Saturday, May 17, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 325

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

Chapter 325: Anna Victoria Palmer

December 7th, yet another Monday at work. Tim stops down in the basement, noticing that one of the Minions had donated a K-cup caddy to the coffee station, and the rest of them weren't shy about listing what they liked on the whiteboard.

He's getting into the habit of buying more coffee for them each weekend, and bringing it in on Monday mornings. He can't really tell, because he's not down there all the time, but they seem to like it.

He's also getting more of a sense of the people who'll be working for him. If he had his way, he'd fire four of them, reassign another two, and start rebuilding from the six that don't seem satisfied with how the department is working.

But he's a government employee, with twelve other government employees, short of them stealing the computers, sexually harassing each other, or leaking NCIS secrets to the media, he basically can't fire them.

Which means he's got to somehow make four guys he'd rather not work with because they're under the impression that a nine-to-five, crime works on my schedule, not the other way around attitude is enough, turn into real cops, or decide to leave this cushy, safe, well-paid position.

He's hoping they leave.

He's guessing that if Manner heads off after he shows up, they'll follow. But he's not sure about that.

Either way, it's not happening today. He stops by Ingram's desk (one of the dissatisfied-looking ones) and spends (like he's been doing with each of them, whenever he gets the chance) an hour or so talking with her, finding out what case she's on, how it's going, which cases she's worked in the past.

She's pleasant, competent, and he gets the sense that dissatisfied comes from being a hacker stuck on a database job. He makes a mental note to find out who's best at what, and try to make sure cases get sorted that way.

There's no reason why someone's who's main specialty is getting in and out fast and sneaky should be sorting fifteen million data points looking for a pattern. Especially not when the person in the cubical one over specializes in sorting data.

You going to grace us with your presence today? Tim reads off his phone.

On the elevator, heading up. I'm not leaving you with all the paperwork. He sends back to Tony.


Just making sure the Minions are kept properly caffeinated. He can feel Tony snigger at that.

You going to let them know you're calling them the Minions?

Tim's turn to laugh. The doors open, and he heads over to his desk, saying, "I don't know. It'll depend a lot on how they do," as he passes Tony's desk. "Don't want to horrify them." He pulls the stack of papers toward him.

"Maybe you do. Might help keep them in line." Tony replies.

"What are we talking about?" Draga asks.

"The care and feeding of Minions," Tony replies.

Draga and Ziva roll their eyes.

"How about it, Gibbs? Is being feared the secret to success?" Tony asks. It still feels weird to Tim to hear Tony address Gibbs like that, instead of the usual Boss, but... yeah, everything changes.

"Kept you three in line," Gibbs says calmly. "But horrified isn't scared."

Tim's nodding at that. "Scary's fine. Oh my god, he's such a dork! isn't what I'm aiming for."

Tony looks like he's about to say something along the lines of, "If the shoe fits..." But he doesn't. He nods to the papers on Tim's desk. "They're not filling themselves out."

"On it."

"And how was this morning, Jimmy?"

Jimmy's noticed, that for the last year or so, when Ducky is talking about personal things, he refers to him as Jimmy, but when they talk professionally, especially if someone else is around, he's still Mr. Palmer.

So, by the use of his first name, Jimmy knows that's a question about home and family, and not the stack of paperwork he's wading through.

"Breena's tired. She's not really sleeping. She seemed pretty relieved to get Molly and I out of the house."

"Enjoying what is hopefully a last few minutes of restful solitude before the upcoming excitement?"

"I hope so. She had pretty steady contractions all weekend long, not a lot of them, but I don't think more than two hours went by without one. Then last night they just stopped. I think Anna's trying to go full term."

"She will come when she's ready."

"Yeah. I know, trust me. But this part is wearying. Especially for Breena. But weeks of being on high alert aren't easy for me, either."

Ducky nods, understanding what Jimmy is saying, and isn't. "Is everything ready?"

"Oh yeah, since Thanksgiving."

Ducky pats his bag. "And I, too, am ready."

"Good." Jimmy looks down at the form in front of him, and goes back to filling it out. They work that way for several more minutes, Jimmy filling out the paperwork, Ducky reading through a cold-case, working up a psychological profile of their perp.

Then Jimmy's phone buzzes. He answers it absently, not checking the name, eyes on the form. "Palmer."

"Jimmy." Breena's voice, with a certain breathy quality he immediately recognizes.


"Water broke a minute ago."

"I'll be home in twenty minutes."

Ducky's already tidying up his files, getting ready to go, huge grin on his face.

Tim is filling out paperwork when Jimmy rushes over, Molly's car seat in hand, plunks it down next to Tim's chair, grins at all four of them, and then rushes back out again.

Different variations of "Good luck!" follow his rapidly retreating form.

Tim picks up his phone and sends down to Abby, Detour en route home. Picking up Molly, too!

Just got the text from Breena! Comes back to him. He looks up and notices the rest of his team is also reading off of their cells, so it seems that Team Gibbs is all on the same page.

Sometime, hopefully in the next 24 hours, Anna Palmer would be on the outside!

At twenty-two months old Molly Palmer can (mostly) feed herself. She has very definite ideas as to what she will or will not eat. She has a well-chewed stuffed-corgi (Named Doggy, she's not really imaginative with names.) she adores and will not sleep without. She prefers her hair down, likes dresses more than pants, and will have a literal hissy fit if you attempt to make her wear something other than pink shoes.

She is, in other words, a perfectly normal toddler.

She is also pretty firmly mired in the part of life where she likes surprises, but she also starts to get edgy and irritable if too many of them pile on top of each other.

She does much better with a certain routine.

And the addition of a little sister to the mix means routine will never be the same.

And, while it is true that she has no idea how things are about to change, it is also true that she is well aware of the general vibe of things being different around her house lately, and to say that she's been a bit on edge is not an exaggeration.

Molly is pleased to see them when they go to her daycare to pick her up. Jimmy and Breena'd been telling her for few days, since the contractions started kicking up, that one day Uncle Tim or Aunt Abby might be picking her up from daycare, and if that happened, then very soon she'd get to meet her little sister.

Meeting little sister doesn't mean much to her.

Sleepover at Uncle Tim and Aunt Abby's on the other hand… That interests her.

So, she's excited, babbling away about the baby as Uncle Tim fetches her stuff and Aunt Abby gets her into her winter clothing. And, on the car ride home, they've gone through about six versions of "When's baby coming?" when a new concern surfaces, "Doggy!"

Abby looks to Tim, who was in charge of packing things up, and he looks to the back seat, valiantly hoping that Molly carried her pet doggy into the car with her, because he knows he didn't touch it.

But, of course, Doggy is not back there.

And while it's true that two seconds ago she was in a pretty good mood, she's tearing up at the lack of Doggy.

Abby makes a quick executive decision, and whips them through a u-turn as soon as she can make one. Trying to get an excited toddler to sleep in a new place is almost impossible. Trying to get an excited toddler to sleep in a new place without her beloved Doggy is impossible.

"We're getting Doggy."

Tim quickly texts Heather, lets her know they're going to be a little bit later than expected. And, five minutes later, back at the daycare center, he hops out, locates Doggy (He was in the far back of her cubby.) and brings him back to what is now a full on sobbing toddler, who is, until Doggy appears, inconsolable at the idea that her precious may be lost.

Abby looks over at him, and Tim shakes his head, well aware of the fact that they've got a VERY excited little girl on their hands, and that all plans for tonight are going to revolve around being as calm, and quiet, and boring as possible.

One day shy of eleven months, Jimmy thinks.

In a lot of ways, it feels very different. Everyone who comes in is happy to see them. That's a huge difference. Everyone is smiling. Ducky's here, so are Breena's parents (just like last time) but this time no one is crying. That's a step in the right direction, right?

They're in the maternity ward this time. Another huge difference. (Their OB had thought delivering a still born baby in the maternity ward, where they'd be able to hear other new babies crying, would be an extra layer of trauma on top of what was already the worst day of their lives. They'd been in the general ward last time.)

Their pediatrician has stopped by to look in on them. Very, very big (and welcome) difference.

There's a little warmer and bassinette waiting for Anna. (That's a massive relief.)

The monitor sounds different, and this time three lines, Breena's heartbeat, her contractions, and Anna's heartbeat are all zig zagging across the monitor.

But it smells the same, and Breena's in a gown, in a bed, again. Same sort of bed. And contractions, no matter the state of the child being slowly pushed out, feel the same. And what you do to deal with those contractions, the walking, the back rubbing, all of it, is exactly the same. So it's easy, for both of them, to slip in time, lost in the shockingly fresh memories of Jon's delivery.

Their doctor and Ducky had mentioned that this would happen. They both knew it, felt it, the fear, the sorrow, during each step of Anna's pregnancy, as they went through the same motions, but it's hitting harder here.

The happiness of this, the rational knowledge that Anna is fine, is tempered with the memory of doing this with Jon, when everything wasn't fine, and both of their hearts broke as they said goodbye to the dream of their son.

Don't give an excited toddler choices. Not if you don't want a melt-down.

Tim and Abby are learning this the hard way. They'd gotten Molly home, taken her and her things upstairs, showed her the little bed they had made up for her on the floor right next to Kelly's crib. (Sleeping in the same room as Kelly is a big deal. They used to just put both of them in the crib together, but at six months and not quite two, they don't both fit anymore.) Showed her the bathroom where she'd be getting her tubby that night (and tomorrow night, maybe the night after that if Jimmy and Breena want a bit more time on their own with Anna), how they had a special bottle of (pink!) shampoo waiting for her as well as her very own toothbrush and toothpaste (also pink!) and a brand new (more pink!) unicorn towel.

(It's possible that Tim might be remembering a bit of how it felt to have a new baby come home, and how no one paid much attention to him for, oh, a month after that, and so he's gone a little too far in the other direction for Molly.)

All of that goes well. Abby gets Kelly fed while Tim lingers with Molly, letting her take her time to explore everything. She's been upstairs in their house before, but this is the first time she's done it sans parents. Plus, he's not sure how good her memory is and how well she's got the idea of their upstairs in her mind.

But, eventually she's bored with messing around in the bathroom and nursery, so he takes her hand, helping her stay steady as she heads down the steps, and they go to get some dinner.

Molly loves chicken nuggets. Molly loves pizza. Both of those foods are occasional treats at Jimmy and Breena's. And, of course, Tim got both for her.

"Do you want pizza or nuggets for dinner?" he asks as he puts her in the booster seat they've got on one of the chairs next to Kelly in her highchair.


"Then we'll have nuggets."

He gets them out, while Abby continues to feed Kelly her cereal, talking with Molly a bit about that, then she notices that he's putting the nuggets on a baking sheet, and says, "Pizza!"

"Okay, fine, we can do pizza."

He puts the nuggets back in the bag, seals it up, tucks it back into the freezer, and grabs the pizza. "See, yummy pizza."

"No. No. No."


"No pizza!" She's extremely definite at that, frowning at him in a very determined way.

"Do you want nuggets?" Tim asks.


He holds up the pizza. "I'm holding the pizza. Do you want the nuggets?"


Okay, fine, they can do nuggets. He turns to put the pizza back in the freezer and was met with a teary chorus of "Pizza!"

Tim feels like he's about to rip his hair out when Abby has a brainstorm and says, "Molly, do you want both?"

"Yes!" (sniffle, sniffle, snort, cry)

"I will make you both."

That got a tiny smile.

"You're making great progress, Breena. You're at six centimeters. Do you want to start some medication for the pain?" Dr. Jun, their OB asks.

"God, yes!"

"Okay. I'll get the anesthesiologist in, and we'll get you hooked up with an epidural."

"Thank you." Her hand grips tighter against Jimmy's as she says that, yet another contraction cresting through her hips and back. They've been here seven hours and gone from one centimeter to six centimeters, that's making good time, and more than far enough along that the risk of the anesthetic slowing things down is minimal.

She's tired, she's hurting, and right now having something to take all of that away, and let both of them get something of a nap before the pushing starts, probably, given the speed things have been moving, around eleven or twelve tonight, sounds like a really good plan.

Molly Palmer is normally a sunny, happy, and fun little girl. She's normally in possession of a pleasant and laid-back temperament, able to roll with the punches.

She's also, normally, not in a strange house, unable to have her Mommy read her her goodnight story, with a whole lot of excitement about this whole, 'baby' thing.

So, she's pretty fried, and though bath time went well (she and Kelly both enjoyed being in the tubby together, while Abby got them soaped up and rinsed off), and the first part of story time (Tim with Kelly cuddled on his chest, Molly in his lap, quietly reading Goodnight Moon) went well, there was this point, when he laid Kelly down to sleep, and then tucked Molly in, that it finally occurred to her that Mommy and Daddy are not going to put her to bed, and they will not be reading her any stories and she just completely melted down.

Which set off Kelly.

And just about set off Tim.

He gets Molly out of the nursery, and Abby goes in to get Kelly calmed down, while he holds onto Molly, cuddling her, patting her back, quietly telling her about how she's going to get to see Mommy and Daddy tomorrow, while she wails inconsolably for her Mama.

He's having no luck, at all, getting her quieted down.

So, he takes his phone out, one handed, and begins to text, while walking Molly around his living room.

Can you leave long enough to tell a story or two?

He doesn't hear anything back for a minute, and then gets. Breena's at six centimeters. I can get away for a bit. Any particular story?

"Thank you," Tim whispers.

Molly's completely fried, and we're having no luck calming her down. I'm thinking that telling her that her Ducky is coming might help.

I'll be there as soon as I can, Timothy.

Ducky, like Jeannie and Ed, has been hovering around the edges of the birth. In the room some, offering support and comfort. In the waiting room some, offering them privacy, as well.

Ed looks over at him as he tucks his phone back into his pocket. "Someone die?"

"No." Ducky smiles. "Fortunately. It seems our Miss Molly has just realized her mother and father will not be providing her usual good night tuck in, and she is complaining vigorously at that."

Jeannie smiles, knowing how that works. She nods briefly at Ed, and then at Ducky, as well. And while it is true that Ed and Ducky are not overwhelmingly fond of each other, they are both extraordinarily fond of Molly, and emergency story-time tuck ins sounds like a job for the Grandpa squad.

Or as Molly calls them "My Ducky" and "Papa!"

Tim didn't expect to see Ducky and Ed show up at his house, but he has to admit Molly is pleased to see them, and between Ducky taking her in his arms, saying, "Oh, my Molly, what has you so sad, dear?" and Ed petting the back of her head, kissing her cheek, cooing over his darling girl, that they did get her calmed down.

Eventually, she ends up in Ed's arms, sucking her thumb, eyes drooping as Ducky tells her the story of how giraffes ended up so tall.

And they did get her tucked in about twenty minutes later, dead asleep.

"Thank you," Tim says, very sincerely, to both of them, as they get ready to head out.

"She was so wound up, we just couldn't get her calmed down," Abby adds.

Ed smiles. "They call them terrible twos for a reason. Angelo, Jeannie's dad, did the same thing for me when Amy was born. Everything was upside down. Jeannie was still in the hospital. And it was the first time I had Breena all on my own, and I managed to set fire to dinner. Just about ripping my hair out by bedtime, and when she realized that Jeannie wasn't coming home, she completely flipped out."

"How are things going?" Abby asks, and it's clear that by things she means not only the delivery, but Jimmy and Breena's mental health, too.

"Very well, though we want to get back quickly. She was at six centimeters when we left and the anesthesiologist was due in soon. With any luck they'll both get some rest, and then Anna will make her grand debut," Ducky replies.

"Okay." Abby hugs both Ducky and Ed. "You both give them some hugs from me."

Ed looks surprised by the hug, but Ducky smiles and says, "Certainly, Abigail."

There's the last hard push, the feeling of intense, focused effort, everything in Breena's world narrowing down to one goal, pressure, lots and lots of pressure, and then release followed by tiny, high-pitched wailing.

They'd already talked to Jun about this, she'd overseen Molly and Jon's delivery and understood exactly how fragile this moment was, how much both of them needed to touch, see, hear, but mostly feel their child, alive and whole and precious and real as soon as they could.

So, before Anna is cleaned up, bare seconds after the cord was cut, she is lying, wet, gooey with vernix and a little blood, crying, tiny body vibrating with indignation and shock at her new surroundings, on Breena's chest.

And they are both holding her, kissing her, crying, laughing some, awash in so many emotions they'd have had a difficult time sorting them out.

She's here, and real, and healthy and whole. Her eyes are open, squinting at them, mouth open, wailing, breathing tiny puffs of air against Breena's chest, pink hands clenched, little brown curls smeary with birth fluids.

After a few more seconds, she calms down, seems to get the lay of the land so to speak, maybe she hears Breena's heartbeat and recognizes it, maybe the sound of Jimmy's voice is familiar (though, not distorted by a watery background). But for whatever reason she stops crying, (though her parents don't) while Breena holds her in her arms, and Jimmy has one arm around Breena, his head pressed to her shoulder, looking close at his daughter, his hand on the back of her somewhat pointy head.

They touch ears, lips, and chin, stroke her face, petting her skin and hair, kissing fingers and toes, marveling at her finally being here, reveling in each breath she takes.

Once the placenta is delivered and Breena's all stitched up, their pediatrician gently takes Anna from them, and Jimmy follows, keeping her in view as they clean her up, weigh her (six pounds twelve ounces) measure her (seventeen inches) print her feet, put the tags on her, along with a diaper, onesie, hat, and then swaddle her into a tiny bundle and hand her back to Jimmy.

He carries her to his wife, and snuggles up as close to her as he can, while she gets Anna settled on her breast to nurse.

And for the first time since the pregnancy test turned positive, Breena and Jimmy Palmer felt all traces of fear drain away.

Between being a field agent and rule number three, Tim always has his phone nearby, and it's always on.

He also, because of these things, cannot sleep through a text or it ringing.

Which means he wakes up shortly after one, as his phone buzzes, and sees: Anna Victoria Palmer. 12/7/15 11:47 PM Six pounds, twelve ounces, seventeen inches long. Mama and baby are fine! Along with a picture of a tiny, pink newborn, one eye peering curiously at the world, swaddled in the traditional white hospital blanket with the pink and blue stripes, snuggled in Breena's arms.

Abby pokes her head up, seeing him standing next to his dresser looking at his phone.


He's grinning. "Oh yeah!" Then he takes the phone over, and shows it to Abby.

"Oh, she's beautiful."

"I was thinking that."

It's not the same.

Can't be, because he's not the same man, and Breena's not the same woman, not anymore, and it's not Jon, but the feel of it, the fantasy, is still there. Tempered, morphed by time and grief and life and now, joy.

So, it's not the same. But that doesn't mean it isn't good. Doesn't mean his eyes don't tear up, this time from joy, as Tim and Abby, Molly and Kelly come in, and Tim sets Molly on the bed, where he's sitting next to Breena, who has Anna in her arms, and he finally gets to say, "Molly, this is your little sister."

She creeps closer, and he picks her up, holding her, partially just to touch her, to have real, physical proof of all of his girls, partially because she's not quite two and he doesn't want her accidentally shoving or smushing Anna. And cuddled in his arms, her hand extends, gently, and she touches Anna's face, puzzled look on hers.


"This is your baby sister, Anna." Breena says.

Molly's confused, she looks back to Kelly. "Baby?"

"They're both babies," Abby says, having kissed Breena and Jimmy hello.

"My baby!" Though it's clear from how she's looking from Anna to Kelly she means both of them.

Tim nods solemnly, leaning down to kiss Breena, and give Jimmy a hug. "Your babies."

Molly grins, a sort of well, all right then, as long as we've got that sorted, this is all good, expression on her face.

Jimmy and Breena see it. They look from Molly to Anna, who's staring at her big sister with the somewhat standard look of newborn confusion, back to Molly, who's leaning in to kiss (slobber on, she doesn't quite have the kissing thing down yet) her baby sister. They look at each other, each holding a baby girl, and laugh.


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