Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Big Brother

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

Chapter 359: Big Brother

The McGees
"McGee," Tim's not really paying attention as he answers his phone. He's staring at his computer, scanning the code in front of him, hoping to get everything done in time so he can snag lunch with Jimmy and Abby.

"Tim?" That's not a Minion. His attention shifts away from the screen to the voice in his ear.

"Hey Sarah, what's up?"

"Glen asked me to marry him!"

He feels the smile spread across his face. "Congratulations. Date picked?"

"It's been two days."

"No, then. Sounds like you had an extra-special Valentine's?"

"Yep!" She sounds really excited. His email beeps, and he brings it up on his computer, seeing a shot of her left hand and the diamond solitaire sitting on her ring finger. Kind of plain by his tastes, but it's very simple and elegant, so he can see Sarah loving it.

"Looks like Glenn did good."

"Oh yeah."

He knows that tone of voice. The ultra-satisfied timbre of someone who's gotten exactly what she wanted. "You sound happy, are you?"

"Yeah, I am."

"Good." He nods, pleased. Then a thought hits. He is a big brother. A big brother who is soon to also be a brother-in-law, and he's feeling like he may have some duty toward his sister and her soon-to-be husband, so he says, "Come to Sunday breakfast with us?"

Not like Sarah just met him, she feels the change in how he's thinking about this, so she sounds a little wary when she says, "Why?"

Tim grins, but she can't see it. "Show of clan strength. I'm not doing my job as a big brother if I don't scare the snot out of him at least once."

"Really?" He can feel the eye roll aimed in his direction.

"Yep. It's in the big brother handbook. I'm required by law to take him out and make sure he knows that I and all of my friends will beat him within an inch of his life if he hurts you."

He hears an exasperated sigh. "Isn't that Dad's job?"

Tim snorts. "Like he'd do it."

He can feel her roll her eyes, again. "Fine." Sigh, palpable I'm humoring your vibes radiate off of Sarah. "When's Sunday breakfast?"

"Same as with the christening. Eight."

"You and all your friends?"

"Just me and the guys."

"How progressive of you," she says dryly.

He shakes his head. "No… You don't want us bringing the girls in! We want to scare him into behaving well. We bring in Abby and Ziva, and he'll wet his pants and run for the hills. He'll change his name, and you'll never see him again. We're just going to make sure he knows the rules."

"You're going to have way too much fun with this, aren't you?"

He's grinning. "That's entirely likely. So, you'll come?"

"Sure. Penny'll be there, right? I've called three times, but haven't been able to get a hold of her."

"Uh…" He doesn't actually know if she'll be there. "They're… somewhere. I'll ask Jimmy how long he's got Autopsy on his own."

"What do you mean somewhere?"

"Errr…" The flaw in Ducky's brilliant whirlwind romance wedding was suddenly staring him in the face, well, talking in his ear.


"They um…" he says the next bit very fast, "kind of got married on Sunday, and are on their honeymoon."


"It was a surprise."

"How do you have a surprise wedding? It's a wedding, the one thing you can't do as a surprise. You've got forms to fill out and paperwork and…"

"I don't think they bothered with that. It was Molly's birthday party. She was down for her nap. Party was breaking up. He kissed her, said some really romantic things, whipped out the rings, asked to be her husband, asked her to be his wife, gave us just enough time to hug everyone and drink a toast, and then they were off on their honeymoon. Fifteen minutes, tops."

"If they didn't bother with the paperwork, it's not a wedding."

Tim shrugs. You ask him, they're married. The paperwork strikes him as extraneous. But that's a moot point right now. "I just… don't know when they'll be back. Don't know where they went. Jimmy thinks it's somewhere warm, but… For all we know they could be touring the fjords. But I can find out when they'll be back. Jimmy'll know."

"Fine. Let me know."

"Okay. So… Sunday? Putting the fear of big brother into Glenn?"

She sighs. "Sure."


He feels her roll her eyes one last time, and then she says, "Bye, " and hangs up.

He did get lunch with Jimmy and Abby (though it's takeout. They're in Autopsy, which isn't Tim's favorite place to eat, but Jimmy's on solo, so he has to be around if anyone needs him.)

"This is really clean?" Tim asks. They're sitting around one of the stainless steel autopsy tables, food still in its containers, but Tim's still a bit squeamish.

"Hosed off, washed down with alcohol, hosed off again, and tested three times a week for bacteria content, but if you'd like I can grab one of the sterile drapes we use for the bodies," Jimmy says as he opens his chicken curry.

Tim sighs, opening his carton of beef and green beans, making sure his chopsticks don't touch the table. Abby gently pokes him but he feels he's within his rights to have irrational hang-ups about eating on the autopsy tables.

Jimmy shakes his head. "Your desk is a bubbling cauldron of raging bacterial sex compared to this table."

"I know." Tim holds up his hands. "I don't want to think about it."

Jimmy smirks. Then takes a bite of his curry. "So, anything interesting today?"

"Oh." Tim looks to Abby, who's digging into her organic tofu-veggie stir fry. "You were right. I got the call today. Glenn proposed on Valentine's. They're coming for Sunday breakfast, so we're on put the fear of Big Brother into Glenn duty."

Abby's grinning at that. "Ohhh… That'll be fun."

Jimmy looks at her with wide eyes, and Tim shakes his head. "No. Me, Jimmy, Gibbs, Tony if he shows. If I let you put the fear of Abby into him, he'll run screaming for the hills." She's somewhere between pouting and pleased at that. She wants in on the fun, but enjoys having her superiority at this recognized.

"Breena told me Amy's bummed. No ring for her," Jimmy says.

"She and Collin have only been together for what… a year?" Abby asks. She and Breena (and over the course of a few Sundays, Amy, too) have talked about this.

Jimmy nods. "Something like that. Apparently he moved in last week, but Ed doesn't know, yet."

Tim cringes. "Oh, that's going to be a mess."

"Yeah, Breena's thinking she was hoping to present it as, 'We're getting married! Oh, and Colin's all moved in.'"

"He gonna flip out about them living together?" Tim asks.

"Well, he almost bit my head off for having sex with his daughter after we got married, so I can't imagine he'll be cool with Colin doing it before."

Tim shakes his head. "You know, I'm going to enjoy not being in the middle of that."

Jimmy and Abby both nod in agreement.

Abby takes a sip of her water, eating another bite of her lunch. Jimmy watches her. She's been eating really healthy lately. She even skipped birthday cake at Molly's party. (Hell, even he had a bite of that cake, because like her mama, Breena can really bake when she puts her mind to it.)

"Okay, what's with the ultra-healthy food. Are you trying to lose weight?"

"What?" She looks up at him, really startled and unhappy. "Do you think I need to lose weight?"

(Tim is very glad to not be in the middle of this, either. He pulls a few inches further back from the table and gets ready to duck if need be.)

"No! You look great. That's why I'm worried you might be trying to. You're drinking water, haven't seen a Pepsi, let alone a Caf-Pow in weeks, or any other sugar for that matter, and you've got, what, whole grain rice in your vegetarian stir-fry? What's going on?"

She looks at Tim, eyes slightly narrowed.

"I didn't say anything. We eat together all the time; he was bound to notice."

She sighs. "Since… the miscarriage… I've been trying to eat better. Don't want it to happen again." Her eyes narrow at Tim again. "He thinks it's silly."

"It's not silly, but… I don't think it'll do much, that's all. It can't hurt, but…" He shrugs. "It feels like a placebo to me, so if it tricks your body into doing what you want it to do, that's great, but I don't think it's science."

He looks at Jimmy who's got the I shouldn't have opened this can of worms look on his face. "You're the doctor, how much does it matter if the tofu's organic or not?"

"Uh…" He's frantically thinking of a way to get out of this. "Do I look like your OB? 'Cause that's who you need to talk to."

They both give him their That's a bullshit answer look.

"Fine. I don't know. I don't think it matters much, but if this job teaches you anything it's the everyone is different and just because something works, or doesn't, for 99% of the population doesn't mean it'll work, or not, for you. And the placebo thing is real, and it works. They've got cases of people who didn't get their chemo drugs, they were given sterile solution by accident, and still got better. No one's suggesting that's a good plan for Joe Average, but if you can swing it… And like Tim says, it can't hurt."

"But you don't think it really helps, do you?" Abby asks.

"I'm not an OB. I'm not a nutritionist. I know I've got a very delicately balanced system and all organic or not didn't make any difference I could tell. Upping veggies, that made me feel better. Saying goodbye to most carbs, same result. More good fats, more meat, and more eggs to replace those carbs, my body seemed to like that a lot. But one of the steps I tried, back when I was first diagnosed, was to do natural sugars instead of processed one, and I never saw any difference by subbing out white sugar for honey or maple syrup. Getting rid of high fructose corn syrup didn't help. So, sure eat the veggies, get lots of them. And protein is your friend, enjoy it," he points to his own curry, "real meat, nuts, and there's cream in the sauce, higher fat content means I won't get hungry again as soon as I do when I do all veg. I'd recommend that for anyone trying to eat better. No one ever ended up in worse health because they stopped sucking down piles of caffeinated sugar, so saying goodbye to the Caf-Pows and sleeping more isn't a bad plan. But I've got no idea if it'll affect your fertility at all."

Then he looks at Tim and back to Abby. "Neither of you drink much, but cold turkey, for both of you, is something that's got actual science behind it, proving that it helps… Sort of. For guys it helps with sperm count."

"Likely not a problem," Abby says.

Tim shrugs, unless they've been insanely lucky, she's right.

"For women not drinking while you're trying to get pregnant and the first few months helps avoid miscarriage, but… the information on that's kind of sketchy. In this country at least, the kind of woman who admits to drinking while pregnant isn't the kind of woman who's just having a glass of wine with dinner once a week. They know binge drinking causes problems. They know alcoholism causes problems. They know not drinking at all avoids them. They know that women who have fewer than two drinks a day are fine, but that's an average, and your mileage may vary, and you can't really prove something is safe, so the rule of thumb is no alcohol at all."

"So what you're saying is that best anyone knows we're already drinking less than the amount that would make a difference?" Tim asks.

"Probably. Not drinking won't hurt. None of this will hurt. But since you aren't binge drinking, it may not help, either. Just, I wouldn't stress out about it. Oh, speaking of things you can do that there's some science behind, stressing out about it does make fertility rates drop."

"You wouldn't stress out about it because you're not in spitting distance of the end of your fertility," Abby says to Jimmy. "Forty-two is next month. I'm getting to the end of my store of eggs and I don't want to waste any of them, so anything that may help just got added to the to-do list."

Jimmy nods. "Want me to do some research? Or give you my Physician's log in for PubMed? That'll get you full access to any of the articles you want."

Tim thinks that's a good way to diffuse the situation. And Abby nods. "Yes. Thanks."

Tim's been back at his desk for a few minutes when Jimmy texts him.

Come back down?


He tells Soth he'll be in Autopsy, and if anyone needs him to head over and grab him, and then goes.


"Here." He backs out of the storage closet. "Just getting more forms. When's that paperwork software going live?"

Tim crosses his fingers. "Week from tomorrow beta testing starts. You know you'll have to fill your stuff out by hand and do it with the computer while testing, right?"

"Yeah, if it doesn't work, yada yada yada. I got it the first time."

"Good. What's up?"

"How's she doing, really?"

Tim sighs. "Okay. Really. You know how much she loves not being in control, and she can't control this, but she can control what she eats, so the food's gotten really healthy. And you know we do morning yoga, or at least as much as we can."

Jimmy nods; he's familiar with how small people put a crimp in any sort of morning plans you might have.

"She's added some fertility poses and is centering the meditation that way. And like with the food, it doesn't hurt, but I don't think it actually helps, either. So, she's kind of frustrated with me because I'm not all gung ho on this."

"Frustrated?" Tim can tell Jimmy's asking if he's 'editing' the situation.

Tim shakes his head, frustrated isn't code for angry. "Yeah. Not angry. I'm not being a jerk about it. But she'd like me to be a better cheerleader on it, and I'm trying. I'm buying the organic veggies and making the food she likes when I'm on dinner duty, but my enthusiasm levels are leaving something to be desired."

"You're charting, right?"

"Of course, but… no egg to even shoot for, yet. Hoping we'd have gotten another chance by now, but…"

"But she's nursing and almost forty-two and every month isn't realistic right now."

"Right. From what we can tell, if there's an egg around we've gotten pregnant. Just... And that's only happened once so…"

"You okay, Tim?"

Tim shrugs. "Yeah. I'd love more kids but, right now at least, I could be happy with just Kelly."

Jimmy doesn't ask out loud, but Tim can see the look, the way he's watching to see if that's real or not.

Tim shrugs again, it's real enough. "I don't need it the way she does." Jimmy nods, that's definitely real. "So we're both trying to stay cool, because we both do know that massive, stressed-out, hissy fit isn't going to help. I'm working on being supportive. I mean, I'm eating the veggies, too, and doing the yoga, and I can not drink. Not like that's a problem, at all. But there's really only so much I can do for this and none of it seems really useful, you know?"

"See your OB?"

"If we get to six months post-nursing without her getting pregnant, that's the plan."

"Stop nursing sooner?"

"Maybe. We talked about it when Kelly was new, planned to nurse for a year, but if she wants to cut out earlier and buy more time, I'll support that."

"It sounds-"

"Really reasonable?"


"It is. Apparently 'reasonable' is cold comfort when you're jonesing for another baby."

Jimmy nods, he knows all about that. "Yeah."

Tim's phone beeps and he looks at it. "Gotta run."

"Everything okay?"

"Yeah. You know how the job system works?"


"I'm the available tech with the highest specialty rating for the case that just came in. I gotta move."

"Go move!"

Glenn Holland actually is a good guy. He's warm, funny, smart, and Tim understands why his sister loves him. As potential husbands go, he approves.

This does not, however, get him a pass from being dragged to the side by the various males of clan Gibbs as Sunday breakfast comes to a close.

Glenn half-smiles at him as he notices he's being pulled further and further back from the rest of the crowd, who are getting in cars and heading toward church. He holds his hands up, "Look, your Dad already did the hurt my little girl and I'll kill you in ways that hurt so bad just imagining them will make you break out in a cold sweat."

Tim nods at that. Bit surprised that the Admiral would make the effort, but he was always good at scaring the shit out of people by threatening them.

"This isn't the hurt my sister and die speech. Unlike my Dad, I actually know something about being a good husband." He points to Jimmy, Ducky, and Gibbs who are all surrounding Glenn. "They do, too. Any husband who's been around for more than a year will do something that hurts his wife sooner or later. Even if you're trying, it'll happen. That's just being alive and being a human being in close proximity to another human being every day for the rest of your life."

He can feel Jimmy thinking toothpaste even though he doesn't say it.

"This isn't even the marry her and you will stay married for the rest of your life, speech. We all know that can be a recipe for misery, and I don't want that for her, or you for that matter."

"So what is this?" Glenn looks legitimately curious. This is very much not the conversation he had with Admiral McGee.

"The rules. They're simple, and there aren't a lot of them. One: as long as you are a firefighter, you will have life insurance. You will have about five times more life insurance than you think you need. You stop being a firefighter, you can go back to the basic just get the job done level, but as long as you're out there risking your life running into burning buildings, you are going to make sure that she and your kids are covered.

"Two: If it doesn't work out, and you guys decide to split, you will pay child support and you will be a dad. I want it in your mind that there are men who will literally hunt you to the end of the earth and will fuck you over so badly on so many different levels you'll wish your parents had never met if you try to skip out on your kids."

Glenn nods with that, seems to agree, but he's looking a little disturbed at the language. He's never seen Tim be anything other than mild-mannered computer guy, the cursing is unsettling.

Tim takes that nod as his due, and also as a sign of Glenn being a basically decent guy. Then he doubles down. "If you think my Dad was scary, I want you to remember something, I learned everything he ever had to offer and then I spent the next fifteen years of my life putting away killers. I've got a library of twisted shit so vast and so varied that it'd make him blanch if he ever had to come face to face with it."

Glenn starts to look very disturbed. Tim finds that deeply satisfying.

"Three: If you ever find yourself contemplating something stupid, something where the words, 'I never meant to hurt you' translate into 'I never meant for you to find out,' don't do it." Glenn quickly nods along to that. "Honestly, you ever get in trouble, any kind, where you really are thinking, 'I never meant for you to find out,' come to us, we're amazingly resourceful at solving problems and helping each other cope with wanting things that are bad for you."

Jimmy's nodding along with that. "Anytime. Really. We're good at this, and our wedding present to you is that if you need it, help is always on offer."

Tim hadn't expect this to go that far, but he figures Jimmy's doing well, so he rolls with it.

"Look, you hurt her accidentally, that's just being alive. You hurt her intentionally. You do something where you know that if she finds out about it, it will make her cry, then I will make you cry. Make her cry badly enough, and next thing you know every FBI agent on Earth will be in your home pulling more kiddie porn than you ever knew could exist off of your hard drive. And then you'll get transferred to whatever holding cell has the guys who were the victims of pedophiles in it." Tim smiles blandly. "That's assuming they," he looks at Jimmy, Ducky, and Gibbs, "don't get you first." Glenn's eyes are very wide right now. He's thinking having the Admiral beat the shit out of him is vastly preferable to what McGee the younger will do.

Tim clasps a hand over Glenn's shoulder. "There is exactly one acceptable reason for my sister to be crying on me about something you did intentionally, and that's because you got hurt or died saving someone else. We good?"

Glenn nods slowly. "We're good."


Tim watches Glenn head back Sarah's car, he sees the somewhat stunned look on his face and enjoys it. Glenn says something to Sarah, but he can't lip read well enough to know what.

But Gibbs laughs and says, "He just told your sister, 'Your family is fucking terrifying.'" Gibbs put his arm around Tim's shoulder and nods slowly. "Good job."

Tim grins at him. "Thanks, I was well-trained."

He gets out of church and turns his phone back on. (He may be a heathen atheist, but he's a heathen atheist with manners; he turns his phone off in church. The Minions know that's a black out time for him, and where he is so if it's urgent enough they can go and get him.) There's a very irate text from his sister on there that says, KIDDIE PORN?

He laughs.

To any sane man, that's the scariest threat in my arsenal.

TIM! What the fuck?

Love you, too, Sis. And it looks like he does, too, so this'll never be any sort of issue.

You don't do that to people, don't say that… Just… Tim!

Honestly, is he bothered? Did he think I was out of line?

There's a pause. Abby's getting Kelly buckled into her car seat. "Trouble?"

"I don't think so. She's less than perfectly happy with my Fear of Big Brother technique."

Abby nods.

No. He's taking notes for when his little sister gets engaged.

Good man!

Ugh. Men!


It's after Sunday dinner, after Bootcamp, and just like Glenn didn't have any trouble figuring out he was being weeded out of the herd for a private conversation, Tim's not having any issues with figuring it out, either.
Jimmy and Gibbs look... concerned.

"What?" he finally asks.

Jimmy looks to Gibbs. Gibbs looks back. They both look at Tim. Tim gets the sense they didn't plan this out, just came to the conclusion, at the same time, that it had to happen.

"Wedding coming up," Gibbs says.

"And your mom and dad'll probably be there, right?"

Tim had indeed already come to that conclusion, talked with Abby about it a bit. "Yeah. Probably."

"You going to go?" Jimmy asks.

Tim shrugs. "I don't know. I want to see her get married. I want to be there for her, and support her, and celebrate with her, but I could easily go the rest of my life without ever seeing either of them again." He shrugs again. "How about this, I'll burn that bridge when I come to it? When she gets a date and everything set, when we know for a fact The Admiral is actually attending, because if she picks a time when he's on duty, he won't. He didn't get out of a shift for her birth, I can't imagine he'll take time off for her wedding. When we know that… We'll figure it out from there."

Gibbs nods at that, and Jimmy seems to think that's an okay place to be.


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