Saturday, July 5, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Another Family Weekend

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

Chapter 350: Another Family Weekend

"Okay, Molly, what do you think?" He's at the hardware store, Molly in the cart, Mona standing next to them, staring at the paint chips.

"Pink!" She's very definite about that.

He nods. There are twenty-six million shades of pink in front of them.

"Which one?"

"Alllll the pink!"

"Uh huh," he says dryly, grabbing a light one and a darker one pretty much at random. Gibbs is a guy, pink is pink is pink to him. Do not attempt to confuse him with concepts such as rose, mauve, salmon, fuchsia or, god forbid, peach. (A color he suspects that only women can see. Shannon once teased him about how he's probably colorblind. Diane would have agreed, having said the same thing to him once upon a time. All he knows is that he passed the color vision test when he enlisted.)

He holds them up. "Pretty?"

Molly nods, satisfied. "Pretty."

"Good. Let's go get them."

He's been thinking of it for a while, and at least as of 10:47 on Friday, all of his guys have the weekend off, so this weekend, they're going to re-do Kelly's room. He wants his girls to have a space in his home for napping and playing or whatever it is.

Plus he's a little tired of everyone at his house, girls going down to nap in his bed, and then coming back up later that night to find wet spots (That are drool, and that's all they are, and that's that, thank you very much.) on his blankets.

So, Saturday, they're redoing the nursery.

Though, the more he thinks about it… He grabs a few more gallons of paint. If he's got captive labor, he might as well put them to work.

When he was working, Gibbs didn't live for the weekend. He didn't exactly dread it, but he didn't love it. But now, Friday to Sunday is rapidly becoming his favorite time.

He found the first week that he likes making Shabbos dinner. At least, he liked having something very concrete to do that would make the people around him happy.

He's not Ziva, so he's not an inspired cook or anything, but he can learn, and, in that he's not working, it seems like it'd make sense for him to host their weekly dinner. At least, it makes more sense than Tony and Ziva racing home, cooking, and getting everything ready in the few hours between end of work and sundown. Maybe, come summertime, they'll take over on cooking again. (He knows Ziva likes hosting Shabbos, too.) But right now, him handling it is good.

This way they get to relax on their Sabbath, too.

Plus, he and Molly have a pretty good groove going now. She likes grocery shopping. So, on Fridays their adventures involve hitting the grocery store (and the hardware store today) followed by lunch at home, and she 'helps' him cook.

Today, he's got Ziva's challah recipe, and they're going to make it.

He supposes his kitchen could be a bigger mess, but it'd take actual effort. So, while it's true that Gibbs is a veteran dad, it's also true that it's been a while since he's done hands-on dadding, and as a result has forgotten certain aspects of toddler maintenance.

Specifically, he'd forgotten exactly how uncoordinated they can be. And he's never known how adding an excited Doberman to the mix makes things even stickier.

On the upside, Molly had an absolute blast.

And, the finished challah both looks and smells awesome.

And Mona was happy to help out by licking up the coconut oil, flour, eggs, and dough that got dropped on the floor. According to her, today is Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and her birthday all wrapped up in one and celebrated by yummy, sticky manna falling from heaven.

But he's thinking, as Molly naps upstairs, and Mona's still licking the floor (the floor he thought he'd gotten everything washed off of) that next week (and as long as he's doing this with a toddler helper), they'll buy the challah.

Gibbs knew Tim was going to change when he shifted from tech-specialist to Boss. He hadn't expected how fast or easy he'd slide into it, but he knew Tim would find his fit.

And he has. He's sitting at the table, telling them about how he's got the job scheduling software up and running, and how he's gotten the cyber searches for field agents out of the Navy Yard so streamlined that Leon headed down yesterday to congratulate him, and offered him three techs out of IT to help get it that much faster for the rest of NCIS.

"Are you going to use them?" Penny asks.

"Right now I've got a ton of coding, and the more coding someone else is doing, the more solving crimes my guys are doing, but I have no idea if any of the people he's offering can code their way out of a paper bag, and if they can't, we'll spend more time fixing problems then we'll save by them working for me."

"He's working on a test to find out," Abby says.

"Yeah, in my copious spare time," Tim says with an eye roll. Seems like every job he finds, every fix, every plan spawns more work. On the upside, last week he got rid of Bergener, and on Monday Howard starts. (Turns out it took her more than two weeks to get to NCIS, she wanted to finish a case she was working. Tim didn't mind, she's worth waiting for.)

"Any news on the paperwork software?" Jimmy asks. (Tim hadn't had much trouble enlisting Jimmy and Ducky as testers for the potential paperwork software. They too put everything into a computer, and then print out forms and fill in the forms with the stuff they just put in the computer. As soon as he's got a beta version, he'll roll it out to them and to his guys.)

"I told Vance I was working on it and should have a beta version for testing in the not distant future. He's intrigued. If it works, he's ecstatic. If it works and it's legal the champagne's on him."

Tony laughs at that. "I don't care if it's legal, if you can make it work on my computer, the scotch is on me, and I'll fund Abby's Caf-Pow for the next five years."

Tim laughs at that. "Alpha version's been up for two days. So far it's glitch-y, buggy, filling out the forms wrong, has crashed three times, and won't print."

"So, it's an alpha version," Abby says.

"Exactly!" Tim says, gritting his teeth. He'd been hoping to get a somewhat better product out of his team first time out, but… There's realistic, there's beyond realistic, and then there's the mountain coming to Mohammed, and he's fairly sure that any better than he's got right now fits in the third category. "Everything is slower than I think it should be. So, enough of my computing woes. How's the new team?"

Gibbs wasn't expecting how much Team Leader would change Tony. Probably because he watched Tony be "Team Leader" for months.

But, when the Old Boss is looking right over your shoulder, it's hard to really come into your own. Hard to be your own Leader.

But he's gone and the team is really Tony's now, and he is growing into the job.

Gibbs is sitting at the table, listening to Tony talk, hearing the details of the case, and seeing the change. For years Tony spent his time showing off, making sure he was the center of attention, and now he's not.

Gibbs doesn't know if he's hit the point where he doesn't need the constant external validation that he's doing the job right, where he knows, deep down in his gut, that he's got it, or if having the team met that need and is filling it, but either way, it's there. Tony's solid in a way he's never been before.

Solid Tony doesn't feel the need to be constantly showing off. He's not goofing around, making jokes all the time. He's comfortable enough to let the other people around him shine, too.

And that's a welcome change.

"And that's when Bishop said to Draga, 'You know if we set the search pattern in a..." Tony squints, trying to remember, but it's not coming to mind, "Actually, I don't know what she said, could have been in Japanese for all it meant to me, but Draga looked up at her, his eyes lit up, and then both of them grabbed their laptops and did something for the next hour, and an hour after that Ziva and I were driving to Quantico, where we grabbed two guys and broke the case wide open by leaning on them."

"They set up a financial search pattern that found a connection between both of our suspects and two other dummy accounts. The dummy accounts were linked to a third account, which was how they were being paid."

"What she said," Tony says, smiling at Ziva.

"Tink getting any better in the field?" Gibbs asks.

"She is getting more comfortable," Ziva answers. "Like Jimmy has said before, she's very smart. No… 'gut' as you would say, but if you show her something once, she will have it down by the next time she has to do it."

"Are she and Draga still bickering like crazy?" Breena asks.

Tony sighs. "Not this week. I think Draga's got a new girlfriend. He's way more laid back this week and just about sprinting out the door as soon as we call time. She's tried to tease him a few times, but it's just rolled off of him."

"And right now, he is not picking fights with her," Ziva says, with something of a smile. "I think all of his energy is currently directed elsewhere."

Breena notices it. "What's that smile?"

"I know who the girlfriend is."

"You do?" Tony's shocked by that. "How did you find out? He won't even admit there was a girlfriend to me."

"He told me this afternoon. Said that since I'd met her a few times, and knew some of her exes, could I give him any hints…"

Gibbs' eyes go wide, he thinks he might know where this is going. "It's not…"

She's grinning wide, very amused. "Oh, yes, it is. His new sweetheart is Diane."

Half of the table groans, the other half laughs. Mona and Molly look confused.

On Saturday, he's has Tim and Jimmy and Tony at his place, three gallons of off-white paint, a pint of light pink, a pint of darker pink, and a stack of cream and pink (Diane would have called it rose) colored carpet squares.

"You know, they might not all be girls. Maybe we don't need to coat everything in pink." Tony says to Gibbs as he helps Tim yank the ancient beige carpet off the floor of what used to be Kelly's room.

"Right now, we've got girls." Gibbs looks over his shoulder, pausing in taping the molding. He was about to say, 'When you three get off your asses and make me some grandsons, I'll paint a room blue,' but fortunately the little voice in the back of his head shut that up before it got out and changed it to, "I'll make you a deal, Tony. You make me some grandsons, and I've got another bedroom that we'll paint blue."

Tim rolls his eyes. "Tony DiNozzo III. Lord have mercy."

Tony shakes his head, rolling up the carpet as Tim cuts it into wide, easier to move, strips. "Nah. We're done with that. Two were more than enough. But… maybe… David DiNozzo. I can kind of see a Dave running around, chasing after his girl cousins, trying to freak them out with frogs and snakes."

Jimmy laughs at that. "You think there's any shot of any DiNozzo, boy or girl, successfully freaking out Abby's child with a frog or a snake? He'll have better luck wielding a Barbie doll."

Tim just nods along with that. Sure he's not a huge fan of frogs or snakes, but they don't hit his yuck button, either. "And I'm pretty sure Breena's girls aren't going to be scared by the Barbie," Tim adds.

"Yep, if you're going to produce the evil little cousin of doom, he's going to have to reach deep into his bag of tricks to pull one over on our girls," Jimmy says, opening the first gallon of off white. "This is way too much paint for just this room."

"It's not just for this room. We're getting the hallway and stairs and living room/dining room, too," Gibbs adds.

"Oh." Jimmy stares at Gibbs, fairly sure that when he got signed up for this, he was just working on a nursery.

Gibbs grins at him, then points to the paint and makes a little stirring motion.

So Jimmy gets to it.

They've been at it for a few hours when Tim says to Tony. "You're a lot less freaked out about the idea of David then you've ever been. Got some news for us?" He's wondering if, with it being barely two weeks since their own bad news, if Tony and Ziva may have good news they just aren't sharing, yet.

Tony shakes his head. "Nah. Just… Feeling settled, you know? Like I'm where I'm supposed to be."

Tim nods at that. Pieces fall into place and the scary things become less scary.

"So, you guys going to have any news for us in the near future?" Jimmy asks.

Tony shrugs. "Do I look psychic to you?"

Jimmy smirks at him. "Shouldn't take psychic vibes to know that, Tony. 'Cause, you know, supposedly, you're there for the thing," Jimmy adds a very descriptive hand gesture to that, "that might produce the good news."

Tim and Gibbs laugh at that.

Tony whacks him (gently) with his (fortunately not very wet) paint roller, then rolls his eyes and shakes his head. "You're an asshole, Palmer."

Jimmy grins. "I try. Sooooo…." All three of them are now looking at him, waiting for an answer.

"Maybe. Like I said, I'm not psychic, but… yeah, maybe, soon… Don't know, yet, obviously. But… Sooner than later… probably." Tony shrugs. Because he doesn't know. Can't, but yeah, maybe soon. Maybe not. Seems like some women get pregnant just by thinking hard about sex, and some take lots and lots and lots of time and sex, and they just don't know where they are on that scale.

But he does know he's not completely freaking out, or rooting for Ziva's period to show up, and he's got his Dad searching for a beat the hell up house somewhere in the greater DC area that he can afford, so…

"Who knows, everything goes smoothly, maybe 'round April, we'll be doing this at my house."

That was met with grins, and whooping, and congratulations.

On Sunday, Tony joined them for Bootcamp. Gibbs smiles at that, sensing that this too is a mark of Tony coming into his own. He's not so worried about his status, not concerned with tarnishing his image of Boss, so he's coming to join the fight/training.

Or maybe, he, too is missing time with his family, and is trying to get as much of it in as he can.

Either way, Gibbs is happy to see him here.

Tony however, as the new man in, is having somewhat less of a good time. "God, McGee, when the hell did you learn to fight?" Tony says, staring up at him from the floor. (The floor he did not expect to be lying on anywhere near this fast. He's rapidly coming to the conclusion that he really needs to get back in shape if McCybercrime can hand him his ass in less than a minute. He went into the fight defenses down, figuring he'd take it easy on McGee, and got clobbered, fast.)

Tim gives him a hand up. "You sound surprised. Ziva's not bragging on us when she gets home?"

Tony looks at his wife, who is smiling very smugly. "She told me you're getting better, not she's turned you into a ninja."

"He still hasn't gotten the invisible part down, yet." Jimmy adds. "You going a round with me, or are you begging off?"

"Begging off for now. Don't want my heart to explode. I'll take your next one."


So Tim and Jimmy sparred together, against Ziva, and Tony and Gibbs watched.

"Glad you're coming."

Tony nods. "Like you said, this is just me spending time with my family now."


After Bootcamp, Gibbs lingers behind for a bit, watching Tony and Jimmy joke with each other as they headed out of the locker room.

"Tim," he says while Tim ties his boots.


"Can you do something for me?"

"Sure, what?"

"I had Borin's number in my computer. Don't have access to that anymore. Could—"

Tim's grinning and pulling him, (they're both completely dressed by now) out of the locker room toward his office. "Yes!" He's shaking his head and nodding. "Oh, yes. I will get you her number!"

It takes a minute to get into Cybercrime, and like always there's the sound of people working, and Tim pauses in heading toward his office to look in on one of the Minions, reading over his shoulder.

"You in the weeds, Soth?"

Soth shakes his head. "Just thinking." He rubs his eyes, not looking away from the screen. "I can solve it big and messy, lots and lots of lines of code. Looking for a cleaner way."

"Got the dirty version done?"


"I'll be here for a few more minutes. Shoot it to my computer, and I'll take a look."

"Thanks, Boss."

"No problem."

A few more steps gets them to the conferencing area in the center. One Minion is standing in front of two huge plasma touch screens, moving images around with her hands.

"You really upgraded, didn't you?"

"Once Leon got the report showing that Navy Yard Cyber request times had dropped from an average of four days to five hours, he decided that some more money could flow my way." Gibbs sees Tim eyeing the work on the plasma. "How's it going, Dume?"

Absent nodding responds to that request, but Tim seems to think that covers his question.

Gibbs looks around Tim's office as they get in there. It was awfully bare the last time he was down here, but it's filling up. There are books on the bookshelves. (All mysteries, most of them from different writers, but one guy's got a quarter shelf all to himself. Apparently Tim McGee is a fan of some guy named Thom Gemcity. Gibbs doesn't know if any of the Minions have figured out why Tim's got the whole collection up on his bookshelf.) Pictures of the family on the walls and on his desk. There are a few things Gibbs has never seen before, Tim's diplomas from MIT and John Hopkins, for example, and there's a shooting target with a smiley face shot into it on one of the walls, and across the target's chest is a sticker with the words: Achievement Unlocked in Abby's handwriting.

"What's that?"

Tim looks up from his contact list.

"Oh. We're Federal Agents, supposedly all of us passed FLETC. I added an extra reg to working down here. Everyone has to maintain their gun proficiencies and physical fitness certifications. Not like my guys get out into the field very often, but when they do, I want them able to handle themselves. This one's mine. Any of the rest of them do that, they'll get a treat."

"What sort of treat?"

"One of Abby's Achievement Unlocked stickers to go on the target. Already have a few of them in my desk, waiting for someone to bring me a target. Gonna put them up on the wall, sort of a hall of fame type thing. Haven't decided on the rest of it yet. Probably depend on who does it. I'm thinking I can wiggle some extra vacation time for them, but if I can't, I might end up using petty cash to buy some gift certificates for fun things." Tim looks away from his computer. "Okay, I've got Borin's number. Give me your phone."

And Gibbs does, and a minute later Tim hands it back, grinning. "All programed in. All you've got to do is tap the screen. So… When you going to call her?"

Gibbs rolls his eyes, waves at Tim, and heads off.


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