Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Valentine's Gibbs

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

Chapter 356: Valentine's Gibbs

Gibbs feels disoriented when he wakes. It takes him a second to get himself situated in both time and space. There's a warm female body pressed against him, red hair in his face, for a heartbeat he thought he was back with Shannon, but then the rest of his life came back, and he knew he wasn't.

Probably the sixth time that's happened to him. It only lasts for a second or two, and only happens the first time waking up with a new redhead, but… But this is different. He's not with Shannon, but this is the first time he's had that slip, and he's not feeling distressed when he rights himself in time.

He's not disappointed that it isn't her.

Abby's on his usual side of the bed, so he can't see his clock, but he's not feeling any desire to go springing out of bed and get started on the day. Also a first. His usual way of dealing with realizing that the woman lying next to him isn't Shannon is to hop up and do something: make coffee, work on whatever project he had going, go home, something. Because if he just lays there, he'd end up dwelling on who he wasn't with.

He stretches a little, inhaling and exhaling deeply, enjoying the way she feels against him, the long, smooth expanse of her back against his front, the way she smells, and even the fact that her hair is tickling his face.

That wears out its welcome pretty fast, so he carefully gathers her hair and tucks it under her neck.

She shifts a bit when he does that, and he's hoping he didn't just wake her up. She stills again, and he settles in to enjoy holding her, counting the freckles on her back and shoulder.

Eventually his bladder lets him know that now would be a really good time to get out of bed, so he does, carefully, making sure not to wake her, and he does get to see the clock, notices it's a bit before six, earlier than he usually wakes up, but he does have a new person in his bed.

He takes care of business, brushes his teeth, and heads back into the bedroom, thinking about morning sixty-nining and waking her up very nicely.

He sneaks back into bed, slow, easy movements, trying to not wake her up. Doesn't work. She's lying on her side, arms curled in front of her, hand under her chin, top knee against the bed, top foot draped over her lower calf. For a second, she looks very, very peaceful, and then one eye goes springing open as soon as his weight hits the mattress in front of her.

There's a split second of huh? on her face, but then she, too orients herself in time and space, remembers why she's in Gibbs' bed and why he's naked, laying in front of her, propped on one elbow.

"'Morning," she says, stretching. He smiles and strokes his hand down her shoulder and side.

"Yep. Sleep well?"

She nods, inhaling, making a little purring sound as she stretches again. "Always sleep well after a good tucking in."

He chuckles at that as she gets up to use the bathroom.

When she's back she smells of toothpaste and morning. She slips back into bed with him, and kisses him properly.

This time is slower. They take longer, exploring each other, mapping out each other's curves and planes with fingers and lips, palms and tongues, finding old scars, and on Borin, one new one. Gibbs wonders, briefly, at the bright red bullet crease on her hip, but he doesn't ask. Now's not the time.

And she does like sixty-nine, and he does too, and God, she's brilliant at it. And he hopes what he's doing to her feels half as good as what she's doing to him, and he figures it does when she goes tight and bites the inside of his thigh, hard.

She ends up with a matching hickie on her thigh. He'd meant to be kissing her, but she did… something… he's not sure what, just that it felt beyond amazing… and he lost it.

They're both drowsing, warm, happy, comfortable. His face resting on her thigh, and he has one hand cupped over her hip. She's using his thigh as a pillow, too, and is gently stroking his now dormant penis. Not trying to turn him on, just touching to touch.

"What's on for the rest of your day?" she asks.

"Mmmm…" he blinks a few times, sliding fully into awake. "Only thing I have to do is Molly's birthday party. Duck reminded me yesterday that I can't miss it. You?"

"Nothing. Phone doesn't ring, and I've got all day free. What's Sunday usually look like for you? Sounds like you've got other things you'd usually be doing."

"Run with Mona. Breakfast at the diner with the kids. Church. Sunday dinner at Breena's parents' house. But we've got the birthday party instead. Jimmy, Tim, and I cut out early for Bootcamp. Ziva meets us there. Tony showed up last week, hopefully he'll come today, too. Then home, dinner… woodworking. Play with Mona. Read sometimes. What's a typical day off look like for you?"

"You've got full Sundays."

He nods. "Empty Mondays through Fridays, but right now I've got full Sundays."

"Sleep in on Sunday. That's usually the start. Breakfast out." She yawns.

He laughs. "So, don't wake you up so early, next time?"

She shrugs. "Sundays I'm on call, it's better to grab me when you've got me. Never know when the phone'll ring."

He nods at that. "Know that story."

"Yep. After breakfast, swimming. Lunch with friends, usually. Call my parents in the afternoon. Maybe hit the range. Then takeout and catching up with all the shows I didn't watch over the week."

"Sounds like a good Sunday."

"I like it."

He kisses her thigh and was about to say, "Wanna get breakfast with me?" when her phone rang.

So much for 'If I don't get a call out."

She sighs, rolls over, reaching around on the floor, and finds her purse. She sits up. "Borin." She rubs her face while listening. He kisses her shoulder and then puts on a pair of shorts and heads downstairs.

It only takes him five minutes to put everything together. He's done this for himself more times than he could count, so doing it for her is just a matter of rote morning routine.

It's not fancy. But it's hot, and it's filling, and it'll keep you going. Big cup of coffee, scrambled eggs sandwiched between two pieces of toast.

He hears the shower going, and knocks. "Come in."

"Breakfast's sitting on the sink. Got a go bag in your car?"


"I'll grab it and bring it up for you."

She pulls back the shower curtain, and wet, naked, Abby in his bathroom is making him want to whimper for mercy and shoot whichever son-of-a-bitch killed someone and is pulling her out of his home.

She reaches out, grabs the waistband of his boxers, and pulls him close for a long kiss, submerging him, again, in vivid sensations of exactly what he's going to be missing out on by her leaving. As soon as she catches the son-of-a-bitch, he's going to shoot that bastard, twice.

"Thanks," she says when she lets go.

He smiles wryly, at her, at the situation, at the fact that he's half-soaked, and desperately wants to hop in with her. "Keys in your purse?"

"Front pocket."

"Okay. I'll be up with your work clothes in a bit."

He strips out of the wet boxers, tosses on last night's jeans, and remembers that it's February and now is a really bad time to be outside in just a pair of jeans when his feet hit the ice cold front porch. It'll take longer to bundle up than it will to get her stuff. So he gets to her car (fast), finds her bag (fast), and almost sprints back into the house, where Mona's waiting for him, staring up, and wondering why he started their morning run without her.

"In a minute," he says to Mona, taking Borin's bag up, and then heading down to make sure his other lady gets some breakfast, too.

She comes down while he's getting food for Mona. She's carrying the coffee mug and plate (both empty), and wearing last night's jeans, but with a button-down and a jacket. She looks professional. Except for the damp hair.

"It'd be a stretch to think you've got a hairdryer?"

He nods. His hair's a little shaggier than usual, because he's not getting it cut every two weeks, but it's still short enough that a good toweling off and five minutes of air takes care of drying. Though he's thinking that by the end of today, he'll have one, and… maybe a pizza stone to go on his hearth grate, and definitely a new pack of condoms.

She nods, having expected that answer and separates her hair into three hanks, starting to braid it.

"Where you going today?"

"Not sure, yet. Dunton Cove. Think it's somewhere on the Delmarva Peninsula. Got a ghost ships with two bodies on it."

He nods at that. She finishes her hair and shoulders her bag. "I had a really good time."

He smiles. "Wanna show you a lot of good times."

She smiles back at him, pleased by that, as he walks her to his front door. She's about to step out when something hits him.


"Wait?" She looks irked. "I've got to get going."

"You can hold up for two minutes." He kisses her fast and heads into his kitchen. It takes forty seconds to find it. Two seconds later he's kissing her again, pressing a key into her hands. "I know the schedule is insane. I never lock up on my own, but Mona's changed that. Whenever you want company, come on over. If I'm not here, let yourself in. I'll be back sooner or later. Sleep over at Tim and Abby's sometimes, but fire off a text, and I'll come. Don't want anyone else coming by, lock yourself in."

She stares at the key, and for a second looks a bit alarmed, but then what he's actually said hits her. She smiles, realizing he's not asking her to move in after one date. Just making sure that she knows she can just come over whenever, that his open door truly is, for her, and she can have privacy here, if she wants it.

"I lock up, can you get in?"

Of course says the look on his face.

"Okay." She kisses him one last time, body flush against his, fingers twined in his hair, and he holds her close for several seconds after the kiss ends, hands spanning her hips, lips just touching hers, enjoying her body on his.

"Go get 'em."

"Enjoy your birthday party."

And she heads out. Mona stares up at him, Okay, we're at the door again, we going on our run, now?

He rubs his eyes. "Yeah, Mona. Let me put some more clothing on."

Gibbs usually doesn't spend a lot of time looking at himself, especially not when breakfast starts at eight, it's 7:45, he's naked and dripping wet, and he lives seventeen minutes from the diner.

But as he towels off his hair, he does look, seeing the bruises on his skin, three of them. He touches one, little tender, not bad. They'll be gone tomorrow or the next day.

Nothing about him changed between today and yesterday. His body is still the same, but it feels new.

Feels, hopeful, maybe.

Or it might just be that right now, he's wearing her touch on his skin, in real tangible reminders, and he likes that.

Too many women have drifted in and out of his life, never leaving a mark, but this one did. And he's proud to wear it.

When Gibbs walks into the diner for Sunday breakfast, late, with something that could, just possibly, be called an I-just-got-laid-shit-eating-grin on his face, he sees Jimmy and Tim glance at each other, can feel them both thinking it, and sees both of them break into grins, too.

"Looks like someone had a good night," Jimmy says, smug.

Gibbs nods.

"Gonna tell us about it?" Tim asks.


"Come on!" Abby says. "You can't not tell us about it."

Breena's nodding along with that. "First date in forever, you've got to tell us about it."

Gibbs shakes his head, little smile on his lips.

Elaine heads over, looks at him, pours the coffee, and calls back to her husband, "Add an order of pancakes to Gibbs' plate." Then she looks at him smiling. "You better bring her in to meet me. Twenty years you've been coming in here, and I've never seen that look on your face. I want to meet the lady that's inspiring it."

Gibbs sips his coffee, without comment.

Church came. Church went. The only interesting part of it was that, while sitting there, it hits Gibbs that he should call or text or something, Borin.

And sooner would be better than later. First time he and Hollis hooked up, he didn't call after, and she was not happy about that.

He didn't call any of the ladies after her either, though he did go out of his way to 'run into them' sometime in the next day or two and see them again.

But he's not going to 'run into' Borin. There's no reason for him to be in Dunton Cove. (Wherever it may be.) And true, he's got nothing planned tomorrow besides calling Senior and learning more about how expensive real estate works, and adding another coat of finish to Shannon, but he's not going to go stalk her job.

He's got enough sense to know that's a bad idea.

Which is why, when he gets into his car to drive over to Jimmy and Breena's, he shifts his phone from call to text. If she's working, if she's busy, a call could just be annoying. But a few quick words…

Happy Valentine's Day, Abby. He debates sticking a smiley face on that and decides not to.

Gibbs hits send and pockets his phone, putting the car in reverse, getting into toddler birthday party mode.

The party was winding down. The guest of honor had been put down for naptime. (Her oldest cousin napping beside her, her little sister, not quite on the same schedule was bright-eyed and enjoying cuddling with her Aunt Ziva.)

The whole family, plus Ed and Jeannie, are here in Jimmy and Breena's kitchen, milling around, chatting, moving in the direction of getting ready to go home.

It is in the midst of this, that Ducky reaches to Penny, and kisses her, on the lips. That's not unheard of. It's not common, either. And this sort of kiss, deep, passionate, maybe not erotic, but very definitely loving, is not the sort of gentle display of affection the rest of the crew has seen over and over again.

Compared to clinking a ring against a glass, this is a much more effective, and direct, way of getting the attention of everyone in the room.

When he pulls back, eyes sparkling, grin on his face, everyone else is staring at them.

He kisses her one more time, quick little peck on the lips.

"You weren't there, darling, when Jimmy and Breena celebrated their wedding, but they asked me to say a few words about marriage. Though, given my lack of experience on the matter, I think it had more to do with having a soothing voice than any sort of wisdom on my part." Jimmy and Breena laugh at that.

"However, I did appear to come up with something relevant, which Edward reminded me of a few months ago." He strokes her face, looking into her eyes. "The point of marriage vows is that they are public. That it's not enough to build a life together, but that you do it in public, that you stand before everyone who has ever mattered to you and proclaim that you will devote your life to that person."

Penny's staring at him, eyes wide, knowing where this has to be going, but looking like she cannot believe he's doing it.

"Penny, the journey has been long, and I have been blessed with a rich and satisfying life, not a day of which I would trade for any other, but this last year, spent with you, has been the sweetest of all of them. We're surrounded by everyone in this world who I love, and I would like to say, in front of all of them, that I will devote all of my remaining days to the love of you."

She's smiling, tears in her eyes, and he kisses her, quickly, one more time.

"There is a symbol that goes with these words, one…" his voice catches, "One I would like to wear. One I would like you to wear."

He pulls the ring box out of his jacket pocket and opens it.

Penny doesn't gasp, but that short, sharp inhale is awfully close. Gibbs wouldn't believe that she could get flustered, but apparently Ducky's managed to do it. He takes the first of the wedding bands out of the box. Gibbs isn't close enough to get a very good look at it, but he can see some sort of reddish metal twined around a cool gray one, and there's a blue stone at the top.

"Red gold for the passion and heat that keeps us together. Steel for strength, for love that will sustain us through the years to come. Star sapphire, because you are the star that lights the twilight of my life. Penelope Langston," he's staring up into her eyes, so much love on his face, "be my wife?"

She's crying and smiling and manages to get out, "Yes" while nodding at him.

Ducky slips the ring onto her finger, and kisses her again.

"May I be your husband?"


He hands her the other ring. Same mix of gold and steel, but no stone. She slips it onto his ring finger and kisses him, long, and soft, and so happy.

There were hugs, and kisses, and congratulations, and girls cooing over rings, and at one point Ducky did manage to get Jethro alone to say, "I believe it is safe to say that I, nailed that, and there shall be no weeping women complaining at you for keeping secrets."

Gibbs chuckles and shakes his head. "No Duck. Not gonna hear a peep out of them. How far ahead did you have to plan that?"

"Edward did say something that made a lot of sense on Christmas. It took me a day to remember who Timothy's jeweler was and yet another day to track him down. The rings were not done until yesterday, though."

Gibbs smiles at that, watching Breena, Abby, Ziva, Penny, and Jeannie all inspecting Penny's new ring.

"Looks like you did good."

Ducky nods, an of course look on his face. "And now…" he leaves Jethro, detours to the foyer to grab their coats, and returns to Penny's side, checking the clock, while holding open her coat. "And now, my dear, we have a plane to catch."

"We do?"

"Indeed." He's smiling, eyes sparkling, mischief radiating off of him. "One cannot properly celebrate a marriage without a honeymoon!"

"And where is this plane going?" Penny asks as she puts on the coat.

"That, my lady, is a surprise, but I shall promise you will be happy to get there when it lands." He puts on his own coat, adjusts his fedora, wraps his arm around his bride, and waves goodbye to the rest of the crew.

As soon as the door closes, Ed looks around at the rest of the group from his seat at the kitchen table and says, "None of us will ever be that cool." The other guys all nod.

Jeanie ambles over and wraps an arm around him, kissing the top of her head. "But none of us will mind if you try."

He grins up at her. "Oh, I've got some plans for you." Then he looks to the rest of the family. "Time for us to be heading off, too. I think."

And with that, Molly's birthday party really did break up.

Speaking of plans, the girls have something planned for them. It is ultra-top-secret, but involves all three of them.

It also involves the guys being shut out of the Palmer house, though, upon naptime ending, Gibbs has instructions to come in, pick up baby girls, and then transport them to their fathers/uncles where they shall stay until after dinner time.

So, since this is the long afternoon nap, the guys have two hours, which is long enough for a quick Bootcamp sans Ziva.

They fought. One on one on one on one. It was fun. Played to Tony's strength of being better at understanding a fight, so he wasn't quite so behind Tim and Jimmy's been-training-for-a-year-now speed. Pretty much looked like a brawl. Though none of them were working particularly hard. Gibbs because he's just feeling too good to muster any sort of real killer instinct, and Tim and Jimmy and Tony are all hoping to get very laid tonight and don't want to be sore and achy for that.

So they don't go at it for long before calling time.

They're heading to the locker room, (the three younger guys knowing this is their prime get ready for tonight time) and Tim asks Jimmy, "Did you know Ducky was going to do that?"

Jimmy holds up his hands shaking his head, and then opens his locker, stripping out of his clothing while saying, "About a month ago he swore me to secrecy about the time-off request. I thought a get-away somewhere warm was his Valentine's Day gift, but that was all."

"Gibbs?" Jimmy asks, grabbing his towel.

Jethro's untying his shoe, and shakes his head, he can honestly say, "Not a clue." Because if he had spent hours thinking of it, though he didn't he never would have come up with that for how Ducky would make sure all the girls were happy.

"You know, that's the way to do it." Tony says as he pulls his shirt over his head. "At home, your whole family there, good rings, nice words, and then off to the honeymoon. No flowers, no renting a place, no dithering over cake flavors. You tell her you love her, you offer her the rings, and then party time on the beach. Ziva and I ever renew our vows, that's how we're gonna do it."

"I liked dithering over cake flavors," Tim says as he tucks his shoes into his locker and tosses his shirt in on top of them.

"You would," Tony replies.

"We had great cakes!"

"Okay, yeah, they were, still… What Ducky did, that's a wedding!" Tony sounds very definitive, tossing his shorts and briefs into his locker, wrapping his towel around his waist.

"That was a wedding for a guy," Jimmy says as he pulls out his towel and bag of toiletries. "Covered everything a guy thinks matters. And sure the girls loved it because it was completely out of the blue and the ring was gorgeous and it's Valentines' Day and he's Ducky so he can get away with it. Plus, she's been married before and did the whole white wedding thing once. But if any of us had tried that…" Jimmy's shaking his head.

Tim nods in agreement. "Yeah, that wouldn't have flown for Abby. We renew our vows someday, and that would probably work, and anytime I want to show up with expensive custom jewelry and shower her with love words, she'll be happy, but… I loved our wedding. It was, right, you know?"

Gibbs shrugs, tossing his shirt into his locker, back to them. "That was right for them."

Tim nods. "I think you're right on that. Haven't ever seen her look like that. Just shocked and happy and… It was right for them."

Tony, who had been facing Jimmy and Tim turns, seeing Jethro, who is currently facing his locker, and sees the nail marks down his back. Then Gibbs grabs his towel and turns to face them.

"Whoa, you did not get that from the fight." Tony says, staring at the bite marks on Gibbs chest and thigh. Jimmy and Tim looking over, summoned by the shock in Tony's voice. "That was one hell of a date, wasn't it?"

Gibbs looks down at the two bite marks on his chest, touches one of them lightly, smiles gently, nods, then looks up at Jimmy, Tim, and Tony, smiles, cocky this time, and says, "Duck's not the only one who's got some moves." Then he calmly slings the towel over his shoulder and heads off to the showers, all three of them just staring at him.

"What are they doing?" Jimmy asks as Gibbs hands Kelly to Tim. They've all gathered at McGee's house, waiting, with instructions to baby wrangle and feed themselves.

He shakes his head. He's got a pretty good guess as to what the girls were doing. He saw Abby and Ziva, who were both made up very pretty and in their bathrobes, so he's guessing they've got a camera somewhere and are taking pictures, but he's not telling. They're going to this much effort, he's not spoiling the surprise.

So he just smiles at them, says, "Trust me, you'll like it," and finishes with, "Got some shopping to do." He waves and heads off, in search of a hairdryer, pizza stone, and, most definitely, condoms.

When Gibbs gets to his car, his phone buzzes. Happy Valentines to you, too, Jethro.

How's it going?

Just finished processing the boat and where it landed. ME's got time of death but no cause, yet. Gonna be a long night.

Know all about that.

Yeah, I bet you do. Gotta get back to it.

Okay. Go get 'em.

Will do.

He's about to let her go, tucking his phone back into his pocket when something hit s him. Hey, you get to eat yet?

He can feel the eye roll. One power bar and six coffees since breakfast. No time. We're just heading back now. Why?


He googles Dunton Cove, VA, and sees that A: It's not on the Delmarva Peninsula, it's much further south and B: 'heading back now' means 'won't hit DC for hours.' So, he heads off to do his shopping, stocking up on groceries and a few other things to make Borin feel more at home in his home.

Unlike with his clothing, where he just shoved the new ones on top of the old ones, he takes the old condoms out and tosses them. He might, eventually, wear the old clothes again, he's not going to be using the old condoms.

He heads down, not feeling like eating, yet. Mona's watching him, looking expectant.


She bounds up and runs out the doggie door to the back yard.

He grabs a tennis ball and his jacket and heads out, too.

While he's tossing the ball around, he thinks about Borin, and about this whole… life… thing.

He's not a cop. Not anymore. And right now he's a lot less bothered by that than usual. Which is not to say that it's making him happy, but… it's not a kick in the balls right now, either.

But she is. And right now, he wants to… He's not even entirely sure. It was a really good first date. And he wants more of them, a lot more of them. He wants to hear about what happened with the HR guy (they never got to that) and how today's case went, and if she's on call because they're short men or because it's Sunday and she's being fair, making sure everyone gets a turn at saying goodbye to their off time.

He wants to know how she ended up with the Coast Guard. They talked about the Marines, but not how she got from there to here. She was an officer, so it's not like they would have just booted her out.

He wants to know about the old scars, and the new one.

He doesn't want to scare her off. Doesn't want to go from being so aloof women can't tell if he's really interested to so clingy they need a jackhammer to get rid of him.

The problem with not following old patterns is that he's got no idea how this will work. He can't just imagine it and see how it's going to unfold.

And it might be that she's just looking for some company for her downtime. Or she might, like Tim suggested, be looking for a home.

And right now he's not a cop, and he's not entirely sure he's a good bet for anyone's home, either, and for that matter, he's not entirely sure he's ready to be someone's home... But she is a cop, and if anyone knows how to take care of a cop, it's him. And right now, he wants to do some taking care of.

So he pulls out his phone, and starts to make some calls.

Two hours later, when Borin got back to her office, she found coffee delivered from Java Jane's sitting next to a bowl of pho. No note, no explanation, no hint of Gibbs around, so she's not sure if he brought it and left it here, or if he had it delivered and paid for it, but however it happened, there's hot food waiting for her on her desk when she sits down, ready to do more work.

She sends one more text. Thanks.

Gibbs is inside Shannon, sanding the finish yet again, second to last coat for the inside, when he gets it. Hope you like it.

Best Valentine's in years, Gibbs.

He smiles at that. Me too. Shoot for better next year?



Shards To A Whole: First Date

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

Chapter 355: First Date

Gibbs honestly hadn't noticed what day he'd picked when he set the date. Saturday. Made perfect sense to him. No Shabbos. No Bootcamp. He was completly free, and should things go especially well, the kids won't mind if he skips breakfast and church.

So, it wasn't until they all got to Shabbos on Friday night, and Jimmy reminded them they had Molly's birthday party at their place after church, that he realized that he'd made a date with Borin on February 13th, the day before Valentine's.

Which is when Tim's 'Saturday Date' smirk suddenly made a whole lot of sense.

Talk about stacking the deck for a first date, let alone his first date in two years.

There was a time when he knew how to do this.

There was a time when the whole get showered, get dressed, do fun thing with woman, hopefully resulting in sex was an actual pattern.

And it's not so much that he can't fall back into the pattern. Once he takes off the suit he wore to… he still can't believe it, Ducky's wedding, he can feel himself inching toward his gelling-at-home casual-date clothing. He wants to fall into his pattern, because his pattern is comfortable. But he knows that falling back into the same pattern is just asking to make the same mistakes over and over.

Granted, he's not sure that making a whole crop of new mistakes is much of a better plan, but… At least it won't be boring.

And who knows, maybe he's learned something after all these years?

Okay, so, not following the same patterns he always does.

He's never been much of a get dressed up for dates kind of guy. Casual, laid back, go see a game or movie and easy dinner is usually his style. He's planning on cooking over the fire, so getting too dressed up doesn't make any sense, but maybe a step above cargo pants and t-shirt is in order.

He thinks about it a moment longer, tries to imagine what he'd like Borin to be wearing. Her smiling at him without a stitch of clothing on springs to mind. He enjoys that for a moment, and then shifts it to what she'll probably be wearing, what kind of effort she'll likely put into this, and does his best to mimic a male version of that.

He hasn't hit the point where the Magic Clothing Fairy just shows up and deposits stuff in his closet. But he does know that Breena occasionally attempts to drag him out of his usual fashion rut. So, he's got a few button-down shirts that have been hanging, washed, nicely pressed, in his closet, that he's never worn.

He eyeballs the light gray one. It's been sitting in there since October. (He thinks about it more and comes to the conclusion that those shirts showed up just about the time he took his wedding ring off.) When he asked about them, Breena had said something about how he'd be moving on to new and interesting things, and maybe he might, on occasion, want something other than a jacket with a golf shirt. He takes it out, checking and sees that it is his size. His size, now, not his size, then. He looks at it again, thinking it's been there since October, but wondering if Breena somehow snuck some new clothing in there. She'd certainly been looking him over carefully when he came out for the coffee date in the too big, but hand-print free pants.

He slips it on, and yeah, it looks good, fits very nicely. But, wearing this, he can't do his usual cargo pants.

He owns jeans. He wears them once or twice a blue moon. He even bought a pair of new ones during the great shopping extravaganza that ate up his Thursday afternoon. (Once he grabbed a few pairs of pants, it hit him that part of why the old ones didn't fit was that he was carrying around a whole lot less stomach, which meant he also needed new shirts, and once he figured that out, it hit that he needed a new suit for church and any testifying he still has to do, and by that point he'd already realized he needed new boxers, too. So, what was meant to be a ten minute grab-some-pants-and-run shopping trip ended up taking the whole afternoon.)

He takes them out, lays them on his bed, and turns to his dresser. He grabs the first pair of boxers he sees, and is halfway to putting them on before deciding that it might be a good idea to make sure they're in decent shape. (Just because he got new clothing does not mean he got rid of any of the old clothing.)

Kind of frayed around the hems. (Four inches too wide around the waist, too, but that doesn't matter so much if they're under another pair of pants.) He tosses them in the trash can and hunts around for a new pair.

He's reaching for socks when another thought hits, they're having dinner in his home. He's probably not going to be wearing shoes. Does he want to be padding around in socks? Jeans and dress shirt, what kind of socks go with that?

He realizes he hasn't put this much effort into a date since 1978. Hell, he didn't put this much effort into trying to look good at his last three weddings. And he hasn't put this much effort into impressing a woman since the last time he saw Shannon, and that this is, hopefully, a good thing.

He stares at the socks for a moment, debates calling Tony, has the phone in his hands before he shakes his head, imagining the level of ribbing he'll take if he actually asks for fashion advice for a date, let alone in regards for socks, and decides to go with bare feet. That's relaxed and intimate.

Jeans on. Another debate between shirt tucked in and a belt or out. He runs his hands over the shirt, flattening it, staring at his stomach, wiggling the fat that's still padding him, way less than there was this time last year, but not Marine hard, yet. Untucked hides that, but he's hoping she'll take his shirt off at some point, and tucked in is tidier, looks better with this sort of shirt… He tucks it in. Dark blue jeans, bright blue shirt, he skips a jacket, skips the belt, too. He's not going to work.

Hair brushed, teeth brushed, shaved… anything he's forgetting?

He looks at the little, heretofore untouched, bottle of cologne Tim got him. (Good Lord, what on earth goes
through the kid's head sometimes? Cologne, for Christmas?) It's been sitting on his dresser, ignored since he got it home. Jolly Roger. (Really, Tim? Really?) But, it has been forever since he's been on a date. And he's always been a sawdust and coffee kind of guy, bit of his Old Spice (classic, none of those new, bizarre scents they've been coming out with lately) deodorant peeking through.

And if part of the idea is breaking molds and trying new things...

If it smells gross, he won't put it on.

He opens it, face already half-way into a protective grimace (He doesn't wear cologne because he's never smelled one he liked… Okay none of the wives or girlfriends ever found anything he was willing to wear more than once. Not like he's ever gone shopping for it himself.) but he's pleasantly surprised (okay, floored) to see this smells like… Like a day on a wooden boat on the sea.

It's actually really nice.

So, he tentatively puts a little of it on him, pretty much expecting it to turn sour or burn or… something unfortunate, but no, it just sits there on his skin smelling pleasantly of salt and sea and sun and wood and maybe some rum.

(Toss some Banana Boat suntan lotion into this and it's several of his best dates with Shannon.)

He heads to the bathroom and looks at himself in the mirror. He's fifty-seven, and it shows on his face. But he looks presentable. He's in… decent… Hell, really good shape… for a guy his age. He's hoping to drop that last bit in the next year. The exercising like a maniac seems to have tightened up things further, and sure, he's not cut or anything, but he's also no longer got anything that could even remotely be called a beer gut. He smells good. And, until he knows Borin better, he can't do anything else to try and make himself more appealing to her.

For right now, this is as good as he gets.

He looks himself over one last time. He'll do.

Fire's burned low to hot coals, steaks are sizzling away, potatoes are wrapped in foil, nestled in the embers, he's got a green salad in a bowl on the coffee table, along with plates and silverware.

Now it's just time to wait for Borin… Abby… Abigail…

He hears the knock, and jumps up to answer it. Borin's been to his house before, she knows his open door, let yourself in policy, but, it's polite to actually open the door for a date, right? (Plus, he very much does not want a repeat of how Mona met Tim.)

So he opens it, smiling, and she steps in, also smiling, holding a bottle of good bourbon and a box with whatever dessert is in it.


"Hi yourself." She looks him up and down and appears to approve of Date Gibbs.

He takes the bottle and box from her, nodding at the coat rack while nudging the door shut with his foot, and hopefully, discretely locking it. Tonight is not the night he wants Tobias or Vance just walking on in. Mona ambles over (coaxed away from the smell of cooking steaks by hearing a voice/smelling a person she doesn't recognize.)

"You got a dog."

Gibbs nods. "This is Mona."

Mona looks her up and down, decides Borin's acceptable, and comes closer to get her ears rubbed.

"Hello, Mona."

Woof. Mona tilts her head right and left, making sure Borin gets all of the good ear rubbing spots, licks her hand a few times, and wanders back to the spot she'd been using to keep watch over the steaks.

"Dinner smells good," Abby says, straightening up, taking off her cold weather gear. Once her coat and scarf is hung up, and boots off, she kisses his cheek and says, "You do, too."

He grins at that and looks toward the living room, letting her walk ahead of him, enjoying the view. Her hair's long and loose, wavy, which he enjoys. She's wearing a white cable knit sweater with a wide neck that's slipped off one shoulder. It's short enough that if she were to reach for something overhead he'd get a glimpse of her tummy or low back. Under that, snug blue jeans. (And he notices, that yes, she does not have any socks on either, and she's also got a tiny little silver toe ring on her right second toe, a very girly touch he didn't expect, but really likes.)

Yes, he's enjoying the view quite a bit. He sighs happily while he follows her in, and places the box and the bottle on his coffee table.

"You cook on your hearth a lot?" she asks when she notices the steaks on the grate on his fireplace.

"As much as I can. Tastes better like this."

She nods, sitting on the floor in front of the fire. "Smells like summertime."

"Camping?" He sits between her and the coffee table. He touches the bottle of bourbon, and she nods. So he pours each of them a glass, handing one to her, his fingers brushing along her index finger as he passes over the glass.

"Cookouts. Memorial Day to Labor Day, every night it didn't rain, my mom would fire up the grill and cook out in the back yard."

"Where did you grow up?"

"Little middle of nowhere town in Montana."

He hadn't know that. Her voice and accent suggested somewhere in the west, but he hadn't narrowed it down beyond 'not California.' "Montana to the Coast Guard?"

"There were a few stops along the way." She says with a smile, watching him sip his drink.

"That's good."


She inhales deeply. "Add some pine to this and cold mountain air, and it's home."

"Wood grill?" Not a lot of people cook on wood, and especially when she would have been a kid, charcoal and lighter fluid would have been the norm.

"My dad built it for her, big thing made of cement and the rocks he kept digging out of the gardens. It had an oven and a grill. Made awesome pizzas. Really good pies. We'd pick the blueberries and blackberries. Mom would make up the dough while the fire burned hot. Pizza goes in first. It cooks fast and hot, all singed on the crust and bubbly top. While we'd eat that, the pie would go in. By the time dinner was done, it was too."

He'd never thought, wondered about her family or where she comes from. But he's enjoying these little glimpses into her past. "What does your family do?"

"Little bit of everything, farming, ranching, dairy. They headed out in the late seventies as homesteaders. They've got five hundred acres of mostly grass, but there's one section of the lot with a creek running through it, lots of pine trees there, and that's where the house is."


"Yeah, it is. Their lot is pretty flat, but you can see the mountains. They run cattle, it's good grazing land. But that's not exactly profitable, so they built a few cabins and got the permits in place, and in the winter they've got cross country skiers, snowmobiles, and dogsledding.

"Summertime, the flatland's boring. Pretty, a million miles of grass and wildflowers, snow-covered mountains in the background, fat cows munching away, but all in all, it's boring. Wintertime though, it's miles and miles of space to just go. The dogs love it. They can run for miles. The snowmobilers have a blast. They make enough from October to May on tourists to keep the ranch running, which makes them happy."

"Why'd you leave?" Her description isn't precisely his version of heaven, too far away from the water, though a good sized lake nearby would take care of that, but little out of the way place covered in wild flowers and berries or snow… Sounds awfully good to him.

She sips the bourbon. "Finished high school in '94. I was sick of cows, sick of tourists, sick of snow seven months a year, sick of living with my parents. Don't get me wrong, I love them, and we get on fine, but I was eighteen and wanted to be on my own, so I signed on with the Marines. I did my three years, did college on the GI Bill, and I was seriously thinking of heading back to Montana when 9/11 happened and I enlisted in Officer Training."

He scoots over, so he's kneeling in front of her, in front of the grill, and pulls the steaks off the grill, setting one on each plate, but he leaves the potatoes on the coals and the plates on the hearth instead of handing them over. She looks at them curiously. He answers the unasked question. "According to Breena, they taste better if you let them sit a bit."

"Is she right?"

"I think so. You can tell me if you agree in about ten minutes."

"I'd have to eat two of your steaks to know. One right away, and one with the wait."

"Next time you can have one right off the coals."

"Next time?" That's a pleased sounding question.

"Hope so." He's not sure what to say after that, and looks over, seeing the dessert box. "What's in the box?"

She smiles, and he gets the idea that she's really looking forward to what's in the box. "You can open it if you want."

There's tape along the one edge and the name of a bakery stamped on the top. Like always, he's got a knife, so he slits the tape and opens the lid. He's not entirely sure what he's looking at. Two little chocolate cups with something brown and fluffy inside them, scent of sweet coffee hitting him, a swirl of what's probably whipped cream on top and a little coffee bean on top of that.

Whatever it is, he's thinking he'll like it.

He's looking at dessert, and hears her move. Then there's the warmth of her body against his back, the feel of her chin resting on his shoulder. He smiles at that, enjoying her body against his. He turns to look at her, really seeing the green and brown whorls of her eyes, the few freckles across the bridge of her nose, the tiny bit of makeup she's wearing, just enough to bring up the green of her eyes. Her gaze holds his for a moment, and he's fairly sure she's doing the same thing, really seeing him from close up. She's still smiling, so he thinks she likes what she's seeing. He knows he does.

She quickly reaches around, takes the coffee bean off of one of the desserts, balances it on the tip of her index finger, and offers it to him. He nibbles it off her finger as she says, "Chocolate cups, coffee mousse, whipped cream, and a candied espresso bean."

"I take it you don't want me asleep anytime soon?"

She grins, warm and seductive. He's watching her lips, feeling her breath against his cheek. He's about to inch forward, kiss her, then, still grinning, she pulls back before he can. She chuckles at that, teasing him, enjoying this game of getting closer but keeping him on his toes. For that matter, he is, too. Not that he doesn't appreciate a woman who will toss herself in his lap, but he also likes working for it.

So he grins back.

She licks the tiny smear of whipped cream off of her finger and says, "Like this could keep you awake."

He nods a bit at that, amused. Then he looks her up and down, eyes slowly mapping her curves, and carefully picks his words. "Like I'll need that to keep me up with you here."

She smiles brilliantly at that.

And Gibbs remembers that he really likes flirting.

It's comfortable, sitting on the floor, talking, eating, warm bourbon and dying firelight casting a sultry amber glow to everything around them.

They trade battle stories, been a lot of the same places over the years, just with a decade in between. Stories of Saudi, Iraq, the Med, going back farther, Lejeune, they know some of the same people.

When they get to dessert he stands up to get spoons, because he assumes something like this gets eaten with one, and plates for them. Heading back into the living room he kills the overhead lights, and puts a few more logs on the fire.

She smiles as he does it, approving.

A few seconds later, he lifts each cup onto its own plate, and then takes the remaining coffee bean off of the second cup, balances it on the tip of his finger, and offers it to her.

Like him, she nibbles it off his finger. He feels the warmth of her breath, and the delicate slide of her tooth along the top of his finger, and the wet of her tongue lightly touching his fingernail. He exhales a quiet sigh at that, loving the visual and reveling in the sensation.

He feels her place a tiny kiss to the tip of his finger, before crunching down on the coffee bean.

"Wasn't sure if you liked sweets. Figured this would be pretty safe." She dips her spoon into the coffee cup coming up a second later with some of the coffee mousse and whipped cream, and he watches her lick it from the spoon, seeing her tongue dart, pink and wet against the metal, thinking about every dirty, sexy, wonderful thing he wants to do to and with her tongue.

He swallows, mouth dry, and then touches the bourbon glass. "Usually drink dessert, but I like sweet things, too."

She lifts the cup and nibbles it. "Chocolate sweet or fruit sweet?"

He takes a bite of his own dessert, and yes, it's good, very strong coffee flavor, not too sweet, bit creamy, and there's probably some booze in there, too.

"Both. Or coffee. Love coffee. Tim and Abbs had coffee cupcakes at their wedding, those were great."



"Irish coffee, not too much cream, not too sweet, good whiskey. Love that."

He nods. Sure he's more of a bourbon guy, but he's got nothing against whiskey if it's in coffee.

"Turkish or Saudi style?" Anyone who spent any time in the Middle East and was serious about coffee has a preference. Turkish style is thick and sweet, strong enough to peel the paint off the walls. Saudi style is served hot, very, very hot, a teaspoon or so at a time, and both styles add spices to the blend.

"Spent a month in Kuwait, there was a tiny café, a bench, three tables, and five or six chairs on the sidewalk. Turkish style service," boiling water poured onto the grounds in a special pot, allowed to steep, then poured into the cup, let gravity pull the grounds down, "no sugar for this mix, but honey, thick and rich, golden, think it was flavored with saffron, and cardamom were part of it. That. Never had coffee like it before or since. Not even close."

He shakes his head. "Nothing ever tastes the same. You can try, but the air, the people… the place seeps into the food, changes it. Miller Lite, lame-ass, barely beer swill, smuggled into Baghdad for ten buck a can, same damn stuff you get here, bottled here, made here, but there…" He shakes his head. He'd been in Baghdad for six weeks, first alcohol in months, drunk with men he loved, and it tasted like heaven.

She nods. "First tour, I still smoked. Not much to do out there during the downtime."

He nods, knowing all about that.

"But it's the same thing. A pack of Marlboros in the middle of the desert with a zillion stars overhead… Just isn't the same here. Even in the mountains, same starts, same nights you can see forever, but, it's not the same. Quit when I got stateside again. It just wasn't worth it."

He takes another bite of the dessert, feeling the chocolate melt on his tongue, the bracing sharpness of the coffee fill his mouth. He may eat this again, he hopes he does, but it'll never taste like this. It'll never be this first meal together, first real conversation, first night of Jethro and Abby again.

Chocolate, coffee, cream, hint of wood smoke, tinge of beef, bourbon and her skin perfuming the air, filling his lungs and flavoring the treat in front of him. This moment will never be again, so this dessert will never taste the same again.

She takes another bite of her dessert, follows it with a sip of the bourbon, seeming to be thinking the same thing. They're sitting close. She's between the sofa and the coffee table, her back against the sofa, sitting cross-legged. He's at the end of the table, legs bent to the side, arm resting on the edge of the table, facing her. There's maybe two inches between her left knee and his right knee.

He can't feel the heat of her leg near his, but he can feel the heaviness of this moment. The way they're watching each other, the silence broken only by popping flames and Mona snoring.

She's golden and flushed by the firelight, and maybe, maybe by anticipation of what may come next.

He sets the cup down on the table and kneels, leaning forward, and traces his fingers across her cheek. She smiles, holding his gaze with hers, and turns her lips to his palm, pressing a kiss into his hand.

His eyes close for a heartbeat as he takes a deep breath, and they open when he leans in closer, lips finding hers, stroking gently, and she sighs quietly against him as he kisses her.

And it's slow, almost tentative, but not nervous. No, this is quiet, gentle exploration.

He's fantasized about this before, but in the dream images it's always been hard, rough, demanding kisses, desperate as they grind into each other, tearing clothing off.

And he's sure they'll get there, but not right now. Right now is like the honey she talked about, thick and gold and slow. One soft nibble at a time.

He's only touching her mouth and face, and she's got one hand on his arm, fingers on his wrist, but that's it. Right now is just about kissing, about lips pulling every sensation out of each second.

Eventually his knee tells him that he cannot keep kneeling, not on a floor this hard, not if he wants to do anything else fun tonight, so he eases back, and she smiles brilliantly at him, eyes sparkling, face flushed (he's sure it's not just the effect of the firelight now.)

She looks at the remnants of dinner. "Bout time to clean that up, wouldn't you say?"

He's loading the dishwasher, more and more slowly, because dinner's really over when everything's put away, and he's not entirely sure if she's going home when he gets done. (He's really hoping she's not.) But finally, there's no more lingering he can do, so he slips the last fork into the silverware caddy, tosses in a detergent pack, and then closes up the machine.

She's looking at him expectantly, and he thinks he knows what that look means, feels it rush through his skin and tingle his toes (among other places), so he's awfully hopeful that he's reading it right.

He steps a bit closer, not touching, but close enough to see her individual eyelashes, close enough to feel her breath against his cheek as she's looking up at him.

He strokes his hand over her hair, down her throat and across that one bare shoulder, stepping even closer yet, but still not touching.

"This okay?"

And she steps into him, pulling flush to him, warm, soft body tight against his, and that feels great. "Oh yeah. Been waiting for this all night."

"Didn't want to get presumptuous."

She laughs at that, warm and throaty, and then cups her hand around the back of his neck, where his head and neck meet and pulls his lips down to hers.

And, yes, kissing. Full body kissing. Making out! He remembers making out. He remembers how much he loves this, and how this is all sorts of very, very good and… Just, God, soft wet lips on his, gentle sucks, warm, hot, perfect tongue slipping against his, rich with coffee and bourbon and her, and, just, yes, all over yes, a thousand million yesses of unending wet, hot, firm, soft good God, YES!

Eventually she pulls back, breathing hard and fast, Gibbs thinks she was going to say something, but right now, he wants more, of everything, so follows her, not letting her catch her breath, hands spanning her hips as he keeps her close, full bodies touching, and Lord that's good too, that's so good. She's soft in all the right places and her hands are pulling him in closer as more kisses slip between them.

But finally the brain in the big head takes back over, and he steps back, giving her the space to say whatever it was she was going to say before.

This time she follows him, and his toes curl at. All of this beautiful woman, clinging to him, kissing him fast and deep, hands curled in his hair and cupping his hip, keeping him anchored to her.

She's rubbing against him, all over, making him feel almost light-headed it's so good. He manages to tear his lips away from hers, dragging them down her throat, ripping a breathy moan out of her that feels amazing, that he wants to hear again, over and over and over, wants to feel it against his chest and shoulder as she's pulling her nails down his back while he slams into her.

A low, hot exhale answers her moan, raising goosebumps along her shoulder.

"God, Jethro, you gonna take me upstairs?"

"Still not presuming," he whispers it to her, licking her earlobe.

She pulls his face up, eyes to eyes and gives him a quick, nipping kiss. "I am officially giving you permission to presume all you want."

He stares at her long and hot, raking his eyes over every inch of her body, and gets across, by look alone, that he may presume some pretty wild stuff.

She grins, wide and happy at that, sending back her own look of anything you can come up with, I'll try. "Come on." Borin steps back and takes his hand, leading him to the staircase. She looks up, but obviously doesn't know what is where in his house. He takes her pause, presses her against the wall, and begins kissing down her throat, long, soft, sucking kisses.

He nibbles her collarbone, hands finding their way under her sweater, heading up her back, looking for the strap, and he's very pleased to see that she doesn't have a bra on under it.

He didn't realize he'd made some sort of pleased sound until he heard her say, mirth in her voice, "Take it you like that?"

He trails his fingers across her ribs, palming her breast, and groans, teeth ghosting along her jaw. Her leg slides up his, hooking over his hip, keeping him close as she rocks into him, pulling another groan out of him. His hand buries in her hair, as he shifts to kissing her lips, and she arches into him, squeezing the hand on her breast, letting him know the kind of touch she likes.

He mimics her touch, harder, more insistent, and she moans at that, letting go of his hand, and cupping his ass, pulling him into her, grinding into him.

He pulls himself away, doesn't want to, but he knows this isn't going to work on the stairs. Actually, no, it'll work just splendidly on the stairs, several very good images of exactly how this could work on the stairs flood through his mind, but… nope… Condoms are upstairs. Nice big bed is upstairs. Room to really spread her out and explore is upstairs.

He's holding her shoulders, keeping her about a foot away, and then turns her, swats her ass, and says, "Upstairs, second door on the left, now!"

She kisses the hand on her shoulder, biting his wrist, and heads up the stairs, quickly.

As soon as she's through the threshold of his room, she's turned toward him, pressing into him for more kisses and touching and rubbing. More of her sweet body on his, and his hands cup her ass, as he rubs into her, kissing her lips and throat and jaw and shoulder, wanting to touch, taste every inch of her all at once.

Her hand finds his dick, cupping, squeezing gently through his jeans, and he knows part of it is just it's been so damn long since a hand other than his own has touched his dick, but Holy God! that's good.

He didn't think it was possible, but right now, he's exceptionally glad to be fifty-seven because even ten years ago, with as good as this feels and as long as it's been, he would have come right here and now from the way she's rubbing him.

As it is, he's hard. Really hard. Drive nails with it hard. And she's gotten his jeans open, wormed her hand into his boxers and skin on skin… "Fuck…" It slips out of him on an exhale and she grins, loving having pulled that word out of him.

Last time touching a woman was this intense, it was Shannon and he'd been away for six months, got home in the afternoon, in the summer, and Kelly was old enough she didn't take naps anymore, so it was five hours of touching, and petting, and whispered promises, before he finally got some time alone with her.

Last time touching a woman was this intense it didn't matter if he got off in the first thirty seconds, he was still young and horny enough that he could get it up again in twenty minutes, half an hour, tops and he had more than enough stamina to keep her happy with tongue and fingers until his dick perked up again.

But he knows he doesn't have ten hours of oral in him, so he does not want to get off, yet.

He pulls her hand out of his pants, kisses her palm, nipping his teeth across her wrist, and goes to work on her pants. She's also wearing jeans, pretty tight ones, but a button and zipper aren't difficult.

He kneels in front of her (very happy his knees have decided to cooperate in this) and begins to tug her jeans off. Only takes a second to get them down and off, which means he's staring at her in that sweater, knowing she's got no bra on under it, and the tiny, little emerald green thong she's got on.

Tiny, green, wet, thong. That hits him right in the balls, her body, hot for his, wet, slick, craving his.

He peels her panties off, very pleased to see she's a natural redhead, but he'd known that for a while now. (Okay, guessed... hoped) And then he gently kisses her mound, and part of him wants to stay here for hours, licking and kissing and sucking, burying himself in her pussy, and part of him wants to get that sweater off and see the rest of her. That part wins. He kisses up her belly, and licks her hip.

He doesn't say, 'You're beautiful' but it's clear in his face, and the way his eyes travel over her skin. And he knows from her smile that she understands the words he hasn't (yet) said.

Gibbs stands up, holding her close, enjoying her skin, his hands playing along her spine under the sweater. Borin raises her arms and he lifts the sweater off of her, finally seeing all of her naked. He feels the grin slide across his face.

This time he does say it. "You're beautiful."

She smiles at that, taking the compliment, enjoying it. Her fingers trail over his chest, down to his jeans, they're open, but still on, she teases him, very light brush of fingers over his dick, then she steps in close, nipples rubbing his shirt and she reaches to the top button and begins to slip it through the button hole.
She takes her time, slowly undoing each button, kissing his chest between buttons, sucking his left nipple, and then doing it harder when he hisses, pleased, at it. He wants to toss her on the bed and devour her, he lifts a hand to play with her nipple, but she takes his hand and puts it back on his own hip. She's undressing him right now, and that's just how it's going to be.

So he lets her. Waiting patiently(ish) for her to unwrap him.

She smiles, pleased at him, though she doesn't say anything, but she does step in close, her breasts crushing against his chest, as her hands slip under his jeans, over his hips, around to his ass, and then push the fabric off of him.

A second later, it's a pile of denim on the floor in the corner, because as soon as his pants hit his ankles he kicks them off, not caring at all about where they land.

She steps back, looking him up and down, and licks her lips, then bites the lower one. "I am going to have so much fun with you."

That makes him laugh. "Hope so." He pulls her close again, then backs two steps to the edge of his bed and sinks down, pulling her to straddle him.

And she does, pushing him onto his back, laying over him. Kissing him while his hands wander her body, mapping every curve he can reach. She's straddling his thigh, rubbing up and down his leg, wet and slick, and he's just about crazy with it, wants her so bad, needs to get inside her, because just her hip (which, God, that feels good, too) rubbing against him isn't enough.

He's reaching behind him for the condoms he knows live in his dresser when it hits them that they're at least five years old, if not older, and those little bastards have expired.

He groans, and this time it's not a happy sound.


God, he doesn't even know if she likes this, some women don't, but… "You wanna switch around? Sixty-nine?"

She looks very surprised to hear him say that.

"Not if you don't like it… but…" He feels God-awful stupid for this. "Condoms are old. I'm clean and had a vasectomy a million years ago, but…"

She smiles again, sits up, still straddling his thigh, squeezes him in an exceptionally pleasant sort of way, making him hiss and grit his teeth, and then gets up. "I've got some." He watches the sway of her hips as she heads out of his room, enjoying the little dimples on her butt and the way her hair bounces with each step. A minute later, she's back with her purse, and a few seconds after that, she's holding a three strip of condoms.

"Not that I don't like it, because I do, and tomorrow morning, if I don't get a call out, I'll take you up on that offer. But," and she squeezed him again, hand stroking from base to tip in a long, slow, toe curling pull. "I wanna see what you'll do with that."

He smiles, bright, happy, really happy in a way he hasn't been in years. "Trust me, you'll like it."

She smiles. "Good." And put the condoms where they could both reach them easily. "We do this often enough, I'm fine with getting tested again, and then saying goodbye to them if all goes well."

He nods. That's fine by him. She's standing on the side of the bed, and he wraps his hands around her hips, pulling her onto the bed, straddling him again, but this time he nudges her up, so she's over his shoulders.

She smells like sex, tastes like it, is wet and open and soft and again wet. She's all possible meanings of delicious.

Doesn't take long to get revved all the way back up again. Three minutes, four, tops, and he's reaching behind himself again, this time grabbing the condom and getting it torn open behind his head.

She smiles at that, scooting down, kissing the tip of his nose, and then takes it from him, smoothing it over him in one steady motion.

She slips onto him in a slow glide, and there's that hot, snug, glorious of slipping into a woman's body. His jaw clenches and eyes close as a soft breath slips out of him.

She smiles at that, too, enjoying knowing she feels this good to him, enjoying how good it feels to her, and begins a gentle, steady rocking motion.

He loves this position. He can watch. She's riding him which means he can see her breasts sway, her body bounce over him, every ounce of pleasure on her face is visible, and, watching that…

Borin about to climax is amazing.

Her head is back, eyes closed, mouth open, small, panting moans slipping out of her with each fast thrust and firm rub of his thumb over her clit and other fingers on her nipples.

She's flushed and her hair's wild and she's every kind of beautiful a woman can be.

She takes his hand in hers, showing him exactly how to touch her, as she grows tighter on him, he thinks he's got it, because she lets go of his hand, leans back a little, deeper angle, moving faster as he arches up into her.

She reaches behind her, palming his balls, making sure he's not about to get off, and he gets that message, focusing more on her, less on him, there'll be another round, and he'll get off then.

He rubs her nipple more firmly, follows the faster, smoother stroke she showed him for her clit, and rocks his hips faster, wanting to watch her fall apart on him, and she does, brilliantly, deep, sultry moans slipping from her mouth as she pulls in tight, twitching against him.

He almost can't watch it, it's almost enough to push him over. But it's not, and he's glad it didn't because he wanted to see her, wanted to feel and hear, immerse himself in her pleasure at his touch.

She snuggles on him for a moment, her cheek against his shoulder, lips on his throat, one finger stroking his nipple. He pets her hair, enjoying her body pulsing around his. He lets her breathing slow down, lets her body stop quivering, and then rolls on top of her, hooking her leg over his shoulder and starts to thrust, hard, but holding back some. "Fast?"

She grabs his butt and pulls, he figures that's a yes. He kicks his speed up, reveling in it, in fast, hot glide, and the smooth slip of her body along his. He's still a little worried he's going too fast or too hard, holding back just a bit.

"God, Gibbs, fuck me!" She bites his shoulder while that tears out of her mouth, and that breaks any reserve he might have had about doing it too hard.

She's groaning with every breath, and he's not exactly being silent himself, this feels too amazing to be quiet, and he's a little worried about getting off before she does, because he knows those sounds, knows that's her building up to number two, and he doesn't want to leave her hanging, but, God, he's so close and it's been so long and she's pulling on him, scratching him to go faster, deeper.

He's rebuilding the bed in his mind, calmly, serenely applying layer after layer of finish onto the wood. Stroking it smooth and gentle, feeling the brush glide over… Shit that's not working at all. He's turning woodworking into sex in his mind.

She's so tight on him, rising up to meet each thrust, grinding against him, and he feels the tingles start, that gotta-come-now feeling that starts in his balls and spreads like molten gold everywhere. He's begging God that this does it for her, too, 'cause he's got nothing left in his bag of tricks, not that he can pull out this far gone. He's thrusting harder, faster, pulling her up to meet him and she bites down on his shoulder, hard, twitching, and feeling her body spasm on his throws him over the edge, falling into a chasm of searing, wet, pulsing pleasure.

He hopes he's not too heavy on her, but he's way too comfortable, and happy, to move, yet.

She's gently stroking his hair, and kisses his forehead.

Eventually he feels like his arms and legs are working again, so he lifts up, making sure he's got the edge of the condom, too, and rolls to his side, taking care of the condom and tossing it out before snugging in close to her.

"You're a cuddler?" she asks.

"Been known to happen."

She smiles at that, then kisses him, points to the bathroom door. "Bathroom?"

He nods.

"Back in a second." She grabs her purse and heads in, and in a few minutes is out again. He takes a moment to likewise get ready for bed, and then joins her, this time under the covers.

He yawns, and she giggles a bit at that while he spoons up behind her.

"This okay?" he asks.

She nods. "I'll shove you off if I get too hot."

That strikes him as reasonable.

She rolls over, so she's facing him. "You're not going to tell me it's been five years since you've had sex?"

He looks amused by that. "Am I that rusty?"

She laughs.

"No. Bit more than two. But they were still good when I needed them last." He'd gotten them when things were heating up with Dr. Ryan, and then they fizzled before getting to the point where he needed them, Susan didn't think they needed them, so they kept sitting in that drawer, and now they were on the other side of expired.

He kisses her, soft and tender, and then says, "But I am so grateful you had some."

"Me too." She yawns, kisses him once more, and then rolls back over, so her back is to his chest. His chin comes to rest against her back, and he kisses the nape of her neck.


She kisses his index finger. "'Night."


Friday, July 11, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Mallard Manor

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

Chapter 354: Mallard Manor

On Friday night, Ducky and Penny stay late post-Shabbos.

They didn't plan it, didn't need to. Conspiracy, apparently, comes naturally to these three.

Once he had the second round of dishes all in the dishwasher (can't get an entire dinner's worth, at least, not dinner for nine adults and one toddler, in addition to pots and pans in one go) Gibbs fetches a file filled with real estate listings.

He doesn't much like computers.

However he likes real estate agents even less. And his other best idea for how to do this was to call DiNozzo Sr. up and see if he could find something, but… Even if this is 'officially' a vacation house for their family, he's got a sense of the kind of place he's comfortable with, and then there's the kind of place Senior would come up with and those two places are not only not even remotely similar to each other, they're also in vastly different neighborhoods.

So, given the assignment of 'find a place on the water,' Gibbs decided to do some googling.

And for as much as he doesn't love computers, he'd have to say that was a hell of a lot less painful than trying to find the house he's currently sitting in.

Penny and Ducky are on the sofa, and he pulls an armchair over, and lays out a collection of pictures of places on the water.

Penny and Ducky look at them, nodding, sorting through, nodding again, and he's having a hard time reading those looks. He feels like he's got a pretty good collection there, but they don't seem pleased by this. They aren't really reading the listings, they're mostly just flipping through.

As Penny tidily stacks them on top of each other, Ducky says, "Jethro, I think you may be missing the scale of what we were thinking of for this."

Penny nods, as she tucks all the listings back into the manila folder. "At least five bedrooms, seven is better, nine would be optimal, but we're unlikely to find it."

The cabins he'd found were all in the two to four bedroom range, and he'd been nervous about the four bedroom one, it was so expensive it made him want to blush.

So, it takes him a moment to stop staring, dumbstruck, at both of them and inquire, "Duck, Penny, did you look at the prices on those?"

Penny nods. Ducky says, "Indeed."

"We have money, Jethro."

"At least five bedrooms, similar number of bathrooms, seven bedrooms is even better because that'll give the youngest members some room to themselves and lets us set up a girls and boys room. Nine would be perfect because if Jimmy and Breena have their way, there are going to be a lot of children running around this place. It needs enough land to be private. As you know, it has to be on the water. It needs a pier and boat house of some sort, because we have to keep Shannon in good shape."

Gibbs still can't find words. He blinks and exhales and finally says, "That's gonna cost a ton."

"We know," Penny says, definitively.

Jethro shakes his head, he can't even think of how much that'll cost. The beat to hell up four bedroom he'd found had topped out at $650,000. "You've got to give me a price range then."

"Three point six million," Ducky says, calmly.

"Duck!" That takes Gibbs' breath away.

"We can put in that much. Though it would be a good idea not to put all of that into the real estate, a place like that will need furnishings, and we'll need to build some sort of trust to pay the property taxes on it. Call it two point seven, less if it needs extensive repair. The market was still hot when I sold the home I shared with Mother. That money has been sitting around collecting interest and dust for a long time. It'd be nice to do something interesting with it."

Penny adds in, "Likewise, the home I shared with Nelson sold well. I traveled but it would have taken years to burn off that sort of money. I'm a tenured professor. They pay me very well, and I live quite below my means."

"As Penny said, Jethro, we have money."

"We've been talking about it more. You're retired. Ducky won't be staying around for more than a few months. Jimmy, Tim, and Abby will all be running their own departments, Tony running his own team. Ziva at home. You won't be seeing each other every day anymore."

"The Navy Yard is no longer our home. And we need one. This needs to be a space for our whole family. Where we can all be together, at once. It will need to be big, at least one bedroom per couple. No matter what else we do with it, it has to be a comfortable space for all of us. Do you remember the home I shared with Mother?"

Gibbs nods.

Meant to be a family estate.
"That was meant to be a family estate, Jethro. It was meant to have multiple generations of people who called it home. A testament in stone and wood to people who valued and loved each other. Children and grandchildren were meant to grow there. That didn't work out, and it was vastly too large for two people and eight corgis. But, we can do this. We have the money, and it may be late for us, but we can build a home for our family."

"Mallard Manor?" Gibbs says with a slight laugh.

"Something like that," Penny says wryly. "One of the things Nelson and I had wanted, one thing we had envied Terri's parents for, was that they had a family home. We were going to build one. A place where, no matter what, our children and grandkids could come in out of the storm. It didn't happen. But that doesn't mean that it cannot happen."

"So, would this space be open to Sarah and…" Gibbs doesn't know exactly how many grandkids and great-grandkids Penny has, but he does know John was one of four children, and that his surviving brothers had married and had kids, too.

Penny shakes her head. "Sarah, maybe, in that she lives here and seems to be getting closer to the rest of this group. But not the rest of the grandchildren. Can't have nine other people and their spouses and kids wandering in and out of the place, not with what we're talking about doing with it."

"Will that cause problems?"

Penny shrugs. "It's possible. But Tim's the only one I see on a weekly basis. I see Sarah monthly. The rest send me emails for my birthday, and drop by if they're in the greater DC area. If they're mercenary enough to feel like they deserve a chunk of the cash, then they can come and visit me on occasion, too. At this point I'm much closer to Tony, Ziva, Jimmy, and Breena than I am to any of my grandchildren besides Tim."

"Okay." Calling DiNozzo Sr. just went on his to-do list. Apparently Penny and Ducky's idea of this place is right down the street from Senior's idea of the place. "How's your end of it going?"

Penny shrugs. "Less concrete moving forward. I joined the Amnesty International group on campus, as well as well as a pro-immigration one. So far I'm just getting a good idea of who is who. Most of the 'do-gooder feminist' groups" she laces his term with some heavy sarcasm, "focus on women here, but there's a Mosque in Georgetown that one of the groups works with to help Muslim women here in the US, and I'm getting to know the woman who runs that outreach. Since most of the women that program works with are here legally, but weren't born here, she may have a clue as to who to talk to."

Gibbs nods at that.

"I've found us a lawyer," Ducky says. "Jason Ramsey is the brother of Alton Ramsey, the ME for the District of Colombia. He's something of a political gadfly. Active in pro-legal immigration circles. Penny and I had lunch with him, on the books, as clients," Gibbs appreciates that, as best he knows, if you actually hire the lawyer, everything you say to him is in confidence, "explained what we were thinking about. He's very pleased and has agreed to take us on retainer."

"Better yet," Penny's smiling at this, "the retainer is just to cover costs, he'll do the work pro-bono."

Gibbs blinks. He doesn't like lawyers, and the idea of one doing this… "So, he just gave us a blank check for all the legal wrangling we may need?"

"We'd have to cover expenses, court filings and the like, bailing you out if need be, and along with a trust to cover the expenses on the house, we're setting up a trust for that, but yes, he's willing to donate his time to any defense we may need. Granted, he would prefer we didn't get caught."

"Since it'll me my ass in jail, I'd 'prefer we didn't get caught,' too." Gibbs says, dryly. "I'm not going to try to get caught. The whole plan is to not get caught. Looks like Mike did this for more than five years, no one ever got close to him, and I'm a hell of a lot more careful than he was."

You sure about that, Probie?

My network doesn't involve literally hundreds of people, Mike. And I'm not blackmailing them so none of them might decide they're just done with me and report me just to get rid of me.

"There was one other protection that Mr. Ramsey recommended to us, and it's something we'd like your help with," Ducky says, bringing Gibbs back to the conversation with the living people around his coffee table.

"Okay, what?"

With a smile, gently squeezing Penny's hand, Ducky asks, "Would you be the witness for our marriage? That way we cannot be compelled to testify against each other."

A night of surprises all around, apparently. "First of all, yes. Second of all, you two cannot just sneak off the Justice of the Peace and do it in secret. All six of them will whine and bitch at me if I let you two get married and don't do something to celebrate it."

Ducky checks the clock. "Then you have a bit under fourteen hours to do something because our appointment with the Justice of the Peace is at noon tomorrow."

"You're killing me, Duck. Both of you."

"We didn't see any reason to make a big deal out of it," Penny says.

"Or necessarily mention it, for that matter. Not getting married was about how it was easier in regards to our estates, so why that would suddenly change will cause questions that we do not have a good answer for."

"Easiest way to lie is to not have to tell one in the first place. And you of all people should know that."

Gibbs shrugs, that makes sense, and he's sure they've had a lawyer or accountant or someone go over everything… But he also knows that when one of them dies and it comes out that they got married and that it's his signature on the marriage license, he's going to be in deep, hot water for not telling anyone about it.

He squints at both of them, licking his lips, shaking his head, able to imagine in glorious Technicolor detail the level of crap Abby and Breena are going to dump on him if he keeps this secret. "Couldn't it just be… I don't know… Valentine's Day romance or something?"

There's something of a glint in Ducky's eye. Something… Gibbs doesn't know what it is, but he trusts it. There's a level here he's not seeing, yet. "Trust me, Jethro, it will be easier this way."

"Okay, Duck."

And so, on February 13th, 2016, at 12:14, Leroy Jethro Gibbs signs, with no fanfare, the marriage certificate of Donald Mallard and Penelope Langston.

He takes them out for a celebratory lunch, after, and when Penny excuses herself for a moment, he says to Ducky, "You damn well better have something so romantic planned that I do not end up with Abby and Breena crying on me because they didn't get invited to your wedding."

Ducky grins at him, eyes sparkling. There's definitely something in the works. "Trust me Jethro, I will not leave you open to the weeping of distressed women."

Gibbs narrows his eyes, shooting his best I mean it look at Ducky. "Good."


Shards To A Whole: Gossip

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

Chapter 353: Gossip

A/N: REMF stands for Rear Echelon Mother Fucker. Namely, the guys at the back of the lines that keep the army moving.

A month into being "Boss" and there are some things Tim really loves about it.

The power is great. He sees a problem. He fixes the problem. He's not feeling like he needs to ask permission or risk stepping on someone's toes by not asking permission. Sure, this has resulted in an irked electrician from physical plant standing in his office, glaring at him, getting ready to give him a hard time about the new set up before putting new light bulbs in.

And then Tim stood up, took two steps, drawing Mr. Electrician's gaze to not only the smiley face gun target right over his shoulder (he's also got the skull picture next to it) but to the fact that he knew Mr. Electrician was coming today, and had, as a result, dressed carefully for this meeting.

First and foremost, his jacket (black, leather) is draped over his desk chair. Which means Mr. Electrician is getting a full view of the newest Department Head of NCIS, all six foot one inch and one hundred and seventy-five pounds of him, standing up very straight, very tall, in a black kilt, black leather work boots (adding an extra inch), dragon ink visible on his leg, crimson button down, top two buttons undone, sleeves rolled up to show off his wrist cuff, and black matte nail polish.

The man who walks into a Federal Office building dressed like that is a man who does not give a flying fuck as to what anyone else may or may not want to say to him about anything. The man who gets to Department Head and dresses like that is also the man who is so amazingly good at his job that everyone else doesn't give a flying fuck as to how he looks. Which means, that man is the last man in the building you want to mess with.

Tim has also noticed that one of the "every day" colognes Janice picked out for him, Lightning, smells like a storm coming in. This may be some people's cup of tea, Abby, for example, likes it. (Ziva really likes it, to the point of having gotten a bottle of it for herself.) It makes most people mildly nervous, but they can't figure out why. Their inner lizard brains smell that scent and know something they don't want to be near is coming, which results in a sort of barely conscious nervousness.

So, as Mr. Electrician is doing a double take and looking like he wants to get the hell out of Tim's office about two minutes ago, Tim says to him, mildly, voice quiet, arms to the side, posture open, "Yes?"

He tries, he really does. Tim sees his eyes narrow and the way he steels himself to get ready to lay down the law in regards to who's supposed to be plugging in the computer, and he gets about half a sentence into rules and regulations before Tim says to him, calmly, cutting him off, "You appear to have a fundamental misunderstanding as to what your job is in relation to mine.

"My job is catching killers, finding kidnapped children, and putting rapists behind bars. Your job is plugging in appliances. Now, I can, and will, and have done your job when I need to, but you can't do mine, so if you want to keep yours, the next time I call down to Physical Plant and request any level assistance, you are going to drop every other thing you may possibly be doing, including wiring the Director's office, and run your ass into my office to take care of it." Tim smiles, and it's a cold, sharp look. "Do you understand me?"

Mr. Electrician, nods, slowly.

"Splendid. Go put the LEDs in."

And Mr. Electrician does.

And he'll have to admit, that was a whole lot of fun.

The schedule is great. That's something else he loves about being the Boss. Yes, he's working a lot, but he's also able to go home when he needs to. He can imagine there will be cases when he'll need all hands on deck (including his) but so far that hasn't happened.

There are no dead bodies, no ships, no dogs, no one shooting at him, no explosions, nothing dirty, messy, or gross about this job. And if there was, he could make someone else do it!

He doesn't have to spend hours trying to outwit liars who aren't nearly as good at it as they think they are. He sees no panicked eyes trying desperately to figure out how much he knows, and what the most believable spin could possibly be on what he knows.

The work is interesting. Mostly. The paperwork sucks, and there's a ton of it. But unlike being on the MCRT, he's got the power to actually do something about it. So, while it sucks and eats a lot of time, it won't be doing that forever.

But, compared to hours of paperwork he couldn't do anything about, hours spent driving from point a to point b, hours waiting to testify, hours in depositions rehearsing what he was going to say when he got done waiting to get called to the stand, hours staring at things, waiting for someone to do something, a whole hell of a lot more of his time is now spent doing something useful.

And, for a lot of the work, he's doing things that are interesting in addition to useful. A month into the job, a lot of what he's doing right now is still getting everyone on the same page and up to speed. So far, the greater world is accommodating him with that, and they haven't been hit with anything bigger than computer work for the field teams.

At the rate they're going, even with half of his team working on the paperwork project, his triaging system and moving to a twenty-four/seven schedule means that by the end of the week they will be caught up on their case backlog.

Once they're through the backlog, once they've got the paperwork software up and running, then he'll be able to get them really working, and with a hundred and fifty guys under him, he's got some big plans coming up.

Among other things, he knows he's going to be splitting everyone into two main teams, attack and defense, and for the next year half of them will spend at least an hour a week trying to break into NCIS, the Navy, or the Marines, and half of them will work on defense. Then the next year they're going to switch, and they're going to keep at it, because it's not okay to assume that he built a firewall that'll keep everything safe always.

The military war games. They run scenarios, see how their men operate, put all hands on deck and watch responses. They find holes and plug them.

And his guys are going to do that, too.

And then they're going to start hunting. A lot of cybercrime works because no one ever notices it. Sneak in, move things around, skim some off the top, snag IDs, even in cases where hundreds of thousands of records are breached, it can take weeks, months sometimes, for people to notice. And smaller scale work? Please, no one's checking.

His guys will be checking.

He loves the fact that he's starting to mold his team. High standards and petting for good works seems to be having a positive effect. The whole you-will-work-as-a-team thing is speeding cases up, and for the most part getting better results out of the Minions.

He's starting to get "his" people into place. Howard started yesterday, and she's already slipping in, inching things closer to where he wants them.

She's a code wizard, so he stuck her on the clean-up team for the paperwork project, and she's not only got mad skills, but fresh eyes, so she can see the stuff they've all been looking at too long. He's thinking she'll be a good leader for the Navy Yard's Attack team, and can't wait to see where that goes.

Hepple filed his retirement paperwork; effective June (when he hits twenty-eight years in) he'll have another open slot soon, and Tim's already got his search parameters up for that. He knows what sort of person he wants for that slot, but not who that person is, yet.

He's also found, that since he's in the building every day, he actually does get to see Abby and Jimmy more often… Or for a longer chunk of time. Sort of.

He can have lunch with them on most days. So, instead of a few quick visits, he's got one longer visit. (Granted, he doesn't end up working in the lab anymore, but that was time near Abby instead of with her, mostly. He misses that.)

And on days when Tony and Ziva aren't in the field, they often join in.

But, on Tuesday, they were in the field, and Ducky and Penny were having lunch with each other, so it was just the three of them.

And both Tim and Jimmy have some interesting gossip.

"Breena called," Jimmy says as he takes a bite of his salad. "Apparently Gibbs showed up to take Molly out, all dressed up."

Abby grins at that. She already knows Tim's half of the gossip. "Like he was going out for a date, maybe?"

Jimmy nods. "She tells me he wouldn't say who. Though he did say it 'wasn't a date.'"

"He asked me to find Borin's contact number after Bootcamp," Tim adds between bites of his grilled chicken.

Jimmy's grinning at that, too. "So, tell me about her. I've seen her, twice, maybe. She's tall, has red hair, and a good voice, but that's about all I know."

"She's Girl Gibbs!" Abby says.

Tim takes over. Sunday night, after he got home, he and Abby did some 'research' on Abigail Borin. They've both met and worked with her, but they don't know much about her. "Drinks the same black as sin coffee, and bourbon, too, head slaps her guys, was a Marine, served in Iraq, under Bush II instead of Bush I, did ordinance disposal—"

"Which is insanely dangerous," Abby adds.

Tim nods at that. Really, really dangerous. "Her whole team got killed when a bomb went off wrong, so she left the Marines, floated around for a bit, and ended up at CGIS."

"Been there since, worked her way up, and now she's in charge of the Chesapeake division."

"So, not entirely Girl Gibbs," Jimmy says. "Can't see anyone putting Gibbs in charge of an entire NCIS region."

"Not entirely." Tim agrees. "No one out-Gibbs Gibbs when it comes to stepping on toes."

"Jenny left him in charge of the Navy Yard a few times." Abby sips her water. (Usually, when they're out, she gets soda. Jimmy doesn't know if she's trying to take better care of herself or just didn't feel like it today. Her tuna and edamame wrap is about par for the course. He'll keep his eyes open and ask Tim about it later if it's a pattern.)

"I think that was punishment, not career advancement. He certainly acted like it was punishment," Tim says.

"Probably." Abby nods.

"So, I mean, is she going to be good for him?" Jimmy asks.

Tim shrugs.

Abby nods, while poking Tim. "Of course she is! She's awesome, and we already love her." Tim shrugs at that, too. She is cool. He does like her. Unlike Abby, he's not quite ready to start picking out Gibbs' wedding tux.

"I think, out of all the previous girlfriends, he got on best with Hollis, and Borin's got a lot of the same sort of feel to her. He doesn't do well with clingy, needy people and Borin's in charge of herself. So, that should be good."

"Good? That'll be great! There won't be all the nagging he hates. She's not going to get annoyed when he won't talk about the job—"

"You mean the job he doesn't have any more?" Jimmy cuts in with.

"You know what I mean. She wouldn't know what to do with a man who spills vast oceans of emotions on her, and he'll run screaming from a woman who does the same thing. So, there's one mismatch they're not going to have."

"The true love of the emotionally closed off," Jimmy adds with a healthy touch of sarcasm.

"Something like that," Tim replies.

Abby glares at both of them, then blows them a raspberry. "You two." Another glare more frustrated than angry. This is good news, everyone should be excited and happy and they're both… wary. "They'll go slow. Get to know each other. Open up a little at a time. It'll be good! Sure, he won't admit they're even dating until, mmm… probably about a week after he proposes, but it'll be good!"

Tim and Jimmy look at each other, both of them thinking about the same thing, but in that Tim's the husband, he's the one who gets to say it. "Yeah, good, or a recipe for disaster."

Abby sighs again and rolls her eyes. "Breena and Ziva need to be here."

"If they'd be so good together, then why didn't Borin offer her own name up when we were looking for a girlfriend for Gibbs?" Tim asks.

"Whoa, when did that happen?" Jimmy looks quickly from Tim to Abby. He completely missed that.

Tim waves him off. "Years ago. He was moping, annoying the hell out of us, we tried to set him up, Borin helped, one of her buddies was the perfect woman. Turns out she really was. He'd already dated her, and yes, she was perfect, and perfect was boring."

Jimmy blinks at that, perplexed look on his face. "So, wait, he broke up with the perfect woman?"

Tim nods.

"She wasn't perfect for him. But Borin might be! He needs some challenge and she's got challenge written all over her," Abby says.

Tim nods at that. "Last time we talked about this, you were telling me that Gibbs had already found his perfect woman and no one else was going to work."

"Last time we talked about this, Gibbs was still married, in his heart, at least, to his perfect woman, and I don't think that's true anymore."

"Good point." Tim nods while chewing. He agrees that there's the possibility for a perfect woman, or as close as one can get, now, but… he's not sure if Borin's her.

"And as for why not add herself in… Uh, let's start with the bet between you and Tony that she completely knew about and end with, with both of them working, what would be the point of even trying to date? They'd never see each other. You can't successfully date when both of you work seventy hours a week. And now, he doesn't."

Both of the guys seem to think that's a good point.

"Can't you just see both of them," Abby sounds very excited about this, "and Mona, on Shannon, sailing away… Long weekends at sea—"

Jimmy shakes his head. "He cannot call that boat Shannon. Not if he's hoping to put another woman in it. 'Let's go sail off on my testament to my undying love of my first wife.'"

Tim nods in agreement with that and then adds, "Maybe it won't be too much of a problem, they'll have only been on it for ten minutes when she catches a case."

Abby seems to think that's a relevant point. "Yeah, but she'll never find someone who understands that better than Gibbs will. He's not going to be moping about her having to work."

"No." Tim steals a bite of the cantaloupe Abby's wrap came with. "He'll be moping about not getting to go along and help. Duty calls, I'm off to go catch killers, you stay home and play with the kiddies. He hates when we do it to him, can you imagine when he's got to deal with a girlfriend doing that." That really does worry Tim, and it's why, unlike Abby, he's not immediately seeing this being all sunshine and roses for the two of them.

Jimmy winces at that, getting it immediately. "The two of them get together and he'll be the girlfriend. She'll be Gibbs, and he'll be Gibbs' girlfriend."

"Jimmy!" Abby's appalled by that.

"Oh come on, you think that's not how he's got it in his head? The man goes off and solves the crimes. The woman stays home and waits for him to get back from solving the crimes."

"You keep saying that, you're gonna get headslapped!"

"I'm not saying that's how I think of it, but I'm sure that's how he thinks of it. And it's fine if woman's out there solving the crimes. Obviously if he got on fine with Hollis, that's not a problem, but if you ask him who's not solving the crimes, who's home waiting for the crime solver to get back, it's the girl, and being the girl might really flip him out."

Abby glares at him again, but he and Tim are sharing a look that indicates both of them think this might be an issue for Gibbs. Still, Jimmy decides to shift topic some. "Is he getting anything going? A real job or something, so that he's not just home waiting for everyone else to get done? Look, I love the fact that he's taking Molly out, and it sounds like they're having a great time, but Breena's actually getting a bit worried for him. The girls are going back to daycare in less than a month and if there was ever a guy who needed something to keep him going, it's Gibbs."

Tim shrugs. "He's got something. But he's not talking about it, and I have no idea how much time it'll eat."

"Why isn't he talking about it?" Jimmy asks.

Tim takes a bite of his own chicken. "Knowing Gibbs, it's illegal, insanely dangerous, or both, and he doesn't want us to worry."

"And Tim's not going to press," Abby says pointedly. It's not so much that she thinks Tim can get it out of Gibbs but is choosing not to, it's that she's frustrated that he likely can't.

"No! I'm not. And like I said last time, if you want to grill him, have at it."

"He'll just shut down."

"Which is why I'm not grilling him. He'll tell us if or when he can."

"And we're stuck hoping he won't be stupid about it and get himself hurt," Jimmy says.

"Exactly." Tim says. "His knee as good as he says it is?" Speaking of Gibbs possibly being stupid and getting himself hurt…

"Best I can tell, yes. But take that with the grain of salt, I don't have an MRI or X-ray, so all I can go off of is what he tells me, how it looks, how he's moving, and what I feel when I get my hands on it. But, yes, it looks like he's healed up." Jimmy inhales, about to tell Abby about Sunday's Bootcamp, where Gibbs went up against Tony, and neither of them held back, at all, which was both worth watching, and looked like a very good work out for both of them (because they're pretty evenly matched) but his phone chirps.

He gets it out and texts back quickly, reaching for his wallet, but Tim shakes his head. It's their day to pay for lunch. (When they eat together, Jimmy gets one out of three of them, which represents as far down as they could talk him. He wanted to do one out of two.)

"Case?" Abby says when he looks up from the phone.

"Yeah, gotta get going."

He leans over and kisses Abby's cheek. "See you tomorrow, or whenever we get back with samples." (He's still on delivering the samples to the lab.)


Jimmy waves at them and heads off.

Abby looks at Tim. "You going to talk to him?"

"Which him?"

"Gibbs, about Abby."

Tim shrugs. "What would I say that he hasn't already thought about?"

Abby shrugs back. "It sounds like they're going to be bringing in more evidence, and it's my night for the late shift. Go home, grab Kelly, grab dinner, and head over."

"You know, if his date went really well, he may not want me heading over."

She smirks at that. "He put a lock on the door, I'm sure he knows how to use it if he doesn't want anyone dropping in."

Tim laughs at that.

Abby takes a bite of his chicken, and then says, a bit more seriously, "You could tell him that it's not the end of the world to be the girl. Half of us do just fine, day in and day out as girls. You could tell him it's just as important to be the person who keeps the person catching the killers going as it is to be the person who catches the killers. REMFs, right?"

Tim nods, he knows that term, (Occasionally Marines who didn't exactly get what his role in the team was would call him one. He certainly is one now, and so's Abby, and Jimmy, for that matter.) but not sure where Abby's going with it.

"The world needs REMFs. Can't go off and be Big Damn Heroes without the REMFs in the back keeping you going."

He supposes that's true, but he also supposes that after forty years as a Big Damn Hero, REMF status may be a hard sale.

"You might remind him that the people who made being the guy who caught the killers worthwhile were all girls, too."

"Maybe you should have this chat with him?"

"If you don't, I will. But from you, from another guy, it probably means more. Sort of like how if I tell Jimmy eyeliner is cool he just raises his eyebrow, but when you do it, it means there's another guy who does stuff like that, so that makes it safer. You know… being support for the Big Damn Heroes didn't make your dick fall off; you didn't have to hand in your man card."

He figures Abby may have a point with that, though translating that to Gibbs might be a trickier proposition.

When he gets back to the office, there are three Minions (2/3rd of the paperwork program testing team and Howard) all waiting, eagerly, for him.

He sees the grins and says, "Progress?"

Three heads nodding.

"Set up a case," Roger says.

"Any type?" Tim asks, all five of them heading to his office.

"Any type," Connon replies.

So he does. As soon as Dispatch gets a report of a case, they stick a case number on it. Everything involving that case goes with that number. So Tim grabs a case number and starts a false report for it. He begins working on it, running a false phone records search as well as a financial report.

"Okay, now watch." Connon waves, indicating for Tim to move over, so he does, sliding his chair out of the way. Connon takes over, hitting the icon for the paperwork software, and then hits a few more buttons and… for a few seconds all four of them hover, nervous, hopeful, and then there's the whirling sound of Tim's printer kicking to life and he smiles wide.

"Don't get too happy. It only does the 5440's right. But, we've got one of the fifteen documents we fill out for every case running properly."

"And if you screw up the case tracking number the whole thing is fucked," Roger says.

Tim nods at that. But that's always been true for any computer work at NCIS. (That was part of having to try to figure out how to dumb down the job triaging software. Most cops can't type.) "But you've got at least one bit of it working?"

"We've got one bit!" Howard looks really pleased to be doing something this concrete and useful her second day on.

"Good job! Now, go get the next fourteen of them working."

"On it, Boss!"

Kelly in one hand, take-out pho in the other, Tim heads into Gibbs' driveway.

He can see Mona, perched on the bow of Shannon, (or maybe not Shannon, there's no name painted on her, yet. Though the outside is looking awfully smooth and glossy.) looking at him, very alert. She greets him with a woof and scrambles down the step ladder Gibbs has leaning against the hull. Tim puts the food on the hood of Gibbs' truck and pats (firmly, he wants to do it gingerly, ready to yank his hand and more importantly, Kelly's body, back in a second if he needs to, but he knows if he does anything other than look like the top dog, Mona will try to run all over him) Mona's head.

"Hey, Mona. He's in there, right?"

One more woof.

"I've got food and Kelly with me, and I'm not climbing a step ladder with her."

Gibbs pokes his head out. He's wearing a face mask and has on gloves. If he's wearing protective gear, whatever the hell he's working with in there has to be pretty nasty. "Out in a minute. Go in, get set."

Tim nods at Mona. "You feed her?"

"Not yet."

"Come on, Mona, I'll get some food for you, too."

Mona perks up at that, she's always in favor of food.

However dressed up Gibbs may have been when he was over at Breena's he's in ratty jeans, work boots, and an old t-shirt now, and he smells very strongly of shellac. But he had shaved, and that doesn't go unnoticed by Tim.

Apparently Tim's outfit didn't go unnoticed by Gibbs, either.

He looks Tim over and says, "Fancy."

Tim shrugs a little. "Electrician showed up today. Wanted to make sure he knew who he was dealing with."

"How'd that go?"

Tim nods, look satisfied. "I have the feeling Physical Plant's going to be a bit more responsive to calls from Cybercrime."

Gibbs smirks, very pleased, by that.

"Breena told us you were looking pretty fancy today, too. So… you put that number to good use?"

Gibbs sprinkles a little cilantro on his pho, and then adds a lot of hot sauce. He's not exactly glaring at Tim; he doesn't want to immediately shut him out on this, but he doesn't necessarily want to go spilling about this, either.

Tim lets him think. He portions out noodles onto Kelly's place, as well as giving the little jar of mushed green beans a good shake. He opens the beans and gets a spoonful into Kelly before seasoning his own pho. He takes a bite, adds a bit more lime, then one more bite.

"You know, it was almost getting blown up by Deering that made me decide what I wanted. That 'holy shit, I'm not dead, time to get my life in order' moment. Then everything went gray, and I blacked out. She took me home from the hospital that day, and this" he points to the pho, "was the first thing we did. She brought me home, got me on my bed, and I slept for… no idea. Until the pain pills wore off. When I came to, she had a bowl of pho waiting for us. She got the noodles and meat, I got the broth. She stayed with me that night. Nothing sexy or anything. Just slept next to me, held my hand, 'cause we were both scared and upset. That's where it started, for me, at least. I don't know if she knows that. Should probably tell her at some point." Tim takes a sip of his broth, and Gibbs waits, eating, wondering where he's going to take this.

"She makes our home, you know? Last three years, every bad day, every shit thing, every time the bullet barely missed, she's been there for me. She's been my home, my heart, my safety. All of this," he pets Kelly's cheek and squeezes Gibbs' hand, "doesn't happen without her. I can't be this version of me, without her."

Gibbs nods, still not sure where this is going, but he's agreeing with what Tim's saying.

"We want you to be happy. And we're thrilled with whatever it is that you're not saying about Borin. And just… you know… maybe she needs a home, too."

Gibbs just stares at him, honestly not sure what the hell to say to that. So, finally he nods and says, "How's the paperwork software going?"

Tim decides he's done his duty by Abby to try to get the message across and replies with, "Good. Got two of the forms working right."

"Good." Gibbs takes another bite of his pho. "What's with the other thirteen?"

Tim rolls his eyes, and feeds Kelly another bite of her green beans while grabbing some noodles out of her hair. "Stupid blanks all have different names and a computer's so dumb that if one form says Date and another form says Day and a third form has mm/dd/yyyy on it, it needs specific instructions to know that those are all the same thing. You and I and pretty much every human on earth can figure out that if one form has case number on it, and the next has case no. and one just says Number up at the top, they're all talking about the same thing. The computer can't. So we've got to tell it to pull one piece of data out of the information you're working with and stick it in all the paperwork blanks that it goes with."

Gibbs nods at that, he's following.

"Tricky bit is when the 5540s use Number to mean the case tracking number and the DF-56-A," phone tracking request forms, "use Number to mean phone number, and of course, they're both ten digit numbers, and then the 34Q-Self Report uses Number to mean your employee ID. That's giving all of us headaches, but Howard—"

"Interviewed with us Howard?"

"Started yesterday." Tim smiles at that. "She had some good ideas to help the computers figure out what means what. So, right now my database wonks are working on building up the database so it can pull the data out and put it in the right places, and she's working on an AI learning algorithm to help it figure out what the hell all of these blanks mean." Tim crosses his fingers. "Any luck, by the end of the month we'll have a functional beta version to roll out."

Gibbs smiles. "Good."

They both eat, quietly, enjoying the company, Tim switching between feeding himself and making sure that food gets into Kelly.

Eventually Gibbs says, "It was good."

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"Called her up, met for coffee."

Tim smiles.

"We've got a date Saturday."

Tim smirks at that, and Gibbs can feel there's something there, something Tim's finding deeply amusing, but he's not sharing.


Tim shakes his head. "Just happy for you."

Gibbs knows that's not all of it, but he's clueless as to what else it may be.

"What are you going to do?"

"Dinner. Here." Gibbs smiles at that, and Tim's grin spreads even further across his face.

"Cowboy steaks?"

"That's the plan."