Sunday, January 25, 2015

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 404: Words

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

Chapter 404: Words

"So this is what you two do when I'm out?" wakes Jimmy out of his doze.

He looks up and sees Abby grinning at him, and promptly realizes he's in bed, in her bed, with Tim, and apparently was asleep.

He stretches a little, sees that Tim's still asleep, and notices his phone on the bed next to him. What happened starts to slide back into his mind: bed, comfy, boring reading, somewhat dim light, sound of rain, and off to sleep he went.

He rubs his eyes, sees Abby still grinning. She gets (gently, Tim's still asleep) into the bed, between them, and quietly says, while poking Jimmy, and still grinning. "So…" She's enjoying this way too much. "What sort of fun did you two get up to that got you so tired out?"

Jimmy rolls his eyes, but notices that Tim settles in against Abby. He doesn't appear to have woken up, but he knows she's near and has snuggled in closer. He smiles a little at that. Breena does that when he comes home late and slips into bed without waking her.

"Kelly?" Jimmy asks.

"Naptime for her, too. I was just going to crash. You want to hang out here, you're welcome."
Jimmy checks the clock, little before two. He shakes his head. "Nah. Gotta eat." He sits up and stretches. "MOPs'll be done by the time I get home. Play with my girls some, and do some more studying."

Abby kisses his cheek. "Have fun."

Jimmy smiles, tucking his phone back into his pocket and slipping his feet into his shoes. "I will."

Breena's in an exceptionally good mood when he gets home.

"Hi." He kisses her before heading through the living room to the coat closet by the front door. The trashed living room. He gets the point of the MOPs group. How they alternate between each other's houses, so seven weeks out of eight, Breena gets some time to socialize with other adult women with kids, have a good cup of coffee, yummy snacks, and what she refers to as 'girl talk', the kids can run around and wreck someone else's house, and having eight sets of adult eyes to watch fourteen kids is a hell of a lot easier than one set of eyes and two kids.

So he gets it, but, Lord, his living room looks like a tornado went through it. They're gonna need Federal disaster relief to get this cleaned up.

"I take it, it was a good meet?" He tosses his shoes into the closet and heads back to where she is, at the kitchen table, looking over the PL statements for the last quarter for Slaters'.

She smiles up at him, and he kisses her again.

"Good meeting, and Abby just sent me the cutest photo ever." There's a massive grin on her face.

Jimmy rolls his eyes again, and heads to the fridge. "She took pictures?" It's possible he sounds a tad whiny at that.

"Of course!"

He opens the door. "You want anything?"

"Nah. Everyone brings food, and Elise made it this week…" He knows Elise is the baker, and when she comes she always brings some sort of amazing, high calorie, chocolate-intensive thing that the girls regret eating but usually snarf down in about ten seconds. Elise runs a bakery that handles catering a lot of the post-viewing/post-funeral wakes that Slaters' throws.

Actually, he thinks about it more, a lot of those women run businesses that work with Slaters'.
Ed and his brothers are part of a bunch of businessmen's groups, where they get together and do whatever it is they do over golf and beer or whatever. Jimmy's fuzzy on the details what with never having attended any of those meetings. He's heard the extended Slater clan talking about it at Sunday dinner, though, and it sounds very nineteenth century.

Breena and her friends are doing the same thing, at home, while watching kids. Pulling this tradition into the twenty-first century and multi-tasking it.

Jimmy closes the fridge door, and heads over to Breena. He hugs her from behind, and she absently tilts her head, the way she usually does when she's expecting a kiss, but paying attention to something else. He shifts over a step, tilts her head toward him so she's looking into his eyes and says, "I don't tell you how amazing you are nearly often enough."

She smiles at that. "What's bringing this on?"

"You." He kisses her again.

"I'm really not bugged by you catching a nap with Tim."

"Huh?" He pulls back, confused.

"I'm cool with it, you don't have to get extra sweet with me because of it."

"Uh… Okay." His eyebrows furrow. He doesn't think that's what he's doing. He thinks for another second. "No. That's not happening. I was thinking about how you're handling the girls and your business all at once, and how you're just on top of everything."

She looks very pleased by that. "Oh! In that case, yes, I'm awesome." She grins at him again, and he gently shoves her shoulder, heading back to the fridge and locate lunch.

"I saved the lettuce wraps Chloe brought to the meeting."

"Mmmm…" He sees them and grabs them. "You really are awesome." He doesn't know how she makes them, some sort of secret recipe that shall not be divulged, but they're hummus and red peppers and black olives and pine nuts all mixed into some sort of paste with a bunch of yummy herbs wrapped up in romaine lettuce and if he ever had leftovers he'd take them to Abby and ask her to analyze them so he could make them for himself. But he's never had the self-control to have leftovers.

He sits down next to her, happily chewing. "So, you think I'm being extra sweet to you for catching a nap with Tim?"

She shrugs. "Wasn't sure entirely what that eye roll was. Hoping you're not feeling guilty."

Now he's slightly alarmed. "What the hell do you think we did?"


Okay, that's right. "Then why would I be guilty?"

"I don't know? You shouldn't be. It's not a big deal."

"I'm not. And you're acting like it's a big deal."

"There was some edge in the way you shrugged at me."

Jimmy thinks about that. Some edge with Abby, too. Okay, why? "Irked," he says after a few seconds. "You and Abby are petting and praising me like I'm a toddler who successfully peed in the potty."

Breena lights up. "Not to derail this, because this is important, but I might forget to tell you otherwise…" Jimmy nods. They have a lot of conversations where they start on one topic, flip over to another one, and eventually get back to the original one. Just part of busy lives, two full-time jobs, parenting, friending, and all the rest of it. "Molly did successfully notice she had to go, stopped playing with her toys, and got to the potty in time."

He smiles at that. "Way to go, little girl!" Molly, if asked, will make it to the potty in time, but if she's doing something she finds interesting, she usually doesn't notice that she has to go until she's sitting in a puddle. "Have to do something special for that."

"Already in place. Rented a new episodes of the Hoobs. When she wakes up…"

"She gets to see the new episode as a reward, and we've got a quiet twenty minutes to get the living room tidied up."

Breena nods. "That's the plan."

"Okay, good. I can do that." Jimmy waits for a beat, sees Breena's done with that, and shifts gears from dad and back to lover. "However, the point I was making… comforting someone you love when they're hurting shouldn't get you a medal."

"Yeah. It's… I don't know, kind of related to that, but not that. It's not you taking care of him, though that's good, too. It's… Okay, if wherever we go next involves sex, it'd be a lot easier if you and Tim are physically comfortable with each other. I know you don't want to fuck each other. And, I'm not talking about that, or you guys ever going there, but if you can be close and touch without freaking out, that makes everything easier."

Jimmy hadn't thought about that. In fact, any of the physical mechanics of the four of them that involve him with Tim, he hasn't been thinking about. "And that's why you and Abby think me snoozing next to him is cool?"

"You haven't seen the picture, have you?"

"I was there."

"Uh huh." Breena knows how Jimmy wakes up from naps. He's usually out of it enough he doesn't know his name. She pulls out her phone, opens the shot and shows it to Jimmy. It's exactly what he's expecting. He drifted off reading, sitting against the headboard, but apparently he slumped down, so he's back on the bed, in his usual arms and legs akimbo sleeping position, one hand on Tim's neck.

He looks up at her. "Uh, yeah. He was having a hard time." Jimmy sighs. "Look, I'm the fucking moron who put him in the morgue to take x-rays. Understandably enough, that freaked him out. We spent some time with him in his office working, once he got tired, I got him home for a nap, he was still a little freaked out so I sat next to him, and, I can't put my hand on his shoulder. He's got it in a cast, and the damn thing still hurts, so yes, I'm holding his neck."

Breena smiles. "It's sweet."

He rolls his eyes again. "It's not a big deal."

"Yes and no. No, comforting a friend isn't a big deal. Allowing yourself to be comforted by a friend isn't a big deal. It's normal. People do it all the time. But, come on, could you touch Tony like that, in his bed?"

Jimmy shrugs. "Not right now." They're better, but there's also still an edge between them from the Jeanne thing. "I like to think that if he needed it, I could, but I'm fairly sure he'd never let me see that he needed it."

"What'd you do when things were going bad with Ziva? I know you were willing to hug her." Because last summer Ziva had stayed with them when she and Tony were in the weeds, and Jimmy had been willing and able to listen and offer hugs as needed, they both were.

Jimmy sighs, remembering. "Hand on his shoulder, or holding his hand. We were getting along as well as we ever had, and he was hurting worse than he ever had, and I didn't hug him."

Breena looks at him, smiles a little, and he nods. "Thinking about that some when Tim was sleeping. You're right, we're not friends. Tony's my friend, and I couldn't offer him that sort of comfort."

Breena nods.

"But I don't know what Tim and I are. I've got words for you and me. And, whatever happens with Abby, between us, or you two, there are words for that, too. Lover, girlfriend, wife, mistress, whatever. But I don't have words for Tim. I love him more than anyone who isn't you or the girls, but…I don't want to have sex with him. If it'd have been Abby or Ziva, or any other reasonably in shape woman in bed with me, that little lizard part of the brain would have thought about it. Wouldn't have done anything, but I would have at least fantasized about it."

Breena smiles at that, too. She knows Jimmy inside and out, and they are long past pretending they only find each other sexually interesting.

"So, what were you thinking about, if not hot Tim fantasies?"

"First off, I do not have hot Tim fantasies. Ever. I have hot you fantasies. And I have hot Abby fantasies. And I have scorching hot you and Abby and me fantasies. And when you tell me your foursome fantasies, I like them just fine, and I think they're hot, but if we're just in my head, and I'm thinking about sex, Tim more or less ceases to exist."

Breena laughs while shaking her head. "So, what were you thinking about?"

"How you kissing him didn't freak me out." She nods; she knows that. "And how I do think you're amazing because you can love so deep and sweet. And because you are who you are, you can kiss him, and I still feel secure and adored because I know you've got more than enough love for all of us. Because it's not an either or thing. Because we went home after, and you're still my wife." He's smiling gently at her. "You're my world, and because it's you, I get the chance of a bigger, grander, richer world, but no matter what, you're the center of it."

She leans over and kisses him deep and slow.

"I love you so much."

She cups his face in her hands. "Love you, too."

He smiles at her, eyes sparkling, and then says, "Also, I was thinking that Tim really knows how to put up mirrors, and when he can stand without a crutch, I'm getting him up to our room, and we're doing a little redecorating."

Breena laughs at that. "Uh huh. Got something in our room you want to see more of?"

His hand drops lightly to her breast and his eyes follow, then jump back up to hers. "Oh yeah!"


Shards To A Whole: Chapter 403: Not Friends

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

Chapter 403: Not Friends

There are moments when Jimmy is sure there is something wrong with him. Usually these moments are the result of his tongue getting away from him and some god-awful embarrassing thing spouting out of his mouth.

He has this filed under "No Foresight", and has routinely cussed himself out for not having the foresight God gave a turnip, let alone a fairly intelligent grown man.

And he is, as he's holding Tim, rubbing his back, and gently saying things like, "You're okay. I've got you. You're safe," cussing himself out inside his own head with a virtuoso performance of profane invective.

Because he's the moron who couldn't figure out that taking his dearest friend, who was almost beaten to death less than a month ago, to a FUCKING MORGUE, and then laying him down on one of the tables that they use for the corpses to get chest x-rays, might be a bad plan.

He's the moron standing there, shifting the camera a bit, making sure he's got the markers on Tim's chest so he can see where all the breaks are, telling him to stay still, (once again, in the FUCKING MORGUE on one of the tables where they autopsy the bodies) and completely missing the fact that at some point during this endeavor Tim went from talking to him about possible therapy exercises for his back, chest, and abs, and then quietly turned white, started sweating and shaking.

It wasn't until he was done with the x-rays, and had taken off the lead shield, and rolled the portable x-ray scanner away, and was in the process of reaching toward Tim to help him get sitting up that Jimmy realized Tim was in the middle of a massive panic attack and that wherever his mind was, it wasn't safe and sound at the Navy Yard.

So, he's got Tim sitting up, and is sitting next to him on the table, holding him as he shakes and sobs, petting his back. "You're okay, Tim. I've got you. Come on back to me, okay? You're here at the Navy Yard, and you're safe. Come on, come on back…" He keeps up a soothing mantra of statements like that, hoping his voice is lulling and that it'll help pull Tim back to him.

It takes a few minutes, but eventually Tim seems to pull out of himself, comes back to where he is, and who he's with, and afraid slips into angry and embarrassed. He pulls away from Jimmy, or tries, Jimmy keeps a hand on his back.

"Shit." Tim finally says, as he wipes his eyes and reaches for his shirt.

"You're okay." Jimmy's not rubbing his back anymore, but his hand is gently cupping the back of Tim's neck, keeping contact, keeping him grounded in the here and now.

Tim snorts at that. "That makes it worse. I'm flipping out over nothing."

"Did you think it was nothing when, for months after Jon died, everything set me off?"


Jimmy gently squeezes the back of Tim's neck. "Back at ya. Come on, let's get you up."

Jimmy helps him get his shirt back on, staying close, being calm. Once he's completely dressed, Jimmy's thinking that now is probably not a fantastic time to leave Tim sitting alone on one of the tables while he does the work necessary to turn those images into the digital scans they started using two months ago.

So he helps Tim up, heading toward his desk, and asks, "You seen our new toy?"

One of the first thing Tim did when he got a hold of his budget was make a list of the software they were currently paying licensing fees for, and figure out which of them could be outsourced to shareware to free up some of his funding.

Jimmy, when he got a hold of his budget, decided that he was going to make a pretty big expenditure outlay, that would, in the course of the next two years pay for itself, and from there on out, save him about fifteen thousand dollars a year.

He upgraded autopsy to a digital x-ray. No more films, no more waiting for image processing, no more light bulbs for the light board (which are stupidly expensive), no more constantly having to buy new plates, and best of all, less radiation. Granted, his patients don't care much about the radiation, but he's still pleased to be zapping himself and Dr. Allan with fewer rads.

Tim shakes his head; he hasn't seen the new x-ray in action. Jimmy takes him over to the computers, so his back is to the tables and drawers. "Check this out." He's got a new plasma screen over the area that used to just be his and Ducky's desk. His and Dr. Allan's desk now. He pulls out the keyboard that sits on a small shelf under the writing surface of the desk and begins messing around with it, and after a few seconds… "There they are, your ribs." Jimmy's looking and nodding. "Looking pretty good." He points out the fractures and how they're healing up. "Let's say you've got another week of just resting before messing around with any sort of exercise, but come Friday, when you get out of that cast, you can start working with your ribs, too."

Tim nods.

"They really are looking good," Jimmy says, flipping off the plasma.

"How can a bone look good?" Tim's less impressed by this, because the answer he wants is, 'Let's get working out right now.'

"Nice straight healing. No deformities. Nothing's been pulled out of shape."

"Small blessings."

"Large blessings. Bones that heal up wrong hurt for basically ever, so let's put this in the win column."

"Okay." Tim sighs.

Jimmy squeezes his hand. "You want to head over to your office? I'll keep you company."

"Don't you have to study?"

"Book's on my phone. I can read in your office as well as I can anywhere else, and probably a lot better than I can at home."

"Sure, then. Might as well take a moment to see what's going on."

Jimmy stands up, handing Tim his crutch, and Tim stands up, too. "Let's go."

Tim relaxes a little as they get out of Autopsy and to the elevator, but Jimmy can see he's squaring his shoulders and putting himself into Boss mode as they descend to the basement.

"You really good on this?"

Tim nods. "Good to get back into the larger world, even if all I'm doing is reading emails."

Jimmy nods.

Tim flips off the elevator. "Actually… Okay, this is stupid and kind of embarrassing, but… Leon won't let me back on the job, for real, working cases until I can pass a piss test for narcotics."

Jimmy thinks about that for a moment and says, "Not unreasonable."

That is also not an answer Tim wants to hear. "According to Abby it can take a few days for them to work their way out of your system."

Jimmy nods at Tim. That's true. Tim stares at him, eyebrows high, asking something without saying anything. It takes a second, but Jimmy suddenly gets what Tim isn't asking.



"No! You taking two or three more days to really heal up and get clear is a good thing. Besides, even if I didn't agree with that, you can't use my pee to pass the test because if anyone double checks, the fact that you aren't diabetic, and the pee will show screwed up insulin levels will be a dead giveaway that you aren't the guy it came from."


"Yeah." Jimmy flips the elevator back on. "And don't ask Tony, either. Just take the time off. It's like being drunk, you think you're okay, but you really aren't, and you do not want to hit the wrong button when you're putting in an account number or something. Don't blow a case because you can't type."
That makes a distressing amount of sense and that's loud and clear in Tim's disappointed expression.

"I know. Two-three extra days isn't the end of the world. Hell, shift down to over the counter meds on Thursday and back to work you'll go on Monday."

Tim nods at that, too. That's a fairly decent plan. Assuming his body cooperates with it. With his luck, he'll feel ready to shift over on a Monday and miss and entire extra week.

The elevator doors open, and Tim heads over to his computer, feeling, actually, really normal for a moment. Okay, maybe not normal but a hell of a lot closer to it than he's been in weeks.

Work is work, it looks the same, sounds the same, smells the same. He sees one Minion crashed out on the sofa, and glances around a bit, noticing that Ngyn's working, which is just about right. When they went onto 24/7 with the whole world-wide crew, night and weekend shifts became less of a big deal. It's much less effort to keep five people on at any given time when they're spread all over the globe.

He sits down, and rapidly drops out of normal when he starts trying to log in. Why people like Tony (horrible typist) have EASY passwords is immediately becoming clear as he's having trouble coping with the fact that his password is fifteen character long collection of randomly generated letters, upper and lowercase, numbers, and symbols.

Fortunately, as he's on his third try, Ngyn notices he's back, and heads in, distracting him from the Sisyphean task of logging on. "You're back!"

"Hi, Ngyn."

"How are you feeling?" His eyes flick to Jimmy who's out of Ngyn's direct line of view. Car accident he mouths to Tim.

"Like I got hit by a truck."

She winces at that, looking at his arm in the sling and the crutch that's propped against his desk; her eyes linger on the bisected eyebrow, and for a moment Tim's feeling very battered.

Then he sees her move in further, looking at Jimmy, and shut the door. "Howard and I know you weren't hit by a car."

Tim nods, not shocked. They were the two he pegged as most likely to find out what really happened. "Okay. Don't spread what happened around, please."

"No problem."

"How'd you find out?"

"Vance asked me to clean a rifle. Told us you were war gaming. Next thing we know you've been 'hit by a car.' But we can't find a police report. Howard had the idea of hacking everyone's email. She and I split it up so we wouldn't use the same techniques. That way…"

"If anyone checked it wouldn't all come back on just one of you."

"Yeah. It was in Agent DiNozzo's inbox, from there, what happened wasn't hard to track. Look, I wanted you to know that rifle is clean. It doesn't exist. It's never existed."

"Thanks, Ngyn." He nods, and glances to Jimmy, who looks pleased to hear that.

"So, are you back?" He's in jeans and a t-shirt. Normally that's his just stopping in for a minute look. It's true that he scaled back the dress code, but that's a bit more dressed down than he usually is. Most of the time he wears what he did as Agent McGee, nice jeans, button down, jacket. Beyond the occasional nail polish (and when he's sometimes dressing for the purpose of producing a certain image) he pretty much looks like the poster boy for office casual computer guy.

"Hoping to be in and out the next two weeks. Can't really work, but I can sit here and look like I'm not totally useless."

She smiles at him. "Really working or not, it's good to see you back."


She nods at him and heads off, and Tim returns his attention to his computer. A minute later Jimmy notices Tim glaring at his computer.


Tim looks at him, tired, frustrated, angry. "Can't get in."

"They change your password?" Jimmy wouldn't put it past Leon, but last he heard Tim was allowed to do administrative stuff.

Tim shakes his head. "Can't type well enough to get in."

"Oh." Jimmy thinks about it. "But once you're in, you can do stuff right?"

Tim rolls his eyes. "I thought I could. If I can't get my password in, I'm not going to do well with anything else."

Jimmy doesn't know what to do with that. He thinks for a few more seconds, knowing what sort of stuff he does on admin, and pretty much all it takes is a pulse and the ability to click on things. He looks around Tim's office and finally finds a pen and a pad of memo paper.

"Write down your password. You're up and talking, so I'm sure that means you can respond to emails, so let me get you in, and you can take over."

Tim glares at his right hand, and then takes the pen from Jimmy, writing quickly as Jimmy holds the paper in place.

Jimmy stares at the password in front of him. "No wonder you can't get in! I don't know if I can get that in there." Tim's chair is on wheels, so Jimmy just pulls him over to the side, and begins to type, slowly, one character at a time, hunt and peck style, hits enter, and Tim would have to admit that he's satisfied to see Jimmy can't get in on the first try.

Jimmy glares at the password, starts deleting, and says, "You don't have some sort of whammy in here where if you get it wrong too many times the system dies or something like that?"

"Not on this level."

"Great. Well, we're not doing anything where I've got to get this right on the first run. Is this a one, an l or an uppercase I?"

"Uppercase I, and that one's a zero."

Jimmy rolls his eyes. "Trust you to come up with a password that's impossible."

"Yeah, well, I didn't expect to need to have someone else put it in."

"Where'd you even get this monster, anyway?"

"Random character generator. Pretty much programming 101. I wrote a quick script, told it how long I wanted the password, what characters it could pick from, and what characters I wanted in the password, and two seconds later it spit out fifteen of them."

"And then what…" Jimmy hits enter, and this time Tim's computer decides to play ball, and logs on, "you memorized it?"

"Memorized four of them. I've got a laptop, a computer, a netbook, and a computer at home with secure stuff on it."

"Lord." Jimmy shakes his head. His own password Dr.Grelmin (yes, he intentionally misspelled it so Tony wouldn't crack it) is looking like child's play right now. "Well, you're on. Have fun. I'm going to get some coffee. You want your regular?"

"Yeah. No caffeine."

Jimmy smiles at him. "Trust me, I'm not going to forget SJ's in the works, which means both of you are off caffeine. Abby make her doctor's appointment yet?"


"Good," Jimmy's at the door to the office. "Can't wait to see the image of your new little guy."

Tim smiles, a real smile, untouched by anything but joy and love. "Me, too."

Tim spends about two hours, mostly just going through email, and by going through email, what he's doing is deleting the stuff that's either too old to do anything about or useless, and shuffling the rest into his 'do something about once I get Dragon uploaded on this computer folder.' (It's downloading in the background as he's going through his email.)

By the end of that, he's achy and pretty beat. He takes his Tylenol 3 with the last sip of his coffee, leans back in his chair, winces when the top of the seat hits him right in one of the broken ribs, and straightens up.

Jimmy looks up from his phone. He wasn't kidding about being able to read wherever. Once he came back with the coffees, he pulled one of Tim's chairs closer to the desk, propped his feet up on the corner and got to it. Occasionally Tim would hear the very soft sound of Jimmy repeating what he was reading, but it wasn't loud enough to make him lose his place in the stream of emails.

"You done?"

Tim nods. "Yeah. Got through the first two hundred emails. Only…" he sighs, wishing he was exaggerating, "five hundred more to go."

Jimmy nods, knowing how that works.

"How long until I can drive?" Tim asks as Jimmy shifts his car into reverse, pulling out of his spot in the Navy Yard parking lot.

"Same with work, once you're off the narcotics, you can drive again."

Tim give him his I'm not completely stupid look. "A manual."

"Oh, right. Forgot that the roadster's a manual." Jimmy thinks. "New Year's? I don't know Tim. Your right arm's a mess and it will take time to heal up. For things where you don't need split second timing, or really delicate fine motor control, your arm'll be ready before Halloween. Probably before the end of the summer. Beyond that… How hard you work on rehabbing, how much scar tissue is in there, if there's any lasting nerve damage, how solid the joints are when they heal up, that's all going to come into play. But you will drive a manual again. You'll get it all back.

"We've got bootcamp tomorrow, I'll have Ziva start showing me what she wants to do with how to use a knife, and I can use that to figure out how to get you rehabbing in that direction faster, but…" Jimmy kind of half smiles at him.

"But it won't be fast."

"No." Jimmy shakes his head. "It won't. What's the rush?"

"I want to be me again."

Jimmy takes his hand off the wheel and gives Tim's hand a squeeze.

Jimmy notices that Abby's car is missing from the McGees' driveway as they pull in.

"Abby out and about?"

Tim nods. "She was talking about heading over to Gibbs' with Kelly."

"You mind if I hang out here? Breena was expecting me to be with Gibbs today, so she's got the MOPs group at our place today, and…"

Tim nods again. He's got no problem at all figuring out that the weekly meeting of the Mothers of Preschoolers is not going to be a quiet environment for studying. "Sure, I was going to get a nap, so feel free to get comfy."

Jimmy nods back, getting out of the car, crossing over to Tim's side, grabbing the crutch out of the backseat and getting the door for him. As Tim gets out he says, "At least when I can drive again, I can open my own door." Between the broken right arm and the broken ribs, twisting and shifting enough to open the door on the passenger side is an issue.

Jimmy shuts the door behind him, and waits to see where Tim's going to go. They're closer to the sliding glass doors in the back of the house, but the porch is elevated over the backyard, and that means going up four steps. The front door is father away, but that requires two steps, and while Tim can do steps, they're slow and annoying.

Jimmy sees him start off toward the back, and follows along with him. As they get closer, he heads to the back door, opens it, and sees Tim propping the crutch against the steps. Jimmy shakes his head. He knows that to get up steps on his own, Tim's got to sit down on them and push himself up. With one crutch and one working arm, both on the same side, he doesn't have the balance, or ability to catch himself, to get up steps standing up.

"Come on, I've got you. Arm over my shoulders," Jimmy says, standing next to Tim. Tim wraps his arm over Jimmy, and Jimmy gets a good hold on his waist. "Okay, first one." And up they get.

"You want your crutch back, or is this okay?" Jimmy asks when they get to the top of the steps.

By that point the pain meds are really hitting Tim, and he's starting to feel a little woozy, so holding onto the rail with one hand, balanced on one foot while Jimmy grabs his crutch isn't sounding too appealing.

"This is okay." So they make their way inside.

Tim's figuring he'll head for the futon and sack out there. Jimmy's not in on this plan and assumes that naptime means bed, and is steering them toward the steps.

"Door's back there," Tim says as they step past it.

"You want to sleep in there?"

"It's close and easy."

"Oh. If that's what you want. But I can get you upstairs pretty easy. What's more comfortable?"

Tim thinks, and yeah, laying all the way out on his bed sounds good. "Bed."

"Okay, then up we go." Takes a few more minutes. They aren't getting near setting any speed records, but eventually Tim and Jimmy get up the steps, and Tim's sitting on the side of his bed, pulling his shoe off. "Let me get your crutch," Jimmy says, heading down to the porch to grab it.

It started raining again while they were heading up, so his next step is to grab some paper towels and get it dried off in the kitchen before taking it up.

Jimmy thinks Tim's asleep (he's on his side, eyes closed, under the blanket, breathing easy) when he gets up there and quietly puts the crutch so it's resting against Tim's bedside table. He catches his reflection out of the corner of his eye as he's straightening up, and suddenly gets Tim's bit about knowing where to put the mirrors in his room.

Jimmy's been in Tim's room before, but only twice, and he wasn't thinking about the room as a room, either time. He didn't bother to really look.

Today he's looking. The mirrors are set so you can see anywhere on or near the bed really well. Really well. And there is a very faint whiff of sex in the air. Mostly all he smells is the scented candles and the perfumes/colognes that Abby's got out on top of her dresser, along with the scent of clean laundry. Jimmy assumes his room smells like this to anyone who doesn't spend half their life in it. (He can't smell his own room.)

But he can smell Tim's, and he can remember what happened the last time he was up here, Breena kissing all three of them, and the time before, getting dressed up to go clubbing, watching Tim and Abby touch Breena. He can remember what he heard coming out of this room while he and Breena were in the guestroom, and he's thinking of talking with Breena about the four of them taking the next step.

Except, they don't actually know what the next step is, or might be.

"Jimmy?" Tim's eyes don't open, but apparently he's awake enough to have noticed that Jimmy hasn't left the room.


"You need something?"

"Uh no. Just thinking."

"Okay, well, either talk to me or head out. You just watching me sleep is creepy."

Jimmy laughs at that, and then, feeling kind of bold, he sits on the side of Tim's bed. He can't remember the last time he sat/laid down on a bed that belonged to someone else, let alone with someone else in it. It comes to him, girlfriend before Breena. Long time. "You weren't kidding about the mirrors, were you?"

"That's what you're thinking about?" Tim sounds... Jimmy's not sure. He sounds like he's trying to be amused, rather than actually is amused.

"One of the things." Tim nods a bit, eyes still closed. Jimmy's fairly sure he's not entirely awake. "I should get out of here, let you sleep."

"What else are you thinking about?"

"You want to talk?"

Tim opens his eyes, looking scared, and Jimmy suddenly gets what trying to be amused is. "I keep feeling that table under my back." He smiles a little, licking his lips, biting the bottom one, trying to shrug it off. "It… um… reminded me what would have happened if Jarvis had shown up a few minutes later."

"Shit. I'm sorry. I should have known better than to take you to Autopsy."

"I should have known better than to go." Tim shakes his head, closing his eyes again. "I'm alive. I know it. I can feel it. But…" he exhales…"Sometimes the fear of the fight hops up, you know?"

"I know." Maybe it's not exactly the same, but the fear of losing Jon would hit Jimmy for no good reason for months after they lost him. Still does, every now and again. He can look at his girls and just feel his heart stop when he thinks about how easily he could lose them. "You're home."

"I know. And when I was fighting, I knew Jarvis was coming. That was the plan. He was coming for me. But… Um… I fought as long and as hard as I could, but… when they got my arm, I felt it, and heard it…" He doesn't mention seeing it, but as he says it, he remembers how it looked, and why when he saw his hand palm up, but his wrist down, he threw up. Tim swallows hard, and feels the pressure of Jimmy's hand on his shoulder increase just a little, pulling him back to his room, back to now. "And I dropped. Couldn't keep standing or fighting, and no idea if I'd still be breathing when he got there." Tim curls in on himself a bit more. "Anyway, distraction is good. At least, until I drift off. Might not be listening that close, or make a lot of sense if I answer, but another voice is good."

"Okay." Jimmy stands up and heads over to Abby's side of the bed, kicking off his shoes, sitting down, back against the headboard, and rests his hand, very gently on the back of Tim's neck. He sighs a little, thinking how, bizarre, for lack of a better word, this whole situation is. "I was thinking about Breena kissing you."

Tim smiles. "That was nice."

"Nice?" Jimmy's not sure if he should be thankful for that or insulted by it. It looked like a really good kiss to him, and he knows the one he got right after was really good.

Tim shrugs a little. "Really nice? I don't remember it that well. I wish I did. I know it happened. But, tired, drugs… It's like something I read about."


"I remember feeling safe and appreciated and loved. That was good. That was really good."

Jimmy nods. "Was thinking about that, and… not being pissed off by it. Should have been, right?"


Jimmy's not sure if that's Tim being non-committal, or just not really tuned in, so he keeps talking, "I watched her do it, and then she kissed Abby, and she kissed me, and… It wasn't just hot."

"Hmm?" That it might have been hot is nothing that hit Tim. But he's not really thinking too much about this, just hearing it really. And making words seems pretty difficult right now, but he wants to hear more from Jimmy.

"I don't know. Like part of me liked watching it. Mostly it was just that warm and love, but, remember, I hadn't seen her for a week."

Slow nod from Tim, deep slow breath as well.

"She kissed you and she kissed Abby and she kissed me and… And it didn't take anything away from us. It didn't make us… less…" Jimmy's not sure what he's trying to say here, but Tim's not really responding, so either he's following along or out of it. Jimmy can feel the tension in Tim's neck lessening, so he's probably slipping further into sleep. "We went home and put our girls to bed and made love and held each other and… And nothing about us changed.

"Don't remember what day it was. Time goes wonky in a hospital. You were hurt and out of it. Abby was napping. And we were talking. Breena was so scared…" He very gently strokes Tim's hair. "We both were. By then we knew you'd be okay, but we didn't, not at first. Long flight. Really long, and all we knew was you were hurt, bad enough that Leon had gotten a clean rifle for Gibbs.

"You got on that damn ship and you got hurt. And if Jarvis had been a little later… that would have been it. End of the story.

"So, we're dancing around it. I'm telling her what's wrong, and that you're going to get better, and how bad your arm is, and how angry I am, and how… How everything was just fucked sideways, and how I couldn't fix it.

"Abby's hurting, too. And I'm dying for her, because I can imagine it. I know how wrecked I'd be if it was Breena in that bed, beaten to shit.

"I'm telling Breena about that, too, and she's listening, also scared and angry and hurting. We were hurting for you and Abby, hurting bad.

"Finally Breena says to me, 'We aren't just friends with them. We're more than friends. Maybe not lovers, maybe never lovers, but… We're not friends. And when you get home, we're all going to talk about it and figure it out, okay?'

"And I said, 'Okay.'" He gently squeezes the back of Tim's neck. "And she kissed you when we got home, and it was okay, and I wasn't pissed because we're not friends, and because it didn't take anything away from us, and because it was right."

Tim doesn't say anything to that. From everything Jimmy can tell he's gone. So he settles back, pulls his phone out of his pocket, and gets back to doing his reading, keeping his hand on the back of Tim's neck, making sure he feels secure.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 402: Another Friday

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

402: Another Friday

At any other time, six-week-pregnant Abby would have no trouble at all settling down for a nap with her snoozing husband. In fact, at any other time, simply being horizontal and six-weeks-pregnant would mean instant asleep for Abby.

But, it's not just another day, and Tim's not just catching a few zs over the course of a lazy afternoon. Hell, this isn't even healing up napping.

She's taken to thinking of it as defensive sleeping. After enough mental trauma, Tim checks out. The little switch in his head says, "Okay, you're done, sleeping now," and off to sleep he goes.

She's not sure if dreaming gives him better processing time, or if he really does just need some blank space to get himself right again, but she's seen a lot of this over the last three weeks. Abby supposes this is good. Jimmy and Wolf have both said it's a lot healthier than other things he could be doing to cope, so there's definitely that, but he doesn't rest easy when this happens. He certainly dreams, and from what she can see, they don't appear to be good dreams, though he doesn't seem to remember them unless he gets woken up mid-dream.

She's been doing everything in her power to not wake him up mid-dream.

She's trying to not think about the stories he told, because right now if she goes off on a rage, that will not mean sleeping Tim.

She's been doing that a lot, stuffing her own anger down, trying to cope with it quietly, trying to be solid and calm for Tim. She's honestly not sure how much more of this she can do without some sort of release valve for herself.

Seems like everyone else has one. Breena and Jimmy are both moving forward (with her) on the four of them becoming more. That's a good, positive step, life affirming, love affirming. That's about healing and making things whole and right. And it helps.

Jimmy and Gibbs are working on death. On teaching and learning how to destroy John, and that's good, too. That's something Abby wishes she could be part of, but right now she knows they won't let her shoot, and her own preferred methods involve working with chemicals she really shouldn't be messing with for another year (at least, probably two, breastfeeding and neurotoxins are not a good combination).

Tony and Ziva have been offering 'help' to Burley on the cold cases, and keeping a "discrete" eye on John. (In the sense that all of his credit card transactions, bank transactions, and email and text communications are being monitored.) They've dug into the cases along with Burley, spending any spare time they have on them, and chatting with people who are related to those cases who are within a hundred miles of DC. No slam dunks yet, but they're working it.

She's run and rerun every bit of trace on those cases, checked and double-checked all of the physical evidence, but, and she never thought she'd be disappointed by this, the people who ran those cases the first time knew what they were doing. She's found nothing new, nothing that points toward John, which means that work isn't a release for her. It's not a way to channel anger and get it out. It's just more anger, because by now she's certain, based on nothing beyond her gut, that John's personally responsible for all three of those sailors who went "missing" from the ships he was on, and she can't prove it.

Tim's writing and talking and writing more. He's thinking and sleeping and healing.

But she feels like she's got nothing on this. Nowhere safe to rage.

And each word out of his mouth, each sentence of those stories…

There were pictures of Tim as a child at Tori and Ben's place, and Abby snuck shots of several that Tim doesn't know about, so she's got an idea of what he looked like at six, adorable, big green eyes, insanely long eyelashes, that cute pouty lower lip, buzz cut gold-blonde hair, little plump, but more puppyish, getting ready for a growth spurt than really overweight. (Penny confirms that Tim didn't really have much in the way of weight issues until he started having problems with asthma around the age of nine, and they began treating it with inhaled steroids.)

"Tim" (Sean Murray)
Her beautiful Tim, young, innocent, hopeful. He's grinning, wide and happy in the shot she's got, no fear or nervousness in his eyes. Not a lot of shots like that after that one. The shots after that, even the happy ones, show the marks of what happened. There's always that ghost of nervous. Her Tim sad, scared, sick, crying. Her Tim, six, eight, nine, ten, and it just kept going and got worse until it (pretty much) ended at seventeen. At least, that's when the stories ended. Though she knows there's at least two more because Tim stopped talking to John at seventeen, and again at twenty-five, and there was the time after the case with Penny, when he called John up, and then didn't talk to him again until he got on that ship and saw him standing there, annoyed that a dead man was messing up his schedule.

And she has to stop thinking about this, because she's shaking with anger, and if she keeps vibrating, she's going to wake him up.

Abby's too keyed up to sleep. So she nestles into Tim, snuggling him, looking at his body in front of hers, feeling his skin, warm and finally, (mostly, right over the breaks is still green-yellow) unbruised, next to hers.

She knows from his comment to Jimmy about gaining weight that he didn't notice, but almost a week on pretty much all liquids, plus pain killers making him sleep all the time means Tim missed a lot of meals.

He lost weight those first ten days. It was hard to tell the first week, but as the swelling receded, it became pretty obvious. Clavicle, carpals on his left wrist, hip bones, all of them were too visible beneath his skin.

He's pretty close to back where he was, little softer, which'll probably bug him when he notices, but hopefully he won't notice anytime soon. Nothing he needs to be doing about that anytime soon.

She notices that the cast on his right arm is starting to get a bit too big again. One more week with this, then another new cast, maybe he'll start to get to use his shoulder again. He'd like that. Supposedly that'll be the end of the cast on his foot, still have a brace and use the crutch until he can put weight on it easily, but it'll be another step closer to looking like himself again.

Abby takes a deep breath, letting it out slow. He's healing. He's alive and here and healing, and eventually they'll be okay. But like his eyebrow, which her finger ghosts over, he'll be marked by this for the rest of his life, they both will.

Since she took the afternoon off, Shabbos is at their house today. Nothing horribly complicated for dinner, chicken on the grill, and the veggie co-op sent a box of mostly greens, so they're getting cooked up New Orleans style along with a big pot of baked beans, and they're subbing out challah for a huge cast iron skillet full of cornbread.

Tim's sitting at the kitchen table, one hand holding Kelly's as she wobbles on her feet working on standing by herself, while Abby mixes up the corn bread batter.

"I need to make an appointment with the OB."

Tim nods. He's fairly sure when they made Sean, so he thinks of Abby as being six weeks pregnant, which is about when you're supposed to go check in, except that they don't figure out how pregnant you are based on when you conceived, but when your last period was supposed to be.

"You're supposed to be what, eight weeks along?"

"Something like that. I'll give them a call on Tuesday."

He nods at that. "Except for Friday morning, my calendar is open."

She smiles at him.

"Actually, I was thinking of heading in on Monday or Tuesday."

Abby's eyebrows shoot up as she cracks eggs into the mix.

"Nothing strenuous. Can't work on anything for real until I'm off the Tylenol 3…" A thought hits Tim there. "How long does it take narcotics to get out of your system?"

"Two to four days."

"Okay, there is no way I'm waiting four extra days after I'm done with Tylenol 3 to go back to work. Do you think Leon knows it takes that long to come up with a clean test?"

Abby shrugs. "Maybe he's making sure you've got time to really heal."

"Maybe. Don't suppose you'd fake a test for me."

Abby just stares at him.

"You'd be the one running the test, right?"

She nods.


She looks up him and down carefully, looking extremely doubtful as to this being a good idea, but not completely opposed to it. "We'll see how you're doing. If you're actually up for it, it'll be your job to find someone to donate clean pee."

Tim sighs at that, but Jimmy or Tony would probably do it.

"So, what are you hoping to do by going back?"

"Just, get back in, make sure the place didn't burn down, take a few hours to remind Manner I'm still his Boss. Brand's supposed to be starting up soon, probably be a good idea to actually be there her first day. Just, I don't know, a normal Monday, ish."

"Monday's Fourth of July, so not Monday."

Tim's eyes narrow. "June's gone?"

Abby nods. "As of today."

Kelly tries to take a step and overbalances, falling on her bum and squawking indignantly. Tim leans over a bit to help her up, and his ribs ache as he does it, so he adds his own growl of frustration to the mix. But she grabs his hand, and he helps her stand, and he straightens up into a more comfortable position.

"You think Jimmy's going to add some sort of physical therapy for my ribs?"

Abby shakes her head. "You're breathing. That's probably all they need."

He shifts a little more, trying a very tentative side bend, and whimpering slightly. "Nope." Another slight whimper as he straightens up. "That's not all they need."

"Once you get standing on that foot, you can probably start adding bends and twists back in."

That sounds logical, but he's feeling this sudden need to be really working on getting his body back to where it needs to be. Probably the same need to get working again. He need to be himself again, and this limbo healing space isn't it.

Besides, he can do twists sitting down. In fact he often does them sitting down, so… He makes a mental note to ask Jimmy about that when they get there for dinner.

"No weights?" Tim asks as he shows Jimmy that he's got (almost) full range of motion in his ankle.
Jimmy shakes his head definitively. "No! You've still got four healing metatarsals and your ankle's not solid, yet. Right now we're just getting those muscles used to moving around again. Let's see what you're doing with your shoulder."

So Tim shows him. He can, once again, shrug with both shoulders. It's not smooth, by any stretch of the imagination, but he can move his shoulder joint in pretty much any direction, as long as the motion's coming from his traps, pecs, or lats.

"How's that feel?"

"Sore, achy, not as bad as last week. I was wondering about my ribs, thinking about adding some bends or stretches."

Jimmy stares at Tim, wondering what exactly this is, but he nods a little, and says, "Gotta check with Gibbs, make sure we're not getting an early start at the house tomorrow…" They're in the living room, and Gibbs is in the dining room, helping Penny set the table, so he can hear what Jimmy just said.

He shakes his head. "Raining all weekend. Bootcamp on Sunday. No carpentry. Maybe cookout at the house on Monday if the weather cooperates."

Jimmy nods. "Study time, then. Yay. You wouldn't believe how much reading I've got to get done. Tomorrow morning, I'll take a break, swing by here, grab you, and we'll get some x-rays in Autopsy. If your ribs look good, then sure, we'll work on adding some twists and bends and get your back and abs working again."

Tim nods at that.

Tim decided to go to bed early on Friday night, while the Shabbos gathering was still on. No one's surprised by that, he'd been drooping for most of dinner, and they all knew that he had another meeting with Wolf, and it's really obvious that Abby's not her normal self. They're both trying to be cheerful, and having everyone over helps, but it's obvious they're hurting.

As they're breaking up, Tony nods to Ziva, and she catches a ride home with Ducky and Penny. He helps Abby get the last of the dishes dried off and put away, and then heads off to the TV, searching around for something.

"Where's McGee keep the games?"

"Tony?" Abby's not sure what's going on or why Tony wants to sit at her place and play games, but… "Pull up the main menu, then go to games, then—"

"Okay, I got it." He searches around for a bit, and then decides that Call of Duty should do the job. He picks up a controller for Abby, too and sits next to her on the sofa, facing her. "So… you know there was that time between taking care of…" Tony's eyes fill in the name Bodnar, because they still don't speak of him, "and Ziva and I really dating."

Abby nods, starting to get an idea of why Tony might still be here.

"And, uh, part of that time was her telling me about what happened in Somalia, about the scars she still had, about…" He shakes his head, some confidences he won't tell, no matter what. Telling what she came home with is up to Ziva, and he's not going to say a word about it without her express permission and her present, neither of which are true right now. He smiles, but not happy, "And," he bites his lip and shakes his head, "And there's just hearing it, and not being able to do anything. 'Cause she had to live it, and I couldn't flip out on her by just hearing it. But I wanted to. Wanted to catch a plane and hunt them all down and kill every one of them we didn't get. Wanted to do more than kill them. But they're fucking ghosts, you know? A lot of them are literal ghosts, now, and the rest, not like they properly introduced themselves before..." He shakes his head again, still biting his lip. "And there's nothing you can do but listen, and you can't make it right, or better, or fix any of it. All you can do is sit there and take it.

"And until she almost died in that bomb last summer, sitting there, listening, making myself be calm and let her fall apart was the hardest thing I'd ever done. I beat the shit out of the next two perps who tried to run, and that didn't help much. Because nothing does, not really. It's still your person and they're still hurt and there's nothing you can do about it." He sighs and flashes her something vaguely smile-like. "But, it does get better. Slowly. As he gets to being himself again, it'll get easier. When we bury John," Tony's eyes are cold, and Abby's awfully sure that he does not mean bury John in any sort of metaphorical sense, "that'll help, a lot.

"You know I'm not really happy about the counseling stuff, but… It's useful, and when you get back to work, checking in with Wolf, spending some time talking to him one on one's probably a good plan."

Abby nods. "I know." She blinks, starting to cry. "God, it's so hard! And I feel horrible saying it because all I have to do is listen. He had to live it."

Tony nods while Abby burrows into his arms, crying.

He kisses the top of her head. "I know, Abbs, I know." And after a while, ten maybe fifteen minutes, she starts to calm down, and when she does, he hands her the controller. "And until it gets better, or until you've got a way to get it out, we can utterly destroy some Nazis."

Abby wipes her eyes and smiles a little. "Little ultra-violence to soothe the pain?"

Tony nods and kisses her forehead again. "That's the idea."


Monday, January 12, 2015

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 401: Writing

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

Chapter 401: Writing

Dragon is a godsend. Being able to write again is making Tim's life about ten million times better. Sure, he's still loopy, so he's fairly doubtful that any of this is going to make the final draft, but he's plot dumping away, and, because he can write, he can deal with "dad-stuff" as he's been calling it, with the shield of his character, Gabe, in place.

It's a lot easier, safer, to handle it that way. It's also clear that whatever this story ends up being, father-son relationship stuff is definitely going to be a major theme.

It's also clear that he needs Lorcan (Gibbs) in the place of step-dad/adopted-dad/mentor-dad/chosen-dad whatever, but not in the place of birth-dad. And that for as much as this is about dealing with Fairrge (John) in this story, it's also about creating something that honors Gibbs and who he's been for him these last few years.

He's not sure what he's doing with Fairrge in this, beyond killing him/shaming him/destroying him in numerous exceptionally messy and violent ways.

That's not entirely true. He knows that he wants them, him, Daegan (Jimmy), Brigit (Breena) and Lorcan to be shape-shifter dragons. He knows that as he's setting up the stories the Dragon Knights are a thing mostly of the past, few and far between. Thought to be legend by the common people. Even in family lines, like the M'Gy (Earliest spelling of his family line that Ducky found when he was looking up the tartan for his clan, and eerily similar to how Gibbs pronounces his name.) the Dragons are going to be rare.

He's thinking that Gabe'll be a dragon, but Fairrge won't. That'll be tension line number one. Fairrge will be a loyal knight in whichever King's army. Gabe won't. Said King, (Tim doesn't have a name for him, yet) will be at war with some other guy, and Lady Skye (Abby) will be working for that side. Eventually, he'll run into Skye over the course of the fight, they'll hook up, and break away from both sides, setting up a third line. End there, Fairrge dead, Skye free from her overlord, and the M'Gys setting off for some new land of their own, and that sounds like a good first book to him.

Those are "working" thoughts. The part of his brain that's in charge when the painkillers are fading away. When he's got plotting and longer arc functions going.

The more drugs in him though, the more violence comes out.

He's gotten to the point in his life where he's not ashamed to be writing really horribly violent graphic murders of his father. He's fairly sure that five years ago, he couldn't have done this. He could have thought about it, but not written it out. Now he can. After all, he's made the deal to have the man killed for real, compared to that, this is just… just letting the dark out. Letting him play with it and then let it go. He does notice that as the days pass, the first few scenes got more and more violent, but he's getting less interested in them.

By the time he's written four versions of it, he's done. He doesn't need to do that again. It's getting boring.

He knows he's not done with writing about his dad, but he's done ending him.

And from there, writing can turn to more pleasurable things. And, as Friday turns into Saturday into Sunday and onto Monday and on… It also becomes clear that whatever else is true about this project, it's also a massive smut-fest.

Smutty, smutty, smutty, smut! All over the place. As of right now, he's got at least a hundred pages of smut, which means this is either going to be an awfully long novel, or it's going on the paranormal erotica shelf. He's got some suspicions as to why this is true, beyond the fact that he likes sex. After all, he was just as fond of sex as he wrote all of the Tibbs books, and none of them contain even one explicit scene.

First and foremost, there's that golden three or four minutes where he's close to getting off, getting off, or just gotten off where he's not hurting. At all. Yes, he's on pain meds, a lot of them, and they are keeping him "comfortable." They are not keeping him pain-free. They're not keeping him in the range where he can just forget he's hurting either. What they are doing is making sure he can function, more or less.

So, if he can't be in those moments, he can be writing about them.

Part of it is that sex is how his body knows it's alive. On a really basic, biological level, fucking keeps him centered on the fact he didn't die. And unlike all the other times where he almost died, he healed up pretty quickly. Pretty quickly isn't on the menu for him, not this time. It's getting onto two weeks later, and every time he moves, every step, every time the habit part of his brain tries to reach for something with his right hand, all of it is a constant reminder of almost dying. (And all of it hurts, which just goes back to point A about chasing time where he's not hurting.)

But, though he's been exceptionally affectionate whenever she's home, Abby does still have a job, so, if he can't be fucking with her, he's writing about it. (And sending what he's writing to her, which means she's usually in an awfully frisky mood by the time she gets home.)

Part of it is wanting to fuck. Pretty much, right now, they've got cowgirl, and reverse cowgirl, soft and gentle and slow, and that's nice and all, but he really wants to fuck. He wants to pick Abby up and rock her world. Wants the feel of his body moving fast and hard, sweat and lube slick skin, breathing hard, flushed, hot, aching full-on, fucking sex.

And that's not happening anytime soon.

So… he's writing about it. In explicit detail. On a pure neurochemistry level, his brain can't tell the difference between real sex and sex on the page. (Sure, it knows the difference between arousal and climax, but chemically porn, fantasy, sex, all of it triggers the same pleasure centers of the brain.) Likewise, he knows it's imaginary, but his dick's a bit fuzzy on that idea, and the only message it's getting is get hard, stay hard, and pounce (in a very slow, gentle, being easy on a whole mess of broken bones sort of way) on Abby when she gets home.

Part of it isn't sexual so much in an erotic sense as in a post-traumatic experience sense. In a very real way Abby, and to a lesser degree Jethro, Jimmy, and Breena all signal safety to Tim. When she's home, and he's awake and can stand to be near people (because he's still having porcupine days, too) he wants to be within touch range. He wants to have Abby holding his hand or a warm arm around his shoulders. And touch feels good, and sex feels better, so hugs turn into stroking which turns to kissing and merges into sex and from there more cuddling and sleep.

He's very, very glad that Abby doesn't mind ending the evening or starting the morning with sex, and then getting some very hot notes during the day to go with it. He thinks the last time they had this much sex, they were on their honeymoon.

And he's also very glad that she's putting up with his mood swings as well, which is another reason to keep writing about sex, because it keeps him on the perky side of things. When he's not focused on sex, he can go from doing okay to crying in less than a minute, and he hates that.

So, at least for the time being, the only downside of the vast wodges of smut he's producing is that occasionally, when he gets a chunk of "writing" done (because after all, he has to speak to his computer to "write"), he'll hobble out of his office, and Heather will just stare at him, which is making him wonder exactly how bad the sound-proofing in their house is.

Another Wednesday, another day home, but today, he's noticing something. There's only one Percocet left, and he's not feeling any sense of panic from that. He can go the full six hours between doses now, and shifting down to Tylenol 3 seems like a good plan.

Seems like it will work.

He knows Tylenol 3 is also a narcotic, but it's a much less strong one than the Percocet, and he's really, really hoping that he can take this last one, let it meander out of his system, start up on the new stuff, and get some more control back.

He swallows it down, and tosses the bottle toward his trash can. He misses and sighs. Time to move the vibrational head to the next break, then more ankle flexing and shoulder lifts.

That's also getting less painful, but he knows that as soon as he's got full range of motion on his ankle, Jimmy's going to want him to start working it with weights, and that'll just drop him right back to square one on the pain level.

The Tylenol 3 is mostly getting the job done. He's back down to a five hour pain pill cycle, but he feels a lot more like himself. He hasn't broken down crying for (what he considers) no good reason for two days.

Heather graciously accepted his apology for being such a bear the last few weeks. Told him he didn't need to apologize for it, but he knew he did. Even if only to make himself feel better.

No Percocet means his one-handed typing is getting better, and Dragon means that mostly all he's doing with a keyboard is fixing spelling and formatting.

No Percocet also means that today, he's got a job to do.

It's time to start writing up that report.

It's slow. Partially because he still has to get fairly frequent naps. Partly because he can't work on the report without thinking about what was going on, and as Wolf said, flashing back to the fight, and to the life before is normal, and working on the report triggers it. And unlike the story, there isn't the safety of Gabe here. Here he's reporting, not creating, so he can't shift and tailor the story to make himself feel safer.

But he keeps working on it. Keeps making himself put it in the past. He's home, at his desk, safe, working. He's not on a ship. His father is nowhere nearby. (He got an email from Burley about that. For the time being, The Admiral's rented a place in Hawaii. Alas, for the time being he's also not finding much in the way of anything useful in any of those missing sailor cases.) And yes, some of his work he's done with Abby right next to him, keeping him grounded in now, but he's kept working.

The great thing about drafts is that the first one can just be miles of crap spewed out on a page. You keep the good stuff, shuffle it around, and delete the embarrassing bits.

And that's what he's doing.

Tim's going over the feeds. He starts with the ships he wasn't on, viewing their data feeds, checking their techs, seeing what they did. He knows how things went on The Stennis, but that's not how things went on all the other ships. Some got communications back faster, some slower. One took a full two hours before they got their internal communications back online. One did it in fewer than two minutes. (He wrote up a separate recommendation for that tech, wanting to make sure he got some sort of a pat on the back for a very good job. Then he made a note to see about looking him up in eighteen months when his hitch with the Navy is up.)

Once communications were fully restored among the entire Carrier Group, they began working together on tracing the hack, and did, eventually, figure it out.

But Tim was on land and unconscious by the time they worked it out.

He writes up a review on how the attack worked, and a plan for how to pull a similar trick. He doesn't want whoever does this next to use his style verbatim; it's got to feel real, and it won't if the same attack keeps happening, but he can put useful parameters in place. Likewise, he dissects the response, pointing out who did well, who didn't, how standard Navy cyber-attack operating procedure worked well, how it failed.

He eyeballs the draft, sure this isn't anywhere near ready to go out, but it's a start.

Thursday. Swimming with Gibbs. That's good. He can actually walk when he's in the pool now. Yes, like with the rest of the ankle exercises, it aches when he's moving, but he is moving all the way through the correct placements and motions of walking.

When he's doing that he can also feel why he's still got the cast on his foot. Place weight on your foot and all those little bones in the arch of your foot, which on him are in various stages of healing back up again, spread apart and flex. Even with the cast they shift a bit, and that's not comfortable at all.

He's dreading putting his full weight back on that foot, but a week and a day, and this little cast comes off, and with it, even more rehabbing.

Wolf again. Sigh.

Fridays are supposed to be days of rest, right? What with the whole their family does Shabbos thing, right? It's in the rules. Ziva's told them avoiding unpleasant topics of conversation is one of the rules. And this is the mother and father of all unpleasant topics of conversation.

He is going on about that when Abby, who took off work to be here with him for this, looks at him, kisses his forehead and says, "You can cancel."

He slumps a little and shakes his head. He knows he's got to do it. Canceling just puts it off for next week or the week after, and that just pushes off him getting to actually go back to work even further. So, he doesn't want to cancel, he just wants to bitch about it and then get it done as fast as possible.

It's nothing personal against Wolf, but… he doesn't want to be talking about this stuff. Tim would much rather just ignore it.

But he can't.

And at least this time Abby's with him, holding his hand, like she promised to do back when they first started talking about this, back before Kelly was born.

They settle into his office, drinks all around, and begin.

They talk a little about how his body is doing, how healing up is going, and then get to the meat of it. Back to California and being a small child and getting on a boat for the first time.

And from there it only gets worse.

Abby hasn't heard a lot of these stories. Tim's never told most of them. Takes two hours. He's not sure what the point of this is, other than to rip his heart out again, but Wolf seems to think it's useful, and
Abby's holding onto him, so… So he keeps talking.

He's not sure if he feels any better, or different, or anything positive really, when he's done.

Tired. He feels tired. Like he's been wrung out. Like he's run fifty miles and done a million jumping jacks and infinite push-ups, and… just tired, all over, in all ways.

Abby sees Wolf to the door, and then heads back to him, snuggling in close, holding onto him as well as she can, and there's a faint spark of wanting to talk to her about it, but lulling tired wipes it out of his mind.

"You just want to rest?"

He nods.

Abby kisses him. "Then you rest."

It's two in the afternoon, and they're on the futon in his office. He's so sleepy, aching tired, all he wants to do is sleep right now, but there's one other thing he needs. "Stay with me? Guard my sleep?"

One more kiss. "Anytime."


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 400: Take Aim

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

Chapter 400: Take Aim

Jimmy is not in any way surprised to see Gibbs' truck sitting in Tim's driveway when he pulls in the next morning. They hadn't called each other or planned it out, but apparently he and Gibbs are both on the same track. Namely the check in and make sure no wires are crossed track.

He is, however, as he walks past the truck into Tim and Abby's home, a bit surprised to see three Mylar Happy Birthday balloons floating in the cab.

He guesses they're his next target.

'Practice when you can' means that Jimmy was able to do not much of anything at all involving any sort of weapon, whatsoever.

He wasn't kidding when he mentioned he wasn't going to have a lot of time for working on the house this summer because he's got Continuing Education Units he's got to get done before the end of the year. (Two of four classes just got bumped back to the fall because he was in California instead of attending them.) Monday night meant the first of his historical pathology seminars. (Okay, yeah, it's not vitally useful in terms of building skills, but it is interesting, and he's got the time for it, and, and this was a big deciding factor, only two of the seminars required him to actually go to a lecture, and the exam is open book pass/fail.)

So, school's eating up time.

Then work's eating up time. Eating up his usual time, and on top of that, he's got backlog from when he was out. Ducky handled Autopsy while he was out, like the pro he is, but once he got back, Jimmy still had to double check everything, make sure nothing got missed, and then, even with the computer spitting out the paperwork (which made this vastly faster, otherwise he'd be in the office filling out forms until July) he still had to initial and sign everything.

Plus a week away meant he wanted to spend as much time with Breena and his girls as he could get. He doesn't regret or begrudge the time he was in California… At least, not for Tim or Abby or Gibbs, for them he was fine with being there. Wasting a week of his life because John McGee's a fucking bastard who wouldn't know a good son if one walked up and kicked him in the nuts (which Jimmy would entirely approve of happening) is a different story all together. But he did miss Breena, and anything that reminds him of how fragile life and joy are makes him want to cling to her.

Which means, that while he did go through taking the rifle apart and putting it back together in his head several times, he didn't do any actual, hands on work with the paintball rifle.

Jimmy opens the door quietly, and doesn't hear anything. Or see anything for that matter. He checks Tim's office as he heads through the downstairs, but he's not napping on his futon in there, or crashed out on the sofa, which means everyone is upstairs, or in the backyard.

He heads to the kitchen and looks out through the sliding glass door, everyone's on the porch, having breakfast from the look of it. Jimmy can smell coffee perking away, so he makes a detour to fix himself a cup. A quick sip at half way full to make sure it's Tim's blend and not Gibbs' lets him know how much to pour. It's Tim's, so he fills the cup three quarters full, and tops it off with milk. Then he heads out.

No one's surprised to see him as he steps out saying, "So, we're lying to Grandma?"

"Don't ever let her hear you call her that," Tim says.

Jimmy sits down at the patio table, next to Abby, who has Kelly in her lap. Both of them get their cheeks kissed. "Yeah, because Grandma's the tricky bit."

Tim rolls his eyes at that. "Technically I am not lying and neither are you two. I am practicing mental reservation, and, assuming you're not stupid, you just won't say anything. Then, if plan A and B both fail, and The Admiral drops over dead from a bullet wound, Grandma will know that I asked you not to do anything, and she'll know that Gibbs was in the room with her when it happened, and she'll know that I'm not a sniper, and she'll know that John has a lot of enemies from his drone work, and she'll be able to pretend one of them took care of him."

Jimmy nods, curtly. He's not upset about how this is working out, but he does want to make sure everything's all in place. He doesn't want to get burned on some loose detail.

"What's the mental reservation?"

"I said I wanted to handle it. And I do. And right now, trusting you to take care of it is how I want to handle it."

Jimmy's not sure what he feels at those words, but it's something proud and intense. He smiles at Tim, and Tim smiles back.

"And look, I may change my mind, but you're still learning, so we've got time, right?"

Jimmy nods and Gibbs does, too. "We've got a lot of ground to cover. Sniper school was ten weeks for Basic and another twelve for Advanced and all we did was hide, stalk, shoot, work with our rifles, and learn how to put the shot where we wanted it."

"So, I don't have to decide for real for a while. I meant it, I want Stan to find something on him. That'd be… I want that." Tim says with a desperate smile. "But… If it doesn't happen. If it can't… There's still the deal with Jarvis, probably, in play. And in a year or two, if that hasn't happened… I don't know. You'll be ready to act. Or maybe I'll do it myself, frame him with kiddie porn or something…" Tim shakes his head. That doesn't feel right. "I want him disgraced, and I want him to do hard time, but I want it to be for something he did. I want who he really is to come out and be seen by everyone. If I can't get that, dead's a good second place." Tim takes a sip of his coffee. "But if dead's the answer…" He looks at Gibbs and Jimmy, both of whom have buried children, and he doesn't need to say any more than that, lying to Grandma, making it that little bit easier, they're on board for that.

After a minute, Jimmy says, "So, why doesn't she like Grandma?"

"Same reason she didn't go by Mrs. McGee or Mrs. Mallard. She wants to be known by the person she is and the things she's accomplished, not the relationships or men in her life."

Jimmy thinks about that for a minute, he can understand that. Then he looks at Abby. "Mrs. McGee doesn't bug you at all, does it?"

"No! I like it. But I had a choice about it. When Penny got married people, everyone started calling her Mrs. Nelson McGee. Penny Langston literally vanished. That didn't happen to me. I gained a husband and a family, I didn't get absorbed by them."

Jimmy nods, then sighs. He takes another sip of his coffee. "So, we should probably get going if we're going to get any shooting in before Penny who is not Grandma and Mr. Langston show up at the house to work on windows some more."

Gibbs nods, standing up, and Tim smiles. "Call him Mr. Langston in front of her, that'll make her day."

Jimmy chuckles at that as he and Gibbs head off.

"Where's Mona?" Jimmy asks as they get to the house and he notices that part of their party is missing.

"Decided she wanted to sleep in with Abbi."

Jimmy smiles. Gibbs grabs the balloons and hands them to him. Jimmy notices he's also got a ball of twine and a bag of the basic, blow them up yourself balloons as well.

"Late case for Abbi?"

Gibbs shakes his head. "Likes to sleep in when she gets the chance."

Jimmy smiles at that, too, as they head to the boathouse. "We need these right away?" he asks about the Mylar balloons.

Gibbs shakes his head, and Jimmy finds a block to tuck the ribbons under so they don't float away. While he snaps on his gloves and gets the paintball rifle set up, Gibbs blows up several of the regular balloons and wanders around their property tying them to different tree branches.

Not much in the way of clear shots. The bit right around the house is mowed lawn, but most of their land is woods, and Gibbs is tying the balloons in the wooded section. There are other trees, branches, bushes, scrub, leaves, vines and all sorts of stuff between Jimmy and the balloons, and on top of that, Gibbs has not secured the balloons tightly to the branches, they're dangling off, swaying in the breeze.

The only upside Jimmy can see is that they're bright yellow, pink, blue, and white. They do not blend in with the surroundings.

"Instructions?" Jimmy asks when Gibbs gets back to him.

"Shoot 'em."

"That's what I figured. Anything else?"

Gibbs shakes his head. "Right now, just track how they move, and shoot them. Find wherever you need to be to hit. Like when we were working with punching, if you've got to do it from ten feet away, do it from ten feet away, just make sure you hit."

Jimmy nods, and starts towards the closest of the balloons, a small pink one. He spends a while walking around, occasionally sighting with the rifle.

"Tell me what you're doing," Gibbs says to him.

"Looking for a good vantage point. I don't want to shoot from ten feet away, but I don't want too much stuff between me and the balloon."

Gibbs nods. "Even a paintball is traveling fast enough to go through a lot of this scrub."

"That part of why training you took six months?"

"Yeah, I can figure what sort of rifle and bullet to use to shoot through a car if need be."

Jimmy stares at him, wondering why you'd want to shoot through a car. "How can you even see where the person you're aiming for is if you're on the other side of a car."

"Shot like that, the target isn't moving."

"Do I want to know?"

Gibbs shrugs. "Do you?"

Jimmy thinks for a second, and realizes he does. Not just because he's curious, but as best as he can tell Gibbs doesn't talk about this part of his life, and talking about it might be good.

"Shot was set days in advance. Car was there intentionally. Target had security. Security checked and monitored all clear lines of sight. Half a klick behind the car, I was in the clear, no one watching or checking. I had all the time I needed. Marked the car, knew exactly where I had to hit on it, to send the bullet straight through to the Target. Spotter closer to the Target let me know when he was in place. Target got up to give a speech, he didn't finish it."

"Was he just a target?"

"To me."

"You'd just… go in and do this cold?"

"It's a lot easier when you go in cold. Two hardest shots I ever took were Hernandez and Saleem. Targets are things you can be cold about. It's a job, and you do your job well. Even if you hate someone, that someone is a person, and killing people is hard. Neutralizing a target isn't easy, but it's easier."

Jimmy nods at that. "John's a person."

Gibbs nods. "We hate him. Hate the pain he's caused. But hate means we feel for him, about him. Means we feel for the people at home in relation to him. Means Tim and Abby and Penny and Sarah are all there when you're shooting, ghosts in your head. With a target there are no ghosts. There's just time, distance, wind, and fire. God willing, you're only ever going to have to take one shot, but those ghosts'll be there, talking to you while you wait for the right second.

"We'll pick a time and place where I can get you in the right spot for the rifle we've got, so all you've got to do is shoot. You're not going to need months of math and aiming technique or which caliber does what, when, and how. But mastering the ghosts, that'll be on you."

Jimmy nods at that. He scans the woods, looking at the pink balloon swaying gently. "Were Kelly and Shannon happy when you shot Hernandez?"

Gibbs shakes his head. "No. They knew it wouldn't fix anything. But they knew I needed to do it if I was going to do anything other than self-destruct."

"Buying yourself enough time to heal."

"Something like that."

Jimmy lifts the rifle to his eye, sights the balloon, watching it move, trying to track it, trying to feel where it's going to be, and fires. He nicks it, sending it snapping into the branch, where it pops.
Gibbs nods again. "Right now, do whatever is comfortable, you're learning how to put your bullet where your target is going to be. But when you shoot for real, you probably won't be standing up. Lying on your stomach, crouching behind something, you'll be more stable, have an easier time making sure the bullet goes where you point it."

Jimmy nods at that. He can be very still for a long time, but that's not the stability you get from leaning on something. He goes looking for a different vantage for the next balloon while Gibbs takes the string and dead balloon down from the tree.

He heads over to a downed tree and uses that as a prop. He misses the next balloon he's shooting at twice, but nails it on the third shot. From the tree he can sight another of Gibbs' balloons so he goes after that one, too. Much longer shot, and this one's got a lot of small branches, leaves in the way, but the air is still, and it's just hanging there, barely swaying.

One shot and Jimmy hears it pop with a sense of satisfaction. He knows John probably won't just stand there and wait to be shot, but one pull and gone felt really good.

Five more balloons tied in the woods, and Jimmy hits all of them, eventually.

Gibbs watches, satisfied. Training won't be fast. The difference between how a paintball rifle shoots and a real one is massive, but the basic level, where is the target, where is the target going, that's the core of this, and that skill stays the same no matter what you're aiming with.

"Ziva's gonna teach you knives?" Gibbs asks as they head back to the boathouse.

"That's the idea. Want to see what's involved before okaying Tim on it."

"Not really learning for you, then?"

Jimmy shakes his head. Then he inclines it slightly. "You don't ever want to go up against me with a knife. You really don't want to go against Ducky. I mean, yeah, I don't have any defense, but one, two hits tops, and you're dead, so I probably don't need much. Spend twenty hours a week taking people apart with knives and you get a really good feel for what to hit if you ever have to."

"How good?" Gibbs asks.

Jimmy takes two steps in front of Gibbs, and walks toward him, tapping him lightly on the upper, inner thigh and then stomach as they pass each other. "Get medical attention in the next two minutes or die from blood loss. I've just severed your femoral and aortic arteries."

Gibbs stops walking and glances at the paint gun. "Why are we doing this?"

"For the same reason I'm pulling the trigger. The Admiral gets a sudden case of extremely precise scalpel wounds, and I'm the top of the suspect list, or Ducky."

Gibbs nods, that makes sense.

"Probably be easier to stay calm if I'm far away, too. Go in hot, and it's probably easier to miss."

"It is."

"So, walking up next to him, having to touch him, not sure I can do that and not just start beating the shit out of him."

Gibbs nods, he's gets that. He's not sure he could get in touching range of John and pull off a calm, precise hit. Actually, that's not true. He could do it. He would. He's always been able to shut down and do the job, but it wouldn't be easy.

Jimmy's holding the paintball rifle already, but he can do that one handed easily. The fingers of his right hand trace over the barrel. "I figure with this I can stay far enough away to kill him and leave no trace. Stay far enough away that I won't get tempted to go for pain or fear. Just one hit, fast and done."

"Good plan."

"So, what are these for?" Jimmy asks as Gibbs grabs the Mylar balloons out of the boathouse.

"People aren't on tethers. They move all over the place."

"You're going to let them free and I'm going to shoot."

Gibbs nods again, and they head out to the end of the pier. No chance of getting the balloons tangled, at least, not at first, if they're over the water.

"Give it a five count before you aim." Then Gibbs lets the first one go.

Jimmy counts, tracking the motion with the scope, and on five he fires, and misses. He does it with the second and third one, too. He's annoyed, but Gibbs isn't.

"Get all three, and you get to start shooting people."

Jimmy looks alarmed by that.

"Get good with air and wind currents, and then you get to try to hit me."

That gets a smile.

"I'm going to snipe you?"

Gibbs nods. "When you can get me, without setting off my danger sense, then you get to start working with a real rifle and real bullets."

"And when do I get to go after John?"

"When you can take the head off of a turkey."

That makes an awful lot of sense to Jimmy.

Tony and Ziva pull up shortly after that, and find Jimmy and Gibbs working on popping the first of today's windows out of the house. It probably would be faster if they could just pop them all out and then put all the new ones in, but that's still not a good plan.

Tony peeks under the tarp covering the windows that haven't been put in yet, and says, "Five hundred down, twenty six million to go."

"It's not that bad, Tony."

"Not that good, either. You guys just get here? Doesn't look like you made any progress!" Tony calls over to Gibbs and Jimmy, grabbing yet another window and heading fifteen feet further down the side of the house from them.

Jimmy smiles to himself on that. No it doesn't look like they've made any progress, because nothing's been done on the house.

"Just got started," Jimmy says, hearing another car pulling up. Ducky and Penny this time.

They amble over to where Jimmy and Jethro are in the process of getting another window out.

"Hello. Jethro, Jimmy, I see you are hard at work."

"Getting there, Duck."

There are rhythms Ducky and Jimmy have for working together, long practiced, which, even though this is building a house and not an autopsy, both of them tend to fall into them easily.

"Good morning, Mr. Langston," Jimmy says in a perfect mirroring of his usual greeting Ducky while working routine.

Ducky arches an eyebrow, and says precisely, "That's Doctor Langston, thank you very much."

Penny smiles at that, laughing, amused by the whole thing. "I take it you had some sort of chat with Tim and Abby?"

Jimmy nods. "Tim didn't exactly dare me to do that, but he did want to know what happened if I did."

Penny laughs some more. "And what brought that up."

"I was wondering why Tim doesn't call you Grandma or something like that. He got into it. Same reason you aren't Mrs. Mallard or Mrs. McGee."

Penny smiles, warmly, realizing how much of her life Tim never saw. "I was Mrs. McGee for a long time. And even now, were I to change my name, I'd hold tight to Doctor."

Ducky appears interested by that. They've never spoken of even the possibility of her changing her name. "And would you have been Dr. Mallard?"

Penny smiles back at him, turning the tables. "Would you have been Dr. Langston?"

Ducky shrugs. "My sense is that it's easier for all involved if we do not have identical professional names."

"They're only identical when spoken," Jimmy adds, helpful, grinning.

"Which is more than enough. How many calls do we need to get for Doctor Langston or Doctor Mallard if the one title refers to both of us before it becomes unwieldy?"

Penny's nodding at that. Ducky still gets calls from colleagues, and her students all call her Doctor Langston.

Tony hands over more crowbars, eyeballing Ducky, "You know… I never did get a good nickname for you. What'd'ya think Penny, should I call him Mr. Langston?"

Penny laughs at that, and Ducky says, "Anthony, you do know that my given name is not, in fact, Ducky?"

"Of course I do, Donald, but it's not much of a nickname when you introduce yourself with 'Call me Ducky. Everyone else does.'"

Ducky smiles, remembering the first time he met Agent DiNozzo. "By all means then, especially compared to Autopsy Gremlin or McWhatever I will happily be christened Mr. Langston."


Shards To A Whole: Chapter 399: Calming the Waters

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

Chapter 399: Calming the Waters

"Looks like something put a spring in your step," Jethro says as he picks Tim up for swimming, giving him a hand up into the truck.

Tim rolls his eyes. Yes, he's in a better mood, having Burley keeping an eye on things is helping with the nagging fear that still won't go away, but is quite a bit less insistent now, but 'spring' let alone 'step' are vast overstatements. (For that matter, better and good are not synonyms, either. He's not feeling quite so angry right now, and the entire universe isn't annoying to him, but that's not exactly a 'good' mood.)

Gibbs closes the door, and gets in on his side, turning the engine on. They're out of the driveway, heading toward Jimmy's gym when Tim asks, "Swimming? Seen you play with the girls in the pool, didn't know you swam."

"Do it some mornings with Abbi."

"Oh." Tim's a bit surprised by that.

"Some mornings we run for me. Some we swim for her."

Tim smiles at that. "She's back at work?"

Gibbs nods.

"I'm glad you let her come out for you."

Gibbs nods at that, too.

Tim spends a moment eyeballing Gibbs' swim trunks. A bit shorter and tighter and more colorful than the shorts he remembers Gibbs in from last summer. Granted, he weighs less than he did last summer, so he could have just gotten new swim trunks, but… Tim doesn't see Gibbs as the kind of guy who buys himself fancy swimwear. Gibbs, shopping for Gibbs, is the guy who heads over to the swim trunks at Target and gets the plainest, least expensive pair they have, and the trunks he's wearing, are, unlike Tim's plain black ones (which he bought for himself), bright blue with vague geometric splotches of orange and green.

"So… you develop a sense of style, or is Abbi actually buying clothing for you?"

Gibbs looks amused.


"What?" Gibbs asks, looking at Tim.

"She drops everything to go to California for you. You're wearing clothing she's picking out. Merging your workout routines… Do I need to get my jeweler on speed dial for you?"

Gibbs rolls his eyes.

"I'm only half-joking. He does really good work, you know?"

"I'll let you know if the need arises."

"Talk about dodging the question."

Gibbs smiles at him.

It's a nice pool. Salt water, so there's no chlorine to mess with his lungs. (One of the reasons Tim generally isn't a huge fan of swimming, chlorine pools make his asthma act up. And right now he really doesn't want to be coughing or wheezing.)

Tim's feeling a bit tentative about getting to the edge. He's not particularly stable crutching around and the area around the pool is wet, but Gibbs hovers behind him, ready to grab him if he slips, and eventually Tim does get to the edge of the pool, gets himself sitting on the ledge, feet and legs in the water (which is actually quite a bit warmer than he thought it'd be, and that warmth is much appreciated). Gibbs takes the crutch from him, props it against the far wall, and Tim slips all the way into the water.

Being in the pool feels vastly better than he could have imagined. He can move, awkwardly, his gait isn't exactly smooth, but still, he can MOVE on his own. The compression of the water against his chest actually feels pretty nice. And, yes, it's cool and wet, which aren't his favorite things ever, but it's not cold and wet, and he can MOVE!

Gibbs is whipping through his laps, doing his best shark impression, while Tim sort hobbles/bounces/you could even possibly, if you were feeling really charitable, call it walking his own laps.

They stay for an hour before Gibbs gets out and grabs Tim's crutch, handing it to him. He hobbles up the steps, regaining the full feel of gravity on his body and not appreciating it. Pool time is definitely going on the list of things he's doing more of.

Tim take his time getting dried off and dressed post-shower. Partly because everything he does now is slow, and partly because he's really looking at himself. He's in the 'assisted change room' because that's got a seat in the shower, and he's really not in any condition to be standing if he doesn't have to. It's also got a full length mirror on the back of the door, so he can really see himself as he dresses.

He's healing. The bruises are fading. None of them are black anymore. With the exceptions of the ones over the broken bones, none of them are blue or purple, either. He can see his tattoo under the cast, black and red ink distinct on his skin. When he got home the bruises hid it.

The swelling is starting to go down. The cast on his arm is starting to get too big, the one on his foot definitely is. He doesn't remember precisely when, but he knows he's got an appointment for new casts soon.

His nose is still swollen, and he's still got purple-green circles in the corners of both eyes, but the rest of the bruises on his face are faded to yellow-green or gone. It's almost his face again. He pokes at the cut bisecting his left eyebrow and winces, that stings. He's thinking that'll scar, and he wonders how odd it'll look to have that line through his eyebrow. He wonders if it'll be really noticeable when it fades to white.

Gibbs knocks as Tim's checking himself out. "Need help?"

"Just slow. Out in a minute."


And in much closer to five minutes than he would have liked, Tim's gotten himself put back together, almost. When he gets out, he hands Gibbs his wrist cuff, which he can't put on himself, and Gibbs does it up for him without a word about how Tim can't put a cuff on his left wrist with his left hand.

He does say, "I like this one."

Tim looks surprised at that. "Thanks. Abby and Jimmy picked it out."

Gibbs nods. "I know. They showed it to me when they got it."

Tim smiles. He's getting what Gibbs is saying and why. No, Gibbs did not just suddenly become interested in Tim's fashion statements or wrist cuff. He is, however, very interested in Tim being able to roll with the punches and adjust to the new realities of his life. He's very invested in Tim not getting stuck of pining for what's lost.

Tim nods. "I'm getting used to it."

"All you can do."

Out of the shower, dried off, clean clothing, in Gibbs' truck, Tim's feeling a whole lot more human. Tired. Bone tired. But not the wasted, wrecked exhausted he'd been feeling. This is much more of a my body's done everything it can, and now it wants a nap tired.

He's also aching again, but, and this is a sign of things moving in the right direction, it's been almost five hours since his last pill, so… Yeah, healing up.

He takes his meds and falls asleep on the way home.

So, yes, Wednesday morning was better than any morning he's had since he left for the Stennis. But Wednesday afternoon, he's back to the same problem.


So bored. All he's got up for his afternoon is vibrating his bones. And with bored comes thinking, and thinking means feeling like shit and crying and wishing he never got anywhere near that ship.

He's napping again when Abby gets home, which works out well, because she wants to mess with his computer. So, upon getting home, Abby and Kelly head into his office and do a little recon. There's a program Zelaz suggested might be good for Tim, and she wants to look into it further.

It takes her a few minutes, but she does find it, and it does look like exactly the right thing, so while she's making dinner, it's downloading.

Tim wakes up for dinner, and is in a better (at least compared to yesterday) mood.

When food is done, and dishes cleared away, she grabs Kelly, and nudges him toward his office. "Come on."

He starts the slow process of hobbling toward his office, looking at her skeptically, and once he gets seated, she puts Kelly in his lap.

"I got something for you."

"What?" Kelly's trying to stand in his lap, and he's trying to keep her from toppling over, which is tricky with one useful arm.

"Hopefully the answer to you going out of your mind because you're so bored."

She flips open his lap top, punches in his access code, and then fires up the new icon on his desktop. A second later, a program opens.

"Dragon?" He realizes he knows what it is, but the idea of it never occurred to him. (Yet another hint that the Percocet is taking a toll, because, that was an obvious fix, and he should have thought of it himself.)

Abby takes his question to mean what is it? "It's a verbal word processor. You talk to it, and it turns your words into a document. You can work on your story, or do your report for SecNav, hell, code even. Anything you want to do, you can, without having to delete every third character."

He smiles at her, seeing that this really is going to open a lot of doors for him. "Thanks."

Abby smiles at him. "Okay, Kelly and I are going to do tubby time. You play with this some."

Saying his work, out loud, feels ridiculously stupid, especially since he's got to add in the punctuation in, too. (Actually he doesn't, but he won't know that for a few paragraphs. Likewise, it'll take him a day to notice it does much better with him just talking to it, instead of slowly and carefully over-enunciating each word.) "Daegan sheathed his sword comma satisfied at the terror he could see radiating off of Malindra period." But at least he's doing something, and it is satisfying to see the words popping up on the screen.

Abby's back down half an hour later, with a fresh, clean baby girl. Tim takes over on story time, which he can still do, though it does help that Kelly's pretty quiet and sleepy, not too squirmy, and she settles in on his lap, quickly.

Usually, he'd hold her against his chest, but that's just not going to happen. So she sits on his leg, head against his tummy, as he quietly recites Goodnight Moon, and then hums a few lullabies.

He gets a drool-y baby kiss and then Abby takes Kelly up for sleeping time.

Abby comes down again and settles onto his desk. He'd rather she settled into his lap, resting against his chest, so he could wrap his arms around her, but they both know that'll just hurt right now. "So, writing, TV, sex? What are we doing tonight?"

"Sex is good," Tim says with a smile. "Feeling kind of meh on TV right now. Bored with the old storylines, and you want to watch the new ones with me."

She smiles. "What if I told you I got a recommendation for a series you'd probably like, that has like, two hundred episodes, and it won't break my heart to miss most of them?"

"I've already seen Dr. Who," he answers, flat.

She rolls her eyes. She knows that. "And it isn't Dr. Who, but you're in the right neighborhood."

"I've seen Torchwood, too," he says deadpan.

She sighs, hoping he's playing but this has too much of a tinge of annoyed, bored Tim to feel like playing. "Not Torchwood. I'd want to watch that with you."

"Yeah, you and Jack Harkness, I know." Eye roll, little smile, bit of playful comes back. "What's your mystery show?"

"Literally. Midsomer Murders. Tidy little mysteries. Sixteen seasons. If you like them, that should keep you occupied for a while. Apparently Ellie and her husband like them, so she suggested them to me when I was asking for TV ideas."

"You were asking for TV ideas?"

She strokes his left hand. "I don't want you home and bored all the time."

"Come here."

She leans in closer, and he kisses her. "Thank you."

"So, sex and TV?"

"Sex first?" he asks with a smile.

She smiles back at him. "Always."

Thursday means the first of his post-home orthopedic appointments.

New x-rays, more poking and prodding, getting his arm re-scanned, which he's trying to ban from his memory because that hurt. Not the scanning per se, but the position they had to get him into to do the scan.

"Just hold still, Mr. McGee, this won't take long," the Doc says with that infuriatingly calm voice medical practitioners use when they're going to torture you.

He's about to bite through his lip because it feels like his shoulder's on the verge of being ripped clean out of its socket again and every single bone and muscle in his arm is screaming because it no longer has the cast for support.

Seriously, what sort of sadist casts your arm so it's internally rotated across your body, leaves it in that position for a full week, and then expects you to externally rotate it to it's full extension and then hold it still while x-raying and scanning you?

"Few more seconds… You're doing really well… And… There we go." Dr. Kent lifts the scanner away from Tim's arm, and refits the cast onto him again. "I know that's uncomfortable. Okay, leg next."

Tim glares at him.

"Your leg is just fine where it is. All we have to do is take the cast off."


Getting his leg re-scanned doesn't hurt. Doc wasn't lying about that. He's keeping it in the same position it's been in for about two weeks now.

"So, we're going to be changing things on this cast. You still shouldn't be walking around, but your ankle no longer needs complete immobility. We're going to print a cast that goes from your heel to the bridge of your foot down to your toes. That'll provide support and keep your tarsals in the right places, but you'll be able to start moving your ankle.

Tim's not having an easy time imagining what that cast will look like, and it seems like the Dr. Kent understands. "Have you ever seen an ankle sock?"

Tim nods. Breena's got some of them. "It'll look like that. And on top of it, we're going to add some wrapping for support. You'll be able to move your ankle in every direction, but not too much."

"Dislocated ankle your bracing, but re-casting the dislocated shoulder?" Gibbs asks.

"Yes. In two weeks, when you're back for the next set of x-rays and scans, we'll see about making the arm cast smaller."

"Okay, why?" Tim asks.

"The ankle is a simple dislocation. The shoulder was ripped so far out of joint that the tendons tore free of the bones. They've been reattached, but you've basically got two little breaks where the bit of bone the tendon was attached to broke free of the rest of the bone. So, everything up there stays immobile until that bone is good and secure."

"Ah," Tim says.

"So, everything is looking good and healing up well. We'll have the casts printed out and ready to go by the time you're back tomorrow. Now, do you have a physical therapist picked out yet, or do you need a recommendation?"

"I've got one," Tim says, definitive.

"Great. Make sure the office has his?" Tim nods. Jimmy's a guy. "Contact information, and we'll get everything sent off to him. I want you to start working on range of motion exercises on your ankle."

Tim nods.

"How are you doing on your pain medication? Do you need another prescription?"

"Think I'm good on that, too."

"How much are you taking right now?"

He fishes the pill out of his breast pocket, not sure what exactly the dose is, but knowing that he'd be out when he wanted his next one, so he brought it with him. "One of these every five hours, now."

"Okay, good. How's the pain level with that?"

"I ache all the time, all over, pretty much, but it's not excruciating."

The Doc nods at that. "That's where you should be."

"I'd rather be not hurting, at all."

"Give it time." Dr. Kent smiles; he's heard this song before. "Much more than what you're on now and you'll start running into the potential for unpleasant side effects and the risk of dependence goes up."

"Yeah, I know."

"On the upside, probably only another week on the Percocet, then Tylenol 3, and one more week and you should be back down to over-the-counter pain killers."

That actually is good news. Tim's thinking he's going to be a hell of a lot more like himself once he's off the Percocet. And then one week of Tylenol 3 and he can finally start doing some real work again.

And so they head off with a little more mobility, another inch closer to back to normal.

Three hours later, once he's home, and asleep, Tim wakes up to his phone ringing. "McGee."

"Old habits die hard, don't they? You know you're not actually at work, right?"

"Jimmy?" He's sure that's his voice, but he can't think of why Jimmy's calling him right now.


"What's up?"

"Couple things. First of all, I'm really pleased that you've got so much trust in me, but I'm not actually a physical therapist, and I don't have all the goodies a real physical therapist would have, so… how about you go hire a real physical therapist to actually oversee getting you all up and functional again?"

"Gibbs said you did a better job than the guy he was seeing."

"That's nice of him. He's wrong. I did a more thorough job than the guy he was seeing because he would actually talk to me, and I kept better track of him." Tim knows that's a polite version of 'I kept badgering him to do everything he needed to do and then some.' "And I'll do the same thing for you. But you need someone to do the actual heavy lifting, so, you've got an appointment with the same guy Gibbs saw for Monday morning. I figured you wouldn't be busy."

"Let me check my calendar. Yep, I've got napping and taking a swim whenever Gibbs can get me out there."

"Okay. Swimming working out for you?"

"Yeah it is. Once my lungs are feeling better we'll switch back to the NCIS pool. What else is up?"

"You guys want us all over for Shabbos tomorrow night? We'll bring the food."

"Yeah. Abby definitely wants some company. I might be crabby, but if I get too obnoxious, just ignore me."

Jimmy laughs at that. "Breena and I'll show up early or stay a bit late. I'll get you started on what to do with your ankle."


"Fuck!" Tim's eyes are screwed shut and he's whimpering lightly. "How can this possibly hurt that bad?"

"You haven't moved it, at all, for two weeks," Jimmy replies, holding Tim's ankle. "Again."

"Again? You're fucking kidding me."

"Come on, keep at it. Baby it now and it's just going to hurt that much worse for that much longer."

Tim tenses up, but he does flex his foot, about an inch.

"Good job. Five more times."

Now he's staring at Jimmy like he's been mortally betrayed.

Jimmy wiggles his fingers, indicating get moving.

Tim flexes his foot again.

"One. Four more."

"You're a sadist."

"And you're a right little ray of sunshine. Four more. Bitching about it isn't going to make your ankle any stronger or more flexible."

Tim flexes his foot again, cursing.

"Three. And now you know why I'm not a physical therapist. None of my usual patients curse at me."

"None of your usual patients," he flexes again, "are hurting this bad," one more flex, "and you aren't sitting there, fucking smiling at them," final flex "while they're hurting."

"Done. Laterals next. Would you prefer I scowled?"

Tim rolls his eyes. "Laterals?"

"Your ankle rotates." Jimmy stands up and demonstrates full range of ankle motion. "We've just done up and down. Got 360 degrees of motion to take care of here."

"This is going to kill me, isn't it?"

Jimmy snorts. "Those fuckers on the ship didn't manage it; this isn't going to do it, either. Okay, get to it, five to the left."

He's working on rotations when Ziva and Tony come in.

"You are moving McGee!" she sounds pleased and excited by that. "We'll get you training again in no time."

Jimmy looks over at her, and Tim catches the flavor of that look. "What was that?"

"One more rotation." Tim does it, still staring at him, waiting for more. Jimmy shakes his head. "Not no time. Not… not anytime in the next year."

Tim winces. "January?"

Jimmy cringes, shaking his head. "Three hundred and sixty-five days, year. You'll be moving around a lot sooner than that, and swimming and yoga or pilates, definitely weights, but… Bones heal stronger than they were before. Break it once, you're unlikely to break it in the same place again. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments are all different. Tear, dislocate, strain… they all heal weaker. They all slip out of joint easier. Pretty much a healed bone is just more bone, a healed muscle or tendon is scar tissue, and that's not as strong or flexible. So, you're not throwing a punch or anything else involving hard, jarring impact with your right arm for at least a year."

Tim deflates. "You're letting Gibbs fight." Then he gets embarrassed, because that sounded terribly whiny.

"With one laterally dislocated knee, that's wrapped, and he's not doing any knee strikes with it or kicks. And if it was just your ankle, I'd let you back after six months too, with the same previsions. But we're not screwing with your arm until it's rock solid. What did you want to train, Ziva?"

"Knife fighting."

Jimmy thinks about that for a moment. "Start taking me through it at Bootcamp. It's more slashing and dodging and maybe some grappling, right?"


"Okay, that we might be able to get you doing in less than a year. So, knives?"

Tim shrugs (just his left shoulder). "Nine, right?"

Jimmy nods. Ziva and Tony gather nearer to hear this.

Tim's not sure if he wants to talk about it, not sure if he can without crying, so he sounds tentative as he says, "I was already getting pretty sure that something bad was going to happen by the time they got me walking down the hall toward the brig. And I was a 'prisoner,' so I was getting processed, and they took everything, including roll of quarters Ziva gave me, and the knife I usually carry, away. I would have liked to have kept it, for a second at least, then I realized that I don't really know how to use one." Tim licks his lips. "If there's ever a next time, they won't get my knife off of me, and I'll know how to use it."

Ziva nods at that. "Yes, you will. If there's ever a next time, we'll talk more about how to hide weapons on your body."

Tim inclines his head. "They frisked me pretty thoroughly. The guy doing it thought I'd masterminded an attack that could have killed hundreds of people. They didn't want me to have access to anything dangerous."

Jimmy taps Tim's foot, reminding him to keep going while he talks, so he does.

"Processing was pretty standard for how we handle guys we're certain are guilty. Competent, professional, not particularly kind or polite." Wolf had mentioned that telling the story may help. That for some people quiet is easier, for others telling and retelling builds up a sort of tolerance to it, numbs the fear response. Tim's willing to try. "The one guy intentionally broke my phone."

Tony looks alarmed by that. "Damn lucky he didn't blow his hand off."

"Nah, it really won't go off unless you put in the wrong code or try to open the case. It's stable." Tim sighs. He's got a new phone, but, of course, it doesn't have all of his extras in it yet, and, given what Jimmy just said about his hand, it'll likely be a long time before he's got the dexterity to get it wired properly.

Jimmy can see Tim's looking distressed and decides to get him off this train of thought. "Okay, foot's done. Shoulder time."

That worked just fine; Tim's staring at him like he's utterly insane. He gestures to his shoulder. "Okay. I'm wearing a shirt, so I know you can't see the whole thing, but the cast goes from my nipple to my pinky finger, what do you think I'm going to do with my shoulder?"

Jimmy smiles a little. "Your shoulder moves up and down," he demonstrates with a shrugging motion, "back and forth," he scoots his shoulder foreward and backward. "It rotates, which you can't do right now, as well as adducts and abducts, which are also off the menu. Basically, anything where the motion is coming from your traps or pecs, you can still do, anything from the glenohumeral fossa is out."

Tim is staring at Jimmy like he just bit the head off of his favorite puppy.

"What's your comfortable range of motion?"

Tim just stares at him.

"Dumb question, everything hurts all the time, right?"

Tim nods.

"And that's why we're starting this now, because honestly, I don't think you want to spend too long thinking about how much this will hurt if you don't move it at all for the full six weeks you're going to be in this cast." That, unfortunately, is a relevant point. "Okay how far can you lift it without it hurting more than the baseline?"

Tim sighs again. "We'll find out."

"You haven't tried to lift it?"

"Not really. I'm doing as little as I possibly can with this arm."

"Yeah. That's usually how it works. Okay, gently, lift up."

Tim's whimpering as he does it, but he does manage to lift his arm in a shrugging motion. "There!" he says through clenched teeth.

"Okay, three inches. That could be a lot worse. Have at it."

Through gritted teeth Tim says, "How many of these am I doing?"

Gibbs heads into the living room, holding Anna, kisses Ziva, and says, "Until you're sweating, right?"

Jimmy smiles at Gibbs. "'Until you're sweating' is my Crusty-Old-Drill-Sargeant-With-A-Bad-Attitude workout plan. I think for Tim we're aiming at 'until you're swearing.'"

Tim glares a little and says, "Fuck. Are we done, now?"

"Not until you mean it." Jimmy says with another smile.

Tim lifts his shoulder, grimacing. "So, what's the scuttlebutt at work?"

Tony hops in on that. "Officially, you were in a car accident. But, apparently Vance told one of the Minions you were war gaming, so there's something about that. And you told them you were 'at a conference' so every form of gossip you can imagine is running wild."

Abby, who had been helping Breena and Penny in setting up the table, heads in. "Food's on. Howard's popped in a few times to check up, ask how you're doing. I'm sticking with the 'car accident' story, too, but none of them believe it."

"Is there an official file?" Tim asks, fairly sure that if they were really curious his Minions would have looked.

Tony nods. "Yeah, but it's been John Doed, so you've got some privacy. Unless you know what to look for, the case is invisible."

"But there's no police report for my 'car accident' is there?"

"No," Ziva shakes her head.

"How'd you find my case?" Tim asks Tony.

"Stan cced us."

"On your work email?"


Tim sighs. He'd have it broken open in about ten seconds. He's not sure if any of the Minions are devious enough to hack his old partners to find out what happened. Might give out some brownie points to any of them that did.

Jimmy's been gently cradling his elbow as he's been lifting at his shoulder, keeping him moving his arm only in the directions Jimmy wants it moved. He lets go and says, "Done."

Tim raises his eyebrows.

"See, you get distracted, it doesn't hurt so much, and it's a lot easier."

Tim nods. He supposes this'll be his new thing to go with watching TV. Laura Palmer and shoulder lifts. DCI Barnaby and foot rolls. Could be a lot worse.

Monday, or whenever it was that Abby noticed the Stars and Stripes announcement on the Admiral, she and Tim had a conversation about what the rest of the family was thinking/doing in regards to him.

So, Tim knows that Jimmy and Gibbs are off shooting things.

And he knows that Tony and Ziva have some, as of yet undetermined, thing they're working on.

And of course, there's the deal he's got set with Jarvis.

And Burley's doing his thing.

So, as dinner rolls on, and they sit around the table, eating what's very tasty barbecued chicken, Tim knows that he's got to say something, because there are a lot of threads in the air right now, and some of them he wants to get shut down.

The way he's thinking right now, though he reserves the right to change his mind about this when he's not high on Percocet, is that he'd really like Burley to catch the Admiral at something. First and foremost he wants him disgraced. Resigning with his commission intact isn't enough. He wants headlines and, hopefully, a nasty, embarrassing murder trial.

Barring that, for the sake of family harmony, and not seeing any of his loves end up in jail, Jarvis's 'heart attack' plan works just fine.

But, drugged though he may be, he's with it enough to see that Gibbs and Abby are not nearly as certain about Jarvis doing the job as he is, so they've got another back up plan in place. He's sketchy on the details, but he thinks they're working the idea of Gibbs'll be out in public, probably with Penny, and then Jimmy'll be the one who takes the shot, which as plans go, he likes because no one would ever suspect Jimmy, and that lets Penny pretend that her son wasn't murdered by the rest of her family.

But that does mean shutting down whatever Tony and Ziva have going, and it means saying something to everyone about how he'd really prefer they didn't murder the Admiral, and it means doing it in front of Penny and Ducky.

So, when they get to a quiet part of the meal, he says, "I talked to Stan a few days ago…" and he fills them in on how Stan is looking into things, and he mentions to Tony and Ziva that if they felt like helping Stan look into things, he'd really appreciate it. Then he wraps that with, "I know there are… things… you'd all like to do or see happen to the Admiral." He smiles a little. "Things I want to see, too. But look, if you guys can't make a case for something against him, then… Then it's going to be up to me. I want to handle it. I don't need or want you off risking your lives or job or… or anything, on revenge for me. Okay?" He's staring at Tony and Ziva as he says that. Neither of them are happy by that, and he can feel Gibbs and Jimmy staring at him, hard. "I'm not saying forgive or forget. 'Cause I'm not forgiving, and I'm sure as hell not forgetting, but he's mine. Anything that happens beyond the bounds of a regular case, I'll be the one who does it."

"You don't need to do that for me, Tim," Penny says, quietly.

"It's only half for you. Yeah, I mean, you'd rather not be sitting down to dinner with the man who killed your son, right?"

Penny nods.

"You and Sarah are all I've got of my birth family, and I don't want to lose either of you. And, one of us killing him… I'll lose you on that. So, no."

"You're not going to lose me, Tim. I'm not… It'd break my heart, but I'd understand." She's shaking her head. "I know what he did, and I know you deserve whatever peace you can get."

"He's still your son, and you still love him, and you hate what he did and who he's become. I get it, Penny. I know. So, let's not hurt each other. Our family has too damn much of that. So, we'll skip it for you and me. Like I said, though, it's only half for you. Part of it's for me. I want to own it. I want the same thing I wanted when I got on that ship in the first place, I wanted to be in control of it, for once. I got that, for a little while, and I want it back.

"So, I don't know what's going to happen. Don't know what I'm going to do. But it's going to be me, okay?"

And then he waits for everyone at the table to respond affirmatively. They do, and he says. "Okay. Good. That's all we need to say about that until Stan comes back and says a case can't be made. Can one of you pass me another chicken leg."

There's a lot of tension over the course of dinner after that. With the exception of Penny, who's relieved, and Abby, who knows what he's planning, everyone else is stewing in it, and making plans to have a serious chat with Tim about this once he's off his pain pills.

But he knows, whether Tony and Ziva think he's crazy or not, they will respect his desire to handle it himself, and that's all the space he needs to buy on this one.

As the night is wrapping up and everyone is going home, he hugs Jimmy goodnight, just like he has a hundred times before at other Sabbaths, but this time, instead of saying good night, he whispers in his ear, "Don't skip sniper practice tomorrow."

When Jimmy pulls back, his eyebrows are high, but he nods, heading over to give Gibbs his goodbye hug, which then results in Gibbs looking a little surprised and then staring at Tim, who nods very slightly.