Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 422: Skin

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

422: Skin

After lunch, Tim heads back into the house. The girls are getting their long nap, and Abby decides to join them. Jimmy and Breena are laying around on the porch along with Ducky and Penny. Abbi and Ziva are cooking. Gibbs and Tony are lurking about the kitchen keeping them company, occasionally being put to use for prep cook work, chopping up ingredients or measuring things out.
For a moment, Tim's watching, he's not sure what the girls are doing, but he's got the feeling he's going to like it. He can smell yeasty-bready things, and there's some sort of tomato concoction bubbling away on the stove, and Ziva's mixing up some sort of meat thing.
"Pasta?" he asks.
"No!" Abbi says, smiling. "Grilled pizza. Tomato sauce is cooking, fresh mozzarella's in the fridge. Ziva's mixing up some kosher sausage."
Tim smiles at that. "I don't tell either of you how awesome you are nearly often enough!"
That gets some laughing from both girls.
"Anyway, if I can pry you away for a moment," he says to Abbi, "and if you were to just happen to leave your laptop open and on, maybe I can get something useful for you."
Abbi nods, washing her hands. "That's worth it."
It reminds him of some of his most content moments as part of Gibbs' team. He's on the sofa, laptop in his lap, working away (Slowly, but, and this surprised him, he is coping pretty well with two fingers not typing, having his thumb, ring finger, and pinky back is actually helpful.) digging through layers of data and metadata, listening to the rest of his team (plus Abbi) working away, joking and playing a bit.
It's a lot like a really good paperwork day. Happy people chattering around him while he does something uniquely him and useful.
By the time he feels like he's got a pretty good handle on what's going on at CGIS, even better smells are drifting out of the kitchen, and off the porch, where the girls have the grill running and apparently Gibbs has been enlisted to do something involving fire, meat, and… and honestly Tim doesn't know what all else is going on, just that he smells something sweet and smoky, and approves greatly.
"You at a good breaking point?" Tim asks Abbi.
She nods. "Yeah. Nothing to do on the pizza until we get the crust on the coals. Jethro's keeping the pie and sausages company, making sure nothing scorches, Ziva, you've got ice cream, right?"
Ziva nods.
"You're making ice cream and pie?"
They nod and smile. Ziva's looking really happy. "Fresh peaches and blackberries the size of Kelly's hands. Glossy black, bursting ripe, and taste like sweet wine."
"And you didn't save any for me?" Tim says, mock appalled.
Ziva holds up a wooden pint basket, showing Tim that there are, in fact, a few of the berries left, with his name on them. Abbi finishes washing her hands, and grabs them, heading over to where Tim's sitting in the living room.
"There was a dairy stand with local cream, butter, and the mozzarella," Ziva continues. "Tomatoes are in season. Gorgeous basil. One vendor had free-range chicken and eggs. So, yes. Grilled pizza, with homemade sauce and chicken sausage. Peach-blackberry pie, cooked on the embers from smoking the sausage."
"Scoops of ice cream on top," Abbi adds.
"It is more peach sorbet than ice cream," Ziva clarifies. "We had more peaches than we needed for the pie, so, freeze the extras, then into the blender with the cream, a few basil leaves, little vanilla extract, and we've got a no sugar-added dessert for Jimmy."
"Which I appreciate," Jimmy calls out from the porch.
"S'mores on top of that…" Gibbs grins, sitting on Abbi's other side as she sits next to Tim.
"Thought you were on the grill." Abbi says.
Huge berries
"I deputized Duck to handle it." He snatches the berry that Tim hadn't eaten. "Gonna be a good night. When the girls wake up, we'll go on our driftwood hunt."
"So, basically, the plan of this weekend is to see exactly how fat you can get all of us?" Tim asks.
"Fat and happy!" Abbi says. "On a less happy front," she looks at her computer, and he nods.
"Less happy is right. So, every time you do something on your computer, it doesn't just do whatever it is, it makes records of it, too. Sort of like how you can't walk on the beach without leaving tracks."
"Metadata, right?"
Tim nods and smiles. "So, for those months where you've got no files, you've also got no metadata. There's nothing. At all."
"That's what they said before."
"Yeah. So, here's what this is telling me, whoever did this wants me to think no files were ever made."
"Yeah. Look, there have to be records." He's pointing at a screen that's supposed to show payments rendered from CGIS from October of 2011. "You guys got paid, right? You expensed things and money came back to you?"
Abbi nods.
"How did that happen?"
"Depended on what it was and who you were. Cash for little things. Direct deposit for bigger things. Checks if that's what you preferred."
"You guys have credit cards for bigger things?"
Abbi nods on that, too. "Some of us do. I used to have one. Spend four nights out of seven on the road and it's just easier to use their card than to keep receipts for everything."
"That's how we work, too. So, on the most basic level, it is absolutely impossible that entire quarters could go by without any records being made. I mean, you don't even have bank statements here. And I really doubt VISA or whoever does your cards went months without getting paid. Whoever cleared this out wanted it to look like your boss was just a screw up, didn't keep records, and for all I know that could be true, but it's also true that records got wiped out of here. This is way too empty for just bad bookkeeping."
"Wonderful, now what?" Abbi says, dryly.
"I'm emailing you, on your personal account, what needs to go to IA, what conclusions the 'independent investigator' you've got looking at this is drawing, and I'm going to suggest that you need to make hard copies of this, and mail it priority, sign on receipt, to whoever is in charge of your IA department, personally, so when this blows up you can show copies of what you sent, to whom, along with the receipt of them having gotten it. That should keep you covered, and yes, first thing when you get back in, get those forensic accountants on the job. Someone with access to your bank accounts will hopefully have an easier time figuring out where your money went."
"Any idea who cleaned everything up?" Abbi asks Tim.
He shakes his head. "Best I can give you what computer did the wiping, and I did, it's in the email, but… These got wiped clean more than three years ago. That computer may not exist any longer. Or it may, but the person using it…"
Abbi nods, she understands. "So, if I'm insanely lucky that computer belongs to someone who is still working for us, and used it to do that."
"But you aren't that lucky, because whoever did this knew enough to clean the metadata, too. So, if that computer still exists, and is still in the possession of someone at CGIS—"
"That's not going to be the someone who wiped clean my records."
Tim nods, handing Abbi's computer back to her. It's only once he's doing that that he starts to feel a little bad about this, hoping that he didn't just start up the 'crime solving' itch that's going to screw Gibbs and Abbi's vacation. But she takes the computer from him, skims the email he sent her, adds her own note to it, and then fires it off to IA.
"We gonna be somewhere there's a post office on Monday?" she asks Gibbs.
He nods.
"Quick detour Monday then to get this mailed out and the rest can wait until I get back, Wednesday morning." Both Tim and Gibbs look a bit surprised by that. "I haven't taken a real vacation in years. I'm taking one now. So, McGee, what do I owe you for your 'independent investigating?'"
Tim shrugs, no one's ever offered to pay him for his extracurricular computer work before. "Pizza crust recipe?"
"I'd give you that, anyway. No, real cash. If I've hired an 'Independent investigator' to look at my problem, I need to actually hire you. Don't want IA thinking this looks off."
"Oh… um… what do people in the real world get paid for stuff like this…"
Abbi shrugs, not like she's ever hired for someone like this before. "What's your hourly rate at NCIS?"
He thinks that through and blushes a bit. "Let's call it two hundred dollars for two and a half hours."
Abbi raises an eyebrow, that sounds a bit lower than what she assumes Tim makes as a Director, more on par with what she makes as a Division Head, but maybe they do things different at NCIS. Or maybe he's counting the hours he actually works as opposed to the hours he's supposed to work. She'll ask Gibbs about it when Tim's not around, because he's not looking comfortable getting into it in detail.

"Look who's up!" Abby says as she heads down the steps, holding Molly's hand with Kelly riding her hip. "Anna's still snoozing, but probably not for long, she was making little chirpy getting ready to wake up noises when we decided it was time to come down."
Molly scrambles up into Gibbs' lap. "S'mores?"
"Soon. Driftwood time. We've got to go find the wood to make the fire with. Think your Daddy wants to come along and help with that?"
"I'm in!" Tony adds. "Unless you need more stuff cut up?" he asks Ziva.
"We are good for dinner. Breena!"
Breena heads in.
"Do you and Abby want to feed the girls first, then S'mores and bonfire, then Shabbos dinner at sunset, or Shabbos early, followed by bonfire?"
Abby shrugs. "Don't think it matters much for Kelly. Molly's the one really looking forward to this, Breena?"
"Is dinner for all of us early a problem? I'm thinking for everyone involved it's probably easier to eat all at once, and then head down to the beach. Then we can enjoy the fire as long as we want."
Ziva nods. "I can work with that. Abbi?"
"I'll put the crusts on the grill at 4:45, we'll be ready to eat by 5:30, plenty of playtime after for Gibbs and the girls, and then bedtime and adults by the fire."
And thus, with a plan, everyone broke off.

Molly on the beach
Gibbs has his arms full of pieces of driftwood. Molly's running all over the beach grabbing pieces for him. Tony's off a bit, stacking them up, getting them into burn position. Jimmy's got Anna in the snuggli on his chest, standing next to Gibbs.
"Doing it with a water pistol from ten feet away doesn't count as sniping," Jethro says quietly to Jimmy.
Jimmy laughs a little. "Uh huh. Your guard was down and you didn't have a clue it was coming. I know it doesn't count for the shot, but…" Jimmy grins at him. "It was fun. And I had to get through an entire breakfast with you and all the rest of the family, with it on my back, and not let on something was up. I thought that was good practice."
Gibbs smiles at that. "You're right, it was."
"Plus, I set it up so I was at the sink, behind you, water on, to cover the sound of me pulling it out, taking advantage of the fact that I like wearing my shirts open on vacation, so none of you suspected, and I still had easy access."
"You set it up good, for a water gun fight. For real… too close, no escape route… Getting out clean's more important than hitting the target."
Jimmy nods a bit. "I know. But three years ago, I'm not sure I could have set up a good water pistol ambush, let alone done it without telegraphing I was going to do it."
"Yeah." Gibbs agrees with that. He heard some stores of Jimmy and laser tag and his lack of skills. "You're learning." Then Gibbs grins. "Got all day tomorrow and Sunday morning to show you how to do it right."
Jimmy's smirking at that. "Uh huh. You can try."
Gibbs shoves him on the shoulder. Jimmy laughs.

It's not a traditional Shabbos dinner. The bread they're breaking is actually three grilled pizzas. Sunset's still two hours off. The "wine" is the sugar-free vanilla soda that Breena makes and Jimmy loves. And, technically, the two pizzas with sausage aren't kosher.
But that doesn't matter much. It's the Sabbath, and a day of rest and celebration and thanksgiving is definitely in the cards.
The candles are lit, flickering softly in their cups, along with tiki torches, and sure, the sun's still up, but somehow fire makes things feel more intimate.
The prayers have been said, and blessings given.
Hands are washed, bread is broken. The Sabbath is in full swing.
There's a little lull in the conversation. Ducky had finished telling a story about his adventures in Naples. (Birthplace of pizza, at least, Tim thinks that's how they got onto this.)
Ziva looks at Tony and smiles, and he grins back at her. "So, we have news," he says, smile threatening to split his face. Everyone else is smiling, too, they all know where this is going.
"As you have all figured out, I am pregnant!" Ziva says, glowing at them. "If all goes well, come the beginning of April, we'll be adding another place to the table."
That gets a lot of happy noise. Congratulations offered, and hugs. Abby woops at it, and Breena is giggling with happiness.
Ducky's chuckling, and Penny's grinning, shaking her head. "Oh, Lord, five babies under the age of three and a half. This crew is going to be a handful."
"Can you imagine when we've got the house done, say Christmas five years from now, all of them bounding around the house high as kites on sugar and excitement, presents all over the place?" Abbi adds.
Gibbs is grinning at that, not just the image of it, but that Abbi's seeing his/their family five years from now.
"Might need another dog," Gibbs adds with a smile, "something that herds. Keep 'em all in one place."
Abby claps her hand over Gibbs' mouth. "Don't you dare say that! Mona's doing a great job of herding babies. You apologize to her!"
Mona, who had been laying on the porch, right at the sliding glass door, looks up at the mention of her name, but no one's offering food, so she goes back to snoozing.
"She knows I'm foolin' with her."
"Are we finding out if it's a boy or girl?" Penny asks.
Tony shrugs. Ziva doesn't. "He wants to know. I do not. But we still have a while to decide. The test they did for you… That was earlier than usual, right?"
Abby nods. "Yeah, instead of taking a peek with the ultrasound, this is a DNA test. Do you have your first OB appointment, yet?"
"No. We're going to make it when we get home," Tony says.
"I don't know if there's a deadline, but we were at eleven weeks when we went in." Abby replies, then says to Ziva, "So, it looks like you're feeling good."
Ziva smiles at that, too. "A little sleepy, and a little more sensitive, but otherwise, yes, feeling good. Of course, I am also only a month pregnant."
The girls laugh at that.
Jimmy's looking at Ziva and starts to say, "How long… Are you planning on… Uh… What are your thoughts on maternity leave?" He stumbles a bit looking for a PC way to ask that question.
Penny smiles, approving of his effort.
"I do not know for sure. Right now I feel fine, so working is not an issue. If that changes… I do not think it is fair, or safe, for the rest of the team if I cannot bring my A game to the field. It is one thing to be tired for a day or two, another thing to feel like you're going to fall asleep at any moment for weeks at a time, and if you have to throw up six times a day…"
Breena and Abby are nodding along. "Yeah, your job, cat naps, and morning sickness don't go along together well," Abby says.
"Let alone trying to run someone down when your joints go all loose and your balance goes sideways." Breena adds. "But, that's not a problem for everyone, I mean…"
Ziva nods. "I know. So… I don't know how long I'm staying, but…" and though Tony and Gibbs know this, it's not something she's said to anyone else in this crew. "But after, I'm not going back."
That gets a few seconds of shocked quiet, followed by, "Oh… wow!" from Breena.
Then, "That's so cool!" from Abby. "Stay at home mom… For good, or…"
"I think for good. I've been ready for a change for a while now. It's time to dedicate life to nurturing life. Eventually she'll… and maybe a little brother or sister or both," she's beaming a smile at Tony, "will be in school, and I'll be looking for something else, but while they are still babies, I'd like to be home."
Tim's watching Tony as Ziva's saying this, and he catches a bit of panic in the back of his eyes, but it's not nearly as bad as he would have expected it to be. Granted, he expected this to be curl into a ball, rocking back and forth whimpering in the bathroom, full on panic attack, so the fact that he's still sitting there, looking calm-ish, and mostly happy and insanely proud, is a very big step.
He watches Penny, wondering what she's thinking. She hasn't said anything and right now her face is unreadable. He gets the sense that she's going to want to talk to Ziva alone, make sure she's not feeling pressured into doing anything, but… But he doesn't know.

In that Abbi and Ziva cooked, they do not have to do dishes. So, shortly after dinner breaks, they head to the beach for lighting the fire.
Penny offers to head down with them.
They're about four steps out of the house when she asks, "Do you really want to be a stay at home mom? It can be… so limiting and dull and… Just, don't let anyone pressure you into it." It's clear that by anyone she's thinking Tony or Gibbs.
Ziva smiles at Penny. "No one expects me to be a stay at home mom. If it is limiting and dull and I do not like it, no one will give me any trouble about going back to work. Sure, I will not have my space on Tony's team. He will have to hire someone to replace me when I leave, but I will not find it difficult to find work. And… like with McGee and Abby, one of us should have a safe nine-to-five job if we have children at home."
"Are you sure? Men can be-"
"Penny, it's not about that. If anything, Tony would prefer I kept working." They've gotten to the wood, and Ziva starts messing with the matches, looking to put this into words.
"I'm done. I've been done for a while. I still love the job, and I'm good at it, but, it's not my life anymore. And more than that, I do not want it to be my life anymore."
Abbi's listening quietly to this, looking to learn more about Ziva, and Penny's watching her intently as she speaks, making sure she's not rationalizing and internalizing external pressure.
"Death has always been part of my life. I was thirteen when Tali was killed. By fifteen, my parent's marriage was dead. At eighteen, I was in the army and had killed my first man. Twenty, I was working for my father, traveling all over the world, killing people because they needed to die. I was twenty-three when my father made me my half-brother's control officer, hoping to keep him tied to our side, and before that year was over, I had killed him. That was the first turning point, I was done being an agent of death. I started working with NCIS and became someone who preserved life. But on our best days, we save what is already there. Most days we sweep up the shards of someone else's shattered life. That is important, and vital, and honorable, and necessary. It is a good job, a good life, but as I told Gibbs, we preserve, but we don't create, and I want to create. I want to focus on life, and living, and make things, make people. I've been dedicated to death for a long time, Penny, and now… I'm done. So, perhaps not today or tomorrow, but when I leave NCIS I'm not going back." Ziva smiles at her. "I'm going to help Gibbs work on our home, the one for Tony and the baby and I, and the one for our family. I'm going to learn how to take real pictures, something I've always wanted to do, but never got to. I'm going to get fat and sassy and waddle around with this child growing inside of me and eat ice cream and work on building a nursery and a home." She's got tears in her eyes as she says that. "I'm going to be alive, and I'm going to dedicate myself to growing things, people, love." Ziva blinks at that. "I'm going back, to the little girl I was, and the woman she thought she would be. I'm getting the life that was stolen from me by a bomber in 1997."
Penny nods, hugging Ziva close, and quietly says to her, "L'chaim, Ziva."
"Exactly, Penny."
Abbi's standing there, not sure how or what to do, for a second, and then Ziva grabs her and pulls her into the hug, too.

If there's anything cuter than Gibbs kneeling on the sand, his arms around Molly, as she holds a long stick with a marshmallow on the end, at first too far away, and then too close to the fire, giggling happily as it toasts and then bursts into flame, no one sitting around the fire knows what it would be.

The girls are in the house, putting babies to bed, and Gibbs grabs something out of the bag he had with him. Something that isn't chocolate or marshmallows or a tennis ball for Mona.
"Ohhh…" Tony says, looking at the very good bottle of scotch.
"Indeed," Ducky adds as Gibbs opens it. "I don't suppose you've got some glasses in there, Jethro?"
Gibbs shakes his head, takes a sip, and then passes it to Tony. "Got this the day you told me you were going to ask Ziva to marry you. Been holding onto it, waiting for the day all of my boys were Dads."
Tony hands it to Tim, who takes a small sip. He knows what Jimmy's got planned for him, already taken the Percocet, so he can't have too much alcohol, and this is a hell of a lot stronger than the wine he's had with the pain killer before.
It's good though. Scotch is his hard drink of choice, and this is smooth and dark with a bit of smoke (made more intense by sitting in front of a fire) and just rolls down his throat. "Thinking of us drinking this by a fire?" he asks Gibbs.
"Picturing it at my house, in front of the fire place, but this works, too."
Tim hands it over to Jimmy, who has a somewhat larger swallow, but also isn't going overboard. Tim's just got to keep from ODing, he's got to keep enough of his brain and fine motor control in place to do delicate work.
"Nice!" Jimmy says, handing it to Ducky.
Ducky almost looks like he's uncomfortable with drinking from the bottle, but then he winks at Jethro and takes a healthy swig. "To the next generation!"
Gibbs takes the bottle back from Ducky and takes another swig. He lifts the bottle to each Tony, Tim, and Jimmy, and then says, "To the boys you were, the men you've become, and the children you're going to raise."
And maybe it's the drugs he's on, but that actually makes Tim's eyes tear up a bit.
Tony takes the bottle again, and adds, "To our wives, who make all of this possible, and who will likely be back in a few minutes and laugh themselves silly at this."
Tim chuckles at that, and the rest of them are laughing, too. He finds the bottle in his hand and takes another small sip. Just enough to get the flavor on his tongue. "To the men who are showing us what being a good Dad looks like."
He hands it over to Jimmy, who takes another drink, and shakes his head. "Great, leave me last… Um…" He grins. "'Blah, blah, blah, alcohol is fun.'" Then he winks at them, and Tim's got the feeling that he's supposed to know what that was in reference to, but he doesn't. Jimmy takes another sip, and says, seriously, "To the love that binds us, that made a bunch of strangers into co-workers, co-workers into friends, and friends into family." He takes one more swallow. "And to the loves we have not yet met, the children yet to come, and our loves who have passed away." He takes one last drink on that, and passes the bottle to Ducky.
Ducky sips again, and says, "Amen." Then his eyes slip further up the beach, toward the house. "And I believe the ladies are about to rejoin us."

The girls were heading down, and they did join them, and soon they were lounging around the fire passing the bottle, toasting marshmallows, enjoying each other. Tim thinks, as he's sitting on a little folding chair, Abby between his legs, resting back against his chest (he took the time to undo the sling and rearrange his arm so she can nestle in) as flames and sparks jump to the darkening sky, his whole family laughing and joking around him, that this is what contentment is.

And then they were back in their room. Tim's sure something, like walking up to the house, happened between these things, but, Percocet and alcohol, beyond being in an excellent mood, he's fuzzy on the details. And Jimmy was working on ripping his arm out of its socket, (releasing the joint) and he's thinking that this, no matter how much he needs it, and how useful it is, is not contentment.
Apparently he said something less than complimentary about the whole situation, because Jimmy responded with, "Like I said last time, you trying to get me to just oil you up and play with you?"
"No. Want you to oil Breena up and play with her," that popped out long before Tim's brain got a chance to provide any input.
Jimmy's staring at Breena; then he grins at her, and she smiles back. "That can probably be arranged."
And once his arm was done, it was, and yes, Tim (and Abby) enjoyed watching it, and it certainly looked like Jimmy and Breena had a good time with it, too.
And, all in all, (even if he is fairly fuzzy on the details) Tim would highly recommend sex with your wife, watching your best friends, high as a kite on endorphins and euphorics after an excellent meal with everyone you love.

Jimmy wakes with a jerk, not sure what he's hearing, just that it's setting off his 'someone's hurt, gotta help' sensors. He's practically out of the bed before it occurs to him that he's not hearing either of the girls.
No, the crying, and… yeah, those are words, are coming from a much deeper, but broken and quiet, voice, a whole lot closer than the closet.
He looks over and sees that Tim's crying, cursing in his sleep, and Abby's wrapped around him, rocking him gently, making soft, soothing sounds.
"Stop that fucking crying!" His voice is soft, murmured, but very intense.
"Shhh…" She's whispering it, lips near his ear. "Come on Tim, you're dreaming, shift out of it."
"Only babies and fags cry!" He's shuddering and crying between words.
"Shhh… You're dreaming, Tim. You're safe in bed. Come on, baby, shift out of it."
Jimmy's not sure what to do. Abby's holding onto him from behind, cuddled around him, murmuring softly to him. He takes Tim's clenched left hand and gently works on relaxing his fingers.
Tim goes quiet, but Jimmy can see from the tension in his face and shoulders that he's just not sharing what's going on with the wider world, he hasn't slipped into dreamless sleep.
"Should we wake him up?" he asks Abby, also keeping his voice in a low whisper.
"No. He'll remember the dreams if he wakes up. I just try to slide him out of them."
"Of course it hurts. It's supposed to hurt. Stop being a little cunt and take it like a man."
"I've got you, Tim, shhhh… shhhh… You're safe and in bed. Pull out of it, baby."
Jimmy's holding his hand, but it doesn't feel like enough. He can see the tension on Tim's face, the tears. He can see the child Tim must have been, crying, cringing in terror. Jimmy's free hand comes up to Tim's face, and he gently wipes away the tears, lightly stroking over his cheek and forehead. "You're okay, Tim. You're home and safe, and we've got you. Time to go back to sleeping, okay?"
More quiet, face still tense, fear still wrought large over his body, Jimmy can even smell it. Abby's still rocking him cooing softly at him, then Tim shudders all over, sighs, snuggles in closer to her, and relaxes completely.
She lifts her head a little, half-smiling at Jimmy. "He's okay now."
"How often does this happen?"
"Only about twice a week, now."
"PT nights?"
She nods. "Muscles hold memories, feelings, get them open and moving again, and it shifts what's in your head, too. Every time we've done this, he's had nightmares after."
"Shit." Jimmy's ready to kick himself about that.
"No. He needs his arm working, and I think… I don't know. I think this is processing for him, too. I think this is stuff he still can't let himself deal with when he's awake."
Abby shrugs. It is what it is. And the only direction they've got is through it. There's one other thing going on, too, namely pregnant bladder and right now she's really got to go. That's what woke her up in the first place. "Look, I've got to pee, you got him for a few minutes?"
Jimmy nods.
Abby carefully shifts Tim over, and Jimmy takes hold of him. Cuddling him in a full body hug.
If anyone had ever suggested that there would be a day when he'd be naked, in bed, Breena on one side, an equally naked, sleeping Tim, on the other, wrapped in his arms, he would have laughed so long and hard he would have been in danger of rupturing both lungs.
It does feel weird, and a little uncomfortable (though Tim doesn't appear to mind or have noticed that it's not Abby snuggling him) but Jimmy likes to think of himself as the kind of guy who can go the extra mile to do what his friends need when they need it, and he'd hate to think that he couldn't provide a hug when a hug is needed.
Especially if (and he hears the toilet flush) said hug is only needed for two minutes.
Abby gets back, and snuggles in front of Tim (between him and Jimmy, which makes Jimmy feel more comfortable again) and Tim gloms onto her the same way the girls do with their favorite, most beloved stuffed animals.
Abby's facing Jimmy, and she takes his hand in hers, squeezing gently. "Thanks. I know that was weird for you."
Jimmy shrugs a bit and squeezes her hand back. "All part of the job."
Abby smiles at him, closes her eyes, yawns, and very quickly drops back off to sleep.
Jimmy doesn't drift off that quickly. He's not sure what he's thinking or feeling, just… how strange is it to love someone so intensely that you will happily kill someone for him, but to feel odd about holding him… Holding him naked. He's hugged Tim, and that's never been a problem, and when they lost Jon, he slept with Tim and Abby holding him, and that was fine, but they were dressed.
Somehow that mattered. Skin… skin's taboo. They can touch as long as it's not skin to skin. They can look as long as they don't touch. He remembers Breena saying something about how much easier this, whatever this is, will be if the two of them can be physically close without flipping out…
He didn't flip out. He's fairly sure it wasn't scary on any level. It's just a touch, skin on skin. But skin means sex… Except it doesn't. He sleeps naked with Breena most nights, and most of that sleeping is just close, skin to skin touch. He's got no problem cuddling his girls when he and they are naked. That's skin, but it's not sex.
And hugging Tim isn't sex. Really not sex. It's just comfort. Just skin on skin and warmth and another body holding you close when you hurt.
Jimmy feels… he's not sure, something, bad isn't quite it, unsettled, that's probably closer to right, about the fact that this matters to him. It's just skin. Why should it matter? His… Tim... (He still doesn't know what Tim is to him. More than a friend, that much he knows, but beyond that, he doesn't have a good word for this relationship.) is hurting, and needs comfort, and if he'd been dressed he would have held him without so much as a second thought.
But it does matter. And he's not sure what to do about that. He thinks about it, and decided it would matter to Tim, too. Reverse the situation, and Tim would hold him if he needed it, but, both of them naked and touching would make him pause, too.
Tim's as curled around Abby as he can get. She's on her side, snugged up against his chest, and he's got her flush against him, leg over hers, left arm under her neck, face pressed against her shoulder, totally cuddled into her.
But his hand is in reach. Jimmy shifts around a bit, feeling Breena return to her usual spot snuggled into his left side. He kisses her, and then reaches over, taking Tim's left hand in his right, just holding it, getting used to touching him, skin on skin.
Eventually, he drifts off.


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