Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 292


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


Chapter 292: Shared Past


“My wife is dead.”

It feels weird to say it out loud, doubly so because there’s no one else in the room with him.

And he’s fairly sure that saying it to himself isn’t what Cranston meant by say it to someone.

God, how the hell do you say that to someone? You don’t just walk up to them and say, ‘Hey, guess what, my wife is dead.” That’s just horribly uncomfortable for everyone involved. And sure, Gibbs doesn’t usually go out of his way to avoid making people feel uncomfortable, but there’s a huge difference between staring down a perp and polite conversation among equals.

And at home, in his basement, starting the measurements for Anna Palmer’s crib, he’s not even sure who he’d say that to.

Mike.

Mike would have been his first choice. But, he looks around, and doesn’t see Mike’s ghost, doesn’t feel him, and he’s fairly certain that if he tells Rachel he’s having heart to hearts with ghosts about dealing with grief he is rapidly going to find himself embracing an even earlier retirement than he was expecting.

Fornell and Ducky had both been upset that he’d never told them. Understood, eventually, but still upset. So… he puts his pencil down and picks up his phone and hits Ducky’s contact number.

“Hello, Jethro.” Penny’s voice. He’s getting ready to ask for Duck when a few things hit him. Penny’s a widow. Penny lost her husband after forty years. The husband that by all accounts she adored.

Penny’s done this.

Penny has perspective.

“Hi, Penny. Are you busy?”

“Not right this second.”

“Wanna get some coffee with me?”

He hears the pause, where she’s wondering what is going on. “Are you serious?”

He nods, realizes she can’t see it, and says, “Yes.”

“Just me?”

“Just you.”

“Do you know you dialed Ducky?”

“Yep.”

“Okay. Did you want me to give him a message.”

“Nope.” He can imagine the perplexed look on her face.

“Do you have my phone number?”

“Uh huh.”

“So why did you call him?”

“Why did you pick up?”

“Phone was sitting next to me, and he’s in the kitchen.”

“Then that’s why I called his phone. So, coffee?”

He can hear the confusion in her voice as she says, “Sure.”



“Jethro,” Penny says as she slips into the booth across from him. Before he could say much more than ‘Hi,’ Elaine’s over.

She hands the menu with the specials on it to Penny, while asking, “What can I get you to start off with?”

“Coffee’s fine.”

“Iced or hot?”

“Hot.” Elaine nods at that and then says, “New friend, Jethro?”

He smiles at her. “Keeping track of my ladies?”

“You know it, Hon. Looking for your next sweetie.”

“Elaine, this is Penny, Tim’s grandma.”

She looks more carefully at Penny and says, “I should have seen that straight away. Shape of your eyes and face… Well, welcome Ms. Penny. Used to just get Jethro, but the last few years he’s been bringing the family in. Get to see your darling baby girl on Sunday mornings.  Anything you want, just holler and we’ll have it for you. On the menu or not.”

“Just Penny is fine.” Eliane nods as that and heads off to get her coffee. “Sunday mornings?” Penny asks Gibbs.

“You know I’ve been going to church and Sunday dinner with them?”

Penny nods; Breena and Tim had mentioned that in passing.

“Last two, and hopefully going forward, weeks, we’ve had breakfast here first. Eight on Sundays, you and Duck want to come, to breakfast or church too, you’re welcome. Meet Breena’s family. They’ll probably invite you to supper after.”

Penny nods at that, smiling, as Elaine set a cup of coffee down in front of her, along with cream and sugar. 

“Not sure how you like it, but I know tastes tend to run in families, and he takes his with cream and sugar.”

Penny pours a splash of cream into her coffee as well as one sugar. “They do tend to. He had his first cup of it at my house. Would have been ten or eleven, drank some of mine, liked it.” She stops telling the story there, but Gibbs catches the hesitation and knows there’s more on that for when Elaine heads off.

Elaine sets a piece of strawberry pie in front of him to go with his coffee.  She looks to Penny. “We’ve got pecan and raspberry, too. I know Tim likes both of them.”

“Is the raspberry a frozen pie or a jam pie?”

“Oreo cookie crust, raspberry ice cream, raspberry puree, whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top.”

“Yeah, he would love that,” she says with a smile. “Bring me a piece, too.”

Elaine nods at that and heads off again.

“So, let me guess,” Gibbs says quietly, “John was fine with him drinking coffee until he saw it was yours and sweet and creamy and then yelled about how men drink it black?”

“Something like that. I was there, so it was just a few sarcastic comments, not full out yelling, but in context of what happened when I wasn’t there, Tim dropping the coffee, spilling it down his shirt, which resulted in more sarcasm about being clumsy, and never drinking it again when his dad was around makes a whole lot more sense.”

Jethro shakes his head and grits his teeth. And while learning more about Tim and his dad is something he’s interested in, it’s something he wants to learn from Tim, and also if he gets into it, he’ll use it as a way to avoid dealing with his own stuff.

He doesn’t know if Penny senses what he’s thinking, or if she’s just curious, but she asks, “So… what’s got you offering coffee, Jethro? We’re obviously not talking about Tim, or you would have had something to say besides just gritting your teeth. We planning a surprise for Ducky?”

“No. We could be, I guess, but we aren’t… unless you want to.”

Penny laughs at how startled he looks by that idea. “I’ll put that on the back burner. So, if it’s not about Ducky, what’s going on?”

He takes a sip of his coffee, not saying anything for a long second. Then put it down and exhaled deeply. “Did Tim tell you he’s got me seeing someone?”

“No, and what sort of someone?”

“A counselor. Dealing with…” another long exhale, “everything.”

“No. He didn’t mention that, and I’m glad to hear it.”

“Yeah, great.” He’s feeling monumentally uncomfortable, and while she’s listening attentively, she’s not meeting him halfway or filling in the blanks on her own. “It’s ummm… yeah…”

“Less than easy or comfortable?”

He nods decisively at that and jumps over the cliff. Dithering about it can’t make it any easier. “My wife and daughter are dead. They were murdered when I was in Iraq. They are the loves of my life. And they’re gone. And I haven’t handled it well. And I realized that you’ve dealt with something similar.” He tries to smile with that, but it comes off more pathetic than anything else.

Penny reaches across the table and squeezes his hand.  

“You two were married forty years, right?” he asks as her hand withdraws.

“Yeah. Met in early ’46, when I was fourteen and he was twenty-four. The Langstons were a navy family, too, and my dad was Nelson’s commanding officer. Brought him home for working dinners a few nights a week. It was right after the war, I had a twenty and twenty-two-year-old sister at home, and my dad was dangling them in front of him, thinking he was good husband material for them.

“He was a Captain then. Working on making better aircraft carriers. I was bright and precocious and interested in math and geometry and how thing flew. My dad thought he was humoring me, letting me join in some of those conversations. After a few months of it, most nights we’d wrap up dinner, my mom and Elsa, the oldest sister would clear up the table, and Nelson would spread out his drawings and calculations, and we’d work on them together until I had to start my own homework or go to bed.

“By ‘48 he’d decided that he couldn’t do a better job of trying to build a better aircraft carrier until he really knew what it was like to fly. He was accepted into the naval aviator training program, and we got married fast and headed to Pensacola, three weeks shy of my seventeenth birthday.”

Gibbs shakes his head at that. Then he thinks for a moment. “Would have been forty years for us in October of ’18.”

Penny knows how old he is and does the math. “So you were babies, too.”

“Not quite that young, but yeah. We were eighteen when we met. Really met. Lived in the same small town, went to school together, but were never in the same class. And even if we had been, I probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to talk to her.”

Penny smiles at that.  

“Were you Mrs. McGee back then, when you first got married?”

“Mrs. Captain Nelson McGee.”

Gibbs laughs at that.

Penny sips her coffee and takes a bite of the pie. “I was so obnoxiously proper back in the day. At least about things like that. Even back then having a seventeen-year-old bride, especially in the Officer Corp made you stick out. So, I dressed older, my manners were impeccable, and I was pretty enough to be attractive, but not so pretty that men wouldn’t listen to what I had to say when I said it. I didn’t talk a lot, not to the others, but when I did have something to say, it was always dead on right.”

“How’d you get to be Dr. Langston?”

“Finished high school by correspondence just about the time John was born in ’49. Had three more boys and finished my Bachelors by ’56. Began working on original research in ’57. I already knew that in the field I was working, medical technology, that Penelope McGee wasn’t going to get any traction. And P. McGee didn’t sound much better. So I’d publish as P. Langston. There wasn’t biotech per se at that point, but in ’61 John’s Hopkins wanted to move in that direction, and, without knowing P. Langston was a woman, they offered me a research position based on the strength of my publications. I said yes. They were awfully shocked when I showed up, but Dr. Renner, who ran the program knew I was the real deal, and kept me on.

“You know about some of the stuff I worked on after that. A lot of it is still classified. But by ’72 my husband was an Admiral, my oldest son was a Lieutenant Junior Grade in Vietnam, James, our second boy, had been killed in action, and Michael and Thomas were still too young to enlist.”

“I didn’t know you’d lost a child.”

“Hasn’t come up in conversation, and, though I’m sure Tim’s aware of the existence of his Uncle James, it’s not like they ever met.”

Gibbs nods at that. “You two made it through though…”

“By the skin of our teeth. By the end of ’72, I’d legally changed my name back to Langston and drawn up the divorce papers.”

“But never pulled the trigger on it?”

“No. We worked a lot of it out, and after that dinner parties at the Admiral’s house were always…” she smiles, “interesting. I was done being horribly proper, and he decided that having me, as me, in all my me-ness, was worth the occasional uncomfortable moment with the higher ups.”

“Not a lot of higher ups when you hit flag rank.”

“There is that. The number of guys he couldn’t tell to go to hell with impunity was fewer than ten.”
 
Gibbs thinks about that and nods. “What did you do when he died?”

“Handled it." She says with a rueful look. "I was a Navy wife, an Admiral’s widow, stiff upper lip and all that crap. The Navy took care of the burial. Whatever’s left of him is deep in the Pacific somewhere, maybe swimming around as ten or twenty generations of some sort of meat-eating critter. He’d have liked that. That maybe there’s a king crab out there that’s part him.

“You live with sailors or fishermen, you’ll notice something, they don’t, usually, eat crab. Maybe they do now, so few of them get killed in action, but especially when I was young, you could always tell a navy family or a fisherman’s family because crab and lobster, no matter how cheap it was, and in Boston it was cheap, never went on the menu. Didn’t know who you were eating. But he’d joke about that, how one day he’d be the biggest, meanest, oldest king crab scuttling along in the Pacific.” She makes a pincher gesture with her fingers. Gibbs smiles and nods.

“I knew it as soon as I heard the knock. There’s that, pause, stopping in front of the door that people just don’t do when its good news. I heard the footsteps, heard the pause, and then the knock, slow, precise, and I knew. Hell, back during Korea and Vietnam, until we lost James, I was one of the people who’d stand on the porch, next to the Chaplain, ready to help comfort.

“I planned a very proper memorial, stoically took the condolences of the probably thousand people who dropped in over the course of three days. John brought me his flag, but I wouldn’t take it. It meant more to him than it did to me, so he kept it. He’s got it in his office along with all the medals.”

“And after?”

She smiles again. “Four day after the funeral, after everyone had left, when I was just knocking about alone in my house, the way I had been doing for a decade at that point... It was just like him being at sea, except it wasn't because he wasn't ever going to come home again. That alone and waiting had changed to just alone. I broke down, finally let go of stoic, cried for days, and then I cut my hair off. Total buzz cut. I think it was a third of an inch long. Packed everything up. Gave most of it away. Put some of it in storage. Tim’s mom got a few boxes. And then I bought a ticket to Italy and spent the next two years traveling. We were going to travel. He had placed he wanted me to see. I had places I wanted to see. So, I did them. Took pictures. Sent post cards home. Tim probably still has some of them. Didn’t come home until I was feeling like a person again.”

“How’d that happen?”

“I don’t know.” The expression on her face is soft, comforting. “It just did. You ever chip a tooth?”

He nods.

“You know how you just can’t not keep poking it with your tongue, and you end up with a chipped tooth and a sore on your tongue.”

He nods at that too.

“But eventually, you get the tooth fixed, and eventually your tongue stops hurting.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s what happened. Eventually it stopped hurting so bad. He went the way he wanted to. Sooner than either of us would have liked, but it was fast, painless, and at sea. He couldn’t have asked for more than that.”

“Still miss him?”

“Sure. Especially for family things. I love sharing Molly and Kelly with Ducky. That’s true and always will be. But I would have liked to have seen Nelson hold his great grand-daughter, too. Wanna hear something funny?”      

“Sure.”

“They would have liked each other. You’d have never gotten the two of them to shut up. Nelson loved stories, too, and had a million of them. He was a good listener and a good story teller and the two of them would have gotten on splendidly.”

Gibbs smiles at that, trying to imagine both men together. 

“I think Tim gets that from him. He always had to put everything into stories. It was how he made sense of the world.”

“You have any serious boyfriends between Nelson and Ducky?”

She smiles at that, looking very amused. “I had friends. Some very good friends. Some less good friends. Some acquaintances. Ducky’s the only man I’ve attempted to live with, since.

“One of the things I’ve missed most about Nelson was a man who didn’t find my mind a threat. Someone who would love me because of it, instead of in spite of it. I’m an academic. Even traveling, I tended to stay in places filled with people who live and die by their minds. And what I rapidly found out was that men who had a brain, and a modicum of charm, and who weren’t intimidated by a woman with a brain, were all married by the time they hit my age. The ones who weren’t, were like Ducky, married to a job. Or they were grad students or undergrads, which was fun, but not any sort of long term solution.

“Jerks and blowhards existed in droves. Mincing piranhas who couldn’t have identified manhood, let alone been one, tons of them.”

Gibbs was looking at her curiously. It never occurred to him that someone who was proud of being arrested at different peace/feminist rallies would appreciate “manhood.”

She sees the look, and responds to it with, “Women don’t need men. But we want them. I never had any problem with any man who wanted me and wanted me to want him. I had and have a whole lot of problems with men who try to create or uphold a world where I need one to survive.”

“People like to be needed.”

“Men like power. Being needed creates power. Men especially love the power and hate the responsibility of that power. So they write laws that codify the power and let them off easy on the responsibility.”

Gibbs decides this is a good point to get off politics or philosophy or whatever this is and get back to family history and getting through grief.

“What happened after James died?”

“Didn’t like the last topic, hit too close?”

“Don’t like being judged based on the actions of every other asshole on earth. I imagine you don’t, either.”

“Fair enough. June of ’72. Things were slowing down, but not done, in Vietnam. Nelson was the newest Admiral of the US Navy. John was a Lieutenant Junior Grade. James was three weeks out of Annapolis, brand new Ensign. They were both turtle navy.” She gives Gibbs a questioning look, making sure he knows what that is. He nods, familiar with that term for Naval deployments on rivers. “Bringing supplies in, taking men out, stuff like that. Dangerous as hell, on a tiny boat, filled with weapons, moving through the jungle, no real line of sight, possible ambush from anywhere on shore, and on occasion, the rivers got mined, too.

“Three weeks in, his boat took fire, he didn’t make it.” She looks away from Gibbs, out the window of the diner, just staring into space for a long minute. “That never gets easier, does it?” she asks, shaking her head, ruefully.

“No. It doesn’t.”

“I’d already joined the peace movement at that point. Quietly. That was the deal Nelson and I had, once he made Admiral, I could be as outspoken as I wanted to, but before that, I needed to keep quiet. And I did. And he’d give me occasional bits of information on thing he thought were dishonorable, that no honest man could support, and I made sure they saw the light of day.

“Like what you were doing with the Annex project.”

“That was one of them. It’s one thing to be a warrior and to fight other warriors. It’s another all together to unleash plague and famine upon non-combatants. Neither of us approved of that. Napalm to clear a landing zone is one thing. Napalm on a village is another all-together.”

Gibbs nods at that. There have been numerous times he’s wondered what he would have done if he’d been five or ten years older and ended up in Vietnam. He and Fornell have had a few long conversations about that.    

“When James died, quiet stopped. I started getting arrested. Admiral’s wife at protest march made for impressive headlines. I wanted to destroy anything that had a hand in sending my son off to die. But to do that, I had to cut ties with two of my sons, Michael was a plebe at Annapolis that year, and my husband.

“When we should have been pulling together to share the grief, we all ran our own separate directions and screamed it to the heavens.”

“But you pulled together eventually?”

“Eventually. Like Nelson, James was buried at sea. Should have been shipped home, but when you’re an Admiral you can get things like that done. We’ve never been a dust to dust family. From the sea we came, and to the sea we return. Or as Nelson would say, ‘We’re water given breath and set free to walk upon God’s green earth. Allowed a short time to see what else is out there, and then we’ll return to the oceans that gave us life.’ But, because of that, I never really got a proper goodbye. And I was so mad at him.

“Eventually in early ’73, Nelson got home. And we got a chance to talk, and yell, and cry, and scream, and fight and mourn and all of it… And when it was done, we still loved each other and we decided to stay together. What did you do after your girls died?”

“Earned my second purple heart the day they died. Didn’t come out of the coma I was in until after they were buried. I was invalided home, granted compassionate leave on top of that. And for a week, I more or less lay on the sofa, stared at the ceiling, and did nothing. Only time I did anything was when Mike Franks, the NIS agent handling Shannon and Kelly’s case would come around. He’d get me up enough to eat something and occasionally shower, took care of me in a hands off sort of way.

“Wasn’t like he was asking me questions or anything. They knew why my girls had been killed. They knew who did it. It was just a matter of trying to get the guy who did it.

“That was the pattern for about two months. He’d pop by once or twice a week, usually with a bottle of bourbon, two cups of coffee, a bag of McDonalds hamburgers and fries, and ‘fill me in on their progress’ while pouring the bourbon, coffee, and food down my throat.

“Eventually he hit the point where they knew where the guy was, but Mexico wasn’t going to go out of its way to capture or extradite him. So, Mike invited me in to his office, told me that it’d be a good plan to show up having gotten a shower and shave so no one would notice me when I went in, and then while he was ‘releasing personal items to me’ he got called away from his desk while the file with everything about the man who killed my girls, including their best guess as to where he was, was sitting open on his desk. Then he ‘forgot’ I was in there for two hours.”

He could remember Franks heading back into that dingy little office, seeing him there, giving a big, mock startled jump, saying, “Good Lord, Gibbs! Completely forgot you were in here. Here, let me get this signed.” He took the bag with the ‘personal items,’ which was actually empty, none of the evidence in the case could go missing, signed it, staring at him, and said, “I hope you found what you needed,” his eyes giving Gibbs permission to do what he wouldn’t.

Gibbs nodded at him. Didn’t say anything, and left.

“When Hernandez ended up dead, killed by a sniper’s bullet, no one fussed much. Guy ran a drug family, competition’s pretty fierce in that job. The Federales didn’t exactly strain themselves looking for who shot him. After that case, Mike got transferred back east.

“Like you, I packed everything up, headed back east. I put that life in a box, bunch of boxes, stuck them in the attic, found Mike again, and learned how to be a cop.” He fiddles with his coffee cup as he says that.  

“And now you’re taking that life back out of the boxes?”

“Been doing that for ten years. Trying to figure out what to do with it’s more likely.”

“That’s always the question, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“Ideas?”


He blows out a frustrated breath. “Working on getting some.”


Next

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 291

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

Chapter 291: Work



Tim was rummaging around in the cabinet under the sink the next morning, looking for cotton balls. “Did we use up all the cotton balls?”

Abby popped her head into the bathroom. “Yeah. Sorry. Forgot all about that. I’ll put them on the grocery list.”

“Great.” He headed back into their room for tissues. “It never comes all the way off when I use a tissue.”

“Hmm?”

“The nail polish. I always end up with those little black lines around the edges when I use a tissue to take it off. Makes my nails look dirty.” And while there are places and times where that’s cool, work isn’t one of them.

“Then leave it on.”

He looked at her curiously.

“It’s not against the regs. Can’t be. Women can wear it, so they can’t stop you from doing it without risking a sexual discrimination suit. Besides, you’re not going into the office today, right?” 

Sigh. “Not with the way this stakeout is going. Twelve more hours in the bus station, breathing in the exhaust, bored as hell with a dull, nagging headache.”

“Jeans, t-shirt, book bag, nail polish, wrist cuff, computer. You’re just another guy getting on a bus, going somewhere. Artist, musician, or something.”

“Like a writer?” he said with a wry grin.

“Yeah, you could be a writer. Hell, grab a Mountain Dew and you’re an indie game designer.”

He smiled at that. “Good point. We are trying to blend in when we go in and out. Make it harder to see we’re watching the place.”



He sat down next to Tony.

“You’re late.”

“It’s 8:01, Tony.”

The look Tony was shooting at him wasn’t a glare, but it was a none-too-subtle, hey, I’m your boss, toe the line.

The that might have worked eight years ago but isn’t going to fly now look that Tim shot back made Tony change track.

“You think they wanted to spend a single second longer here than they needed to?”

“No.” Good point. “How’s Ziva doing?”

“She didn’t kill Draga. But I’d double and triple check everything before using it, make sure it’s not booby-trapped or pranked.”

“Yay.” He sighed. One day of stakeout is about as long as their team can go before they start getting itchy and rubbing each other wrong. “Draga still in one piece?”

“He wasn’t limping when he left.”

“Good.” Tim handed over the reason he was late, a warm box of breakfast. “And yes, they’re scrambled.”

“Good. Only took you a decade to get it down pat.” Tony barely looked away from the monitor when he took the box from Tim, but he did catch sight of Tim’s thumb which was on the top of the box. “Man, that must have hurt.”

“Huh?”

“Your nail. What’d you do to bruise the whole thing up like that? Whack yourself with a hammer or something.”

Tim held up all ten of them, wiggling them. “Not a bruise.”

“Oh.” Tony rolled his eyes, taking a bit of his eggs. “Cute, McMetrosexual.”

“Says the guy with his own collection of organic bath salts.”

“She told you about that!” Tony looked horrified.

“I’ve been in your bathroom, Tony. You’ve got like nine of those little glass bottles full of them.”

“If you just saw them, you wouldn’t have known they were mine!”

Tim flashes him the I didn’t know they were yours until a second ago look. Which wasn’t actually true. Ziva must have told Breena, Breena must have mentioned it to Jimmy, Jimmy mentioned it to him. But he’s not tossing anyone under the bus for that chain of gossip.

Tony stared at him for a second, but when Tim didn’t say anything else about it, he took another bite of his eggs, and looked back to the monitor. “These are good.”

“They should be.” Tim opened up his own box, and saw a western omelet staring up at him. “Elaine sends her love.”

They both ate in silence for a few minutes. Tim noticed Tony glancing away from the monitor to his nails, then back to the monitor several times in the course of those few minutes. Finally Tony asked, “So, you just wake up this morning and think, you know, I really need some nail polish?”

“No, Tony.”

“Then why the hell are you wearing it? Not like we’re at a club.”

“A: It’s not against the regs. I checked.” (And he did. Abby’s assurances aside, he wanted to make sure.)  “B: I already had it on. And C: As Abby pointed out, if I’m trying to look like a guy who rides the bus, maybe office casual isn’t precisely the look I need to be going for. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it,” he stared at Tony, eyes tracing over his navy suits, “but, who wears a suit to ride a bus?”

“My dad.”

“Does he own any non-suit clothing?”

“Bathrobe? I’d assume he does, but I don’t remember seeing it.”

“And I’d assume the suit is his way of saying, ‘I don’t really belong here.’”

Tony shrugged. “Maybe. So, you’re blending in?”

“I’m blending in.” He had put on a t-shirt, jeans, and his boots as well. He wasn’t as far away from Office Tim as he can get, but he was certainly not looking particularly professional. “T-shirt and boots are part of that, too. Get headachy enough, I might take a few hours out there. Just another guy waiting for a bus. I can watch that locker from the seats just as easily as I can from here.”

Tony nodded at that. “Can’t let me know if he moves just as easily.”

“I can text. When you’re off, take a look at the guys who are waiting. They’re all on their phones.”



Half an hour on, half an hour off. That’s how long you can watch a locker where nothing happens without losing focus. Tony had the first half hour on, eyes on the monitor, hoping someone would go grab that locker and get the Euros and passports out of it.

Tim had the next one. And on and off they’d go for the next eleven and a half hours, until Ziva and Draga came back to relieve them or someone finally goes for that locker. 

It was a pretty basic case. Wife and boyfriend murder husband, get the hell out of Dodge, and off to happily-ever-after-land with hubby’s money. They had the wife, but she wasn’t talking, at all. Nothing. Perfect silence. (Gibbs was less than sympathetic about the stakeout being boring, because he spent eight hours in interrogation with Leslie Smith, where she said nothing, not even asked for water.) They knew, because they trailed her accounts, that she’d bought the bus tickets. They found the key to the locker. They found the receipt for the copy she’d made of the key.

They hadn’t found the boyfriend. They knew he existed. They had prints and DNA, neither of which matched anything. But they didn’t have so much as a phone number, email address, or hint as to who he was.

So, they were waiting, eventually he’d use that key, and they’d grab him, and that would be that.

But that wasn’t that, yet, and this part was deadly dull.




“So, how is your dad?” Tim asked as Tony got up, stretched, and began walking around a bit. They’re in a bus in the maintenance dock. It looked like all the other buses on the outside, but inside it’s a full surveillance center.

“Okay? I guess. Haven’t seen him since Fourth of July. Last I heard he and Delphine were in Montreal.”

“Doing what?”

“I have no idea. He usually does land deals, but the last thing I heard had something to do with the heathcare.gov reboot, website compliance, drug company bids… I zoned out five minutes into the explanation. All I know is he expects to make a ton of money at it, and it’s really complicated, and involves people in seven countries.”

“The next great score.”

“Yeah. And Delphine’s sticking around to be Bonnie to his Clyde, so they look like they’re having fun.”

“That’s good. Think you’re on the verge of a new stepmom?”

Tony sighed and rolled his eyes. “Who knows? If they follow his usual pattern, one of these days, he’ll be flush with cash, and spirit them off for a romantic weekend and come back married. Eight stepmoms at this point, and I only found out about two of them before they were married.”



“So, why’d you already have it on?” Tony asked ten minute later, after flipping through the magazine he bought without actually reading anything.

“Hmmm?” Tim didn’t look away from the monitor. He’d been thinking that during his next downtime he’d start building a worm to mess with Cybercrime’s password protections.

“The nail polish. You have a hot date or something last night?”

Tim smiled. “Or something.”

“Do I want to know?”

“I’d really doubt it.” Another minute of silence. “Why? Do you?”

“God, no! I don’t want to know what the hell it is you and Abby do that involves nail polish on you.” Another quiet minute. “You didn’t paint your toes, did you?”

Tim was fairly sure he had the facial expression equivalent of ‘The fuck?’ on his face right now. “Why would you even ask that?”

Tony rolled his eyes, feeling a little silly about asking, too. “Ever watch Californication?”

Tim shook his head.

“There’s a scene where the main character painted his girlfriend’s toe nails, and then did his own. It was kind of hot.”

Tim shook his head. “I didn’t need to know that about you.”

“Says the guy still wearing the nail polish from ‘or somethinging’ last night for everyone to see.”

“TouchĂ©.”



Both of their phones buzzed at them five minutes later. Tony grabbed his because Tim was still watching the feed, but he caught the grin on Tony’s face out of the side of his vision.

“It’s a girl.” He held the phone so Tim could see it, and watched the feed for him.

On the screen was an ultrasound shot, with Anna Palmer written under it.

Tim felt a grin spread wide across his face.  He didn’t need to see to text, so he flashd back a quick YAY!! message to Jimmy and Breena.



A minute later, Tony put a cup of coffee in front of Tim along with two Advil.

Tim rubbed his temples, took the pills, and said, “Thanks.”

“You’re getting that tense look.”

“Yep.”

He’d had the headache all Monday, and just figured he was feeling off. It got better when he went home, but if something’s bugging him, he usually feels better when he gets home. Abby and Kelly are home, so home makes him happy, and little nagging pains tend not to hit too hard when he’s happy.

When, half an hour onto shift on Tuesday his head started to ache again, he put together that he was in a bus terminal, breathing in a ton of exhaust, with the fact that his head hurt, and figured out that his body didn’t like being exposed to this much pollution.

Today, he came armed with Advil, but hadn’t yet reached for it, because it wasn’t hitting him too hard. (Building up a tolerance?) But seeing it sitting in front of him reminded him that yeah, he was starting to ache some, so might as well nip it in the bud.

“So, how is ‘or somethinging’ going these days?”

He started to look away from the monitor toward Tony, but stopped that, gotta keep eyes on the locker. “Are you really asking me how my sex life is?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“New baby at home. Everyone says you never have sex again, but, well, we aren’t all only children, so that can’t be true, and Ziva’s talking more about it, so…”

Tim did look to Tony for that. “You’re doing research?”

“Yeah.” Tony said with a sheepish grin.

Tim shrugged, eyes back to the monitor. “It’s going. Kind of slow. We’re both tired, and she’s not all back to normal again. You ask Jimmy? He’s done this twice and getting ready for three.”

“I will when I get some time alone with him. What’s slow mean?”

Tim flashed him a look somewhere between perplexed and mildly annoyed. “Slow.” Once a week, once every ten days, slow. But he wasn’t going to say that. And then, because he couldn’t resist. “Probably about as often as you do it now.”

“Yeah, well, some of us are good enough at it we don’t have to do it every single day to keep our ladies happy.”

Tim laughed at that. “If that’s what you’ve got to tell yourself... How often I’m getting laid isn’t likely to have any effect on how often you get laid.”

“Thank the Lord.”

“Amen on that. What does matter is how long it takes her to heal up. Whether your baby actually sleeps. From what everyone says, Kelly is a ridiculously easy baby when it comes to sleep time, so we’re probably a bit ahead of the curve. How much sleep you actually need. I mean, if you can’t get it up on no sleep, you’re not getting laid again anytime soon. How much sleep she needs. Abby’s usually good on five hours a night, and she’s up to eightish a day right now, which with nursing makes sense. When you like to do it matters. If nursing time and sex time are at the same time, feeding the baby wins. But, look, two months, four months, six months, a year, might be a long time before you guys get back to pre-baby sex. But, at least, according to Jimmy, you get back to it.”

Tony’s nodding along, this all seemed to make sense to him.

“So, how serious of talking about it are you two doing?”

“Like, expect another DiNozzo late next year serious.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah.”

“Tony DiNozzo III?”

“Lord, no! Two of us were more than enough. But… Dave DiNozzo?”

“David DiNozzo?”

“Her last name, my middle name.”

Tim smiled at that. “Sounds awfully serious if you’ve got a time frame and names.”

“Yeah. I think we are.”



Half hour on, half hour off, on again, off again.

He spent two of his off shifts creating a--Nasty wasn’t exactly right. Not like it’s the end of the world or anything. Annoying might be better than nasty.—little worm to invade Cybercrime.

He finished it, hit enter, and sent it off to wreck a very mild version of mayhem amongst his soon to be employees. Then he sent of a quick email to Leon.

“What was that?” Tony asked as he wrapped up.

“Cybercrime test number two.”

“What are you doing to them this time?”

“You’ll like this one. You know that software that holds all of your passwords?”

Tony nodded. “Heard of it. Don’t use it.”

“Yeah, well, when you’ve only got four of them, keeping track isn’t a big deal. The guys in the basement hopefully have a different one for each login and with any luck they’re a lot more difficult than forward22, center16, halfback34, and firstbaseman01.”

“Okay, great. So what?”

“So, this goes in, sits in their computer, waits for them to log into something using that service, creeps into it, changes their password, and then logs them out.”

Tony stared at him for a moment, and then shook his head, laughing. “That’s just mean.”

“Thank you. If they’ve got decent security in place, it’ll bounce and they’ll never notice, but given how badly they did on the last test…”

“Not feeling too hopeful about this one?”

“Nope. My guess is that within a day or two, at least ten of them will be resetting their passwords, wondering what’s going on.”



By two in the afternoon, even with the Advil, his head was hurting, so Tim decided to venture out into the bus station for a more comfortable vantage point.

Of course, the thing about being out there is that other people can watch him just as easily as he can watch them, and sitting there staring at a locker isn’t subtle.

Leaning against one on the other hand…

He started in the seats. Messing around on his computer, looking like he was hunting for a better wifi connection. Moved over to besides the pay phones, spent a few minutes there. Then over to café area, more messing around, grumbling about how the wifi sucks and he needs to change carrier. He then spent another minute chatting with the guy in the seat next to him about how the wifi at the bus station sucked. After that he got up, headed over to the lockers, sat down, back against them, and got to work.

He opened his IM.

In position. Keep an eye on anyone who might come near and get scared off by me here.

Gotcha.

He was sitting so his back was against the locker two below the one their perp’s gonna want. No matter how into what he does next he is, he will notice someone basically having to stand on top of him to get to the locker in question.  

Sit and wait.

He opened word and started to write up character sketches for Gabriel McGee and Lady Skye. Been a long time since he’s written anything that wasn’t based around the adventures of LJ Gibbs.

And more than that, maybe it’s time to actually be the main character in one of his stories.



Eyes on me. Tim types into his IM.

Got him. Yeah, he’s going for it. Getting into position.

Soon as he closes the door, I’ll grab him.

See you in a minute.

The pair of legs next to Tim were attached to a not terribly impressive looking specimen of manhood. Medium height. Medium build. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Somewhere in that vague space between thirty-five and forty-five. Mr. Non-Descript.

But he was leaning over Tim, getting into the locker.

“Oh, hey, am I in your way?” Tim asked as he looked up.

“Don’t worry. Almost got it.”

Tim stood up, putting his computer down, on the far side of his body. (He’d prefer it didn’t get stepped on.) “No problem. Best wifi in the place. Kind of silly really, right here. But maybe the metal lockers act like an antenna or something?”

“Yeah. Or something.” The Perp’s not looking at him, focusing in on the bag he’s tugging out of the locker. It’s shoved in pretty tight.

“So, heading far?” Tim asked, catching sight of Tony between the perp and the doorway.

“Nah. Just getting out of town for a bit.”

“Well, hope you have a good trip,” Tim said as the Perp got the bag all of the way out.

The Perp started to close the locker looking toward the doors, and Tim quickly said, “Hey, your passport’s still in there.”

The Perp turned back to the locker, and found himself shoved up against them, one wrist already cuffed. “NCIS. You’re under arrest for the murder of Captain Lionel Smith.”

He started to flail, reaching for something in his jacket but froze when he felt the barrel of Tony’s gun against the back of his neck.

“Bad plan, buddy. Don’t ever pull something out of your jacket when you’ve got a pile of cops around.”

Tim grabbed his other hand, finishing cuffing him, and going over his rights while Tony emptied his pockets, finding a tube of pepper spray.

He held it up to Tim as they were taking the perp out of the bus station, bag slung over his shoulder, and said, “Would have made for a miserable night.”

Tim nodded at that. He’s been pepper sprayed and it does hurt like a bitch.

“Got an ID?”

“Nope. Nothing like that in his pockets.”

“You gonna tell us your name?” Tim asked.

And like Leslie, the Perp shut up.



He was in the interrogation viewing room, watching Tony and Gibbs go after John Doe. They still didn’t have anything to identify him. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. They had the passport and driver’s license that had been in the bag, but they’re fairly sure that the guy in interrogation is not, in fact, Tom Hiddleton. The hint on that came from the fact that Tom Hiddleton died in 2008.

“How’s it going Agent McGee?” Vance asked as he headed in.

“Long and silent. He’s not even asking for a lawyer. Nothing, out of either of them.”

“Gibbs…” Vance seemed to notice what he was wearing, and his eyes lingered on the nail polish for a few seconds before he finished the sentence, “hasn’t gotten either of them to talk?”

“Not at all. Not sure what the game is, other than he might be recognizable by his voice. If we ever get a word out of him, we’ll try voice recognition.”

“Sounds good. I got your email about the worm you sent in, any updates yet?”

“Last I checked, two members of Cybercrime had reset their passwords on LastPass.”

Leon shook his head, eyes skittering back down to Tim’s nails and then to the wrist cuff and back up to his eyes. “Why is their security so lax?”

“I’m hoping it’s because they’re so used to the firewall I built around NCIS keeping everything out that the idea that something could get in has never occurred to them. Do you have any idea how long HR holds onto job applications and resumes?”

“No.”

“Eventually, I’ll go ask. I want to know if this is a matter of not hiring top talent, or if it’s a morale thing.”

“Sound plan.” Another pause. “I use LastPass, too. Could someone do what you just did to me?”

“You want me to send the same worm in? You’ll have to reset your password if it does.”

“Sure. Wanna see how secure I am.”

“No problem.”

Vance eyed the nail polish one last time, but didn’t say anything, and headed off.



Hour two of the Perp not talking. Tim left interrogation to head to his computer. There had to be something to identify this guy, and if they could just get a name or something on him, they could run a believable Prisoner’s Dilemma and get him talking.

He sat at his desk, tapping his mouse pad. Facial recognition software was running. But in that his prints and DNA weren’t in any system they had, he wasn’t feeling too hopeful about that. Though…

He got the parameters of the search up, and started with Leslie Smith’s Facebook page friends and friends of friends, moving from there to people local to the area. He hit her twitter feed next, making sure followers and followers of followers got checked.

Hit or miss, and it’ll probably miss, but still… Better, faster, than what he was doing right now.



He fired off a text to Tony telling him what he was doing. Got one back saying that both he and Gibbs had pulled an excited look and left Doe alone in interrogation.

Nothing much else to do right now, so he headed down to Autopsy.

“Hello?” No response. Tim looked around and didn’t see anyone. Not too unusual with no fresh bodies. Jimmy and Ducky were around here somewhere and they’d come back eventually.

He headed over to the desk they shared and checked out the pictures. Molly at the pool, piggy backed on Jimmy’s shoulders and the shot of Jon’s fingers curled around Breena’s index finger are unchanged, but the six-week-old ultrasound of Anna had been replaced by the eighteen-week-shot.

Tim’s not an ultrasound expert by any stretch of the imagination, but it looks fine to him. Fingers and toes are all accounted for.  

“Tim?” Jimmy asked as he headed out from the storage closet with Ducky.

Tim took the three steps to him and gave him a warm hug. “She’s looking great!”

“Yeah!” Jimmy answered with a wide smile. “Double and triple checked, but everything looks fine.”

“You feeling like you can breathe again?”

“Almost. Eighteen weeks down, twenty-two to go. What are you doing back? Stakeout from hell over?”

“Yes, finally. Got John Doe. He’s not talking. Figured I’d pop down for a second while the computer did its thing. Wanted to share the happy.”

“Thanks.”

“Okay. Should probably go bug the guys in the lab. Make sure Doe’s prints match the ones we got from the scene.”

Jimmy nodded at that.

“Give Breena a hug for me?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Good.” And with that he headed back toward the lab and the next step of dealing with John Doe.



“Gibbs was already here, and I’ve reported to him,” Zelaz said without looking up from his computer screen.

“Wonderful. Wanna tell me what you told him?”

“Fine.” Zelaz turned, seeming annoyed to have to look away from his work and repeat himself. “Doe’s your guy. His prints and DNA match the exemplars you took from the crime scene.”

“Great.”

“Yep. All you need now is a name to go with the profile.”

“Working on it.”



Back to his desk, and the search, and… And it was still chewing through the data. Gibbs and Tony were both looking expectantly at him as he checked.

“Still got at least an hour before it’s gone through everything. You guys got anything?”

Gibbs shook his head.

“Nope,” said Tony.

“Okay. I’ll pull the data feeds from the local traffic cams, see if we can find how Doe got to the bus stop.”

“Good.”

“Yeah… Just gotta…” the sentence trailed off as a picture came up on his screen. He hit the keys to put it on the plasma. “Ninety-four percent match. Think this is our guy?”

Tony and Gibbs both stood to look at the picture on the plasma. Richard Fulp, one of Smith’s Facebook friends looked back at him.

“Went to high school together, lot of the same likes, recent messages between them… I’m feeling it. Jethro, you take on Leslie, tell her that Richard’s spilled the beans. I’ll go after Dick. Tim…”

“Yeah, going over financials, phones, etc… Getting you the evidence you need to make this stick.”




And less than two hours later, another murder was in the bag. 



Monday, February 24, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 290

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


Chapter 290.  Playtime


“Hey, you’re home,” Abby said, looking up from the book she was reading.

“I am home.”

“How’d it go?”

Tim flopped dramatically onto the sofa, resting his head on her lap, and said, “BOOOOOOORING! Single most boring day of my career.” It was day two of what he was calling the ‘never-ending stakeout of doom.’ And all day yesterday, and all day today, and likely all day tomorrow, they were spending sitting in a bus, in a bus station, staring at a monitor, waiting for someone to open a locker and take cash and travel documents out.

Abby petted his hair. “Poor baby. Having to sit around all day and do nothing using your brain. Gosh, I wonder what that’s like.”

He sat up and looked at her, stroking her cheek. “Yeah, I guess you do know. How was your day?”

“Moooooo,” she said imitating a cow.

He snorted a bit of a laugh at that, because, really, at two months old, sleeping, eating, and pooping is pretty much all a baby does. 

“We could stop dithering about the nanny and get you back to work sooner.”

“I can do one more month off. Besides, I know I’m not with it enough to do my job well. I sorted the laundry, put it in the washing machine, carefully selected the right detergent, carefully picked the right setting, turned the machine on, and headed off.”

Tim thought about that, but it sounded right to him, so he wasn’t sure what the issue was. “Not seeing the problem.”

“I didn’t actually put the detergent into the machine. It was still sitting there, on top of the dryer, when I got back.”

“Ugh.”

“Yeah. I mess up the laundry, oh well, do it over. Leave out a reagent on a test…”

He nodded. That’d destroy evidence and screw up the test.

“So, do anything useful with your down time?” Abby knew they were doing half an hour on, half an hour off, watching the locker. That’s as long as any of them can focus on one thing that boring without getting distracted.

“Guess so. I rewrote the info dump in chapter three.”

She pouted at him. “I liked the info dump.”

“Baby, you’re the only one who liked the info dump.” Shadow Force started with a series of mysterious poisonings, and the info dump, in which Amy (now Amy MacGregor) explained what was going on, had been noted by both Penny and Gibbs as being slow, draggy, overly complex, and way too much science. “I wrote the info dump and I didn’t like it.”

Abby continued to pout at that. Once she got used to being “Amy,” she discovered she kind of liked having scenes, and since they tend to be kind of short and lab-oriented she didn’t want them cut.

“I didn’t cut any of your lines, just rearranged them, made them a bit more concise—“

“How is that not cutting?”

“You can read it and see. It’s better. You’ll see.”

“Okay. Anything else happen?”

“Let’s see. Sixty-three million people walked near the locker, but none of them opened it. Tony and I talked a little about how we need to do something really special for Gibbs when he retires.”

“You’re right on that; we do.”

“Any ideas?”

“Nope, but I’ll keep thinking on it.”

“We are, too. At one point, it got slow enough I almost told him I called my mom, but then the whole having to tell him why I wasn’t talking to her thing popped into my head… And, bored’s bad enough, don’t need to add sad to bored.”

“Probably a good plan.”

“Probably a good plan not to start that up at work, either.”

She nodded in agreement. “Are you going to tell him?”

Tim shook his head a little, “I don’t really want to. I mean, I don’t mind him knowing, but I just… I don’t want to say it to him. He’s okay with me not saying it, so, that’s where we are.”

“Okay. You eat?”

“Yeah. Gibbs stopped by and brought dinner.”

“Good.” They heard Kelly start crying, asking for her second supper. “So, how about we do something not boring tonight?”

That made him smile. “I’m all in favor of that.”

“Good. I’ll get Kelly. You get all pretty for me. Be in bed, waiting for me, when I get done.”

He was grinning at that. “Gonna define pretty?”

She looked him up and down. “Naked, eyeliner, nail polish, collar, wrist cuffs out but not on.”

He gave her a quick kiss, wanted to do a long, slow one, but Kelly’s getting pretty insistent about get-me-now. “I like your idea of not boring.”

“Good.”  

“How do you want me on the bed?”

She thought about that for a second. “Kneeling, hands crossed behind your back.”

Tim smiled at her. Yep, this was an excellent idea for not boring.



Feeding Kelly had streamlined down to only forty-five minutes, which was… tight. He rubbed his face, and yeah, he needs to shave. Normally he’d have waited until morning, but he’s fairly sure that she’ll appreciate smooth.

And it’s not like it takes him long to shave. But shave, nails, and eyeliner, that’s a different proposition.

So, yeah, tight. He was hopping up the stairs two at a time, Abby smiling at him, looking really amused by how eager he was.

Okay, clothing went off first, that was easy and took about twenty-six seconds. Can’t do anything while his nails dry, so they have to be last. Shave first, don’t want to mess up the eyeliner. And a plan was born.

Shaving, easy enough, he did that all the time. Eyeliner, he hadn’t done for himself in more than a decade, and he had to wash it off and start over again, twice. On the upside, he had got the smudgy, rock and roll, guyliner thing Abby liked down. Sure, it was an accident, and he was thinking he might look slightly more like a raccoon than he have liked to, but only slightly.

He stared at it for a few more seconds, debated taking it off again, but a quick check on the clock said his nails weren’t going to be dry if he didn’t book, so, collar.

There was a sort of calm that went with wearing it, but that was the point, really. Well, partially. Part of the point was ownership, which was true enough. He is Abby’s, always will be, and just like the ring and the tattoos, the collar reinforced it. Part of it was the sign of submission, and since that was what he was playing tonight, it was appropriate. Part of it, which for him was the most difficult part, was the headspace, the full surrender, and like putting it on evoked a certain sort of calm, it was supposed to help him get into that headspace. And it wasn’t that he had a hard time with submitting, that part of the headspace was easy enough, it was quieting everything else, focusing solely on Abby and his desire to please her.

He always had an easy time with following orders and rules, especially the sorts of rules she was going to be laying down for him. But the ability to let all the little background voices drop away, to exist solely in the space of her words and the sensations of his body, that was a lot harder to catch.

He pulled it snug, looking in the mirror to buckle it, and then twisted it so the buckle was in the back. And while he might want to think about it more, he’s got two more jobs to do.

Okay. Nail polish. It didn’t take him long to put on, but it did take long to dry properly. He’d been told (by Abby) that the non-matte polishes dry faster, but he couldn’t see having shiny nails. Black matte is cool. Shiny black isn’t. And no, he couldn’t explain why.

Three minutes to go. Kneeling. Usually kneeling on the bed meant his butt on his feet, body facing the door. He assumed the position and then jerked up. He’d gone to get the outlining done on his Father’s Day tattoo on Saturday and sitting all of his weight onto his calf stung pretty bad.

He’d just gotten settled into kneeling up, hands crossed at the wrists behind his back, when he realized the wrist cuffs were still in the toy box.

Another quick move, put them on the bedside table, kneeling again, and…

And less than thirty seconds later, he heard the door to Kelly’s room shut.



His head was bowed, but he heard her stop at the door to their room, could feel her looking, could feel his body respond to her look, not getting hard, not that fast, not just from her looking, but longer and fuller, oh yeah. Knowing she was enjoying him on display like this always does that.

He was aware of her footsteps, very quiet, bare feet on carpet, and could track her circling around him, looking from all angles, making sure he’d done exactly as she asked.

He thought she was pleased, had the sense of a smile even though he couldn’t see her face right now.

He heard her moving again, and the sound of her hands on something plastic, phone probably, and then music, his: smooth, soft, lush jazz, filled the room.

Another step, from the dresser where his phone was to the side of the bed. Her fingers trailed down his hip, along his thigh, and then, brushed, lightly, so lightly, sending a burning itch though his leg, over the dragon tattoo.

“Dragon Knight. Captured in Cyrmu. Battle of Pontypandy. We know from your clan marker,” she traced her fingers over his cuff tattoo, “That you’re one of the McGees.”

He didn’t smile. He wanted to smile, this’ll be fun, not what he was expecting with the collar, but definitely fun.

“They tell me we’ve had you for five days, and no one’s been able to make you speak.”

He kept his head bowed, aware of her moving around him, around the bed, picking up the wrist cuffs.

“They say you take orders, so we know you understand, but you won’t say anything.”

He didn’t respond, head down, posture relaxed and loose.

“They tell me they aren’t even sure if you can speak. Of course, Dragon Knight, you wouldn’t need to, the link with your dragon was psychic. And if you’re the McGee we’ve been looking for… Well, you don’t need to know which one of you we want.”

She knelt behind him, securing his wrists to each other. “Comfortable?”

He still didn’t respond.

“Doesn’t matter much one way or another. It’s my job to find out if you can speak. And if you can, it’s my job to find out who you are. And from there… Well, we’ll get there. Stand up, off the bed.”

It was awkward to go from kneeling to standing on the bed without hands, but he did, and then stopped right next to the bed, head still bowed. He can see her feet and legs up to her hips, and while she was wearing a pair of his drawstring jammy pants when she went in to feed Kelly, they were gone now, replaced by her black robe with the cherry blossoms.

“They’re right; you’re very good at following orders.” Abby pointed to right under the hook in the ceiling, still currently providing a place for the plant. But he had a good idea of how this was going to go and what would happen depending on how good of a job he does at ‘resisting interrogation.’

He stood where he was directed to, and heard her head to the toy box, where the chain they use to tie the wrist cuffs to that hook is, along with the ropes.

“Five days is a long time to go without making a sound.”

He couldn’t see what she had gotten, but he didn’t hear any clinking so that leaned toward a rope, or a toy, but not the chain. If it was a toy, she might have picked this spot just because of the good view from the mirrors.

“But you would be good at it, wouldn’t you?” She put something on the bed, outside of his circle of vision. “Can’t be a dragon knight without a strong mind, strong magic. The dragons eat you alive if you can’t dominate them.” She stepped closer to him, tilted his head up so he was looking in her eyes.

Looking up he wanted to smile, but didn’t. Sir… whoever he is… Gabriel, Gabriel McGee, Lord of… he was probably supposed to be Irish. Cyrmu is Wales, right? Donegal. Lord of Donegal. Is Donegal a city? Doesn't matter. Sir Gabriel wouldn’t be smiling. Captured Dragon Knights don’t smile at their captors. Okay, Dragon Knight, but what was he, where did he fit? Captured for interrogation, has to be a high value captive. Has to have information worth this set up.... Commander of the… hell… dragons… what sort of dragon… Hungarian Horntails? No. Irish… Nightfuries? They're Viking dragons... Still better than Hungry. Besides, there's only outlining on the calf tattoo, so right now it is a black dragon. Good.  Character set, he just had to keep it somewhere in his mind so he could whip it out when he needed it.

Holding his gaze, Abby said to him, “So, Dragon Knight, you must be used to being in charge, to giving orders and having people obey your every command.” She grinned and stepped behind him, and he felt her 
tie something to the collar, ribbon maybe, didn’t feel thick enough to be rope, and then she reached up, removed the plant, and after grabbing the footrest that went with the easy chair in the corner, tied whatever it is to the hook. 

Okay, that was new. They’d never tried tied by his neck. He tentatively shifted a bit, getting the sense that he had about a half foot range of comfortable motion, before his collar’ll get too tight. He checked the view in the mirror, it is ribbon, not very thick, and he was certain it couldn’t hold his weight. If he let his body drop, it would snap. No chance of him strangling on this.

“I imagine this will be very different for you. Not being in charge. Taking orders rather than giving them.” She traced her hand over his chest, stopping for a second to circle a nipple, pull gently on it. “The order is simple, answer my questions.”

He looked down again, away from her gaze, not answering.

“Not feeling chatty, huh?” She sighed dramatically. “Eyes up, watching me.” He looked up to follow her with his eyes. “Do you wonder, Dragon Knight, why we’re still feeding you? Do you wonder why you’ve been asked questions, and yet not touched? You must know most interrogations don’t happen to prisoners who are well-kept, well-fed, let alone in a sumptuous bedroom, or handled by a naked woman.”

He blinked, slowly, at her. Just acknowledging that he heard her.

She strolled around him, moving deliberately, each step making her hips and breasts sway enticingly. He tracked her nipples, subtle points under her robe, and made a gleeful note of the fact that she’d taken her bra off.

“They say the Dragon Knights maintain a psychic bond with their mounts. That in order to do that they have to be strong in both magic and will power.” She was directly behind him, and he was looking into her eyes in her reflection on the mirror on the bathroom door. “I don’t know if that’s true.” Her fingers trailed very gently, just the tips, down his spine, skipping over where his hands were bound behind his back, ghosting down the cleft of his ass, and then skittering over the back of his upper thigh. “What I do know is that it’s vastly easier, and tidier to make a man talk by offering him something he wants, than it is to try and scare or beat him into compliance.”

She breathed against his shoulder, biting gently.

“Especially men like you. We could deny you water,” soft, wet kiss on his throat, just below the collar, “but you’d just conjure it for yourself. Same with food. We could try pain,” another very light stroke over the tattoo, another slow burn itch, “but you’d just pull your mind away from it.” Her hands slipped down his sides, settling on his hips. “You must know that we’ve already broken fifteen Dragon Knights looking for a successful way to interrogate you. After all, the dragons report back when their masters die. So, you must know of the others.”

He glared at her. Eyes narrow, trying to project pissed-off-captive, and probably not doing a great job of it, after all, it’s not like he’s an actor.

“But dead Knights yield no information. And we want information quite a bit more than corpses. Corpses are only good for manuring the fields. Information on the other hand, is power. And power is victory.” She gave him a gentle slap on the ass.

“And you must know about the other three. Still missing. The Dragons must have reported back that they are not yet dead. In fact, you’ve probably been getting… confusing… reports back from the dragons about the other three. About how they don’t want to be rescued any longer.

“So, you’ve been held, questioned, given food and drink, offered a soft and warm place to sleep. All in preparation for this.”

He raised an eyebrow, signaling, ‘What’s this?’

“Still not talking… How disappointing. Did you notice, Dragon Knight, that though you’ve been offered a comfortable billet, provided with good food, and treated to the most gentle of interrogations, but that the only time you’ve been given free use of your hands is when someone else has been around? Likewise, you’ve been kept in certain positions, comfortable I’m sure, but limiting your access to certain bits of your anatomy?” Her hand stroked lightly over his dick, which wasn’t full hard yet, but was certainly getting there.

“Five days without release is a long time for you, isn’t it?”

He didn’t respond to that, but did try to rub himself against her hand.

She stepped back. “Oh no. On my terms. Not yours. We know you checked your food and drink for poisons.”

He looked surprised at that.

“Yes, our casters are good enough to monitor what magics you use. You didn’t think to check for aphrodisiacs.”

He gave her a those aren’t real look.

“Aren’t they? Haven’t you been feeling more, eager, than usual. Waking up harder, dreaming more intensely, wishing for just a moment or two alone with your hands. Or maybe wishing you could roll onto your stomach and take care of it by rubbing up against those nice soft sheets in your comfortable billet.” She pointedly looks down at his dick, which is full hard now. “You’re certainly looking interested in sex.” She stepped close, and inhaled against that spot where neck becomes shoulder. “I can smell the desire on you.” Her hand slipped over him again, base to tip in a long pull. “Maybe aphrodisiacs aren’t real. Maybe it’s just been a long time for you.” Another long pull. “Or maybe, Sir Knight, every drop of water you’ve drunk, every bite of food, that gentle scent you thought was incense, maybe all of that was designed specifically to wear you down, lower your will, just a hair at a time,” she whispered against his jaw.

“Dragon Knight, have you guessed yet who I am, yet?” she asked with a kiss to his ear.

He tilted his head a bit, indicating he had a pretty good idea.

She licked her lips, and then leaned in and licked his, tongue slipping slow and easy over his bottom lip, followed by her teeth giving it a gentle pull.

“Lady Skye,” whispered against his ear, fingers of her one hand trailing down his chest, fingers of the other wrapped around his dick, providing a gentle, warm squeeze, “Mistress of the Alchemical Guild. The Dark Potioner. Or, as I’m known in a few, select circles, King William’s Encyclopedia. When he wants to know something, he asks me, and I always get the answer.”

He bowed his head and shoulders as much as he could given the tie on his neck.

“Courtly politeness.” She laughed at that, letting go of him, stepping back. “You Dragon Knights are amusing.”

He smiled widely at her, keeping his eyes hard, head tilted in acknowledgement.

“So Sir Knight, let’s start here, what is your name?”

He shook his head.

“Playing hard to get? Probably a good gambit.” She stepped in closer, lips whispering over his, “After all, if you talk immediately, you don’t get to see what happens.” Her tongue darted out, slipping between his lips, and he leaned in toward her, as far as he could, kissing her back. After a second of her body, warm and rubbing gently against his, she stepped back. “And I think we’ll both enjoy this quite a bit more, if it takes you a while to break.”  

He tried to convey, not a problem, I can go all night, in a look. He’s not sure how successful that was, but she giggled at it and said, “Yes, we’ve all heard the stories of the Dragon Knights’ incredible stamina.” She took his cock in hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Though if memory serves those stories usually have a lot more to do with fighting all day and all night and all the next day. That you take strength from your dragons to keep going and going. But your dragon isn’t here. And besides, they lay eggs, so I’m not sure how handy your link will be for this.”

He shrugged.

“What, have you never tested it?”

Another shrug.

“Really? No words at all?” She asked while pulling her hand up his dick.

He shook his head again, but thrust in counter point to her hand, enjoying the friction quite a bit. She loosened her grip but sped up, lighter, softer friction. Almost too light.

“Do you like this?”

He shrugged. It’s okay, on his face.

“You could tell me how to do it better. Tell me exactly how you like to be handled, and who knows, you may get it.”

He smiled at that, gestured with his eyebrows come closer, tilted his head forward, like he was going to whisper into her ear, and when she moved closer to listen, he kissed her ear, licking over the shell, and gently biting the lobe.

She pulled back, amused look on her face. “That’s how you’re going to play?”

He nodded.

She let go of him and stepped back to the bed. “Do you like to watch, Dragon Knight?”

He nodded enthusiastically at that, too.

“Know what this is?” She said, reaching for the toy she placed on the bed, letting her right shoulder slip out of her robe.

He nodded, very pleased to see that. That was a glass dildo. It didn’t get out of the toy box all that often these days. It’s aesthetically pleasing, great for a show, but too hard and thick for serious play, especially on him.  And these days, toys that they can’t both play with tend to spend all their time in the box.

“Man of the world then?” She was holding it between her palms, rubbing it gently, robe having fallen off of both shoulders, but still keeping her breasts and everything below covered. “Not all of your brothers were so well traveled.”

She continued to rub it between her palms and then said, "James McGee? Subcommander of William McGee's strike force. Second son of the Lord of Waterford?"

He shook his head, wondering where she came up with that, and then remembered that Waterford is a place in Ireland known for glass. 

She held it out tip first. “Lick it.”

He kept his mouth shut, raised an eyebrow, and gave her his best, I don’t think so look while shaking his head.

She lay it back down on the bed, and turned to him, letting her robe drop to the floor.

She let him look his fill, and he did, trailing his eyes up and down her, lingering in a very obvious way on her curves.

“You know, I should be insulted. Here I am naked, and you say nothing. I’m beginning to think you might not like this.” She reached for her robe, and he shook his head vehemently, feeling the pull of the collar against his throat.

“Nope. Not good enough.” She began to slip the robe back on.

A soft whimper escaped from between his lips.

“So, you can make sounds! There’s a step in the right direction. Every time you cooperate, you get rewarded.” She dropped the robe, and settled back onto the bed, legs wide, letting him look all he liked. Another soft whimper of appreciation followed the first.

She picked up the dildo, trailing it over the skin of her thigh, stroking it against her pussy.

“Wet glass is so slick. It just glides over everything. Slips into nice, tight places so easily.” She continued to stroke it up and down, gently over herself, watching his eyes following her every move.

“It’d be so much easier if it was wet. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Get to see me slip it inside?” She licked her lips. “You’d like to know it was wet with you. Your tongue getting it all slick so it could just ease inside and spread me wide.”

She lifted it away, and he saw a faint thread of her natural lube stretch between the tip of the toy and her.

That got yet another whimper as she stood up, once again holding out the dildo, and said, once more, “Lick.”

This time he did. Tongue darting out, lapping her taste off of it, adding his saliva to it.

“Like the taste, Dragon Rider?”

“Mmmmm….”

She smiled at that, trailed a finger between her pussy lips, and then lifted it to his mouth, letting him suck it off.

“You’re very good at that, Sir Knight. Are you used to sucking? You swing both ways?”

That got a quick glare.   

“Pity. I like men who can give as well as get. They’re so much fun.”

She settled back onto the bed and began to play with the dildo again, stroking the whole length of the dildo up her clit in a slow, slick slide. “So much better with it all wet. The next question, Dragon Knight, is can you talk?” She shifted her grip, using the tip to circle over her again and again, then slipping down, dipping between her lips, but not penetrating.

He made another frustrated sound at that.

“You’d like to be this dildo wouldn’t you? Your cock slipping hot and wet between my lips.” She pressed the dildo in, slowly, making sure he had a great view of it as it slid into her. “You can imagine how good it would feel, can’t you…”

God, yes he can, he can imagine it, and remember it, and feel it on his skin, and he’s trusting against nothing right now, just at the idea.

“Is that a good speed for you?” She matched his movements with her own, speeding up a bit. Abby moaned, soft and low and wicked, and the sound of it ripped through him, pumping up his own excitement. “Oh… It’s a good speed for me.”

Then she lifted the toy to her mouth, sucking it, licking the tip, and sucking again. “Or maybe those lips, want to slip between them?” That got another groan from him. “Or maybe…” she slipped it down her body, dragging it over her skin, over her clit, between her lips, and down to just rest at her anus. “Maybe there… Would you like to have me there.”

“Yes.” It came out as a low groan. God yes, please, let’s do that, now!

She smiled brightly. “You can talk! Excellent! What’s your name, Dragon Knight? I don’t bed a man until I know his name.”

She pressed the toy against herself, easing it, so slowly, forward. Not really penetrating, just pushing a bit. “Good choice. So hot and so tight. You’ve never, ever felt anything that tight.” She twitched her pelvic muscles. “And I know how to ripple, how to squeeze and flex. You’ve never even imagined feeling anything so good as me.”    

He groaned again, stepping the half foot forward, closer to her.

“You are eager aren’t you? All you have to do is tell me your name. Which McGee are you?”

That got another torn sounding whimper. He wants to get off, bad. Wants to keep playing, too. So he keeps holding it together, reminding himself of his name, but not saying it. Not yet.

She stood again, dropping the dildo, and he whimpered again. Keep doing that! very clear on his face.

“No, Sir Knight. You like it. I can see that. But you’re not broken yet. I think you need something more persuasive.”

She knelt elegantly. Sinking to the floor, holding him, firm, licking gently and then taking him to the root, until her chin rested against his balls and he was whimpering.

Two minutes, three? She set a quick, deep, pace, all the way up and all the way down, and fast. Fast enough his balls were crawling up, and his legs and back were tense, wanting to cum, wanting to thrust, wanting to fuck harder and faster.

Then she let go, pulled off him, looked up, and said, “Did you like that Dragon Knight? Do you want me to finish? All it takes is a name. Just a few syllables, and I’ll swallow you again, work you with my lips and tongue and hands…” she licked the tip, rubbing the flat of her tongue along the underside, while her hand jacked him, slow and steady.

He groaned again.

She blew on the tip, mouth hovering just over it. “Maybe that’s not enough? Maybe you don’t just want my mouth.” She opened her mouth, holding it around his dick, letting him feel the moist heat, and soft breath, but not closing her lips or sucking.

“Do you want to mark me, Dragon Knight? See your seed on me? Striping my face and chest.” She licked him again, and this time closed her mouth over the tip of his dick, sliding down again, starting up that quick pace again pushing him closer and closer to the edge, and he could feel his climax building, that less than thirty seconds from falling over the cliff sensation in his dick and balls, the almost ache of being so close. And there she stopped. “It just takes a name. What’s your name, Dragon Knight?”

“Gabriel!” he gasped out, very glad he’d already picked that because there had been absolutely no shot of him making it up on the fly. “Gabriel McGee, Lord of Donegal, Commander of The Nightfuries.”

“Excellent, Gabriel.” She stood up and he whimpered. Her standing up was not part of the deal. Kneeling down and finishing him off was the deal. Her standing up and walking away was really not part of the deal. She headed for the nightstand and opened it, getting the lube.

Okay, that looked good. He wasn’t sure what she was going to do with it, but as long as it involved him getting off soon, he was all in favor of anything involving lube.

“Do you want to come?”

“God, yes!”

“Excellent.” She was smiling widely at him. And once again she knelt, and he thought he knew what was coming next, adjusted his stance, shifting his legs further apart so she’d have good access, but apparently that wasn’t her game.

She took his dick in hand again, and blew all over it, making sure her saliva had dried, and then took the bottle of lube, flicked open the cap, and carefully dribbled a few drops over the head of his dick, making sure they were full enough to slide down his shaft.

He groaned at that slow, meandering drip.

Then she stood again. “So excellent. So marvelous to have someone so eager. So, ready… and…” she squeezed gently and a drop of pre-cum oozed down his dick following the path of the lube, “so wet.”

Her voice slipped over his ear, hot against his neck, as she stepped behind him and started with slow strokes to spread the lube and his pre-cum over his dick. “It’d be so easy. Just a few quick pulls and you’d be spurting, hot and wet and sticky all over my hand. Making a mess on my nice, clean carpet. But that’s for… common information. Say, confirmation of something we already know.”

He groaned, voice low. Half from sexual frustration, half trying to think of anything that could possibly qualify as ‘good information.’

“Now, for good information, say something we don’t already know, I’ll release your hands from the chains, can’t unbind them fully, can’t risk you running off, but I’ll unchain you, let you lay down on my nice, soft bed, and then let you lick me.” Long, slow pulls, all the way up and all the way down, and he was thrusting into her hands, all six of his brain cells that weren’t entirely devoted to getting off flailing away for some sort of story for her. “You like pussy, right? Succulent, wet, pussy, right on your lips. Your tongue deep inside.”

A pained breath hissed out of him.

“Oh, come now, are you not talking again? I thought we’d gotten past that. Do I need to go back to where we began? Say, let go of you all together? Leave you standing there, so hard, so full, so… needy.” She started to pull her hands away.

He had to buy more time, because he’s coming up with nothing. “What do I get for excellent information? Something you can’t find out for yourself?”

That got a wide smile, and a stronger, faster stroke. “If you give me information I truly can’t find out for myself, something useful and secret, I’ll tie you down on my bed, let you eat all the pussy you want, and then slide down your body and ride you like one of your dragons.”

Another groan. He tried to look torn, because Gabriel would be torn, but hell, he wanted to fuck, and mostly was just trying to think of anything that would work with the game. Finally something hit, and he spit it out, fast.

“Lord Ashworth has been spying for us for three years,” came out fast, in one quick breath.

Abby smiled at him in the mirror, chin on his shoulder. “Oh… I like that.” Her hand pulled faster over his dick and he could feel his climax building, wouldn’t take much to push him over, but this wasn’t how he wanted this to play out.

“No!” gasped out. “That’s not common information!”

“Are you sure?” her hand slowed, back to that keep-him-on-edge pace. “At least half a dozen people on our side know about Ashworth.”

“Like fuck they do. We wouldn’t have thrashed your men at London and Cadbury if you’d known about the intel he was sending us. If you know he’s a spy, fine, but you don’t know what intel he’s sending us.”

She let go of him, and that also got a groan. “That is… compelling.” He felt her undo the right cuff from the left one, and then she said, “Hands in front of you.”

He did, and she recuffed them to each other, and then undid his collar, leaving it dangling from the ceiling.

“Onto the bed, Sir Gabriel, Lord of Donegal.”

He sat, and then lay down, and she recuffed his hands into the slats of their headboard.

“Something so wonderfully delicious about a bound and hard man. It’s just… fabulous.” She licked gently up his thigh. “You like it, too, don’t you? Need, desire, shame, it all wraps together, makes you so hard, so eager.” Another lick, this time over his testicle and up his dick.  “Mmmm… Nothing on earth tastes so good as a bound knight.”

She straddled his hips, and moved up his body, stopping when she straddled his shoulders. “Well, Sir Gabriel, we know you can talk with that tongue, can you do anything else with it?”

He started with a long, wide swipe of his tongue, getting a little bit of everything from top to bottom, and then went to town. He was turned on enough that he doesn’t want to linger on this. He wanted her riding him, hard and fast and now, and for the first time in a while, he was noticing that she’s wet, really wet, maybe not dripping, but good and slick.

He focused in on her clit, fast little circles, over and over and over, keeping the pressure light at first, waiting to feel her hips roll against him in counter point before pushing up against her. She moaned at that, gripping his hair, and he grunted in response, liking the way she was sounding very much, feeling it go straight to his cock.

She started moving faster, harder, having a more difficult time holding a rhythm, but he kept pace with her, he knew this dance, loved it, and in a minute, she was shuddering over him as he switched to light, gentle, come down licks.

Abby leaned against their headboard, breathing hard. “Sir Gabriel, I don’t think we’re ever going to ransom you. You’re way too much fun to let go.”

He smiled at that. “Are you saying you want me for your own personal harem, my lady?”

“There’s a thought. I’m sure King William would let me have you as a pet.” She leaned over to the night stand, and fished out a condom. He was already slick with lube, so she didn’t add any to the condom before slipping it down him and saying, “Would you like that? My personal plaything? Available whenever I want you.”

She glided her pussy over him a few times, letting him grind against her.

“I can think of worse jobs.”

“I’m sure you can.” She lifted up a bit, getting the angle right, and then slid down onto him in one long stroke.

“Ohhh…” escaped him in a slow exhale. “Uhhhh…” followed as an inhale as she rose up.

She set a slow pace, and he didn’t know if that’s still getting used to post-baby sex, or playing the role, but it was driving him crazy. He thrust up against her, and didn’t see any pain or discomfort on her face when he did it, so he was thinking slow was the role, but either way she rested her hands on his hips.

“Oh no, Sir Gabriel. I decide when you come. And right now, you haven’t earned it, yet.”

His brain was melting, one slow stroke at a time, and he was coming up blank on anything that might work for the game, but he knew he wanted to go faster, had to go faster, needed to get off, this was starting to hurt. So he got his feet flat on the bed, knees up, (Abby squeaked in surprise when he did it, falling forward a little, hands landing on his shoulders, and then snuck down for a quick kiss, breaking character for a moment.) and thrust up.

“Only so long you can tease, lady.” Another hard thrust, forcing her forward, this time, though, she arched back into it, moaning. Her hands were on the bed, either side of his head, and he turned his head and nipped at her wrist. “Before the dragon’ll bite.”

It was more difficult to set the pace from the bottom, but difficult wasn’t impossible, and he was so hard by then, so turned on. He used his legs for extra leverage, raising her up on his hips with each fast, hard thrust, and she was slamming down on top of him, groaning on each down stroke, tightening deliciously against him as everything besides the feel of her body on his faded away, wiped out by rushing, pulsing pleasure.



They were both lying there, happy, warm, comfortable, Abby’s head resting against his shoulder.

“You know. Gibbs hasn’t been able to break this last suspect yet. He spent eight hours with her in interrogation and she said nothing. Maybe I need to try your technique.”

Abby laughed. “Head in all naked and sexy, and see if you can seduce it out of her?”

“Why not?” he said with a giggle. “Be a hell of a lot less boring than watching that locker.”

She sat up, slapped his shoulder lightly, grabbed a tissue, and wiped them both up, tossing the condom in the trash, then uncuffed his hands. He stretched out his shoulders.

“Mmmmm… Good game. That your plan all along?”

“Nope. Saw the tatt and decided to run with it,” she said, heading for their bathroom. A minute later she was back in their bed, lying on her side, him spooned up behind her.

He said to her, feeling sleepy, “Definitely going to be another chapter of that story.”

She lifted his hand to her lips and kissed it.

A few minutes after that, they both checked out from the waking world.