Camping Together

A/N We know from several episodes that Jessica was an avid camper. Jess took Jimmy and Victoria on a camping weekend. This is what happened. This is a companion story to the Palmer Family Adventures and will be several chapters.

Standard disclaimers - I don't own NCIS. Feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Jess was in the garage looking through her camping equipment, backpack, tent and cooking gear. After Gage Winchester, she rarely went camping and didn't know the working condition of any of it so she thought it prudent to look. Victoria had a sleeping bag for sleepovers, but Jimmy didn't have one. Jess wanted to buy one that zipped together so they could help keep each other warm.

Victoria walked in. "What ya doin' mom?"

"Seeing what we had and what we needed for our upcoming camping trip. Is your dad home yet?"

"No. He's still helping the neighbors with their shed."

Jess chuckled. "I told him it would take longer than an hour to put it together."

Victoria grinned. "I hear both dad and Mr. Evans complaining about the instructions and that parts are missing."

Jess laughed. "Please bring me a pad of paper and a pencil, Victoria."

"Wouldn't you just rather use your phone? It is the 21st century."

"Right you are miss smarty pants. I left my phone in the kitchen. Bring it to me please?"

Victoria chuckled. "Yes, mom."

A minute later, Victoria returned with Jess' phone, handing it to her.

Jess gave her a hug. "Thank you, sweetie."

"Do you need some help?"

"Yes, please. Help lay out all of the equipment we have."

Soon. Jess and Victoria had everything laid out and took inventory.

Victoria took pictures of the items and Jess began a list of what was needed. Then they were startled by a loud crash from next door. Alarmed, Jess and Victoria ran outside to take a look.

"Jimmy? Brian?" Jess called out.

"Back here." Came the reply. "We're okay."

Jess and Victoria walked into the back yard. "But the shed isn't" Jess observed.

"No it's not." Brian Evans agreed.

The shed was on its side clearly looking like it was missing something important. Jess walked over and gave Jimmy a hug and a kiss. The adults stood there looking at the mess trying to figure out what to do next.

Victoria looked around the yard and spotted a long skinny box over by the trash barrels among several other discarded boxes. What was different about this box was that it didn't appear to be open. Victoria walked over to it and picked up one end. It was not empty. "Mr. Evans," Victoria called out. "Is this box supposed to be among the trash?"

The three adults looked over at her and Brian said. "Can you bring it here, Victoria?"

Victoria drug the box over. Jimmy and Brian looked at it in surprise." "How did this box get over there?" Brian asked.

Jimmy shook his head. "Beats me." He gave Victoria a hug. "Thanks for finding it,"

Victoria chuckled. "So you were telling the truth when you said some parts were missing."

Both Brian and Jimmy laughed.

With all four working on the project, the shed was finished in a half an hour.

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Jimmy, Jess and Victoria looked at the camping equipment on the garage floor. "How much more equipment do we need?" Jimmy asked.

"How much do you want to buy? Do we want to car camp or hike in? If we want to hike in we need quite a lot of stuff." Jess responded.

"How so?" Jimmy asked.

"When you are backpacking, weight and size of the gear is very important. It's a lot different when your campsite is at the end of a 10 mile hike rather than 10 feet from your car." Jess chuckled in response.

"We need to get new sleeping bags for us that can zip together and Victoria needs a warmer one. You and Victoria need backpacks and hiking shoes,too. I've got those covered."

"How far did you go on your first hike mom?"

"We did a combo car camp and day hike. Maybe that is the best way for us to start. We can find a great place near a lake or river and do some hiking and maybe fishing."

Jimmy and Victoria looked at each other nodding in agreement. "Great idea. That way we can start with the basics and grow into it later."

Jess nodded. I'll look for some good options. There are so many national parks relatively nearby."

"I hope we don't run into Pablo Escobear." Jimmy said.

Jess laughed. "Unlikely, but we'll know where the nearest ranger station is in case we do."

"We better get some bear spray too. Do you want to head over to REI to do some shopping?"

Victoria said "I'm hungry. What about dinner?"

Jess looked at her watch. It was 4:00 pm. She looked at her husband. "The store closes at 7 on Saturdays. Do you want to head to the store and come back home and BBQ some hamburgers? It's a little early for dinner."

Jimmy nodded. "Sounds like a plan. Let's get ready to go."

Jess noticed Victoria's pout. "Don't worry. I'll get you a snack to eat on the way over."

Victoria grinned at her mother and gave her a hug. "Thanks mom."

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The REI camping store was huge, carrying all sorts of outdoor recreational gear. Being the most experience camper and frequent visitor to the store when she was in Seattle, Jess led them through maze of aisles and displays. The first stop was to look at tents. Jimmy was amazed at the variety of sizes and shapes.

"Well, sweetheart, what should we be looking for?"

Jess walked to a family tent that slept 6. You could almost stand up straight in it. It also weighed 15 pounds. "All three of us could fit into this one pretty comfortably. It's not too heavy if we wanted to backpack with it. We could probably divide up the poles from the tent itself. It's not a four season tent so it wouldn't work in the winter, unless we're in Florida."

Jimmy nodded and chuckled. "I don't know about you, but I rather like being warm. I don't anticipate winter camping."

Victoria looked at her dad. "But wouldn't be fun to make snowmen and throw snowballs and go sledding?"

Jess laughed. "That would be fun. But if we do that I would much rather be in a mountain cabin than a tent."

Jimmy grinned at his wife. Victoria slowly nodded. "You're right mom."

Jess looked around and showed them a few other tents and decided to buy a family tent. Then they headed to the sleeping bag area. They looked first for one for Victoria. Victoria was more interested in the color than whether it would keep her warm. "I like this one, mom." Victoria said to Jess. It was orange and had cartoon characters on it. The rating was very poor for warmth. Jess squatted down to her daughter's level. "Sweetheart, that sure is cute but it won't be so cute when it's 40 degrees at night and you can't get warm."

Victoria frowned for a moment before coming to her senses. "You're right mom. What do you recommend?"

Jess picked up a properly rated blue sleeping bag showing it to her. "Do you like this blue one? If not it comes in green or black."

Victoria looked at the colors and picked the green one. "Good choice. See those slip covers over there?" Jess asked. Victoria nodded.

"Go ahead and pick out anyone you like. I need to help your dad with our sleeping bags. Jess said.

Jimmy was looking at down sleeping bags. They were very well rated for warmth and were light in weight. The one he was holding advertised the ability to zip together with another bag.

Jess wrapped her arms around her husband from behind. "Find anything interesting sweetheart?"

Jimmy turned his head and gave his wife a kiss. "This one can be zipped together with another bag so we can properly snuggle up. That's the most important feature isn't it?"

Jess chuckled. "Yes, that is a very important feature. We will keep each other warm. I'm not sure if we need down sleeping bags. They're very expensive and great for hiking. Are they what we need for car camping."

Jimmy looked at his wife with a grin. "I defer to you for the answer to that question. You're the expert. Is there a better choice?"

While they were talking, as store clerk came over to them. His name badge said Stan. "Those are great sleeping bags and a good value right now as there is a sale. If you buy two you get one free."

"Interesting sale Jimmy observed. How many people buy three sleeping bags?"

Jess chuckled. "Actually, that is a really good deal. We can get one for Victoria as well. These will meet all our camping and backpacking needs."

Jimmy nodded. "OK, then. Let's buy them. Victoria, change of plan."

Victoria looked over at her dad. "What is it?"

"Come over here and pick out a sleeping bag from one of these. Your mom and I are getting these bags. You can match us."

Victoria came over and looked. They had a pretty sky blue one than caught Victoria's eye. "I like this one." She said to her parents.

Jess nodded. "What color do you think your mom and dad should get?"

Victoria looked around at the choices. "You should get the dark blue one."

Jimmy looked at Stan and said "We'd like these three sleeping bags please."

Stan nodded. "Excellent choices. Do you have air mattresses to sleep on?"

Jimmy looked over at Jess. She shook her head. "We need them. Where are they?"

Stan walked them over to the area and showed what was available and made his recommendations.

Jess chose a queen mattress for her and Jimmy and a twin for Victoria. Victoria chose the color.

Jimmy checked his watch. "It's getting late and I'm hungry. Let's take our new camping gear and head home. We can finish our shopping another day."

Jess nodded. "Good idea." She grinned and gave him a kiss. "I want my burger medium rare."

Jimmy chuckled as they headed to the cash register.

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Jimmy was standing at the BBQ with spatula in hand watching the burgers making sure they are grilled to perfection. Brian and his wife Kristin came over with dessert and drinks. Jess was in the kitchen with Victoria making potato salad and opening bags of chips. Kristin was six months pregnant with their first child. Jess called them on the way back from the store and invited them over.

"When are you going camping?" Brian asked.

"In three weeks over the holiday weekend." Jimmy answered. "I'm just glad my wife is an outdoors expert."

Brian nodded. "I used to go backpacking when I was a kid with the Boy Scouts but haven't been in several years. I've gotten soft."

Jess and Kristin walked over to the outside table with some of the food. Jess asked "What have you gotten soft at?"

Brian chuckled. "Backpacking."

Kristin laughed. "In my current condition I couldn't hike up a small hill."

Jimmy laughed. "Brian will carry the tent, equipment and food in the backpack and push you up the hill."

Jess cracked up. "Jimmy's just afraid Victoria and I will load up his backpack with all the heavy items."

Jimmy looked at his wife with a grin. "How did you know?"

Everyone laughed.

When the burgers were done, cheese melted and put in the buns, everyone grabbed a plate, loading them up with their favorites.

As they were eating, they discussed their days and ended up playing cards until it was time for Victoria to go to bed.

Brian and Kristin cleaned up the dishes while Jimmy and Jess put their daughter to bed. When they came back to the kitchen, everything was finished. "Thank you for taking care of the cleanup." Jess said.

"I'm glad you used paper plates." Brian said with a laugh.

"Thank you for inviting us over. It's been a really fun time." Kristin said.

"You're welcome. We had fun too. Do you want to play a game?" Jimmy asked.

Brian looked at his wife. She was looking very tired. "Another time. Kristin is looking a little worn out."

Kristin nodded. "I am tired. It's time I went to bed."

Jess nodded. "We understand. Have a good night."

Brian and Kristin headed home.

Jimmy wrapped his wife in his arms, kissing her deeply. "I love you my Jessica. I wonder what you would look like when you're six months pregnant."

Jess looked into her husband's eyes and kissed him back. "Are you telling me you want to have a baby?"

"I do, but not right now. Don't you?"

Jess smiled. "Of course I want to have your baby. I'm like you though, I want to enjoy married life with just the three of us right now." Jess looked coyly at Jimmy. "But that doesn't mean we won't need lots of practice."

Jimmy looked confused at his wife for a moment. "What kind of practice are you talking about?"

Jess chuckled. "Why making a baby, of course."

Jimmy grinned at his wife, taking her hand leading her back to their bedroom.

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