Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 294

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

Chapter 294: Abby's New Groove

You fall in love, get married, get pregnant, have a baby, life changes, your body changes, your home changes, everything changes.

It has to.

You can’t do all of that and have things stay the same.

And Abby knows that.

There are welcome changes, like Tim curled around her each night, or the feel of Kelly’s breath against her breast as she nurses, and there are unwelcome changes.

Like the inch of blond roots peeking out from her black hair.

And yeah, it’s not the end of the world or anything. But her hair is one of her defining characteristics. It’s black and up in pig tails most of the time. It’s dark and cute and perky and just fun.

But she’s naturally blonde, and until Kelly was on the outside every two weeks she’d dye it to keep it looking perfect. She’s so good at the upkeep that a lot of people don’t know that her hair isn’t naturally black. It’s her own special dye mix, organic, natural, no ammonia, beautiful color that doesn’t make her hair feel like straw. None of this right out of the box stuff for her.

It’s her hair, and she loves it, and…

But, because it’s not the out of the box stuff, and because it’s natural and organic and has no harsh chemicals, it takes her two hours every other week to keep it the way she likes.

Two hours she could be doing something else, like sleeping, or Tim.

But it’s her hair…

God, she hates this; it feels so whiny. She wants “her” hair. She doesn’t want to spend the time she needs to to keep it “her” hair.

Okay, really, it’s not the hair. Well, it is… but… It’s just the one last straw on the camel’s back. Her favorite tattoo is broken, her skin’s covered in stretch marks, none of ‘her’ clothing fits, even though she’s only twelve pounds away from her pre-pregnancy weight her hips and boobs aren’t even close to the same size they used to be. Even her shoes don’t fit properly anymore. (That one kills her. She’s probably got fifteen thousand dollars’ worth of beautiful boots and shoes, that she spent the last twenty years collecting and they’re all at least half a size too small now.) Nothing about her feels the same, so she could at least keep her hair, right?

Breena and Ziva are looking at Abby as she’s saying this.

“Could you just dye it less often?” Ziva asks. “The roots aren’t very noticeable until they get to be about a quarter inch long.”

Abby mopes at that. “I can see them. And it makes me look like my hair’s really thin because I end up with what looks like a really wide part.”

“Tony uses Garnier to cover his gray. He likes it, and it doesn’t take two hours. I am sure they have black.”

Abby nods at Ziva’s comment. “They do. They all do. But my hair’s so fine it feels like straw after I use one of those dyes. And especially with nursing, I don’t want to use anything I didn’t mix up myself.”

Breena’s staring at Abby’s hair, playing with it a little. “Go blonde. What’s your real color? Kind of light honey blonde?” That’s what color her roots are.

“Lighter. About the color of your highlights. At least that’s what it used to be.” She thinks the roots were always this color and it just got lighter as it got longer, but she doesn’t really remember. It’s been almost thirty years since she dyed it black the first time.

Breena’s thinking about that as they sit in Abby’s living room. Summer’s inching to a close, and once more Labor Day weekend has come around. So, right now, as the guys are outside messing about with the grill and keeping babies entertained, the ladies are inside, taking advantage of the AC, (It’s way too hot out there for Breena. At five months pregnant, anything over eighty-five is torture.) and working on making some plans for getting Abby’s groove back.

She ruffles her fingers through Abby’s hair, feeling how thin it is. “It’ll take a lot of bleach to get rid of the black, and that’s hard on hair. So, cute, sassy, short little cut, bleach it back to whatever you think it is, and we can fine tune when more of it grows in. Maybe put some pink or blue on the tips, too. When you’re out of all babies all the time, you can go black again.”

“Cute and short sounds like time getting it cut instead of dyed,” Abby replies, twirling one ponytail between her fingers, not loving the idea of chopping them off. Though she finds herself wondering how much of that is not being willing to let go of Kate. Last thing she ever said to her… almost last thing,.. last thing was about the tattoo on her bum… was how much she liked Abby’s hair up in ponytails.

“Yeah, but every other month instead of every other week,” Breena answers. “And you go out to have someone else do it so you get some baby-free time where all you have to do is sit around and let someone else take care of you for a while. I don’t think you’ll have a hard time selling Tim on the idea that you need a Saturday afternoon off every other month.”

Ziva smiles. “He will drive you to the appointment himself, smiling.”

Breena stares at Abby’s hair, runs her fingers through it again, and says, “Actually, the first cut’s really only about limiting the damage from the bleach to get your hair lighter. If you don’t want that afternoon off, just grow it back out again after the first one.”

Abby stands up and heads to their downstairs bathroom, looking at herself in the mirror. “How short are you thinking?” she calls out to the others.

Ziva joins her. Breena stays comfortable on the sofa. She’ll be doing enough up and down and chasing Molly around soon.

When she can find her cheekbones
“Not a pixie cut,” Ziva says.

“Noooo…” No way in hell she’s doing that. Though it would take care of the dye issue all-together. Cut it that short and it’d just be her natural hair and maybe some tiny little black tips. That actually might look kind of cool… Okay, no that’s insane. Ten pounds from now, when she can find her cheekbones again, maybe. But right now her face is too round for it.

“Maybe jaw length?” Ziva suggests.

She can kind of imagine that.


They hear the sliding glass door to the porch open, and the sound of Tim’s voice. “Dinner’s ready. Got some ladies that want to eat?” He looks at Abby and Ziva a little oddly when they both come out of the bathroom, but doesn’t ask about it.

“Do I want to know?” he whispers to Abby a few minutes later while everyone floods into the kitchen to put together their burgers and salad. He'd told her about Tony's mention of them doing more baby related research and he's wondering if the bathroom confab had something to do with that.

“Just talking hair.”

“Hers or yours?”


“Really?” That has his interest.


“What are you thinking?”

“I don’t know. Tossing around the idea of short.”

He thinks about that and kisses the back of her neck. “I’d like short.”


“Like long too, and really long, but yeah, short might be interesting. Looks bad, it’ll regrow. Not a big deal.”

“You’d really like short?”

“I like my mental image of short. If it looks anything like that, I’ll like it.”


“What are you two conspiring about?” Penny asks, snagging a few more glasses.

“Nothing big.”

“Good, get moving, we’re waiting on you to eat.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Tim replies, and Abby suddenly has a very clear idea of him at eight or nine-years-old being told to hurry up a bit and get to the table.

They get settled and dinner begins, bits and pieces of conversation floating around while Kelly naps and Molly pokes at the little cut up pieces of hamburger she’s eating off of Ziva’s plate.

“It’s been a while, what happened with your log everyone out of their password protection?” Penny asks, while passing the salad to Ducky on her left.

“Better than my last test, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Two passed, but they passed the last test. My worm never got in. Two of them are running their passwords old school, either have them memorized or written down, or something like that, so the worm never got them. Three of the others noticed something was wrong, actually talked to each other, and caught it and killed it before it got the other five.”

“That part’s better, right?” Tony asks.


“They figure out it was from you?” Jimmy asks.

“Nah. And that’s the part that’s worse. Didn’t do much to cover my tracks. They may have the IP address I launched it from, but that’s a dead end. Now, if any of them have any investigative savvy they may decide to find out where that IP was located, and then try to figure out why they got hacked from a bus station, let alone a bus station NCIS was running an operation out of, but if they’re doing it, no one’s said anything yet.” 

“How about Leon?” Tony asks.

“His system defeated it.”

“Didn’t you set his system up in the first place?” Breena asks.

“Not all of it, and he’s had new stuff added since.”

“Bet he was happy to see that,” Abby says, and Tim nods.

Conversation bops around, mostly just family stuff, little bits of work, catching up on the things they’ve done lately. As burgers, salad, and corn on the cob is cleared off, and strawberry-peach shortcake (sans cake for Jimmy and Tim) was passed around, Kelly starts crying.

Tim heads up to get her, and hears the tail end of, “finally hired a nanny,” as he sits down, handing his daughter to his wife.

“Her name is Heather, and she starts on the 15th. Give her a little time to get used to this while I’m still home.”

“I met her, didn’t I?” Gibbs asks.

“Yep. She was the one telling you about artificial knees.”

He rolls his eyes a little at that. The twelve-year-old.

“So, does that mean you’re heading back to work soon?” Penny asks.

“Back on the twenty-first.”

“Good, you’ve got to get them into the shape. They keep working on other teams’ evidence,” Tony says, half-joking.

“I’ll remember to speak severely to them about that,” Abby responds, like Tony, half-joking.

“It actually is something of an issue. It’s not that they are working on other teams’ evidence, it is that they do not seem to grasp the concept of murders take precedence over drug deals, thefts, or money laundering,” Ziva adds.

Tim nods at that. “Priorities are a little skewed. They seem to do a sort of first come first served sort of thing.”

“And I get the feeling they aren’t used to doing much in the way of time sensitive work. I’ve sent Jimmy down with samples on several occasions, and sometimes they just sit there for a few days," Ducky adds.

“They are doing a whole lot more work, too,” Jimmy adds, feeling like it’s important to get the idea across that the lab staff didn’t suddenly triple, have the same amount of work, and were doing it badly. “They’re getting everything from all the Afloats, too. But, yeah, we’re not getting the sort of personal touch we’re used to.”

“Then I guess I know what my first job is.”

While they were cleaning up the table, Penny quietly asked Jethro, “Still seeing your new friend?”


“Finding any clarity?”

He shrugs. “Haven’t stopped going.”

“Are you getting what you want out of it?”

“Maybe. Thinking about things different, so that’s something.”

She gives his shoulder a squeeze. “Yeah, it is. Not that I’m planning on blabbing, but, who all knows about this?”

“Haven’t said, but I think it’s already gone through. Think Tim let the crew knew that was part of Tony and I getting back on the job.”

Penny nods at that heads back into the kitchen to put the plates in her hands into the dishwasher.

NCIS may be closed on Labor Day, but the just about everywhere else, isn’t.

So, having dropped boys and babies off at the McGees’ house, the girls ventured forth for a girls day out. What started as a haircut for Abby morphed into treat the ladies day when Jimmy looked at Breena and said, ‘I’ll take Molly over to Tim’s, you go out and have fun, too. Don’t come back until you’ve had at least a massage.’

So, with both of them thinking massages and facials to go with Abby’s hair transformation, sounded good, Breena just made the appointments for Ziva and Penny, too.

The Gibbs clan ladies were going out, and that was that.

One of the good things about living in the Capitol City of the US is that it’s not hard to find places that will cater to a quad of ladies looking for a nice day out, let alone a nice day out that involves things like haircuts and massages.

Only tricky part was picking where to go.

But Breena took that in hand, and by shortly after 8:30, all four of them were very happy with her choice.

Abby had to admit that getting a reflexology treatment while the black cooked out of her hair was awfully nice.

She was really nervous about the staff here being able to do what she wanted, because they were awfully… vanilla looking. She didn’t get the sense that much of the ladies here had any edge, or if they did they kept it well hidden.

But as she described the idea for her hair, short, shag cut, lightened to match her roots, little touches of pink to frame her face, Amanda, her stylist got really excited, and started gushing about the new dyes they got in, taking her in hand and dragging her over to see all the shades they had to play with.

“We never get to use them,” she said, gesturing to the close to six different pinks, (they had a similar inventory of blues, greens, and reds, along with a large library of standard hair colors) and holding up a few of them to Abby’s face to see how they looked with her hair and eyes. “How about this baby pink, and maybe a touch or two of this rose color?”

“Sure!” she was starting to get excited about this idea of… changing.

“You know, while we’re at it, we could take a stab at your wardrobe,” Breena said as they got lunch. “Gonna be a while before you can get back into your jeans and skirts. You’re going to need something to wear to work.”

Abby kept staring at herself in the mirrored wall behind them. It felt really odd to be able to identify everyone at the table at a glance, besides herself. She also kept turning her head, fast, feeling this new, short hair flip around her neck and jaw.

“They don’t really sell the kind of clothing I tend to like here.”

Ziva was looking her over. “Maybe you might try some new clothing to go with the new hair. Sort of like how your court wear changed, maybe you could try something less…”


“No, not less you, different you. New armor for new battles. Boss-wear,” Breena said, enthusiastically.

 Abby looked to Penny, who shrugged and asked, “Do you have any even vaguely appropriate tops that fit?”

“No.” Double D nursing breasts were doing everything they could to get out of every top she owned. (Which was why she’d been wearing a lot of Tim’s t-shirts lately. Why she was wearing one now.)

“Then you need to get something. But you’ve got time. Head online and get your old style. Play with the girls and try a new one. Do both. But having spent my entire professional life working with male scientists, I have noticed they tended to be more respectful and more willing to pay attention to what I was saying when I dressed a certain way.”

“So that’s what you did?” Breena asked.

“Certainly not! I had to dress like a nun to get them to pay attention. I wore whatever the hell I wanted and when they ignored me I shoved my better understanding of the subject down their throats and made them see I was a better engineer than they ever dreamed of being. I intentionally dressed like a woman so they couldn’t just sort of pretend I was a small man with long hair.

“But… and this is probably important, I was also not trying to create a harmoniously running department, I was taking on an already up and running team, and for a lot of those years, I was the only female in Biotech anyone had ever heard of, let alone seen. The only thing I was doing was making sure they understood lack of penis did not mean lack of brains.”

“Yeah, that’s not precisely what I’m going to be doing.”

“So, as Breena put it, getting some Bosswear might be in order. At least until you have a better handle on them. Or go all out Goth and make them see that collars and black leather doesn’t mean lack of brains, either.”

Abby looked from Ziva to Breena to Penny. “What would Bosswear look like?”

Tim, Tony, and Jimmy were entertaining Molly (naptime for Kelly) when Breena and Ziva and Penny came in. For a second, Tim was feeling a bit apprehensive because Abby was lingering outside of view and the three of them were grinning stupidly at him.

Jimmy stood up and kissed his wife. “You guys lose a member of the party?”

“Oh no. We just wanted to be in range to see you respond to the grand unveiling,” Ziva answered with a wide and happy smile.

Jimmy looked at Ziva, watching the pleasure on her face, and says, “Ziva, you’re a girl.”

Tony whacked him. “Really astute, Palmer.”

“No. I mean, look, she’s grinning, and really happy about a makeover party…”

Tim’s aware of the fact that they’re chatting about this new revelation that Ziva does indeed appear to like some girly stuff, he’s somewhat less aware of Penny’s commentary about ‘girly stuff’ being a social construct. (Ziva liking girly stuff is not, in fact, a revelation to him, he figured it out when he finally saw all of wedding stuff put together. No way you put something that pretty together without being a girl. He, Tony, Gibbs, and Jimmy could have worked on that wedding until the end of time, it still wouldn’t have looked that good. Hell, infinite monkeys planning infinite weddings would have gotten that level of elegant, refined prettiness before he, Jimmy, Gibbs, and Tony stumbled onto it. Mainly because, there’re fifty-fifty odds that any given one of those infinite monkeys is a girl. What that says as to his belief in the idea that appreciation of girly stuff is a social construct shoved down the throats of baby girls at a young age is probably better left unsaid in the presence of his grandmother.)

No, he’s standing there, sort of aware of them talking, of Molly riding Breena’s hip, waiting for her to come in. Abby and dress up games has always been one of his favorite things and…

His breath literally caught in his chest. It’s just so…

my edit.
Her hair is short, comes to her jaw at the longest part, and blonde, mostly, bits and pieces around the edges are pink. He doesn’t know what that sort of cut is called. Not a bob, but beyond that, he’s clueless.

It’s cute and playful and flirty and adult. That’s always been the thing with the pony tails. They’re a link to her past, her childhood. They’re adorable, but not the mark of a grown up. This is fun, but sophisticated, and so sexy, her whole neck is visible, and the colors perk up her skin and…


“You like it?” She’s looking a little shy as she asks, so he takes two steps, pulls her close and bends her back into a deep, passionate, oh my God! YES sort of kiss.

A bit later, as he was getting both of them standing regularly again, he noticed Breena saying to Jimmy, “That’s how you respond to a new haircut.”

“Yes, dear.” (Apparently ‘Yes, dear,’ must have had some unspoken context, because Breena gently whacked Jimmy’s shoulder, and then he grinned at her.)

He stepped back a bit, and looked Abby over a bit more carefully. “You’ve got new clothes, too.”

That got a smile out of her. “Yeah.”

These are a lot closer to her traditional style than the hair is. From what he can tell, it’s just a bigger version of the clothing she normally wears.

“Got some work clothing, too.”

“Gonna show me?” he asked with a raised eyebrow and a little sexy grin.


“Ooo…” He was about to say something mildly salacious about how she could show him, but Kelly woke up, so she turned and headed toward her room.

“Let’s see if she can figure out who I am.”

Dress up came later that night, after they were on their own.

It’s stunningly amazing how much difference a new haircut/color makes. Even in her “regular” clothing (as much of it as she could squeeze into) light hair and different jewelry made some of it look, almost, normal.

Not plain or boring, but… Not nearly so edgy. Some of the less skull bedecked pieces started to look classically professional with the new hair and no cuffs or collars.

And there was the new stuff. Tim could feel the hands of Breena, Penny, and Ziva on those outfits. Granted none of it looked like anything that the three of them would wear, but all of it was vastly more aware of traditional office casual/high end professional wear, with, like everything else, an edge..

He’s not sure what kind of skirt it is. Tight. It curves perfectly from her waist to just above her knee, has a little slit up the back so she can walk more easily. She’s got it paired with some sort of black shell, and a white blouse and… little black pumps and… just… wow…

“Do you really like it?” She’s staring at herself in the mirror, not sure about this change at all.

“Oh yeah.”


He steps over to her. “I like anything that shows off your butt.” His hands trace from her waist to her thighs. “And anything that puts this luscious curve front and center is good by me. So, snug jeans, those short flirty skirts, whatever this thing is called. Really, I’m awfully easy on this… Booty right there?” He squeezes her gently. “Yep? Happy Tim!”

“It feels really weird.”

He nodded at that. “Look, if it’s not really you, it’s okay. Taking it back isn’t a problem, or just using it for court dates. If you wanna go back, that’s fine. But playing is good, right? That’s what you tell me?” He gestures to himself, kilt, t-shirt, wrist cuff, three new tattoos, and thirty-five fewer pounds. “I don’t exactly look like that guy you started dating again back in ’12. Not exactly him, either. You still love me. And if you want to go all satin and sophisticated with just and edge of punk, I’m good with that. I’m not going anywhere, and I’m more than happy to play new Abbies with you.”

“Feels weird.”

He nods at that.

“Good weird?”

“Just weird. I was really into it with the girls, but now… It doesn’t look like me.”

“Nope. Looks different. Good different.”

“I feel really naked in this.”

He looked at her curiously. “Naked?”

“Yeah. Like… I’m terrified I’ll spill something on myself. My legs and feet are practically bare.”

“Oh, literally, naked.”


He headed over to their bed. “How about the trousers?”

They’re slim cut, navy, some sort of light-weight wool blend. As he was handing them to her he said, “You know, when it fits again, both of these would go with that pink blouse of yours, and you could probably match this with some of your belts and cuffs, and nicer tank tops type shirts.”  

“Maybe.” She pulls off the skirt and begins to wriggle into the trousers. And like with the skirt, Tim was seriously appreciating the cut on them. “Who was picking these out?”

“Mostly Breena and Ziva. Penny kept me from breaking into hives at ‘normal clothing.’”

“Remind me to thank Breena and Ziva, and Penny for getting you into it. Whether you ever wear these again or not, they fit really nicely.”

“You think so?” She’s looking at herself in the mirror critically.

“Maybe I just really like what’s under them. Either way, I’m having a good time.”

“And that’s what matters?”

He shrugged. “At least one of us should be enjoying this, right?”

She laughed at that, shaking her head. “Yeah, I guess so. There’s a sort of drapy top that goes with this…”

And Tim headed over to their bed to dig through the bags and find it.

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