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?"
"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.
"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."
"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.
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?