a/n - last chapter, with a nod to the future paring if you look closely. It's cold, wet and raining here and I have the flu but I'm in a beautiful warm house (even if it's still stacked with boxes) and about to fix a pot of chocolate cake tea. Can't argue with that. Even better, I'm almost done with the final chaper of Hello, New Years. Bet you didn't think that would ever happen? Actually, my word count for the new years is already over 10,000. Not bad, right? Of course, that's from everything I'm writing, but still I'm pleased with my progress.
Gibbs wasn't surprised to find Abby's car sitting in the driveway when he arrived early Saturday morning, but he was surprised to find her unloading sections of gutter, all about four feet long. "Morning, Abby."
"Hey, Gibbs, aren't these great? They're left over from the last Habitat for Humanity project I helped on." The raised eyebrow prompted her to explain. "I'm going to mount them on the wall in the playroom to use for books. That way she can see the fronts of all her books."
He frowned for a minute as he tried to visualize what she was talking about. "Instead of bookcases?"
"Yep." Abby grinned as she nodded. "Takes up a lot less space, too." Holding her bundle, she waited for Gibbs to unlock the door before bouncing in and directly down to the basement. Within the next ten minutes the rest of the team arrived, then Palmer and Breena, Ducky and the Vance's.
Right behind Vance's SUV was a large, four door truck, the name of a local painting contractor on the side. Harry, the guard from the front entrance, jumped out of the passenger side while a younger version of him climbed out from behind the wheel. "Hey, Agent Gibbs, like you to meet my son, Tommy."
Gibbs shook the young man's hand. "Tommy, good to finally meet you. Your dad talks about you all the time, real proud of the business you've started."
"Thanks, Agent Gibbs." Tom's grip was firm and dry. "Dad talks about your team all the time, too. Since our morning job got pushed back a few hours, I thought we'd stop by and give you a hand." As he spoke, four young men in coveralls climbed out of the truck and started unloading gear from the bed.
Ziva and Jackie started on Tiana's bedroom while Gibbs and Tony took on the master bedroom. Ducky and Leon worked on the office, leaving the Palmers to help Abby with the playroom. The professional crew took over the painting of the open concept living space and kitchen. By noon they were finished and the painting crew even took a few minutes to help unload the larger pieces of furniture before they left.
"Is this all the furniture he has?" Vance stared at the small sofa and one table that sat in the living room.
Tony came out of the bedroom when he heard the question. "For the living room? Yeah, that's pretty much it. He's got some old beat up shelves, but they'll probably go down in the basement. There's a chair in the bedroom, do you want that out here?"
Vance followed Tony back to the bedroom to take a look. The old blue chair definitely looked out of place against the sophisticated bedding Tony had bought for his friend, but it wouldn't look much better in the living room and Vance shook his head. "That chair should go down in the basement, too. We need to find him some furniture."
"Perhaps I can be of assistance in that regards?" Ducky came out of the office, peering around them to look at the chair in question. "I have a great deal of furniture sitting in storage from downsizing. The most precious antiques and family heirlooms are with me at the townhouse, but I have some lovely pieces I'd be happy to give to Timothy."
Once Ducky and Vance left with Jimmy and the truck, the rest returned to their individual projects. When the truck pulled back into the driveway several hours later, Gibbs and Tony went out to help unload. The first thing out of the truck was an oversized black leather recliner and both Tony and Gibbs stared at it. Gibbs was the one to finally speak. "Don't remember this at your place, Ducky."
It was Vance that answered, rubbing the side of his face. "Yeah, well, Jackie's been after me to get rid of this so she can re-do the den. There's a lot of life left in that chair and it's the perfect size for reading a bedtime story."
Gibbs nodded as he remembered his own well loved and well used recliner and the nights Kelly would go to sleep cuddled up against him as he read to her. Ex-wife number one had given it to Goodwill while he'd been on assignment, a sore spot that had never healed over the rest of their short marriage. "Yeah, he'll get a lot of use out of that."
Besides the chair from Vance, the trip to Ducky's storage locker had yielded several large wooden bookcases for the office, coffee and end tables for the living room and the simple pine table and chairs that had once sat in the Mallard family breakfast room. Away from the ornate dishes and lace doilies the plain lines took on a more modern feel, fitting the rest of the house.
Satisfied with the progress on the main level, Gibbs went down to check on Abby. Several of their Cybercrime helpers from the day before were here now and Abby was busily handing out tasks. The gutters were mounted on the wall and already filled with coloring books and simple reading books. One corner of the room held a square table, just the right height for a preschooler to sit and color, bins of art supplies at the ready.
"Lookin' good, Abs."
"Thanks, Gibbs." She pointed out an alcove behind the furnace room. "We're setting that area up for the computers McGee likes to tinker with. Think of you, but with wires instead of sawdust."
"Cute, Abby." Nevertheless, Gibbs went around the corner to see several of the guys from Cybercrimes loading McGee's big shelving unit with various components and parts while others were assembling a large, new workbench to go against the far wall. Everything was well organized in containers that appeared to also be brand new.
The head of Cybercrimes was there and shrugged at Gibbs. "McGee never bats an eye at pulling an extra load to give us a hand when we need it. We figured this was the least we could do."
"Thanks, he'll appreciate all this."
Slow and steady, the rental house was being turned into a home. Shifts of helpers came and went, but the team was the last to leave Saturday night and the first to arrive Sunday morning. Ducky arrived with several large boxes that he handed over to Ziva. She gave him a very un-ninja like squeal and hug before vanishing into Tiana's bedroom with her new treasure.
Gibbs gave him the eyebrow and Ducky gave a sad smile and a cryptic answer. "Mother always wanted a granddaughter for tea parties."
Leon and Jackie Vance arrived mid-afternoon, carrying several large, bright blue bags. Jackie handed hers over to Gibbs and went to check on Ziva's progress. Grinning as Gibbs looked in the bags, Vance explained. "McGee's got some pretty good kitchen stuff, in fact he's got the blender that Jackie's been hinting at for years, but he's definitely got bachelor dishes."
"Jackie decided he needed an upgrade." Gibbs was grinning, too.
"And it was an excuse to drag me to her favorite store, but I got Swedish Meatballs out of the deal."
"Can't argue with that." The two men unpacked and washed the dishes, glasses and silverware. Vance started to put them away when Gibbs stopped him. "McGee's left handed."
The two men thought for a moment, then decided the best layout before filling the cabinets and drawers.
Once the rest of the work was winding down, Gibbs returned to his truck for the security devices he'd picked up. Replacement smoke detectors, new carbon monoxide detectors and window safety latches were carefully placed and installed. When Gibbs was satisfied, he and the team settled down to wait.
Breena arrived with dinner for the crew around 19.30. Ducky suggested that it wasn't necessary for quite so many people to be at the house waiting for McGee and Tiana to arrive home. Only Jimmy, Breena and the crew from Cybercrimes took the hint, leaving the rest of the team and the Vance's waiting. Vance shrugged as he looked at Ducky. "We won't stay long, I just want Agent McGee to know that it's perfectly all right for him to take a few days of personal time to get settled into his new routine."
"Appreciate that, Leon." Despite the smirk, Gibbs really did. It was important for McGee to know his job was still secure.
"Gibbs, Gibbs, they're here." If they hadn't heard the Porsche pull into the driveway, Abby's excited announcement left no doubt. The group waited on the porch until McGee was out of the car. Tony casually took Abby's hand, keeping the excited Goth from charging the car and allowing Gibbs to greet the new family.
Gibbs took an appraising look at his exhausted man. "Rough weekend?"
"Yeah." Tim met Gibbs at the front of his car, speaking just loud enough for the rest of the group to hear, even if they had to strain. "Grace slipped into a coma this afternoon. Luckily, I took Tia to see her this morning, but she's too young to understand."
Nodding in silent understanding, Gibbs watched as Tim moved to the passenger side of the car. With incredible tenderness and obvious experience, Tim unbuckled his sleeping daughter from her car seat and lifted her. Little Tia barely stirred, just rubbed her cheek against his shoulder before stilling.
Tim kissed the top of her head. "Hey, baby girl, we're home."
"Home?" Her eyes didn't open. "Is Mama here?"
"No, sweetheart, do you remember?" Tim squeezed his eyes shut as he kissed her head again. "You're going to live with Daddy now. You want to see your new bedroom?"
That seemed to wake the little girl up and she raised her head, blinking as she took in all the faces around her as the team had been inching forward. Gibbs gave them the look. "Give her some space, people."
Abby made a giggling comment about 'Papa Gibbs' that caught Tiana's attention. "Daddy, I have a Papa, too?"
Knowing why she'd made the connection, Tim decided to distract her for now. "Not like Billy, sweetheart. Let's meet everyone and go inside, okay?"
Popping her thumb into her mouth, Tia sleepily looked around and gave a little wave with her other hand as Tim started the introductions. "Everyone, this is Tiana Caitlin McGee, my daughter."
He watched the reactions to her middle name before continuing. "Tia, this is your Uncle Tony, and your Aunt Abby and Aunt Ziva." The ladies beamed and Tony wiggled his fingers at Tia, making her giggle.
Tim next turned to Ducky, hesitating slightly as he hadn't discussed any of this with the rest of them. Ducky smiled and stepped closer. "I am your Grandpa Ducky."
"I have a grandpa? Like Amy and Jason? He can go to school with me?"
Knowing an explanation was in order, Tim spoke. "Her old preschool had Grandparent's day once a month."
Ducky seemed pleased at that. "I will look forward to it, Tiana."
Jackie jumped in, not wanting the formal relationship between her husband and McGee to color their relationship with the little girl. "Hello, sweetheart, I'm your Aunt Jackie and this is your Uncle Leon."
When Vance didn't look surprised or upset, Tim mouthed a thank you to them both before turning back to Gibbs. "Tia, this is..."
"Papa." Tia reached out for Gibbs with both hands.
Gibbs grinned, as much at the pronouncement as the embarrassed look on McGee's face, as he took her. "Works for me."
After her hug and kiss, Tiana immediately went back to her father and they followed the team into the house. Stepping inside, Tim stopped and stared in amazement. After a few seconds, Tia wiggled and demanded down. Once down, she circled around the living room as the adults smiled at the adorable picture she made in her footed pajamas. "Our home, Daddy?"
Tim looked almost as amazed as Tia. "Yeah. This is our home." He knew they wouldn't arrive home to a stack of boxes, but this was beyond his wildest dreams. "Guys, I don't know what to say, this is... this is..."
Tony rescued him with a one-armed hug. "This is what family does for each other."
Trying to take it all in, Tim looked around closely. His sofa was there, but a recliner he didn't recognize was also in the room, a stack of bedtime books ready and waiting on the table next to it. In the dining area his tiny, battered table and pair of chairs had been upgraded to a larger table with six chairs, a wire basket of fresh fruit sitting in the middle of the table. In the kitchen, the gadget loving man's various cooking toys were lined up, ready for him to use.
Ziva couldn't wait any longer. "Tiana, would you like to see your bedroom?" She glanced up at McGee, and after his approving nod, Ziva took Tia's hand and led her to the bedroom, stopping in the middle of the room. "What do you think? Do you like it?"
Tiana turned in a circle, taking it all in. "Mine? All mine?"
"All yours, baby girl." Tim was amazed, yet again, but his focus was on Tia's reaction as she walked through the room, reverently touching everything as she went.
"Daddy, it's a princess bed." She ran her fingers over the lace sheers that hung from the canopy frame all the way to the floor. "Just like in my storybook."
"It sure is. Do you like it?"
She nodded, her thumb going back in her mouth, but coming right back out when she saw what was on the other side of the bed. "Daddy, tea party!"
Ducky knew that somewhere his mother was very happy as he watched little Tia run to the table they'd set with the child's tea set Victoria Mallard collected many years ago. Four tiny chairs surrounded the white table that was painted to match the bedding and curtains. Three of the chairs were occupied by two dolls and a stuffed bunny, all wearing fancy hats, waiting for their mistress. The fourth chair was ready for the lucky little girl and she reverently sat down, picking up the hat next to her teacup.
It didn't take any of his honed detective skills for McGee to know who'd been responsible for the bedroom and the tea party as he watched his friends watching Tiana. After giving her a few minutes to play, he got her attention. "Honey, I think Grandpa Ducky and Aunt Ziva and Aunt Jackie deserve a big thank you for this, don't you?"
"Thank you, thank you." Tia ran from Ducky to Jackie to Ziva, hugging each of them. Ziva could tell that Abby was feeling a little left out, so she moved them along.
"Tiana, Aunt Abby has a surprise waiting for you downstairs. Are you ready to go see it?"
After one last look at the tea set, Tia nodded and took Abby's offered hand. Arriving down in the basement, Tia's eyes were huge as she looked around. "Wow, wow, Daddy, wow."
Tim had to agree with his daughter's amazement. What had been a cold empty space was now warm and inviting with sunny yellow walls and a brightly colored striped rug on the floor. Paper, paint and crayons were awaiting her on the table along with bins of every kind of children's art supply he could imagine. In the corner a row of metal gutters acted as narrow shelves, corralling an assortment of books. A small bean bag chair was awaiting Tiana beneath them. In the transitional area between child and adult space, McGee found his old chair, giving him a spot to relax while watching his little girl play.
Beyond that was the adult workspace. Although Tim's attention was definitely on Tia, he walked through the area, his fingers trailing across the new workbench, a shy smile on his face. By now Tiana had found the dress-up clothes and Abby was helping her try on the fairy wings.
"Your Uncle Tony got you all these play clothes, Tia." Abby had already gotten a few hugs over the playroom, but everyone chuckled when Tiana barreled into Tony, giving him a tight hug, especially when a wing slapped him in the face.
Abby wasn't quite done. "There's one more surprise in the garage." Taking Tiana's hand, Abby led the way. It was a two car garage, mostly empty. One bay was ready for the Porsche, while in the other was parked a tiny red sports car. By now Tiana was absolutely speechless as she climbed into the driver's side.
"How do you know it was me?" Tony snickered as Tiana figured out how to make the car move and almost ran over Vance's toes.
Tim had to grin at his friend's coy attempt to sidestep the thanks. "It's a miniature version of what Magnum drove."
"Yeah, well," Tony shrugged as he watched the antics. "It was a Ferrari, how could I pass that up?"
They both returned their attention to the antics as Vance's feet survived another near miss and Tim stepped in. "I think that's enough for tonight. Tomorrow, when it's light, we'll take it outside where there's more room – and Aunt Ziva is not going to be teaching you to drive."
Ziva laughed as she pretended to be insulted, while the others laughed in relief. Tim scooped Tia up and she sat on his hip as they went through the rest of the house, showing her where the bathroom was and where her daddy would sleep. Tony and Ducky both gave silent nods to Tim's whispered thanks at the rest of the house as they all kept their focus on Tia's needs.
She was obviously flagging, so Tim carried her to her room and tucked her in with a few of the stuffed animals. The team listened in from the hall. "It's been a long day. Time for bed, Sweetheart. Do you like your new home?"
Hugging her animals close, Tia made a little sound of pleasure, then her eyes opened wide. "Daddy, where is Mommy going to live?"
Tim's breath caught as he rubbed her back. Out in the hallway, breaths were also held. "Sweetheart, do you remember what Mommy's doctor told you?"
"But what if she gets better?"
"Then we'll get a bigger house." Tim bent down and kissed her face. "But for the two of us, I think this house is just about perfect. What do you think?"
He could tell she was getting sleepy and kept rubbing her back as her words started coming slower.
"Lots of family, just like..." A yawn, then a smile. "Just like in my storybooks."
"That's right, Tiana. We have a family that will always be here for us." Tim looked over his shoulder at his friends and smiled as he continued to speak. "Our family is going to make sure that we're just fine."
A busy weekend for the team. Monday morning brings us to – The Wings of an Angel.