a/n - Yeah, after last night's episode... ouch. A tissue alert more than ever.
The Wings of an Angel
"You're getting an early start." Leon Vance had gotten out of the shower to find Jackie already putting on her coat.
She called down the hallway to remind their kids about the day's carpool arrangements before turning back to her husband. "I'm going over to Agent McGee's. I'm sure he's going to need help this morning."
"Did he ask for help?"
"Leon, he's a man, I think it's genetically impossible. A single man who has never had a child before. A white, single man who is going to try to do that little girl's hair this morning. He may not have asked for help, but he's certainly going to need it." Without giving Leon a chance to argue, she picked up her purse and walked out the door.
Vance leaned against the wall and rubbed his face, worried about how McGee would take the intrusion. Lily was laughing as she came out of her room. "She didn't let you touch my hair when I was little either, Daddy, remember?"
"I remember, baby." Jackie had spent hours making sure Lily's hair was perfect when she was little and had actually shed a few tears when her daughter was old enough to take care of her own hair and style it in a more adult manner. "All right, let's see what Mom left us for breakfast and I'll apologize to Agent McGee later."
Tim looked up from combing out Tiana's hair as a car pulled into his driveway. As he saw the driver climb out, he reminded Tia who she was, then opened his door. "Mrs. Vance, what can I do for you this morning?"
He didn't look harried or stressed at all and Jackie began to worry that she was overstepping her bounds. Before she could come up with a plausible reason to be at his house so early, Tim stepped aside and motioned her in.
"Hi, Aunt Jackie." Tiana was happily sitting at the table, eating a bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh fruit. Her hair was no longer in the loose French braid from the night before, but the proper wide-toothed comb was sitting on the table next to a spray bottle of moisturizing hair conditioner.
"Good morning, Tiana. Don't you look pretty this morning." Jackie took in the outfit the little girl was dressed in. Sparkly jeans that showed bright pink leggings through the artfully placed holes were topped off with the pink plaid shirt and pink t-shirt from Gibbs.
"Pink's my favorite color."
Glancing at the clock, Tim picked up the comb as he stepped in back of Tiana. "Okay, Sweetpea, need a decision. Puff or twists?"
"Puffs, Daddy." When she felt her father gently and expertly pull her hair up to the top of her head, Tia clarified her choice. "Two puffs, Daddy."
"Two, are you sure?" Tim exchanged a smile with Jackie before leaning over enough to give Tia an upside down look. "What about three? We could do three."
Tim laughed at his daughter's wail and parted her hair down the middle. "Well, if you're sure..."
Her head bounced up and down. "I'm sure, Daddy."
With obvious experience, he quickly tied up the puffs with soft elastics and Jackie reached out to touch the soft hair.
"I'm sorry for intruding, I guess I just miss this age." She shrugged as she admitted what was obvious. "You know exactly what you're doing. I'm afraid I was expecting..."
He was smiling and Jackie returned the smile. "Maybe a little bit."
"Right now, thanks to all of you, everything is pretty easy. Wait until there's a case that's had us running for weeks, the outfit she wants to wear is still in the laundry and we're having a bad hair day. You'll probably be getting a phone call."
"I'm looking forward to it." Jackie winced at how her comment sounded. "Well, not about you having a bad day, but, well, you know."
"I do." Still smiling, Tim turned back to Tia. "What do you think, you want to spend some girl time with Aunt Jackie once in a while? Maybe bake cookies?" The enthusiastic nod had them both smiling.
"It's a date, then." Jackie followed them out to the car, watching as Tim placed her go bag in the trunk next to his, before buckling Tia into her car seat.
Gibbs looked up. "Morning, McGee. You get Tia all settled at child care?"
"Yep." Swinging his backpack under his desk, Tim sat down and started to boot up his computer. "She's happily playing with her new friends and I'm having lunch with her there later."
Tony had been surprised to see McGee that morning. "Why didn't you take a few days first, McGee? Gibbs and the Director would have signed off on it."
"I know." Tim sighed as he tried to explain. "With everything happening, I wanted to get her new routine established. Besides, I'd rather save the time off for when Grace, well, when Grace is gone."
DiNozzo knew that a few days of personal leave wouldn't effect the bereavement leave McGee would soon qualify for, but at the subtle shake of Gibbs' head he dropped the subject. Before another topic of conversation came up, Vance cut through the bullpen on his way back from his Monday morning briefing on the hill.
Vance waved Tim back to his seat before perching on the edge of the desk. "I hope my wife's arrival didn't cause any problems for you this morning."
"No problem, Sir. She wanted to make sure I was okay doing Tia's hair."
"If it's any consolation, she didn't let me touch Lily's hair until she was seven."
Tim laughed at the admission. "Good to know, Director, but it was pretty obvious that she misses having a little one at home. We've set it up so that if I have trouble some morning with Tia's hair, I can call her for help and Tia will go visit once in a while for some girl time and cookie baking."
Leon thought about it for a moment. "Jackie gets some time with a little one and I don't have to put a third kid through college – sounds like a win/win to me." He clapped McGee on the back before retreating to his office.
McGee's next visitor was Tori Hunter, the artist NCIS used on occasion. "Hi, thanks for coming down."
"How could I not? Your project sounds amazing, I'm glad you asked me to do it." She took the bulky envelope he handed her and quietly left. Tim looked up to see three pairs of inquisitive eyes looking back at him, so he explained. "At Tia's age, it's hard to understand death, so Grace explained that the doctors couldn't make her better so she was going to be an angel in Heaven. I asked Ms Hunter to draw Grace as an angel to help Tia when it happens."
"That sounds," Gibbs had to clear his throat and start again. "That sounds like a wonderful idea, McGee."
"Thanks, Boss. When the doctors ran out of options, Grace and I made the decision that our top priority was helping Tia through it."
"What about Grace's mother, McGee, how could she turn her back on her own grandchild?"
Ziva may have been the one to finally voice the question, but he'd known they were coming. Even Vance stopped on his way to MTAC to listen. Tim sighed and leaned his elbows on his desk, resting his chin on his folded hands. "Grace was diagnosed with cancer the same day she found out she was pregnant. She didn't tell anyone about the cancer until after Tia was born."
"Because the treatment would have harmed the developing baby?"
"Exactly, Boss. She put everything she had into having a healthy baby and her mom..."
It wasn't hard for Tony to guess the rest. "Was already having a hard enough time accepting her choice to keep the baby and now it was literally killing her."
"Yeah, the delay in treatment dropped her chances of survival from over sixty percent down to less than twenty." Tim hesitated before deciding to tell them the rest. "Grace is a very spiritual person. It wasn't that she was against abortion. She told me that she'd had a very strong vision that convinced her that her baby needed to be born, no matter what the increased risk was to herself."
"No, she never would tell me what the vision was about. Just that she was totally convinced she was making the right decision. I'd never seen her so sure about anything, so I had to support it."
Ziva stood and crossed over to McGee's desk, kissing him on the cheek. "You are a good man, McGee, and Tiana is very lucky to have you as a father.