Sunday, January 11, 2015

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.


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