Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Sons-In-Law

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

Chapter 366: Sons-In-Law

They're wrapping up Sunday dinner when Amy's boyfriend Collin asks Jimmy, "Can I come to Bootcamp with you guys?"

"Uh..." Jimmy glances at Tim and Gibbs who both nod. "Yeah, sure."

"Cool." Collin's grinning at them. "Used to do MMA in college. Haven't found a group around here I really like. They're either way too much kill everyone or too into proper form. Where do you fight?"

Jimmy gives him the address for the Navy Yard.

"Okay. I'll follow you guys there."

"Do you have gear?"

"Yeah. Amy said Breena said you'd probably be cool with me joining in."

"Ah." Jimmy nods. As soon as Collin's in his car he quietly says to Gibbs and Tim. "What the hell was that?"

Gibbs grins at him before slipping into his own car, and says, door open. "That's a guy contemplating becoming your brother-in-law. He's about to pull an end run around Ed."

Collin actually can fight. In an academic, never-done-it-in-a-life-or-death-situation sort of way. (He runs his own graphic design business, so it's not like pounding on people is part of his job description.) So, honestly, he's pretty even with Jimmy, who's also never fought for real, and not too far behind Tim, who's never done it with his fists.

Real danger adds an extra edge to your skills, and Collin doesn't have that.

What he does have is he's ten years younger than Tim and Jimmy, five years younger than Ziva, and really, really quick.

He's actually making Ziva sweat, which is amusing to all of the guys. (She still won. Five years and fast doesn't win over Mossad-trained and does this for real, but it was more of a workout one on one than she's had in a long time.)

So, it was fun, and Collin is a pleasant companion, pretty quiet, focused, making sure that he's not annoying anyone.

Once they are all showered and dressed again, he says, "That was fun. Can I buy you all something to drink." Ziva and Tony demur, their no-longer-missing twin is proving to be unreasonably quiet, and they're going to take another swing at breaking him.

Which is how, ten minutes later, Tim, Jimmy, Gibbs, and Collin are outside, milling around Seth's coffee cart, letting Collin hand over drinks, and getting ready to really talk to him.

Once handed out, they're sitting in the shade, enjoying bright sunshine and a warm April day.

Collin takes a sip of his iced coffee and says to Jimmy, "So, I don't suppose there's some magic formula for making Ed like me?"

Jimmy laughs. "If you find it, let me know?" He shakes his head. "Being worth a few million dollars and signing pre-nup saying that Amy gets all of it if you two ever split up might do it."

"Got a few million I can have?"

"Amazingly enough, I'm all tapped out on millions right now."

"Yeah, figured that. Is it worth it? I mean, all three of you know him better than I do, and he seems to actually like you," he says to Gibbs. "I love Amy, but…"

Jimmy nods again. "Yeah, 'but.' I know all about 'but.' I spent a long time thinking about that before I asked Breena to marry me. If you love her. Really love her. Then yes. But this isn't light love, or cute love. If you have a good, strong, healthy relationship, he's going to be a stressor, and if you've got a rocky one, he'll break it. It really does have to be you and her, back to back, able to take on all comers."

Collin nods at that. "I do love her."

"Good," Gibbs says. "He's protecting his girls. Finally started warming up to Jimmy a bit when he figured out that Jimmy wasn't going anywhere and he had the balls to keep his girls safe. He respects strength and he respects money, because they represent a safe, secure life for his daughter."

"And I was light on both of them when Breena and I started dating."

"Even if you had piles of money and used to be a drill sergeant, he still wasn't going to like you," Tim says.

"True. And he's not going to love you, Collin, either. Because both of us mean that he's not his little girl's number one man anymore."

"Great." Collin's not thrilled by that. "She really loves him."

"He's her dad," Tim says. "And the more I learn about that family, the more I see that if there's one thing Ed Slater ever did right, it was raise three amazing daughters. They all adore him, and not in a spoiled-brat,-sucking-up-to-daddy-for-presents sort of way, but in a he-provided-them-with-all-the-support-they-needed-to-become-brilliant-women sort of way."

Jimmy nods along with that. "Complete son-of-a-bitch, to me, and you, and any other poor bastard who marries one of them, but to them, best dad ever."

Collin thinks about that.

Jimmy does, too. "When it comes down to it, you've got to be sure that Amy does chose you. Breena picked me over Ed. If it ever comes down to me or him, she'll back me. Having to pick'll break her heart, but she'll back me. And he has tested it to make sure. Part of our wedding being so stressful was him asking every ten minutes if she really wanted to do this, and how she could back out at any time, including while he was walking her down the aisle." Tim hadn't known that and he winces at it. "But she picked me. She picked me even when I asked her to postpone the party part of the wedding. If you and Amy don't have that, he'll kill your relationship. You've got to love her enough to put up with him. She's got to love you enough to draw the line in the sand and tell him you're not going anywhere, so he better get used to you."

"Okay." Collin looks, determined is probably the best way to put it, as he drinks his coffee.

"Look, only reason I'm going to say anything about this is because you're here and you're asking. Breena and I got married before we lived together. That was us, and it worked for us. This one," he points to Tim, "lived with Abby for…"

"Year and a half."

"Year and half, before they got married, and I helped them move in, so it's not like I've got a problem with it. But this is your acid test. She wants you. She wants Daddy happy. She can't have both, so she's fooling around trying to hold it as long as she can by lying to him. If she's not willing to go with you and tell Ed you're living together, and take the shit storm that is going to come upon both of you from him, pack you stuff and move out. She doesn't have your back, not the way you need. Not the way you want if you're serious about being married forever.

"And don't dither about it. I had to threaten to beat the shit out of the man to get him to treat me like a human. He drops by to visit, notices you live there, he's going to understand that as you don't have the balls to talk to him about it and he will never offer you a dime's worth of respect."

Gibbs nods. "And you won't deserve it, either. You're sticking around, you're looking to join his family, you talk to him."

Tim can see that startles Collin. "It's not an old-fashioned he owns her sort of thing. You don't ask for her, because she doesn't belong to him. But you do talk to him. It's just polite. It's showing him that you do have the strength to sit down, look him in the eye, and prove to him you've thought about his daughter's future enough to have a plan. A lot of hard things are going to happen in your life, and if you can't handle her Dad, a man who loves her and wants what's best for her, how are you going to do with people who genuinely want ill for her? He loves her. He doesn't want her getting hurt or hooking up with a loser, so you show up and prove you aren't one."

"And then he laughs until he cries, tells you over his dead body, and spends the rest of his life annoying you, but, still… you do it anyway. We all did. It wasn't fun. None of us liked it—"

"I thought it was fun." Tim adds.

"That's because you talked to him." Jimmy replies.

Collin's looking from Tim to Gibbs, really confused. "Wait, isn't he your dad?" They don't really clarify exactly how the McGee branch of the family is related to each other. The larger Slater-clan just has them all classified as 'Jimmy's friends.'

"Yes," Gibbs says. Collin does not appear to find that answer useful for his real question, namely, why was he asking you? "And if you spend ten years working for Ed, save his life several times, always have his back, when he'll say 'yes' without thinking about it if someone asks him if you're his kid, you too can enjoy Tim's level of just show up, pull out the ring, and say, 'So, you giving her away or what?'"

"I did not do that."

Gibbs flashes him his amused look. "You sure as hell didn't ask."

"No. You'd have laughed if I asked." Gibbs nods. "And Abby would have been pissed off about it. 'Cause you don't own her." Gibbs nods at that, too. "But I did show up, and I did show him the ring, because… Because I wanted to, really. It's a cool ring. But, if I hadn't worked for him for ten years and if he didn't know about my writing, I would have shown it to him as a way of saying, 'Look I'm serious about this and I've got the sort of cash to support her and your grandchildren.'"

Jimmy shrugs. "I asked, and the ring was tiny, and he laughed. I didn't get part of it was a pissing contest. But especially with Ed, what you're doing is showing him you can and will stand up for his daughter, against him if need be." Jimmy stares at Collin, looking him over coolly. "And just for the record, nothing against you or personal, we did this in February with Tim's soon to be brother-in-law, but the one thing Ed and I do agree on, and you'll find the rest of this crew does, too, if you hurt one of the girls, you better run fast and hide good because otherwise we will hurt you."

Tim nods along with that. "And by hide good, he means you never touch a computer again, 'cause otherwise I will find you." Then he nods at Gibbs. "You also never go outside, and you stay away from windows, because he can still nail a headshot at a thousand meters. I've been right behind the guy where if he had missed it would have hit me, so trust me when I say this one can still shoot."

"We're guys, and we're not her dad. We get it. We're not saying you can't break it off, or if you do marry her that you've got to stay married forever. But you start banging the secretary while you're married or stop being a dad to your kids, you're going to wish you were dead."

Collin's eyes are wide and he's looking between Gibbs, Tim, and Jimmy, realizing none of them are kidding. He nods slowly. "Okay."

"Okay!" Jimmy says brightly with a big smile. "So, you wanna come next week? Trust me, we also all get wanting a good excuse to get out of Sunday dinner early."

"Uh, yeah, that sounds good." He stands up. "I should probably get going."

The other three of them nod at him. "See you next week," and other variations on the theme of goodbye echoing from them.

Gibbs leaned back against the bench, sipping his coffee, grinning. "Ed's not going to know what hit him."

Jimmy and Tim are looking at him curiously.

"You're going to report back to Breena that he's a good guy. I'm going to report to Ed that he's a good guy. I'm sure he's spending time with Jeannie. By the time he's ready to move on a ring, he'll have Amy, Breena, Jeannie, and me all hitting Ed with the fact that he's good son-in-law material. That kid's not stupid. Little scared, maybe—"

Jimmy shakes his head. "Amy's scared. Look at how he's handling us. He's not afraid to say they're living together. She is."

"He's scared now," Gibbs says, "Not sure she'll pick him in the long run."

"Oh. Yeah."

"Think she will?" Tim asks, sipping his drink.

"I'm sure we'll know one way or another soon."

They're walking back to the car when something hits Tim. He gently nudges Gibbs with his shoulder. "You gonna be doing that again? Talking to Borin's dad?"

That gets him a headslap, a head shake, and "You're just as bad as the girls."

Tim grins at him.


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