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."
"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."
"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."
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!"
"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."
"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.
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.