AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Abigail Sciuto/Timothy McGee
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: Tim is trying to juggle his career at NCIS with his writing - both of which are getting busier and busier - as well as his home life with Abby and the children. Finally, he accepts that something will have to give, but he's not sure what.
WORD COUNT: 3,205
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for ami_ven: B - Books (13/26)
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Tim raced into his home, slammed the door behind him, called, "Hey, Abbs, I'm home," and before Abby or the children could appear to greet him, ran up the stairs and into his study. He grabbed the phone and punched in a number. "Come on. Come on," he muttered, as he was greeted with the ringing tone. After six rings it flipped to answer-phone. Tim groaned, sat down and hung up without leaving a message. What could he say?
He'd done it; he'd done the one thing he had vowed he would never do: he had missed a major deadline, which would throw not only the publishing schedule for his new book out, but also mess up other people's schedules. He groaned again and put his head in his hands. He had been certain he could carry on working at NCIS and continue to write. Even when his books became more popular and thus demand for them grew and Lyndi had tightened the deadlines even more and demanded that Tim write his books more quickly, he had been certain he could still juggle his two careers, as well as his family commitments. He had been wrong.
Suddenly he heard footsteps on the stairs, children laughing and heard Abby call, "Come back here, Tommy, Benny, Evie; Daddy doesn't want to be disturbed. He'll come and say hello to you all when he's finished what he's doing."
"Oh, but, Mommy, we didn't see Daddy last night. Why can't we go and say hello to him now? We won't disturb him." It was Tommy who spoke.
"Yes, please, Mommy. We'll just say hello and then come back down." Benny added his argument to that of his twin brother.
"I want to see Daddy." That was his little Evie; always the succinct one.
However, Abby stood her ground. "I said, no. I know you didn't see Daddy yesterday, but he did kiss you all goodnight. He had to work late. Uncle Gibbs needed him, remember I told you."
"Yes, Mommy," Tommy said, and Tim heard him sigh dramatically.
"Good boy. Now come back down here, all of you. Daddy will be down soon." Tim gave a rueful smile at the tone of Abby's voice, and at the fact that her last words were addressed as much to him as to the kids.
"Okay, Mommy," Tommy said. "Come on, Benny. Come on Evie. We have to go back down stairs."
The sound of three clearly unhappy children tramping back down the stairs made Tim feel even worse than he'd felt about missing the deadline. Not only was his writing suffering, but he feared he wasn't being a good dad either.
He sighed, looked at his watch and grabbed the phone again. Maybe, just maybe, Lyndi had been out of her office or something and she might be back. The phone rang several times; he was just about to give up when it stopped ringing and Lyndi answered it. Suddenly he wasn't certain he actually wanted to talk to her, but it was too late.
"Hello, Lyndi," he said. "It's -"
"Hello, Timothy." Lyndi sounded pissed off and terse; Tim really couldn't blame her.
"Look, Lyndi, I know I've screwed up. I know I missed the deadline. I know I promised -"
"We need to talk, Timothy." Once again she cut him off; once again he realized the enormity of what he had done.
"My office tomorrow at five o'clock."
"I'm not sure -"
"My office tomorrow at five, Timothy. Be here, on time. Or," for a moment she paused and sighed. When she spoke again her tone was gentler and softer. "Look, Timothy, I do understand; saving our country is far more important than merely writing books about saving our country. However, you did commit to writing the books and to the deadline. You gave me your word, your word, Timothy, that your work at NCIS would not interfere. We already pushed the deadline twice for you, at considerable effort, I must add."
"I know. I am sorry, Lyndi. I know and I'm really sorry, truly sorry that I let you down. But the case I was working on was important and -"
"It always is, Timothy. And I do understand. However, I too have commitments I have to fulfill, schedules to keep. I've managed to buy you two more weeks."
Tim stared at the phone. "How?"
Lyndi sighed and even laughed just a little. "Let me just say you owe Todd and myself a really, really good dinner."
"You took the blame?" Tim could hardly believe she'd do that for him, not after he'd really screwed things up so badly.
For a moment Lyndi didn't answer. Then she said simply, "My office tomorrow at five. Goodnight, Timothy." And without even letting him reply, she hung up.
Tim also hung up and groaned again. Two weeks, could he do it? Could he physically write the remaining chapters in two weeks? Technically, he could. There were only two to write and he'd already pretty much written them in his mind. But this latest case looked as if it could drag on and on, and Gibbs expected full commitment from everyone. Not to mention the small fact it was Tommy and Benny's sixth birthdays in a few days.
"Tim?" Abby put her head around the door and gave him a half-smile.
He stood up and held out his hand to her. "Come here, Abby," he said.
She smiled fully this time and hurried over to him and slipped into his arms as he kissed her. "Have you spoken to Lyndi?" she said, when the kiss ended.
He nodded. "Just now. She said I have to go and see her tomorrow at five."
"Will you be able to? Will Gibbs let you?"
Tim sighed. "I have to, Abby. She's bought me another two weeks. Somehow she took responsibility for me missing the deadline. If I want to go on writing, well if I want to go on letting Lyndi publish my books, I have to go and see her and I have to finish the book in two weeks."
Tim shrugged. "If I give up sleeping, yeah, I can. Otherwise . . . This is a big case, Abbs, with a lot of technical stuff. Stuff I'll have to do. I don't know what -"
"Talk to Gibbs." She spoke firmly and squeezed his hand.
"Talk to Gibbs. Tell him. Explain to him."
"Abby, I can't. He's been so good about me going on writing and he let me have the day off nine months ago so I could attend the book launch. I can't. He's never said anything, but if I can't commit to NCIS one hundred and ten percent. Then . . . I love working for Gibbs, Abby, you know that."
Abby sighed and squeezed his hand again. "Look, Timmy," she said, kissing his cheek. "Let's get the kids to bed, then we'll sit down and have dinner and talk about it. About everything."
"I really should -"
"Help me give Tommy, Benny and Evie their baths and then read to them while I make us something to eat. That's what you were going to say, isn't it, Tim?"
Tim hesitated for no more than a second before smiling, kissing Abby again and saying, "Yeah, Abby, that's what I was going to say. Come on, then. Let's go and get them bathed." He put his arm around her and together they went out of the room.
Abby had been so good, so very good. She had decided, even before Evie had been born, that she couldn't have everything; that no one could. She couldn't commit to her job at NCIS and be a full time mom and care for the kids in the way she, in the way they, believed they should be cared for. At least she couldn't given her husband not only was an NCIS special agent, but also a writer. One of them had to quit NCIS ,and even though Tim had said he would ask for a transfer back to Cyber Crimes where he would be able to pretty much work a nine to five day, five days a week, Abby was adamant she wanted to be the one to quit. To be the stay at home wife and mom.
Tim had been more than a little worried that she would get bored and resentful, but amazingly she hadn't. She had simply thrown all her energies and skills into something different. She actually loved being at home with their children and juggled everything to perfection. She had even recently taken up writing books herself.
It had arisen following Benny and Tommy's teacher inviting her to go to the school and talk to the children about her job at NCIS and some of the science involved. She had accepted the invitation; the talk had gone extremely well, the class had been receptive and Abby's way of presenting the information was apparently spot on. She didn't talk down to the kids, but nor did she talk over their heads.
The class teacher, knowing that Tim wrote, asked Abby if she had ever considered doing the same thing, saying she was sure there was a market for educational books for younger children written in the same style as Abby had given her talk. They could learn while being entertained and without necessarily knowing they were leaning. Abby had been uncertain at first, so Tim had suggested she try writing a story for their three featuring science, and she had. Benny, Tommy and Evie had loved it and for days afterwards the boys had kept asking relevant questions.
Tim had introduced Abby to Lyndi, who in turn had introduced Abby to Matt Pearson who, after reading Abby's story and hearing her ideas for other ones, agreed to take her onto his books. His publishing house was small and for a niche market, but they all thought it would be the perfect fit.
AN HOUR AN HALF LATER
Tim and Abby sat on the couch, trays on their knees and an open bottle of wine on the coffee-table. They had agreed to watch TV as they ate, something mindless to help both of them unwind after their busy day, and leave talking until after they had eaten.
Tim finished eating, wiped his mouth with his napkin and put his tray on the table. "That was great, Abbs," he said, refilling both of their wine glasses.
Abby smiled. "Thanks, Timmy." She took the glass he offered her and let him remove her tray and take it and his own out to the kitchen.
He quickly put the plates and silverware into the dishwasher, wiped the work surface down and returned to the living room to find Abby had turned the TV off and was sitting, one leg tucked up beneath her, waiting for him. He settled back down next to her and looked at her.
"I know how much you love working for NCIS - for Gibbs," Abby clarified quietly. "But you also love writing."
"And you, Tommy, Benny and Evie," Tim said quietly.
She smiled. "I know that, Timmy." She kissed his cheek. "Which do you love more?"
"Abby? How can you ask that?" Tim was horrified and stunned that she had to ask.
For a moment she frowned at him and then laughed. "No, silly. I meant out of working for Gibbs and writing - I know you love us most."
Relief flowed through Tim. "Good," he said. He thought about Abby's question. "There was a time when I'd have said 'working for Gibbs' without hesitation. But now . . ."
"Now it's not quite so straight forward?"
Tim sighed. "Don't get me wrong; I do love working for Gibbs, for NCIS. But things have changed, Abbs. Since Tony and Ziva left and Ducky retired, not to mention you leaving, nothing has been the same. Oh, Dornie and Ellie and Grant and Phil are great, and Jimmy is . . . well, Jimmy, but -"
"They aren't Tony and Ziva and Ducky and me?"
Tim shook his head. "No. Even Gibbs is different; I think he misses being able to pop down to Autopsy to talk things through with Ducky. It's not the same with Jimmy in charge, which of course it won't be. And I know he misses going to your lab and seeing you. But it's not just that. These new rules and regulations and restrictions are really tough. I know they are meant to help, but they often make things take twice as long. Not a day goes by when Gibbs isn't in the director's office arguing with him - and it isn't Director Vance's fault. We're working even longer hours than we used to and yet seem to achieve less."
"Well," Abby said quietly. "Maybe, just maybe, it's time."
"Time?" Tim frowned as he looked at her.
"Time for you to quit NCIS and concentrate on your books." Abby stared directly into Tim's eyes.
He stared back, once again stunned by her words. "You say that as if . . . Well, as if you've always known the day might come when I'd . . . When I'd do that - when I'd want to do that."
Abby shrugged. "I have always known, Timmy. So has Gibbs," she added quietly.
Tim's mouth fell open and he quickly closed it. "Gibbs?"
Abby grinned and nodded. "Of course. Come on, Tim. He is Gibbs after all. Don't forget Gibbs knows everything."
They both laughed. "Yeah, but . . . How could he know? How could you know when I didn't?"
"Oh, but you did, Timmy. Deep down you did know."
Tim shook his head. "No, Abbs, I didn't. I really always thought I could carry on working for Gibbs and writing my books."
"And when Gibbs finally had to retire?"
"What did you think you'd do then? Because, Tim, we both know it's Gibbs you love working for first of all, and NCIS second, isn't it?"
"Well, yes, but . . ." He trailed off and took another sip of wine. "I guess I tried to ignore the day coming when Gibbs would have to retire."
Abby patted his hand. "Of course you did, Timmy. So, answer me this: if you went into the office tomorrow and Gibbs announced he was retiring next week, would you still want to work for NCIS?"
Tim stared at her. "I . . . I don't know, Abby."
She took his hand. "Yes, Tim, you do. Don't you?"
He sighed and glanced away from her far too knowing, far too able to penetrate his every thought, stare. "Yes," he said, finally looking back at her.
She beamed her pussycat grin. "That's my Timmy," she said, kissing his cheek. "So tomorrow you are going to go to work and tell Gibbs you want to talk to him - that you need to talk to him."
"We're really busy with this case, Abby. I don't think he'll have the time to -"
"Tomorrow you are going to go to work and tell Gibbs you want to talk to him - that you need to talk to him. What are you going to do tomorrow, Tim?"
Tim smiled; he was surrounded by strong women who not only knew their own minds, but knew his too. "Go to work and tell Gibbs I want to talk to him."
"That you need to talk to him."
"That I need to talk to him. All right, Abby. I'll do that."
THE NEXT DAY
"Boss, I wondered if -" McGee paused, bit his lip, tightened his resolve and said, "I need to talk to you, boss."
Gibbs looked up from the file he'd been reading and nodded. "Twenty minutes, my office. Don't forget the coffee." He went back to reading the file.
"Yes, boss. Thank you, boss."
"Well?" Gibbs asked, pushing the emergency stop button and drinking some coffee.
McGee had spent the last twenty minutes, apart from fetching Gibbs a cup of his favorite coffee, thinking what exactly to say to Gibbs. He knew he had to be succinct. "I missed the deadline - for my latest book," he added quickly.
Gibbs stared at him. "Not like you, Tim."
McGee shook his head. "No, boss. I know. It's just -" He fell silent; now wasn't the time for excuses; explanations even - Gibbs would know them all anyway.
"You got a new one?"
McGee hesitated for a second and then said. "Yes. Two weeks. And," he added quickly, "I have to see Lyndi my publisher," he added.
"Know who she is," Gibbs said.
"Oh, right. Of course you do." For a moment, despite having known Gibbs for over ten years, McGee was momentarily surprised that Gibbs remembered the name of his publisher; a woman he'd met briefly on one case.
"You have to see Ms. Crawshaw? When, when to you have to see her, McGee?"
"Um. I'm meant to be at her office at five today, boss. But I can -"
"Dorneget knows his way around your database, doesn't he?" Gibbs tipped his head back and swallowed some more coffee.
"Well, yes, boss. But surely -"
"You can leave at four. Make sure you get there on time." Gibbs was already reaching for the emergency stop button.
McGee put his hand out. "Boss."
"I . . . I . . . I want . . . I'm going to resign from NCIS." McGee said the words in a rush and waited. He forced himself to maintain eye contact with Gibbs, forced himself to go on staring into the steady dark blue eyes.
Gibbs nodded and gave him a smile. "Proud of you, Tim," he said, squeezing McGee's shoulder.
"Always knew you'd make the right decision one day. The right one for you and Abby and the kids."
"But . . . Boss?"
Gibbs went on staring at him. "Got any leave outstanding?"
"Um, yes. Quite a bit."
"Right. You'll spend the next two days getting Dorneget up to speed with your systems and stuff. If he needs any help when you've gone, we'll get someone from Cyber Crimes to assist us. After then you can go and keep your deadline."
"But what will you do without me?" McGee blurted out the words before he thought about them. As he heard them come out he winced, felt his cheeks begin to burn and silently groaned. "Sorry, boss," he said quickly. "I didn't -"
"Know that, Tim. We'll manage. Not sure for how long."
"You're the last, Tim. Duck, Abbs, Tony, Ziva - all gone. Now there's you. You're the last."
"Jimmy's still here."
Gibbs looked at him and slowly nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right, Tim. Palmer is still here." He clapped Tim on the shoulder and pushed the emergency stop button. This time McGee didn't stop him. This time they just stood in silence until the doors opened onto the squad room.
"Yeah, Tim. I know. Me too." Gibbs gave McGee his scrunched up coffee cup and hands in pockets strode across the squad room to his desk.