AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Timothy McGee
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship. Angst. Series
SUMMARY: A companion piece to How To Raise The Subject. Tim is not the only one with an idea. But can Gibbs and Tim actually talk about their respective ideas?
WARNING: Major character death in the past mentioned.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for slash4femme. Now this is your main story. It's the next story in my little Gibbs/McGee universe.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
When Tim left the room to go and work on his book, Jethro began to clear the table and load the dishwasher; he then washed up the things that didn't go in the dish washer. As he did he thought back to the argument they'd had, following Tim moving in with him, over who would do various chores. Tim had tried to insist on splitting everything fifty-fifty, but Jethro had stood firm, explaining that as Tim worked at least a ten hour day, sometimes seven days a week, whereas he was at home, he felt it only right that he should do the majority of chores.
The argument had gone back and forth for nearly a week; Jethro had almost forgotten how stubborn his lover could be when he really put his mind to it. At one point he'd been sorely tempted to switch back to 'Gibbs' mode when he was Tim's boss. However, he'd never brought that into their relationship, and he never planned to. Finally, they reached a compromise - hence the purchase of a dishwasher - Jethro would cook and load the machine and wash up during the week, and on non-working weekends, Tim would take over.
As he listened to the faint tapping of keys overhead, Jethro sighed and cursed himself for not following through when he had the chance to, and making a suggestion to Tim. He'd become aware over the last couple of months that Tim was becoming more and more disenchanted with working at NCIS. From what Tim had shared with him, the level of paperwork, always intense, had gotten to the stage where Tim reckoned he could spend every working hour just writing reports, reading them, filling in timesheets, and a dozen more other things, and still not get the work done. But it wasn't just the paperwork; Jethro knew that. In fact, in truth he doubted that was really an important aspect. Nonetheless, the fact that Tim was complaining about it, told Jethro a great deal.
Jethro could tie it down to the day when Tim had started to show signs that NCIS wasn't fulfilling him, and that he wasn't as happy doing his job as he'd once been. It had been the day Tim had come home and told Jethro he'd had to shoot a 'kid' to save the life of his senior agent. That was the day, everything had changed.
Tim looked tired all the time these days. At first Jethro had feared his lover had maybe been growing tired of him, but it didn't take long to realize it wasn't him; it was the job. Well the so called nine to five job, that is. Tim's other job, his writing, was something Tim loved; he just didn't have enough hours in the day to do it as well as he wanted to - or as often.
Jethro didn't see why Tim couldn't spend more time writing. For at least a couple of weeks now he'd wanted to find a way to suggest to Tim that he quit NCIS and spend his days doing what he enjoyed. But he hadn't known how to broach the subject. Sure Tim was showing signs of tiredness and stress and even a dislike of his job, but that didn't mean he wanted to quit and stay at home all day.
And to be honest Jethro had wondered if it would be a good idea for them both to be under the same roof twenty-four hours a day. Sure they wouldn't always be together, but as much as he loved Tim and enjoyed spending time with him, he did need his own space. He had his basement and Tim had his office, but the house wasn't that large for two grown men to be at home all day every day. Besides there were times he didn't want to work on his boat and he doubted Tim would work eight or nine hours on his book every day. Thus they could find themselves under one another's feet, and that could be bad for their relationship. And surely, anyway, if Tim wanted to stay at home and write, he'd suggest it himself, wouldn't he?
So he hadn't said anything. He'd decided to wait and see if Tim said anything or even hinted; also to see whether the exhaustion he'd seen in Tim recently had just been caused by the shooting followed by a particularly heavy workload, and if Tim's enthusiasm for the job returned.
Once he'd finished in the kitchen, he went down to the basement and spent an hour or so working on his boat, before deciding to see how Tim was getting on and to find out if he wanted another beer.
As he reached Tim's office, he could no longer hear the sound of the typewriter and he wondered if Tim had fallen asleep; he'd done that once. However, when he opened the door and looked inside, he saw that Tim was engrossed in reading what he'd written. "Hey," he said quietly.
Tim looked up and Jethro saw how bright his eyes were, how they shone with enthusiasm and pleasure. The look of exhaustion he'd seen on Tim's face when he'd arrived home, the look that had still been there when his lover had trudged upstairs to work on his book, had gone. Sure Tim still had dark circles under his eyes and looked pale, even for him, but he was clearly happy. He also looked years younger, and just for a moment Jethro saw the fresh-faced young man he'd met for the very first time in Norfolk. The young man, who clearly in awe of Jethro and intimidated by him, had nonetheless stood his ground and not backed away from Jethro.
"Jethro!" Tim cried, holding out his hand towards Jethro.
Jethro crossed the room and leaned over Tim to kiss his cheek. "Hey, you sound happy."
"I am. I'm just reading what I wrote and it's good, Jethro. It's really good. I mean . . ." Under Jethro's gaze Tim trailed off and a faint flush touched his cheek.
He ruffled Tim's hair and kissed him again. "Hey, don't get embarrassed. I keep telling you you're a damn good writer. I'm just glad you're finally seeing it."
"But this is probably the best two chapters I've ever written. I just hope I can keep the standard up." Tim was smiling again as he looked up at Jethro.
"You can," Jethro said firmly, and Tim rolled his eyes slightly. "You've finished then for tonight or do you want to carry on?"
A look came into Tim's eyes and he licked his lips before dropping the papers back onto his desk, standing up, and tugging Jethro into his arms. "Remember what you thought I meant earlier when I said I needed to save my energy?" His lips were on Jethro's ear and Tim's warm, moist breath sent shivers through Jethro and honed in on his groin.
"Yeah," he managed, ordering his body to behave, just in case Tim didn't mean what the closeness of his body and the way he was now nibbling Jethro's ear implied.
"Well," Tim said, pausing for a moment. "About that shower . . . Want to share?"
TWO WEEKS LATER
Jethro was working on his boat when the call came.
Within scant minutes of hanging up he was in his car and racing away from his house. Not again, he told himself. Please, not again. He couldn't lose the fourth person in his life who he had truly loved. Shannon. Kelly. Ducky. All lost to him. He could not lose Tim. He couldn't. It just wasn't conceivable.
When he arrived at the hospital, it seemed that someone was on his side as there was a parking space just waiting for him. Slamming the car door so loudly it made his ears ring, he hurried into the large, imposing building, tried hard to ignore the odors of disinfectant, sickness, flowers, death and decay, and headed for the ER. To his surprise, as well as great relief, he could hear Tim's voice.
"I thought I told you not to call him?"
"Yes, I know, but -"
"But you thought you'd take it upon yourself to do it anyway. Damn it, Dwayne. Who's the boss, you or me?"
"You, but - Look, Tim," Jethro blinked; he hadn't realized Tim's agents (well Wilson at least) called their boss by his given name. And yet, thinking about it, thinking about the kind of person his lover was, it made sense. "You were shot. Gibbs had a right to know."
"And I was going to call him What did you think I was going to do, just arrive home and let him -"
"No, of course not. It's just . . ." Try as he might, Jethro couldn't hear the rest of what Wilson said. However, from Tim's sigh and gentle reassurance, he guessed the gist of it. Seeing someone shot for the first time, was scary - in some ways even more frightening than being shot at yourself.
He leaned against the wall and shook his head, as he felt his heart-rate finally subside to its normal level. "Well, it's your own fault, Jethro Gibbs," he said. And it had been. All he'd heard before he'd ended the call from Wilson and headed for the car and had driven to the hospital had been, 'Gibbs. It's Dwayne Wilson. I'm just calling to let you know Mr. McGee's been shot. We were in Norfolk, and -' And Jethro had hung up. Had he waited a few more minutes and spoken to the young man, rather than racing off, he'd have known his lover was fine.
But he hadn't waited. Because of the news that Timothy McGee, the man he loved, the man who, until Wilson's call, he hadn't realized just how much he loved, had been shot. And he'd foolishly leaped to the wrong conclusion. And it had been foolish; he'd been an agent for God knows how many years, had it been a serious shooting, requiring surgery or worse, it wouldn't be an agent who would have called him, it would have been the Director.
Telling himself he was ten times of fool, but oddly enough not caring, he pushed away from the wall and went into the room where he saw Tim, pale faced, a graze on his temple, wearing a sling (so it had been a shoulder shot, but from the cut on his forehead, it looked as though a second bullet had grazed his head) sitting on the edge of a bed. By his side, his gaze lowered to the ground was Dwayne Wilson.
"Hey," Jethro said softly. "Thought I taught you better than that."
Wilson, who had straightened and looked up as Jethro spoke, showed surprised, shock even at Jethro's comment. Tim, however, managed a half grin. "Yeah, I thought you had too. I'm sorry Dwayne dragged you all the way over here. As you can see there was no need. I'm fine. It's just a scratch."
Jethro shrugged. "Yeah, I knew that," he said. "Wilson here told me." He hoped Wilson was a better agent than he would be poker player. In fact he knew he was a damn good agent, but it seemed he hadn't quite gotten a grip on controlling his facial expressions - or maybe he was just intimidated by Jethro's presence. He went on smoothly, "But I'd been planning on going for a drive anyway."
Tim smiled again, a little more widely this time. Then he said, his tone soft, "Thank you for coming, Jethro." The look in his eyes told Jethro just how glad, despite the dressing down he'd given Wilson, he was to see his lover.
"Um, I better go and . . . Yes. I'll do that. Nice to see you again, Ag - Er, Mr. Er -"
"Just 'Gibbs' will do, Wilson," Jethro said. "And you. Thanks for calling, Dwayne."
Wilson nodded and glanced at Tim. "I'll see you later, boss," he said, and after Tim had nodded, he left.
Tim stated to shrug and clearly thought better of it. "It just happened. I try to get him to not to. I prefer 'Tim', but 'boss' works in circumstances when 'Tim' isn't appropriate." Then he said, "Did you know I was okay?"
Jethro glanced away for a second. Then he looked back up. "One of the many things Ducky told me was 'never ask a question you don't really want an answer to'," he said conversationally.
"Oh, Jethro," Tim said, his voice quiet. "Come here." He held out his good hand and after a second or two, Jethro moved towards him, slipped his arm around him, taking care not to jolt his injured shoulder and for a moment or two just held him.
LATER THAT NIGHT
Tim shifted further into the corner of the couch, trying to get comfortable. His shoulder ached, the sling was uncomfortable and the painkillers he'd been given at the hospital were wearing off. He shifted again, shutting his eyes for a moment as pain shot through his head. He opened his eyes to find Jethro watching him. He managed a half smile and held out his good hand to his lover.
Jethro moved across to where Tim sat and carefully sat down next to him. "Hurt a lot?" he asked.
Tim began to shrug and thought better of it. "A bit." He saw Jethro looking at him. "Okay, yes, it does. I can take some more painkillers in a bit, they'll help." He knew it may have sounded foolish, but now Jethro was sitting by him, his leg resting against Tim's, his hand loosely entwined with Tim's, the pain seemed a little less.
He was about to say something joking about 'bottling Jethro', when he saw the look in his lover's eyes. "Hey," he said, squeezing Jethro's hand. "I'm okay. It was just a scratch."
Jethro glanced away. "I know. It's just . . ."
"Just what, Jethro?" Tim spoke quietly, and again squeezed the callused hand he held.
"Jethro Gibbs. You don't say 'it's just' and let it go. Tell me." Tim deliberately made himself use the tone he occasionally used in the office when Dwayne or Emma needed quietening down. He wasn't surprised to see Jethro look back at him and raise his eyebrows. For a moment he looked impressed. "You did teach me well," Tim said softly. "Now tell me."
"It's just I can't lose you, Tim. I can't. I lost Shannon and Kelly and Ducky, the three people I've loved more than anyone else. And now I get another chance and . . . I can't lose you, Tim. It's foolish, I know. Damn it I was an agent myself, I know the risks. Hell, I was shot or injured more than once, but - What did you say?"
Now Tim glanced away for a moment. After a second or two, he said, "I know how you feel." He looked back at his lover.
Tin nodded. "Yeah, Jethro. I do. When you were blown up and we . . . It was okay for Ducky to show how upset he was, he was your oldest and closest friend. And Abby, because she and you, well . . . You were her surrogate father. And even Tony because of all of the field team he'd worked with you the longest. But I couldn’t show how I really felt. Sure I could show it as your agent, as . . . But I couldn't let anyone see how much I . . ." He trailed off and again looked away.
"Loved you back then, yes. Yes, Jethro, I did. So I know what it must have been like for you today. I know my wound wasn't bad, but I'm not sure severity really matters. You got a phone call, one I especially told Dwayne not to make, and I know what went through your mind. It's not easy being the one waiting and watching."
"No, it's not. I've never faced it before, not when it's been someone I've really loved. Well, apart from when Duck was kidnapped. Other than that, it's always been me in the firing line. Others waiting for me, waiting to see if I'm going to be okay. It's different. And I -"
"Don't like it." It wasn't a question.
Nonetheless Jethro answered it. "No." He glanced away again, but from his profile, Tim could see he was considering something.
"Just say it," Tim said after the silence continued.
"Whatever it is you're thinking about."
Jethro looked at him. "Okay. I don't know how you're going to feel about it, but - Oh, hell. Okay, straight: why don't you quit NCIS and stay at home and write full time?"
Tim blinked. Was his lover a mind-reader now? "I -"
"Sorry. I know you don't want to. It was just a -"
Somehow Tim found a way to move forward and put his mouth on Jethro's effectively silencing his lover. The kiss was brief, because the position was straining Tim's shoulder, but it was enough.
He settled back into the corner of the couch and looked at Jethro. "When did you get the idea?" he asked, because he knew that if Jethro said 'after your shooting' he wouldn't, he couldn't, agree.
"Several weeks ago."
"And you didn't say anything?"
Jethro shook his head. "No. Reckoned if you wanted to do it, you'd say something. Why? Do you?"
Tim nodded. "I got the same idea myself two weeks ago. That night I got home later than usual, but had to finish those two chapters."
"And you didn't say anything because . . ."
Tim felt his face flush slightly. "To be honest, Jethro, I don't really know. I wasn't sure you'd . . . You like your own space and so do I. We'd be -"
"Under one another's feet?"
Tim nodded. "To an extent."
"Yeah. I thought that too. There is a solution." Tim raised his eyebrows. "You know that after his various bequests, Ducky left me everything?"
Tim nodded; he did know. They'd never talked about it, talked about how much Jethro missed Ducky. Not since he'd finally gotten up the courage to ask Jethro about his relationship with Ducky, only to find to his astonishment it had been purely platonic, had Ducky's name been mentioned. He didn't like to and he suspected Jethro didn't in case Tim still felt inadequate. They were both wrong not to mention him; Ducky had been a large part of their lives, much more so of Jethro's of course, but he'd been important to Tim too. He'd cared for him a lot. "Yes," he said softly.
Jethro swallowed. "Well 'everything' included Reston House." Tim stared at his lover. He didn't know why he was surprised by the news; he shouldn't be, but somehow he was. "I don't know if you'd want to live there. I know -"
"I think it'd be a great idea, Jethro. Ducky was special."
Jethro tightened his grip on Tim's hand. "Yeah," he said softly. "He was. I did love him, Tim." He looked at Tim. "Not like I loved Shannon or love you, but -"
"I know," Tim whispered. "You don't have to worry, Jethro. I know you loved him and he loved you."
"I still miss him." Tim saw tears glistening in Jethro's eyes. He maneuvered himself and managed to put his good arm around Jethro's shoulders. "I know you do, Jethro. I do. And your grief and loss must be so much greater. I honestly can't think of a better place to well 'retire' to than Ducky's home. I've seen around it and it'd be wonderful. I know it would inspire me and we'd both have space and - oh, but has it got a basement?"
Jethro wiped his eyes. "No. Not really. Well, it has, a really big one, but it'd need a lot of work on it to make it useable to build a boat."
"But where -"
"Well, I can either do the work or I can get something constructed outside and spend more time above ground than below it."
"You'd do that? You'd leave this house? You'd do that for me?" Tim asked the questions quietly. This was the home Jethro had shared with his girls, and even though the three ex-wives had lived there, Tim knew Jethro had seen it as Shannon's house. To give it up meant . . .
Jethro nodded. "Yeah. And not just for you, Tim. For us. But are you sure? Sure you want to quit NCIS? I know it hasn't been the same since you had to shoot that kid. But in a few more months, maybe you'd feel better about it again."
Tim shook his head. "No, I wouldn't. I know that, Jethro. I've known it for some time. And it wasn't just killing the kid, it's more. I'm tired of the long hours, of the fact no matter how many cases we solve there's always another one."
"Know that feeling."
"I know you do. I love writing and I love you, and not in that order," Tim added, smiling. "I want to spend more time with you. I want to be able to say to hell with it, let's take the morning off and go to the ocean or somewhere. Or to make a dinner reservation and know we'll be keeping it. I want to spend more time writing and not have to rush it and fit it in around working at NCIS. I know at first it'll seem strange, but we'll figure it out. We'll make it work. And with the room in Duc-"
"In our," Jethro corrected softly, but firmly.
Tim nodded. "In our house, in Reston House," he added. It was all right for Jethro, but he couldn't go from thinking of Reston House as Ducky's, to Jethro's and his in two seconds. "It'll be wonderful."
"You want to take a couple of weeks off first, a kind of trial?"
Tim shook his head. "No." He spoke firmly. "No. I don't. I'm sure. I'm more than sure."
Jethro smiled and although Tim saw that the faintest glint of a tear was still in his lover's eyes, he also saw how happy Jethro was. "Good," Jethro said, and then he leaned towards Tim and very gently put his mouth on Tim's.