Friday, September 26, 2014

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."


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