Thursday, May 8, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 320

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

Chapter 320: A Week

On Monday, before going to the Bullpen, Tim went down to the basement, unplugged the old coffee machine, poured out the scorched battery acid that was masquerading as coffee, set the drip pot under the counter, and then set up the Keurig, put the box of assorted flavor cups next to it along with a whiteboard and a dry erase marker.

He wrote on the board, What kind of coffee do you like? and left plenty of room for them to add their favorites.

He's not the Boss yet, but he can sure as hell get his Minions some decent coffee.

On Tuesday, during lunch, Tim headed down to see Jimmy. Monday night, after work, he and Abby began opening all of Kelly's christening presents, and while a few of them were cute little onesies and stuff, most of them were cards.

They were expecting greeting cards.

They were not expecting (in that most of these people are near strangers) money in those cards.

So, he pulls Jimmy out of the morgue and they head off in search of lunch, and for Tim, pointers on correct responses to this level of family generosity.

Once they were seated with food in front of them, he says, "Jimmy, everyone gave us money for Kelly."

And Jimmy nods.

"Like, a few thousand dollars all told."

And he keeps nodding.

"Is this usual?"

"Welcome to the Slater Funeral Home Family Mafia. You get in, but you never get out." Tim's just staring at him. "They take this family wealth thing really seriously. We're all supposed to add to it, help it grow, and then lavish it on the kids, making sure they've got everything they need to build the business further and keep all of us in the black. Christmas, birthdays, all the kids get little presents, and mom and dad get cash for them which is supposed to go toward making sure they get a good education or having seed money to go start a business for themselves/build onto the family business."

"That's what every baby needs a party means?"

Jimmy nods. "Something like that. All of the kids getting out of college with no debt is a big deal. I was talking about how I was able to refi and consolidate my student loans, and they all stared at me like I was talking about how proud I was of getting a good rate to finance my prostitution ring. By the end of that night Ed, Jeannie, and two of the Uncles had offered to pay them off."

"Is that a good thing?"

"It was nice... I guess. At the time I was kind of insulted, because, you know, it's mine, so paying it off is my job. Especially when Ed hit me with it first, I saw it more as a 'he didn't think I'd be able to do it' sort of thing. But the more time I'm with them, the more I get they really don't see it like that. The money, the debts, the businesses, the houses, it's all sort of ours. We hold onto the wealth for the kids, try to build it up, and pass more of it to them than we started with. So, they're offering to pay it off rather than let interest payments eat even further away at our capital." Jimmy eats a bite of his salad. "That's part of me not being son-in-law of the year material. I don't add to the wealth pool."

"You've got a job."

"Yeah, but I bring in cash. Cash on its own is useless. You've got to do something with it, make something of value that makes its own cash. Ed thinks you're a dork, too, but you write books and get royalties and whatnot, so you're higher on the value scale than I am. I get fired, I'm screwed. You get fired, your royalties keep coming and you go spend more time at the typewriter turning out more books and making yet more royalties. You're financially independent in a way I'm not."

"So, you leave NCIS and open a medical practice…" Tim leads as he cuts his chicken.

"Yeah, up to Son-In-Law-of-the-Year I go, along with suddenly having a hundred patients, a pile of seed money, and three or four accountants to make sure my books are in great shape, while a financial planner or two goes over everything and makes sure all of my assets are sheltered."

"And let me guess, if you got into hospice care..."

"I'd get the gold star to go with my shiny new Son-In-Law-of-the-Year Award," Jimmy says dryly. "Did you ever read The Godfather?"

"Million years ago."

"They don't kill people or steal stuff, but I married into the real world Corleone family."

"And now I'm part, too?"

Jimmy smiles. "Breena and I are godparents to your daughter. You're godparents to ours, so, yes."

"You couldn't have mentioned this before we got into it?"

"I figured if Ed didn't scare you off, this wasn't going to be a big deal."

"Okay, that's probably true."

"Just, don't forget thank you notes. They're a really big deal. Actual, real, on paper, in the mail, handwritten, thank you notes. Lack of thank you notes results in nagging."

"I think we can swing some thank you notes."


On Wednesday: they worked a case. And worked some more. And then worked a bit after that. It was technically Thursday when they headed home.

On Thursday, Tony let them off early. Tuesday they worked late. Wednesday they worked early and late. So when 12:30 rolled around and they had the perp in booking, he sent them all home.

He and Ziva went home and crashed.

A nap felt good. Sex after the nap felt fantastic. Post-sex, shower-time snuggles were awesome. They made dinner together, lazy, relaxed, nibbling half of the ingredients before they got into the oven.

All in all, it was a really grand afternoon.

But, after dinner, as Ziva was curling up with a book, Tony was feeling a bit out of sorts and edgy. He also wasn't having an easy time putting his finger on why. Everything had gone just fine today. He should be warm, content, earbuds in, happily watching a movie while Ziva reads, curled up against him.

But she's not settling, either. Which is probably what's setting his senses on edge.

He can feel it. She looks settled. They're on the sofa. He's got his feet up on the coffee table. She's lying with her head in his lap, book in hand. She's still, very, very still. Which is usually a dead give-away that something is wrong. It's not that she's fidgety or anything. But when Ziva goes stock still, she's either on full alert or thinking hard, and neither of them are appropriate for a second read of her current book. (Among other things, book reading involves turning pages, which hasn't happened for at least five minutes.)

"You okay?" he asks after another tense moment.

"Yes. I'm just thinking."

"Good thinking?" That makes him nervous. He can't help it. Women "thinking" is a deeply ingrained warning sensor for him.

"Just thinking."

"Okay. Work thinking or us thinking?"

"A bit of both."

"Uh huh..." He'd really rather she just told him what was going on, but as they've talked about in counseling, making sure she's got time to get big things right in her head, before he drags them out of her, is important. So, he doesn't push. He wants to. All of his little curious sensors are tingling. But he's not pushing.

He puts his earbuds back in, unpauses the movie, and lets her think.

He didn't have to wait long. Twenty minutes, half an hour maybe. Long enough for him to begin to get sucked into the movie. But, sucked into the movie or not, he certainly notices when Ziva marks her page, rolls onto her stomach, chin resting on her hands, hands on his thigh, and looks up at him. He's not entirely sure, because it doesn't happen a lot (okay, ever) but he thinks this could be Ziva's version of puppy-dog eyes.

He pulls the earbuds out. "Done thinking?"

"For now."

"Okay. So, do I get to find out what you've been thinking about?"

"Yes." She doesn't say anything after that.

"Maybe you could say a bit more than that. You're starting to scare me."

"No. It's not bad, just..." And she pauses, taking a breath, making him more nervous, and then jumps in with what she's been thinking about. "We've been talking about a baby, and I was thinking, once we hire Gibbs' replacement, that might be a good time to start trying."

"Oh." And yeah, that's not bad or anything, it's just...


He's not got much of anything going through his head. The spasm of 'Holy shit, a kid!' terror didn't fire, so that was a good thing. A step in the right direction. But, when they hire Gibbs' replacement is a whole lot more concrete that the somewhat nebulous 'eventually' they'd been bouncing around before.

But, like he let her think, she's letting him think, too. Which is a good thing, because right now, he doesn't know what he's thinking.

Unfortunately, he doesn't feel like he's pulling things together. There's just this huge, vague, something, and he's not sure how to deal with it.

So, he's gently stroking her back, not saying anything, kind of wishing he was saying something, though right now rambling on like a twit probably wouldn't win him any points.

After a good ten silent minutes, he comes up with, "So, like, as soon as we hire the guy, or when he joins the team, or once we know he's sticking around?"

"I was thinking when we hired him. But if you want to wait a bit longer, make sure he's blending in well, we could do that. Say, March or April at the latest."

"Ah... Really celebrate our first anniversary?"

"I was hoping we'd know by then, but, yes."

"Okay." He doesn't exactly sound excited, but there's no dread in his voice.

"Okay?" She double checks. He has the sense she was more than half-expecting him to freak out and melt down at this.

"Yeah, okay." He nods, tries to smile reassuringly.

"Are you really sure?"

They'd been talking about honesty, and that it's all right to be vulnerable with each other, and that actually discussing fears is better than pretending they aren't there, so unlike what he would have done this time last year, he answers honestly. "I don't know."

She smiles a bit, and nods, expecting that.

"Half of me is excited. Half feels like I'm marching off to face the firing squad."

She's not sure what to say to that. She knows, because they've talked about this, that he's, at best, wary about children. And he knows that she wants them.

"I just... I like our life. And, it feels really... something... to have a solid end to that."

"I understand." And she does.

"But I meant it when I said I'd do this with you. When we got married, this... kid thing, was part of it. So, yeah, I'm nervous about it, but, sure, when we get Gibbs' replacement. I'd like to make sure he gets a bit of time to settle in, make sure we're keeping him, but then, sure. We'll do this. Baby DiNozzo, show Palmer and McGee what a beautiful baby really looks like."

She half-smiles at his joke, and then sits up to kiss him.

On Friday, after they got home from Shabbos, after Molly was put to bed, Breena is kneeling on the floor, leaning her upper body against an exercise ball while Jimmy rubs her hips.

"I forgot how much I hate this part."

"Mmm..." He makes an agreeing noise, gently pressing the balls of his thumbs into her sacrum.

"I really don't think I can do forty-two weeks of this again. Everything hurts all over."

He nods.

"Hear that Anna, any time after thirty-six weeks. No hanging around forever like your sister did. When they say your lungs are done, out you come. The sooner the better."

He kisses the small of her back, fingers gently trailing down her spine.

"November 27th. That's thirty-six weeks." She says, hands rubbing her stomach. "That's when we're aiming for. Two more weeks and then out you go. Okay?"

He ripples his knuckles against her back, stroking his palms down her spine, cradling her hips in his hands and squeezing gently. "You want to flip around, sit on the ball, and I'll get your hips and thighs?"


He helps her get up, and seated on the ball, sitting cross-legged between her legs, gently rubbing her thighs and hips. He's resting his forehead (lightly) against her belly, feeling Anna squirming around in there.

He kisses again, lips brushing lightly above the waistband of Breena's leggings, trailing along the line from her now flat belly button to just above her pubic bone.

"Wouldn't mind a little bit longer with her on the inside." He kisses again, hands cradling her butt, and pulls back, smiling up at her. "Don't get to do this," he mouths gently over her. "For far too long once she's out."

Breena chuckles, a visible combination of exasperation (sex, now, really?) on her face as well as approval (I'm very glad you still find me sexy and attractive). "It's a good thing you're awfully cute," she says, ruffling his hair.

He smiles up at her again. "Well, you know, endorphins are good for pain, and for keeping your mood happy, and semen is supposed to help ripen the cervix. And if you want to stay on schedule for the 27th..."

"Uh huh." She's smiling, and takes off his glasses, resting them on the sofa behind him. "I don't remember that working all that hot last time."

"Obviously, we didn't do it nearly enough." He's inching her leggings off, and she stands up to make it easier.


On Saturday, Gibbs had cleared out his basement and set up the band saw.

It's one of the only power tools he's willing to use. Especially on his own, especially for long pieces of wood, ripping boards is just not a good plan with a hand saw.

All of his wood is stripped. The finish is off.

He's built the guides that will keep each board straight and true as the saw goes through them.

Gibbs takes a deep breath, picks up the first of the beams that will soon be repurposed into bed legs, flips on the saw, places the board into the guide and gently pushes, feeling the saw go tearing through the wood with the sweet hum of destruction that creates.

A moment later, holding two, even, clean-cut pieces, he exhales, realizing he wasn't breathing as he cut.

And holding them, he realizes that he is ready to start to rebuild. The pain he thought he'd experience as he took blade to wood never materialized.

He picks up another of the beams, settles it into the guide, and gets to work.


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