McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 394: Sarah McGee
"What happens tomorrow?" Abbi asks Jethro as they get to his place.
He rubs his eyes as he flops onto the sofa. He's tired and feeling pretty lost right now. No case to solve, no revenge to get, just dealing with the emotional fall out of this, which isn't his strong suit. "Pick up Mona. Get over to Tim and Abby's, see if I can be useful. Go get prescriptions or cupcakes or something."
That's a good idea. Concrete plan. Something he can do, but Abbi's looking blankly at him.
"Kelly's birthday is tomorrow. I'm sure they'll be swamped on just taking care of Tim. So, go get at least a cupcake or something for her."
"Got your presents all ready to go?"
He winces a little. "Go get some of those, too. Real party'll probably be once Tim and Abby are feeling like company, but, still, gotta do something for my girl. You?"
She's nodding at that. "Back to work tomorrow. Haven't gone this long without checking in since my sister's wedding."
"Good wedding?" He's wondering how intense it would have had to have been to have gotten her to go five days without calling in.
"Eh." She's looking non-committal. "Out in the middle of nowhere. Sunrise and sunset ceremony at Mt. Kimball, in Alaska. The wedding part was fun. Cold. Grow up in Montana and you think you know everything there is to know about cold and snow, but you're wrong. Because your insane sister really likes the idea of having a wedding that starts as the sun rises and ends as it sets so your ass gets dragged to a mountain in Alaska in December where you can freeze in the cold and miss the damn sunrise and set because it's snowing. No cell reception for five days."
Gibbs nods at that. With the exception of when he went to Mexico, he doesn't think a week passed when he was a cop where he didn't check in at least once. He pulls Abbi close to him. "Thank you. I…" he licks his lips. "I needed that. Needed you."
She smiles and nods, kissing him gently. He holds her tighter.
When he heads over to Breena's place the next morning, she gives him a warm hug, and Mona's leaping all over him, ecstatic to see him again. The doggy version of I thought you left me forever! Don't ever do that again! I love you! I love you! I love you!
He pets her vigorously, with many versions of 'good girl,' and she glows with it.
He looks around, noticing that besides leaping doggy, the house is awfully quiet. "Jimmy and the girls?"
"I'm taking a day on my own. He took them to daycare, I took the day off, and I'm sucking up some quiet time."
Gibbs nods. Three baby girls, one dog, no husband around. He knows Shannon had plenty of days where it was just her and Kelly and she was ready to scream by bedtime. Three girls under the age of three. Yikes.
He hugs Breena, kissing her forehead. "Thank you."
She nods. "You do what you need to for your family."
He smiles. "I'll let you get your down time."
"You going to Tim and Abby's?"
"Might see you there later this afternoon. Might just jell all day."
"Okay." He hugs her again. "Thank you. Come on, Mona! We're going to Tim and Abby's."
Mona likes trips to the McGees', so the morning looks like it's starting off well.
Tim wakes feeling like his entire body is screaming. He's a bit fuzzy on exactly how many breaks he has in his arm, nose, ribs, and foot, but he's sure he can feel his heart beating in a cacophony of pain in every single one of them.
He thought that half an hour where he didn't get his meds because he was talking to Jarvis was bad. That was a walk in the park compared to this.
He can barely breathe, because breathing involves moving his ribs. He'd call for help, but he doesn't think he can make any noise. He didn't know it's possible to hurt so bad you can't even yell, but he does.
He's slipping into panic mode, unable to think or plan, or anything, all he is right now is a bundle of throbbing, burning, all-consuming pain.
"Oh hey, you're… Oh shit. Pain meds!"
He hears Abby grabbing something, probably the bottle of pills, sprint to the bathroom, water running, and a second later she's pulling him into a sitting position (which he whimpers at, then starts full out cursing because nothing has ever hurt that bad) but she pops one of the pills onto his tongue and is holding water to his lips, so he swallows, and then she gently lays him back down again.
"Oh God, I'm so sorry! Kelly woke up, and Jethro's over and… Oh shit. I forgot you needed to take them. You kept complaining about them waking you up all the time in the hospital, so I wanted to let you sleep… And I just… I forgot. Shit!"
He thinks that's something he would have complained about, he remembers being annoyed by getting poked by someone in scrubs what felt like every ten minutes, but he doesn't actually remember complaining about it, and right now, he'd happily take someone poking him every ten minutes for the rest of his life if it'll make this pain go away.
He also sort of remembers waking up aching in the middle of the night, grabbing one of the pills and swallowing it, then crashing back to sleep before he was even really awake.
But whatever let him wake up then didn't fire this time, and now he's paying for it.
Abby feels so guilty she wants to throw up and cry. First night on making sure he gets his pain meds and she failed.
Every five hours. Four really. Supposed to be five, but at the hospital he was usually getting restless and achy at four. They don't want too much in his system and they're supposed to work for four to six hours. So, enough to keep him not hurting too bad, enough to keep the levels even, but not so much they lose efficiency.
Every time in the hospital, he'd start to come up a bit, not necessarily wake up, but he'd notice he was hurting, stir a bit, and then get more medication.
And last night he did that, too. He woke at ten-ish, he woke at three-ish, and… she just figured he'd wake up this time.
Shit. No excuses. He's drugged, and healing, and a mess, and it's not his responsibility to make sure he gets his medication when he needs it. Right now, that's her job.
And she failed.
Abby calls Jimmy to see if there's anything she can do to get him feeling better, but there isn't. And she knows there isn't because even if there was some sort of miracle drug that instantly took pain away, they don't have it in the house, so she'd have to go get it, wait for the pharmacy to make it up, and bring it back, and by then what he's already on will have kicked in.
She can't touch him. She can see from how he's looking that every inch of him hurts right now and any touch will just make it worse.
"I'm so sorry."
He nods very slightly again, eyes closed, tears leaking from them.
Longest twenty minutes in the history of time, and he's including the time he was trapped in freezer in that count.
But eventually the pain does start to ease up some. Eventually he's noticing he's breathing deeper and not whimpering with each shallow exhale.
Eventually, he knows that he has precisely ten breaks in his right arm, four in his left foot, six in his ribs, and one across his nose, and he knows that because he can feel each and every one of them pulse each time his heart beats.
Eventually, it eases up even more, he starts to notice things like he's hungry, and he has to pee, and Abby's still sitting next to him, looking almost as bad as he feels.
"You feeling any better?" Abby asks.
He nods a little.
"Want help sitting up?"
"Sure." She gives him an arm up, and he looks around some. Home. In his bed, pills and water on his bedside table, crutch leaning against the headboard of the bed where he can get to it easily.
"I'm so, so, so sorry." She hugs him gingerly.
"I'll live. All the phones set to go off every time I'm supposed to get a new painkiller?"
She nods. "And the alarm on the stove."
"Good. I don't want to do that again."
"Once and done. So, food, bathroom, drink? What do you need?"
He hears slight clicking sounds and then Mona plops her head on the bed next to his knee. She's looking up at him with big, I-love-you-pay-attention-to-me doggie eyes.
He reaches over and gently strokes her ears. She licks his hand. "Yuck. Yes, you're glad to see me, great. Stop that."
She does, nosing his hand as he pets her.
"I take it Gibbs is here," Tim says as he starts the very slow process of twisting around so his legs are off the side of the bed. Abby grabs the crutch for him, handing it over, and nods at his assessment on Gibbs.
"Think you need to switch to sleeping on the other side."
He nods slowly. His right side is the part of him closest to the head of the bed/nightstand, so he can't easily grab for the crutch once he's sitting up.
He takes as much of a deep breath as he can (not very deep) and steels himself for letting some of his weight slip down onto his right foot and the crutch. A small pained 'uhn' escapes when he does that.
"How long until I can get up and not hurt?"
Abby shakes her head, hovering next to him, ready to catch him if he loses his footing. "I don't know. Visit with the orthopedist on Thursday. He might know."
"I guess." One small step forward. And then one more. And another. Small, slow, each one spent very carefully placing the crutch and his foot, trying to minimize the ache in his leg and the tearing sensation along his ribs and shoulder.
"Do you want to get a shower? Or just take care of business and get some breakfast?"
"Shower eventually." He thinks about how much standing hurts right now. "Okay, bath eventually. Maybe this afternoon. Really am feeling hungry."
"Eggs? Coffee and eggs?"
He nods, that sounds good. Five more steps, and with each one he is going a little further, noticing that he can extend the step a bit more and not hurt himself too bad. Once he gets into the bathroom, Abby shuts the door, and heads off.
As he's staring at the toilet and sink, it's hitting him that with how long it's going to take him to 'do his thing' Abby could probably go and buy some chickens, let them run around the back yard until they lay eggs, then gather them, then cook them, and she'd probably still have his breakfast done before he's gotten halfway down the steps to the kitchen.
Get to it. Not going to get any easier or faster just sitting on your ass not doing it.
And so he does.
Tim's never felt like they have a particularly big house. Four bedrooms and an office, so it's a good size. It's not tiny. But it's not a mansion, either. Twenty-five hundred square feet is comfortable.
But right now, with the trek from his room to the top of the stairs to the kitchen…
God, it's probably about an eighty foot walk (crutch).
One step at a time.
By the time he gets to his bedroom door, he's fairly sure that as soon as he gets done with this, he's going to be getting a nap. Then breakfast. He's so tired.
He can kind of hear Jimmy saying, 'Well, you haven't moved for almost a week, of course this is hard.'
That triggers a memory. Did Breena really kiss him last night, or did he dream that? He thinks it happened. He kind of remembers how it felt. But by that part he was hurting and tired and… just really out of it.
Pondering that gets him to the steps. He's with it enough to know he's not walking down them.
Abby pops up from nowhere (which makes him think the drugs are effecting him more than he noticed) and takes the crutch from him.
"Okay, the physical therapist at the hospital said on your butt, foot goes down to the next step, stabilize with your arm, and then scoot down."
He nods, starts to lower himself down, wobbles, and Abby wraps an arm around his hips quickly, giving him some extra stability as he gets to the floor.
She lets go of him, but stays next to him as he keeps easing down the steps.
"Think I'm getting a nap."
She nods. "I think you getting a nap is a really good plan."
Mona bounds up the steps and tries to lick his face. "Mona! Yuck!"
Abby grabs her collar and gives her a stern look. "Down girl. Just because we're on the floor doesn't mean it's licking time." Mona mopes at that, but she stays a few steps in front of Tim, if there's any chance of him falling, she'll break the fall.
They're halfway down the step when Tim asks, quietly, "Did Breena kiss us last night?"
Abby nods. "Yeah, she did."
"It wasn't just friendly, was it?"
"Oh." She wraps her arm around Tim's shoulders, very gently, and kisses him. "Nap, food, healing, that's on for today, and tomorrow, and at least a few more tomorrows. All of this'll be waiting for when you're not filled with drugs, and we all know it."
Two more steps, and he sighs. "I need to call Sarah."
Abby nods at that, too.
"Don't think that can wait until I heal up."
"Not if you want whatever you say to really hit. Not if you don't want to have to say much. Right now your body says more than your words can."
"Yeah. Don't know if I can hold it together to talk to her."
"She's your sister, Tim, you don't need to hold it together." She's gently rubbing his back as she says this. "You and her and Penny, you need to talk, and it's okay if you flip out or cry or yell. Or all three at once. And, look… You know they won't clear you for work without a psych eval, and I know you'd rather drill your own teeth, but, please, at least think about really talking to Wolf, you know, more than once. I know you can pass the eval. I know you know the right answers, and with the whole classified thing, you can probably flat out BS what happened and never really talk to him about it, but… Eventually you're going to have to sleep without pain medication."
"Okay?" Her eyebrows shoot up. She was expecting arguing. Then her eyes narrows, she did not just meet this man and 'okay' has some wiggle room. "You'll talk to him? Or okay, you're acknowledging that what I'm saying is true?"
He shoots her his exasperated look. "I'll talk to him, really talk."
"Thank you." She stands up. "And look, we've hit the bottom." She hands the crutch over, and helps him stay steady as he goes from the stairs to standing. "Sleep first or food?"
"Futon in your office or the sofa?"
"Okay." And together they get him to his futon for a mid-morning nap.
Gibbs is in the kitchen when he finally hobbles in (three hours after he set out this morning).
"Morning," Tim says, looking around noticing everyone else is eating lunch. "Afternoon?"
"Hi." Abby pulls out a chair for him, and nods.
"You woke up just in time," Gibbs says, getting up, heading over to the refrigerator. Tim's not really paying attention to what he's doing, right now he's just steeping in how normal this is. He's at home, having lunch with his family.
Kelly's babbling at him, and Abby scoots her highchair over so he can touch her.
"Hey, Babygirl," he strokes her face, wanting to pick her up, but he can't, not yet.
"Dada!" She's grabbing his finger, and that feels excellent.
"You want lunch or breakfast?" Abby asks.
He glances around, sees that everyone has bowls of chicken and broccoli, which actually sounds really great right now.
"Great," she stands up, getting him some.
A minute later she's got a bowl in front of him, and a fork, along with a glass of iced-tea (and more pain meds sitting next to it). He's about to take a bite when he finally notices what Gibbs is doing. Namely, carrying a cupcake with a lit candle on it over to Kelly, singing Happy Birthday.
Kelly sees it in front of her, delighted, and is about to grab the candle, so Pop yanks it back out of range, stopping the song mid-verse for a conversation about how we don't grab fire, how it's hot, and how to blow the candle out.
"Blow, Kelly." He demonstrates, blowing it out.
"NO! MINE!" She's extremely irate at the flame going away.
Tim watches Gibbs look at Abby and him with an amused smile on his face. Then he pulls out his lighter and relights it.
A big, wet, slobbery raspberry of a breath makes the candle flicker a little, but doesn't blow it out.
"Try again, Kelly." Abby says, smiling.
Second try is a charm, and the candle blows out, and Kelly looks disappointed because the fire is gone, and she liked the fire, but the presence of cake rapidly overcomes disappointed, and she's happily tearing into her cupcake.
"So, did you get more than one of them?" Abby asks.
"Eat all your lunch and you can find out," Gibbs says in his best dad voice.
Tim watches Kelly eating her cupcake and says, "Better late than never."
Abby gently pets his hand. "You lost a day, baby. Her birthday's today, not yesterday."
He blinks. "Really?"
Abby nods. "Really, we made it home in time."
He smiles at that, and feels tears come to his eyes. "Happy Birthday, Kelly. Got some presents somewhere."
"I'll go find them during her nap. This," she gestures to their daughter demolishing her cup cake, ecstatic on sugar, chocolate, and frosting, "is probably enough excitement for right now."
Tim smiles, wipes his eyes (very gently, anything near his nose hurts) and takes a bite of his lunch. It's just chicken and broccoli, same stir fry they've gotten from Chen's two hundred times before, but it's food, at home, and that feels good.
He takes another bite thinking about the five minutes it took to get from his office to the kitchen table. (Total distance thirty-two feet.) At least he can feed himself easily. That's a start. Though as he's chewing his chicken, it hits that he can feed himself this easily. Right now he can't cut anything. Hell, for the next six weeks he can't cut anything.
Actually, no. For the next six weeks he's in this cast. Then comes the wrist and finger braces. He probably can't cut anything for months, because his hand won't be up for anything until after he's been doing PT with it, and that's not happening until whenever the hell he finally gets out of all of this gear.
Tim flashes to the memory of being sixteen, at home, arm in his cast, The Admiral (who was The Captain then) saying, "You'll cut your own food, or you won't eat!"
His dad had already chewed him out, up, and down and inside out for wrecking the car. He'd actually called to chew him out, which was unheard of. (Use naval resources to communicate with his family? NEVER!) Normally, Tim wrote once a week (five hundred words, on the dot), and got a letter back once a week, and then they'd see/speak to each other when The Captain was on land. (He figures that's the only thing that kept him sane all those years.)
But then The Captain got home. He'd been in the cast for a week at that point, and no matter how good he was getting with his right hand, his left was in a cast, only the tips of his fingers sticking out, so he couldn't cut his own food.
His mom or sister had been cutting his food for him, but when The Captain got home that was the end of that. If he wanted to eat, he had to do it for himself. You are sixteen years old, more than old enough to fend for yourself. You got yourself into this, and you will deal with the consequences on your own. You'll cut your own food, or you won't eat!
Three weeks of sandwiches, soup, eggs, mashed potatoes, pasta, and veggies. The only meals his mom cooked with meat he could eat in them was stir fries, which was only once a week. (And the only reason he got to eat meat then was because she didn't keep chopsticks in the house. If, God forbid, they had gone to a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, the Captain would have demanded he use chopsticks, and he couldn't do that right-handed.) And, of course, since the crash was his birthday, and the Captain got home Christmas Eve, it meant he missed out on Christmas and New Year's dinners.
Finally The Captain went back to sea, and his mom started putting plates with the full meal on them, cut up, in front of him at dinner time again.
Abby can see something is going wrong. Tim is eating, fork in hand, chicken on fork, starting a conversation with Gibbs, and then it stops.
He's just sitting there, staring at the chicken.
"Tim?" she asks gently.
He looks up at her, very fragile air about him, eyes wet again, and says, "Stir fry." And then he burst into tears.
Lunch is stone cold by the time he's done crying, and Tim's exhausted, all he wants to do is crash and not wake up again until it's time to get out of his casts.
Abby and Gibbs are staring at him, not sure if they should be asking or not, because they don't know that story, and Kelly's fussing, because if anyone is crying, she's going to join in, too.
Tim shakes his head. Later. He can tell that story later. Or better yet, never.
He starts to push himself up to go back to the futon for another nap, when the fact that he's had one bite of food all day and he's hungry really hits. So he sits down, shoveling the food in, just trying to get himself fed so he can sleep.
Abby's told him about feeling crazy, like she had no emotional control when she was on the painkillers after Kelly was born, and obviously, it's not precisely the same, but right now he feels the same.
Like he's got no emotional reserves at all. Anything that hits the top of his brain is going to come out.
And he hates that.
So, sleep. Sleeping is good. Sleeping means not feeling, so bring on the sleep!
He finishes the last bite of food, pushes himself up, and starts the very slow journey toward his office.
Abby stays near him, helping him get settled onto the futon again, and he sacks out.
Neither Abby nor Gibbs are strangers to dealing gently with traumatized people, but the fact that it's their person makes it harder.
It's fairly nice outside, so Abby scoops up Kelly, and a blanket, and heads them outside. Kelly gets a prime bit of sun-shade dappled grass to hang out on, and she and Gibbs sit on the porch, where she can hear if Tim makes any noise, but they're far enough away they shouldn't disturb him.
Abby sighs, "On the upside, he's so drugged he literally can't just keep it in and let it fester."
Gibbs nods is agreement, and shakes his head, too. "Probably doesn't want this all out in front of everyone."
"I know. So prepare for an extra big helping of prickly, annoyed, irritable Tim to go along with sad, angry, hurting Tim. Not going to be a fun couple weeks at all."
Gibbs shrugs. Not like he's any fun to be around when he's in a bad mood, either. And he's hit them with pissed off, prickly, annoyed Gibbs for much less good reasons in the past.
"Dished enough of it out over the years. I can handle some taking it."
It's about an hour later when Abby's cell buzzes. For a second she thought she'd lost time, and Tim needed more meds, but then it hit that she had a text.
Up for visitors? From Penny.
Think so. She types back. Really low key, and quiet, and he may be asleep, but yeah, I think he'd like to see you for a bit.
A thought hit, everyone was supposed to come over tonight for Kelly's birthday party. And best she knows no one has told Sarah anything. But she's supposed to be in their living room in six hours, and this is going to be a hell of a shock if she shows up in Happy Birthday mode and walking to assault/child abuse case from hell.
Abby looks at Gibbs. "He said he should talk to Sarah. Sooner rather than later. Penny's getting ready to come over, so… Should I ask her to bring Sarah?"
"Better question for him."
"I know, but I don't want to wake him up. And either we call Sarah in now, or I send her a text and tell her the birthday party is off, so… What do you think?"
"Penny knows here better than you and I do. Ask her."
Think picking up Sarah and bringing her along is a good plan?
Depends on Tim.
He said he wanted to talk to her, but he's sleeping right now, so I don't want to wake him up to double check.
Long silence on Penny's side. Then comes. We'll be there in an hour or so.
Okay. Abby texts back.
"So, what's got you sounding so depressed?" Sarah asks as she opens the door to Ducky and Penny. Penny had called and asked if they could talk, but wouldn't give her any details.
They both glance at each other, and then at her, and just because Sarah isn't "the super smart one" doesn't mean she didn't get the McGee brains double-barrel as well, and she knows that look can't mean anything good.
"What? Is it Dad? Or Tim? Or… Mom?"
Penny and Ducky head in, sitting on the sofa, as Sarah sits on the chair next to them, leaning in toward them to hear what's coming, but holding the arms tight, like she's bracing for impact.
Penny sighs, and her eyes are tearing, which makes Sarah even more nervous. Ducky waits a few breaths to see if Penny can say it, but she doesn't, or can't, so he does.
"Do you remember, last week, Timothy was going to be taking a mission that had everyone nervous?"
She nods. "Oh, God, yeah. Gibbs was edgy, really edgy, I remember that. Is he okay?"
"No." Ducky says firmly, and Sarah winces. "He will heal, eventually, but no, Timothy is not okay. And he is unlikely to be 'okay' any time soon." Ducky exhales. Sarah's already looking hurt and angry, but very curious, too. "The mission is still classified, so… You understand how this works. He boarded The Stennis," she goes white when she hears the name of the ship, "to run a test on the readiness of the Cyberteam to handle a cyber-attack. They failed. Your father was upset by this and attempted to have him murdered. He did not succeed. Timothy fought four attackers, spent the last week in the hospital, and was only able to come home yesterday. His doctors think, that with a lot of work, he will eventually regain the full use of his right arm and hand."
For a moment Sarah sits there, silent, shocked, unable to even begin to process that idea.
Finally she says, "It… just… No! You've got to be wrong. Okay, they don't get along but… No. Dad wouldn't… No."
"No!" Sarah's tearing up. "NO! It can't… NO."
Ducky's using his 'calm' voice, honed by more years than Sarah's been alive of telling people horrible things they don't want to hear, and trying to, by tone alone, soften the blow of scaldingly painful truth. "Yes, Sarah. John ordered the attack that almost killed Timothy. His personal secretary arrested Timothy on trumped up espionage charges, pulled him away from the crowd, stuffed him in a jail cell with four other men who he told had just had family members killed by your brother, and they almost beat him to death before SecNav was able to get him out of there."
"So, wait…" Sarah latches onto that, desperate. "He didn't do it personally. So, he might not have… I mean…"
"Sarah," Penny speaks for the first time, "What did he always say if you tried to blame something on someone else?"
"Everything that happens on your watch is your responsibility." Sarah curls into herself, silent, shaking. She calms after a few moments. "But… He couldn't… Not…" She's looking for a way to get her dad out of this, because he's her dad, and the cold, hard fact that both of the people sitting in her living room believe he tried to kill her brother is sinking in and hurts worse than she could ever imagine anything hurting.
"Have you met Lt. Mane?" Penny asks.
Sarah nods. "Yeah." She presses on her eyes, trying to stave off crying. "Um. I mean, I don't know, but... I know enough not to ask, 'cause he'd explode, but, I think he's Dad's boyfriend."
"He loves your father?" Ducky asks gently.
"That's always the sense I got from him. Maybe he's just really devoted, but, I always thought there was more. Little things like turning the handle of the coffee cup in toward him when he'd give it to Dad, or just… nothing blatant, but just little courtesies you do for someone you love."
Ducky nods. That fits his idea of John fairly well. "Your brother's attack on The Stennis made the ship think it was under attack. It made everyone on board think that they had targeted another ship, and the people in the computer lab thought they had fired on the Borealis. Things like that happened through the entire carrier group. After the red alert ended, and they moved onto trying to track the hacker, Mane found four people on board who had family on the Borealis, he told each of them that their loved one was unaccounted for, and that more than 200 people were already confirmed dead."
Sarah gasps at that, knowing exactly how that'd go over.
"Then he told them the man who made the ship fire was on board. He isolated them so they couldn't learn The Stennis didn't actually fire. He arranged for them to all be waiting in the brig for Timothy. He 'arrested' Timothy. He brought him down there. He told the Warden to 'take a walk', and then he locked your brother in a cell with those four men. Would he have done that to his lover's son without express permission and approval?"
She whimpers, unable to stop her tears any longer.
For several moments, Ducky sits between them, rubbing Sarah's back, and holding Penny's hand.
Sarah eventually pulls herself together, eyes red and puffy, voice rough. "May get the use of his right hand back? What did they do?"
"They broke his nose, one tooth, dislocated his shoulder, broke his arm in four places, dislocated his wrist, broke it in two places, and then broke his thumb, index finger, twice, and middle finger. They broke his ribs in six places and dislocated his ankle and broke his foot in four more places. They gave him a concussion and bruised probably eighty-five percent of his body."
Sarah whimpers at that, biting her lip.
"He spent the last week in the hospital in traction, and just got home last night. We were hoping to see him, and wanted to know if you'd like to come with us."
She inhales in a quick gasp. "Um, yeah. I do. Dad?"
She sees Penny's eyes narrow, and she knows that look, it's very hot and very dangerous. But Penny still doesn't say anything, so Ducky answers. "Lt. Mane, orchestrated the attack, and then killed himself, leaving a note saying it was all his idea. Your father is in his ship, and last we heard, heading toward Pearl Harbor."
"No one else thinks he did it?" She grasps on that hope, that maybe he didn't, and Ducky can see what's happening with this, anything to try and keep the illusion intact. He crushes it.
"My dear, everyone knows he ordered it. No one can prove it. And, when you are an Admiral, you can get away with whatever you like, as long as there is no concrete proof of what you have done. Mane made sure he could never talk, and thus made sure there could never be any concrete proof against your father. However, as of this morning, he had been quietly dropped from the Presidential Counsel on Drone Warfare. I'm keeping an eye on it, but my guess is that he is likely being quietly dropped from the different high ranking assignments he has as well as the charitable boards he's part of, too. That should tell you everything you need to know about what the people around him think happened."
She's still biting her lip, hard. "So, what, he just gets away with it?"
She sees a quick glance between Ducky and Penny, and then Penny says, "No."
And Sarah, who grew up in a house where some things weren't asked about and other things weren't talked about (like for example, in ninth grade she took biology, and noticed that not only was it impossible for her to have brown eyes, what with no one else in her family having them, but she is also the only member of the family with a cleft chin), sees that glance and does not ask any other questions.
"Hi!" Abby manages to sound fairly perky and excited when Penny and Ducky and Sarah pull up. She smiles at them, and then pulls Penny into a warm hug.
She's not sure, what, or how to convey, I'm really sorry you're hurting, and I don't want you to be hurting, but your son is evil, and if I wasn't following Tim's lead on this I'd hunt him down, capture him, drug him, give him to Jimmy, who'd work him over for months, until every single cell of his body screams for relief, then he'd give him back to me, and I'd make him realize that Jimmy doesn't even know how to find pain on a map, let alone really inflict it. And really, it's probably better not to convey that, so she just hugs Penny, and then Sarah.
Gibbs and Penny look at each other, and there's a lot in that look. A whole lot. Thousands of words about pain and loss and hate and revenge and mercy all distilled down into one long look. Then Gibbs takes a step forward, pulls Penny into a hug, and says, so softly she can barely hear it, and no one else can, "He doesn't want it, so I'm not doing it."
She pulls back from Gibbs, another long look passing between them, and whatever might be going on, they appear to be at some sort of peace. Gibbs holds open his arms and Sarah heads in close for a hug.
"I take it you're getting some sun and letting Timothy rest?" Ducky says as Gibbs holds Sarah. He picks up Kelly, "Hello, Birthday Girl." She smiles wide and bright at her Duck picking her up.
Abby nods at that. "Yeah. Felt like I was inside that hospital room for months."
"Sunshine will help with that."
Gibbs quietly says, "Hoping to get him out here, some, too. Fresh air never hurt anyone."
"May we see Timothy?" Ducky asks.
"He's probably sleeping, but yeah, head in," Abby says. "He's going to need some more pain meds soon, so when you hear the alarm go off—"
"I know what to do." Ducky smiles gently and hands Kelly over to Abby.
They're about to step into the house, when Ducky gently squeezes Penny's hand. He saw the photos that went with Tim's medical records, but he deleted them before the others could, mostly to make sure that Tony and Ziva didn't immediately run to San Francisco and kill John.
But, because he'd done that, Penny knows intellectually, but not viscerally, what they're about to walk in on. And Sarah, who only got the second hand account without any of the real details, is going to have an even less concrete understanding of what they're about to walk in on.
"He's going to look terrible."
They nod. He knows Penny thinks she's ready to see this. Thinks she has an idea of what is waiting for them, but… he knows she doesn't. And Sarah… He's not sure if Sarah's even seen anyone wounded before, let alone the shape Tim's going to be in.
And unfortunately, 'terrible' is pretty much all he can offer. He can list swelling and bruises, and cuts and all the rest of it, but until you actually see it, and feel seeing it, it's at best… academic.
"Sarah," Abby says, catching them on the porch. "Hey, how about one at a time? Besides, I've got a question for you, and…"
Sarah nods, feeling her stomach knot up, getting a sense of exactly how bad terrible has to be.
He's sleeping, on the futon, left leg propped up on a pillow, right arm bound by his cast and sling across his stomach.
And for a second there, before anything else really hits, he could just be grabbing a nap.
But it's only a second because between that first glance, the one that sent the 'reclining grandson' message to Penny's brain, and the next, the part of her brain that registers details like color begins to scream. From what she can see almost none of his skin is… skin colored, his skin colored.
She steels herself to look more closely, see the bruises, see the bandages, the casts, the swelling, the fact that he's asleep and on a pile of pain medication and his face is still pinched and tight, and as all of that filters through a small, involuntary cry escapes the lips she's biting, hard.
"Oh, God, Ducky," she whispers it.
He's holding her hand, other arm wrapped around her back. "I know, dear. I know." He's stroking gently over her back. "He will heal."
She nods, still biting her lip.
"So, what's the question?" Sarah's still looking at the house, like she could look through it and see Tim.
Abby feels a little off asking this, but Tim didn't say, and she wants to know, and more important, she wants him only dealing with one new person at a time, so… "This has… obviously, got him thinking about the stuff with your dad, and… he's on a ton of pain meds, too, so it's not like his filters are really working, but… We're eating lunch, and he looks at it, says, 'Stir fry' and bursts into tears. By the time he got done, all he wanted to do was sleep, so we didn't press him, but if you know…"
"Shit… Yeah." She sighs. "Yeah, I do. He got that car, first car, sixteen-years-old, has his license, and" she hits her palm with her fist, "the bus hits him like a bug on a windshield. Broken arm, traction, finally gets home, and two days later, Dad shows up, chews him up something fierce about being stupid and irresponsible, and then it's dinner, and I'd been cutting up Tim's food because he couldn't cut anything for himself, only the tips of his fingers were sticking out of the cast. Dad says no. Tim's got to cut his own food if he wants to eat. He's okay with vegetables and potatoes and stuff like that, stuff that's small or you can cut with the side of your fork, but he can't eat meat because he can't cut it himself. So, pretty much the only meals where he got to eat everything was when Mom made stir fries."
Gibbs looks ready to ship out and take care of John right now. That level of meaningless pettiness, on top of everything else…
"It was Christmas holiday, so no ham, no turkey, no roast beef. We did lots of holiday parties that year, at least, I think we did, they kind of blend, but I think that was the last year he was still a Captain, pushing toward Admiral, so, lots of sit down dinners, and Tim had to keep turning down food and explaining why. First time he told the truth, and that got one of the other officer's wives looking at Dad like he was a monster, so Tim got chewed out for that, and for all the rest of the parties he had to pretend to be a vegetarian. Navy holiday parties, he took a lot of shit from a lot of guys over 'not eating meat,' and I think Dad kept ribbing him about being gentle and not wanting to kill things, and about not showing proper respect to his hosts by refusing their meals.
"That one really pissed Tim off. We were… I don't remember, but the meal was lamb, and it was good, and he likes lamb, and he turned to Dad and said, 'You're right, this is terribly rude.' He turns to our hostess, 'I'm sorry. I don't wish to offend you. I can't cut anything right now, but if you don't mind my sister cutting it for me, I will be happy to eat anything you offer and accept it in the spirit you've offered it.' Perfect military posture, the right manners, proper little officer in training, which really impressed the hostess, and when he started complimenting her on how good the lamb was, he got a few extra helpings of it, which he enjoyed, until they got home, and then I got sent to my room, and there was a lot of yelling." Sarah's sitting on the porch step, watching Kelly roll on her blanket, but not really seeing it.
"Stuff like that isn't normal, is it?"
Abby rubs her back. "No. Families fight, and yell, and piss each other off, but… No, that's not normal."
Tim wakes up and finds Penny sitting next to him.
"Hey, how you feeling?" she says, managing a really fake looking smile.
He snorts and winces, because that hurts, and says, "Probably about the physical equivalent of where you are."
Penny nods. "Yeah. It's been a shit week for both of us."
"I'm sorry." His eyes are tearing up at that. "If I hadn't—"
"You hush now." She shakes her head. "None of that. You've got nothing to be sorry for. You should be able to do your job without it antagonizing your father so badly that he…" She can't finish that sentence. "It should have been okay."
He nods, tearing up, hating that everything is making him cry. "Yeah." He reaches out his hand and she takes it. "But, I'm allowed to feel sympathy for you, right? This can't be… easy."
"Yeah, it's not," she manages a real, but very sad, smile.
"I know. I am, too." She wipes her own eyes. "I'm so sorry."
Tim swallows, hard. "I know." He breathes as deeply as he can without hurting himself. Not all that deep. "Not your fault. Not mine. Empathy, not blame. It just is how it is." He's got a feeling he'll be telling himself, and her, that, a lot, in the months to come.
"Abby says you'll be out of this stuff soon."
He tilts his head, looking annoyed. "Sooner than if it was a collection of old-fashioned casts, but not 'soon' on any real scale. Probably be winter before my right hand really works again."
She's stroking his hand, deep sorrow, very nervous, some fear mixed on her face. "What happens now?"
He's too drugged to lie convincingly. And it's probably really obvious that he's picking his words carefully. "Out of our hands, now. How much do you know?"
"We have read the report Agent Burley sent," Ducky replies. Tim jerks a little, noticing for the first time that Ducky's in the room. "I've been doing some googling on your father, and saw he was dropped from the Presidential Commission on Drone Warfare. Do you know more?"
"SecNav made it clear that The Admiral is too high up to hit, not without real proof. But this stinks enough that he's political plutonium. He's being cut out of the picture so he can't damage the chances of all those assholes who always ignored who he really was so they could use what he could do."
Tim realizes it's literally the same assholes. Twenty years passed and the exact same people are just shuffling their positions around. He winces at that.
Ducky sees it and asks, "How is your pain?" while helping him to sit up.
"Not too bad right now. Head's swimming every time I move, but I only ache all over."
Ducky nods. "Do you want more medicine now, or would you like to hold off for an hour or so?"
"I'll get it."
He sits still for a few seconds, then starts to shift around. Ducky and Penny are both awfully spry for octogenarians, but neither of them finds it easy to sit on the floor. "If you'd give me a hand up, I can get to the sofa."
Penny does, and he slowly gets himself up, and begins the trip to the sofa, one small step at a time. His speed is getting better though, because it only takes him a minute to get there, and once he's down, he opens his arm toward Penny, offering a hug.
She sits next to him, accepting his arm around her, very carefully settling in against him.
"Yeah. Just, no sudden moves, and don't lean in. Got a lot of broken ribs. Right's worse than left though."
"I know. So… Sarah?"
"Outside, talking to Gibbs and Abby. Didn't want to hit you with everyone at once."
He nods, already feeling tired, but he needs to see her, too. Ducky hands over a cup of tea and an apple along with his pills, which Tim takes.
"This is going to knock me out soon, so let's get her in here before I pass out."
"You want us to stay?"
"Think I'd like a minute alone with her."
Penny and Ducky head out to the front porch, and nod at Sarah. Abby scoops up Kelly, and decides to go in with her. She's got a sense that Tim wants alone time with his sister, but she also wants someone to be able to extricate him from the situation should the need arise.
So, head in, keep a discrete eye on things for a moment, and if all is well, put Kelly down for her nap.
They head in, and Abby starts to head toward the office, when she hears, "In here."
She turns them around toward the living room, saying, "Hey, up and moving around."
Tim takes a bite of his apple. "Sitting up and eating, too." Abby gently puts Kelly on his lap, and he puts the apple down so he can hold her close.
Sarah's stopped dead and is just staring at him, in horror.
He looks at her, tries to give her something of a wry smile, and says, "Tomorrow, I'll have some even more impressive tricks, like being awake for more than an hour at a time."
She starts to rush over, and then stops a few feet short, not sure if she can touch him.
He holds out his arm to her, saying, like he did to Penny, "Really gentle. Lots of broken ribs, but I can use all the hugs I can get."
Sarah carefully sits next to him, cuddling in with very tentative movements, watching him carefully for any sign of pain.
Abby decides they look like they're all right, so she picks Kelly up, getting kisses for her from Tim and Sarah, and then takes her upstairs.
They both sit there silently. Tim because his brain is slowing to a crawl, tired, pain meds, too much emotional stuff going on. Sarah because she just doesn't know what to do. It's not that she thought he was lying, or exaggerating, or making stuff up. She remembers some of it, and the bits she didn't see, she still remembers the feel of, that everyone walking on eggshells, afraid to make a wrong move and send the whole house of cards tumbling.
But the same man who did this to her brother is the man who knows she loves shot glasses and has brought her one from every city he's ever been to. (Even bought some plain glass ones and wrote things like Al Khobar on them so she had ones to mark the 'dry' cities he'd been to.) Same man who bought 1000 copies of her first book and gave it to every one of his officers with a pre-teen daughter.
And she didn't have a way to make that mesh. So, she filed what happened to Tim as 'very bad stuff that happened a long time ago when everyone was very unhappy and tense and didn't know any better.' Because back then everything was unhappy and tense and everyone was a mess and always fighting about everything unless someone else was watching, then they all plastered the stupid grins on their faces and pretended. But Tim moved out, and Mom and Dad got divorced, and everything got better.
There was air in her home again, and people could breathe again, even laugh.
Tim lived it longer than she did. And he took all of the brunt. And he missed the good years. She knows that, and that's why she didn't hold it against him that he couldn't forgive or forget. That's why she never expected him, too either.
But this didn't happen a long time ago. This is a fucking atrocity that happened last week. And it can't be overlooked, or pushed into a little box, or forgotten, and… And she doesn't want to be the kind of person who can forgive this, either.
She pulls back a little, so she can really look at Tim, see all the damage. His eyes are closed, and she can feel the tension in his body melting away.
"I'm still awake."
"Not for long."
"Yeah, well, pain meds."
"What are you doing in March?"
He licks his lips, thinking, and she realizes she might as well have asked him to factor a quadratic right now. Finally he says, "New baby." He doesn't see Sarah's eyebrows shoot up, and it doesn't hit him that they hadn't let the wider world know about Sean, yet. "Not sleepin', changin' diapers, gettin' spit up on."
She smiles and kisses him gently. "Think you can take a break from that for a few hours, put on your fancy kilt, and give me away at my wedding?"
"Yeah," he nods, and she sees tears slipping down his face.
She kisses him again. "How about you get horizontal and take another nap?"
He nods, and she helps him get lying down, foot propped up, and then heads outside to sit on the porch.
Penny moves closer to her, but she just shakes her head. Lots of thinking to do. What do you do with something like this? Somehow screaming doesn't seem like enough.
"Now what?" she finally asks. "He's still out there, on his ship, sailing around. What happens now?"
Ducky and Penny and Gibbs all have answers to that, but they aren't necessarily answers they want to share with her.
"I mean, he doesn't just get away with it, right? Something's supposed to happen?"
"Something'll happen," Gibbs says, guardedly.
"What, you going to dust off your rifle and get some extra-strength glasses?"
"He's asked me not to do that." And that's as close as Gibbs is willing to get to saying, in front of Penny, that that's exactly what he was going to do.
"Why on Earth would he ask you not to do that!"
Gibbs sighs. Part of him wants to yell the same thing at Tim. But he knows why, knows the logical reason behind it. "Because protecting his family is more important to him than revenge. Because he's a good father, husband, brother, and son, and he loves the people around him enough to not put any of them in a sticky situation."
Most of the time Sarah spends with Gibbs these days, he's in Pop-mode, fun, soft, little goofy, doting over his baby girls. But saying that reminds her of the fact that there's a killer in there. A man who really would have killed her father, and from the looks of it, enjoyed it, and that the only reason he hasn't is that her brother doesn't want it.
"He's in the Pacific?"
Gibbs nods. "Think they shipped out on Monday."
She nods at that, pulling her cell out of her pocket. She hits his contact button, heading over to Penny's car, getting in, not wanting the entire neighborhood to hear this conversation, but not wanting to head inside with it and risk waking up Tim or Kelly.
He's looking sleepy and disheveled when he clicks on Skype, and from the dark lighting and the Navy t-shirt, she's sure he was asleep when she called.
"Tell me you didn't order it," her voice is hot.
"Tell me you didn't order it."
He blinks, sitting up, turning the light on, stalling. "Order what?"
"Surprise inspection of the flight deck! I'm calling you in the middle of the fucking night the day my brother got home from the hospital. What the fuck orders do you think I'm asking about?"
He looks nonplussed. "I take it you've talked to them." There's disdain in his voice on 'them' as if he's speaking of some sort of subhuman creature that disgusts him.
"That's not an answer."
"I refuse to dignify those accusations with an answer. The case is over. The men who assaulted your brother are in prison and will stay there because they have all pleaded guilty."
She's watching him over the screen, staring at his face, he's tired, he's angry, he's… not lying because he hasn't made any claims, but, he's not being forthcoming either.
"He's your son. How could you… And even if you hate Tim for being Tim, he's my brother and Penny's grandson, and he's a dad and a husband and… How could you do it? You don't give a fuck about him, fine, but how could you put Penny and Mom and I through this?"
His eyes narrow. She can read the annoyance on his face. "I have not put you, your mother, or grandmother through anything."
She spends a quiet moment just looking, and then says back, "Everything that happens under your command is on you. How many times did you chew out Tim because I misbehaved while he was in charge? How many times did we hear that line?"
"I have thousands of men under my command. Your brother was in charge of making sure a seven-year-old cleaned her room. They are not analogous situations."
"I know Mane set the attack. And he is not 'thousands of men.' He was your man. I know he was in love with you. I know you were fucking him. And I know he wouldn't have done it if he thought it would have made you angry, because he spent his whole life tiptoeing around you the same way Mom did, trying to make sure everything was just perfect for you so you were happy. So… quit the shit and be honest for me for a moment, why? Why do that to him?"
Sarah's never actually seen her father go apoplectic before. She's heard it, but that sort of thing was always kept behind closed doors, and kept to a muffled roar when she was supposed to be 'asleep.'
His face has gone red, his eye is twitching, and she knows she's hit every button he has and is absolutely pounding them.
"You shut your bleeding cunt mouth about that, you ignorant whore. And you don't say another word until your brain is thinking again and not that gutter filth spewing out your mouth. You do not know a single fucking thing about anything involving Lt. Mane and I, and you never have. And if you think anything like that you're the dumbest bitch to ever walk this earth. I'm not a fag and neither was he, and don't you ever go disrespecting his memory again. Mane was a good man, and a good sailor, and… and if you were young enough I'd get off this damn ship and teach you some manners for even suggesting that such a thing could possibly happen!"
"You're more angry about the idea of Mane being gay than the fact he tried to have Tim killed."
"He was doing his job! Protecting me!"
"From what? A test? Ordered by the SecNav? What the hell did Tim do that required his death to avenge?"
John doesn't answer. She can see his pulling his brain back online, can see the controlled part coming back into play, he knows there's no good answer to that question, knows how much he revealed with the 'doing his job' bit. His eyes slowly close, and then open again.
"We're done. I'm not talking to you when you're hysterical."
"We are not done. You are going to listen to me or you are going to pay the consequences and you will not like them." She can see him reaching for the off button as she says, "The statute of limitations for child abuse is twenty years. That puts Tim out of play, but not me."
His hand stops, and he looks concerned. "I never touched you!"
"I will lie. I write fiction. I make shit up ten hours a day, and I'm damn good at it, and right now, I'm less than twenty feet away from a cop who's dying to go after you and a forensic scientist who will make me evidence to frame you if I ask her to. On top of that, I don't care if everyone on earth ends up knowing I was lying. Hell, lying to hurt a child abuser means I'm going to sell a shit ton more books, so it's all good for me. And it's all pain for you because everything you've ever done to Tim will come out in that trial, too, and maybe you can't be convicted of anything, but right now I don't care about that, all I want is pain. As much pain as I can lay on you. So that's that. You're going to resign, give up the Navy, lose everything you've ever loved, or I will go to the cop who is standing less than twenty feet away from me and file formal charges against you."
"No. SecNav, or the President, on your phone, right now, three way Skype, I am watching you resign, or trust me, I will file the report and my 500,000 Twitter followers will very shorty know that I filed the report and every news agency and scandal sheet on Earth will be waiting for you at Pearl when you land."
He's silent, and she can see him touch his phone several times. A few seconds later she hears ringing, followed by who she assumes is the Secretary of the Navy, looking very surprised to see her father (and her likely) on his Skype.
"As of 04:47 this morning, I am resigning my commission," John bites out.
The SecNav smiles, but his eyes are cold, and that one glance tells Sarah everything she needs to know about what happened with Tim. "The President will be pleased to hear it. When you reach Pearl formal papers will be drawn up and we'll take care of the particulars. Your country thanks you for your service and your excellent timing in regards to your well-deserved retirement."
John nods curtly and hangs up on SecNav. "Satisfied?" he asks Sarah.
"Enough. Don't call me. Don't look me up. Don't drop by to visit again. We are done. You cannot do that to my brother and expect to keep me in your life." And then without another word she hangs up.
She can feel herself shaking, part mad, part nervous, part just… everything.
Then she gets out of the car, tucks her phone into her pocket, and sees Gibbs, Abby, Ducky, and Penny staring at her.
"As of a minute ago, Dad resigned his commission."
"What did you do?" Penny asks.
"I told him I'd bring formal charges against him for child abuse. Told him the statute of limitations is twenty years, but… Hell, I don't know if it is or not, but… I told him Tim might be out of the game for that, but I wasn't, and that I had no problem whatsoever lying about it to smear him. Told him he'd have every press service on Earth waiting for him in Pearl if he didn't do it while I was on the phone."
She can see them all staring at her, not sure if that's shock, or doubt that she could do it, or what, so she goes a bit further. "In the old media days, the main job of a publishing company was to make books. Books are easy now. Hell, I could teach Gibbs to make one in less than fifteen minutes. These days it's about drumming up publicity to sell books. Tim hires his publicity out. I make my own. I've got hundreds of thousands of fans, their families, friends, writers, and publishers all following me on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Even if it came out I was lying to get payback for my brother, who actually was abused, I'm still gonna be a hero. So, a threat where I'd ruin him and make myself even more popular, a crusade where there's no downside for me, and all downside for him… It made him fold. He called SecNav, and he's done."
Abby, Gibbs, Penny, and Ducky stand there, remembering why it is you do not piss a McGee woman off.