winces again, and Tim nods at that, too. Because while they are both sympathetic to not wanting your love in danger, they’re also both aware that while there may be women who appreciate caveman-style marital dictates, none of them married one. “He’s so fucked.”

“Yeah,” Tim says, still nodding.

“He told Ziva he’d fire her? What the hell was he thinking?”

“Well, he was home with a concussion, so maybe he wasn’t?”

“Youch. Wait, if you know this, when was that?”

“Thursday/Friday sometime. She was just steaming at her desk, so we broke off to talk, make sure she could work.”

“If she’s still that pissed, he probably made it worse.”


Jimmy stares at Tim for another second. He’s got an idea that if Ziva is still pissed about this, and if Tony did make it worse, it’s extremely unlikely they’re just chatting with Ziva today. “We’re not going to get to both of you, are we?”

Tim shakes his head. And really, right now, he’s not feeling too much need to get to him today. The desire to beat the living shit out of something been well-sated at this point. He’s not okay, but he’s not walking wounded, either, and that’ll all he needs for today. “Not today. Mine’ll hold.”

“Really?” Jimmy looks concerned for Tim, too. Yeah, he’s seeming better since they got done, but, he can feel there’s still some edge there.

“Really. Nothing that needs to be dealt with right now.”

“Your parents?”

Tim shakes his head. “Nah. It’s the job and this case. Got the last piece of the puzzle and it’s complete shit.”

“Tell me?”

“Yeah, but I need to be the one who tells Tony and Ziva, and Draga may not ever get this.”

“Okay.” Jimmy gets that’s Tim trusting him to keep his mouth shut.

“Ender was still an active CIA Agent.”

Jimmy looks like he got punched in the stomach, hard. “Oh, God, Tim.”

“Yeah.” He stops for a second, but knows part of owning it is saying it. “I’ve killed two undercover cops.”

“You… okay? God that sounds dumb. You’re not; I can see that. You…” Jimmy’s not even sure what question he’s trying to ask.

“I’ll be okay. I know it was the right decision this time. I do. But, yeah, I’ve had better days. Getting out of my head was good. It was really good. Probably gonna write when I get home.”

Jimmy nods. He knows that’s how Tim gets back into his head, but in a safe way. Sounds like a very good plan to him. “Don’t think we’re getting home anytime soon.”

“Not given how pissed she was. I mean, she was pissed on Friday, but was doing better when we closed the case, and now… Gibbs tells me he’s been talking to Tony, and that ‘I don’t need to know unless they tell me’ what about.”

“Ohhh…” Jimmy comes up short. “Ummm… Was Gibbs giving him marriage advice?”

“Uh. I hope not. When we got home from the bomb, he didn’t want me to tell Abby what happened.”

Jimmy shaking his head slowly. “That’s not good at all.”

“He didn’t want her to worry.” Tim’s voice makes it clear how intensely ridiculous he thought that was.

Jimmy just shakes his head slowly. Sometimes it isn’t a huge mystery as to why Gibbs has been divorced three times. Jimmy doesn’t know any woman who has ever appreciated, ‘I lied because I didn’t want you to worry.’

“We will talk about that, too. I’ll come in for lunch tomorrow, we’ll catch up, but she’s waiting for us, and this is like twice as long as it takes us to change.”

“Good point.” Jimmy stood up, dropping his towel, and opened his locker. He started to put on his briefs and caught sight of his thigh and hip, already dark red verging toward purple. “That’s not gonna be pretty.”

“We’ll make sure to get you some ice packs.” Tim held up his right arm, his entire forearm was mottled yellow purple from deflecting Ziva’s hits, and his legs aren’t in much better shape. “Me too. She’s gonna need them, too.”

“Gibbs keeps his door open, right?”

“Yeah. I locked up when I got his stuff, but I’ve also still got his key.”

“We’re getting the drinks to go and heading to his place. We’ll be able to talk, no little people begging for attention, and lay around and ice down everything.”

“That sounds really good.”

He got to Gibbs’s first. Not too much of a shock. Jimmy’s the one getting the drinks, and there’s no reason to race because Ziva can’t get in until he’s there.

But he’s not there for long when Ziva heads in.

While it’s true that Gibbs doesn’t have a well-stocked kitchen (Tim makes a note to do a grocery run for Gibbs before he heads home to his own place.) he does have ice, and ice packs, and some frozen vegetables that’ll do for ice-pack duty, too.

So Tim’s laying out the frozen goodies, finding dishtowels to wrap them in, (Cause Jimmy will scold him about possible ice burn if he just puts them on bare skin.) and then heads to the basement for the alcohol. Ziva prefers Tequila, and Gibbs doesn’t seem to have any of it, but if they have to get her drunk to start talking, and then drive her home, he’s ready for it.

Ziva’s sitting on the sofa, ice on her right calf, right arm, left shoulder, and back. “Scotch and Gin?”

Tim shrugs. “I know you don’t like bourbon, so I didn’t bring it up.”

“I thought Jimmy was bringing the drinks.”

“He’s bringing some of them. This is here if it makes it easier.”

“I do not need to be drunk to talk, McGee.”

“Good. Once he gets here, you want to tell us what’s up?”

Once again Ziva shrugs at that question.


She shrugs again. There’s a reason she doesn’t talk about stuff like this with Tim or Jimmy, well, several reasons, but the one that’s coming up right now is the fact that, no matter how pissed she is at Tony (and the answer is god awful fucking pissed) she’s also still aware of the fact that the three of them have a sort of competition as to who’s better at the husband thing, and that Tony, at least, according to Tony, feels like he’s been coming in third for, well, since Jimmy got married and Tim started dating Abby.

And she doesn’t feel like this is a problem that will necessarily get better if Tony’s got his buddies ragging on him about it, too. (Let alone being smug about him being a twit.)

But she’s not sure if it’ll get better on its own either.

And there’s no way to keep this a secret.

And it will directly affect Tim.

Jimmy came in and handed out the drinks. Mango smoothie for her, iced-latte for Tim, and a diet vanilla-mint soda for him. He sees the booze on the table and looks from Ziva to Tim, eyebrow high.

“Thought it might help,” Tim says with a shrug while trading a few ice packs for his drink.

Jimmy sits on the sofa, next to Ziva, across from Tim on the easy chair, and sighs as he gets the ice settled on his hip.

“Come on, Ziva, you’ve beaten it out, now get talking.”

“Tim can go first.”

Tim shakes his head. “Nope. Mine isn’t going to get worse if it stews for a day or two. Yours might. Spill.”

Ziva took a few minute to tell her version of the explosion, getting yelled at, ultimatum fight, then segued into getting home early Saturday. “By then I was thinking it would be better. We’d had time apart to cool down. He’d realize he’d been stupid. I’d apologize for scaring him so bad. We’d talk. It would be better.

“But I get home, and he’s not in bed, or on the sofa watching a movie. He’s at the dining room table, working on his computer, and doesn’t hear me come in. He sees my reflection in the screen and slams it down shut, turns around looking panicked and guilty.”

“What was he doing?” Jimmy asks.

“Porn?” Tim asks. Panicked, guilty, furious wife, not impossible, but he didn’t think Ziva was touchy about stuff like that.

“Nothing like that. But I didn’t know that then. At least, I didn’t see any pictures, and he was typing, but…”

Both of them know sitting in front of a computer, typing away, late at night, and slamming the screen shut means lots of possibilities. And of course, Ziva knows that, so she’s going to get suspicious as soon as she sees that.

“I ask what he’s doing, and he says getting everything in order. And we had a serious conversation, about serious things, which makes sense, we both almost died, but the whole time I had the sense that was not quite what he was doing. Why slam the screen shut if he was writing a living will? I should be able to see his will, right?”

“I’d think so. Breena and I wrote ours together.”

Tim nods along with that. Sure he got his stuff in order first, then told Abby about it, but he showed her everything and told her any changes she wanted made, he’d make. “We’ve got to re-do ours since Kelly’s been born, but I’d assume we’d do that together.”

Ziva nods at them and sips her smoothie. “That is the way you do that. Together. But we had our conversation, and I told him I was sorry, and how I understood how scared he was, and how scared I was for him, and… And it was a good conversation.”

“One sided?” Jimmy asks.

“No, he was talking, too. His mother died, and Wendy left, and Kate died, and if anyone gets that, it is me. I understand what having everyone who ever really mattered ripped away feels like. I understand. We talked about how to deal with it better. Talked about how… how some of our coping mechanisms weren’t healthy, and how to do better.

“I thought we were in a good place when we went to be bed that morning. We’d deal with it, together, get better at it, together.”

Tim and Jimmy are listening, this sounds good. This sounds healthy. The fact that they know Ziva’s so pissed she was beating both of them to pulp means that everything in this story is about to go drastically wrong. “We went to bed, slept in late. Saturday was a good day. We had fun. He seemed lighter, happier. I was feeling better, case was closed, we got them, all wrapped up and ready to go, and we’ve got a week off. It was good. This morning, when I woke up, he had  left a note on the mirror saying he’d gone out for food. His computer was still on the table, screen up. I was curious. So I peeked.”

Tim sees her hands ball into fists and her jaw clench, and then she forces her muscles to relax and begins talking again, “He was writing the request for me to be transferred to my own team. I’d take Draga, start my own. He’d take you and Gibbs and build his own, new team from the ground up as you left.”

Tim and Jimmy both wince and Jimmy makes a very pained sound.

“Does that sound like working on it together? Does that sound like healthier coping mechanisms? No, that is him pushing me away.” And Ziva is spitting mad.

“Maybe it was just a draft. What he was thinking before you talked?” Tim asks her.

She shakes her head. “I thought that for a moment, chided myself for jumping to conclusions, and… I was going to wait, going to talk to him, but…” Tim and Jimmy don’t need too much input on but. Ziva’s home, alone, this bomb dropped into her lap. Tony’s computer is right there, and if she checks his email and he never sent it, she can just let it go and pretend she didn’t snoop. “So I checked. He sent the request to Vance last night while I was sleeping. He lied to about what he was doing. This wasn’t getting his affairs in order, not the way he let me believe. He did not even suggest that was what he was thinking. He didn’t talk to me about it at all. He just did it.”

“What did you do?” Jimmy asks, suddenly very worried for Tony.

“I stabbed the knife he made me through his computer and left. I have not been able to even think about being in the same room without really hitting him, so I figure we are better off not in the same room.”

Tim’s nodding. Jimmy is, too. They look at each other, neither really sure where to go from here.

“You want us to talk to him?” Jimmy asks.

Ziva tilts her head a little, looking curious. “What could you possibly have to say to him?”

“We could slap him upside the back of the head without killing him,” Tim answers.

“How does he even start to fix this?” Tim asks Jimmy as he pushes the button on the elevator at Tony’s place.

“Abject groveling and making it very clear that he knows he went insane? Hell, I don’t know. I’m trying to imagine what Breena would do to me if I did something like that and lied about it.”

“Abby’d kill me, and I’d hand her the fucking knife, because that’s just… You just don’t do that.”

“Yeah. Look, I don’t hold him not wanting to work with her against him. I don’t think I could stand seeing Breena in danger every single day. Especially after Jon. It’d kill me.” And Tim knows that Jimmy’s really not kidding about that. “So, I get that part of it.” Tim’s nodding along as he says that. He gets it, feels it, too. And he doesn’t know if he could handle Abby in the field now. Once or twice, yeah, he’d make it through, but every day. No. “But you sit down and you say, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t take the fear. You don’t go over her head and get rid of her, just… No!”

They stand quietly as the elevator eases its way up the levels.

“So, shock and awe? Use that to at least handle the work part of it.” Tim asks.

“Go in pissed and then give him an out by saying the concussion was acting up?” Jimmy replies.

“Works for me. You check him out, and while you’re doing it I’ll call Vance and countermand his email.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Granted it’s true that beyond the rules, no one in their family has any sort of guy code or guy playbook, but that doesn’t mean they don’t watch out for each other, and that doesn’t mean that all four of them aren’t invested in slapping (literally or metaphorically) the others upside the head if they’re being stupid.

That’s the point of having each other’s backs.

That’s the safety net. You don’t always have to make the right decision. You don’t always have to be strong. There will be men who will hold you up if you fall down, save your ass if it needs saving, and they’ll do it in a way that’ll hurt your pride as little as possible.

And for Tony, it’s a lot easier to be stupid than it is to be scared. So they’ll work the stupid angle, lay down cover for him, let him save as much face as he can, and help him fix this mess as best as they can.

“On a scale of one to toothpaste, how much trouble am I in?” Tony asks as he opens the door.

“Between invade Russia in November and reject Hitler’s application to art school.” Jimmy answers, herding Tony to the sofa, getting him sitting down and starting to check him out.

Tim adds, “Marginally closer to invade Russia, though. Trust me, Abby was significantly less horrified by the toothpaste thing than Jimmy was.” (At least, he’s assuming that’s why Tony knows about the toothpaste thing, and that’s going on the list of things he and Jimmy are talking about tomorrow, because he’s got no idea how bad the version Jimmy told Tony was, especially compared to real life.)

“Where is she?”

“My house,” Jimmy replies, holding his finger in front of Tony’s eyes. “Follow my finger.” Tony does, looking exasperated. “She hasn’t gone looking for a divorce lawyer, yet. How’s your head feeling?”

Tim’s staring at the remains of Tony’s computer, still on the dining room table, Ziva’s knife still sticking out of the keyboard. Time for the awe part of shock and awe. He gets his phone and dials up Vance.

It rings a few times and Vance sounds a little wary as he says, “McGee?”

“It’s just come to my attention, that due to severe head trauma, Tony somehow got the idea that this was still his team, and that he was allowed to request a change to the roster. It’s my team, and will continue to be my team until at least 8:00 AM August 3rd, when it may, if he’s all healed up, revert back to being his team. Any communications you get from anyone other than me until then, just toss right into the trash. Don’t even open them. I’m the only one you’re talking to right now.” Tony is staring absolute daggers at him, and might have been on the verge of getting up and doing something about what Tim’s saying, but Jimmy’s keeping him in check.

“Good.” Leon sounds relieved. And Tim’s certain he doesn’t want to get in the middle of a DiNozzo work/marriage fight. “And is DiNozzo receiving appropriate medical care?”

“Yes, I’m getting him checked out right now.” Now the daggers are aimed at Jimmy. “Preliminary reports indicate some level of temporary insanity due to…” he’s looking at Jimmy, give me a reason on his face.

“Inter-cranial pressure.” Jimmy adds, making it up on the fly.

“Inter-cranial pressure,” Tim says to Vance.

“And will this issue with inter-cranial pressure…” Leon’s voice makes it clear that this is bullshit, and he knows it’s bullshit, because among other things, the man’s a boxer, so he know everyone has inter-cranial pressure. It’s like blood pressure, as long as you’re still alive, there will be some level of pressure. Too much is a bad thing, too little is a bad thing. But his voice also makes it clear that he’d much rather have Tim fix this mess than deal with it himself, so any lie Tim wants to tell him right now, including that Tony is currently a pod person and he and Jimmy are trying to get him back with the help of Mulder and Scully, he’ll happily accept. “…be resolved by next Monday?”

“I certainly hope so, but if not, I’ll let you know. I’ll handle this until it doesn’t need to be handled anymore.”

“Good. Keep me updated as necessary.”

“I will, sir.” And Tim hung up.

“You’re pulling rank on me?” Tony asks him sounding… a lot less angry than he should. Tim’s looking at Jimmy wondering if maybe something really is wrong, but Jimmy shakes his head slightly, Tony’s checking out okay.

So Tim stays with the angry play, because that’s the plan. “I don’t have rank on you to pull. This is a flat out mutiny. Second-in-command and the Doctor can take out the Captain if he’s being insane. And, my God, Tony, you’re being insane. What the hell could you have possibly been thinking where fire Ziva, lie to her about it, pretend you didn’t do it, and then what, hope she doesn’t notice, made any sort of sense?”

There’s a fast flare of anger from Tony, and his words are hot, and… God… just so, so sad, and defeated. “You wanna know what I was thinking? I was watching Kate’s head explode right in front of me and feeling her blood spatter my face wet, not even sticky yet, just wet, like drops of water, warm, salty, water. I tasted her blood, Tim. It was on my lips and face and… And the sharp sting of the little shards of her skull against my cheeks,” he gestures to his face where the bits of skull tore across his skin, “and superimposed on that was the fire of the explosion rushing over us and holding Ziva down, my body, Gibbs body on top of her, and begging God to please, please, please no matter what please let her get through this because if I lose another one I will eat my gun.

“I was thinking about how I don’t know what to do if she’s not here.

“And how I don’t care if she hates me as long as she’s alive.” He takes a deep shuddering breath.

“I was thinking that as long as we are on the same team that no matter what, she will come to me. She won’t let me go. She won’t not jump to put her body between mine and the bullet heading toward me. ‘You go. I go’ that’s what she said to me when she ran toward me. Not, ‘I’m better with explosives, get out of the way and let me do it,’ but, ‘You go. I go.’

“She says she’ll work on that. And I’ll say I’ll work on it, but in the end we’ve both lost too damn many people, and if she’s there when push comes to shove, she’ll run to me to shove right back. And this is the line in the sand, the one I can’t let her cross. She’s not dying for me.”

Tim remembers Gibbs saying, ‘Scared guys do stupid stuff.’ And he’s staring at a terrified guy who just did something remarkably stupid.

He looks at Jimmy, and Jimmy looks back at him, and there’s giving your buddy a smack and some cover to get him moving in the right direction, and there’s so far out of you depth you don’t know what the fuck to do.

And this is way beyond what he and Jimmy can handle.

Tony’s just staring at his hands, probably still seeing his own, personal, mental horror show.

Then Jimmy says, and Tim thought this was very wise, “When was the last time you talked to Dr. Cranston?”

Tony shrugs.

“Would you talk to her? Because, there’s smacking you upside the back of the head for being stupid, which is something both Tim and I are willing and able to do at the drop of a hat whenever you need it, and there’s this, and this isn’t going to get better with a smack and some booze.” Jimmy takes Tony’s hands and gets him looking at him. “We love Gibbs, but we don’t want you to be him. You don’t need to continue his pattern of sabotaging the things you want best because it’s easier to screw them up on your own terms than it is to live with the fear of losing them.”

Tony doesn’t respond. He’s looking pretty listless right now. Tim’s texting Gibbs, asking what Cranston’s phone number is.

“Look, if you need help to do this, I will take you myself.” Jimmy’s voice is gentle, soothing as he says this. “I’ll go with you if you need it. And if you want to come to Bootcamp and fight it out, too, we’re here for that. It helps, it really does. But you need to talk to someone who knows how to deal with this, and that’s not me and it’s not Tim, and it’s really not Gibbs, not on this one.”

Ten digits flash up on Tim’s screen, and he punches them in. While it’s ringing he can hear the phone letting him know he’s got another text, but he wants to move on this before he talks more to Gibbs about it.

“Hello.” Her voice sounds warm and open. He has the sense this isn’t her professional number.

“Dr. Cranston?”


“Hi. It’s Tim McGee, do you…”

“I remember you, Tim McGee, what’s up?”

“I need to ask a massive favor of you. Tony’s having a really, horribly bad week, and he really needs to talk to someone.”

“And you think that someone should be me?”

“I know that someone isn’t me, and it’s not Jimmy, or Gibbs, and if it’s not you, you’ll have a much better idea of who to point him to than any of us will. Anywhere, anytime, just, soon, please?”

He has the sense of her nodding, that gentle, concerned, curious look on her face. “And you’re with him?”

“Jimmy and I both are.”

“Text me his address. I’ll be there as soon as I can be.”

“Thank you.”

Turns out as soon as she could was seventeen minutes. During all of that, Tony didn’t say much. He made a half-hearted joke about Dr. Kate’s Sister coming to visit, straitjackets, and how maybe he needed to hide the computer.

Jimmy smiled a little and asked if he wanted him to stay, and Tony shook his head.

Rachel knocked, and Tim let her in, giving her a very cut and dried version of the last week, but she stopped paying attention to it about four sentences in when she saw that computer with the knife through the keyboard and Tony sitting on the sofa, Jimmy next to him, hand on his shoulder.

“Did he do that?” She pointed at the computer.

“That’s how Ziva let him know she was pissed. He had the knife made for her as a Valentine’s present last year.”

Cranston nods, then notices that both Jimmy and Tim are sporting bruises. “Did he do those?”

“Nope. We… Long story. Not from him.”


“Some of them. But probably not the way you’re thinking. We train with her.”

“And trained extra hard with her today?”

“Yes, as I said, it was a really long, really bad week, Tony got it double barreled.”

Her head tilts slightly, that’s got her attention. “Interesting choice of words. That sort of bad?”

Tim shakes his head a little. “Among other things. Really bad week.”

Cranston heads over, and once again Jimmy asks if Tony wants him there, but he shakes his head, so they leave them to talk.

“God, I hope that was the right thing,” Jimmy says.

“I can’t imagine it’ll make things worse.”

“That’s not a high bar to jump.”

“I know.”

“I’ll head home, let Ziva know what’s up.”

Tim holds up his phone, Why do you need it? from Gibbs on his screen. “Gonna go find out what Gibbs has been telling Tony, if I can. Lunch tomorrow?”

“Definitely. Tuesday, too, if you can?"

Tim nods, they’ve got more than an hour of talking to do. “If we can.”   

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