Sidereal: of or with respect to the distant stars (i.e., the constellations or fixed stars, not the sun or planets). 1: of or relating to the stars 2: measured by the apparent motion of the fixed stars sidereal time
Warning: Kid!Fic, Kid!Tim, Papa Bear!Gibbs, Mentions of non-graphic child abuse.
To the Stars
The stillness of the night surrounded the young boy as he ran through the streets only being interrupted by his harsh breathing. He had to get away. His small legs carrying him the distance away from the responsibilities and pressures of being a navy brat of a taciturn and unforgiving man.
When he felt like he ran enough, his house no longer in site for miles, Timothy McGee came to a stop, hands on his knees huffing to catch his breath, in the darkly lit park. He had forgotten his inhaler and when his breathing wouldn't slow, he started to panic. His lungs burned and he couldn't get enough air. The small child of about 10, finally began to forcibly stop his gasping, to control his breathing, Tim held his breath only allowing himself to breathe in a normal pace. Black spots danced in front of his eyes, but soon the gasping turned to slight wheezing and he was finally able to get enough air to peek at his surroundings, not a soul nearby. The chirping of talkative crickets and the serene calmness of the night lulled Tim to relax more, his breathing coming easier, as he looked up into the night sky. The sky looked so big. So vast. He could pretend to get lost in the bright shimmering stars, to disappear amongst the sea of lights. Maybe that would solve all his problems.
"It's pretty, isn't it?" The strong male voice startled Tim to his core, not expecting anyone to be out at this time of night. Tim froze in response, holding his breath and not moving an inch. Maybe the tall man would leave if he didn't get a reaction.
"The stars, I love taking a walk this time of night, you're able to see the night sky so clearly. Isn't that right?" The brown haired man smiled gently at the still frozen child as he sat down beside him on the grass.
"My name's Jethro Gibbs, what's yours son?" Gibbs looked away from the small boy and back up to the stars seemingly enjoying the view. After what seemed like eternity to the older man, he felt soft, timid tremors as the boy released his breath and tiredly sat down near him.
Quiet, strangled tones came from his side and he was reluctant to look at the small child, not wanting to frighten him more.
"Tim." The small blondish brown haired boy finally replied as he looked up at the sky. Gibbs looked over and frowned at the desolate expression on Tim's face. No kid should know how that feels.
Gibbs put a smile on his face, looking friendly. "Well, nice to meet you Tim. Do you have a last name?" Jethro questioned softly, no child should be out this late alone. Everything was making his gut go on overdrive, screaming at him. Something was wrong and everything that his brain was coming up with was worse than the last.
The whispered voice brought him out of his thoughts. "No, just Tim." The small child uttered quiet but firmly. There would be no arguing with Tim. Gibbs let out a silent sigh, he should have known it wasn't going to be easy.
"Do you know what those patterns of stars are called?" Gibbs looked over at Tim and pointed up to a cluster of stars that looked like a basket with a long handle. Tim stared at the older man for a while but eventually looked up to where he was pointing.
"It's the big dipper Mr. Gibbs" Tim stated matter of factly, but still sounding subdued.
"You don't have to call me Mr. Gibbs, Jethro or just Gibbs is fine, Tim. And you're right it is the big dipper, but if you look out just a bit and combine the little dipper with the big dipper, you get the Ursa Major. You know what that means, smarty pants?" Gibbs flashed a playful smirk at the small boy beside him. Gibbs could see the wheels turn vehemently within his little mind, as Tim scrunched his face trying to remember.
"It means the great bear!" Tim cheered happily at remembering his studies, momentarily forgetting what brought him to the park in the first place.
"That's absolutely right, Tim! Good job!" Gibbs smiled brightly as the child gave a timid smile back to him.
"There's a really sad story to go along with it." Gibbs continued as the child turned his head away from the stars, his attention fully upon the older man.
The stars shimmered around them, casting an eerie glow as Gibbs recalled the haunted tale of Callisto, Hera, Zeus, Artemis and Callisto's son Arcas.
"Maybe Callisto likes it up there, to be with her son, all alone. Maybe it's not a curse and more of a…of a blessing…" The child like voice reverberated sagely among the dew-covered grass sounding older than his young age. Gibbs gripped his fists, Tim's voice shouldn't have that wistful tone, and accepting so easily to just disappear. Kids would usually get upset at Zeus for turning Callisto into part of the bear. Would be upset and defending of the poor nymph and hunting companion. What had happened in this young child's life to make him so depressed? The soft glow from the stars lit up Tim's exposed skin and Gibbs had to stop the rushed intake of breath. The purpling bruises on the pale white skin made Gibbs see red. What kind of monster would hit a child?
"Tim, where did those bruises come from?" Gibbs's light questioning tone made the boy freeze once more.
"I'm no' supposed to talk 'bout it." The subdued voice made Gibbs feel conflicted, he wanted to hit the person responsible and wanted to reach out and hug the scared kid, comforting and protecting him.
"Tim, it's okay, I'm a person who can help. You can tell me. Whatever you say will stay between us." Gibbs spoke quietly to the boy he had just met. Tim started to shake his head no, his short messy hair ruffling itself and his mouth opened without permission.
"My dad took me and his friends on a boat today." The strained, hollow voice spoke and continued when Gibbs didn't interrupt.
"I get seasick a lot, and for someone who is on boats all of the time, it's an embarrassment to both the family and the Navy." The boy's voice seemed to have taken on a quoting tone, like that of having been told to him numerous times, even getting the pitches down perfect. Tim stopped talking afraid he had given too much away and clamped his mouth shut tight once more.
Gibbs sighed inwardly and could guess where he got those bruises, and the tone of that statement reminded him of a few people in the upper brass that he had to work with on occasion. This kid was a Navy brat and by the sound of it, his father was a mean and ruthless ranking officer.
Gibbs caught the slight movement and knew the kid was going to run, Gibbs had to think fast and he hoped to hell the kid would call. Jethro rummaged in his wallet and pulled a plain white card with his name and information on it and put it in his jacket pocket. He shrugged out of the warmed jacket and shivered when the cool crisp breeze hit him. 'How is this kid not freezing to death when he's only wearing a thin shirt and a pair of jean shorts?' Gibbs caught a slight shiver and frowned, this kid knew how to play things off but his expressions and body language gave him away. Tim was freezing.
With the warm jacket in his hands he covered the small boy, who jumped and froze at the treatment, his escape attempt forgotten. Tim's senses were overwhelmed with the smell of coffee and sawdust, it was a weird scent, but the more he smelled it, the more comforting it got.
"There's a card in the pocket Tim. If there's anything you need, or if you just even want to talk, call me. I will always pick up. I promise." Gibbs watched as the small boy put his hand in the pocket and pulled it away surprised with the card in his hand, the question visible in his big green eyes.
"You're not alone and you shouldn't have to sympathize with Callisto. You shouldn't be made to feel like you need to go away. I mean it Tim, if there is anything you need, you call me." Gibbs ice blue eyes held the bright green for what seemed like hours, until the green looked away, eyes misty.
"Thank you Mr. Gibbs." Tim's voice hitched at the start of the older man's name. He wasn't used to such kind treatment and by a random stranger he just met. He was used to being bullied from other kids, or getting yelled at from his dad when he couldn't do as he was told. He never met anyone this nice before. Tim fingered the white card with the strangers name and held onto it like a lifeline. The smell of the jacket calming him and keeping the cold from reaching him.
"Mr. Gibbs? Do you want to be my friend?" Tim's tentative question broke Gibbs's heart, shattering it into pieces, and he kneeled next to the small kid, from where he stood. Gibbs looked into the scared green eyes and ruffled the messy hair, how could he say no to this sweet kid.
"Yeah son, I'm your friend." Tim responded by giving Gibbs a wide smile and threw his arms around the older man.
He could make it back home, he didn't need to disappear, and he made a friend! His first friend! Tim removed himself from the hug and took off at a sprint towards what Gibbs assumed was his house.
Gibbs looked up at the lightening sky and watched as the last few stars shimmered. He released his breath, a cloud of smoke escaping, he felt wrung out and empty. Jethro could only pray that Tim would call if he ever needed anything. He promised right there that he would do anything to keep that nervous boy safe.
The fourth word was Sidereal on Thu, 17 Mar 1994