Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 303

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

Chapter 303: October 3, 2015

He got the text from Abby as he was fueling up the car. Gibbs coming for dinner. Down to last bottle of Angry Orchard. Pick up a few six packs, two onions, and sub rolls?

Sure. He texts back.

He crashed pretty hard the night before, but at one point he was vaguely aware of the sound of voices from downstairs, and in the morning, after Abby did indeed wake him up nicely, she mentioned that Gibbs had been over for dinner and that he was likely coming back again tonight. Maybe the Palmers too.

Jimmy and Breena?

Just Jimmy and Molly. Breena’s mom’s not feeling so hot, so she’s running the front of the house today.


Don’t think so. Breena didn’t say. Post-church Sunday dinner is still on as of now.

Okay. Back in an hour or so.

Chatting with Abby about Jeannie being sick means that it’s in his mind, so as he passes the ‘Flu Shots Here’ sign he decides to sign up for that as well. It’d be nice not to spend a week wishing he was dead.

You need me home soon? He texts to Abby.


Okay, gonna get a flu shot, too.


They take his information, have him fill out some forms, and tell him it’ll be a twenty minute wait.

He nods and heads off, figuring he’ll wander around, get his shopping done, and that’ll be that.

Somehow, between now and the last time he was at Target, all of the Halloween stuff had come out. Which is making him think it may have been a while since he last went shopping.

Oh well. He’s here now.

And faced with a lot of really cute stuff.

Really cute.

Like, he’d been somewhat vaguely aware this time last year of the possibility that Halloween with a baby might be a whole lot more fun that Halloween with just grown-ups. (Or at least a very different flavor of fun. He and Abby have had some awfully good Halloweens.)

But, it’s hitting him, as he’s walking more and more slowly past the baby Halloween costumes, coming to a complete stop, looking at them, instead of heading to the grocery department, that, well, Kelly really needs some Halloween costumes.

Multiple ones. (After all, what tiny baby doesn’t need multiple Halloween costumes?)

Because, God, they’re just so damn cute.

And, before his brain even got involved in the conversation, he was holding a little green dragon (with shiny purple wings!) a tiny jack-o-lantern (God, it’s so cute!), and the tiniest little black cat costume he’d ever imagined owning.

And somehow a little pair of shoes (after all, just because you can’t, you know, walk, or for that matter, you spend the vast majority of your time swaddled, doesn’t mean you don’t need shoes, right?) tiny, tiny little shoes in black with little silver and purple bats on them, also ended up in the cart, next to the Halloween themed onesies. (Because, come on, obviously Kelly needs way more skull oriented baby gear, it’s not like she doesn’t have enough of that, right?)

Tim was muttering quietly to himself about how they shouldn’t let him out of the house with a credit card, blaming the flu shot for him even being in this part of the Target, as he put several of the onesies back and snagged yet another tiny pair of shoes and the Halloween themed pacifiers. (After all, she’s got to have the pumpkin and bat and black cat pacifiers to go with the costume, right?)

Okay, out of here, now, before you buy the whole damn section.

Retrieving the stuff he actually went to Target to get went pretty quick, and he was in line, not really paying attention to much of anything when the idea of the dragon costume reminded him that he’d… promised… (he’s not sure if he promised, he’s awfully sure he mentioned it, though) Abby some sort of game tonight.

But, just because his memory of saying something to her about playing with Gabe and Skye again is kind of vague doesn’t mean he didn’t make that promise.

Had been an awfully long time since he’s tied her or done much of anything along those lines…

He steps out of line and heads for the scarves.

Gabe’s a dragon/magic user/knight sort of thing. (He’s been playing with the character a bit getting more ideas of him and jotting bits down.) So… he told Abby something about Gabe being in charge tonight... That’d mean some sort of magical binding, right. So… imaginary. More just the image to keep the idea in mind than any sort of real binding.

He perused the scarves and found a few in light marbled gray. Very thin, very light, he’s not loving the texture. They aren’t silk, some sort of poly blend, but all he wants is something to tie to her wrists and ankles. Doesn’t have to be strong, just has to suggest magic.

They’ll do.

He snagged them and headed back to the line.

“Halloween’s a big deal at your house, isn’t it?” the cashier asks.

“Yep. Favorite holiday, and the day after’s our wedding anniversary. It’s a big deal.”

She nods, packing up his purchases. “Hope you have a lot of fun.”

“I think we will.”

He was in his car before, the day after’s our wedding anniversary filtered through his brain enough to realize that the week before Halloween was their anniversary, the day after is their wedding anniversary, and he’s got nothing planned, no presents purchased, and no good ideas for what he wants to do. And in that it’s October, 3rd, he’s only got twenty days to figure it out.


He gets home and finds Kelly and Abby on the back porch. (In the shade.) It really is a lovely day, mid-seventies, bright blue sky, leaves starting to turn color.

Kelly’s getting some tummy time on her blanket, mostly doing what four month olds do, namely laying around trying to get her hands to go where she’s aiming them. (Abby had set a few pacifiers in her reach, and she’s sort of flailing in their general direction. Apparently picking things up is a learned skill.)

Abby was half sitting, half laying on the chaise, reading, keeping an eye on their daughter, and listening to music.

She looks up at him, smiles, sees the bags and says, “Successful shopping trip then?”

He smiles, little sheepish, little excited, and then sat next to Kelly, picking her up, and settling her in his lap, back against his tummy.

“Look, Kelly. Halloween goodies.” He shows her all of her new finery, which didn’t impress her much. But Abby seems to approve, she’s smiling, and after a few seconds sits down next to them to get a closer look.

Late afternoon, post-lunch, pre-dinner, Kelly decided it was naptime. Abby seconded that plan, and headed up to grab a bit of a snooze as well. (This was when it occurred to Tim that if he goes heading off on an assignment Abby’s on her own with Kelly all night, and while they’ve got a routine for that, not only did he head off on what should have been his night for getting the 1:00 feed, it’s also a lot harder to relax when you’re the only one on duty.)

“Sorry,” he says, having gotten to that realization when Abby was three quarters of the way up the stairs, heading to nap time.


“Heading off didn’t work that well for you, did it?”

“It was a long night. And for some reason I don’t bounce back so fast now,” she says with a half-rueful smile.

“Yeah. I know that feeling. It just hit me that I should have asked—“

“You’re a cop. I know you’re gonna have nights where the job wins. I am, too. Don’t have to ask to do your job. And I don’t, either.”

He nods at that.

“What if it’s calling both of us?” he asks, realizing that they didn’t have a back-up plan for that, yet.

“Rock, paper, scissors?”

“Hope Heather can stay late?”

“Or that Breena can take another baby for a night?”

He shakes his head at that. Breena’s the absolute last person they call, at least, for the next few years. “Wouldn’t want to do that. If it’s that level of all hands on deck, that means Jimmy’ll be working, too. Two babies under two and six months pregnant, alone?”

Abby winces at that, she knows she doesn’t want to take that on if she doesn’t have to. “Penny or Sarah, then.”

“That works.” 

Kelly made an impatient noise.

“Okay, little girl.” Abby pats her bum, continuing her trip up the stairs. “Let’s get some sleep.”

The addition of the LabRats to Abby’s domain under NCIS brought about several changes, one of which was the removal of the fuzzy lambskin rugs. The weekend before Corwin, Zelaz, and Brandt joined them, Tim took them out of the closet they hid in, lugged them to the car, and back home they and the pillows went.

The futon stayed, it’s good to have a place for tired people to crash, but the lambskin rugs are just for them, and the kind of thing they do on the rugs is really unlikely to happen now that three other people work in the lab.

Which means those rugs now live in the attic.

Part of the reason this house was so attractive to them was that upstairs there are four bedrooms. Obviously, one for them, and one for a child, one for guests, and one for, hopefully, another child at some point.

Right now, the room that would (hopefully) belong to another little McGee, is empty. They don’t use it for storage much, because Abby’s the kind of person who wants things where they belong, and temporary storage makes her itchy. So, even though it’s been pointed out to her (by Tim) that this room is a more convenient place to put things than their attic or basement, stuff ends up in the attic or basement because that’s going to be its final resting place.

However, as his girls are napping, and he’s thinking about tonight’s game, the fact that they’ve got this basically empty room just sitting there is seeming awfully nice.

By the time he hears Gibb’s car pull up, he had the lambskin rugs on the floor, scarves tucked under the edges, waiting to be pulled out, L.E.D. candles on the window sills, and his laptop in the corner, “music” picked out. 

Saturday dinner, Tim’s manning the grill. Not that it’s taking too much manning. This is a pretty simple dinner. Brats on the flames, onions and apples sliced thin and simmering in hard cider. Pretty much it’s just a good excuse to sit on the back porch, suck up the early autumn evening, share a drink with Jethro.

He’s half-way through his own cider. (Abby brought the first six-pack home last week, and he promptly decided that beer was highly overrated and hard cider was now his low-alcoholic beverage of choice.) But for the moment, he has his pressed to nose, letting the cold numb his bruises.

“Those any good?” Gibbs asks. He’s already finished his first beer.

Tim hands one to Jethro who just stares at it (hard cider with elderflower flavoring) for a second before cracking it open. He looks mildly surprised at how it tastes. “Thought it’d be sweet.”

Tim shakes his head. “Nope.” Has the flavors of apples and elderflowers without the sugar. He really likes it. “Good?”

Gibbs nods, looking thoughtful, taking another drink. “How’s your face?”


Gibbs looks at one of the lounge chairs on the porch and then takes the tongs out of Tim’s hands. So he goes and sits, relaxing. The cool of the drink chases away some of the sore on his face, and Tim sits quietly for a few minutes before remembering Gibbs asking about gchat. “So, who were you chatting with?”


Tim raises an eyebrow, there’s something edgy about how Gibbs says that. “Professional chatting with Rachel?”

Gibbs glares at him, while flipping the brats. “What else?”

“Not saying there is anything else, just asking.”

“Why would you be asking?”

“All of the hairs on your body hopped up all at once when I asked and you started to growl, so I figured I hit a nerve.”

The look Gibbs gives him says lay off but his words say, “Been talking about Shannon, wanted to talk about this last week.”

“So, just giving her a heads up?”


“Nothing else?” Tim’s not feeling like digging too deep, but he doesn’t exactly want to lay off, either. He’s not sure if Gibbs is touchy because this is counseling or touchy because it’s Rachel, and he’s curious.

That gets another glare.

“And how is this last week going?”

“You’re covered in bruises, Tony’s not coming over today because we’re both still avoiding him, and I told Vance yesterday that January fifteenth was definitely my last day. I’d say between the two of us, we’ve had better ideas and better weeks.”

Tim nods at that. This week wasn’t either of their crowning glories. “So, January’s really it?” 

“Yeah…” Jethro doesn’t look at him when he says that, but Tim hears the distress in his voice.

He remembers Gibbs saying that Tony was better after the two of them talked. “And that’s why Tony was better than he was?”



He shakes his head, dismissing it. “Everything ends, right?”


“I had twenty-three years, that’s a good long run.”

“But not long enough.”

“No, not long enough. It’d be… easier… if I knew what came next.”

“I’d imagine. That what you’re gonna talk to Rachel about?”

“Yeah, start at least. Life beyond Boss.” That also reminds Gibbs of something. “He wasn’t thrilled about you passing the case off to Fornell without giving him a heads up. I wouldn’t have gone for that, either. Wasn’t your case to give away.” And, as the man who was the Boss for so long, Gibbs knows Tim overstepped, badly. As a Dad, as a man who’s been watching this fairly timid guy expand his goals and skills, learn to take charge of anything handed to him, and take care of it all the way through, he’s proud.

And he’s not sure which one of those Tim needs more right now.

But Tim half-smiles at him, seems to get both. “I know. And I know I’m not winning employee of the decade by doing stuff like that. He did seem pleased about dropping Fornell and Diane on you come Monday.”

Gibbs rolls his eyes and lets that go. “You’re not an employee anymore.”

He shrugs. “Maybe. I’m fairly sure I’d still run major things by, say, Vance before just doing them. But, yeah, I’m not doing the employee thing well right now, and I’ve got to get my head into treating Tony like the Team Leader, even if I’m doing a bad job at treating him like my Boss.”

That gets one of Gibbs’ I understand looks. “Ya still gotta work with him.”

“Yep. I was telling myself that on Thursday, and still screwed it by Friday afternoon. Probably a good thing I won’t be working for him much longer. Jenner’s getting really serious with IBM.”

Gibbs nods, then thinks about that, thinks about several comments along those lines he’s heard from Tim. “How do you know that?”

“While back I asked Leon about what sort of attacks I could do on the private computer accounts of the guys in Cybercrime. You remember that pile of paperwork everyone filled out a month ago, the new NCIS privacy standards, buried in there was permission for NCIS to raid your stuff. So… I hacked his email. I mean, I hacked or am in the process of hacking all of Cybercrime, seeing how good their personal defenses are, but I actually read some of Jenner’s emails in addition to just breaking in. They’re negotiating starting dates and wages now. Didn’t read the details that closely, just wanted an idea of how much longer he was going to be down there.”

“Oh.” Gibbs was looking vaguely uncomfortable at that. Tim shrugs, he was snooping and he knew it.

They hear the sound of another car pulling into Tim’s driveway, followed by the sound of doors opening and closing.

“Smells good,” Jimmy says heading toward the grill from the side yard. Must have smelled the food, and headed straight to the back. Molly’s riding his shoulders.

“Should be.” Gibbs grabs another Angry Orchard from the cooler next to the grill, and tosses it toward Jimmy, who catches it neatly and then puts Molly down. She goes tearing off for the swing set. She’s still too small to really play on it, but that has not stopped her from trying. (Tim’s thinking that next spring he’ll put some sort of small kid play stuff up. Should have a ton of them crawling around his backyard soon enough.)

Jimmy sits next to Tim. “Damn. Draga didn’t do that justice when he told us how taking down Herden went. How bad does that hurt?”

“It’s just skippy,” Tim says dryly. Of course this fucking hurts, why are you even asking? on his face.

“Pretend I’m asking you as someone who can write you a prescription for painkillers.”

Tim blinks. “Oh.”

“So, he knocked some of your brains loose as well as blacking your eyes?” Jimmy says while very gently palpating Tim’s nose and his orbitals.

“Apparently. It hurts.” Tim’s flinching at Jimmy investigation, as well. “Advil’s taking care of the worst of it. Ice is helping. I’ll live.”

“You want something stronger?” Jimmy seemed satisfied that nothing was broken.


“Where are the girls?” Jimmy asks as he gets up and leans against the deck railing, popping the top on the hard cider. (After taking a moment to read the label for the sugar content.)

“Grabbing a little shut eye right now. Abby’ll be up for dinner. Kelly probably will be, too.”

“You short a girl tonight?” Gibbs asks while Jimmy casts an approving eye on dinner as he takes a sip of the cider.

“Yeah, Breena’s got a viewing.”

“Thought her part of it was usually done by the viewing,” Gibbs says.

“It is. But Jeannie’s not feeling good, so either Breena takes front of the house or Ed does and…” And he doesn’t need to finish that sentence, Tim and Gibbs are both well aware of how you might not want Ed Slater in charge of the grieving part of your funeral. He watches Gibbs handle the sausages, keeping them moving on the flames to prevent too much in the way of flare ups, and that got Gibbs and fire together in his head. “So, did Tim tell you about his dragons?”

Gibbs looks over at Jimmy, leaning against the porch railing where he can keep an eye on Molly easy, closes his eyes, opens them slowly, flashes his best are you kidding me look at him, and Jimmy shakes his head. So he turns to Tim, who’s relaxing on the chaise, and says, “Dragons?”

Tim smiles. “Dragons. Big, mean, magical warriors. Whole clan of them spread out over a few counties of some sort of ancient magical version of Ireland.”

“Uh huh…” Gibbs looks… less than thrilled is probably the best way to put it. He can sense the guys are excited, but, really, dragons?

“That’s the next series of books,” Tim says, still grinning.

Gibbs sighs at that, and turns the sausages while saying, “Do not tell me that JL McPibbs is going to be the main dragon in this next thing.”

Jimmy and Tim laugh pretty hard at that.

“Okay, I have to remember that,” Tim says as he calms down. “JL McPibbs may have to be a throw away character of some sort. That’s too good of a name to pass up. How about Lorcan McGee, patriarch of the McGee clan?” 

Gibbs thinks about that for a moment… “I can live with that. Is Lorcan the main character?”

“This time, no.”

“Your own name?” Jimmy asks.

“Not gonna write them as Tim McGee. That’d look kind of dumb.”

“And when they find out your real name?” Jimmy asks.

“Come on. Ninety zillion fantasy books out there. And this is not going to be the next Game of Thrones. My mystery readers aren’t going to follow me to this series. If it sells as well as most books do, about five thousand people will read it.”

Jimmy keeps looking at him, they’re gonna find out, clear on his face.

“I’ll set fire to that bridge when I come to it?”

Jimmy rolls his eyes, takes another sip of his drink, and looks away, keeping his eyes on Molly. “Got a name for me?”

“Daegan McGee? Did some googling when we were stuck in traffic on the way up to Downingtown.”

“Daegan?” Jimmy’s mostly just testing that name, getting a feel for it but Tim takes his question as what does it mean.

“Means black-haired.”

Jimmy thought about that for a second, kind of liking it, and then something occurred to him, and he squints at Tim, baffled. “What color hair do you think I have?”

Tim looks at him more carefully. “It’s not black?”

“Are you color blind?” Jimmy asks, Gibbs looking between them, appearing to be pretty amused by this.

“I didn’t think so.”

“It’s dark brown.”

“Huh.” Tim keeps staring at Jimmy’s hair. And, well, now that he’s looking, yeah, it’s not black at all. Dark brown, little bit of gray, less than one percent, but enough so it’s visible, but mostly dark brown, some lighter brown highlights. Really, not black at all.

Jimmy’s flashing his so done with you back at him. “So, you’re not actually getting better at naming things, you’re just doing it in a different language?”

“Hey, you aren’t Seamus!”

Jimmy squints at that.

“That’s the Scots/Irish version of James,” Tim explains. He spends another minute looking at Jimmy more carefully. “What the hell color are your eyes? Green? Brown?”

“Hazel. For a writer, you don’t pay a lot of attention to detail.”

“I can tell you where every mole on every visible inch of Breena, Ziva, and Abby is, and probably spend a paragraph each on their eyes, but for some reason, I haven’t felt much need to pay any attention to how you look.”

“Good point.”

“Bet you don’t know what color my eyes are.”

Jimmy took another drink of his cider. “Not blue, beyond that, I don’t know. But I also don’t write stories with you in them.”

“Mine are blue. His are green. Tony’s are hazel. And this is the dumbest conversation we’ve ever had. What’s Lorcan mean?” Gibbs asks, more interested in seeing what Tim’s going to do with this than he wants to admit.

“Little fierce one.”

“Really?” Gibbs isn’t horrified by that, but he’s not loving it, either.

“Come on, you weren’t an adult when you got named. If Lorcan didn’t describe you as a baby, let alone as a baby dragon…”

“Okay, decent point…”

Getting into the spirit.
When Abby came down she did have Kelly with her, and she was in the little pumpkin costume. Jimmy looks at the two of them, smiles at Kelly, taking her from Abby and giving her a kiss and a little petting, before handing her over to Jethro, taking the tongs from him, (Unwritten but always followed rule at both the McGee and Palmer homes: the person with the baby is not the person standing over the stove/oven/grill, minding the food.) and then says, “So, which one of the two of you went insane on the Halloween costumes.”

Tim raises his hand as Abby sits on his lap.

Jimmy shakes his head and smiles again.

Molly comes tearing over. “Kelly!”

Gibbs kneels on the porch so she can get a good view of her cousin. “Remember, very gentle.” Molly nods seriously, and leans in to kiss Kelly. Kelly squints at her, looking confused at the noisy thing slobbering on her.

“When your baby sister comes, you’re going to have to be gentle with her, too,” Jethro says.

Kelly nods at that.

“But you know what?”


“When she comes, she’s gonna sleep a lot, and your mommy and daddy are going to be really tired, too, so you and me, we’re gonna go out and play so everyone else can get naps. Probably take Ducky and Penny, too. That sound good?”


“Okay.” Gibbs looks back up to Jimmy. “What’s the official count now, ten more weeks?”

“December 14th, supposedly. Of course, Molly was supposed to show up February 1st, so we’re not holding out a lot of hope for Anna coming before Christmas.”

“What do you think, Molly, want a little baby sister for Christmas?” Abby asks.

Molly shakes her head vehemently. None of them are sure if that’s yes or no, (she’s shaking side to side and up and down) but they also know that both ‘little sister’ and ‘Christmas’ are really nebulous concepts for Molly, so mostly it’s just about making sure she’s part of the conversation.

Molly keeps looking at Kelly, and finally says, “Pumpkin?”

“Yep, it’s a pumpkin costume. For Halloween. Are you and Daddy going trick or treating?”

Molly ponders Uncle Tim’s question, while Jimmy nods. “Few houses around ours. Nothing big.” He pokes the brats again. “These are done. We eating inside or out?”

Tim shifts Abby onto the chaise and stands up. “I’ll get plates and napkins. Too nice to go in.”

“There’s a salad already made up in the fridge, too,” she adds.

“I’ll grab that, too.”

Perfect evenings may be vanishingly rare. They may not even exist. But, if you were to ask him, Tim’d tell you that sitting on his back porch, as the sun slips behind the trees in his backyard, eating dinner, enjoying a very good conversation with a group of people he loves is probably about as close as a man can get.

Sure, if everyone had been there it would have been better, but this moment here, Kelly nursing, his arm around Abby, sharing a cider with her, Molly on Jimmy’s lap, giving the tiny piece of bratwurst on the fork the big, hairy, eyeball, while Gibbs told them about taking his Kelly trick-or-treating the first time was awfully sweet.  

But moments are just moments, and they all end.

Kelly went down for the first of her night sleeps post-nursing. And not much beyond that, Molly was starting to yawn, which meant it was time for her and Jimmy to head home.

And it’s not so much that Tim wants to boot Gibbs out of their home, but he is hoping to have as much of the ten to one sleep block for playing with Abby as possible, and knows there’s some pre-game prep that needs to happen that’ll eat up some of this current seven to ten sleep cycle, so, as dinner’s winding down, he’s sending off not very subtle see-you-in-the-morning signals to Gibbs.

“Can I leave you two to clear up?” Abby asks, standing up from the table, stretching.

“Sure,” Tim replies.

“Good, want to get a shower.”

“We’re on it.” Tim says, watching Gibbs already stacking up plates. Now, normally, if say, Gibbs wasn’t the third person here, he’d just sign what he wants to say to Abby, or maybe say it silently. But, of course, that doesn’t work with Gibbs.

So, Tim grabs the salad bowl, follows her into the house, plunks it on the kitchen table and follows her to the bottom of the steps. As she rests her hand on the bannister, he lays his hand on hers and says very quietly, while kissing her throat just below her ear, “Get all cleaned up, okay?”

She smiles brightly at that, knowing what ‘all cleaned up’ means. Then says, also quietly, while kissing his lips. “Yes, Lord Gabriel.”

He gently pats her tush, and she heads up.

“I was thinking…” Tim says as he and Gibbs load the dishwasher.

“Yeah, I noticed,” Gibbs says dryly. “I’m heading home soon.”

Tim smirks and begins to scrub out the cast iron pan the apples and onions had been cooking in. “Well, yeah, thinking about that, too. But I know you’d already gotten that message, so that wasn’t what I was going to talk to you about.”


“Thinking about retiring. What was Franks doing? You told me he had more irons in the fire than anyone guessed. Obviously, he wasn’t just lying on the sand sucking down the cervezas. If whatever it was kept him going, maybe…”

“Maybe it’d be good enough for me?” That wasn’t a bad idea. What the hell was Franks doing? ‘Trust me, Probie, you’re way better off not knowin’,’ was all Franks would say about it. Gibbs knew better than to ask if it was legal, answer like that meant no, it wasn’t. But it was Mike, so legal or not, it wasn’t immoral.

“Or give you an idea of where to look next.”

Gibbs shrugs, that wasn’t an insane idea. Could talk to Amira, maybe she’d have a clue… He could head down to Mexico and have a chat with Camilla, she might be able to shed a bit of light on the story. (Or, maybe not go down to Mexico, going to Mexico might not be the best idea he’s ever had.)

Could open that box, the box he’d been assuming contained every skeleton in every closet that NCIS or NIS ever built. What Franks had been doing might be in there.

Gibbs nods, not saying much, but definitely thinking.


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