This story takes place, in the course of my on-going Mystery Series, after 'Pieces', and is therefore counted as my seventeenth story and sixth of the second season.
The usual legal disclaimers apply. The only characters I own are Reverend Siobhan O'Mallory and associated NCIS Agents not mentioned in the television series who flesh out a 24/7 operation involving 12 MCR Teams.
Have Yourself A Merry
Three weeks ago
Timothy McGee very quietly opens the fourth floor office door, not wanting to alert the woman seated across the room with her back to him. The radio on her desk is just finishing 'Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer' and then begins Alvin and the Chipmunk's 'Please Christmas don't be late'. Closing the door as quietly as he can, he watches the red headed woman's shoulders moving in a tiny dance as she sits working.
The office is sparsely furnished, a dual filing cabinet at the left wall, her desk facing the far wall, a cushioned couch along the right wall make up the only furnishings. Siobhan keeps the desk facing the wall so that, when addressing a visitor, she may turn the chair around and give that visitor her undivided attention with no barriers between them. McGee knows Mother Siobhan O'Mallory usually uses this office only on Tuesdays; the duties of the Curate of St. Mary the Virgin Church usually keep NCIS' Chaplain off site. He quietly crosses the room until he's directly behind her.
"Alvin?" he asks, making her jump slightly and turn about quickly in the seat to halt her rush when she sees him.
"Timmy!" she exclaims delightedly.
"Didn't scare you, did I?"
"Hardly, though you can take off the mask now."
"Your own fault."
He takes a moment, indulges in a moment actually, to look over his old friend. Typically she wears her uniform of black slacks and pale blue shirt; her most notable distinction is the two inch high stiff white collar encircling her throat.
"Timmy, I think if you keep looking at me like that I'm going to have to wash your brain out with soap."
"Worth the risk."
"Oh, so I'm a risk now?"
"You've always been a bit dangerous."
"Tar isteach, sui sios," she invites him brightly, brushing a lock of her long flame red hair from her face, her brogue making even short phrases sound particularly welcoming to him.
"You're still determined to try to teach me," he observes wryly, considering these recent weeks since she had begun she has not had much success. The flowing Gaelic words seem to fit about her tongue far better than his.
"How else might we enjoy a private conversation?"
"So, how am I doing?"
"Well," she considers carefully, "at this rate you'll be ready around the time we're in our fifties."
"Thanks a lot," he says. She had invited him to 'come in, sit down' so he relaxes on the couch, glad of any opportunity to get away from the Squad Room, especially if he may spend the time with this lovely woman.
"You're welcome a lot." Her smile removes any sting he might have felt - not that there had been any. He's well used to her sense of humor and usually knows what to expect, though he's frequently surprised anyway.
"So, Alvin and the Chipmunks?"
"I like them."
"Aren't you a little old for that?"
Her look is one of faux annoyance, deliberately exaggerated. "Timmy, a chuisle, never tease a woman about her age, not even at Christmas; especially when you do know how old she is."
"I never thought of you as being vain."
"That's not vanity, that's strategy."
He thinks about this, "I don't get it."
Her smile is tinged with more teasing than she'd gotten. "That's because you're not a woman."
He decides to drop the subject, knowing he'll never win this one.
"What are you doing?" he asks, having noted the collection of papers scattered on the desk now behind her; better that than risking her tying his thoughts into knots, something she can do better than anyone he knows.
"Cheating," she admits with a half-shrug, "I had to get out of the office. I figured if I brought these here it would clear my head enough that I can find a way out of my predicament."
"Which one is this?" In the previous months she had had so many, the ongoing trial of Charley Morley being the most recent. For him it was a psychopathic vampire.
"Thanks," she says ruefully, turning the chair about. "This project is turning into a nightmare." Tim gets up and draws close beside her, looking at the explosion of papers. "When I talked the Vestry into resuming the great Annual Christmas Pageant, I had no idea it was going to be such a huge project. A lot of detail, rehearsals that can never seem to come together, schedules that don't mesh, the set on the Hall stage and music and sound and costumes…"
"And you being too stubborn to admit defeat," he taunts her lovingly.
"I never admit defeat," she declares, but then has to concede that, "it's so much bigger than I'd thought, however."
"You should assign a committee."
"I havea committee - I have three committees and you can see the result," she spreads her hand over the variety of papers before them. The depth of her frustration is something she would only allow him to see. "But I'll get it done - if I can figure out how to pay for it all."
When she's stressed, her brogue gets stronger, it's always been a good indicator for him and this time she's very stressed. "What do you mean?"
"It's way more than I thought. When I proposed the idea to the Vestry one of my selling points was that it would be paid for from donations, not out of the Operating Budget and that I would cover the outstanding expenses." She pauses with a slightly sheepish expression, "but donations are slower and smaller than I expected and I'm in over my head."
"Wait a minute, you're paying for it?" His tone makes her look up, he reads the answer in her emerald eyes. "What, out of your own pocket?"
Her shoulders slump, "Timmy, you know my whole salary from NCIS I give to the Church and just live off my Curate's stipend. That's one of the reasons I took this job in the first place, St. Mary's needed the money more than I did."
"Do you mean to tell me that for the past five mo–?" This is outrageous. "All of it?"
She shrugs. "My choice." She starts to remove her gold framed glasses, puts them back on. "But this time I bit off more than I can chew. I overestimated how much would come in and now I'm–"
"How short are you?"
She shakes her head, "I could really use two thousand but–" He reaches into his pocket, "No, Timmy, don't."
He's determined not to hear another word from her; he opens his wallet and pulls out a blank check from the bill compartment, smoothes it out on the desk and writes, his manner showing how thoroughly he's ignoring her continuing protests. Finished, he hands her the check made out to 'St. Mary the Virgin Church'. "Consider it a Christmas present - and you renegotiate that deal; a tithe is supposed to be ten percent." He feels he should hardly have to remind her.
"I do give ten percent - of my stipend."
"I have free room, all the food I need, even to snatching a plate at the Nutrition Program if I'm feeling peckish, my clothes…" she waves a hand over her 'uniform', "well, I have little need for more, plus I have the best working wardrobe of anyone I know…."
His slap to the back of her head contains no force but a great deal of love. When she leans back into his hand, looking up at him, his lips come down to hers.