McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 295: Having It All
"Abbs?" He looks up from Anna Palmer's crib. He's gotten all the pieces cut, now it's time to start putting them together.
He glances around briefly, but doesn't see or hear anyone else. "So…"
She sits on the second from the bottom step. "I don't know how to be the Boss. I'm not sure I even want to be the Boss."
Gibbs smiles at that and sits next to her, wrapping his arm around her. "Trust me, Abbs, you know how to be the Boss. You've scared interns into wearing bells in your lab. You'll get those three whipped into shape."
"That's not being the Boss… That's not leading. That's just being scary."
Gibbs gives her a if it gets the job done look.
"These are professionals. They're good at their job. They deserve respect, and I can't just threaten or pout at them until they toe the line."
"You want a team of equals."
"Benedict technically is. He ran his own lab for seven years. Only reason I'm in charge is seniority."
"And you're a better scientist."
That gets a smile out of Abby and a kiss on Gibbs' cheek.
"Leon knows his job. If you're still in charge, it's not because you've been around longer. He's got no problem shuffling people around if it'll work better."
Abby leans against him. "How do I do this?"
Gibbs shrugs. "Takes a long time to get a good team. And all the leadership on Earth isn't gonna help without the right people. But, first of all, there are no teams of equals. One of you is going to lead. You can be… conciliatory. You can be like Jen, building alliances and teams, but someone is going to make the decisions at the end of the day. And that's gonna be you."
"I don't like being in charge."
Gibbs tilts his head at her in a sort of really, you're gonna try that with me look.
"Not saying I don't want things the way I want them, or like them exactly right, but… That's not leading. That's not being in charge. That's me forcing every assistant I've ever had out because I can't stand working with someone else for more than a few hours at a time."
She looks up.
"I'm a prima ballerina in the lab, and the ballerina's only in charge of her own dance. She does it perfectly, but she's only responsible for herself. And now I've got to learn to be the director and choreographer and make everyone work."
"How am I going to do that?"
"One day at a time, Abbs. Keep remembering the point of the ballet, and let the other dancers do their thing so you can get through it."
Seven AM to seven PM. At least, that's the idea of how it'll go for now. Tim and Abby are both hoping that eventually they can get their schedules wrangled well enough to make sure that at least one of them will be home every day around five.
Mostly because twelve hours a day five days a week is a long week. Add in commute time on top of it, and it's a really long week.
But, for now at least, those are Heather's hours.
And she seems happy to be working them.
Abby's not actually going back for three more days. Right now, they're both home so Kelly's not just getting dumped into someone new's hands as Abby goes sprinting out the door.
The idea is that she's taking a back seat, letting Heather get the hang of dealing with Kelly, learning where everything is and how they run their home.
That's the idea at least.
She's honestly not sure which is going to be harder, sitting back and letting a stranger take care of her child, or trying to run her other baby with all those new people in it.
Every time Kelly chirps she wants to leap up and grab her from Heather.
And it's not even that Kelly seems to be having a bad time. Actually, as much as you can tell with a baby, Kelly seems to be doing fine. (She's not crying any more than she usually does.) Heather doesn't seem to be struggling, either. They're getting on fine. Learning each other, but fine.
And not swooping in and taking care of it is killing her.
"Abby. This part is always hard. I've got her schedule. I've got your number. I'm sure you've got cameras somewhere so you can do a spot check. How about you head out for a bit, get some lunch or something This'll go easier for all of us if Kelly and I get some time alone."
And sure, that's logical, that makes sense, but she still wants to rip her hair out as she heads off.
"Okay. I know this needs to happen. I know I don't want to be home with her all the time. I know I'm starting to go buggy on laundry and nursing all the time, but how do you do this? How do you leave your baby with a stranger?"
Breena looked up from the lady she's embalming. "You just do it. And it sucks, and you visit fifty times the first day, and you cry more than the baby does, but you do it. But eventually it gets easier and you get used to it, and you don't feel so beaten down when you are in charge, don't feel like baby care is an unending run of hours and hours of mindless nothing which means you enjoy being with her more when you're with her."
"What if I don't want to get used to it?"
"Well, you better, or you'll be going to college with her, and she won't appreciate that, and neither will Tim."
"Yeah." Abby picked listlessly at the edge of the embalming table (currently empty) that she was leaning against.
Breena tied the knot on the final stitch closing the incision that would keep the cotton she'd packed into the corpse's torso in place. "All done Mrs. Callum. We'll get you all dressed up and ready to go soon. Your daughter tells my mom that you love the dress they picked out for you."
"Ducky does that, too."
"Talks to the clients. Of course. They're humans, so you've got to talk to them. If you stop talking to them you'll start treating them like things."
Abby nodded at that as Breena straightened up, and gently stroked Mrs. Callum's face.
"Your parents died when you were still in the breaking away from them part of life, right?"
"Sort of. The end of it. I was still swinging between wanting lots of hugs and vastly too cool to be in the same hemisphere with them."
"I remember those days. It'll get easier, it really will, and it's something you've got to do. Maybe not this early, not if you don't want to, but… That's the job, we hold them for a little while and then send them off."
"Great." Abby looked remarkably unenthusiastic about that.
"How long have you been out of the house?"
Abby checked her phone. "Thirty-six minutes."
"Okay, come on, give Heather a call, and then we'll go get some lunch."
And yes, Skyping with Heather and Kelly for two minutes, just to see that she was indeed sleeping peacefully felt stupid as all get out, but it also helped. Made it easier to head off to lunch. She checked back in at the end of lunch too, and saw Kelly getting a bottle, looking just fine.
Kelly was still awake when Abby got home, so there was snuggle time, which felt very, very good. (She's getting a better sense of why most nights Tim makes a bee line to Kelly for snuggles as soon as he can.) And Kelly seemed very happy to see her, too. Which was also good.
But… but maybe it hurts a little that someone else can do this, can make her little girl happy and keep her safe and…
And maybe she wants to be the only one, but she doesn't, because she can't, because this will drive her buggy if it's all she's doing… and… and she just doesn't know.
So, she goes on, stowing the breast milk she pumped in the fridge, putting Kelly down when it was naptime, letting Heather get her when she woke up, then nursing. And she tried to burn this into memory, tries to make it last, knowing it can't and won't, feeling… she wasn't sure what this feeling was, just that it was here and real.
And then she started to figure out what to do tomorrow. Because like Gibbs said, one day at a time. And tomorrow, even though it's not her first day back, she was thinking it'd be a good plan to drop into the lab and just get a feel for what's going on.