Friday, September 26, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Miles To Go

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

Chapter 393: Miles To Go

"Okay Mr. McGee, let's see about getting you out of this!" The orthopedic surgeon says.

"Please." In that he's attached to his right arm, he hasn't been able to escape noticing that it's swaddled in a huge mass of bandages, casts, various support structures and the like.

He's seen buildings covered in scaffolding that had less crap on them than his right arm does now.

He's also approving the small and light looking tray the Doc's brought in as well. The thing on it kind of looks like what would happen if Spiderman built Buckey Barnes' prosthetic arm, with a few extra electronics tossed in for… he doesn't know, shits and giggles maybe.

It's a rigid web a plastic, that from the looks of it, is going from his pectoral muscle to his fingertips.
It's not what he thinks of as being a 'cast' though.

"That's new," Tim says as the nurses are very gently detaching the weights from the cords that are attached to his fingers and keeping his wrist in the right place.

"Yeah, it is. Those two," The Doc looks at Jimmy and Abby, "said you wouldn't mind being a test case."

Cutting edge medical tech. That appeals to Tim. "No. Don't mind at all."

The doc holds it up. "We're really excited about these. Once we got your arm back together, we took scans of it, and fed them into the computer, and got this printed out."

Very Cool, Read More
"3D printed casts, made for me?"

"Yep, strong, light, because of the web-like structure you can get it wet with no problems. Plenty of ventilation for your skin, so it won't start to smell funky and don't have to worry about accidentally tearing up your skin to scratch an itch. It's thin enough it should fit under most of your clothing without a problem." The Doc picks up the electronics. "These are the really cool part. They make tiny sonic vibrations, that encourage your bones to heal faster. With the number of breaks you've got it's going to take a while, but twenty minutes a day, pop the vibration head into the right hole in the web." The Doc holds up the vibration head, and the cast, and Tim does notice that some of the holes… Shit, ten of them… are white while the rest of the cast is black. "Let it do its thing, then onto the next one for another twenty minutes, and, assuming it works the way it's supposed to, we should have you down to a sling and braces for your wrist and fingers in only six weeks."

Tim nods. Only six weeks was actually longer than he was hoping for, but judging by how excited the orthopedic specialist is, and the way Jimmy's grinning at him, only six weeks is apparently a major improvement over whatever the normal length of time someone with as many breaks as he's got would have spent in a cast.

"We've got one for your foot, as well. Probably only need that one for a month."

That sounds a bit better.

"We'd offer for your ribs or nose, but it's not tested, at all, for any sort of break near a vital organ, and we wouldn't cast them anyway. If you mess around with it, write down what happens, okay."

"Uh… okay." He's thinking 'not tested for any sort of break near a vital organ' means he's happy to just leave it alone, but maybe if he gets frustrated enough on slowly healing up he'll do some research and mess around with it.

By now the nurse has his arm out of the previous bandages and casts and he's getting a chance to look at it for the first time since… God, his shower Friday morning.

"Is it… Tuesday?"

Abby nods.

He sighs. His arm is still covered in blue, purple, green, yellow bruises, swollen more or less from top to bottom, and there's a long incision down his bicep and forearm.


"We had to use screws to put your humerus and radius back together. Can't do that without opening your arm up."

"Oh." On the upside, they didn't have to cut through his tattoo. He thinks it'll still look right when everything heals up.

"Good to see no infection." The Doc cracks open the cast. "It's got hinges on this side, and fastens together here. Antibiotic ointment on the incision sites for the next few days."

"All right." Abby says. "Bandages?"

Doc shakes his head. "You need to be in this cast as much as you can. In a week or so, it's going to start to seem too big, because the swelling will go down and you won't be moving your arm, so you'll head to your orthopedic surgeon back home, and he'll hook you up with a new cast that'll fit better. And probably once more before you're out of this all together, but except for when he's popping your arm out of the one and putting it into the next, you stay in the cast."

"I can do that."

"Good. I run into too many kids who look at one of these things, notice they can open them, and then decide that since they're feeling mostly better it's time to get out of it. The only thing I like better about plaster casts is that most people couldn't get out of one on their own without letting me know they'd done it."

"I'll keep it on."

"Very good." The Doc very gently places Tim's arm in the new cast. Even very gently, it hurts. And he gently closes it up and snaps the web into place. That hurts, too. And then it's done, and Tim can at least see his arm, and he's not tied to little weights that were pulling his wrist into the right place.
That's progress. After a minute he's done the same thing for Tim's foot.

"Okay, technically, if you want to try to use a crutch, you can. On your left side. But you've also got three broken ribs on the left, so you might want to just stay with a wheelchair for at least a week or so. I'll let you play that by ear. Just remember, this cast is strong, but it is not a walking cast. You put your full weight on this, and it will break. So, don't try to just hobble around on it like it's a walking cast. You want to get up, grab a crutch or cane or something to put your weight on."

Tim nods at that. Idea of actually getting up is both something he's eager for and terrified of. Just shifting the non-broken leg around hurt, attempting to put weight on it might be a very bad idea.

But very bad idea or not, he is sure as hell going to try because he's sick of being in this damn bed, and the idea of actually getting a shower sounds like heaven.

Once he's got the casts in place and the instructions for dealing with them, (And more importantly, Abby has those instructions, because right now he's doing well if he can keep a constant thought in his head for half an hour) everyone other than Abby heads out to let the nurses get him completely unhooked.

So, he can understand, rationally, why you'd tape the catheter tube to the leg of the person who's wearing it, but in that he's been strapped to the damn bed (so it's not like he was going to go anywhere) and they didn't bother to remove any of his leg hair first, peeling the tape off hurt like a bastard, and set him up with a perfectly rectangular patch of brand new bruise on what was one of the few places he didn't have any bruises.

As for removing the tube… Okay, honestly, not that bad, more an issue in his head than his dick, still having a strange woman grab his penis is really off-putting, and he's very glad he was unconscious when they put it in.

Saying goodbye to the IV meant more bruises on top of skin that's already bruised. He's got no idea what the hell adhesive they used on the tape but apparently it's designed to create unbreakable bonds with human skin. He feels like the back of his hand and wrist got peeled off along with the tape.

Last bit was the bandages binding his chest. More tight taping, fortunately this wasn't adhesive side against his skin. He's got to sit up for that, which takes a bit of help, and Abby's hands on his shoulders to help keep him steady, but after a minute he's free of the bandages. Tim tries inhaling deeply, and decides that feels like being stabbed in the chest in about six places, and maybe he doesn't need to do that again anytime soon.

But finally, he's free of the various bonds of the hospital, and though the nurses offered to stay and help, Abby shooed them out. So he's unhooked, and alone with his wife.

He's sitting up, on his own, without the support of the mattress behind his back and eyeballing the bathroom where rumor has it there's a shower.

Abby smiles at him. "Twelve feet to the door, and four more to the shower. Let's go."

Tim nods. And then blinks. Might as well be two miles away. He starts to shift the one leg over, and it eventually complies, sore, achy, bruised, sprained, hasn't really moved in days, but eventually it meanders over to the side of the bed in an attempt to get him facing the doorway to the bathroom.

His left leg eventually, more slowly, follows suit, and after some shifting around on his hips he manages to get facing the edge of the bed.

Abby heads to his left side, wrapping his arm over her shoulders. "Okay, easing down slowly on your right foot."

He nods, and slowly, gently slides the four inches from the edge of the bed to the floor. He whimpers slightly as he makes contact with the ground. His bruised up foot isn't much liking it, and the broken ribs on his left are complaining about Abby supporting him on that side, while the ones on his right are even less happy about her hand resting on them.

"Can you keep your weight on your right foot?"

He bites out a brief, "Yeah."

She lets go of his chest and re-adjusts her grasp to his hips. "Okay, lean into me."

He does, and she makes sure she's got him secure. "Better?"


"Okay, off we go."

They're two steps into the journey when he says, "Probably a good thing I'm already naked. Can you imagine how long this would take if you had to get me undressed at the end of this."

She smiles at him. "Find that out tomorrow. Got some very soft pajamas waiting for you."

He nods, soft clothing sounds really great right about now. He never thought that days of naked would be an issue, but right now, looking at another night on hospital sheets, soft flannel jammy pants and a t-shirt sound great.

"Got something else, too."


"It's a surprise. Once you're all cleaned up and dressed again."

Two more steps and they're in the bathroom. Where there's a mirror. A horrified and pained whimper slips out of him as he sees his face. Four days means that a lot of the swelling is down, and they did put his nose back into the right place, but his face is still black and blue, his lips and eyebrow and the bridge of his nose are all cut and split.

"Oh God."

Abby pets him gently.

He whimpers again, looking at the rest of himself. He could see some of the damage before, mostly his left arm. He had a blanket over most of him, and bandages on his right arm and chest for almost all of the last four days, so this is really the first unobstructed view of all of himself and the fact that this is how he's looking four days after the attack makes him want to throw up.

Abby very gently strokes his back as he stares at the bruises and the cuts and all the swollen, strained bits. He feels like it's not really his body. He can feel all of it, and then some. Seeing it makes everything he wasn't noticing all go jumping to the front of his mind, and he starts to cry. Half physical pain, half emotional distress at seeing himself.

"Okay, come on, let's sit down." There's a little seat in the shower, and Abby gets him on it. Not enough room for two people to sit on it, so she kneels in front of him, holding his legs, kissing the unbruised bits of his knees, very, very gently stroking her hands over his skin.

She figures this is probably like seeing herself after having Kelly that first time and feeling like her body was completely destroyed. And she knows the last thing she wanted to hear was some sort of happy, feel good bullshit, so she just holds on and lets him cry.

And when he stops, she stands up, fiddling with the shower controls, turning the water on so it's coming out of the shower head that's attached to the hose, and letting it pour down the drain right now, warming up.

She kisses the top of his head. "Back in a few seconds, gotta get your stuff."

Tim nods at her and starts to shift a bit, so he's facing into the shower. He thinks about reaching for the shower hose, but it's on the wrong side of him, and bending down to grab it sounds like it'll hurt, so he just sits there, feeling devastated.

He thought he'd gotten through and dealt with and all that other shit you do when your Dad's a complete fucking asshole and you've got to live with it. He thought he was done. But he's looking at his body, beaten to a pulp, and dealing with that fact that John didn't just let it happen, he made it happen. He wanted this, and more than this, and it's hitting Tim in waves of revulsion how deep that hate has to go, how sick you've got to be that this would be okay. He's breathing deep (as much as he can without hurting) and steady, because he doesn't want to throw up, and even though the toilet and sink are only a few feet away, he doesn't think he can make it on his own, and given how much breathing hurts, puking's going to kill him, so, deep, steadying breaths.

Abby comes in, sees the way he's breathing, and drops the clothing and toiletries. She's kneeling in front of him again, holding his left hand carefully, stroking the back of his neck.

"He let them do this to me."

She nods.

"He wanted this." The crying ramps back up again. "Wanted worse than this." Tim's shaking with fear and anger in addition to crying, and she's holding onto him as best as she can, cuddling and wrapping him in as much love as touch can convey.

Several minutes later, they both hear a tentative knock on the door along with Jimmy saying, "Need an extra hand?"

Tim shakes his head, so Abby calls out. "We're good."

"Okay. Holler if you need help."

Tim wipes his eyes, forcing fear and anger back, some, can't spend all day in here. He sniffs. "Let's get this done."

Abby strokes his face. "We can take as long as you need."

"I know. Just… want to be done. Want to get home and back to normal as soon as I can."

"Okay. Let's get you washed off and dressed."

Warm water feels good. Gently being washed is nice. Abby naked in the shower with him is something he approves of, but mostly in a this is pleasant and comforting and intimate sort of way. The sex part of his brain isn't online right now. Getting his hair washed felt really good, apparently his scalp isn't too badly bruised up.

"Want me to shave you?" Abby asks once she's got his hair rinsed out.

"Nah. Unless you want to."

"Don't need to. I think we're done." She turns the water off and begins to gently dry him off. That's good, too. When she's done, she eyeballs the toilet. "Want some alone time?"

"I'm good on that for right now." He can see his clothing sitting on the sink, and knows that since he's sitting on a wet seat in the shower that not all of him is dried off. "I need to stand up, don't I?"

"Probably make finishing this up easier."

He eyes the hand rails along the walls of the shower. They, like everything else in the universe, are built for righties. Once he's standing, he can grab them easily. But, if the idea is to hold on to help get himself standing, they're on the wrong side.

Abby sees what he's doing. "Okay, let's get you up, then you grab, and I'll get you all dry."

Plan in play, they get to it, and in a few seconds he's dried off, and sitting on the toilet while Abby gets his jammy pants over the cast on his foot. Up again for a few seconds to get them pulled up over his hips, and for the first time in days he's actually dressed.

Tim's eyeballing his deodorant when it hits him that he can't put it on. Can't use his left arm to put it on the left side, (He guesses that maybe he could, normally, but the idea of trying to get his arm into position for that makes him want to break into a cold sweat.) and the cast covers his right from just about his nipple to fingertips.

Abby sees the way he's looking at it. "You want me to do the one side or just skip it?"

He closes his eyes, hating how helpless he is, and lifts his left arm as high as it will go, just a bit above shoulder level.

He winces a little as she does it.



"Sorry." Abby puts the deodorant down after a swipe in each direction. "Is that enough?"

He nods.

"How do you even do that with armpit hair? Are you even getting it on your skin?"

He laughs, slightly, at that. "I've never thought about it. You just do it, and it works."

"Okay. Shirt next."

Given the instruction to 'bring clothing for Tim' Abby had grabbed the softest, most comfortable, laying around the house clothes he owned. It didn't occur to her, until right now, that a button down or two would have been a really good plan. The cast is keeping his hand and wrist in neutral position, his elbow bent at ninety degrees, and his shoulder joint extended about an inch forward, with his arm turned in across his stomach.

She's looking at his arm, thinking her way through how to deal with that, when Tim says, "You feed the arm through the sleeve first, then over the head, then the other arm."

"That's right, you've done this, well something like it, before."

"Yeah." More times than he's wanted. At least this time it's his right arm. All those years ago it was his left, and that made for a hellish two months.

"Or would you rather just wait and let me go get you a few button downs?"

"T-shirt. I don't want to see how bad this looks."

"Okay." She carefully scrunches up the shirt and threads his arm through, then lets him take care of his head and other arm. While he's getting into the shirt, Abby gets toothpaste on his brush.

He looks at that, and almost cracks a smile.

"Feeling a little more like yourself?"

"Little." He takes the brush from her and gets to it while she gets dried off and dressed. While he's brushing he checks out both his teeth (Upper jaw, second front one on the right appears to the be the one that ended up with the cap. At least, it's not the same color the other ones were.) and his face.
It looks a little better than before the shower. Apparently some of what he thought were bad cuts was actually dried blood. So, he's a little less beat up looking. But only a little.

One of the cuts goes straight through his left eyebrow. "They think that'll heal?"

"No one's said anything about it in specific. If it scars, two seconds with an eyebrow pencil will cover it."

He nods at that.

"Plus, if it scars, and you like it, having a bisected eyebrow's pretty cool."

Bisected eyebrow. 
He looks at her wryly, finishing up with his teeth, and then says, "I know you love James Marsters, but…" and then shakes his head.

She grins at him. "It'd look awesome! Okay, you look done, back to bed? Sofa?"

He sighs. "Bed." He'd like to be somewhere else, but he's hurting, and tired, and his internal clock's telling him pain meds are coming soon, and as soon as they're in his system, he'll be asleep again.

"Okay, back to bed. Get a good nap. Dinner. More sleeping, and then tomorrow, bright and early, on the plane and home we go."

"That sounds good."

Someone changed out the sheets while he was getting washed off, and Tim appreciates that. And, with his arm no longer in traction, he doesn't have to be on his back, reclining, or smack dab in the middle of the bed. Which he also appreciates.

Once he's out of the bathroom, Jimmy hops up and takes over from Abby on giving him a hand getting to the bed. Stronger, a bit steadier, and slightly taller makes that easier. Once he's on his bed, Jimmy grabs the sling that goes with his new cast, and gets it situated and strapped on, and while the cast is large and rigid enough to hold his arm in place, the sling has some padding and straps to help keep his arm secure against his stomach, which is nice because that means the top part, that's resting against his pec, armpit, scapula, and deltoid isn't digging into him every time he moves.

Tim gingerly rolls onto his left side (he usually sleeps on his right) but it doesn't hurt any worse than his back did, and Abby can tell, by the way he's only a few inches from the edge of the bed, that he's looking for some cuddling. So she carefully gets on the bed, too, and snuggles against his back, arm under the hollow of his neck.

His left hand finds hers, and holding it reminds her of her surprise.



"Can you get the present?"

He smiles at that. "Sure." He digs around in her purse before pulling it out, back still toward them, hiding it from Tim's (sleepy) view. Then he turns around, taking a step closer, holding a plain, black, embossed with a Celtic dragon, leather wrist cuff, out. Sort of a hybrid of the knot on his bicep and the dragon on his leg.

"It's not the same…" While Gibbs and Abbi had been on duty, they'd gone looking for one. His old one was not only in evidence, but in an effort to make sure that any prints that might have been on the snaps remained in pristine shape, they'd cut it off Tim. "But it's as close as we could find," Abby says.

Jimmy's about to hand it to Abby to put it on, but she quickly shakes her head. She's in a bad position for it, and moving around's just going to hurt more, so Jimmy slips it over Tim's wrist, snapping it into place.

"Good?" Jimmy asks.

Tim nods, eyes tearing up. He knows they mean well, and he knows, because this new one is on his wrist, that the old one has to be destroyed, but he wants the old one back.

Abby kisses the back of his neck.

Jimmy's still holding his wrist. "Want me to take it off?"

Tim shakes his head, not trusting his voice.

"It's okay if you don't like it." Abby says.

He squeezes her hand a little tighter, before closing his eyes, and curling in on himself.

She can read that as a pretty definitive I've dealt with everything and anything I can deal with today, time to check out gesture.

She kisses the back of his neck again. "Okay."

It's an hour later, when Jimmy is absolutely sure that Tim is completely asleep when he quietly says, "Well that went over like a lead balloon."

"Bad timing, too much, too soon. Tomorrow we'll get home, and that'll help."

Jimmy nods. "Lots of healing to do."

"Yeah. What happened to him really hit when he saw himself."

Jimmy closes his eyes and swallows, gritting his teeth. Then he looks back at Abby, who's cuddling Tim, gently stroking her thumb over the back of his hand. "I hate that deal. Hate waiting. Hate that it won't be me. I want to rip John up myself."

Tim shifts, moans a bit, and seems to settle in to deeper sleep.

Abby kisses him, then speaks a little more softly, "I know. Me, too. Want revenge so bad I can taste it. Keep fantasizing about ways to do it. Get back to my lab, and start mixing up cocktails…"

Jimmy shakes his head. "Not for at least nine months."

She gives him the stink eye for raining on her fantasy.

"And he'd be dead by then." If he's going to rain on her parade, he may as well pour.

"Gibbs," she says, a very good idea of how it'd go.

"Me!" Jimmy says, fire in his eyes. Abby looks curious at that, wondering what Jimmy's plan would have been. "I asked him to teach me how to take the shot. That way he could be somewhere public, with an alibi, like, say, with Penny, and I could do it."

Abby sighs, quietly. "God, Penny… And Sarah…"

"Figured what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them. Figured they'd never really look further than Gibbs."

Abby nods. "You talk to them?"

"Ducky. She's holding on, but taking it hard. Wouldn't you?"

"Lord." Abby goes quiet, praying for peace and calm and… and hoping that there's comfort somewhere.

Dinner comes and goes.

Tim eats, but he's quiet.

Night comes and he's sleeping, but fitful. Another shift in his pain meds means they aren't doing quite the job of knocking him out that they had been. Instead of falling asleep within seconds of closing his eyes, he's got this sort of strange half-awake half-asleep sensation where he's aware but his body doesn't want to do anything for long stretches.

So he sleeps, and dreams, nothing bad or disturbing, waking up and not being home with Abby and Kelly and all healed up is the disturbing part, and lays there, feeling Abby against his back, the soft puffs of her breath on his neck. He can hear Jimmy's quiet, steady breathing, and the little night sounds people make, shifting around, bits of vocalizations, getting up to hit the head, stuff like that.

He wants to touch the new wrist cuff, run his fingers over it, really see and feel the new pattern. He's sulking about the old one being gone, because he wants the old one, not that there's anything wrong or bad about this one. The love that inspired the first cuff was involved in getting this one, and as he thinks about it, Jimmy helped get this one, too, so this is a gift from two of the most important people in his life.

Two of his loves trying to make him feel better. Trying to help him to getting back to who he is. So he gets it, understands the gesture, and eventually, he'll love this one, too.

But he was robbed of the old one, and that stings.

Morning comes and with it a huge stack of paperwork encompassing all of Tim's release documentation, prescriptions, what he needs to be taking when, appointments made with the one orthopedic specialist in the DC area who works with the kind of casts he's got, and all the rest of it.

But, eventually, Abby's wheeling him out of the hospital, and they're heading toward the jet, and from there, home.

They're on the plane, quiet, resting mostly, heading back east. Gibbs notices that Tim's completely sacked out again, so he shifts over a bit, next to Jimmy and says, "Saturday morning, at the house, with me."

Jimmy's eyebrows raise. "Uh…"

"You believe a politician's promise after he keeps it. This time next year, if John McGee's still walking around, we'll be ready to do something about it."

Jimmy thinks about that for a moment and then nods, "Okay."

Tim's awfully tired by the time they get home. Tired and aching. Plane travel followed by car travel with as many broken bones as he has is pretty much torture.

The original plan was everyone was going to be there to say 'Hi' see he was all in one piece offer welcome, but by the time they were on the runway, heading toward Abby's car, that plan had been scrapped. Jethro and Abbi are heading back to Jethro's. Breena and the girls are going to meet them at the McGees, and then that's it.

Visitors tomorrow, if he's feeling up for it.

So, as Jimmy's helping him get up the stairs on their front porch, and Abby's running ahead to get the door open, Tim wants to sack out, take about fifty pain pills, and more or less just die.

But he can't, not yet. There's something very, very important he needs to do first.

Abby's giving him help because between the arm and the ribs he can't get a very good hold on her, but more than anything else right now, he wants to cuddle his baby girl, and he is. (Jimmy's similarly wrapped in a pile of hugging girls.)

"Happy Birthday, Kelly." He kisses her, holding her close, crying some. "Told you I'd be back for today."

"Dadadadada!" She's in his arms, and squirmy, and laying big, wet, (ouchy) kisses all over his face, and right this second Tim couldn't be happier or more relieved.

A minute later, he gets a gentle hug from Breena, and a not so gentle hug from Molly, who's fascinated by his casts and bruises, and wants to touch and poke him all over, which means it's time for the Palmer branch of the family to head off before she decides any really tender bits of Uncle Tim need to get poked.

He's fading pretty fast by that point. Weary, really not all there, so he's guessing this was mostly for Abby's benefit, or maybe it was just important enough that waiting didn't make any more sense. But as Jimmy and Breena are getting ready to go, he gets his usual (albeit very gentle) hug from Breena, and then she pulls back a little, arms still around him, looks at Abby, looks back to him, and says, "Life's too damn short to let fear win."

Then Breena kisses him, very soft, very gentle, and he's appreciating the kiss, at least it's got enough of his attention that all of the pain in his body fades to a sort of dull ache, and much too soon she stands up, takes a step over to Abby, kisses her too, which Tim would have to admit he enjoyed watching, though he would have enjoyed it even more if he'd been feeling anything approaching good, and then she took one more step and kissed Jimmy, which was also nice to watch, too.

Her voice is steady as she speaks, but it's clear that the what-ifs and very close call of this last week have hit her, hard. "I love all three of you, and I don't know where this is going, but one day, soon, when you're off the pain meds," Tim gets a gentle stroke on his hand, "we're all sitting down, together, and talking this out, because life is short and we are not letting this slip away. Okay?"

Tim nods, and Abby and Jimmy say, "Okay."

Breena smiles, and Tim and Abby both get quick pecks on the forehead. "Good. Okay, I'm going to get the girls in the car. Abby, you need Jimmy's help getting Tim upstairs?"

Abby nods. "Unless you want to stay down here?"

"No. Upstairs, bed, lying down, sleeping."

Jimmy steps over to Tim, helping him getting standing up. "Up we go."

They're halfway up the steps when Tim asks, "Did you know she was going to do that?"

Jimmy nods. "Talked about it last night. Abby did, too."


"It okay?"

"Yeah… Just wasn't expecting it."

Two more steps, four to go. "Yeah, well, almost dying puts things into perspective. And being on a shit ton of pain meds takes them out of perspective, so when you're not hurting from your eyelashes to your toenails, we'll talk some more. About a lot of things, like us, and your dad, and the deal with Jarvis, and just, lots of things."

Tim gets his right foot onto the next stair and slowly lifts himself up. "Good plan."

After another minute, Jimmy gets Tim to his room, and sitting on his bed. "Don't flop back, yet."

Tim stares at him, slumping, all I want to do is sleep on his face.

"Look, I'm here, I can move you around fairly easy, you need to hit the head? Want a change of clothing? Something like that?"

"Just want to lie down."

"Okay." Jimmy helps him get lying back on the bed. "Pillows good?"

"I'm home. Everything's good."

"Okay." Jimmy gives him a quick hug, and then stands up. "See you soon."

"Thanks, Jimmy."

He smiles at Tim, and heads off.

He's almost asleep when he hears the sound of a car door shutting, followed by tires on his gravel driveway, a minute after that Abby's next to him, Kelly between them, and he's drifting off to sleep, in his own bed, his girls by his side.


Shards To A Whole: Deep Thoughts

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

Chapter 392: Deep Thoughts

"Interesting luggage choice," Abbi says as Gibbs lifts his duffle to his shoulder. It's been sitting in the corner of Tim's room, mostly ignored and unopened for… Gibbs honestly isn't sure how long they've been here now.

He knows that he's periodically fished his toothbrush out of it, and that's it.

He doesn't say anything to that as she leads him out of Tim's room.

Not too long of a drive to the hotel room. Twenty minutes.

They ate at the hospital, so food's taken care of. Jimmy drugged him to the gills, so he's had enough sleep. But even with that, he just feels so aimless. No idea what comes next.

He puts his duffle down when they get into the room, and Abbi takes him by his hands, and then pulls him into the bathroom. "Shower, shave, clean clothing." She pats him gently on the rear. "You're getting pretty smelly, so take care of that." She flicks the water on. "In you go. I'll be back in a minute with your stuff."

"I can…" He's looking through the bathroom doorway to his duffle, knowing what she's going to see in there if she goes to find his toiletries.

"Shower. You honestly think I don't know what you've got in there? That's the duffle you pack for a six month float, not a week in a hospital. It's full, and I know for a fact that if all you had in there was clothing, it wouldn't have rectangular corners poking out of the side that look suspiciously like a rifle case."

He looks a little chagrined at that.

And in a minute, she is back, slipping into the shower with him, and his shampoo, soap, and razor. "HTR 2000. Nice rifle. Looks like it hasn't been cleaned in a while. I'm guessing it's not really yours."

"Right now it's no one's. Leon brought it when he told me about Tim."

Abbi nods. "You actually stupid enough to use it now?"

He shakes his head at that.

"Good." Abbi starts to wash his hair. Although Tim was asleep most of the time they were together today, it felt odd to try and really talk, especially about him, in front of him. "I take it you left some stuff out when you told me Tim and his dad don't get along."

Gibbs nods at that.

Abbi looks at him curiously.

"Any kind of shit you can lay on a kid without touching him, John did to Tim."

Abbi raises an eyebrow.

"Any kind. Not strong enough, not smart enough, not good enough, too gay, too girly, you name it, he dumped it on Tim. Only reason Tim even got in this mess is he told me not to kill him. I wanted to do it when I found out, but he said no. He wanted a shot to go up against him himself."

"And it bit him."

Gibbs nods.

"What about now?"

Gibbs shrugs.

Abbi's standing in front of him, arms wrapped around his neck, staring into his eyes, looking exasperated. "Come on, don't give me that. If you're going to go off and kill someone, tell me about it. Don't let something like this catch me cold."

"It's not…" He closes his eyes and opens them. "I'm not lying to protect you… It's just…"


"I don't know." He shakes his head and looks away. "Jimmy says I can't take the shot. He's too protected to get in and do it close. So someone has to take the shot. And Jimmy's saying I can't do it, because everyone knows I'm the guy who takes the shot. And if he drops over dead with his head blown off… Penny'll know. Sarah'll know. Even if I do it clean, and I will, they'll know it was me."

"But you want to."

"Of course I want to! I want to…" the look on his face is an eloquent testimony to the universes of pain and torment Jethro would like to lay on John McGee. His shoulders slump. "But this time there are people waiting for me when I get home."

She strokes his face at that. She's not entirely sure what 'this time' means, but her guess is awfully close to right.

Abbi can see he's looking pretty lost right now. If he could run it as a case, he'd be okay. If he was planning the attack on John, he'd be okay. But right now, waiting, that's a problem.

Shampoo done, washed up, shaved, Gibbs finally says, "I can't just let him get away with it. He's got a whole lifetime of getting away with it, and I can't…" Jimmy had said to keep it between them, but… He can't imagine Jimmy won't tell Breena so… "Jimmy asked me to teach him how to shoot."

Abbi looks surprised at that.

"He already knows how to use a hand gun. Tim's been teaching him on that. He tells me he's decent at it. Doesn't really like it, but his aim is competent. He's got the patience for it. He wants to do it."

"Think he can?"

"Yeah. Wouldn't be fast, but he'd get it. And right now, he wants it."

"Think he should?"

Gibbs shakes his head, sighing, licking his lips.

"What about Tony or Ziva?"

"Same problem with me. Ziva more than Tony, but if John drops dead from a sniper's bullet, we're the top three suspects, and then it does down the family line from there, with Jimmy being the last suspect."


"Had some trouble with a lab assistant years ago. She's rated on every gun or rifle I am now."

"Oh. Breena?"

"Ed started teaching her how to hunt when she was twelve. Jimmy's the only one of us who doesn't have any history with rifles. As long as he's got a solid alibi, and he would have one, no one will check into him too carefully." He snorts. "Hell, if there was a case, Jimmy and Breena would be Tim and Abby's alibies."

Abbi nods. If it was her case, she'd spend exactly no time on Jimmy, other than, like Gibbs said, to double check Tim and Abby's alibi. She'd dissect every inch of Gibbs' life, and then Ziva, then Tony, depending on how healed up he is Tim may be the next suspect, followed (or proceeded) by Abby.

And if they all came up clean, she'd start hunting through the rest of Admiral McGee's life. After all, you get that high, there'll be someone better off with you dead.

"He's a good choice for getting away with it clean."

"Yeah. And he knows it."

"Gibbs…" She's looking him in the eyes as she asks, "Are you sure. Not on his past. Not based on Tim's fears or your hate, but on this, right now, are you sure he's behind it? 'Cause I'm not looking the other way while you kill someone on maybe."

"No one else would have had any reason to want this. If John didn't want this, why would Mane have done it?"

"Protect his career?"

Gibbs shakes his head. "If Tim was going to go wide with this, he already would have, and John would know that. All of this happened before he made Admiral, all of it happened before got any of those plumb assignments. He's already passed every background test he was ever going to take.

"Besides, son beaten to death in your own brig is huge black mark on your career. Doing this had to be more important than the career."

She flips that around on him. "But he loves the job more than anything else, and he's supposed to be smart enough to figure that out, so…"

Gibbs doesn't want to hear that. "He did it. I know he did it."

"Do you?"

"You saw his interrogation, do you have any doubts?"

"If I had him in for questioning, I'd know he was hiding something. But Burley hit him with being Mane's lover and… And I honestly cannot tell if that's what he's trying to hide, because that's why Mane took it way too damn far, or, if he tried to have Tim killed. You slept through the night, right?"

Gibbs nods.

"So you haven't actually seen the interview, yet, have you?"


She shuts off the water. "Come on. If you're still certain after, then that's that."

They sit in the bed, wrapped in towels, hair wet, McGee's interrogation playing on Abbi's computer. By the end Gibbs' hands are clenched.

"You sure, really sure?"

Gibbs nods, once.


Gibbs lays there in bed, thinking of the rifle and Jimmy, debating what he's going to do with this. Is he training another sniper, or is he designing a tool.

Is Jimmy going to take the shot himself, or is he going to be an extension of Gibbs, taking the shot for him.

He thinks about that, and about what sort of access they're likely to have.

When it comes down to it, if the point is that he's going to be out, in public, possibly with Penny, definitely with Ziva and Tony, so she's not thinking one of them killed her son, then Jimmy has to be able to set it up and take the shot for himself. He can help with scouting, and setting up the target, but Jimmy's got to be able to do the final steps himself.

A sniper's rifle is a tool. It's a very well-designed tool for doing one thing and doing it very well. It kills one particular creature from a great distance. Possibly you get a chance to shoot twice or maybe even three times, but that's pushing it. By the time you're doing that sort of shooting you've moved away from Sniper and into Marksman territory.

As a tool it's fairly simple to use. Point and shoot. Literally. Knowing where to point can be difficult. Wind speed, weather, altitude, what exact rifle you're using, all of that comes into play, but once you've got it, you point and then you shoot.

Shooting is not easy. Even good kills hurt.

And the ones that don't hurt…

Hernandez didn't hurt. But it didn't help, either. Maybe… Gibbs still remembers that… whatever that was, when he almost died in the diner, and talking with Mike about Hernandez. It was what he had to do to keep putting one foot in front of the other and not completely implode.

But it didn't change anything. It didn't bring his girls back. It didn't ease loneliness or the ache of loss.

It kept him alive. It allowed him to become the man he is now. Allowed him to find the whispers of peace he needed to be able to at least work.

So there was that.

He thinks about McGee, about the desire to hurt him, bad. Gibbs wants to break him, on more levels than a man can break. But it's not the same as last time.

Tim's alive. The rest of his family is here and well.

And if John McGee is still alive tomorrow, the world won't end, and Gibbs won't end. He thinks about that, and from everything he can see Jimmy won't end, either.

This isn't something they have to do to be able to look at themselves in the mirror. This isn't vital for any sort of meaningful survival. Like he told Tim, as long as you can still look at yourself in the mirror, this is the step you don't take.

And it'd probably be, in the longer run, detrimental to their well-being. When he went after Hernandez, Gibbs never intended to come back.

And if he does this, or has Jimmy do it, he still needs to come home. Jimmy has to come home. Doesn't matter how much this burns; there are girls who need their dad/husband to come home to them at the end of the day, no matter what.

On top of that, he still wants a home to come home to. And he's not sure if it'll still be home if Penny's not there.

And he's not sure if Penny'll be there if he kills John, or helps Jimmy kill John.

But he's also not sure how he'll sleep if John is out there just going along, no repercussions, free and clear after what he's done to Tim.

Gibbs has heard the whole 'forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not the guy you're forgiving' line before. He heard it and promptly filed it under feel-good BS designed to let assholes get away with being assholes.

And he's certainly not willing to drop that opinion.

But he's also thinking about considering that it might not be entirely bullshit, either.

Does he want to kill John McGee? Yes, absolutely.

Does he want the fall out of having killed John McGee? Maybe. Ish… He wants the satisfaction of it. He wants John's blood on his hands. He wants to see the life ease out of him, and he wants him broken, bleeding, torn for what he's done. Gibbs does want that, a lot.

He doesn't want to murder Penny's son. Doesn't want to deal with whatever fall out may come from that. He doesn't want her to deal with the fallout of that, either. Burying a child breaks you, and even if that child is John, he doesn't wish the pain of that loss on Penny.

Does he want to make Jimmy a killer? No. But he's also not sure that matters all that much. Jimmy isn't a child, and he's not so innocent that he doesn't know what he was asking to do.

Would he regret it? Five years, ten years from now. If he murders John, will it haunt Jimmy?

Bodnar doesn't seem to have had that effect. If his ghost is lingering on Jimmy's shoulder, he's not telling anyone about it.

But Jimmy and Breena didn't handle any of the wet work. They took care of cleaning up the van, stripping it of anything even remotely identifiable. They took care of Bodnar's body, but Gibbs doesn't think they ever saw it. He was already wrapped when they brought him to Slaters' for disposal.

At least twice a month for the last twenty-four years, Gibbs went to someone's home, and tried to put together the pieces of a shattered life. 'I'm sorry for your loss…'

It was his job to make sure the people he talked to played by the rules, let him put everything together, and then waited, like good little citizens, for him to get them justice.

And usually he could. Most of the cases he worked he was able to find the perp and nail him for it. And on occasions where he couldn't, where the rules made sure he couldn't put the perp away, he never minded looking the other way if the vic could handle it.

But for this one he can't. If he plays by the rules, John has to walk.

And for the first time ever, he's wondering if the cost of breaking the rules might be higher than the pain of following them.

The fact of the matter is, both Jimmy and Abby are terrible liars. (Gibbs tucks that into his calculation for how possibly killing John will work. He's not only got to teach Jimmy how to actually shoot, but how not to broadcast on his face that he did it. Sigh.)

So, on Tuesday morning, when he and Abbi get in, and both of them are hemming and hawing and looking shifty as all get out, he knows something is up.

First and foremost, whatever it is, that something isn't Tim. He's completely checked out.

And it's also true that Jimmy and Abby both know they're terrible liars, so they practically sprint out of the room in search of breakfast for everyone as soon as Gibbs and Abbi get there.

As soon as they leave, Gibbs looks at Abbi, she sighs, looking back at him, and then says, "Hang out here, I'll check the visitor logs."


A few minutes later, she's back. "Jarvis."

Gibbs nods at that, wondering what he had to say that's got both of them skittish. No better way than to flat out ask.

"Have a nice chat with Jarvis this morning?" Gibbs asks as Abby hands over his coffee.

She squeaks at that.

"Uh. Yeah." Jimmy replies.

Gibbs nods, sipping his coffee. "Just checking up on Tim?"

Jimmy rolls his eyes at Abby, and she sighs. "No, but we can't say what's up."

"Since when have we ever cared about—"

Abby shakes her head. "Not for Jarvis. Tim wants some time with it before we talk to anyone else."

That catches Jethro by surprise. Now he's really concerned about what might have been put into play that Tim wouldn't want him to know about.

Bodies are highly overrated.

For the most part Tim loves his body. It does everything he wants it to do. It makes him feel really awesome. It has been the source of much pleasure and joy over the years, and these last four years especially, he's been awfully fond of it.

But right now, if given the option, he'd upload his brain to a computer and hang out there until his body gets working again.

He hurts. Okay, that… sucks, honestly. Everything that can hurt does, and he's not seeing an end of that anytime in the near future. They keep giving him pain meds, and given how much he was hurting when he got that one dose about half an hour late, he's pretty horrified at the idea of how bad this would hurt without them. With them, he feels like he's got an all-over toothache.

But that's not nearly as problematic as the issue currently facing him. Dinner last night was real food. Delicious real food. Delicious real food that was a practically ecstatic experience to eat because it's been so damn long since he's had a meal involving real food.

But, his body is sending him some awfully clear signs that it's done with that food now, and would rather like to get rid of it, and he can't figure out how to accomplish that on his own.

Supposedly, at some point, say, six hours from now, various medical type people will show up and remove his right arm from traction. Supposedly, when that happens they'll also unhook the catheter (which he really doesn't want to think all that much about) but once he's all unhooked he can sort of move around a little. Like maybe get in a wheelchair and enjoy a change of view or something.

The problem is, six hours is probably about five and a half hours longer than he can make it without hitting the head.

He tries, very gingerly to move one leg toward the side of his bed, with the plan of somehow getting himself standing up, but his left leg sent him a very clear, 'Oh no you aren't!' signal to his brain.

He tries it again once more, just for... for a chance at not having to tell someone he needs to shit. No dice. His body is not going anywhere on its own.

(What the hell he thought he was possibly going to do had he succeeded in getting that leg off of his bed is unclear, but, once again, he's on a ton of pain medication.)

Which means he needs help. Help he doesn't want to need. But he can't get himself up, and wishing isn't going to make this issue go away.

Abby's napping. She's his first choice for help, but he's pretty sure, (she's got black circles under both eyes) that she's not getting enough sleep, so he doesn't want to wake her up.

Press the help button? He sighs at that. The nurses are all women, at least, on this shift, and he's fairly sure he's not going to make it to the next one.

He reaches over and gets Abby's phone. He doesn't know where Jimmy is, but… he's strong enough to lift him and a doctor, and a guy. If anyone can help him to the head…

Tim here. Need some help.

There in a sec. You okay?

Need a hand getting to the head.

Jimmy steps into his room shaking his head. "Not gonna happen."

Tim's giving him his best, oh come on look. "It better happen." They're both talking quietly, so Abby can keep sleeping.

"I'm not fucking with your arm. There is a reason you have a person who has devoted entire decades of his life to putting arms back together in charge of that, so let's not take my six week rotation in orthopedics and put it to the test, okay?"

"Yeah, well, I can't hold it until he gets here tonight."

"No one's suggesting that. Ever hear of a bedpan?"

Tim winces; yes, he has, though it hadn't occurred to him. "How does that even work?"

"Roll on your left side, someone'll situate the pan, roll you onto it, you do what you need to do, roll on your side again, and they'll clean you up."

Tim grits his teeth. "If you shot me in the head right now, it'd be a mercy killing."

"I'll get a nurse."

Given that he's the parent of a one year old (who he desperately wants to see again), and as a result of that, he's done this roughly seven hundred (if not more) times in the last year, dealing with poop shouldn't be that big of a deal.

But it is.

The best thing he can say about it is, it was fast.

And he's never going to suggest that heated diaper wipes are a ridiculous luxury again. Those little bastards are fucking cold right out of the pack. And as soon as he was done, he'd gotten Amazon up on Abby's phone and ordered one of those diaper wipe heater things because no way is his baby(s) having to deal with that again.

When the nurse leaves, Jimmy heads back in, and says, "Jethro and Abbi are getting us some lunch."

Tim nods.

"About two minutes after they got here this morning they knew something was up with Jarvis."

Tim's shoulder slumps. "What did you tell him?"

"That you wanted more time with it on your own before telling him about it. You weren't making a lot of sense on it when you told us to hide the file."

Tim's eyes close. So much for that plan. "I was hoping that we could keep it a secret. Penny's got a razor sharp BS detector, and if The Admiral dropping over dead caught Jethro by surprise, she'd know, and she'd think it was real."

Jimmy winces, yeah, that was a decent plan, and it's pretty much toast now.


"Should have explained."

"Don't think you had enough brains left for that at that point."

"No." Tim sighs. "Actually that plan was already showing I didn't have enough brains in place. Would have needed something to slow him down enough to give Jarvis time."

Jimmy tilts his head and rolls his eyes a little. "We already had that covered."


"He can't take the shot, not anymore. Your dad goes down with a bullet in him, and Gibbs is suspect number one, and even if he isn't, Penny's always going to wonder. But if he was actually with her when it happened…"

"Okay, and…"

"I asked him to teach me how to do it."

Tim's eyes go wide. He's not sure what to think about that. He gets Jethro being willing to kill for him, between hurting your kids being a white hot button issue for him, and the fact that Jethro's… a killer, that's what he trained for, he got it.

But Jimmy? The man who wanted to throw up, and cried after he thought he killed someone who was about to murder him, that hits Tim really hard. He swallows. "Wow. I'm…"

Jimmy shrugs, brushing off the way Tim's watching him right now. "You'd do it for me. Wouldn't have been fast. He was saying that. But I'd get it. I wanted to get it. Wanted to do it. And then when Metro or whoever came over to see what you and Abby were up to that night, you'd have just been at our place, having dinner, whatever."

"You'd be the alibi."

"Because who'd expect me? Ziva, sure. Tony?" Jimmy nods. "You or Abby, why not? But me?" He snorts. "I'm harmless, right?"

Tim nods, he can see that. "You gonna tell me about it before you did it?"

"We were going to ask. Make sure you wanted it."

Tim sighs a little. "I want it for me. And you, and Abby, and Gibbs, and… And I don't want it for Penny and Sarah. I want you and Gibbs in my life, not behind bars."

Jimmy nods, acknowledging that. After all, no such thing as a perfect crime. His team has done an awfully good job of proving to lot of different people who thought they'd come up with perfect crimes that they were wrong about that.

"What do you need on this?"

Tim starts to shrug and his shoulder screams. He winces. "Right now I'll settle for getting out of this goddamned bed."

"Five more hours. Get you up, new casts, grab a shower. It'll help."

"Home. I want to hold Kelly."

"Tomorrow." Jimmy's watching him, waiting for what he's got to say about the larger issue of his dad.

"I wanted to take him down for once, you know?"

Jimmy nods.

"I wanted to win. On my own. My skills, my tools, ME." He notices Abby sitting up. "Hey. Good nap?"

She nods, taking two steps to his bed, sitting by his not broken foot. "Yeah." She squeezes his foot. "He's going to die because he couldn't stand to see you win. He doesn't know that yet, but it'll happen. If the test hadn't worked. If his guys had aced it, he would have just smirked at you. You won, Tim. Your skills, your tools pushed him so hard he's going to lose everything. Just not right away."

He smiles at Abby, knowing she's putting the best possible spin on this. He'd reach for her hand, but she's too far down, for him to do it, so he rubs his toes against her hand. "Doesn't feel like a win. One minute he'll have everything, one minute he won't, but he won't know it, and he won't know why."

She nods at him. "But it's not a loss, either. Wasn't that part of his thing, never loses control, always in charge?"

Tim nods.

"The only way for him to get out of this required him to admit he couldn't control his personal secretary, let alone his ship."

Tim closes his eyes and smiles a little at that, too. That's better. That would have burned the man who always said everything that happens under your command is your responsibility. (Though, when he was yelling it at Tim, it usually had more to do with things like Sarah drawing on the walls while he was babysitting, or getting a less than perfect grade on a team project because someone else dropped the ball.)

Gibbs and Abbi come in, with food. Tim's wondering if it's a sign that he's healing, that food's the highlight of his day now, or a sign of how small his world's shrunk as he's in here.

Eating comes first, because he might not be awake all that long (he can feel drowsy pulling at him, and Gibbs'll still be around to talk to after his nap, but the food might not be) so, eating. He's scarfing down some really excellent sushi (thank you Abbi for thinking of finger food!) as it also hits him that by the time he can work out again, he's going to be the size of a house.

Apparently that slipped out because Jimmy laughs at that, "Don't worry about it. If I could design a work out where that one regained strength in his knee, and lost weight doing it, I can keep you trim, too."

Tim raises an eyebrow at that.

"You're not eating the way you were thirty pounds ago. Diet's worth so much more than exercise, at least on the level we're doing it. Out plowing the back forty by hand every day, that'd be a different story, bootcamp and daily yoga, not so much. As long as you don't decide being on your ass also means you can eat everything that gets within range, you'll be fine."

That's reassuring.

Lunch wraps up, and Tim's feeling sleepy, but he can also see Jethro's on edge, wanting to know what happened with Jarvis.

He knows that Abby and Jimmy already know this, and he knows that Jethro's just going to turn around and tell Abbi about it, but he still wants to tell Jethro about it on his own.

Apparently no one else in the group is having any trouble figuring that out, because when he says, "Can we get a few minutes," they all know what he means and he doesn't have to explain who's supposed to head off.

Part of it is the drugs. He knows that. The medication he's on means that he's got, at best, shaky emotional control. Part of it is that his actual father, the man who he spent seventeen trying to please, just tried to have him killed. Part of it is that Gibbs is the man he latched onto to replace that first father.

After that first case, when he got the 'good job' 'nice working with you' from Gibbs he just glommed onto it. Needed it. Wanted it. And sure, he didn't give it much thought at the time, but older guy, with white hair, who wanted him to do the job perfectly, and then praised him for doing it really meant something to him.

So, he explains the deal, and why he took it, feeling really nervous about how Jethro's going to react, because he doesn't look happy about anything he's hearing. And as he keeps talking, Jethro not asking any questions, he really needs approval for this. He needs to hear that this was okay, needs to know that Gibbs is still proud of him, and that he did the right thing.

He's doing that thing where he just keeps piling words on top of words on top of words because he's nervous and if he keeps talking he doesn't have to deal with whatever fall out is coming, and, finally, as he's really getting into the politics of it and how he's feeling bad about selling out but he got a really good price for it and maybe his voice is quivering some as he's saying this, and maybe he's a bit more rambly than he thinks he is (once again lots of pain medication) Gibbs, who has been sitting there, quietly, holding his hand, letting him talk stands up, kisses his forehead, and says, "It's okay."

Tim's staring at him with big eyes, still nervous.

Gibbs gently rubs the back of his head, and kisses him again. "It's okay."


"Yeah." He very lightly pats the back of Tim's head, as close to a headslap as anyone is going to get, anymore. "You don't have to apologize for a deal that protects your family, and keeps the peace."

"Good. I was afraid you'd be pissed."

Gibbs shakes his head. Yes, he's disappointed in not getting to do it himself, but not that Tim took or made that deal. Of course, in 366 days, if Jarvis hasn't lived up to the letter of the bargain, John McGee's getting a massive target on his back, and, metaphorically speaking, so is Jarvis. But that's a different topic for a different day. Specifically, he's thinking that's a conversation to have with Jimmy, say, tomorrow.

Tim's getting pretty droopy by now, ready to sleep again, but Gibbs isn't quite ready to let him go yet. "Tim, I'm never going to be pissed at you for putting your family first. That's the rule that supersedes them all."

Tim nods, grateful.

"Am I'm proud that you stood up to him, and I'm proud that you held your own, and you came out of that fight. I'm angry that you walked in there and got hurt—"

"I know. I'm sorry. You told me not to go. Abby told me not to go, and I'm sorry—"

"Shhh… I know. That'll hold for later. You're here, you're in one piece, and you're going to heal up. I'm not angry that you made a good deal." Gibbs smiles sardonically. "And I can't wait to see Tony call you Sir."

Tim laughs a little at that. "Only once."

Gibbs smiles. "Only once."


Shards To A Whole: Politics

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

Chapter 391: Politics

Gibbs gets a text from Abbi as he's opening up Jimmy's computer. I can get a flight now, hop all over the US, and be there by seven tomorrow morning, or I can wait, catch a red-eye, fly direct, and be there by nine.

Take whichever works best. Two hours won't kill me.

Probably nine then. How's Tim?

Sleeping. Probably. Gibbs looks over at Tim, who's laying in the bed, quiet. His eyes don't open easy, too much swelling from the broken nose, so even when he's awake, they're closed. He's not talking right now, and looks pretty relaxed, so asleep. I hope.

He can feel Abbi nod. He looks at Jimmy's computer. He's gotten himself logged in, and there's everything, just like Burley promised.

Would you look at something for me?


Tim's case.

Certainly. Send what you've got over.

He does, and after a minute she sends back. Am I looking for anything in particular?

Nail John to the fucking wall. He texts that in, and then stops, and then deletes. I'm too close to this one. Tell me how it looks from the outside?

Sure, Jethro. Have you been awake since you left?


I've got the notes. I'm leaving for the plane at 4:00 AM. Between now and then, you sleep. You can bone up on the notes then and we'll talk them through when I get there. But you get some sleep.


Jimmy's still there, right?


Have him give you something if you can't fall asleep on your own. I'll text when I leave for the airport. Sleep.

Yes Ma'am.

Time stops in a hospital. Night, day, who the hell knows? Everything slows down, the light never changes, and the routine continues twenty-four seven.

Abby's sleeping.

Gibbs is sleeping. (Or doing a convincing job of pretending to be asleep. And in that he gave Gibbs a horse-tranquilizer-sized dose of sleeping pills, Jimmy's thinking he's not faking.)

Jimmy's watching McGee's interrogation, over and over and over.

Other than the thirty seconds when Tim was seeing him for the first time in years back in '13 ('12? Jimmy doesn't remember, it was a while ago.) but with the exception of that less than a minute long encounter where he caught the tail end of Tim seeing John, and more or less going white, then storming off in a cloud of snark, he's never seen John.

Never had a clear image to go with the stories.

And now he does.

It's funny. Jimmy's never actually wanted to kill anyone before. He's thought he has. He's certainly been mad. But, especially since he shot Lincoln, and really felt that weight of an ended life in his hands, even though it was a life trying to end his, he's had no desire to kill anyone.

He does now. He can feel exactly how different this is. He cannot, on any level, connect with the idea that John is human.

He watches the interview again. It's not long, but he's catching layers of McGee each time he sees it again. That little flicker of disgust at the idea of Tim being bi. The lack of any horror at the sight of him beaten to a pulp. The shock at the idea that Tim managed to keep those four men from killing him. The fact that he is furious at being accused of sleeping with his secretary but, at most, and this is a charitable read, mildly disconcerted at the idea that his secretary ordered his son killed.

Jimmy doesn't have a "gut" per se. And he's not Ducky; he can't read a guy just by looking at him, but right now, he'd bet everything he owns on the idea that John ordered the assault on Tim. He'd bet just as much that he never had to say the words, because saying the words would be… inappropriate or something, but by voice, or by look, or the same way that Ducky could sort of think 'microscope slides for a histology report' to Jimmy and he'd go grab it without a word. Somehow, John made it clear that this was what he wanted.

Except, as he looks up at Tim, sleeping, this isn't what he wanted because Tim's still alive.
In addition to no "gut" Jimmy's not a cop, and he's not a lawyer, but even with that, he knows this can't be taken to court. There's nothing here. At all. Wanting someone hurt or dead isn't illegal.

The fucker's going to get away with it. That's the beginning and middle of the story. And right now, Jimmy's perfectly happy with the idea that one day, with a rifle in his hands, he'll be the end.

He hears Tim shift a little, like he's trying to roll toward Jimmy, followed by a soft grunt of pain, and then, "You've watched it, what? Six times now? Turn it off."

"Oh, God, sorry. Thought you were asleep." Jimmy takes his ear buds out and closes his computer. He's got the volume low, but when John starts yelling, it's probably slightly audible even with his earbuds in.

Tim turns his head toward Jimmy and opens his eyes. "And I thought you were Gibbs."

Jimmy smiles ruefully. "Not today." He takes Tim's hand in his. "How are you feeling?"

"Like shit."

"Want more pain meds?"


Jimmy hits the call button.

"Think they'll let me eat something?"

"We'll find out." Yes? Comes from the voice on the other end of the call button. "Hi. Room 245 here, could we get some more pain medication?"

Sending someone to you.


"You're not going to find anything," Tim says when Jimmy puts the call button down. "You don't get to Admiral by being the guy who makes stupid impulsive decisions. Mane's fucked. It'll all fall on him. But he'll have made sure it can't touch him."

Jimmy thinks about that, not sure what Tim knows/remembers from the last few days. "Mane's dead, Tim."

"Right." Tim winces a little. "I remember that. Sort of. Burley was here, right?"

"Yeah, he was."

"Obviously, he interviewed The Admiral, and it didn't go well."

Jimmy shakes his head. "Vance is giving us until tomorrow to try and find something."

"It won't be there, Jimmy."

"Gotta do something."

Tim squeezes his hand gently. "You are doing something. You're here."

He snorts a bit at that. "Doesn't feel like much."

"It's enough. Right now, this is all I need."

Jimmy's fingers stroke over the back of Tim's hand, careful not to brush the tender bruised skin, or the sore spot where the IV leads into him. "And later?"

"We'll talk about later when I'm sober."


Tim sighs, he's starting to go from the steady everything aches pain level to being aware of each individual pain, too. He's hoping that nurse shows up soon. "What's going on back east?" he asks to distract himself.

"Oh… Um…" It takes Jimmy a second to switch gears. "Everyone hopes you get well soon. Penny's wrecked. No one's said anything about this to your sister, yet. Don't even know what to say or how…"

"Probably a better in-person conversation."

"Yeah. Abbi's on her way here. Going to get in in the morning. I think Gibbs has her looking over the case as well."

"The girls?"

"Busy being babies. Breena tells me Kelly keeps asking where you and Abby are. Might try a call tomorrow, maybe not skype, maybe just a voice, see if that doesn't freak her out."

"Call would be good. Not skype. Don't want her to see me like this."

"You're looking a little better. Swelling's going down some. The worst parts are just really bad now." Jimmy thinks about that, looking at Tim. "You haven't seen yourself yet, have you?"


"Want to?" Jimmy asks. He can find that mirror Abby keeps in her purse.

"Do I?"

"Eh… I don't know. Not sure if your idea of how you look is better or worse than reality."

Tim looks at his left arm. "How's this compare to my face?"

"Face is worse."

Tim stares at the mottled blue, green, purple black of his one "good" arm. If this is better, his face has to look like it was tenderized with a meat hammer. "I can wait."

Gibbs feels halfway between drunk and hung over when he wakes up. He's got no idea what the hell Jimmy gave him, but whatever it was did the job.

He jerks on the sofa as his eyes find a clock. It's already 10:30, and he's way late to pick Abbi up.

Then a hand squeezes his gently. "I take it you needed the sleep," Abbi says dryly, kissing him.

He blinks once, twice, and once more, trying to put this right. She smiles gently and shakes her head. "Abbs called a bit before I landed. None of you have a car, would have made it tricky to meet me. I rented one and came over here."

He stretches, rubbing his eyes, wincing at the pain in his back.

"Got a room, too. Tonight you sleep on a real bed."

He looks around. Tim's still on the bed (like he'd be anywhere else.) Abby and Jimmy are gone.


"Sent them to use the room. Get some real sleep, on real beds. Showers. Go eat a real meal. Tim had to tell them to go, too, but they eventually got out of here."

Abbi kisses him again, and hands him a large cup of coffee.

He takes a deep drink. "Thank you."

"No problem. Though, if you want to give that back to me and sleep some more, I'm thinking you could use it."

Gibbs stands up and starts slowly walking around, trying to work some of the kinks out. "Not sure I'll ever move again if I sleep on that sofa again."

Abby points to the far side of the room. "Cot's free. Like I said, Abbs and Palmer are catching some zs at the hotel. Nurse said Tim could start having real food tonight, so they're sacking out, and'll come back with dinner for all of us."

Gibbs looks at the cot. He can feel drugged sleep clinging to him.

"Come on," Abbi says, pulling him to the cot, "You're asleep on your feet. Nothing's happening right this second that needs you awake. I'm on watch."

He nods and lets her tuck him in.

Several minutes pass, and when Gibbs starts to snore again, Tim quietly says, "You're really good for him. You know that, right?"

"When'd you wake up?" she asks, half sitting on the side of his bed. After she got Abby and Jimmy out, it looked like Tim had drifted off, too.

"Few minutes ago. Heard what you were saying, figured he wouldn't go back to sleep if I was up."

"Good figuring. How are you feeling?"

He half-smiles, wryly. "Like I've been asked that five hundred times in the last two days."

"Got at least another thousand more coming."

"Yeah. First time I've woken up in… Fuck… What day is it?"


"First time I've woken up since Friday and not felt stoned off my ass or in serious pain."

"Non-serious pain or only mildly stoned?"

"Everything aches. But that's actually better than it's been. And the room doesn't want to swim around whenever my eyes move, so I'll put that in the mildly-stoned column."

"Healing up in leaps and bounds."

Tim rolls his eyes a little. "Oh yeah." He looks around a bit, and sort of glares at that little table that's got his water on it. If he could reach over, he could get it, but he's not even remotely tempted to try reaching, because between his ribs, shoulder, and right arm, his torso is firmly convinced that it is going to stay in the position he's in, and any sort of moving is a very bad idea. "Can you hand me the water?"

"Sure." She scoots the tray table in front of him. "Here." Not only can he reach the water (which he now can, and does) but the broth the nurse brought him last night is also in reach. He's slow, and his hand is shaky, but he does manage to feed himself some.

And yes, it's slow. And he does spill some on himself. But right now, this is the first thing he's done for himself in days, and he is very glad that Abbi's letting him do it. "He got you looking over the case, right?" Tim asks between spoonfulls of broth.

She nods, not looking happy. She knew where Jethro wanted to take this, and she knows what they've got evidence for, and she knows those two are not the same thing.

"There's nothing on him, is there?"

"Your dad, you mean?"


She shakes her head. "Nothing I saw. Nothing Burley saw." She holds up Gibbs' phone. "He texted an hour ago, Mane's autopsy is done, and there's nothing to suggest it wasn't a legitimate suicide. He did it cold sober."

"Yep." Tim was expecting that. (Or would have been if he thought about it.) "Can I have that?"

"Sure." She hands over Gibbs' phone, and he goes scrolling through, looking for Leon's number. Takes a moment (He has to look through three times before he locates Vance, exactly where it should be, in the V section. He bumps his mental assessment from mildly-stoned to stoned), but he finds Vance, hits the button, and after a few rings gets him.

"Got something, Gibbs?"

"It's me, and no."


"Yeah. Up and talking, for the moment, at least. There's nothing left on this one. Pull Burley out. Give him authorization to get my stuff from the brig, and…" he looks at his left hand, his wedding ring is there, but the wrist cuff is gone. Of course, the IV tube is taped to the back of his hand and where the cuff would go, and as best as he can remember he's had that IV the whole time he's been in and out of consciousness. "The infirmary. Then… Then that's it, case over."

"You sure, McGee?"

"I'm sure. You're not going to find anything. Not on him. Not like this."

"Okay. I'll make some calls. Any news on when you can come home?"

Tim thinks about that. "I think they said Wednesday. Arm gets out of traction on Tuesday, so… Wednesday, I hope."

"Okay. I'll make the calls."

"Thanks, Director."

"Not a problem. You take as long as you need to heal up, got me?"

"Got you. I'll be in on Thursday."


"It's a joke."

"Good, or I will order you home until at least July."

"Noted, sir."

"Damn right," Leon says, hanging up.

"So there are people you still call, sir?" Abbi asks.

"It's been known to happen."

She laughs a little at that.

Leon holds his phone, debating on how exactly to do this. Finally he settles for an email. His official address to Jarvis'. It's a very formal, stilted, precise email, listing exactly where the case is, and what's happened.

Jarvis knows how the game is played; he'll understand what Vance hasn't written, what he won't write.

And while it's true that Jarvis is a political animal. It's also true that he knows that right now Vance can bring a whole lot more hurt onto him than John can, so even if Jarvis' natural inclination would be to drop and bury this, he'll go the extra mile to make sure it's taken care of, as well as it can be.

He gets a call from Clayt about an hour later. Short conversation, apparently he's rallied all the players on the board and is "handling it."

"Eat slow and easy. You haven't had any real food in days, so don't just gobble it down."

"Yes, Mom." Tim says to Jimmy, mouth watering at the plate in front of him. Any other day, two pieces of sourdough toast with butter would not be anywhere near this interesting to him, but right now, golden brown toast with a light smear of butter looks like absolute heaven.

Everyone else has bowls of cioppino, rich with shrimp and crab and scallops, and if this stays down, rumor has it he can have some of that, too.

But he can enjoy the smell of the seafood stew, and the taste of the toast, exploding in his mouth all buttery and sour and crispy, and food has never, ever been this good before.

His lizard brain thinks that, maybe, eventually, if they ever unhook him and let him shower again, sex might be really good, too. (Assuming he can find a way to do it that doesn't involve moving, or well, anything other than his dick getting touched… Might have to hold off on that.)

Which is when it occurs to him that he hasn't gotten up for three days. He knows liquids have been going into him. He can see the IV bag, and he's been drinking water and juice and broth, so… He looks around a bit and notices that, yes, there's a tube heading out from under the blankets.

He doesn't want to think too hard about that, but is rather pleased to see that apparently a catheter doesn't hurt once it's in place.

Burley's gotten the call from Leon. He's not surprised by it. There really was nothing left to do on this one. They've hit the point where the JAGs are doing their bit, quarreling among themselves about who faces what charges and how long in prison and all the rest of it.

Their job, finding the facts, is over.


Burley heads to John's quarters on his own. He relieves the MA's that have been standing watch, making sure he's remained in his quarters.

He knocks quickly, and just as quickly hears, "Enter."

Stan steps in. John's at his desk, reading something, not bothering to look up at him. Burley does not wait. He should. Waiting to be acknowledge would be showing proper respect for McGee's rank, so he doesn't.

"As of ten minutes ago, your son's case is officially closed. You are back to active duty. Your ship may disembark whenever you desire."

John looks up at Burley and nods.

"My team and I will be gone within the hour. Seamen Manz, Ylyns, Nordstrom, and Chase, as well as Petty Officer Weis have been removed from the ship."

"Lt. Mane?"

"His remains have been transferred to the mortuary at Alameda, and his family has been notified of his suicide."

John blinks, but doesn't allow any other outward display of emotion. After a moment he says, "And would that be what you meant by Lt. Mane wasn't talking?"

"Yes. He left a note saying that he had to stop Tim's lies and then blew his head off in the enlisted mess. But he's just your secretary, right? Everyone has a secretary ready to blow his head off to protect his boss's career. You're just fond of him."

It was fairly satisfying to see John's eyelid start twitching at that, but in that he's not whipping out the cuffs, it's a hollow victory.

"Whole ship's talking about it. Had to do some damage control. After all, Tim's mission is classified. Most of your ship, fortunately, doesn't have a clue as to what actually happened with that. Just that some poor son of a bitch got beaten in the brig. As for Mane, scuttlebutt has it you two had a serious lover's quarrel. Apparently you're leaving him for someone younger and hotter. Even set up his transfer to a different ship. Broke the poor bastard's heart." Burley shakes his head. All of that's a cold lie. Sure there are lots of rumors flying around about Mane right now, but to the best of his knowledge that isn't one of them.

"Goodbye, Admiral." And with that, he turns and leaves.

It's a bit before breakfast time on Monday when Jarvis comes to visit again. Gibbs and Abbi haven't come back yet, so it's just him, Abby, Jimmy, and the nurse who is in charge of Tim's morning routine right now.

Jarvis makes all the right noises while the nurse is in the room, but when she asks how Tim's pain level is he flashes a significant look at Tim, who does manage to catch it, so he says he's doing okay now.

When she leaves Tim asks, "What was that?"

"A serious conversation that has to happen now rather than later, and you need to be as close to all here as you can get for it."

Tim rubs his eyes. He's starting to really ache all over again, and he can feel his pulse through his whole right arm, so right now not being all here sounds awfully good.

"Does it have to be now?"

Jarvis looks at Abby. "Yeah, it does."


Jarvis glances at Jimmy, not entirely sure where he fits into this whole thing. "Doctor, now might be a really good time for you to take a walk."

The glare Jimmy gives him could peel the skin off an orange.

"Or not. It's this cut and dried, you cannot prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Admiral McGee ordered the attack."

Jimmy and Tim and Abby know this. And it's very obvious in their collection of no shit glances that they have aimed at Jarvis.

"Tim, if you want your day in court, if you want to smear him, you can press charges. And I can make sure the judge who gets the case won't dismiss it out of hand. And yes, it will be excruciatingly embarrassing for your father. But you cannot win the case, and in addition to your father it will be horrendously embarrassing for everyone else involved. Specifically, it is an election year and we are gearing up for the final push before the convention, so it will be horrendously embarrassing for the President and for Mrs. Clinton, as the former Secretary of State, if their pet drone warrior starts to look bad. So, I am asking you to let it lie."

That's not going over well.

Jimmy snorted at that, and Abby shoots out, "He just gets to walk away?"

"No." Jarvis pats a file that's sitting on his lap. "No, if you are quiet and discrete, I will make it beyond well worth your while. I was there, so I know he's behind it, and I know we can't prove it, and I want to see some sort of justice for this, too. So, you guys be quiet and I will make a promise."

"And what is this promise?" Tim asks, disappointed. Politics. He hates politics, and now he's smack dab in the middle of it.

"First of all, your father will never become Secretary of Defense. In fact, he's also been asked to step down from the Commission on Drone Warfare. The President and Hillary are both disassociating from him as fast as possible. He's no longer on the invite list for any of the fundraisers, his spot at the nominating convention as a speaker is gone."

That's not satisfying anyone. Yes, that will infuriate John, but that's not the level of payback Tim was hoping for.

"Eventually Leon will retire and there will be an opening at NCIS for a new Director. Short of you dying between now and then, it's yours."

Abby and Jimmy look impressed by that, but right now Tim's arm is hurting too much for that to really matter.

"You're trying to buy me off," Tim says, annoyed. Trying to hit him with politics when he hurts this bad is a terrible idea.

Jarvis looks at him, frustrated. Then it really hits him that this is the exact wrong time to do this, but that it also can't be put off, so the straight ahead no possible bullshit route is the way to handle this. "Of course, I'm trying to buy you off! This is politics, the gentle art of buying off as many groups as possible, as cheaply as possible, so you and yours get to do the stuff you want to do.

"Me and mine want to win the election and stay in power. It's that simple, and things that will make that difficult are issues to be taken care of.

"Let me be painfully blunt about this: If you go forward with this case on a criminal or civil level it will embarrass everyone involved, during an election campaign. In that that Paul guy is pulling voters away from the Democratic side by tacking hard left on the pacifist/isolationist side, by, among other things, hawking pictures of innocent people being killed in drone strikes, I have been told, in no uncertain terms, to offer you anything you want to keep you silent and to make sure that Admiral McGee does not end up with a bullet in him until after November 9th. You want Director of NCIS? When Leon retires, it's yours. Want a bigger budget? You've got it. Feeling burned on this whole thing? Your pension is vested, and you've got your full thirty years in benefits. Hell, they keep talking about spinning off a CyberTerror Division separate from Homeland. You want to head it up? It's yours. My job, right now, is to come up with something so grand that you will shut up about this and let it sleep until after the election. Novemember 10th, you can do whatever you like and still reap every reward I'm offering, but if anything happens before then, you are on your own."

"I want him publicly stripped of rank."

Jarvis shakes his head. "That's the one thing I can't give you. Can't do it now, and unless he screws the pooch again, I won't have standing for it later."

"You won't let me kill him, so that's what I want."

Jarvis takes a breath. Time for the big guns. Wouldn't be the first time he's done something like this. Unlikely to be the last, either. "Position's not the only thing on the table. You shut up, and sometime, next year, your father will have heart attack. It will happen after an appointment with me. It will appear to have happened by natural causes, and in that your grandfather also died of a heart attack around the same age, no one will question it.

"Your Grandmother and sister will never have to wonder if they are sitting at a table with the man who killed their family. You will never have to worry about someone deciding that it's awfully convenient that the man who did you wrong ran into a sniper's bullet. No one will even notice that people who hurt Gibbs' family tend to have fatal accidents involving sniper's bullets. Leon won't have to cover anything up to make sure your tracks stay clean.

"So, yes, I am trying to buy you off. If you want public revenge more than actual justice and the safety and peace of mind of your family, I cannot stop you from running that play, but I will also make it immensely worth your while to decide to sit on your own hands for five months." Jarvis hands over the file. "This is my CV. This is what I did when I was on active duty. I'm sure that after reading it, you'll know that I've got the skills and connections to do exactly what I just said and get away with it clean. Read up. Think. Talk amongst yourselves—"


Abby and Jimmy both blink. Neither of them expected Tim to take the offer.

"This will never come back to us, right?"


"Tim!" Jimmy says.

Tim flashes him the we'll talk about it later look. Much later, when they're alone and his body isn't throbbing with every heart beat. "Anything ever happens to him and our whole family is the prime suspect. Drops dead of a heart attack sounds just fine to me. No career advancement'll hurt him." Tim looks at Jarvis. "There's really no way to strip him of rank?"

Jarvis shakes his head. "Not with as connected as he is, not without proof. Now, if he goes on the warpath and does something stupid, we're going to go full bore on him, but, I don't think he's going to try anything. And I've made sure his new secretary has loyalties that are not primarily aligned with your father's, so someone will be watching him all the time."

Tim nods. He approves of that built in safety measure.

"So, what do you want?"

Tim's eyebrows raise.

"Dead body is only part of the deal."

"It's enough." Except it's not, there's a nagging sense of that not being the right answer, and it takes him a minute to find the issue. His budget, and Abby's, and Vance... too low. "No, it's not. Twenty percent increase for the NCIS budget, and we don't ever go on the cutting board again. If I ever make Director, it'll be on my own merit."

Jarvis looks deeply amused by the idea of 'merit.' "If you shut up about this, you'll have earned it. You're as high as anyone gets on talent alone. The next jump up requires going above and beyond for your agency, and something like this qualifies. Trust me, no one you've ever worked for made it to Director of NCIS based on being an excellent cop or administrator."

"That's depressing."

Jarvis shrugs. That's just how it is. Talent can take you so far. Talent and a closet full of skeletons and people who owe you will take you a whole lot further. "You were already on Leon's short list for his replacement, this bumps you to the top and keeps you there. We can cement it now, or you can wait the ten years and see if you still want it then."

"I'll wait."

"Then it will be yours to turn down." Jarvis taps the file again, and if he was hurting less, Tim might have gotten that was more than a 'check out how bad ass I really am' gesture. But he is hurting, and he's starting to lose focus, and Jimmy sees it, so he goes looking for the nurse again.

Jarvis excuses himself.

By the time Jimmy gets back, Tim can feel each and every single break in his entire arm, as well as foot, and nose, and ribs, and just about wants to throw up from how bad he's hurting. Pain's trying to sweep away every other thought in his head, but he knows Gibbs and Abbi are coming soon, so he's got to say this, now, before they get here.

He's staring at Jimmy and Abby while the nurse adds something to his IV which is taking way too damn long to get into his system. "Take the folder, stuff it somewhere, and don't mention this. At all," he says through gritted teeth.

"We're not telling Gibbs?" Abby asks, looking appalled at that, while Jimmy stuffs Clayt's folder into his go bag.

He nods, tears in his eyes. The nurse starts tutting about not waiting until you're hurting to ask for medication. "I'll keep that in mind," he whimpers, and then sighs as the first bit of whatever's in that IV starts to hit and the pain eases up a little.

By the time the nurse leaves he's back down to being able to feel his heart beat in throbs of pain in each broken bone, but that's an improvement, and he's still got two brain cells to rub together so he says, "I know you've got some sort of plan cooking. I know you're not moving on it until we can all talk. Just…" his eyes are trying to slide shut and everything's going sideways, whatever she gave him was really strong, "keep this quiet until the three of us can talk."

"Okay," Abby says from a very long distance away.

This time, John is not in his office, not waiting for Jarvis. So Jarvis waits there for him.

"Are you eager to get going?" he asks as John enters his office.

"Yes." It's clear by the look on his face that he'd be even happier if Jarvis were to fuck off and let him actually leave. "We're three days behind on our trip to Pearl."

"Yes, you are. Trips do tend to get delayed when someone's almost murdered on your ship. I take it you're not holding things up to offer your condolences to Mane's family in person?"

John's eyes narrow. "I've written them already. We're running late."

"Then I won't hold you long. Just some housekeeping to do to wrap this situation up. As I'm sure you know, as of this point in time, nothing can be pinned to you on the assault on your son."

This would be where most people would say something like, I had nothing to do with that! but John remains silent. He doesn't flinch or respond on any level to that comment. Jarvis isn't sure if that's just him refusing to even acknowledge this whole mess, or an implicit acknowledgement of the fact that he did have something to do with it, or in that it's patently obvious that Jarvis thinks he was involved, he's not going to bother arguing about it.

"However, in that this entire thing has blown up, and your history with Tim has come out, there are going to be a few changes in your circumstance. First of all, you are no longer on the Commission for Drone Warfare. That's touchy enough without possibly being linked to a child abuser. Secretary of Defense is gone. Were there to be a scandal of some sort on your watch, this too would come out, which would raise unfortunate questions as to the wisdom of the President in appointing you, so you can no longer pass the background check for it. Both Barack and Hillary have requested that I convey to you that they are deeply grateful for the aid you've offered them in their different political adventures, but in that you are currently political plutonium, and in that it is an election year, they don't want you anywhere nearby. Your invitation to speak at the Nominating Convention has been unissued. As of right now you have a "scheduling conflict."

"The President would like to suggest that you look into a well-deserved retirement. You've offered long and respected service to your country, and while no one will force you out, it would be… prudent… if you were to just vanish."

John blinks at that, looking like he's been stabbed in the chest. He still refuses to say anything.

Jarvis sees that. He knows what the President requested on this, but he doesn't want to see John go. If he moves, then it'll be more difficult to find him again, say, in January after the swearing in, when the wider world is no longer watching.

And seeing the way John's responded, the look of betrayal, the straightening of his shoulders, the set of his eyes, Jarvis knows what he needs to do to make sure that John stays right where he is.

"Now I'm going to offer my own suggestion, one I would certainly take if I were you. Retire. Now. While you've still got you rank and commission intact. Then go find somewhere far, far away, well outside of the United States. Change your name, consolidate your holdings, kiss your daughter goodbye, run there, and don't ever come back."

John's not impressed by that and it shows in his face.

"You know how I got to where I am, right?" Jarvis asks.

John nods. "Some of your missions were run off of ships under my command."

"Good. Then you know I don't scare easy."

"Never thought you did."

Jarvis steeples his fingers together, tapping the tips lightly. "Then trust me on this, there are very few men in this world who scare me. Very few men who can burn hot long enough, and keep enough of their mind in place, to act on that and get away with it. Leroy Jethro Gibbs is one of them. And since I don't have the proof to toss your ass in jail, he is going to kill you."

John laughs. "He can try. I met him once, wasn't that impressed."

Jarvis shakes his head. "Men have hurt his family before. They're dead now. And if you think somehow Tim isn't his family... or that he won't kill for him… I never took you for a fool. But if you think that, you are one. If memory serves you haven't seen combat since the '90s. I sent him on a wet work mission back in '12. Your son took on four combat ready sailors, at once, bare handed, and lived. Who do you think trained him? So, get it right in your head, if you do not vanish, Gibbs will kill you.

"Not today, not tomorrow. He's a sniper and has a sniper's patience. But one day, you're going to die, and he's going to do it."

"I don't back away from threats."

Perfect. He's got John focused on the wrong threat now. "Of course not. But you should. If you value being alive, you will run. Or, of course, you may request a protection detail, which would require you to explain why Gibbs is trying to kill you. But, let me be clear, if you remain an Admiral, then like before this happened, your movements and locations will always be known, anyone with any connections to the Navy will be able to locate you at any time, so I am suggesting that now would be a very good time to return to civilian life."

"Is that an order?"

"No. It is a suggestion from someone who doesn't want to see an Admiral murdered."

"An Admiral?" John asks, dryly.

"After the shit you just pulled on your son, I don't give a fuck if you get murdered. It didn't really hit me when he was doing it, but at three separate times, in understated ways, Tim suggested we not do this on your ship. In retrospect, I now know why.

"I was in the damn room when Mane came in, and I watched your face as he took Tim away. You know how you looked?" Jarvis smiles, brilliantly cold. "Like a predator about to kill. But, because my observation of your satisfaction at seeing your son dragged off to be murdered will not stand in court as proof of guilt, you are still a Four Star Admiral of the United States Navy, and it is my job as Secretary of the Navy to keep everything in order and looking good, so I will do that. Your current commission is up in '17. If you do not elect to retire, you will not be allowed to re-up."

"I will take your advice under consideration."

Jarvis knows the correct polite military code for fuck off when he hears it, so he nods and leaves, absolutely certain that he has made sure that John McGee will stay on active duty and under his gaze as long as need be to arrange a heart attack.