Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 252

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

Chapter 252: Visiting NCIS/Director McGee

Three weeks into this whole fatherhood thing, and Tim’s starting to feel a whole lot more like himself again. Kelly’s reliably (by which he means three out of four naps) sleeping in her crib, and getting six straight hours of sleep every other night helps a lot.

In fact, with Kelly sleeping, and Abby sleeping, he’s feeling like, maybe…

Well, he’s feeling like maybe messing around with the guys in Cybercrime really, but the two foot high stack of laundry in need of washing, and the dishes that really could use being put away, and no one’s vacuumed anything since June and…

So, Kelly’s sleeping, and Abby’s sleeping, and he’s doing chores.  But while he’s working, he’s thinking. He doesn’t actually need a computer in front of him to write code. So, he puts clean dishes away, loads dirty ones, and thinks through what he’s hoping to do.

Eventually, the downstairs is a whole lot cleaner, and he hears quiet crying from upstairs, and he’s on his way up the stairs when he hears Abby moving from the bedroom toward Kelly, so he heads into his office, and starts to put his plan into action.

He’s a little nervous about this. Not the plan. He’s good with the plan. No, he’s a little nervous about bringing Kelly into work.

And not because the whole baby at work thing is unheard of. Yes, it’s been awhile since Molly’s been in to visit. Molly had been by a time or two in the last year (mostly the basement, because that’s where Jimmy is) but not very often because a toddler in Autopsy (or the lab) is not exactly a recipe for great things. 

But at this point in her life, Kelly is basically a loud pillow. There is no shot of her getting into anything she’s not supposed to get into. (Unlike Molly who has gotten awfully wily about getting away from the grown-ups and into things she’s not supposed to be in.)

So, it’s not her getting into something, breaking something, or distracting someone that has Tim nervous about bringing her in.

Hell, it’s not even anything for him personally. He’s already pretty well-known for being soft and goofy. Not like he’s trying to maintain a reputation for heartless efficiency.

But Gibbs and Ziva do not have the sort of reputation that involves them melting into little puddles of goo when in the presence of a three-week-old infant.

Gibbs is cold, distant, terrifying. Pop is warm, cuddly, smiley, and kind of goofy, too. Ziva’s the Ninja: silent, deadly, able to kill a man eighteen different ways with a paperclip. Aunt Ziva coos at babies, cuddles them, and ends up in silent staring wars with Gibbs over which one them gets primary cuddling rights.

And if Tony was the only other guy in the Bullpen, this would never cross Tim’s mind, but he’s not the only guy. There’s Draga and all the fun that goes with trying to figure out how much of who they really are he gets to see, and all the other co-workers.

But for the plan to work, he’s got to go in. And he’s got to see Leon. And he needs a reason to see Leon that does not raise any scuttlebutt and bringing his brand new baby girl in to see work does that just fine.

So, he takes her out of her car seat, puts her in the stroller, and into NCIS they go.

Technically, he’s paying a little visit, showing Kelly where they work.

And he did do that. Headed in with the stroller, sleeping baby, walking her around, letting the co-workers coo over her.

Most of them had no problem with exchanging a few words, mostly along the lines of how beautiful she is (for which he always gives Abby all the credit). And he ends up seeing more than a few baby pictures belonging to co-workers he didn’t even know had children, so he does his part, too, remarking on how they too have babies who are utterly brilliant, and on his way he goes, heading toward the elevator.

Up into the bullpen.

He’d called in ahead of time, so they know he’s coming. Gibbs and Ziva and Tony know why he’s there for real. So, if they just sort of nod at him, while he makes the rounds, and exchange a few words, he’ll get it. He doesn’t expect them to be the people they are at home while they’re at work.

So, of course, he gets up there, and they stop everything, crowding around the stroller. (‘Cause, you know, it’s been four days since Ziva last saw Kelly, and two for Gibbs, so they need their baby fix.) Maybe that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been a paperwork day, but he wouldn’t have done this if it was an active case day.

“You’re missing us, already, McLayabout?” Tony asks as Ziva carefully takes Kelly out of the stroller, snuggling her close, face against the top of her head, inhaling deeply.

“McLayabout? Can’t wait to see you three weeks after your first baby, Tony.”

Draga was standing right next to Ziva, looking at Kelly, he catches Tim’s eye, silently asking permission to touch, and Tim nods, he gently pets her cheek, and she half opens one eye, then shuts it, snuggling into Ziva closer.

“I was a zombie three weeks after Kevin was born.”

Tim’s eyes went wide. “You have a son?”

“Yeah, he’s four. Don’t get to see him as much as I’d like. Anything less than every day isn’t as much as I’d like, but… Long story. He lives with his mother.”

“Oh.” Tim glances at the other three wondering if they knew that, and if they did, why they didn’t mention it to him. Gibbs nods at Draga’s desk, and he does notice there are several shots of Draga with beautiful, cocoa-colored little boy.

Draga half-shrugs. “It is what it is. Part of why this job was attractive. I’m a hell of a lot closer to North Carolina than I was when I was stationed out of Colorado.”

“Yeah. Is she in the Navy?”


“Ah.” The lack of any other comments from Draga makes Tim decide this isn’t anything he needs to know more about right this second. 

“So, you two getting out of the house and letting Mom get some quiet time?” Draga asks.

“That’s the idea. Show her off here, run a few errands, then home again for her next meal.”

“I remember those days.” Draga pets her once more. “Little guys are a whole lot of work. Whole lot of work and a whole lot of no sleep. Four’s a lot of fun, though. Really liking this part. He’s still really cuddly, but independent enough to do fun things, and no more afternoon naps so we can go out for the full day.”

Gibbs nodded along with that. “Hand her over, Ziver.” He got his own cuddles in while saying, “I liked four. Liked all of them really. But, yeah, three and four were awfully sweet.” He looks over to Tim. “You were going to show her off to Leon, right?”

“And down to Autopsy, too.”

Gibbs nudged the stroller toward Tim, and he just kicks it over to his desk, not like he needs it for heading up to see Leon or a quick visit with Jimmy. “Let’s go.”

“You’re coming?”

“Grandpa’s prerogative. I can show her off, too.”

They’re in the elevator, Kelly snuggled against Gibbs, and Tim spent a second staring at him, and then flipped off the elevator.

“You’re carrying a baby around work?”

Gibbs half shrugs.

“Big, bad, terrifying, Leroy Jethro Gibbs is carrying an infant around?”

That gets the death glare aimed at him.

“Just, you’re blowing my mind. I wasn’t expecting you to act like that.”

“What, was I supposed to growl at her?” He holds Kelly up and says to her, “No growling at you. Pop’ll bite anyone who growls at you.”

“Something like that. Or growl at me for distracting you from work.”

That got a little laugh. “Rule Number One.”

Tim blinks slowly. “Do we really need six versions of Rule Number One?”


Don’t screw your partner. Don’t screw over your partner. One of those is yours. One was Director Shepard’s, and I don’t need to know the specifics behind why they’re almost word for word the same but mean something very different. Never leave suspects alone together. That was Franks’, right?” Gibbs nodded. “Don’t lie to Gibbs. That’s mine. Don’t lie to Abby. That’s Abby’s. And now whatever this one is.”

“No shame.”

“What the hell does that mean, and who’s is it?”

“Joe Armant.”

“I have no idea who that is.”

“Mike’s first partner.”

“We’re going that far back on this?”

“Yep. And it means that you can do whatever you want as long as your bold as brass about it. Or as Mike put it, ’Probie, even if yer butt naked with your balls flappin’ in the ice-cold breeze, you walk tall, give orders like you mean ‘em, look everyone dead in the eye, and tell ‘em to go straight to Hell if they don’t like it.’”

Tim flipped the elevator back in, laughing a little at that, he can hear Mike’s voice through Gibbs’ and suddenly wonders what he would have thought of this, probably would have approved, Franks had a soft spot for baby girls. “I bet there’s one hell of a story behind that one.”

Gibbs smiled. “There is. One day, I’ll tell it to you.” 

“Does it involve you or Mike Franks naked?”

Gibbs’ smile morphed into a wide and somewhat dirty grin. “It might.”

But the real reason for his visit was waiting for him upstairs.

Apparently, for this sort of visit, or for what this sort of visit looks like, Gibbs does wait to be shown in by Vance’s Secretary. He spent several minutes chatting with her about Kelly, and it… amuses and pleases Tim to see Gibbs refer to her as ‘our girl.’

But eventually Vance and… SecNav… of course, wander out. And having Jarvis coo over his daughter, and then share a story about his daughter when she was first born was surreal. Having all three of them chatting about being Dads was surreal, too, but eventually work got back on the docket.

Jarvis looked away from Kelly and Gibbs, and said to Tim, “Leon’s filled me in on what you’re doing here. I’ll be very interested to see the report on what you find. And, if you have time,” which Tim took to mean, make some time, “I’d love to see a report on the feasibility of rolling out this sort of test on a larger scale for the Navy.”

“Thank you, sir. I’ll get on that. Has Director Vance mentioned this is a multi-step test?”

“Yes, he has. I don’t expect to see anything until after it’s done.”

“Probably four or five months, maybe longer depending on how they do. Want them to have time to relax between tests.”

“I understand.”

“Okay. As soon as I have my data set, I’ll make sure you get it.”

“Good. She’s beautiful, Agent McGee. Leon, Gibbs,” he nodded at each of them before heading off. 

They headed into Vance’s office, and Tim’s getting things set up when he realizes that there’s more than just showing off a baby that Gibbs is on top of. Making sure she’s tended to while he’s doing this is also what Gibbs is doing.

He catches Gibbs’ eye as he’s getting the show online and mouths, Thanks.

Gibbs nods at him.

And then it was show time.

Tim has Vance’s private phone number, though before yesterday, he’d never used it. When he dialed it, little after lunchtime yesterday, Leon was awfully surprised to get the call. (In that he had not personally ever given that number to Tim. And no, Tim isn’t telling how he got it because, strictly speaking, it wasn’t exactly legal.) But a few minutes into the call, as Tim outlined what he was going to do, and what they’d learn from it, Vance got on board very quickly.

And at 1030, the show began. He’d set things up so that he was not only recording everyone’s computers and what they were doing, but he also had the security cameras set so that they could watch what was going on.

“Okay, this is the biggest, dirtiest, least subtle attack I could think of. It’s hitting all of their individual computers. Right now, it’s saving everything they’re working on. Then it’s just going to start messing around with their settings. For the next five minutes it’ll get less and less subtle. Right now, for example, it’s changing their date and time settings. By the time it’s over, their fonts won’t work, the background will be a different color, stuff like that. It’s really visible but completely harmless.”

Vance is staring at the big screen in his office, currently showing four different views of the Cybercrime techs.

“Why are we watching this?” Gibbs asked. It’s not a great view. They can’t see the computers, just the faces of the techs and what they’re doing.

“Want to see how they react. Want to see who notices what, when. Like… Oh, that’s good. Who’s that?”

Tim’s watching an Asian female, maybe thirty-ish, staring at the screen, poking the monitor a little, squinting.

He brought up what she was doing with her computer. “Okay, she’s trying to figure out what’s going on. The rest of them haven’t noticed anything is up yet. She’s running a basic diagnostic. Because all of her fonts just got a little bigger while the open windows got a little smaller.”

A few seconds later, two more of the techs were poking their computers starting up diagnostic sweeps.

Ngyn, the first of the techs to notice something, was bombarding her computer with code, trying to figure out what was going on.

Three more techs started to work on their computers. Which meant as of this point, six of them had noticed something was up.

“What just happened, McGee?” Vance asked.

“Right now all of their margins moved an inch to the right.”

Vance just stares at him.

Tim shrugged. “I wanted it to be really visible, mess with them, but not actually damage anything they were working on. That left me with cosmetic issues. The last two steps is their font switches to thirty point Comic Sans and the background color switches to orange.”

“You weren’t kidding about visible,” Vance said.

“Not at all.”

“Then what happens?” Gibbs asks.

“Everything goes back to normal. In five minutes, they won’t even be able to tell something changed. And if none of them have figured out what’s happened in that time, they’re going to have a very hard uphill climb figuring it out. While this is happening, I didn’t so much leave a trail of bread crumbs as a yellow brick road leading to Kevin Hussein.”

“He used to work for us, right?” Vance asks.

“Yes. He’s at IBM now, left at the end of ’14. Anyway, I let him know what I was doing and he agreed to be a dummy. He’ll give me a heads up if anyone tracks him down. I also left a real trail of bread crumbs, subtle but not invisible, leading to me. Next attack there won’t even be that. Anyone shows up wanting to know why I’m messing with their fonts…”

“That’s classified,” Vance supplies.

“That works,” Tim answers. “Anyway, once this ends, the brick road, and the breadcrumb trail will vanish. There’ll still be some hints of it, but it’ll be hard to find.”

“You’re giving them an out of the blue timed test.” Gibbs seems impressed by that.

“Yes. Okay. That’s interesting.” He pulled up the logs for the tech in the back row. “He just killed his internet connection. Not sure how that’ll effect things. He might be able to find the trails I left a lot longer and more easily than anyone else…” Tim kept watching… “Or not, he just rebooted, which’ll wipe everything.” 
Two minutes later, all but one of the techs were messing with their computers, trying to make them stop acting weird.

One of them though, was still working away, appearing to be completely oblivious to the fact that his font was different, his margins were screwed, his background was orange, and the date and time had suddenly shifted. “Okay, who is that?” Tim’s searching around through the logs and located Stephen Manners. “He’s either got amazing focus or is the worst person I’ve ever seen when it comes to noticing things. Maybe both.” Tim dug through what he was working on. “Wow… Okay, lots of focus. He coded straight through. I don’t think he even noticed anything happened.”

“Is that a good thing?” Gibbs asked.

“I honestly don’t know. Maybe. Depends on what needs to happen. You ever want a guy to come up with code while he’s got a gun to his head, this is probably the guy. So, good offense, no defense?”

And now, as the test ended and everyone’s computer went back to normal, eleven of twelve techs were messing around, staring at their computers, running scans and diagnostics, but, and this was very disturbing to Tim, not talking to each other. He double checked their computers, shifted the angle of the cameras, they weren’t texting or IMing each other, either.

“That’s not good.”

“McGee?” Vance asked.

“They aren’t talking to each other, at all. I mean, look at them, all in their screens, focused on their own computers. I don’t think any of them know anyone else got hit, yet. That’s not bad teamwork; that’s there isn’t a team down there at all.” Tim cringed, watching them work, still seeing no one talking to anyone else. What was he getting himself into here? Herding cats. “Look, this happens to Tony’s computer, and less than ten seconds later, I’ve got Tony on my desk asking what’s going on. Five seconds after that, I’m running diagnostics on all of our computers. Ziva’s on the line to tech support. Gibbs is looking annoyed that the stupid thing isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, and barking at us to get it fixed.”

That got a smile out of Leon and a glare out of Gibbs.

“Finally!” One of the techs, he doesn’t know which one, but made a mental note to find out who he was, got up to talk to Jenner. Jenner (who had also been hit and had also, on his own, been messing with his computer) looked up, listened for a moment, and then, instead of asking anyone else if they had a problem, changed the way he was searching his own computer to see if the fact that both of them got hit was intentional.

“Well, I think I know why we don’t have the premier Cybercrime division here in DC,” Tim said, shaking his head. At that point Kelly, who had been snoozing on Gibbs decided it was wake up time, and started to fuss. “And my alarm clock is telling me it’s time to get onto the rest of today’s chores.” He’s taking Kelly from Gibbs, while he says, “So, the interesting bit comes later, when they decide what to do about this. Not loving the first brush of teamwork here. And Jenner doesn’t seem nearly concerned enough about this. Not too put too fine a point on it, but anyone gets that far through our firewall, even for a dinky little thing like this should cause a four alarm, code red, all hands on deck, response out of Cybercrime. Anyway. That was the first test. Let me know what, if anything, trickles up to you. I’ll be keeping an eye on how they respond. Next test’ll be in a month or so, and it’ll be subtle.”

He detours on the way to the elevator. There’s a mens room upstairs, and Kelly’s in need of a fresh diaper. Gibbs follows, just watching, not offering to help.

Mostly, he’s just leaning, back against the door, because it’s a small mens room and there’s no changing table, so Tim’s got her on his little portable changing mat, on the floor, and Gibbs is making sure no one opens the door and hits them with it.

“What are you thinking?” Gibbs asks Tim.

“Men’s rooms need changing tables.”

“About Cybercrime.”

“Wanna know if they don’t work together or they can’t.”

Gibbs nods at that. “Looked like a good test.”


“If they can’t?”

“You know just as well as I do that it’s almost impossible to fire a federal employee for incompetence. Maybe Accounting and Human Resources could use some computer guys? I don’t know. Gonna give them time to try and start working together. Gotta reshape the area, too. They’re tucked in little cubicles, hiding away, need to get them facing each other. I do know one thing, after Jenner, they aren’t going to know what hit them.”

Gibbs nods. Tim finished with Kelly’s diaper, gets her onesie snapped back up again. “Okay, got to get her home soon, otherwise she’s going to be very unhappy with me.”

“Then get going.”   


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