Friday, September 26, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Support

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

Chapter 389: Support

"Burley." Stan answers.

"What do you have, Stan?"

"Gibbs?" Burley's confused. This whole thing has been confusing. He got a call just as it was quitting time, from the Director of NCIS, no less, demanding he get his team on a ship that was way the hell out of his jurisdiction, for something, Vance didn't say what, just that the Lt. James, (whoever the hell that is) and the Agent Afloat Sarah Angua would get him up to date as soon as he got there. And now, from nowhere, Gibbs is calling for an update.

Asking for an update before he's even begun the case. This feels like morphing back in time.

"Yeah. What'd'ya have?" He's sounding impatient, and ready to start biting the heads off of things.

"Nothing, I'm still in the air. Gibbs, I haven't even been briefed on what I'm investigating yet. I just know I was told to get my team to the Stennis ASAP and the Agent Afloat would get me up to speed. I'm on a cargo plane, still an hour out."

Gibbs bites his lip. "You remember my retirement party?"

"Lot of it's pretty hazy. After the second bottle, things started to go sideways. Can't party like I used to."

"Not that one. The one at the diner that everyone went to."

The one that wasn't really a party. "Oh. Yeah. Okay. Enough."

"Tall, thin guy, married to Abby, little baby girl, one of my kids."

"Yeah. Tim, right? Think I've worked with him once, twice maybe?"

"Right. That's his dad's ship." He says the next bit voice low, trying to not broadcast this all over the hospital, but his voice is very hot, and Leon notices, watches, as he says, "Son of a bitch abused him as a kid, but he got an assignment on that ship, and he didn't say anything because he's a pro and he'll do his job wherever that job takes him, so he went and that…" there aren't words foul enough for McGee, "thing tried to have him killed while he was on the ship."

"Holy fuck! Tried?"

"He's alive. I'm in the hospital with him, and Abby, his pregnant wife."

"Okay. Got it."

Vance has taken three steps closer to Jethro and motions for the phone, he hands it over.

"Agent Burley, this is Director Vance."

"Director." Burley's confused, and then he's impressed. He was impressed that whatever this was the Director was handling it. He's more impressed now. The Director of NCIS is in the hospital with McGee, which means McGee is connected. Which blows Burley's mind, because the last time he saw McGee at work the only real impression he had was of a somewhat timid guy doing his job quietly.

"Agent Burley, I know you have a reputation for the highest standards of professionalism. No matter how painful this case is and how personally satisfying it would be to absolutely destroy anyone even remotely related to it, you are to do your job, as a professional. You are an officer of the law and you will act like one."

"Yes, sir."

"The Admiral," Oh God, Tim's father is an Admiral? This is going to be a mess. "is a well-respected member of the Navy. He is on the President's Drone Task Force. He is on good terms with the Former Secretary of State, who is, as you know, currently running for President. So this investigation will be letter perfect, do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"You will investigate as long, and as hard, and as deeply as you need to. If anyone tries to pull rank on you, shoot them down. If you do not receive the fullest cooperation on every single aspect of this case feel free to charge everyone with obstruction of justice. The Secretary of the Navy has your back on this, but you will also follow all the rules, fill out all the forms, dot all the is, cross all the ts, and make sure that when this goes to trial that no one can claim any sort of partiality was involved."

"Yes, sir."

Vance hands the phone back to Gibbs. Gibbs doesn't have anything to add to that.

Apparently Burley can tell the difference between them by the quality of the silence on the other side of the phone. "I'll give you a call once I get on board and start figuring out what's going on."

"Thanks, Stan."

Leon's staring at Gibbs, and Gibbs knows why.

"Some of us know, the outside world doesn't. Hell, even DiNozzo doesn't have the whole story. It's need to know, and you didn't."

"He should have—" Gibbs cuts Vance off as Leon remembers that Tim did suggest a different ship.

"Mentioned it? Asked for a different ship because his dad was on it? Open this up for everyone to see? You know how private he is. Abby didn't know about it until last year."

"God." Vance shakes his head.

"He hates ships, gets seasick something fierce, his Dad was a nightmare before this, but the job was on that ship so he went on that ship to do the job. Abby didn't want him to go. I didn't want him to go. Lots of other ships in the Navy. He could run the attack from anywhere, but…"

Jimmy steps out of Tim's room. Gibbs looks at him, as if he's got some answers. "Still asleep. Been reading his medical records, looks like they're doing a good job. Supposedly there's an orthopedic specialist around here somewhere. The guy who took care of his arm. I'm going to hunt him down and talk to him."

Gibbs and Vance nod at that.

Jimmy takes a detour on the way to finding the surgeon. He heads for the bathroom, locks the door, sits down, and lets himself break down.

Couldn't the shit with Tony have been enough? Did this really have to run right on its heels?

He's sobbing as quietly as he can, pouring out this, and well, everything. Right now he wants Breena so badly, needs to bury his face against her neck and just let go, but she's corralling the crew back home.

He knew, as he was reading the medical records, that he wasn't going to be able to handle this, not the way he needs to handle it. He was only in there for ten minutes, and was having a hell of a time staying calm.

He's a doctor, emotions shut down, logic, calm, healing, that's supposed to take over.

And it's not. That's why you don't treat your family.

He wipes his eyes, which isn't useful, he's still crying. He wants to rage. He wants to break people. Wants to break everyone who laid a hand on Tim. And he can't.

He hears a soft knock. "Occupied," Jimmy chokes out.

"It's me." Gibbs' voice.

He gets up slowly, wiping his eyes, and takes the two steps to the door, opening it.

"Trying to not lose it in front of Abby." His voice cracks on that.

Gibbs nods, shutting the door and locking it behind him. "You lasted longer in there than I could." Gibbs wraps him in a hug, and Jimmy sobs more.

After a minute, he steps back. Taking a deep, shuddering breath. "I heard what Vance said to you."

Gibbs raises an eyebrow.

"About the rifle. And come on, I know what your go bag looks like. You don't need a duffle for however long we're going to be here. So, I know what's in there. And I know you can't take the shot."

Gibbs is looking stunned and angry at that.

"And you can't get close enough to him for a knife."

Gibbs' eyes narrow. "Why can't I take the shot?"

"Because you're a fucking sniper, Jethro! People who hurt your family end up dead by a sniper's shot, and unless at least fifty people can place where the hell you are when the Admiral bites it, you're going to jail for the rest of your life. And it's basically the same goddamned reason why Ziva and Tony can't take the shot, either." Jimmy swallows hard. "First time Tim took me shooting, I said to him, 'It's like yoga with explosions. Relax, find your center, slow down, focus, target, gently squeeze.' He said not to let you know that, because you'd turn me into a sniper." Jimmy's staring at Gibbs, eyes red and puffy, very determined.

"It's a patience and focus skill, right?"

Gibbs is staring at Jimmy, really seeing him, thinking. "Yeah, it is. Some math, too. Some mechanics. Mostly it's waiting until it's time to pull the trigger, not rushing."

"And by this point, my vision's not much worse than yours is. Probably better when I've got my glasses on than yours is. Just you and me. The rest of them don't need to know. Take an hour or so to practice every time when we're supposed to be working on the house. Got lots of room out there. Take Shannon out, teach me how to sail, too, shoot down the water, no one to see, no risk of hitting anyone."

Gibbs shrugs. "You won't pick it up fast."

"It's a patience skill. It doesn't have to happen overnight. One day, something'll happen to John. And Leon'll hand it over to whoever, Metro, so that he can claim everything is above board, no cover up. Every cop'll show up at your door, asking lots of questions, but you'll have a solid alibi, in public, probably with Penny. They'll poke around Tony and Ziva, hell, maybe even Ducky, he's got a military background. But they aren't going to ask about me, not deep. They'll run a quick check, and I'll have cover for it, and that'll be that. Never solved."

Gibbs licks his lips. "We telling Tim?"

"Were you planning on telling him what you were going to do?"

"No, but he'd know."

"Permission. We're asking permission and leaving it there. He gets to decide what happens to John. But if he says yes, one day, something is going to happen, and you're going to be with Penny when it happens, so she won't think you killed him, so she'll be able to… pretend or whatever."

Gibbs nods. "You and Tim have just done handguns, right?"

Jimmy nods, too.

"It's different than a handgun."

"I'd imagine." Jimmy heads to the sink and begins to wash off his face, hoping cool water will help with the swelling.

"Say the words, Jimmy."

He looks at Gibbs in the mirror, unsure of what Gibbs is telling him to do. "Not teaching you how to do this if you can't even say the word."

"Show me how to take the shot, and I will kill John McGee with it."

"Okay." Jimmy straightens up, grabs a paper towel, dries his face off, and then turns to Gibbs. "Your turn."

"If you'll kill John McGee, I'll teach you how to take the shot."

"Um… No." Jimmy steps closer and hugs Gibbs. "Your turn to let it out. We need to be her rock to cry on, doesn't mean we don't get to cry, too."

For a second Gibbs stands there, stiff, uncomfortable, but Jimmy is holding him, gently rubbing the back of his head, and from the feel of it, isn't letting go anytime soon.

"You can't spend the whole time we're here hiding in the hall or raging about this. Which means you need to do something with it. We're not killing anyone today, so let go. I've got you."

And eventually, after a few more breaths, Jimmy feels Gibbs start to shake.

It takes another half hour or so for Jimmy to get himself (and Gibbs) entirely back together, but he does, and he gets his phone out, noticing it's only a bit past eight thirty at home, and texts Breena.

We're here, got him taken care of. Who's at home?

A minute later he gets. Everyone but Sarah and Glenn. Decided to hold off on calling them until we know how he is. How is he?

Bad. Alive and he'll heal, but it's bad. Going to talk to his surgeon next, find out exactly how bad his arm is.

How bad does it look?

Jimmy rubs his eyes. Did Ducky bring his computer?


Tell him to log onto the Federal Medical Records database and use my ID. He used to specialize in hands surgery, ask him to give it a good going over.

Breena knows when he doesn't want to answer a question. Jimmy, how bad is it?

Bad enough I'm crying, too.

Shit. Any idea when he'll be able to come home?

No. Not today. Not tomorrow. Maybe Monday, Tuesday is more likely. Got to get his arm out of traction before he can move.

Oh God. Ducky just got logged in.

Go, read. Gibbs and I are going to talk to the surgeon. I'll text back when I know more.


Breena waited until 7:00 to give everyone a call. And by everyone, she meant Ziva, who will have no problem corralling the rest of the crew and getting them over to her place, because honestly, getting three kids under the age of 2 ½ and a dog all fed breakfast at once while on the phone is just too damn much.

She talks to Ziva briefly, explains that everyone needs to be at her house as soon as they can, and Ziva, who is always rock solid in a crisis asks just enough questions to know that no one is dead, and who qualifies as everyone, and then takes over.

Tony is stalking around Breena's house like a caged tiger. A deeply unhappy caged tiger. Ziva's still, but no less agitated. Ducky's getting his computer set up and logged onto the Palmers' Wi-Fi so they've got ready communications.

And then…

And then there's nothing to do but wait.

And waiting is not Tony's strong suit.

"Why are we not on that jet?"

Breena shrugs. She assumes that there's a reason why Vance didn't call them to run the case, but off the top of her head, she doesn't know what it is.

"We should be on that jet, and then on that ship, and then making every single other person on that ship sing. We should be hanging John up by his toenails, getting a confession out of him, we should be…" He shakes his head and pulls his phone out of his pocket.

Vance feels like a seventh wheel. He's not family, and doesn't want to go into Tim's room by himself with just Abby. But he doesn't want to leave either. Doesn't have anywhere to go. He's thinking of heading off to find all of them some sort of breakfast when he gets a call and sees the name on the ID. DiNozzo.

"Agent DiNozzo, calling in to brief me on your current case?"


"No time for that right now. I'm eager to hear about it, but kind of busy. I should be back on the East Coast late tonight, so how about you, Agent DiNozzo, and Dr. Mallard all join me at my house for breakfast tomorrow morning say, 07:00 to tell me all about it?"


"Splendid. I'll see you then." And he hangs up.

"What was that?" Ziva asks. She expects Tony to get more than two words out. They all do.

"He won't say anything. Didn't let me get a word in. We've got a breakfast date at his place tomorrow at 07:00."

Ziva looks puzzled, but Ducky gets it. "Oh."

"Oh?" Breena asks.

"Do you remember a few years ago when the IRS conveniently lost all communications between its Director and certain outside groups?"

Ziva nods, Tony doesn't. He doesn't pay all that much attention to larger politics.

Penny already knows where this is going so she says, "Last year, after the fall-out from that settled down, all communications for any Director of a Federal Agency is now copied and kept off-site. I'd bet that includes any conversations on their cell phones, or at least phone logs.

"Ah. Breakfast tomorrow, then." Ziva says.

"When we won't be overheard." Tony nods. "I get it." And suddenly he does. Suddenly furious and scared clear enough that he does get it. "We're not on this so that it looks proper. Has to look by the books because he's an Admiral. He'll have top lawyers and there can't be any wiggle room for him." Then he gets the deeper level, the reason why they aren't going to wait to see what whoever actually is investigating this manages to find. There's probably nothing to find to link John to this. They're going off the books on this one, way, way off the books. "Whatever we're really going to do, that'll be what we talk about tomorrow."

Breena's phone beeps, and she spends a few moments texting.

"Ducky, can you log onto the Federal Medical Records Database? Use Jimmy's account. Tim's stuff is in there."

Ducky nods, and gets to it. He reads the notes out-loud, voice getting angrier with every sentence. While Tony, Penny, Ziva, and Breena hover around, listening, getting paler and more furious by each word.

Ducky's last word falls, and for a second there's just silence then Tony says, "He's dead. John's dead. And if Gibbs doesn't do it, I will." Then he realizes Penny's sitting right next to him. "Oh, Penny… I—" he doesn't know what to say. John's dead. That's a fact, and it's a fact he's in no way sorry about. He will destroy that man if Gibbs doesn't, and he will enjoy every second of it. But his mom is sitting right next to him. Tony weakly says, "Tim's really hurt."

She nods. Ducky explained each bit as he read it. And there's more stuff that isn't in those records, yet. She knows exactly how bad this is. "I know Tony." She rubs her eyes and stands up, heading to the back porch. Ducky follows. They hear the door open, then close, and the faint sound of Ducky's voice, along with the louder sound of Penny sobbing.

No one has ever accused Penny Langston of being a weak woman. A raving bitch, oh yes, but weak? No.

But right now she hurts so bad she just wants to collapse.

She's sitting on the Palmer's back porch, sobbing, face buried in Ducky's shoulder as he holds her and gently pets her back.

Whether John did it or not, they're going to kill him. She wants to believe he's not responsible. She needs to believe it.

But she doesn't. She knows her son, and she knows the man he was raised and trained to be. Nothing happens on his ship without his approval.

"They're going to kill my son," she says quietly, to Ducky.

He holds her a little tighter, kissing her gently.

"He's my son, and I know… I know… But…" Sobbing replaces words. A moment later she gets out, "I've already outlived one child; I don't think I can do it again."

"Shhh… None of that. Whatever comes next, we'll get through, together."

"No we won't. You didn't raise a monster. It's not your child that tried to destroy your grandchild. It's not your family that's going to murder your son."

"I know. And I'm not going to pretend I can even imagine I know how this feels. But I'm here, and I will be here, with you, for you. And if we are even remotely lucky, John will have the good sense to do the right thing and take this out of our hands."

When Jimmy and Gibbs get back from talking to the surgeon, Vance also heads into Tim's room. He figures they can all get each other up to date in one run.

He feels his blood boil at the sight of McGee again, and forces it down.

Tim is, fortunately, asleep.

Vance has three large cups of coffee, and… and he doesn't know what Abby likes when she's pregnant, but he's fairly sure Caf-Pow is not what the doctor ordered right now, so he's also got a large iced-green tea.

There's a bag in his other hand, it's filled with muffins and pastries. He knows that besides Jimmy, none of them have eaten, and they could probably all use food.

"Jarvis and James have headed back to DC." Vance says, quietly, as Gibbs and Abby pick through the pastries. Jimmy shakes his head at them. "He's called John Ramis," none of them recognize that name, "highest ranking Naval Doctor, personal physician to the Vice President. He's looking over the case and will be giving you a call, Jimmy.

"Agent Burley just texted me to let me know he's aboard the Stennis, has met with Agent Angua, and is reading through all the notes they currently have on the case, and will soon be beginning to interrogate the three who assaulted Tim who can talk. Angua is still running the hunt for Lt. Mane. They have Tim's computer, but they think it's been so damaged they can't get anything off of it."

Tim slowly shakes his head, eyes still shut. "Can't figure out how to open it."

"How long have you been awake?" Abby asks, stroking his wrist.

"I don't know. Is that food?" Abby looks at Jimmy. Can he eat? on her face.

Jimmy shrugs. "Yeah Tim, Vance brought us some muffins and pastries. If the nurse says it's okay, there's a bear claw in there that's all yours." Jimmy gets off the sofa and hits the call button. "How are you feeling?"

"Like someone beat the shit out of me and then made me eat the shit."

Vance looks slightly alarmed by that. Jimmy catches his eye and mouths, pain medication. "How badly are you hurting?"

One of Tim's eyes slowly slides open and meanders toward Jimmy. It takes a few seconds to fully focus on him. "Was beat the shit out of me unclear?"

Jimmy snorts slightly at that, hand gently resting on the unbruised bit of Tim's shoulder. "You're fun when you're stoned."

"I'm hurting too bad to be stoned."

"I'll make sure you get more pain medication. Need anything else?"

That eye slides shut again. "Water?"

"Yeah, I think we can get you some water. Drink slow, okay?"


A moment later Abby's holding a cup to his lips, letting him have a few sips of water.

"More?" he asks when she pulls back.

Jimmy shakes his head. "Give it a few minutes, see if this stays down."

"I'm so thirsty."

"You want one of those—" Jimmy's reaching for one of those sponge lollipop things when Tim cuts him off.

"No, I want a fucking drink! I don't care if I throw it up."

"Too bad. Five minutes. And don't pout at me about it. You're not cute enough to pull it off today," Jimmy says. He kept his voice joking, but the three of them who have their eyes open can see this is killing Jimmy. He wants to give Tim a drink. He doesn't want him retching and puking with broken ribs and his arm in traction.

That one eye of Tim's opens again (which is when it occurs to Jimmy the other one is probably too swollen to open easily) and he tries to glare at Jimmy.

"Glaring's not going to do it either. Your ribs are broken and puking with broken ribs is going to make the pain you're in right now look like a field day. So, hold on for a few minutes, suck on the damn sponge, and pretend I know something about this what with the whole went to medical school thing."

Tim sighs and closes his eye again. "Sponge tastes like lemon juice and vinegar."

"I'll rinse it out and soak it in water."


"What was that about not being able to open your computer?" Vance asks.

Both of Tim's eyes open this time. He's looking at Vance, bleary and confused. "Director. You're here?"

Vance nods.

"Wow. Must have been pretty fucking close to dead if you're here. Um… You asked me something, didn't you?"

"Doesn't matter," Vance replies, shaking his head.

Abby looks over to Vance. "Give me your phone."

Abby here: She texts to Burley. What happens when you try to make his computer work?

A minute later Stan replies: Hit the power button, the computer whirs a little, screen goes from black to blue for five seconds, then everything goes black again.



Type it in when the screen goes blue. His computer locks and encrypts if he hits a certain key on it. He probably locked it. That'll unlock it.


Jimmy returns with the de-lemoned lollisponge, just the same time the nurse comes in.

"Can he have solid food?" Jimmy asks.

"Not yet," he answers. "Solid food for dinner, maybe tomorrow depending on how you're feeling. We've got chicken broth and beef broth, though."

"Beef," Tim says. "More pain meds would be good, too. And would you please tell him I can have more water."

"How much did you give him?"

"About a tablespoon," Abby answers.

"Keep that down for about five minutes and you can have more water, broth, and jello if you like."

Tim's not looking happy about that, though with as messed up as his face is right now Jimmy's not sure if he's reading an expression so much as just knowing what he's feeling.

"Pain meds?" Jimmy asks.

The nurse nods, and then checks Tim's charts. "We can up the dosage."

"Good," Tim says. "Is Jethro here?"

"Yeah, Tim." He'd been standing at the end of Tim's bed. He very gently touches the sole of Tim's unbroken foot.

His head turns a few degrees toward where Jethro is, but his eyes stay shut. "Oh. Good. Thought I was kind of dreaming it. Could sort of feel you in here, but couldn't see or hear you."

"I'm here."

The nurse heads off, and it looks like it was just a matter of sheer luck, because the possibility that Tim was even remotely aware of her being in or out of the room was nil.

"Don't kill him, okay? That's mine. You, too Abby. No one's dying today, okay?"

"Not killing anyone today, and we're not talking about this until we're home, and you're off the drugs, Tim."

"Oh. Right." He nods. "Shit, is the nurse still in here?"

"No, Tim," Vance says.

"But you are, fuck. Ummm... Yeah, off the drugs. When'll that be?"

"We just got back from talking to your doctor," Jimmy says. "Good news, they're not just laying down words to make you happy, that arm really will heal up."

"Isn't that usually followed by bad news?" Tim asks.

"Mediocre news. Your hand's going to be in traction until Tuesday, so not getting home before Wednesday."

Abby's looking at Jimmy, checking to make sure he's not whitewashing it. He nods. Tim's looking at a ton of PT, some of which he's already planning, but, given the time to let it really heal, and working at it, he'll get the use of his hand back.

"By the time Sean shows up, you should be able to bring your diaper changing A game to the party."

Tim smiles a little at that.

Eventually there's nothing left to do. They've got the official news. They're off the case, so it's not like they can do any work on it. They're waiting for Vance to get back to even get any word, and sure, they could hack Burley's notes, except, oh no, they can't, because the guy who does that for them is the victim. And right now Tony doesn't trust Draga enough to call him in to do the hacking for this.
Penny's still crying on the porch. Ducky's trying to comfort her. After another moment of that, Ziva stands up and heads out there. It hits Tony that Ziva's got some insight in someone you love going very, very wrong.

And more insight than anyone should ever want to have about doing something about it.

Ducky comes back in, looking wrought out, shoulders slumped, caught between anger and grief. He picks up Anna who's been relaxing in a sort of laid back way, and snuggles her. (Through all of this Molly and Kelly have been watching, transfixed (because neither of them gets to watch a lot of TV) Dragon Tales. Say whatever you want about children's TV, when you need some time with your kids paying attention to something other than you, it works a treat.)

Breena sits next to him, arm around him. "How's she doing?"


Breena kisses him, squeezing him a little tighter. "You got them?" She looks at the girls, and Tony nods. Then Breena gets up and heads out, too.

Ten minutes of nothing but just sitting around passes. Finally Tony says, "A while back, he told me he was dealing with stuff, old stuff, he didn't want to talk about it, but if I wanted to know I could ask Gibbs or Jimmy. They're not here, but… I mean… Look, I'm not blind, I could see how on edge they were about Tim getting on that ship, especially Gibbs. That's not just they don't get along, so… Do you know?"

Ducky nods, wearily. "He said you could ask?"

"Yeah. He didn't want to talk about it personally, but I could ask if I wanted to. Said, I'd wait until he could tell me himself, but…"

"It's not that they, as you said, 'don't get along.'" Ducky looks away for a moment. "From everything I've been told, from everything Timothy is saying, it was never physical. But John is just as good with words at Timothy is, and he used them, and his power, to keep Timothy terrified more or less the entire time he lived at home. He abused Timothy verbally from the age of six until Timothy stopped talking to him. He made… exceptionally painful threats involving dragging Timothy onto his ship and physically maiming him and sexually torturing him. There is a very good reason why Timothy gets seasick practically before he gets on the ship, and that it doesn't matter if it's moving or not."

"Oh God."

Ducky nods. "He's had some rough times dealing with it over the last year."

"And you guys let him get back on that fucking ship?"

"Let?" Ducky says mildly. "Did you somehow miss how he was talking about that test? He wanted to get on that ship. He wanted to go up against his father as an adult and show him that he wasn't going to take it anymore. You saw how pleased he was when he called us. It backfired spectacularly."

Tony rubs his face.

"Sometimes when you go into the dragon's den to face the monster, the dragon wins."

"Like fuck. He is not winning!"

Ducky gives Tony a very tired look. "Anthony, at this point, there are no winning moves, for anyone, left on the board. Every possible version of this ends in more pain for everyone."

"Oh, God, Duck."


Abbi stretches, feeling very rested, awfully content, and… alone. As she gets more awake it hits her that she's really alone.


Nothing. No smell of coffee, no soft clicking sound of Mona's claws on the floor coming up to say Hello.

She checks the clock. It's a bit after ten. About her usual Saturday off wake up time. She sits up, wondering what's going on. Sometimes they'll go out for their run, grab some breakfast, and come back before she's up, but… usually she's up after they're back.

She gets up and pulls on one of his t-shirts, slipping into her own pj bottoms, and heads downstairs. Nothing. No coffee. No hint that anyone is here. She checks Mona's bowls, wanting to see if she's eaten yet, and they're missing.

A quick check of the driveway shows that Jethro's truck is still there, so…

Okay, there's got to be a note somewhere.

Where would he put a note?

Borin heads back upstairs and checks her phone. No note. She looks at her clothing from yesterday. No note. Damn it!

Okay, where else… Usual morning routine. She heads into the bathroom. The first thing she does when she wakes up is hits the head and brushes her teeth, and sitting on her toothbrush is a piece of paper with her name on it.

She unfolds it.


Had to go to California. Tim's alive, hurt. Don't know when I'll get back. Will call when I get a chance.



She closes her eyes and sighs. He'd been worried about it for the last two weeks and it came true. Shit.

She heads over to her phone and sends him a text. Wake me up before you run off in the middle of the night.

She's done with her morning routine when she gets back. Okay.

Want me to call? Tell me what's up?

Tim's sleeping, text is better.

Okay, what happened?

He got onto that ship and his… The Admiral tried to have him killed. Stuck him in a cell and four guys jumped him. He's alive. In the hospital, broken arm, foot, ribs, nose, something else I'm forgetting. His whole body is one big bruise. But he's alive, and they say he'll heal.

Shit. She knew something was up between the two of them. Knew it had to be more than the version Gibbs had told her, that they didn't get along. The Admiral's an Admiral, and Tim didn't want anything to do with the Navy. But, given what all Jethro's been willing to tell her about Tim's life, the fact that he wouldn't get into the details on this one made her decide not to ask too deeply.

When next they talk, she's going to ask.


But he'll be okay? she asks.

Jimmy says he will. Right now he's sleeping a lot.

Probably the best thing for him. Where are you guys?


You want me to come?

You've got work.

She snorts at that and rapidly texts back. Screw work, they owe me three months of vacation time, anyway. You want me there?

There's a two minute long pause, where she sits there staring at the words realizing she not only wrote them but meant them, and she's thinking he's probably feeling something similar seeing that. Then she gets back, and is amazed at how one word can convey so much, Please.

On my way.

Thanks, Abbi.

You're welcome. Wake me up next time.

Didn't think you'd want to come.

She feels slightly irked by that, and then actually understands what that means. Didn't want me to see you that upset?

She can feel his look, and the nod that went with it. He wouldn't be easy with all the emotions of this stuff. He'd been trying to keep it under wraps, badly, for weeks, and now it just blew up.

I'll let you know when I'm in the air.

Okay. I'll be here. Vance doesn't want to let me near the ship.

Wise move on his part.

Why is wise always such a pain in the ass?


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