As you might have read, I'm in the process of moving, so it's hard to work on my big stories. This was for a challenge so I'm posting it now.
h/c bingo Wild Card – Group Support
And a Little Child Shall Lead Them
Story 1 – Pulling Together
Gibbs looked up to see McGee standing in front of him, obviously nervous. It was only 0800 on the Friday before a weekend that the team wasn't on call. This was not a good sign. "Something you need to tell me, McGee?"
Tim stared at his feet before squaring his shoulders and facing his mentor. "Umm, yeah, I have a change in my personal life that might... no, that will probably impact my ability to do my job to the best of my abilities. I'll understand if you want me to transfer off the team."
Glancing to the side, Gibbs noted the shocked faces of the rest of the team before returning his attention to McGee. "That's a pretty drastic reaction. Mind telling me just what this change is?"
"Starting this weekend, I'll have full custody of my... of my daughter."
"You have a kid that you never mentioned to any of us before, Probie?" Tony jumped in before Gibbs could even take a breath.
McGee didn't look any of them in the eye as he explained. "The relationship ended before she realized that she was pregnant. By the time she told me, she had made the decision to do it on her own and I agreed to support her in the way she wanted and to not cause a problem."
The fact that Tim wouldn't look at him made Gibbs suspicious. "And now?"
"And now she's sick, she's dying of a brain tumor." For the first time since he'd arrived, Tim looked Gibbs square in the eye. "My daughter needs me, Gibbs, and that has to be my priority now."
Gibbs nodded slowly as he studied McGee. There was something he obviously wasn't telling them, but he was being honest in his decision about the little girl. "It doesn't have to be an either/or situation, McGee. Plenty of agents have families and make it work. We can make it work."
The first flickers of hope crossed Tim's face. "You're not kicking me off the team?"
"For stepping up and taking care of your little girl?" Gibbs gave him the 'are you an idiot" look and Tim swallowed hard as he nodded in understanding.
Tony was practically vibrating, so Ziva cut him off before he could ask the wrong question. "Tell us about your daughter, McGee. Do you have any pictures that we could see?"
"Umm, sure." McGee fumbled with his wallet for a moment before opening it to two small photos. In the first one, McGee was holding a tiny infant wrapped in a pink blanket and in the second, a little girl with light brown, curly hair and caramel colored skin gave a wide grin from her perch on Santa's lap.
"Her name is Tiana and she turned four last month. She loves ballet and I've promised her dance classes."
If any of the team was surprised at the biracial child, they didn't show it much. Tony counted backwards in his head, but couldn't come up with a former girlfriend of McGee's that fit the profile. He settled for a generic question. "We never met the mom, right?"
"No." From the stubborn set of his jaw, they could tell it wasn't a subject to pursue. Ziva quickly changed the subject.
"Have you told Abby yet?" His eyes widened and she had her answer. "Perhaps you should go tell her before she hears about it in another way."
Tim immediately looked to Gibbs, who nodded, before the younger man rushed for the elevator. Gibbs waited a few moments, then followed slowly. He still wasn't totally sure of what was going on with McGee, but he would back him up with the emotional woman.
Once they were alone in the bullpen, Tony turned to Ziva. "That's a pretty big thing to hide from us."
"Agreed, and he is still hiding something."
"Well, if anyone can get it out of him, it'll be Abby." Tony looked at Ziva, seeing the same realization on her face before they both ran for the stairs.
"McGee, you're here bright and early, did we get a case already?" Abby looked closely at him, noting how nervous he seemed as he edged into the lab.
"No, not a case, but I have something I need to tell you – before you hear it from someone else."
Abby crossed her arms and studied him carefully. "Okay, I'm listening."
Tim blurted it all out in one breath. "I have a daughter, Abby. She's four years old and her mom is dying, so I'm going to have full custody of her. I was going to leave the team, but Gibbs says we can make it work and I really hope we can because I'm scared to do this by myself."
She hated to see the hurt look on his face, but she pushed on, believing it was for the best, much like ripping a bandage off all at once. "I know you, McGee. I know you. You're the most obsessively careful man out there. You insist on using a condom even when you know a woman is on the pill. There's no way that you accidentally got somebody pregnant. No way, McGee."
As she ranted, Abby picked up a swab and pointed it at his mouth. "We're going to run a DNA test right now. I'm not going to let you get trapped by some floozy trying to trick you, even if she is dying. Maybe she even lied about that, too. Have you thought about that, McGee?"
"No, Abby." McGee reached out and slowly pulled the swab out of her hand. "No DNA tests."
Still holding the swab, he pressed his finger against her mouth, neither one of them noticing the blue eyes intently watching from the doorway. McGee stared at Abby for a long time before coming to a silent decision. Eventually, he started speaking slowly and firmly. In the doorway, Gibbs listened while Tony and Ziva strained to hear from the back entrance to the lab.
"Tiana is my daughter, Abby. She is my daughter because the only other candidate is the animal that held a knife to her mother's throat and took what he wanted. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"
Abby stood in shock as she took it all in. "Oh, McGee, McGee." Overwhelmed with the thought of what her friend was offering this child, she threw her arms around his neck, almost knocking him over. "That is such a wonderful thing to do, but have you really thought this through?"
McGee dropped the swab onto the table before running his fingers through his hair. "This wasn't a last minute decision, Abs. We made this decision before Tia was born, my name is on her birth certificate. I never expected something to happen to Grace, but I'm not backing out now, not when it means that bastard could get his hands on her."
"It happens, Abby. Most states give a rapist parental rights if they impregnate their victim. A rapist uses the threat of a custody fight to get a victim to drop the charges, or to not testify against his parole. It happens more than you think, and he's up for parole in a few months."
Wide-eyed, Abby took it all in, thinking about the possibilities. "Does he know about her?"
"I'm not sure. Like I said, my name is on Tia's birth certificate and she was premature, so if he's looking at just the dates, he won't get it that way."
"Unless he gets his hands on the medical records." Abby picked up the swab and tossed it into the trash. "Okay, no DNA tests and no trail connecting any of us to him or what happened. What else can I do?"
Relieved, Tim kissed Abby's cheek. "Just be Aunt Abby and love her like she was mine."
"Because she is," Abby pulled back far enough to look at McGee, a serious expression on her face. "In every way that counts."
"Thanks, Abby." McGee turned to leave and came face to face with Gibbs. He froze for a moment, then walked past the other man and into the hallway, Gibbs falling in beside him. In the elevator. Tim wasn't surprised when Gibbs flipped the emergency switch, but the hand that came up behind him didn't slap the back of his head. Instead, it warmly cupped the back of his neck.
Gibbs didn't say a word about the conversation he'd overheard, but there was no mistaking the pride on his face as he turned the elevator back on. "So, what are the plans for this weekend?"
"I'm already packed and Jethro is at the kennel. I'll drive up there as soon as we're finished tonight and spend the weekend with them. I've done that before, but this time when I drive back Sunday night, Tiana will come home with me."
"Your place ready for a kid, McGee?"
"No." Tim shook his head as he thought about how much he still had to do. "Next week, I've got to break my lease and then find a bigger place and pack and move and... and figure out child care and a pre-school and..."
"Breathe, McGee." Gibbs chuckled as his hand moved down to Tim's shoulder and he gave it a reassuring squeeze. "We'll get you through it."
The elevator arrived on their floor and they stepped out to see Tony and Ziva rushing out of the stairwell. McGee immediately realized where they had been. "Gee, was there anybody not listening in my private conversation?"
Tony froze, but Ziva rushed to answer. "We were worried, McGee. You were obviously troubled and less than honest. Do not worry, the truth will stay within the team."
"And that means two more people need to know."
The rest of the team turned to look at Gibbs, waiting for him to explain his cryptic comment. "Ducky and Vance."
"Okay, I can see why Ducky might need to know, but Vance?"
"She's the legal child of one of our agents, Tony. If she could possibly be in danger, the Director needs to know the whole story." Gibbs turned to the worried new father standing next to him. "He's a father, McGee. He'll understand."