Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 214

McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 214: Alpha, Beta, and Omega

There are Alpha Males, the leaders of the pack, Beta Males, the followers, and Omega Males, the ones who don't fit tidily into those groups. They don't generally lead, but can if they need or want to, follow only when it suits them, and tend to care very little about whatever it is the rest of the pack is interested in. They're the creators, artists, jokers, misfits, loners, and dreamers.

Omegas range from Steve Jobs and George Carlin to that guy in the back of the bus station in bad need of a shower complaining to himself about how no one understands him and his art. Basically, it's the entire range of guys who never had any interest in being on the football team. (Not the ones who couldn't get onto it, the ones who didn't want to.)

Tim's spent his life slipping between Omega and Beta (depending on the relationship and period of his life, he's currently firmly in the Omega category and unlikely to leave it again.) His whole life he's been surrounded by Alphas and Ascendent Betas (the guys who will take over the pack when the current Alpha leaves).

"Draga" circa 2014
So, as an Omega, especially an Omega who won't be part of the team for all that much longer, watching Draga, who used to be a test pilot for the Navy, IE someone who is used to being part of an elite team of Alphas, try to figure out where he fits on Gibbs', soon to be DiNozzo's team, is vastly amusing to Tim.

The first time they met, Draga knew how to behave. Gibbs, by reason of white hair, Marine bearing, and the fact that he just commands respect is The Alpha, and as such Draga knows his place: roll over, switch into Beta mode, and show due respect. Tim, as the Tech Guy, was the Omega, and treated like an equal and potential ally.

But Tony and Draga…

Let alone Tony, Draga, and of course, Ziva, (because the addition of women always makes male pack dynamics more interesting) is, well… Tim's excused himself three times because he was about to burst out laughing in a remarkably unprofessional way. (And he did notice the corner of Gibbs' lip quirk upwards twice.) He did however get video of it, and spent lunch with Abby and Jimmy, all three of them giggling hysterically.

Basically, Tony has, for the first time ever, run into a Geek he finds threatening. He's never met an Alpha Geek before, probably never dreamed any of them exist, let alone a young, strong one with physical courage coming out the ears and decent looks. Tony's default way of dealing with people smarter than he is is to focus on the fact that, like Tim, they're usually kind of awkward and less conventionally attractive.

Neither of those things are true about Draga.

The fact that Ziva's being nice to Draga is making it worse.

And on top of that, Draga's ability to see pretty much everything, thus instantly proving he'd be useful to them, means Tony can't just blow him off, either.

Likewise, Draga doesn't know what to do with Tony, either. Tony with strangers is smooth, polished, a little too pretty. Namely, nothing Draga respects. But Tony is the Alpha to be. But he's done nothing to look like he's earned it, at least not that Draga's seen. And right now, Draga's coming to the conclusion that Tony's a Beta who's getting promoted higher than he deserves because he's the senior man.

So, Draga's showing real respect for Gibbs, that too polite, pseudo-respect (putting on the Lt.) for Tony, being friendly to Tim, and friendly and charming (without crossing the line, she's married to the guy who'll be his boss if this goes well) to Ziva.

Abby's watching the video, giggling with him and Jimmy, and says, "If they could just pull 'em out and measure, this would be done so much faster."

Jimmy's watching and says, "They'd end up with this passive aggressive being too polite argument about what sort of ruler to use and if the damn things are accurate."

Abby grins wide and happy at that idea. "They so would. Tony'd suggest the ruler, because he's old school. Then Draga'd be all that's not nearly accurate enough, really we should go by mass, looking at Gibbs and saying something about how important accuracy is…"

"And if either of them said anything like that to me they'd get headslapped so hard their ears would ring." Abby, Jimmy, and Tim all jerked, looking embarrassed and slightly guilty as they heard Gibbs' voice.

"Got a body out in Faluvia County. Draga's getting some in the field time. Palmer, head up and grab him. Let's see how he does with you and Duck. McGee, get moving."

"Moving, Boss," Tim said.

They're in the van, heading toward the dead Marine that Faluvia PD just called in. Tim's driving. (When they want to talk, as opposed to sit there clutching their seat belts in terror, Tim or Tony drives.)

"What's Aubrey like?" Tony asks.

"Lot more like Tim than Draga is," Gibbs answers.

"Precise, fussy, he's a forensic accountant. Why, you already want to knock Draga off the list? Look, Aubrey might be a better fit, but Draga will be able to hit the ground running."

Tony winces at that. "I can see that. He's not going to take a ton of training. Just not sure if he'll mesh well."

"You mean you will not be able to Probie him," Ziva says with a smile.

Tony sighs and flashes his I'm done with you look at her.

Gibbs nods with that. He gets this in a way Ziva doesn't. By virtue of being female, she's sort of outside the line of command, and Draga, due to deeply ingrained chivalry, will always treat her with respect and if given orders by her follow them. Tony's not a girl though, and the two of them may have issues. "It's a concern. As long as I'm here, he's not going to give you any trouble. But he's not going to just accept you as the leader. You'll have to prove to him you're worth it."

"Aubrey won't give you any problems along those lines." Tim's sure of that. He probably won't let himself be bullied the way Tim did, but he'll fall into line easily. Tim knows a good Beta male when he sees one, and Aubrey certainly is one.

"So, easy to work with or photographic memory," Tony says.

"Not sure it's a photographic memory, Tony. He's got some serious visual processing skills, but he'd have to be a fighter pilot, but, we asked him if he had any questions and his first one showed he'd already put together the fact that he's not really replacing Gibbs."

"He's sharp," Gibbs adds.

"I can see that. Aubrey's in day after tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah," Tim nods. He's basically in charge of the whole interview thing.

"He's better with the computer stuff?"

"Yeah. It's what he's trained in."

They pulled to a stop in front of long strings of yellow tape and cop cars with flashing lights.

"Work time. I'm on point for this one, and he's with me," Tony says. Gibbs, Ziva, and Tim got out of the van and started gearing up, getting into coveralls and crime scene booties while Tony grabbed Draga from Ducky and took him over to the local LEOs to get the whole story.

"Step one of an investigation, take custody of the crime scene from the local LEOs."

Draga's nodding as they head over to the Faluvia Co. police.

Two hours later they're still bagging and photographing. The body, Corporal Holly Page, had been taken back to NCIS, and Team Gibbs was working with the scene.

Draga's hovering around the edges. He's not allowed to touch anything, but he can look. He hasn't been saying anything, and no one's really paying attention to that. They were all pretty quiet at their first crime scenes. After all, five hours ago (ish) this was a real person, alive and doing whatever, expecting to have a normal day, and then from the looks of it someone broke in and killed her.

As Tim's photographing the foyer, Draga says to him, "None of the witnesses saw the break in, right?"

"Ziva and Gibbs did witness statements, but yeah, I think that's right."

Draga looks at the door more closely, the lock is busted, broken inwards. Looks like the door was kicked in.

"No break in," Draga says.

"Huh?" Tim's still shooting the carpet and stairs.

"No footprint on the door. It's one of those cheap doors, and if you kick one of them you leave a mark. No mark on the wall. Kick a door hard enough to break it in, it swings back and slams into the wall, or…" he kneels and points at the little doorstopper at the base of the door, "or that thing does. But nothing. No mark on the door from hitting the doorstopper. No mark on the wall from the doorstopper hitting it. The carpet is out of place, and that doesn't happen when you kick in a door. The door got pulled in from the inside, hard enough to make it look like it was forced."

Tim nods, that works, and also works with a bit of the case that he doesn't think Draga's gotten, namely the patio door had been unlocked.

"Good work. Go tell Tony about it."

And Draga does, carefully skirting the edges of the scene, making sure not to touch anything.

Yeah, he may have a hard time with Tony, but Tim's really liking the idea of someone who sees that much, that well, on the team.

Tony had a much easier time with Aubrey. Because Aubrey fit his expectation for a Geek. And because Aubrey knows his role and how to play it.

Tony tried a little mild hazing on him, and Aubrey just looked at him, a long, calm look, up and down, suddenly making it very clear that this man is a Marine, and then turned to Tim and said, "You know, the IRS has been gearing up for ACA compliance officers. They're offering fifteen thousand a year more than you are and a company car."

Tony didn't haze him after that.

Aubrey showed up on a paperwork day. So they didn't get a chance to see what he'd do out in the field.

After lunch, Tony and Ziva took him shooting, wanting to see him handle a weapon. They came back an hour later, and Aubrey was slightly green. Tim looked up at him. "Single biggest threat to anyone on Team Gibbs is Ziva's driving. Congratulations, you've survived the first test."

Aubrey sat down heavily. "How does she still have a license?"

"Cops look after their own. They see the plates and usually won't pull her over."

"Great. Does she usually drive?"

"'Bout a quarter of the time."

"Oh, God!"

Tim hit the enter key, finishing the form he was working on, and stood up. "Come on. Time to head down to meet the rest of the team."

As they were heading to the lab, Aubrey asked, "If I take this job, how much crap will DiNozzo give me?"

"As much as you'll let him, and then just a tiny bit more."

Aubrey shakes his head. "I didn't like that about the Marines."

"From what Gibbs has said, DiNozzo's not exactly on the same level as Marine hazing. More pranks and nicknames than anything really dangerous, but I have had my face superglued to my desk."


"The way you looked at him shut him up a lot faster than usual. Reminding him that you've got other options seemed to work. And he's grown up a whole lot since I was the Probie."

"So, you were the Probie, Gibbs was team leader, and DiNozzo was more or less in charge of training you?"


"So, I join in, Gibbs retires, DiNozzo will run the team, and you'll be more or less in charge of me?"

No. But he can't say that without letting out that he's not going to be around all that much longer. "I think Ziva will be in charge of you."

"Why not you?"

Good question. Tim thought up a quick lie. "Low man takes the Probie, and that's her."

"Oh." They didn't say anything for the rest of the ride down to the lab. Once the elevator door opened, Aubrey asked, "Is it always this loud down here?"

Tim smiles. "Not always. It's usually quieter when I'm down here."

"And you're down here a lot."

"Yeah. Remember when Gibbs asked you about my wife?"

"Uh huh."

"You're about to meet her."

"Oh. She works here?"

"Yeah." They stepped in. Abby's back was to them, working on her computer.

"Don't turn it down, Kelly likes this one," she says without turning around, so Tim put the remote in his pocket, as soon as this song is over the volume is going down.

"Who's Kelly?" Aubrey says to him, not seeing anyone else, as they walk to the computers.

"Our daughter." Which was when Abby turned and Aubrey figured out where Kelly was and why she might require the music this loud to appreciate it. Tim kissed her, and then said, "Abby, this is Aubrey, he's applying to replace Gibbs."

She nods and offers her hand. "Hi. I'm Abby." She gestured around her. "And this is the lab. All the magicky science stuff happens down here."

The song ended, and Tim turned the volume down. "Blowing out your own ears is one thing. It'd be nice if Kelly could hear," he said as a joke.

"Uh huh." She signed at him quickly. But he finally did ask Gibbs what it meant and had prepped a response. Abby's eyes went wide when he signed back at her.

"What was that?" Aubrey asked.

Tim smiled. "You don't need to know." (In reality she'd been signing at him, Then you'll just have to learn sign language, and he'd finally flashed back with, working on it.) But he kind of likes the mystery of what they might have been communicating to each other.

"So, how are you liking NCIS, Aubrey?" Abby asks.

"So far, so good. Kind of quiet."

"We tend to work in two modes, everything all at once, pedal to the metal, and laid-back not much going on. Yesterday we closed a case," Abby says.

"Yeah, not much in the way of middle gears here. It's either full-out run or lay around and fill out paperwork."

Aubrey thinks about that for a moment. Then he looks at Tim. "You said you work down here?"

"Yeah, I've got two computers up on my desk, so I set them searching, then head down here to use one of hers, as well."

"So, how will this work? Gibbs retires and…"

"He's not retiring until January, so for the first bit, you'll be covering my leave when Kelly's born. Then there'll be a few months of the five of us. Then Gibbs goes, and we settle into whatever the new normal is."

"All right." Aubrey looks at Tim, and then Abby, and Tim again, but he doesn't say anything. Tim's fairly sure that he's putting together that two plus two isn't exactly the four he's been told it is, but unlike Draga, he's not asking about it.

On Friday, at Shabbos, after dinner was over, they talked through who they were going to offer the job.

Tony still wasn't sure who he wanted. In the short run, Draga would be more useful. When it comes down to it, they don't know when Tim's leaving, though the discrete ear he's got down in Cybercrime is indicating that Jenner's been interviewing lately, so it'll probably be sooner than later, and the possibility of both Tim and Gibbs gone in quick succession is real. The possibility of Tim gone before Gibbs is real.

And if that happens, someone who can pull his own weight as both a tech and a field agent matters.

But if Tim's there for another year, having someone who will fit more easily into the dynamics of the team, someone who isn't used to being in the limelight, that'll lend itself to a happier, and maybe, in the long run, more-effective team.

In the end, it's Tony and Ziva who have to make the decision. Gibbs won't be there. Tim won't either.

"So, the guy I have to prove myself to, or the guy who sees but doesn't ask?" Tony says.

The fact that it appeared that Aubrey had also figured out this wasn't about replacing Gibbs, but didn't say anything about it stuck with Tony.

"Looks like it, Tony," Tim says. "If you want, we can call Howard back, too, but… I mean, she's really green."

"And that's saying a lot, coming from you," Tony replies.

"Yeah. Do you have the patience to break in another Probie, one that'll make Dornie looks sophisticated and experienced?" Tim asks him.

"Ugh. No. Ziva?"

"No. I'll do fine with Aubrey or Draga, and am probably leaning toward Aubrey. Nine years from now, when you run into mandatory retirement age, Tony, I have a feeling he and I will work together well as the core of that team. Draga would challenge me for leadership of the team."

"He won't stick around that long. He's good. He sees everything, and puts it together fast. He'll have his own team in five years," Tony says.

Gibbs sits in his chair, quietly drinking his wine, listening. He sends Tony the you've made up your mind, stop dithering and go with it look.

Tony nods. "He's the better agent, and we're the strongest team at NCIS. I'll send Draga the job offer on Monday."


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