Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Meet The Family

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

Chapter 372: Meet The Family

Gibbs had last seen Borin on Tuesday, when they'd had that long talk and he invited her to Shabbos.

Now it's Friday, and he's hit the point (usually noonish) where he and Ziva need to decide who's house it's going to be at. So…

Phone in hand, he gets to calling.

"Hey, Ziver."

"Gibbs, our place this week. Pot roast is roasting away in the slow cooker." He loves the fact that she's good with direct and to the point. Though it also occurs to him that he might have gotten her in the middle of something. He's got the sense she's a bit distracted right now.

"Good. Feel like setting an extra plate?"

That gets what sounds like Ziva's undivided attention. "Yes! Borin is coming?"

"That's the plan. Next call is making sure she can come."

"Gibbs!" He can feel her smiling from here. "What changed? Why now?"

He flashes his best nope, not telling look at the phone, where it's completely useless.


He rolls his eyes. "It's called a private life for a reason."

"Fine. But this is a good thing! Can't wait to see her again. Is she Abbi?"

He stares at the phone for a second wondering if she's asking if he's developed some sort of pet name for her, or if she thinks he calls his girlfriend by her last name. "I call her Abbi."

"Hmp. We used to call her Borin, but…"

"You and Tony still call Tim, McGee and Jimmy, Palmer, I don't think she'll be annoyed if you keep calling her Borin."

"Yes, but what about when her name is Gibbs? We will have gone from two Abbys to two Gibbses."

A sigh and massive eye roll. "Rein it in while she's there, okay? Tell Tony I don't want to hear anything about the fourth ex-Mrs. Gibbs, and if any of you call her Mom, you're all dead."

He can feel that smile, too. "Yes, Dad."

"What do you want me to bring?"

"Salad is good. Some sort of fresh, green vegetable. It's fleischig, so nothing with milk. Those brownies you got from Abby… This is going to be insane… From Abby McGee's baker were good."

"Noted. See you by sundown."

"Oh yes!"

Gibbs's picking Abbi up at her place, and then they're heading to Tony and Ziva's.

He's not nervous. Excited maybe, but not nervous.

It hits him, as he's driving, that he's never voluntarily shared a girlfriend with his family. Probably because last time he had one, they weren't precisely a family, yet. Though they were getting a lot closer, and that made it easier to let them see.

They met Susan, once, because they pretty much couldn't not meet her. It was Christmas time. He invites everyone he's on speaking terms with to his Christmas party, so it's not like he couldn't invite her.

But it did feel really odd to have her there, and them there, and have them see him be intimate with a woman. Not like he was ever smooching Hollis in the Bullpen. (At least, not when his team was still at work.) Not bad, but very odd.

This doesn't feel odd.

He heads to her door, and lets himself in. When she expects him, she leaves the door unlocked, and he doesn't have to knock. (Though he doesn't yet have a key, and has not pressed in that direction. He figures that when you date someone who can pick the locks to your home, that offering a key is doubly important, and that you need to wait until it's freely and comfortably given. Otherwise you're just barging on in.)


"Hi," he hears from upstairs, so he heads on up. She's standing in front of her closet, in her underwear, staring at her clothing.

For a moment, he settles in to enjoy the view.

"What's the dress code for this?" she asks, turning around, and as she faces him, he steps toward her for a hello kiss.

He's in his standard work clothes: slacks, t-shirt, golf-shirt, jacket. She sees that and nods. "Dress code is casual but not grubby. Dinner starts before sunset, so in the winter we're usually coming straight from work, so work clothes. Summertime things can get more casual. Girls wear sundresses. Tim'll wear a kilt."

She blinks slowly, looking confused. "McGee has a kilt?"

"He's got three of them now."

She looks irked and shakes her head slowly.

Gibbs shrugs. "He likes it. Abbs likes it—"

"DiNozzo teases the hell out of him about it."

"Not so much anymore. If you ever want to come to church with us, that's suit and tie and Sunday-best dressed up."

"You wear a suit and tie to church?"

Gibbs nods.

"I'll have to see that."

"I'm free on Sunday if you are."

She nods at that and then returns to her closet, pulling out a blouse, tailored gray trousers, and a navy jacket.

"I've never been to a Sabbath dinner before," she says as he pulls away from her place.

"Until Ziva and Tony hosted the first one back in… Molly was brand new, so gotta be more than two years ago, none of the rest of us had been either."

"Do I need to do anything?"

"Not if you don't want to. Join in as much or as little as you like, being there's the important part."

Abbi nods. She stares out the window while he drives and then asks, "Shabbos on Friday, church on Sunday… Do you have a religion?"

He laughs at that. It's a fair question, and something they haven't talked about. "Raised Episcopalian. Dog tags say I'm Protestant." He shakes his head. "I don't care much one way or another. Shabbos is home and family for Ziva and Tony, so I'm there. Church and Sunday dinner is home and family for Abby and Breena, so I'm there. You?"

"According to my dog tags, I'm also Protestant. Haven't been to church in… forever. Wasn't a big deal for my family, and the livestock needs to be taken care of every day. They don't care if it's Sunday and town's fifteen miles away and you've got to drive half an hour to get there for a service that's going when they like to be eating."

Gibbs nods at that.

"You believe in God?" she asks.

"Yeah. I pray, too. Been known to light the occasional candle. But, most of the… stuff… that's not important. Just there to help set the mood." He glances over to her, your turn on his face.

She shrugs. "Don't think about it much. Not sure I like the idea of some great, all-powerful, all-knowing being that lets all this shit happen. The bad stuff's easier if it's just us, you know?"

Gibbs nods. He understands that. "Tim'd agree with you on that."

She smiles. "You call him Tim now, and DiNozzo, Tony, and Palmer, Jimmy. When'd that happen?"

"Slowly, a little bit at a time."

They're in the elevator heading up toward Tony and Ziva's place. "No emergency stop," Abbi says, looking at the buttons.

Gibbs shakes his head.

"You ever… put that to good use? You know, at work?"

He looks at her and licks his lips, a very amused expression on his face. "Didn't think I was that fast."

She laughs at that, squeezing his hand. "Didn't answer me."

He shakes his head.

"Ever think about it?"

He kisses her ear and whispers quietly, "Oh yeah. First time you worked with us, I was thinkin' about it."

She gives him a quick kiss as the doors slide open. "Good." When she pulls back and they step out, she says, "So, how affectionate are we in front of them?"

Gibbs shrugs. "Whatever you're comfortable with. Duck and Penny don't touch a lot. The kids… no one makes out, but kisses and pets and hugs are common. More of us then there are chairs sometimes, so the girls'll sit in their guys' laps. Might get some stares if we're huggy, but I don't mind."

"Big, bad, Leroy Jethro Gibbs is huggy?" Borin is vastly amused by this idea.

"At home, I get to be whoever I want." He stops and pulls her close for a second, kissing her quickly. "And if I want to be huggy with the gorgeous redhead by my side, I can be huggy."

Abbi smiles. "Good. That's how home should be."

You work with people a half-dozen times, you spend some very intense hours with them on cases that are matters of life or death, and you develop a certain sense of them.

In some ways it's very deep and intimate.

In other ways it barely scratches the surface.

And when it came down to it, Borin, who had worked with and gone out for drinks with the MCRT a few times, really didn't have any sense for them as a family. Sort of. She has a sense of their positions in the family. She knows Gibbs is Dad, she knows Abby's the baby, the favorite who's doted on. DiNozzo's the oldest son; the brat who's allowed to get away with more than the others, but gets smacked on occasion for it to keep him in line. McGee's the invisible middle child. David's her dad's right hand, the child most like himself and the one he'd turn to if he needed something.

But, hearing Gibbs talk about them, she's fairly sure that those broad sketches are, at best, caricatures and likely, these days, quite a bit off.

If what Gibbs has told her is true, she's also never seen them as a family. She's seen a very close team of good friends. But that's not who they are now.

Even knowing that the people she is going to meet again have changed, and that this is going to be a much more intimate gathering, she isn't expecting Tony and Ziva's home to be so… homey. But it is.

It's warm and welcoming and smells amazing.

They're the first ones there, and even though she and David, who is now DiNozzo, and should probably just be Ziva, get along well, and have gone out for drinks and dinner a few times on their own, Abbi isn't expecting the warm hug when she walks in, or the way Gibbs gets hugged, too. (He is apparently not kidding about being allowed to be huggy at home. Ziva gets a warm squeeze and a kiss on the forehead.)

The house smells great, savory, spicy, beefy smells mingling with fresh baked bread. Borin knows Da—Ziva can cook. They've talked about that. But it's not an obvious concept in her mind. Ziva cooks. Because Ziva eats. And Ziva has a home, that she cooks in, that's very warm and comfortable looking, astoundingly tidy (magazine cover tidy, which staggers Abbi because she can't imagine any place that DiNozzo… Tony… lives being this organized) decorated in warm creams, bright yellows, and cooler rust tones.

There's a table set for ten plus a high chair, flowers, gracefully curved yellow calla lilies, flanking the source of one of the amazing smells in the house, two loaves of bread.

"You make the bread?"

Ziva smiles. "I do. If we're at his house," she indicates Gibbs, "he does, too."

Borin looks at Gibbs, surprise on her face. He shrugs. "Ziver's better at it."

"Because I've done it for years. And I did not have a two-year-old helper the last time I did it."

"Molly only helped once."

"How do you have time for that?"

Ziva smiles. "Once a month I make a large batch of the dough. It rises twice, and on the second rise I punch it down, braid it, put it on baking sheets, and freeze it. Then on Friday morning, I take it out of the freezer, and by the time we're back from work, it's thawed, risen, and ready to bake."

That's so easy that Abbi's thinking she's going to be baking more bread.

DiNozzo steps out of what Abbi's assuming is their bedroom a moment later, relaxed, white button down, blue jeans, hair damp, feet bare. "Borin! Ziva told me you were coming. We've been badgering him to bring you for months now." She gets a hug, and Gibbs gets a slap on the back.

Gibbs's eyes narrow slightly at that as Abbi turns to him, "Months?"

"They're easily excited," he says dryly.

Tony laughs.

They hear the door open, and a second later Borin has her arms full of Abby, blonde Abby, blonde Abby wearing normal, professional clothing, even her neck tattoo is missing, (She's not entirely sure what happened with that, but wow, it's a change!) hugging her. "You're here! Oh, this is so awesome! You should be here all the time! We've been waiting for you!" (Fortunately, Abby talking at a million miles an hour and knocking her over with boundless enthusiasm is exactly what she expects, so the shock of the different outside is rapidly soothed by the proof of the same inside.)

Gibbs licks his lips and quietly says to Borin, "Very easily excited."

Borin chuckles at that as Abby pulls back, giving Gibbs a warm hug, saying something quietly to him as she held him close. He smiles fondly at her.

Abbi notices McGee a few steps back. Who is also looking a lot different. Gibbs has talked about the whole Bootcamp thing, and she gets the idea that that kind of workout builds muscle and tone, but wow! And when the hell did he start wearing rolled up sleeves and a wrist cuff, let alone… yeah, that really is black nail polish… Okay, he and Abby switched. He went Goth, and she's clean cut, and apparently today is opposites day. There's a little, baby girl in his arms, and he's smiling at them. "Hi," she says.

He gives her a one-armed hug. "Hi."

"So this is Kelly?" She says, staring at the baby in his arms. She's small, but very alert, big... bluish-green eyes looking at everything, taking her in. She doesn't have much in the way of hair, very short blonde-brown wisps all over her head, but she's got a little head band made out of pink ribbons with tiny skulls on it, and a black onesie, also with a pink skull on it, so yeah, this is very much Tim and Abby's child.

He smiles at his daughter. "This is Kelly."

"She's beautiful."

"Thanks." Gibbs is hovering closer, so he also gets a one-armed hug from Tim along with. "She's got a new trick. Don't know if she'll do it now, but she kept doing it on the car ride over." He hands Kelly over to Gibbs. "Okay, baby, what do you have to say to Pop?"

Kelly looks at her grandfather and snuggles into him, tucking her head under his chin.

"Yep, she not—"


"Good girl!" Tim coos at her.

Gibbs holds her out so he can see her face and kisses her. "So you're talking now? You know I'm gonna want to hear what you've got to say."


Tim smiles at the look on Gibbs face; he's just beaming at this. "She started day before yesterday. Don't get too excited, that's what she's calling me, and Abby, and Heather, and the mailman—"

"Sounds like she got that one right." Jimmy cuts in with, kissing Kelly's cheek and giving Gibbs a quick hug. Tim quickly whacks him on the back of his shoulder before giving him (and Anna, who Jimmy's carrying) a hug as well.

"You've met Jimmy, right?" Tim asks Abbi.

"Yes, briefly." She offers her hand and he shakes it.

"Hi. This is Anna," Yet another baby in the family. This one is even smaller, with a mop of wild, curly brown hair, looking at Pop... Wait, no, he's Uncle Jethro to Jimmy's kids, with big blue eyes. "her mom and older sister are around here somewhere. Glad to see he's finally brought you. The girls have been ragging on him for months."

"The girls?" Gibbs asks, raising an eyebrow, cut the bull on his face.

Jimmy looks pretty satisfied as he says, "I have given you exactly no crap at all about when you were going to bring Abbi home."

Gibbs thinks about that and comes to the conclusion that might be right. "That's because Tim's been doing it for you."

Jimmy nods. "Division of labor. He nags you on stuff like that. I make sure you don't rip that knee out again."

Tim laughs.

Tony slips over. "Oh, good the Wonder Twins are here." He gives both of the girls kisses. "We fighting or house-building for Bootcamp this week? I've got a new move I want to try out."

Abbi's got Wonder Twins? on her face as she looks from Tim to Jimmy. Okay, they look, similar...ish, maybe. Nope, she's not seeing it.

Jimmy catches it before Tim does. "We have the same birthday. Since he found that out, he's been calling us the Wonder Twins."

Tony shrugs. "Can't really call him Probie anymore; he outranks me, and these days you've got your own Autopsy Gremlin, so I needed something new."

Those seem like decent points to Borin. "What's the move?"

"It's really cool. But I could explain for a week and won't get it right. Happy to show it to you if we're fighting this weekend?" He looks to Gibbs. "Well, Jefé?"

"Thunder storms all day tomorrow and Sunday, I'm good with fighting."

"Excellent. You come, too, Borin, okay?"

She looks at Gibbs, not sure if this is something he wants to share. He nods.

"Sure. I'm on call, but if I don't get pulled away, I'll come."

"Uncle Jetro!" A small blur of curly brown hair came tearing in and tried to tackle Gibbs.

He picks her up and kisses her, one girl on each arm. "Hello Molly. I'd like you to meet someone, this is Abbi."

Molly looks over at Abbi and smiles at her for a second before starting to bounce on Gibbs' arm. "Horsey!"

"Let Uncle Jethro breathe for a moment." Breena scoots in to give Gibbs a hug and a kiss. "Hey, Jethro."

He kisses her back. "Hi."

Breena turns back toward Abbi and hugs her as Gibbs says, "This is Molly and Anna's mom, Breena Palmer."

"We're so happy to have you here. He hasn't been telling us nearly enough about you; you know him, he doesn't talk, but he's been glowing."

Were it not for the fact that he's got a baby on each arm, Breena would have gotten a very gentle headslap for that. Instead she gets the Gibbs look of death, which she turns to face, and absolutely grins at, letting Gibbs know that she purposely timed that comment for a moment when he could not properly retaliate.

"Your wife's getting sassy, Palmer."

Jimmy snorts. "What do you mean, getting?"

Breena laughs at that and kisses Gibbs' cheek again. "We get a shot to tease him once a blue moon, this is Christmas and Easter and all of our birthdays at once."

"I see, once again, we are the last ones here," Ducky's voice cascades over them.

"You have the longest trip," Tony replies. "Not that it's so far milewise, but they've got to get from Chevy Chase to here, and traffic's always insane."

"You brought her, Jethro! Wonderful. Abigail, may I present my wife, Penny Langston?" Ducky asks as he introduces Penny.

"She's also my grandmother," Tim adds, stepping over to hug both of them.

A second later Penny offers Abbi her hand. "Hello."

Abby with Anna and Kelly
"Hello, Penny, and please, call me Abbi."

Abby McGee bops over, taking Kelly, who is getting pretty squirmy, from Gibbs. Two little guys at once when one of them is determined to try and leap out of your arms is a bad plan. "That's going to be interesting. He already calls me Abbs, so how about if both of us are in the same room, I'm Abbs and you're Abbi?"

Abbi nods. "That'll work."

"Almost time!" Ziva calls out.

Gibbs looks to Molly. "No time for Horsey now, how about a piggyback ride to your chair?"

She nods at that, and he lifts her to his shoulders, she gets settled, little toddler hands and arms holding tight around his forehead, chin resting on the crown of his head.

Dinner starts, as always, with Ziva lighting the candles, the Kiddush over the glass of wine, ritual hand washing, the blessing of the children, and then the blessing of the challah.

And then it's dinner time. Which with this group is chaotic and noisy, usually with a few conversations going on at once, for the first few minutes, but after a few minutes they settle into the somewhat traditional what we all did this week, where generally one, maybe two of them talks, and the others listen.

So, they got up to date on Tim's newest hire. ("Wait, we have a jet?" Tony asks. "Yeah!" "Why the hell are we always hopping military transports?" "Because Craig has it reserved 300 days a year, and Leon's got it another 30. Craig's so used to it being his own personal jet that he didn't bother to reserve it ahead of time, so I snagged it out from under him. He's got it reserved now, and no one else is ever going to see the damn thing again.")

Abby's court date. ("Oh, no…" she ran her fingers over her neck, smearing the makeup, in response to Abbi asking if she'd gotten the tattoo removed. "Lawyer thought I'd look more professional with it covered." She rolls her eyes. "Two advanced degrees, I've run my own lab for sixteen years, three guys reporting to me, expert witness on more cases than they can count, and a book full of publications to my name, but apparently all that flies out the window when jurors see a black spider web." "At least he didn't make you bleach the pink out of your hair," Breena adds. "He tried. I explained where he could shove that idea.")

Tony told his tale of Bishop and Draga crunching some numbers, looking for a pattern in a cold case, completely absorbed in what they were doing. When Tony and Ziva got up to go home, that triggered Bishop's awareness of her coffee cup being empty, and she decided to get a new drink for both her and Draga. Unfortunately Draga's Red Bull was not empty, so when she grabbed both cups and quickly whipped around to go get refills, she managed to spray Red Bull all over Tony, which is why he was getting out of the shower when Gibbs and Abbi got there.

Jimmy told them about quizzing Dr. Allan on possible causes of death, which amused Ducky to no end, because he remembers doing that to Jimmy, and told them about it.

Then he told them about him and Gibbs taking more siding off the house, and how, with any luck, if the weather would be kind enough to comply, one more day without rain should get the whole house done. Penny took over from there, talking about how they're hoping to do the bottom three feet of the house in stone, gray limestone and granite, that'll look a lot like the back patio, and the top section will be done in something that's a lot lighter and lower maintenance, but will look like split logs.

"So, we're build Gibbs his log cabin?" Tony asks.

"Bit bigger than any cabin I ever dreamed of."

"To say the least. Sounds like it'll look really cool. We doing the roof in shingles or slate or wood?" Abby asks.

"Shingles that are not cedar, but look like cedar," Ducky replies.

"Thinking none of you guys are going to want the work involved in real wood," Gibbs adds. The kids nod, from everything they know real wood seems like a lot more work than whatever this stuff'll be.

"How about you, Abbi, what's new and interesting at Coast Guard?" Abby McGee asks.

Borin sighs. "Not much new or interesting. No case for me this week. So, I handled reports. I made sure the paperwork got done. I bickered with legal about what we can do about the guy from HR who was embezzling from us. Then I made sure we were following our document retention compliance procedures."

Tim shudders. "Give me a simple murder any day."

Abbi nods vehemently in agreement. "Yeah." She gently touches Gibbs' hand. "Starting to think he had the right idea. Piss the higher ups off enough so they don't promote you, but be so good at your job you get all the cool cases."

Gibbs smiles at that and kisses the back of her hand. (It's possible that Abby and Breena cooed at that, but they did it quietly enough not to get the Gibbs glare of death aimed at them.)

"So, he tells me you're in charge of Cybercrime now?" Borin asks.

Tim nods. "Whole department. That's why I get to grab the jet. Last time you worked with us…"

"It was still the same team."

"Lot of change since then. Abby…ss." He stumbles on Abby versus Abbs. "Okay, I'm not going to be able to switch like that. She's my Abby and always has been."

"You've called me Abbs before."

"Like, what? Twice?"

Abby nods.

"Anyway, she has three LabRats working for her. I've got my Minions. You've heard about Tony's new team and Jimmy's new Autopsy Gremlin."

"I prefer assistant and so does Dr. Allan."

"Okay, assistant," Tim says. He thinks for a second. "You've got an Autopsy Mogwai." Tony laughs so hard at that he practically chokes on his wine.

"It feels very different there, now," Ziva adds, whacking Tony's back as he gasps for breath.

"You aren't the same people," Breena replies.

"No, we are not. Speaking of becoming new people, has any of Ed's recent lesson sunk in?" Ziva asks Breena

Breena tilts her head toward her food and groans. Jimmy gives Abbi a brief re-cap on the great Ed drama, but holds off on the latest installment so Breena can tell it.

Breena sighs. "What Jimmy's left out is, just like you've all got a family business, we do, too. Our family runs eight funeral homes in the area, and my mom, dad, Amy, and I all work out of the same building. So, to say things are tense is an understatement. Dad's shut up, which I suppose is a sign of inching in the right direction, but if Amy walks into the room, he walks out."

The rest of the table winces, groans, and commiserates on that.

"He's driving Mom buggy. And Amy wants to scream. So, after two weeks of that, Collin comes in, wanting to have a 'man to man' talk." Another long sigh. "Obviously, I didn't get invited along to that chat, but the version I got went something like this: apparently Dad went off on him for just using Amy, and he went off on Dad for hurting her and then doubled down on a long rant on how Amy's more than just a body and if he actually loves her he'd put just as much value on her happiness as her virginity and… how a mutually beneficial relationship can't be 'using' someone. When Dad got back from that 'chat' he was bright pink and there was smoke pouring out of his ears.

"So, Sunday should be week three of no Collin and Amy at Sunday dinner." She looks to Gibbs and Tim and Abby. "Look, we're not going, either. So, if you want to… I mean, my mom would love to see you there, but…"

"We're going on strike in support of Amy?" Abby asks.

"Yeah. If you would?"

Tim nods. "Not a problem." He looks at Jimmy, "You already let Collin know he's invited to Bootcamp?"

Jimmy nods. "Making sure he knows all the future in-laws aren't jerks? Yeah, got it covered. He's more enthusiastic about MMA than carpentry, but whichever, he's signed up for." Then he squeezes Breena's hand. "Wanna tell them the good news?"

Breena smiles. "Did have one bright spot at work this week. Since I started working there, I've been saving ten percent of my salary, and using that to buy shares of the business. As of Thursday, I own fifty-one percent of the Brandon Street Slaters' Funeral Home."

That got many congratulations, wrapping up with Penny asking, "Does that change anything?"

"Not really. Suggested Amy work out of Uncle Wes' building for a bit. Told Dad he was going to be taking a vacation soon if he couldn't pull it together. But the day in, day out stuff is all the same. Our clients are having significantly worse days than we are, so that helps to keep things in perspective."

Dinner conversation waxes and wanes from there. More stories of the week interspersed with feeding babies, dessert flavored with stories of cases.

It was a good meal.

At the end of it, Borin joins the clean-up team. By mutual accord, once everyone knew their way around Tony and Ziva's kitchen, the rule became that whoever cooks doesn't have to clean up. So, Ziva and Tony get some relaxing time while at least four of the crew is on getting dishes in the dishwasher, pots and pans scrubbed and put back, and the table all cleared.

It's a quick job with that many people on it.

Ziva's not helping clean up, but she was enjoying the clean-up conversation. So, she's leaning against the door-jam between the kitchen and the dining room, chatting with everyone.

As that wraps up, Borin drifts over to the far wall. There are pictures there, lots of them.

"I've seen this before." She points to the Gibbs clan crest. Gibbs has his in the basement, on the wall, where he can see it easily when he's working. "But I don't know what this is."

Vacation Tony
Ziva smiles. "That's our Ketubah, marriage contract. You'll find one of these in most Jewish households."
Borin nods, watching Ziva snuggle Anna, who is trying to grab Ziva's hair.

"And these?" Borin points to the pictures.

Ziva smiles at them. "Ahhhh… At the top, we have a shot from Jimmy and Breena's wedding." It's the picture of Tony and Ziva, Tim and Abby, and Jimmy and Breena all goofing for the camera.

"That's from before you were a couple, right?"

"Yes. Not a lot of pictures of us from then or before then. Abbs has a few, I think." She points to the next shot down. "Breena took that one." It's one from the day they moved Tim and Abby in together. The day after they started dating. It's a candid shot, neither of them knew she took it. It's Tony working on putting together their kitchen table, looking across the room at Ziva, peace and joy in his eyes. "That's right after we started dating. This one," she points to a shot of Tony in his best man's tux, and her in her red steampunk bridesmaid's gown, "Is Tim and Abby's wedding."

"Costume wedding?"

"Steampunk wedding. Has Gibbs not shown you pictures?"

Borin shakes her head.

"Oh, no. No no no! You have to see pictures of that. Abbs!" Ziva calls out.

Abby McGee comes in a moment later. "Yeah?"

"He has not shown her pictures from your wedding, yet."

"Oh, you have to see the pictures! I've only got a few on my phone, but…" Abby hurries out, and a moment later she's back with her phone. "Okay. Do you know what steampunk is?"

Borin shakes her head.

"Really cool fantasy world. Steam and clockwork powered everything instead of internal combustion engines. Everything's all Victorian or Western. We knew we were going to have a Halloween wedding, and decided this was the look we'd go for. Here!" She hands Borin her phone, shot of Gibbs, in his morning suit, giving her away. "We thought he'd go like Old-West Sherriff look, but he kept it a surprise, and I step out all decked out in my dress, and there he is dressed to the nines."

Abbi stares at that, smiling. She flips through the shots, seeing mostly ones of Tim and Abby, but she finds another one of Gibbs and Abby dancing together. Everyone all dressed up and playing and having fun, and right this second, she would have really liked to have been there for that. She's smiling as she hands back Abby's phone. Then she looks back to the shots on the wall. There's Tony and Ziva dancing at their wedding, and the group shot of the whole family. The last shot is the two of them relaxing together on the beach. "Honeymoon shot?"

Ziva nods. "South Africa. It's a lot like California, but more interesting if you like safari."

By that point everything is cleaned and put away, so they wander out of the kitchen to join the larger group.

Abbi sees Gibbs on the sofa, he's got Molly on his right knee, bouncing her up and down while she shrieks with laughter. He's grinning at her, making funny faces.

Abbi goes to sit next to him, and quietly says, laughing, "You're such a goof."

"Is that a bad thing?"

She shakes her head, smiling at him. "No!"

"So, Ed and Jeanie are offering to take the girls for the weekend for an anniversary present. If you can scrounge up a babysitter for a night, the six of us could go out," Jimmy says to Abby and Ziva, as he strokes Breena's shoulder while she nurses Anna.

Abby immediately looked over to Gibbs, sending puppy eyes across the room. He has Molly on one knee, bouncing her up and down as she squeals with laughter and he talks to Borin. He's showing off, and that makes her grin.

But he's also into what he's doing and doesn't sense the puppy-dog eyes and look up. (Or he's dodging babysitting for a night.)

"We'll find someone, when are you thinking?"

"May 14th?" Jimmy half-says, half-asks. That's the day that works best for them, but it'd be great to get all six of them out, so if they need to adjust, they'll adjust.

"That sounds excellent, Jimmy," Ziva says.

"Yes, it does," Breena adds. "You know, it's finally Tim and Abby's turn to pick the club."

All three of the girls grin. Tony, who came over at the words, 'six of us could go out' sighs elaborately and rolls his eyes. "You're going to let him" he looks over to Tim, who's talking with Ducky and Penny by the piano, "pick the club we go to for your anniversary?"

"Technically, I'm going to let Breena pick, and she's decided that she wants to play Goth for a night, which means they're picking."

Ziva kisses Tony. "I have been wanting to see you in eyeliner and leather trousers for a while now."

"Oh God."

"Afraid of a little leather?" Jimmy asks, wicked grin on his face.


"Wonderful." Ziva smiles even wider and happier.

"You're really good at this,"Abbi says to Gibbs. He's got Kelly in his arms. They've talked about his girls, and she's seen pictures, she knows about the room that's pink and has the bed for them along with the toys, but she's never seen Pop in action, let alone really grasped the fact that there were tiny people who would crawl all over him calling him Pop or Uncle Jethro.

She certainly likes seeing this, but it does come as something of a surprise to see him playing on the floor with babies.

Like she said, there's this, warm, soft, friendly, playful goofball hiding deep inside Gibbs, and apparently the magic ingredient for getting it out is baby girls. She likes it, likes seeing him so happy, but, it just really wasn't anything she was expecting to be in there.

"You want to hold her?" Gibbs asks her. Kelly's probably about half asleep, she just finished her pre-bedtime nurse, and in a few minutes he's going to be heading into the bedroom to put her down. But she's pretty easy and would probably go along with Borin helping out.


And in a moment she had a tired, but restful baby in her arms. It's a nice sensation. Not the sort of thing that's making her want to rush out and have six of her own kids, but it's still pleasant.

He leads Borin to Tony and Ziva's room, furthest one from the hubbub. Anna's already sleeping on the bed, Molly will be in here soon.

Borin's standing in the center of the bedroom, watching him rooting through Kelly's bag, he comes up with a onesie, wipes, and clean diaper.

He pets the back of Kelly's head and quietly says, "Abbi's going to help with bedtime. That okay with you, love?"

Kelly appears to approve. At least, she's not crying, but she's awfully sleepy, so she just might not think complaining is worth the effort.

"Good. We've got to be quiet, Anna's already asleep. She's on Aunt Ziva's bed waiting for you and Molly to join the sleepover." While he's talking to Kelly, he gets the changing mat on the floor and gestures for Borin to put her down. He takes care of the diaper, and gets her into her sleeping onesie, and then hands her back to Borin. "Back in a sec," he kisses Kelly's forehead, "Gotta wash my hands."

And a few seconds later he is back, and he takes her from Borin, Kelly on his lap, snuggled in close on his chest, sitting on the edge of Tony and Ziva's bed, Borin next to him, leaning against his shoulder listening to him recite Good Night Moon from memory while gently petting Kelly's back.

He kisses Kelly one last time, and then lays her down next to Anna.

"Good night, Kelly."

She yawns around her pacifier. "Papa."

And if that isn't the most ridiculously cute thing Borin's ever seen, she doesn't know what is.

On the ride home Gibbs asks, sounding a bit uncertain, "Was that too much? Everyone and everything all at once. Can be a lot."

"Oh. No. That was fine." Abbi wonders why he asked that, and realizes she's been very quietly watching the road go by as they head toward his place. "Just thinking."


She shakes her head. "Sounds dumb, but… You're a dad. You're really a dad."

He glances at her quickly with a Well, yeah. Did you think I was kidding about that? sort of look.

"No. But… Didn't expect you to be that dad."

What did you expect? is on his face, and she reads it.

"More like at work. More team leader, less… playful."

He shrugs. "They don't need a leader anymore."

She shakes her head, watching the street slip by. "No. They don't. It's been a hell of two years, hasn't it?"

He smiles at that. "Yeah, it has."

Another few quiet miles. He probably shouldn't ask. They already talked about it once, but, especially if she's seeing him as an entirely different sort of dad…

"Making you think more about kids?"

She turns away from watching the street to him. "What? You mean, have I seen you in action now, and suddenly am I jonesing for a pile of my own?"

Yeah, he shouldn't have asked. He feels dumb as hell on that.

She catches that on his face and squeezes the hand that's on the gear shift, letting him know the question wasn't out of bounds. "No. Look, if anyone had ever asked me before tonight if the words 'cute' and 'Jethro Gibbs' could belong in the same sentence, I'd have said 'No.' And I'd have been wrong. You and the girls are painfully cute. If I had a biological clock to tick at me, it'd be bonging away like Big Ben chiming the hour. But, no. I'm not feeling that. I'm a good Aunt, and maybe… I'd be a good… step-grandma?" She winces a little at that, and he shakes his head, kissing her hand.

"Gotta earn some gray hair before you get Grandma. That's why even Tim calls her Penny."

"Uh huh." She says dryly, appreciating that he's trying to be sensitive to the fact that she's not even forty yet, and that's awfully young for Grandma, but not shut her out of his family. She shakes her head again. "I can't let the job go enough to be a good mom. Not the kind of mom I'd want to be. And that's always going to be true. No matter how cute you are with a pile of little, squirming rugrats."

"You need the job."

"I do."

Gibbs squeezes her hand. "I understand."

She smiles at him. "I figured you would."

Several quiet minutes go by. They get to his house and head in. Mona gets her petting and cuddles. Gibbs isn't entirely sure how to say this, not sure exactly what he's feeling, but once he gets Mona settled down, he turns to Abbi. "I know the job comes first. I know it has first call on your time and love. I get it. I lived it. And I don't begrudge you that life—"

They're standing in the foyer. Abbi's hanging up her coat. "Sounds like there's a huge 'but' coming up."

He licks his lips, staring at her, eyes earnest. "There is, but I don't think it's the one you're expecting. But… in the time you've got for me, the time you've got that isn't owned by the job… I'd like a co-grandparent. I'd like another person sharing my home and my life. I'd like that person to be you. And, for as much of it as you're willing to give me, I'd like to be in your life, too."

Once it came out, he found himself thinking so much for taking it slow. Damn it, Jethro, you need middle gears.

She blinks, staring at him, and says, quietly, "You're right, I wasn't expecting that."

God, please don't run away! "I wasn't expecting to say it, but it feels right. Here." He steps closer to her and places her hand on his chest. "You know?"

"Yeah, I do." And that's terrifying, because she does know, and it did feel right, and she felt a frisson of joy arc through her as he said it, but… It's been three months. Actually, no, it's still a week shy of three months. He's got ex-wives out the ears. This is stupid resonates through her head. Too fast! But it feels right. Feels so right. "So, what are you actually asking me?"

He smiles, shaking his head. "Would you believe I don't really know?"

Yes is very clear on her face. Of course, a big part of that is she doesn't know what the hell she's doing either.

"Keep a toothbrush and some clothing here? Move in? Get married? Or at least…" He licks his lips again, very aware of the fact that she's standing a step away, staring at him, hand still on his chest, his hand over it, but beyond that, not touching him. "Make it clear that that's my endgame? That's what I'm looking for. Hell, put that little heart thingy on your Facebook profile?"

She laughs at that last one, steps into him, and kisses him, then steps back, still holding his hand. "Won't work if you don't have a profile."

"Okay, not that." He smiles at her. "I'm not getting a Facebook profile." They stand there, quiet for a moment. Well, if you're not going to go slow… "Abbi…"


"I think I love you, and I haven't said that to a woman in decades, and I'm terrified of screwing this up, and I don't know what I'm doing and probably never did. I've got three ex-wives, and I don't want you to be number four. But I'm happy when you're here, in a way I haven't been for a long time, in a way I never was with any of the ones that didn't work, and I hope, pray, that I make you happy, too. Make you happy like that."

She thinks about that. "You do make me happy. In a way I haven't been in a long time."

"I know I'm going too fast."

"Ya think?"

He appreciates getting that back from her. "Yeah, I think. So, from here I'll slow down. I love you. I want a future with you. I want you as part of my family and home. I've been divorced three times, and that's off the table now. Next time's 'til death do us part.' And I'm willing to take as long as needs be to get there."

Borin smiles at that. "Preferably of natural causes?"

He chuckles. "Depends on if I'm really as bad at this husband thing as my track record suggests."

She kisses him gently, touching his face. "You make me happy, Jethro. You make me want to shut off my brain and let my feelings take over, make me want to just jump in feet first, and let everything else fade away. But I can't do that. But I'm not going anywhere, and I like where you want this to go, so we'll take the time to get it all figured out."

He smiles at her and kisses her again.


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