Quiet and stillness surrounded him. The entire team had been there earlier that week, helping Jack to rebuild after a freak hail storm had swept through the town of Stillwater. Many businesses including Jack's general store had been hit but Jack's losses had been minimal compared to some of the others.
Gibbs had looked at the many businesses, the small shops that he'd run in and out of as a child and shaken his head as bittersweet memories overwhelmed him for a few seconds. The dress shop that had once belonged to Shannon's aunt had been one of the hardest hit; its display windows completely shattered, the roof top had fallen in and both were covered in plywood. The rooftops of most of the business were temporarily covered with tarps held down by cinder blocks until new shingles could be brought in from neighboring towns and lumber mills.
If the businesses hadn't been hit then the houses had been. Hammers pounded, saws buzzed, and men shouted back and forth as they worked until the sounds were almost second nature.
It was the nights that Gibbs liked best though. He'd forgotten the way Stillwater quieted at night. There were no cars on the street after nine o'clock. The town almost tended to roll up the carpet so to speak. He could talk to his dad on the back porch, and smell the bar-b-que from the neighboring yard.
Tim seemed to like the small town too. Gibbs watched as the younger man chatted quietly with Jack and wondered just what the two could possibly find in common. Had Gibbs been worried, he might have focused more on the smirk that played around his dad's mouth as Jackson Gibbs quietly told Tim about the child that Gibbs had been.
Tim for his part wondered if Gibbs would ever realize just how much Tim loved spending time with him. Jackson sighed as he watched the two men. Don't ask/don't tell had been so deeply ingrained in his son, he didn't know if Leroy could ever disclose the depths of his feeling for Timothy McGee. The younger agent was so open that the elder Gibbs was actually surprised that his son couldn't see the love that Tim was offering him.
Jackson sighed again and Tim looked at him with concern. "Are you okay Jack?"
"Oh, I'm fine Tim, just wondering how to get blood out of a turnip so to speak."
Tim looked out the door to where Gibbs was standing on the porch, looking up at the night sky with a contemplative look in his eyes.
"I don't know if I've ever seen him this relaxed. Is it only when he comes here?"
"That's a recent development actually." Jackson watched as Tim absorbed that information. Bright green eyes turned to watery blue and Jack smiled at him. "That case that brought your team here the first time was a turning point for us. It's not an easy hill but we're slowly climbing it, rebuilding the bonds we'd lost."
"He doesn't open up easily. It's hard sometimes to know how to get through to him."
"You've got a good start right now young man."
Tim stared at him, not immediately comprehending what Jack could mean. Jack pointed up and Tim looked at the older man with blank eyes.
"You bring down that thing I told you to?"
Tim nodded and then smiled as comprehension dawned. Jack motioned to the hall closet as he plodded down the hallway to his bedroom. "Pillows, blankets, the odd mattress or sleeping bag are in there. Make a right nice little love nest providing someone took matters into his own hands and made an effort to communicate. You've got the skills Tim. It's up to you how you use them."
Tim blushed as he imagined just what Jack was trying to imply. "Talking helps build those first bonds in a relationship. Trust him with that knowledge in your head. Not the computer stuff either. That thing I had you bring downstairs; that's your opening Tim. Use it wisely."
Tim scuffed his toe on the kitchen floor before he opened the door and wandered outside.
"I…I don't suppose you'd want to help me with something would you?" Tim bit his lip as Gibbs finally turned to face him.
"Umm…well, Jack had me bring down a telescope. I was wondering if you knew the best place to set it up."
Gibbs smiled as he put his coffee cup down for the first time that night. He'd forgotten about that; how Jack liked to play matchmaker for him. The telescope however was a new ruse even for that old man.
"Dad trying to set us up?"
"I…possibly. He suggested it might be a way for us to talk."
Gibbs reached behind him and pulled out the telescope. "Come on…you can share your knowledge."
"I will...if you do the same," Tim said daring Gibbs to open up to him.
"Grab some blankets; I'm sure Dad told you where they are." Gibbs said as he headed to the far corner of the backyard. Tim opened up the closet and pulled out several blankets and two rolled up sleeping bags. He put the sleeping bags on the back porch then went back and pulled out some pillows. He wasn't sure just how the night would end, but he wasn't going to turn down this chance to get to know an enigma better.
Gibbs looked over as Tim started building a small pile on the porch and smiled. The sight reminded him of the times he and Shannon and eventually Kelly had spent studying the stars before the girls dropped off to sleep. Tim took the cushions off the loungers and dragged them over to where Gibbs was waiting. He then trudged back over to the sleeping bags and Gibbs shook his head.
"Leave them…for now anyway. It's warm enough the blankets will do."
Tim smiled up at him. "They aren't for warmth…they're for extra padding." And Gibbs couldn't help but smile back. He'd forgotten about Tim's boy's scout training and watched in fascination as Tim created a small nest for them to lie upon. The light in the kitchen turned off and Gibbs knew that Jack was giving them his seal of approval.
That night was the turning point in their relationship. Tim pointed out the major constellations that they could see with the naked eye, and then showed Gibbs that while he might be a computer geek, he was also a sky-gazer and one who knew almost as much as Gibbs did.
As morning dawned, Jackson stared out the window and allowed himself a small self-satisfied smirk. His son was curled protectively around Tim McGee. The younger man was resting peacefully in Leroy's arms, his head tucked under Gibbs' chin. Jack smiled as his son's arms tightened reflexively around the man before realizing where he was.
Jack waited to see what would happen next. To his surprise, Leroy snuggled closer to the young man and Jack could tell that something had happened between them. Somehow, the young McGee had managed to penetrate that wall around Leroy's heart and the older Gibbs wiped a tear away as his son didn't waken completely. Instead, with an almost contented sigh, the younger Gibbs tightened his hold on the man in his arms and without waking went back to sleep.
Jack headed into his bathroom and upon exiting found the two younger men in the kitchen making breakfast. Tim lightly buttered some slices of toast while Leroy sipped at his coffee and fried up some bacon and eggs.
"Good morning boys."
"Good morning Jack."
When breakfast was over, Jack asked them what their plans were and Tim looked at Gibbs who replied, "Thought I'd show Tim something new today."
Jack smiled, "Wouldn't mind some catfish for supper Leroy. If that's where you're heading that is."
Gibbs smirked and nodded, "Yep. I take it no one ever found our spot then?"
"Nope…that's still grandpa Gibbs secret Leroy. Enjoy your day son and don't forget the sunscreen. He's a bit too pale if you stay out all day."
Tim's eyes narrowed and Gibbs nodded in agreement. "Can we borrow the truck Dad?"
"She's loaded with everything you'll need Leroy. Have fun son and I'll have grandpa's recipe ready when you get back here tonight."
Gibbs exited the kitchen after his dad handed him the keys and Tim looked from one to the other and Jack smiled at him in understanding. "Leroy's offering to take you fishing if you want to go. Think of it as an opportunity Timothy to find even more answers to those questions you were asking."
Tim nodded and asked Jack what else he might need for the day. "The truck has everything you should need Tim. Trust me; you shouldn't need anything, except maybe that patience you seem to have so much of."
Tim smiled as he followed Gibbs out the door.
It was close to lunchtime when they returned and Jack frowned as a pale faced Tim entered the kitchen. Leroy was right behind him, and passed Jack the stringer of catfish before leading Tim down the hallway. Jack placed the fish in the sink and followed the two wondering what had happened.
"He's like Mom used to be." At those muttered words, Jack nodded his head and shuffled to his room. A few minutes later, he walked into the bathroom where Tim was sitting on the toilet seat while Gibbs squatted in front of him.
"Sorry, didn't mean to spoil the day." Tim said shakily and Jack watched as Gibbs gently smacked the younger man on the head.
"Hey, my fault today, not yours…I'm the one who forgot." Gibbs said quietly and Jack handed him the bottle.
"Here you go Leroy. It's the same as your Mama always took. I just keep it on hand now as a habit I guess."
Jack stayed back a few feet while his son administered the medication to Tim. the younger man took it with minimal fuss and Jack knew that if Tim was anything like Leroy's mama he'd soon be falling asleep. Jack nodded to himself as he walked out into the kitchen and started prepping the fish for a light supper. Lunch would probably be just sandwiches for himself and Leroy as he figured Tim would more than likely be sleeping off the effects of not only the medication but the seasickness itself.
Tim weaved a bit as he swallowed the liquid Dramamine and washed it down with some cold water. Gibbs stayed with him and helped him to the living room where Tim laid down on the couch and was soon sleeping. Gibbs gave himself a small smack to the back of the head for not remembering how sick Tim always got no matter how small the boat was.
Jack waited another five minutes, giving his son a bit of privacy with the younger man on the couch before going in and handing Leroy a fresh cup of coffee.
"He gets it bad does he?"
"Sometimes…I just…forget that he can't handle being on a boat when I watch him swim like the damn fish we just caught."
"Yep, your mama was the same way. Swam like a mermaid, but put her in a dinghy or any other boat and she was a fish outta water."
Jack watched as Leroy tenderly brushed the bangs back from Tim's forehead. Yep, his boy hasn't been this affected by anyone since Shannon and he needed to open up before he lost Tim forever.
"You tell him yet son?"
"Tell him what dad?"
Jack snorted into his own coffee cup. "The way you feel about him you jackass."
The other man's coffee cup jerked a bit before the younger Gibbs admitted, "Yes, I'm a jackass and no I haven't told him."
"Damnit Leroy, you need to tell him! He deserves to know!"
"Damnit, Dad, do you think I don't know that? But how do I admit that I have feelings for someone who is not only younger than me, but smarter than me? I feel like a blithering idiot around him three-quarters of the time we're together."
Jack kept silent and let him continue.
"The real problem is that…I'm scared. I'm scared that if I tell him then he'll laugh."
Jack frowned at him and Gibbs elaborated. "C'mon dad, he's almost 30 years my junior."
"Since when does that have anything to do with love Son? From what you've stated so far, sounds to me like you're making up excuses. You're trying to prevent him from loving you so that you won't get hurt anymore."
Gibbs stood up and started pacing. Jack watched him patiently and when he sat down again continued.
"Ever since you lost the girls you've refused to open your heart. Not just to me but to three ex-wives as well. You think on that Leroy Jethro Gibbs. This young man, he could love you, hell he does love you but you're afraid to let him in due to what happened to Shannon and Kelly."
Jack stood up and crossed over to where Tim was on the couch. He tenderly placed an exquisitely crocheted afghan over the sleeping man before turning back to his son. "You know what I saw this morning son? I saw you, holding this man in your arms. I saw you before you knew where you were, at peace with the world around you. I saw him just as content as you were, lying in your arms as if he'd finally found a home. You think on that Leroy Jethro Gibbs and tell me you don't love him as much as he loves you. Better yet, you tell him that and see what happens."
Jack stalked out of the room, trembling from the rage that had overcome him. He'd seen so many people come and go across the years, denying their love for each other, that he couldn't have prevented his tirade had he wanted to. He wiped away a tear and continued on into the kitchen, praying that he hadn't just lost his son for good.
Back in the living room, a stunned Leroy Jethro Gibbs stared after the furious form that was his father. He hadn't seen Jackson this animated since…he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen him this angry actually. He sighed and knew he had to go talk to the older man. First things first though…he sat down on the couch and took Tim's hand in his. The calluses were in a different place than his own, but there were some there.
"Damnit McGee…why you? Why did I have to fall for the one person I can't have? Rule 12 aside, you're male and young and brilliantly minded."
"You're male and silvery haired and old-fashioned so what?" Tim sleepily opened his eyes and smiled up at Gibbs who stared at him in disbelief. The wealth of love reflected in those sleep-blurred green eyes fascinated him and he couldn't resist the temptation of leaning down and nuzzling that neck, kissing those sleepy, slightly pouty lips. Tim sighed as he enfolded Gibbs in his arms.
"It's time to quit being afraid Jethro. You need to start trusting me; not that you don't trust me to have your back. You've known for years that I have that. You need to trust me now with that other precious item, your heart."
Jackson Gibbs nodded in silent agreement from the kitchen doorway. He'd thought maybe Tim hadn't been fully asleep when he'd covered him with the afghan, but hadn't wanted to disturb the man who had finally succeeded in capturing his son's heart. His son needed to open up and also to listen to what Tim was offering him.
"Do you know that last night was the first night that you actually seemed human to me? No, I'm serious here…last night you finally opened up and talked… okay it was about the stars and the constellations but you talked to me as if I meant something to you. Not an agent or a computer specialist but someone special to you."
"You are special to me." Gibbs muttered and Tim none-too-gently smacked his arm.
"Last night was the first indication of it. You opened up and shared your knowledge with me. Today was fun too, for the most part anyway. The swimming and the fishing parts were fun. The boat ride…not so much."
"I forgot you get seasick." It was the closest thing to an apology Tim had ever heard cross his boss's lips.
"I've never been on a boat that small. So I didn't know, therefore we couldn't have known that it would affect me that way. And what was the first thing you did once we figured it out? You brought me back here and helped me deal with it. You didn't berate me for getting sick. So stop blaming yourself. We didn't know."
Tim stopped speaking and Gibbs rose up on an elbow. Tim's eyes were closing, as he fought against the effects of the medication and the sickness he'd succumbed to barely an hour beforehand. Gibbs ran a tender hand over Tim's face and the young man nuzzled his palm.
"Go eat some lunch Jethro and remember it wasn't your fault. We didn't know."
Gibbs waited until he was sure Tim was asleep before he headed into the kitchen. Jack had put the fish in the fridge after cleaning it and was preparing a salad to go with their sandwiches when the younger Gibbs stepped into the room.
"For what Son?"
"Being a first rate jackass?"
"Well, I think you actually come by the jackass part naturally. You are part of me you know."
Gibbs snorted into the fresh cup of coffee he'd just poured as he looked affectionately at the older man. Jack just smiled as he handed him a bowl full of salad greens, and the platter of sandwiches.
"So, what's on the agenda for tomorrow, Son?"
Gibbs smiled as he replied, "I'm not sure dad; might be another day of fishing."