Monday, November 18, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 254

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

Chapter 254: Story Time With Grandpa Gibbs

Technically, Kelly was supposed to show up today. And technically, they're off this weekend. Fourth of July is a Federal Holiday (and supposedly they've got all of them off) but it's on a Saturday this year, so they all got Monday off as well.

Granted, long weekend doesn't mean much to Tim and Abby right now. Tim's not due back until the middle of July and Abby's not due in until the middle of September. But, for Gibbs and the rest of the team, long weekend does mean something.

And Gibbs is taking advantage of it. Cook out. His place. The extended Gibbs clan has been invited. (It's entirely possible he's showing off his grandbaby to LJ and Fornell and co.) Even Senior's in town, so the whole crew'll be there.

Or as Ziva had put it, Christmas in July.

Previous years, the Forth has just been the core group of them, and bounces between the Palmers' or Gibbs' house. It's not much of a big deal. Mostly an excuse to eat something tasty, drink some beer, blow a few things up. (Okay, yeah, technically in Virginia, you're not supposed to have the kind of fireworks Abby makes, but for some reason, everyone turns a blind eye when the party is at a cop's house, attended by a pile of other cops, and the cops who were called out to check the party were given a large quantity of beer, grilled chicken, and some fireworks to take home. And no, that's not a bribe. That's one branch of Law Enforcement showing proper respect for another branch, and bite your tongue for even thinking it!)

But this year is more of a big deal. Well, less of a show up in your jammies and hang loose sort of thing, so Tim's actually shaving. At least, he's getting rid of the stray hairs on his cheeks. The goatee is staying.
He's running the razor over his face when Abby comes into their bathroom and says, "You know Draga'll be there."

Tim nodded. "Ziva mentioned that last night."

"Just, you've got the kilt laid out, wanted to make sure you knew."

"I do. It'll be 93 today, not wearing jeans. Too damn hot for that."

"Okay. You have shorts right?"

"None that fit. Unless you mean my swim trunks. Why? You think it'll be a problem?"

"Just thinking about last night." Last night they'd been talking about how fully into the family they were going to let Draga. He's invited to this, because everyone's invited to this. But just like Gibbs didn't let any of his team see any of his private life until he'd gotten himself good and cemented into Boss territory, Tony's not entirely sure how much of him he wants Draga seeing, yet.

"This is who I am, and I don't care who knows. Not anymore. He thinks it's weird… Well, not like I've got to work with him all that much longer. He's not my Probie."

"Would you wear it if we had a pile of cybercrime techs coming?"

"I don't know. Wasn't planning on doing it first day as Boss or anything." Since women can wear skirts, NCIS can't prevent men from doing likewise without opening themselves up to a sexual discrimination suit. Tim's never worn his kilt to work because it's not practical in the field. But behind a desk? He's been thinking about it. "Need to get a feel for them. Never realized until recently how much of 'Gibbs' was about holding control and projecting that image. Not sure how much of that I'll need for my guys. But I do know I don't need it for Draga."

That got him thinking as he finished up with his face.

"You know… I'm going to ask Vance if I can get the dress code revoked for my guys."

Abby looked interested in that.

"Just, I know I want to get rid of a bunch of them. Which means I'm going to need new hires. Can't change my pay scale. Can't offer different benefits. The basement's ugly as sin, so I can't give them a spiffy environment. But, maybe I can at least make it look a bit more like a place where actual computer guys work. And maybe, for some of them, looking more like the traditional tech guy when I'm head hunting will help."

"Good way to think about it." They heard quiet crying coming from Kelly's room. "And I think that's my cue," Abby said, heading off to get their daughter.

Just like at Christmas, the cars are lined up and down the street. Unlike Christmas, most everyone is outside. It's hot and sticky and humid, but the food is on the porch, and so is Gibbs, keeping watch over the grill, burgers and chicken sending delicious smells into the wood-smoke scented air.

They were the last ones to get there. Though he's thinking that Jimmy and Breena probably haven't been over for long. Molly still gets an afternoon nap, and it's not much past naptime.

It's, with the exception of Gibbs at the grill, pot luck, though when he asked what they should bring, Gibbs just glared at them and told Abby to bring Kelly and make sure everyone was awake enough to enjoy the time out. So he doesn't actually have a plate of anything in his hands. (Diaper bag over his shoulder, with baby monitor in it, and one of those little bouncy seat/swingy things for Kelly to nap on when it's time for her to go down. But no food.)

They'd been there for maybe four seconds when Gibbs saw them and headed over, hugs and kisses for Abby and Kelly, (backslap for Tim) then he handed Tim the grill tongs ("Don't let 'em burn.") and swooped up Kelly to go show her off to Fornell.

"Maybe I could put the baby stuff down first?"

Gibbs half-waved in his direction, heading toward Fornell and Wendy with Kelly and Abby

A second later, Draga was over. "Here, let me help." He grabbed some of Tim's baby gear.

"Thanks. Don't know why we need twenty pounds of gear for an eight pound person…"

"But if you ever leave any of it home, you'll need it."

"Yep." After a minute he had everything tucked into a tidy pile under the table with all the food. "Okay." Tim looks at the tongs. "Apparently, I'm in charge of the grill."

"Apparently. Probably a good plan to get over there before anything burns. Don't think he'd like that."

Tim nods and head over. He looks down at the food, and says, quietly, to himself, "Great."

"McGee?" Draga asks.

"Wood fire. Never cooked on this before."

"Just like charcoal. Keep flipping things over and moving them around so the food doesn't burn. Like, that…" A quick flare up sent flames jumping. So Tim reached over with the tongs and flipped over that chicken leg. When he did, Draga said, "I thought so."


"That you'd have skin ink."

"Oh, yeah. Three of them now. Four soon."

Draga nods. "Figured you would when I met Abby. What do you have?"

Tim's right sleeve was high enough that it didn't take much pushing up to show off the knot around his bicep. "Abby's got one that matches this." Draga nods, and Tim realizes that of course, he's already noticed that. Abby's wearing a dress with no sleeves. He pushed up his left sleeve and showed off the code. "That's my master's dissertation."



"Here." He handed Draga the tongs and undid his wrist cuff. "That's number three."

"She's got one that matches that, too. On her neck?"

"Yeah. Wedding tattoos." He snapped his wrist cuff back on. "Number four'll be on my right leg. Waiting for a bit more time and a bit more rest before that one."

"Baby tat?"

"Yeah. You have any?"

"Oh, yeah. Wasn't sure…" Tim notices that Draga's wearing a pair of shorts and an unbuttoned Henley with the sleeves pushed up to his forearms. It's got to be warm. Too warm. But if he wanted something that would cover his arms… it'd do the job.

Tim gestures to his kilt. "Dress code's pretty informal here. Pretty tolerant, too. At the office, you can't have ink that shows, but this isn't the office." As he took the tongs back and flipped a few wings, Tim did notice Leon and his family was here, too. "Though I can understand not necessarily wanting to show everything off to not just your new Boss, but to his Boss, too."

Draga nodded at that and asked, "DiNozzo give you any crap about your ink?"

"Not too bad. He was so stunned when I got the first one, he didn't know what to do about it. Calls me McInked every now and again, thinks the one on my wrist is kind of femme, but not much more than that."

"He doesn't have any?"

"If he does, it's new and he hasn't said anything." Tim decides that since Ziva keeps her tattoo under wraps that he doesn't need to mention it. "So, what do you have? No need to show it off if you don't want to."

"They're not going to flip out? You know some people can get kind of…"

Tim nods, he knows. "I've got three. Abby's got sixteen. And we don't exactly dress like everyone else. They're pretty good with people who don't fit the mold. But, yeah, it does depend on what it is you've got. You got something nasty chewing the head off a baby, and yeah, probably keeping that under your shirt is a good plan."

"Nothing like that."

He's not sure if Abby was following their conversation, reading lips, or just noticed him showing off his tats and decided to come on over and join the conversation, but as Draga said that she and Breena edged their way over.

"So, what do you have?" she asked.

A few seconds later, Ziva had wandered over as well as Kayla Vance. Like somehow, by some form of psychic female communication, all the girls decided that something interesting was about to happen on the porch, so they closed in.

Breena's grinning at Draga, and Tim realized he didn't know if they'd been introduced yet. "Do you know Breena?" Tim asks.

Draga smiled at her, offering his hand, and Tim caught sight Jimmy and Tony, who had been tossing a Frisbee around with Jared and Vance, edging closer, as well. Paying close attention to what their ladies' are doing, but not wanting to look like they're feeling threatened. Vance, on the other hand is just coolly staring at his daughter, waiting to see where this is going to go.

"Not directly. I've seen your picture and your little girl's picture down in Autopsy."

Breena smiled back and shook.

"Breena, Draga, Draga, Breena"

"Tim, we're not at work," Breena says to him. "They get so used to calling everyone by last name they forget the rest of the world doesn't usually work that way.

"Draga's fine. Everyone's called me that for the last ten years."

"You ever change your mind, let me know, and Abby and I'll call you by your first name."

"And even if you don't, I'm still going to call you Eric," Abby added. "Only one man I call by his last name anymore, and you aren't him."

"You always called me McGee."

"Yep. You and Gibbs, my two favorite guys, and no one else. But it's my name too now, so calling you McGee is just weird."

He nods as if to say, If you say so.

And Abby turned her attention back to Draga and smiled bright and wide. "Sooo… Come on, we like skin ink here."

Draga pulls his shirt off, over his head, and turns his back to the girls. It's a cool design. Stylized wings stretching from bicep to bicep and down his back. The pattern is tribal, Maori in style but not a replica of any of the traditional designs. All of the fliers in his unit got it done when they were stationed out of New Zealand as part of a joint naval aviator Pacific theatre task force.

And he's going on about it, about what it means, how the wings are made out of lines that look like waves, blending sea and air. Ziva, Breena, and Abby are listening intently, and looking intently, and as he's talking about warrior traditions, Ziva gets into the conversation, and they chat about that.

Okay, great. None of that was funny. But Tim's having a hard time not laughing. And he feels like he shouldn't find this so amusing. He really shouldn't. And Abby keeps shooting him, what the hell looks as he tries to keep a straight face, but he can see something she can't, and it's hilarious.

So, no, he shouldn't have been laughing. Draga and Ziva comparing honor cultures is not funny, at all. No, funny started when Tony began to… amble… in a very nonchalant sort of way toward the group of them. He's trying to look cool and failing, badly. Probably because he's glaring daggers into Draga's back. And after a few more seconds of relaxed ambling he does manage to come on over, drape an arm around Ziva, pulling her close to him, flush against his side. "Enjoying the conversation, Mrs. DiNozzo?"

Abby sees it, and he sees her get what he was trying to not giggle at.

Ziva turned to him and smiled. "Yes. Learning a lot about American and Maori warrior culture."

Tony looks at Draga. "Didn't know there were Maoris even whiter than McInked over there."

Tim shrugs at Draga, who with red hair and freckly skin actually is paler than he is.

"You join the cultures that call to you," Draga says, pulling the shirt back over his head. He is pale enough that ten minutes in the sun is probably about as long as he can safely take. "This one called to me. Actually, if you've studied the sorts of marks that my ancestors, and, likely McGee's and Dr. Mallard's, as well, used to wear, you'd see this isn't too far off. Granted, if it was in proper traditional style, they'd be done in woad…"

And somehow the mention of that woad conjured Ducky, and between the two of them ten minutes of the history of tribal marks passed, which, honestly, Tim mostly filtered out.

No, he was paying attention to the chicken, and to Tony, who was, to put it mildly, whipping out his own personal fifteen on the one to ten scale of overreacting.

If you didn't know Tony well, which, of course Draga doesn't, he looks fine. Annoyed, but still within the limits of okay. But Tim can see the clench in his jaw, the slight narrowing of his eyes, the way his hand isn't actually casually draped over Ziva, his arm and hand is tense.

And that's aimed about fifty-fifty at Ziva and Draga.

Tony doesn't like Draga showing off, and he doesn't like Ziva appreciating it.

For a second, Tim wonders about that. Abby was certainly looking at Draga, carefully, she was even very lightly tracing some of the more complicated bits of the work on his back, but he wasn't feeling any… anything about it. She likes skin art. Draga's got cool skin art. She's looking. He's not bugged.

Tony's glaring at Draga, and Tim's wondering if he should be bugged.

He's awfully sure he would be bugged if Abby was showing off, say, her entire collection. And he'd be quite a bit less than thrilled if she decided Draga needed to see her crosses. But her looking at him isn't bugging him.

It's just not.

But Tony looks ready to rip his head off.

And finally, he figures out why. At least, he develops what he's thinking is a pretty good suspicion.

Draga's young. Draga's attractive. Draga's got dangerous looking ink all over his arms and back. He's in rock-hard Navy shape, probably runs fifteen miles a day and does PX-90 or Insanity or something like that when he gets home.

And these days, Tony's none of those things. Tony's used to being the best looking, fairest of them all, and now he's not.

And it's also why this doesn't bother Tim, and to some degree, he's thinking this is why Jimmy's not flipping out either. (Though it could be that Tony's doing such a good job of it that it's keeping Jimmy in line.) But right now, Tim's in pretty much the best shape of his life. Okay, sure he hasn't worked out in three weeks, but he's tight and trim, and no, he's not cut or built like Draga is, but, he doesn't need to be.

He looks as good as he's ever going to look, and he knows that his wife adores him, and so, if she wants to look at Draga's tats, he's cool.

But Tony doesn't look as good as he ever has. And it's not that he's terribly old or anything. But he's forty-eight. He's got a good ten (fifteen? Tim's bad at estimating things like that.) pounds of pudge around the middle. He's got lines on his forehead and around his eyes.

Pretty much he's a college athlete who kept himself in awfully good shape for a good long time, but that's the thing, it was a good long time, and time is catching up to him.

And right now, his wife, his NEW wife is looking at the NEW guy, who is younger, fitter, and hotter, and Tony's not taking it well, at all. It's not like Ziva was ogling Draga or anything. Okay, that wasn't just polite interest, either. But she wasn't doing anything over the line. She wasn't flirting. She wasn't saying anything inappropriate, and she wasn't undressing the rest of him with her eyes. But, it's also, at least to Tim, pretty clear that she's not really looking at the ink, she's looking at the guy and the muscles under the ink.

Which might be another reason why Tony's flipping out and Tim isn't. Abby's looking at the ink. Ziva's looking at biceps, delts, traps, and lats.

Of course, as Tony's standing there, arm around Ziva, adding a few snide remarks here and there as Ducky talks, one other possible reason for Tony flipping out hits Tim. And if he's right… Well, he certainly flipped out just like this a bit less than a year ago, and back then… Yep. He feels a grin creep across his face, and flips a few more chicken wings before calling out, "Gibbs!"

Gibbs wandered back to him.

"How long have they been on?"

Gibbs gives him his daughter back and hollers, "Dinner's on!"

It's an hour later, before he and Jimmy get a few minutes alone with Tony. But eventually, the sun was starting to sink, the torches were lit, and he, Jimmy, and Tim were all lounging around on lawn chairs in the back corner of the yard.

Jimmy looks at him, amused, takes a long drink of his beer, and shakes his head, clicking his tongue in a shame on you gesture.

Tim says to him, very smug, finishing up his burger. "That wasn't cool, at all. So, when's the baby due?"

Tony glared at them.

Jimmy, still grinning says, "It's July, so that'd be what? April? No April birthdays yet."

"Ziva's not pregnant."

Jimmy and Tim flash surprised looks at each other and Jimmy says, "You're saying that you just about walked up and pissed on her to mark your territory because… she was looking at another guy." Jimmy laughs. "She's allowed to look. You look at other women all the time."

Tony glares again.

So, back to his first idea. Tim shakes his head. "Don't think looking's all of it. That's only half, a third maybe. Tony's not the prettiest one anymore." Okay, Tony really is glaring daggers at them right now, and Tim shouldn't be enjoying this so much, but…

"Oh that's it!" Jimmy says, poking Tim. "Tony, you were never the prettiest. Have you ever looked at me?" Jimmy gestures to himself and his hard, cut, toned body, significantly less of which is hidden under clothing than usual for work. (He's in shorts, flip flops, and a t-shirt.) "Sure, you may have been cool, but I've got a much better body."

This does not appear to be comforting to Tony. Metaphorical steam was bubbling out of his ears.

Jimmy shakes his head and shoves Tony gently. "You get a pass for being a jerk when she's pregnant. You don't just because there's a new guy who's younger and hotter than you."

"I'm his Boss. She's my wife."

"She's also his partner, and neither of them did anything even remotely out of line." Tim adds.

Gibbs came over, sat down next to them, and handed Tony a beer. "Really sucks when some new young guy shows up and flirts with your wife."

Tony's not saying anything. He's staring at Gibbs, looking pretty alarmed, defensive, and pointing at him. But finally he gets out, "That's why you liked him? Is this twenty-year-old payback?"

Gibbs smiles, relaxing back, popping the cap on his Sam Adams, he's watching Draga talk with Jared Vance. "He's got the makings of a good agent. Payback is just the cherry on top of the sundae."

"Look, I told you then," Tony says, emphatically, "I did not know she was your wife."

Jimmy holds up his hands, "Whoa, okay, we are stopping right now and rewinding to the beginning of this story."

Tim nods along with that. He very much wants to hear this. He catches Abby's eye, (she's across the backyard, talking with Breena and Wendy about something) and flashes her a little pay attention to this conversation gesture. She smiles, and does.

Tony's looking like the entire universe is out to get him today, but eventually he says. "It's my first week at NCIS. Gibbs and Burley were in interrogation, and I was running down a few leads. This…" and here Tim's expecting words like smoking hot or gorgeous or something but there's just a beat of silence before Tony says, "woman, came up to my desk, looked around and then asked if Agent Gibbs was in.

"I told her he was busy, and she smiled at me, and we got to talking, and I was doing my usual routine, just talking…"

Gibbs' eyes narrow.

"In a somewhat flirty sort of way. And I asked what she wanted with Gibbs and she said, 'Nothing.' I asked if she wanted to leave a message, and she said 'Oh, I am.' And yes, that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but she's beautiful and sitting on my desk, and her legs…"

Gibbs eyes narrow even further.

"Were nothing I was looking at. So we kept talking, and she was sitting on the corner of my desk leaning into me, interested in the conversation, and I asked her name, and all she said was 'Stephanie,' and in my defense El Jefe over there had not only never actually said he was married, he had no pictures on his desk and had never mentioned her name. Only reason I knew he had a wife was the wedding band, and it was the same plain gold band twenty-seven million other couples have. And it's possible that if her skirt had been a bit longer, I might have noticed she had a very similar gold band on, but it was a really short skirt, and at that point in my life I was a firm believer in the idea that if you couldn't keep your wife happy enough so that she didn't go out seeking other guys, you got what you deserved. So, she was… um… writing down her number for me, and I had noticed there was a ring, just not what other ring it matched, so I was asking what times I shouldn't call when I heard Burley say, sounding really stunned, 'How long have you been watching this?' and I realized Gibbs had been on the stairs the whole time."

Tim and Jimmy are staring at Gibbs now. Tim looks from him to Tony and back again, and finally say, "It's obvious you didn't kill him, but…"

"She was sending a message. I got it. Not Tony's fault he was a horny idiot caught between the two of us."


Gibbs just stares at him.

"What message was she sending?" Jimmy asked.

Now Gibbs is just staring at him with a I can't believe you asked that expression on his face.

"Beyond the fact that she wasn't happy," Jimmy adds.

Gibbs is still staring at him.

"You know, teachable moment. Don't make the same mistakes I did… No?"

Gibbs shakes his head. "No."

"All right. So, Tony, you do know what you can take from this?" Jimmy says brightly.

"No. What can I take from this?"

"Your own advice. If she's looking somewhere else, you've got to do a better job of making her happy. Go hit the gym. Sure, you'll never be as pretty as me, but you could probably stand to lose some weight." Jimmy smirked and looked to Tim. "You know, I don't think Draga was flirting with Ziva."

Tim rose one eyebrow. "You say Abby, and we're going to have issues." He's joking about that, because he does want to know how that looked to Jimmy.

"No." Jimmy flashes him an are you kidding look. "It wasn't Abby he ran right up to to offer help. It wasn't Abby he started talking skin ink with. And it wasn't Abby he was offering to show his tats to. She just happened to be there by the time he got to that part of the conversation."

Tony started laughing at that, loud and happy.

Tim thought about it for a minute, cause those are all good points but… "Nah. Didn't feel like that. He spotted me as the only other guy in the group with ink. New guy in the group, it's easier to figure out how to fit in if you can find someone else who looks similar. Same reason I gravitated to Abby when I first got to NCIS. Same reason you did, too."

"You think?" Jimmy asks.

"Did that really look like flirting to you?"

"How would I know?" Jimmy asks. "Haven't been hit on by a guy before."

"I think it works about the same for everyone," Tim said to Jimmy and then turned to Tony, "You fill Draga in on twelve? You know, just in case."

"Four hours in a car with him on his second day, we got them all."

"Good." Tim turns back to Gibbs. "So, speaking of rules. We're all here. Gonna tell us the story of Rule 1: Version Six?"

"Six?" Tony asks as Fornell heads over.

"What are you four cackling about? Gossiping like a bunch of old ladies." Fornell asks as he sits down.

Gibbs smiles dryly at him, and takes a bite of Fornell's cake. "No Shame."

"Hey. Get your own cake." Fornell says, swatting Gibbs' hand and then grins. "No Shame! That's a good one."

"You know this story?" Tony asks.

"Everyone knows this story, DiNozzo!"

"Not us," Jimmy adds. "So what's No Shame."

"It's the sixth version of Rule Number One," Tim says.

"First." Gibbs says. "This version of Rule Number One is probably older than you are, Tim."

"But the story about how you got it, isn't," Fornell adds.

Gibbs sighs, looks down, remembers Mike, practically able to feel him, smiles a little, looks away from them, to where Kayla and Amira are talking with each other, and then scans the group, seeing Leyla holding Kelly while she chats with Abby.

Well, Probie, you gonna tell your boys the story, or just sit there lookin' pretty?

Gibbs smiles at Franks voice. He doesn't turn to his left to see if Franks is there. He's not. Can't be. At least, not in any way anyone else will notice. But he can feel him, see him, even if only in his mind's eye, settling in, sitting back, sipping his beer, ready for the story.

So, he starts the story. "Back in '93, Franks and I were stationed in Okinawa. For enlisted singles that's considered a hardship post. Basically, no women. The Japanese girls aren't terribly interested in catching an American service man. Back then there were probably twenty-five guys for each enlisted woman, and most of those ladies weren't exactly looking for a husband…" Gibbs' look filled in the if you know what I mean that followed those words. The boys nodded; they got it.

"But, Japan also isn't too uptight about hookers. So, it wasn't hard to find company if you had extra money and some time off."

Fornell jumped in, aware of the fact that in '93 Tim and Jimmy were still kids, and probably didn't know how this worked. "Japan may not be, but anyone in any of the US Forces stationed overseas had their CO's breathing down their backs back then about it. The AIDS scare was still going strong, so… no fraternizing."

"But they're soldiers and sailors," Gibbs says, "And soldiers and sailors and hookers get along pretty well."

Tony smirks at that, laughing a little.

"Most of the time, we didn't hear anything about that. They weren't supposed to be doing it. But everyone knew they were, so we'd turn a blind eye.

"One day this Light Colonel shows up at the door, and he wants to have a private chat and see if we can help him out, discreetly."

That got a smirk and a laugh out of Fornell, who of course already knows this story. "As Mike put it, 'This bantam rooster shows up, thinks he's a foot taller than he actually is, feathers in a bunch and squawking like a maiden aunt who's fanny just got pinched.'"

Gibbs smirked a bit, too, look on his face clearly saying Idiot Officer. "He'd found a house that aimed at an upscale clientele. And he got rolled."

"Isn't that the point of going to a place like that?" Jimmy asks.

Fornell shakes his head, amazed at how innocent Jimmy is. And Gibbs can hear Franks saying, Good Lord, Probie, where'd you find Skippy over there? Kindergarten?

"Robbed, Palmer," Fornell adds, making sure Jimmy's on the same page with the rest of them.


"Yeah," Jethro says. "He'd gone in, had some tea, started to pick out a girl, and woke up naked on the street."

Tim, Jimmy, and Tony are all quietly laughing now.

"His theory was that since he was American, and an officer, and married, that they'd rolled him, assuming he'd never complain because he'd be hip deep in shit if he did. They stole everything he had, but his wedding ring, so he'd be able to pretend it didn't happen."

Goddamn stupid son of a bitch. Still can't believe he came to us. You're that stupid, you deserve what you get. Gibbs is feeling tempted to tell Mike to shut up, because having him commenting in the back of his head is distracting. But he doubts it'll help.

"So, in we went to investigate, because you can't just roll an officer and get away with it, even if he was goddamn stupid," Gibbs says. "'Course the first part of a deal like this is figuring out what happened. And, if there was a pattern, it'd be easy enough to spot.

"We needed bait. Someone who could convincingly act the part of a married officer."

"Hoorah!" Fornell says.

Gibbs nods at that, looking amused. "So, I get all gussied up, ring on, and head off to go find a geisha for a night. Supposedly, Mike's got an eye on me. I wasn't wearing a wire because, well, nowhere to put one if 
you're going to a place where the first step is a bath."

"First step is a bath?" Tony sounds intrigued.

Gibbs looks pleased. "Nice place. Head in, one of the ladies escorts you to the bath, she washes you off—"

"Doesn't sound like this op was a hardship," Tony says.

That also gets an amused grin. "I've had worse assignments. She gets done with you. You're all nice and clean, wearing a robe, then over to the tea room, where there's refreshments waiting, and you tell 'em what you want, and what kind of girl you want to do it."

Tim's staring at him, looking really amused. "So, you're sitting there, in a room, in a robe, and… those little sandals?" Gibbs nods. "With a bunch of girls, actually saying, out loud, with words, what kind of sex you want?" Tim asks, trying not to laugh and failing miserably.

Gibbs glares at him stop being a smartass very clear in that look. "You go undercover, you do what you need to. So not only was I doing it, but I was doing it in Japanese."

"Okay, then. I'm officially impressed," Tim says.

"Any redheads?" Fornell asks.

That also got the smartass glare.

"The point of this wasn't for me to get laid, it was for me to get rolled, make sure it's really happening. So, I'm drinking the tea, chatting with the girls…"

"Chatting?" Jimmy asks.

"If you're gonna pay a thousand dollars for a night, you take the time to talk to them."

"Just, never… thousand dollars, huh?" Jimmy says.

"Yeah, high end house. And I was chatting with this very pretty girl, and, no she didn't have red hair. Black hair, went all the way down to her hips. And then I was coming to in the back alley, Mike patting my cheeks, getting me sitting up, naked except for my 'wedding ring.'

"I want to get some clothing on, but he doesn't want to wait that long. But I don't want to go storming into the place naked, and he looks at me and says, 'Rule Number One: No Shame. Probie, even if you're 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. You're a Marine. Now get your ass up, and get in there, and let's get your clothin' back.'"

Always was good at the pep talks, right, Probie?

"So I stormed in, back straight, naked from head to toe, swinging in the breeze, barking orders, and by the end of the hour I had my clothing back and we'd busted the whole ring of them. Been fifteen thefts in the last year alone. They'd been right about the idea that married officers weren't going to complain."

Fornell sighs. "You're terrible at telling stories, Jethro." Fornell turns to the boys. "No one told stories the way Franks did, but I'll try. Jethro's leaving most of the good parts out."

"Most of the good parts?" Tony says.

"Oh yeah." Fornell has a very amused, very dirty grin on his face. He scans the crowd, finds Ducky, and yells out, "Ducky, we need you over here." Then says in his normal voice. "Ducky's heard this story, too, between the two of us, we'll do it the justice it deserves."

Thank God. You really do suck at stories, Probie. Whole not talkin' thing gets in the way.

"Tobias?" Ducky asks as he drags a chair over.

"Jethro's telling the No Shame story, and he's butchered it. I'd called you in for backup."

"Oh." Ducky lights up with amusement, as Jimmy scoots over on his seat, making room for him. "Jethro's first adventure in undercover work."

"That wasn't my first undercover job!"

"That is not how Mike told it," Ducky says with a smile.

"Mike's version of the story is at least seventy percent bullshit."

"But it was entertaining bullshit, and it got the point, No Shame, across so much better," Fornell adds. "He left out all the training."

"Oh, Jethro! That's the best part."

Gibbs rolled his eyes, and all three of the boys are staring, very interested in what's coming next.

"Ducky, Fornell, why do you know this story? I mean… I know Franks didn't have a problem with telling a juicy story, but…" Tim asks.

"But this seems a tad inappropriate for a work conversation?" Ducky finishes.

Tim nods.

"His bachelor party… that'd be for Diane, right?" Fornell answers.

"Like you don't remember," Gibbs replies.

"I was there for the one with Hannah, too, and both of those nights are pretty blurry."

"That sounds like a story, too," Tony says.

"Oh, it is." Fornell patted Tony on the cheek. "And one day, when you're old enough, we'll tell it to you. So where was I?"

That was one hell of a night, wasn't it? Gibbs feels very tempted to say back, "Like you remember that night. You finished the Tequila on your own."

"Setting the scene," Tim answers.

"Laying down bullshit," Gibbs adds.

"Sure. Bullshit or not, it was fun. So, you've got the basic story, but he's leaving a few details out, like, for example, thousand dollar a night place means that they're not rolling the customers for income. This isn't about making a few extra bucks to keep the pimp off your back. This is something personal about Americans. And honestly, place like that, back then, most of the clients are well-heeled Japanese business men. They might work with Americans, but they also probably don't mind seeing them, especially the ones in the military, get theirs. And when Probie-"

"Mike could call me that, you can't."

Fornell just smirks at that and continues on, "And Mike got in there, they were keeping the uniforms and medals as trophies."

"So you're saying rolling service men might be a selling point?" Tony asks.

"Might have been," Fornell answers. "And often, in a house like that, the proprietress is older, has been around for quite a while, and as I believe Mike said, 'Now, you've got to remember, Mama San's in charge of this joint, and she's old enough she remembers the bomb.'"

"I don't think she was that old." Gibbs says.

"According to Mike she was a crone," Fornell says.

"Because Mike was spinning a yarn. She was maybe forty-five-ish!"

Hush, Probie. Let 'em tell it. It's a good story. Gibbs goes quiet and lets them tell it.

"Next up, place that expensive, Light Colonel is about as low on the totem pole as you can get and still afford to go."

Ducky cuts in, "Due to the bizarre American proclivity toward Puritanical values in regards to sex—"

Jimmy hops on that, he was just reading about that a few days ago. "You do know the Puritans weren't actually that uptight about sex…"

Ducky's eyes narrow as he says, "Mr. Palmer," the verbal equivalent of Gibbs' smartass glare, "I believe we can get to that another night."

"Yes, Dr. Mallard, tell us more about Puritanical Americans."

Tim nudged Jimmy shoulder and said quietly, "You getting sassy?"

"It's a party, I'm allowed."

Ducky sends both of them a long look. "Whether actual Puritans were particularly reserved in their private behavior with their spouses, they did frown upon prostitution, and the American armed services, unlike every other western military, has kept that tradition. So, while most sensible countries arrange for the needs of the soldiers to be met, and offer condoms to try and limit the damage from meeting those needs, the Americans believe that hard work, cold showers, and moral fortitude will get the job done. So, unlike a British outpost where there would have been entertainment for the enlisted and officers, the American service men were left at the mercy of the ladies of a country that didn't necessarily love them."

"Entertainment?" Jimmy asks.

"They call them red light districts because in World War One the French and British Officers' brothels had red lights. Blue lights for enlisted men. So a red light doesn't just designate a place where there are prostitutes, but also indicates a certain level of comfort, cleanliness, and service."

"New meaning to the Blue Light Special."

"Indeed, Anthony."

Fornell takes over. "Now, Japan doesn't have or need red lights. The price tag on this place weeds out the enlisted, and honestly, if one of them did scrape up enough money to go, Mama San's going to show him the door because he's not the right kind of guy. No, the right kind of guy is at least middle-aged. He's got money. He's got taste. He's done this before and knows the ropes.

"So as Mike said, 'I'm sittin' here with two options: Pure as the driven Probie, who can pull off the Marine part of the job just fine, but he's never been with a goodtime girl, let alone a high class one, or me, and I know my way around a place like this, ya know… past adventures, but I don't look like a soldier, and these girls, readin' a guy, knowing who he is and what he wants in one glance, that's a good third of their job. That's why they get paid the big money." Fornell attempting to do Mike's accent was making all five of them laugh.

"So, finally, Mike decided that Jethro would be the more attractive mark: 'I can do the Texas Businessman route. Hell, anyone who doesn't sound like they're from New York qualifies as Texan in Japan. But we've got no complaints from them. And hell, I walk in there, they're not going to roll me, they know I'll fuss. No, I walk in, and NIS is out a thousand dollars, and I'm in a good mood for a week. We've got to send Probie in,'" Fornell says, mimicking how Franks told it.

"Can I just add how bizarre it is to hear a story where Probie keeps getting mentioned, and it's not me," Tim says with a smile.

"We could tell the story about you, Probie," Tony says.

"What story about me?"

"You remember, Thom," Gibbs says.

"Oh, come on. That's barely a story."

"Then the digression won't take long." Ducky adds, grinning.

Tim sighs, rolls his eyes a little and says, "Back in what, '06?"

"Probably," Tony says.

"We're hunting a serial killer. He's acting out of an exclusive club. Can't get a warrant. Metro hasn't been able to get a cop in, none of theirs have been 'hot' enough. So, my first book's out, hitting the New York Times top ten. So, Thom E. Gemcity and his lady friends, decide to go clubbing."

"At that point the only link we had was this girl, and the whole point is Thom is going in to get her out of the club so we can question her," Tony adds.

"I get in, we're scanning the place." Gibbs gives him a cut the shit look. "Okay, we go in, we're scanning the place by getting a good spot on the dance floor, and I'm dancing with Abby, Ziva, and Lee. And Abby and Ziva are into it, but Lee's sort of hanging back, clearly never done this before—"

"And you had?" Tony asks.

"Maybe." He gives Tony a knowing look. Because at that point in his life, actually, yes, he had done that before, with Abby the first time they dated. "Anyway, while we're doing that, it occurs to me that Thom isn't a cop and can't just barge on up and arrest this girl, so I ask Probie Mark One over there how to get her out of the club, and you said…"

Gibbs sighed the same way he did when he heard Tim ask him how to get her out and said, "Well, Tim, she's a hooker. Use your imagination."

Fornell snorts a laugh. "You didn't know how to get a hooker out of a club?"

"What can I say, Tobias?" First time he's ever called Fornell by his first name, but as Jimmy pointed out, they are at a party, and he is allowed to get a bit sassy. "Even shy, awkward, and a bit plump, I never had to pay for it. Some women, some older, hot, redheaded women, just dig me." He flashed Tobias his best cocky grin, and Fornell glared daggers at him. Gibbs gave him a quick headslap for that, but it was worth it. "And that's it. My sum total experience with hookers and undercover ops."

"How about the bullshit version?" Jimmy chirped.

"The bullshit version would focus on what Lee, Ziva, Abby, and I did when we got back to the lab. And between you having dated Lee, and Tony married to Ziva, I'm thinking we don't need to get into the bullshit version of it."

"Ah..." Jimmy turned back to Ducky and Fornell. "So…"

"God, okay, where were we?" Fornell asks.

"Still setting the scene," Tim answers.

"You've picked Gibbs as the mark," Jimmy adds.

"Right. So somehow they've got to figure out how to make him look like he's done this before." Fornell is grinning at that point. "And Franks is… giving you pointers?"

Gibbs can hear Franks laughing in his head. He nods. "That's a way to put it."

"What kind of pointers?" Tony asks.

Fornell answers, "I think he said, "God, Probie, if you can't ask me for a blow job without blushin', how the hell are you gonna walk in there and ask Mama San for one while five girls are rubbin' all over you?"

The story stopped for a moment there while the boys laughed hysterically at that.

Gibbs waits for them to get calmed down, and says exactly the same thing he said to Mike, "Mike, I don't want a blow job from you. I'll do just fine with the girls."

Fornell got right back in there, playing Franks' part. "'You're still blushin', Probie. Trust me, you ain't got nothing they've never seen, and you don't want nothing they've never done. No Shame, man. That was Armant's number one rule. No shame. You need to walk in there tall and proud, and if you're doing this job right, you will be tall and proud, and tell them exactly what you want and exactly what kind of girl is going to do it for ya.'"

Once more the story stopped as Tim, Tony, and Jimmy laughed so hard they couldn't breathe.

Eventually Tim got enough breath back to say, "You're right, Fornell, this is much better version of the story."

See, they appreciate the details.

Tobias nods, looking satisfied, and Ducky takes over. "So, after much coaching on how approach a lady of the night—"

"Or as Mike said, when he told us, 'God, Duck, what I wouldn't have given for you on this op. You'd have done it right without weeks of practice. Couldn't get Probie to stop blushin'."

Gibbs rolls his eyes.

And once again Ducky takes over on the story. "The night in question came. And the newly commissioned Colonel Gibbs was off to get rolled."

"Which I did just fine."

"Indeed. Franks told us that the first Lieutenant Colonel had come to in the alley behind the house, so he stationed himself there to wait. And wait. And wait. He was beginning to get nervous because this was taking much too long. The idea was go in, get drugged, get dropped in the alley, then back in again to bust them. But time is passing, and there's no unconscious Gibbs."

"Girl in the bathroom took a shine to me," Gibbs said with a smile.

"Uh huh," Fornell didn't look like he bought that. "Franks probably underestimated how long the preliminaries were going to take. For all his talk, he never had a thousand dollars to see what really happened in a high class Japanese brothel."

That's what you think, Tobias. Bored servicemen play a lot of poker, and I'm great at poker. There were some mighty fine girls in Japan, and they were worth every penny. Gibbs almost turns to Franks and tells him to be quiet, but he catches himself, Franks isn't really here.

Tim sees him almost turn to his left, like he's hearing something, and files that away with things to ask about later.

Fornell continues on, "For whatever reason, this was taking longer than Franks had anticipated. But he had no way to see what was going on. He can't just barge on in. But if Jethro had fumbled this, then he might be in trouble and in need of real backup. He was pacing up and down the alley, having made the decision that if Gibbs wasn't out there in five minutes he was going to break out the Texas Businessman and head on in."

Four of the longest minutes of my life, worryin' about your sorry ass. I'm thinking you're getting killed in there, and turns out you're playin' hide the sponge. Gibbs smiles.

"Okay, what's that smile for?" Tony asks.

"Like I said, bathgirl took a shine to me."

"That is part of the service you are paying for at a that price. Trust me, Jethro, had you gotten past the refreshments, everyone there would have taken a shine to you."

"And you would know?" Jimmy asks Ducky.

"Jimmy, you have not yet even scratched the surface of all the things I know," Ducky says with a grin. "As Fornell said to Tony, someday you may get old enough to hear some of those stories. However, in America, at that price, you are paying for discretion in addition to excellent service. In Japan, where geisha tradition holds that this is part of any civilized business deal, you are paying for enthusiastic service catering to all of your needs and wants. The point of this is not just sex, but to be pampered, coddled, and taken care of on all levels. Food, music, excellent conversation, massage, relaxation, and… how did Mike put it?"

Fornell knows that Ducky hasn't forgotten the turn of phrase, but isn't willing to say it so, he adds Mike's description, "Gettin' your brains sucked out through your dick."

"Ah, yes… is all part of the experience."

"Mike really liked oral, didn't he?" Jimmy says.

Damn straight, Skippy!

"Like you don't." Tim says, shoving Jimmy a little.

"Not saying I don't just… you know… if you're going to…" Jimmy seems to notice that it's not just him and Tim here so he wraps with, "This probably isn't the time or place."

Tim nods.

"So, eventually I do get out there, and the story stays pretty much the same from there to the end."

"Pretty much," Fornell says. "But the whole thing was about no shame, not just the last five minutes of it. When Franks was telling it, it wasn't just about a two minute pep talk, it was about actually learning how to do it."

Gibbs shook his head and sighed. "Yeah."

Fornell turns to Tony. "DiNozzo, you worked vice, I'm sure you've got a story or two."

Tony grins. "Oh, I do. I've got lots of stories. Some of them might have even made Franks blush."

Yeah, right. Ain't nothing you've ever heard of that'll make me blush. Gibbs smiles at that, and is tempted to say, "Wanna bet?"

"But in that I am now extremely married, and also not an idiot, none of you are going to hear those stories."

"Come on, just us guys here," Fornell said.

"Abby reads lips, and she's been watching us, keeping up a running commentary for Breena and Ziva. No way I'm saying anything else."

Fornell looked like he wanted to swallow his tongue, and both Gibbs and Ducky look distinctly uncomfortable at that idea.

And less than ten seconds later Ziva was over, in his lap, and saying, "But what if I want to hear those stories?"

"Told you Abby was watching."

"She was. Sooo…"

"Then I will tell you them. When we're alone. But let's leave it at this, no one ever needed to coach me on how to pick up a woman."

Ziva kissed him on the nose and got up. "I'll leave you to your man stories."

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