McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 297: One Year
"Have a good nap?" Gibbs asks.
Tim looks through the car window with muzzy eyes, rubs them for a moment, and stares at the factory in front of them.
"Yeah, actually. Thanks for letting me rest. Kelly's making sure neither of us gets a lot of sleep." Neither he, nor Abby, nor Heather knows what's going on, but for the last three days she's decided that 3:30 AM is party time, and they're having a devil of a time getting her to go back to sleep. She's not hungry, or gassy, or poopy, or… anything. But whatever it is, she wants to be up and playing.
He and Abby have been doing their best impression of Zombies for two days now, and are looking for anything they can think of to get their child back to sleeping from one to seven, the way she had been doing and the way they had been appreciating greatly.
Gibbs has been nodding away at that. (His own veteran parenting technique for this worked something like this: 'Waking up for no good reason?' 'Yep.' 'Crying?' 'Nope, just wants to hang out with us.' 'Call Jimmy.' He knows when he's out of his depths.) "Babies do that. Nothing going on right now. But you fall asleep when you're on watch, and you're toast."
"Got it, Boss. So, how long was that?"
"Thank you." He stretches as well as he can in the car and rubs his eyes. "Okay, I'm up. No one's moved?"
"You wanna crash?" It's a bit after two in the morning, good time to crash if you don't want your entire schedule upside down. Since he and Tony got the day shift on the last stakeout, they got the night shift on this one, and since Gibbs is officially back on 'light duty', he's capable of sitting in a car and making note of who goes into and out of a brownstone just as well as Tim and Tony can, so he's taking some of the night shifts, too.
"I'm going to get us more coffee first, then sure." Gibbs gets out of the car and heads down the street.
Tim stares at the building in front of them. Okay, in front of them and one street over. They've got a view through an empty lot. Nothing's going on, so he keeps his eyes moving. Three doors, two access roads, six windows. He keeps them all in view. Sure, no one's likely to go repelling off the roof into one of those windows, but he's also sure that if he just stares at the house he'll be asleep in a matter of minutes, and that would be a very not good thing.
Gibbs gets back a few minutes later, while Tim's noting the license plate of every car that's parked out front. Yes, he's sure Gibbs has already done that, but redundancy is good, and if it helps to keep him awake…
He takes the coffee from Gibbs and gulps it. "Okay, starting to feel like a human again."
Gibbs smiles, shakes his head a little, after all, it's decaf, takes a sip of his, and then settles back into his seat, relaxing, eyes closed. Crashing for a few hours sounds like a really good plan right about now.
Tim watches the house, and then watches Gibbs, seeing how even getting ready to snooze he's still awfully alert.
So, he decides to ask Gibbs something he's been thinking about for a while. Since he blew his knee out and had to take that time off. When he and Tony started talking some about what the hell to do when Gibbs hangs up his cuffs the idea started to crystalize.
He's already talked to Abby about it, and she thought it was a good idea. Thought it was worth the risk, assuming Jethro and Leon were on board.
"Yeah." He doesn't open his eyes.
"You aren't ready to be done with this, are you?"
"I'm ready for this stakeout to be done."
"Not what I mean. January 15th, that's supposed to be your last day, right?"
"What if it didn't have to be?"
That gets Gibbs' eyes open. "You got someone who'll change the mandatory retirement age for field agents?"
"No." Tim stares at Gibbs, really looking at his face, thinking about what he could do, what people might be willing to believe. If only he hadn't enlisted the minute he turned eighteen.
"Say the word and you were born in 1960."
"Tim?" He looks startled by that.
"One year. I can cut a year off your age. People will believe that. Anyone asks, you lied and enlisted at seventeen."
"Vance knows how old I am."
"Yeah, but he won't say anything about it. Keep his best team running smooth for another year? Let Draga really settle in before adding in another Probie? He'll go for it."
"Five on a team?" True, that'll be awkward, but Tim's fairly sure it also won't be true all that much longer.
Tim shakes his head. "Jenner's on his third call back with IBM. Can't imagine I'll finish out the year on the MCRT. You want me to do it?"
He can see it in Gibbs' eyes, hope, that he can pull it off. Doubt, that he won't be able to do it. Little bit of fear, not wanting to get his hopes up if this can't be done. Lot of fear, what happens after retirement. Relief, he may not have just tossed the drowning man the lifesaver, but he's noticed he's there and has told him he's going to find one.
"What would you have to do?" He can see the how illegal is this? in Gibbs' eyes as he asks the question.
"Nothing much." Yeah, it's pretty damn illegal. I won't get caught. "Just, don't screw it up. After it's done, you've got to act it. Don't start collecting social security a year 'early.' Stuff like that."
"I can do that."
"Okay. I'll take care of it and have a chat with Vance. If he's not cool with it, I'll put everything back the way it was."
"No. Really, Tim. Thank you."
"Let's see if I can actually pull it off before you thank me."
Tim made an appointment with Vance a week later, as September was easing into October, and wasn't surprised to see he got a chance to talk to him less than four hours later.
"Agent McGee, what can I do for you?" Vance was assuming this was going to be another update on his continuing Cybercrime investigation. And there was some of that. He'd been looking through the HR files and coming to the distressing conclusion that Jenner was good at hiring, but working at NCIS was sucking all the life and talent out of these people.
On the upside, it was easier to change the environment than it was to change people. So… hopefully he can get the morale switched around and start beating them into shape.
"I was talking to Jethro a few days ago, and something came up."
Vance was giving him the 'get to it' look, because this wasn't what he was expecting and chit chatting about Jethro isn't on his to do list for today.
"Did you know he lied about his age to enlist early?" But, Jethro was what Tim was up here to talk about, so they were going to talk about him.
"No. I did not know that." The subtext being, I did not know that because it didn't happen, so why are you bugging me about it?
"Yeah, besides you and I, and Jethro, of course, almost no one knows that."
"Fascinating." Vance was giving Tim his get to the point look.
"It just seems like it'd be a shame to lose such a good agent because of forty-year-old lie."
"Uh huh…" Vance was looking remarkably unimpressed that Tim would even try this on him. "McGee, has anyone ever told you how bad of a liar you are?"
He nodded. Unlike Tony, he didn't have a reputation for being any good at lying. "Several times. There's a reason why I almost never go undercover. Of course, as someone once said to me, there are two ways to follow someone, one way is so they never see you, and the other way is so they see nothing but you. Likewise, there are a lot of ways to lie."
Vance seemed interested in that, interested in the idea that McGee might have more than just his word for it, but still cool. "Uh huh. So, this forty-year-old lie, is there anything to suggest it might not be a lie?"
"Well, someone might wonder why Jethro started kindergarten at four, but there is a note in his file from his kindergarten teacher about how smart of a child he was, and everyone knew his mother was sick at the time, so having him out of the house for a few hours a day helped. And someone might wonder why his social security number is one from 1959, but the records show it was assigned in 1960, and as we all know, SS numbers can be a little wonky. And if someone were to check his birth certificate, or the baptism records at Stillwater First Episcopal, they'd find that he was born in 1960. He's something of a pack rat, you know? Still has all of that, still has his first driver's license, and that has his birth year as 1960."
"Uh huh." Leon's respect for Tim's lying skills, or at least his forging skills, appeared to be increasing. Technically, Tim handled the computer work and the 'rewriting' part of the forging detail. (Literally, rewriting, he's better at matching someone else's handwriting than Abby is.) Having someone with a masters in chemistry around made it a whole lot easier to come up with "blank" documents to rewrite, along with chemically correct inks to do the rewriting with. So Abby handled that. Short of carbon dating, Jethro's "new" documents were perfect.
Tim was seeing the way Leon was looking at him and was wondering if he was going to be getting some interesting off-the-books assignments in the not wildly distant future.
"Yeah. It'd just be unfortunate to make him retire because of that."
"Uh huh. What about actual living people?"
"LJ'd tell you he was born in 1960. Most of the time. LJ's been telling that lie about 1959 for a long time, too, so he might answer wrong on automatic. So, he might need some reminding about why he's telling the truth. But once he knows he's not covering anymore, he'll tell you about how Jackson didn't want Jethro to join the Marines, how they were fighting all the time, so LJ stepped up and suggested he go in early. Off they went to the next town over. His Godfather, a distinguished veteran, vouched for his age. Jethro got in." All of that was complete and utter bullshit, but LJ knew the 'real story' and was willing to swear on it. He actually rather liked that version of it. And because Stillwater didn't have a Marine recruiting station, Gibbs did have to go to the next town over, Meadville, to enlist.
"I'll see what I can do."
It wasn't until he walked out, got back to the bullpen, and nodded to Gibbs that he realized that just possibly mentioning this plan, to their actual team leader, before putting it in action, may have been a good plan.