Saturday, June 14, 2014

Shards To A Whole: And That Was The First Week

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

Chapter 340: And That Was The First Week

Tim got in early on Friday, but not, today, for the job. He wants to head to Autopsy before going to his own office.

And once he gets there, he sees what he's expecting, Jimmy and Ducky, working away. Apparently they aren't done with yesterday's hot case, because they're working on an actual body.

It's probably a horrible thing, but he's glad there's a case. Glad that there's something besides paperwork for Jimmy today.

He doesn't want to interrupt them, and assuming all goes well, Shabbos is on for tonight, with a special yarhtzeit celebration… remembrance… He's not sure what all that entails, but… It's been a year since Jon died, and they need to do something for it.

He heads in for a moment, squeezes Jimmy's shoulder, he looks over to Tim and nods, knowing why he's here. They don't need to say anything. Ducky nods at him too, looking pleased that he came in.

"Lunch?" Tim asks.

"If we've got time," Jimmy answers. "I'll text."


They'd wrapped up the autopsy, consulted with Tony, and were working on the paperwork. Jimmy's filling forms out with a vengeance.

Ducky's been keeping track of the time. It's getting onto lunch. He puts his own pen down, and gently touches Jimmy's forearm. "Do you want to get lunch out? Text Timothy, take a quiet afternoon, go home early? There's nothing here that I can't handle on my own."

"I don't know."

"It's fine if you want to work through. It's fine if you want to go home. Commander Breen," their current guest, "does not need both of us here."

Jimmy nods, he knows that. He knows that right now, whatever he and Breena need, they'll support. He takes his glasses off and squeezes the bridge of his nose, then rubs his eyes.

"I had the four AM feed this morning." Ducky squeezes his hand, knowing that'd be the acid hour. "I fed Anna her bottle, told her about her older brother. Managed to not turn into a complete bawling mess. But I couldn't put her back in her crib when she was done. Held onto her until it was time to give her to Breena for her next feed."

Ducky nods along with that.

"Not sure I want to do Shabbos tonight. I know Ziva's got… something, planned, but…"

"Ziva will understand if you'd rather be alone."

"Yeah…" Jimmy sighs. "I know. I know they all will. I think Breena wants to get out of the house."

"What do you want?"

Jimmy shakes his head, not saying the jumbled thoughts of how much he had wanted Jon, wanted him strong and healthy, wanted to never have even imagined all of this pain, but if that had happened, they wouldn't have Anna, and his beautiful girl wouldn't be here and... And Jon would have been about eight months old now, he'd be round and plump and grabbing for things with a big, drool-y two tooth smile, and maybe thinking about starting to crawl soon, or not, Molly didn't crawl until she was a year old. And Anna's a month old, and she's tiny and sweet and perfect and… He doesn't know how to sort out the grief for the life that didn't happen, or deal with the tinge of guilt for feeling that while looking at the life that did. "Tomorrow…" He takes a breath, and says, with a sad smile, "I want tomorrow."

Ducky smiles kindly at him. "Tomorrow is the one thing I can assure you will happen."

"Yeah." He pulls out his cell. "You really good with the paperwork?"

"I am fine, Jimmy. I'm here to answer whatever questions Anthony or Jethro may come up with, and any forms I do not get filled out will still be here on Monday, waiting for us. Go. Have a good lunch. Spend some time with your girls."

Jimmy nods, flashing a text to Tim, and heading down to Cybercrime.

Tim's phone buzzes and he sees, Lunch?


Good, I'm in halfway down to you. Abby?

Already checked, got trace coming out of her ears. We're bringing her something to munch while she works.


Tim looks up and sees Jimmy standing at his door. "You weren't kidding about halfway down."

Jimmy shakes his head. "Nope." He steps in and looks around. "Nice."

It's still pretty empty. There's nothing but a few pictures on the book shelves for example, and his desk has three monitors, a keyboard, and a few more pictures, but otherwise it's clean. He notices that, a perfectly clean expanse of matte black, where something else is supposed to be. No phone. "One sec." Tim types a quick note to himself to get a phone down here, then realizes he doesn't have any office supplies either, and needs to get them, too. "Okay. Just noticed I don't have a phone."

Jimmy nods dryly at that. "It's a really nice office. You know, Vance is the only person I know here who has his own office. Abby's got her desk, but that's also work space and the other LabRats use it, and Ducky and I share a desk, too, but no one's got an actual office."

Tim gets up. "You know, I've got a kind of funny story about that."

Jimmy looks relieved and then curious. "Good, I could use some funny stories."

Tim smiles at him, and squeezes his shoulder. "You'll like this one." They head out, and Tim closes the door to his office, and calls out to the nearest Minion. "Dume, I'm out for lunch. I've got my phone on. Anyone needs me, give a call."

"Back soon?"

Tim looks at Jimmy, can see the sadness behind his eyes. "Not more than two hours. I've almost got the scheduling program done again, Monday, everyone takes a crack at it, then I'll run through it again and we'll begin live testing."

"Got it, Boss."


They're in the elevator when Jimmy asks, "Does it feel weird?"


"Them calling you 'Boss.' I mean, that's Gibbs, right?"

"Actually, it's a lot less weird than I was expecting it to be. I thought it would feel kind of fake, but…" Tim shakes his head. "Nope."

Jimmy smiles at that, for a second, and then it falls from his face.

"How are you doing?"

Jimmy shrugs. "I've had better days. Yesterday was hard. Today's not any easier. Hopefully tomorrow…"

Tim nods. "Early bootcamp this week?"

"No." Jimmy shakes his head. "I don't want to fight. I'm not angry. Just sad."


"So, tell me your funny story about having an office."

Tim smiles, and then says, "So… Um… Yeah… I might be the fourth highest ranked guy at NCIS."

Jimmy snorts a laugh at that, sees Tim's serious, and then raises his eyebrows. "Is this where I say, 'I'm out of it for a little while and everyone's getting delusions of grandeur?'"

Tim sighs and laughs quietly. "You might. Vance has asked me to come up and chat with him this afternoon, so I'll find out for sure then, but… So, yeah, I'm the Director of Cybercrime."

"Well, yeah, that's on your nametag."

"Uh huh. And the door. You know, the door, of my office, the kind of office no one else has…"

Jimmy nods, and Tim sees it hit him that he might actually be right about this as a slow smile spreads across his face.

"Okay, so, I've been doing some checking and…" Tim tells Jimmy about what he's noticed, and by the time the elevator doors were opening, Jimmy was laughing.

Tim gets back from lunch, drops food off for Abby, and then heads back to spend another hour beating the new scheduling system into submission before having his chat with Vance.

He's almost nervous about talking to Vance. Almost. Like, there's the idea that he should be nervous, especially because he's not entirely sure what the hell his job is, but… He's not actually feeling nervous.

It's sort of like how, when he got to a break point in the code, he just fired off an email to all of his (and he's thinking of them as his) Team Leaders, describing what the new system should do, and how he wants to know who each team member is, what they specialize in, and build a database so that the best person (people) for the job gets the job, no matter where the job is. He didn't think about it. He didn't worry about it. He just fired it off, and within an hour started getting emails back with ideas for how to make the system better and all the information he asked for.

If there's one thing true about Tim McGee, it's that he's never had any problem seeing what an issue is and taking care of it. Sure, in the past, he's felt nervous about doing things he hadn't been specifically told to do, but that's never stopped him from doing it. And now… he's just not feeling that anymore.

It's almost like the last year burned the nervous out of him. He almost feels like he's gotten to the point where he no longer has the capacity for nervous (at least, about the job.)

As soon as he gets to Vance's office, Vance asks, "How's it going?"

"It's going," he says, sitting in the chair Vance nods at.

Vance's eyes narrow very slightly, and Tim adds, "I think it's going well. They don't all love me; one of them has resigned already, but I've got her replacement starting week after next. We're moving toward being an actual team and getting some real work done." He fills Vance in on his job software, and how he's hoping to have a testing version ready by start of work on Tuesday. Vance looks pleased by this. He looks very pleased when Tim starts telling him about how once he's gotten it working properly, he'll roll it out across NCIS and start assigning jobs by specialty instead of geography. Vance is even more pleased as he explains how much he think that'll speed up computer work for the Field Teams.

Vance's satisfied smile as he tells him about the job software plans could be a hint that, yes, he's Director of Cybercrime and that this is indeed under his job description. Or it could just be the fact that Vance will take any good idea that makes his operation work better, no matter where it comes from.

Vance jots a quick note on the new job system and then says, "You rearranged the basement."

Tim nods, wondering if Vance headed down there to take a look at what he had done. "Better workflow. They can talk to each other without having to deal with walls. They weren't working as a team before because they were walled off in their own little cubbies. Now we've got a space in the middle for breaking down what we're doing, who's doing what, why, and how. Once I get the stuff delivered, we'll have a conference area in the middle, space to plan our jobs out, who's doing what, and with any luck, some room for down time, too."

Leon nods. He was looking enthusiastic until Tim got to down time. He's not sure about that, but he's also not arguing about it. "Physical plant is fussing because you changed the light bulbs on your own."

Tim shrugs. The guy he spoke to did seem kind of pissy about the idea that Tim might actually attempt to change his own light bulbs, but, degree in biomedical engineering, he's feeling competent to handle light bulbs. (Turns out Manner was full of shit about the heat thing. It might be a degree or two warmer down there, but it's not sweltering. Still, the LEDs are cooler and only need to be replaced every twenty-five years or so, that sounds pretty appealing to him.) "Physical plant told me they couldn't get new bulbs in for three weeks. So while the Minions were rearranging, I put in new bulbs."

Leon raises his eyebrow at 'Minions' and then shakes his head, and gets to why he brought it up, "Any non-union labor on that sort of thing invalidates our liability insurance."

Tim's staring at him, stupefied. He literally cannot imagine how that rule could have possibly been set. Finally he asks, "Do you want me to take them out?"

"No. You putting them in caused the problem, taking them out doesn't fix it. But in three weeks Physical Plant will show up with the union electrician and he'll 'inspect' the job you did, and that will make it all better."

Tim, by sheer force of will alone, does not roll his eyes. However, there's a lot of skepticism and annoyance as he says, "We need an electrician for light bulbs?"

"Welcome to management," Leon says dryly.

"But I can rearrange my floor plan?"

"Technically, you should have waited for the electrician to do all the plugging and unplugging, as well, but if you do that, it'll be July before they get a full free day to do it all. He'll be back in June to 'inspect' your job of plugging and unplugging, as well."

That did get an eye roll. "So you're saying I better like the new layout."

Vance smiles. "It's not just a matter of my personal idiosyncrasies that nothing around here ever moves. Just hope no one trips on a cord and sues."

Tim makes a mental note to get some electrical tape and make sure that all of the cords are taped flush to the floor. "All right. Anything else?"

"I understand you took them out of the basement for target practice."


"Why?" Leon looks curious about that. Like it's nothing he ever expected Tim to even think of, let alone do.

"I wanted to see what they'd do if I gave them something they'd never done before. If you dropped me in charge of a new field team, I probably would have made them knit or something."

Leon smiles dryly at that image. "And was it informative?"

"Yes. Most of them were able to roll with it. Might have thought it was silly, but they loaded up, listened to instructions, worked on it, and had a good time. Four of them dug in and balked. As I said, I've already gotten one of them to resign. At least three more of them aren't staying. There's a fourth I'm not sure about. She's great with a computer, and I think just too shy to really function with all of those people staring at her. I want to see what Ngyn will do if I toss her a loop when she's not on display. I can work with shy. Stubborn and unwilling to bend is a different story all together."

"And who are you thinking needs to go?"

Tim grabs his phone and sends Vance their CVs.

"What would you suggest happen to them?"

"Forensic accounting?" Tim shrugs. They have lots of jobs that need computer skills. Part of the issue is he can't really fire them. It's almost impossible to get rid of a Federal Employee, so he can use all of the tools at his disposal to make them want to resign, but he can't out and out boot them. He can, possibly, reassign them, though. "Tech support? HR? Web development? See if the IRS can use them? Somewhere decent computer skills are necessary, but the ability to adapt on the fly isn't. If we're going to track down the bad guys we need to be faster and better than they are. Just sheer computer skill isn't enough, we need imagination, too. We're not just going to think outside the box. We're going to be the guys who build the box so other guys can think in it."

"Okay." Leon seems to like that idea. He's flipping through the CVs Tim's given him.

"I need to know how young I can hire," Tim asks. This is something he's been thinking about for a while. Currently all Federal jobs on their level require a college degree. But… for the kind of talent he wants a college degree means those guys are going to be VERY expensive.

"Excuse me?"

"I'm hoping to have four open desks soon. I've got one new tech on the way, and I've got ideas for the kind of people I want on the other three. I currently can't hire without a college degree, but I figure if you wave that, I can. So, if I can grab a seventeen-year-old on his way to MIT, can I have him?"

Leon just stares at him for a moment. "You're going to headhunt babies?"

"If I can. The seventeen-year-old I want will be going for millions by the time he's twenty-one. Even if I could pay based on merit, I can't win in a bidding war against Stanford, let alone Facebook or Google. I don't have the budget for that, but if I can get him early, I can train him to cover what he might miss by skipping the traditional four-year-school, and hopefully get him for a fraction of the cost."

Leon's still staring at him.

Tim lets him in on his logic for this. "They can enlist at seventeen. We'll let them work on a nuclear submarine at seventeen. I don't think I've got anything hotter than that under my umbrella."

"Seventeen, with parental permission," Vance says slowly, realizing that Tim's not just serious, but has given this some real thought.

"If I can get this hypothetical teenage hacker's parents to go for it, can I hire him?"

"Check with legal, if they say you can, sure."


Vance looks at his phone, seeming to re-read the guys Tim wants out. "Why Hepple? According to your reports he was always in the middle on all of his scores."

Tim shrugs. "He is. He's not bad at all, but… he's a mainframe specialist. Apparently we hired him right out of Cal-Tech in '88."


"And we don't have a mainframe. We didn't have a mainframe the first time I was in Cybercrime. No one has a mainframe anymore. He's not a field agent, so I can't age him out. Back in '13, when he hit twenty-five years in, Jenner was suggesting that maybe retirement would look good, but no dice. He's not bad at any of the stuff we do, but he's not good either. And this isn't the team for mediocre. I can't fire him, no cause. He's on time, muddles through his work, and if, for some reason, we ever end up having to deal with a mainframe again, he'll be worth his weight in gold, but… It's like having a mimeograph tech on staff. Best I can hope for now is that he doesn't like the hours I give him, and he decides retirement is looking good."

"Okay. Anything else?"

Tim's been thinking about this for a bit, but had been planning on waiting more than a week into it, but Vance is asking… Tim thinks for a second more, this is a good test. The Director of Cybercrime can make this decision for himself. Navy Yard Team Leader needs to ask permission. So… "I'm dropping the dress code."
Leon lifts his eyebrows, but doesn't challenge his right to do so.

Tim explains his thinking. "I can't offer them better pay. I can't give them better benefits. My hands are tied on both of those. I will move heaven and earth to get them the best team, and we will find the most interesting cases, and I'm going to do everything I can to make it the best work environment. I've got plans for the environment, budget permitting, but step one is making this look like a place where real computer guys work."

"Uh huh." Vance keep staring at him. "We got you on that salary and benefits."

"As a field agent. You couldn't have afforded me as a computer specialist. If Armstrong hadn't promised me that I wouldn't be chained to a computer here, I would have gone with the CIA; they offered more money, a car, and would have paid for my doctorate as long as I had been willing to get that doctorate overseas and report back about what I noticed while I did it."

That was something Vance hadn't known. He looks at Tim for a long minute, working on actually, really seeing him, and then says, "You took a pay cut so people could shoot at you?"


Vance shakes his head, looking surprised and amused. "You have to write the code up, and it's got to be in line with the sexual harassment regs."


Vance spends another minute staring at him, and then a smile spreads across his face, "So, now that you've been on it for a week, is the job about what you expected?"

Tim sees the smile; it's an awfully smug sort of look. Now's the real acid test, if he actually is as highly ranked as he thinks he is, he can say this to Vance. "You've got a really sick sense of humor, Leon."

Leon laughs at that. "My kids say that about me all the time. Congratulations again, Director McGee."

Three hours later Vance was CCed on an email that went out to all of the Minions: (A similar one went to all of his Team Leaders, updating them on the Navy Yard change, and letting them know that whatever level of dress code they deemed appropriate for their own teams was fine with him. Tim's not going to mess with his Team Leaders until he's got a much better idea of what's actually going on out there.)

As of 1/11/16 the dress code for Navy Yard Cybercrime will relax.

Feel free to wear whatever you are comfortable in, keeping a few things in mind:

1. Are all of the bits of you you really wouldn't want a bad sunburn on covered? No? Go put more clothing on.

2. If the idea of getting a tattoo/piercing there hurts so bad you wince, it better be covered with clothing.

3. If the idea of getting a tattoo/piercing there hurts so bad I wince, it better be covered with clothing.

4. Is the clothing you're covering those parts with so sheer/transparent I can see them through it? Put more layers on until they're invisible.

5. If there is anything written on said item of clothing that you don't want your hyper-vigilant, ultra-feminist grandma to see, don't wear it to work.

6. If you do not have a hyper-vigilant, ultra-feminist grandma to school you on what's appropriate, I will lend you mine.

7. If it is violent or gory or would give a small child nightmares, do not wear it to work. Come on guys, you know this.

8. I do not want to see your underwear. Doesn't matter how snazzy it is, it stays under your clothing.

9. If there is a chance I may mistake your outerwear for underwear, it better be hidden under more outerwear.

10. If words printed on it would show up in George Carlin's Seven Words You Can't Say on TV (Google it) act, don't wear it to work.

11. If you consider it appropriate for a hot date out at a club, don't wear it to work.

12. If you are unsure as to whether or not it's appropriate for work, it's not.

13. That said, non-office-casual makeup, piercings, tattoos, facial hair, hats, shoes, boots, jewelry, and items of clothing are fine in the dungeon. Just don't be a twit about it, and try not to make your co-workers uncomfortable.

14. For court appearances, you will be dressed exactly how the legal beagles tell you to dress. Which will likely be conservative, upright, and professional. This means you will own at least one outfit of clothing that makes you look conservative, upright, and professional. (If this is a concept you are unsure about, the legal beagles will be happy to help. But, quick rule of thumb: Navy suit, white button down, black shoes. If you're a guy: maroon tie, good watch. If you're a woman: nude pantyhose and pumps. Boring makeup. No jewelry beyond watch and or wedding/engagement ring.) You will wear this outfit often enough so that you can fake looking comfortable in it if you are not genuinely comfortable. You will also own and know how to use whatever camouflage makeup is necessary to cover whatever needs to be covered so that you look like you just stepped out of a Brooks Brother's catalogue.

15. Speaking of uncomfortable, that is what anyone who screws this up so badly I end up having Vance decide he needs to chat with me about this is going to be.

Forward this back to me to show you've received it and understand the terms.

See you Monday,


Vance sighs, closes his email, closes his eyes and rubs his forehead. He knew Cybercrime was stagnating. He knew it was falling further and further behind where he needed it to be. He knows he put McGee in charge because he'd shake it up.

Somehow though, he hadn't expected this much shaking up. Not this soon. He figured it'd be at least a month before Tim got comfortable enough to start really swapping things up.

And right now, he's really hoping that McGee's right, and this is what needs to happen to get it to where he wants it. He's certainly intrigued with the hiring younger workers. He's seen the stats, knows that less than 10% of the Federal workforce is under 30 and that more than 25% is about to retire. He knows for NCIS those numbers are even worse, fewer than 5% under 30, more than 35% retiring in the next five years.

If this scheduling thing he's talking about works, that would be fantastic. He has gotten irate calls when someone's been sitting on a hot case waiting around for Cybercrime to do its job.

He thinks about this, and finally comes up with why this feels so off. This is Gibbs... Junior... his upfront, no bullshit, no excuses style, but with actual power. Gibbs as a Team Leader is a great thing, Gibbs as a Department Head is terrifying.

Vance blows out a breath, hoping he made the right call, and then he forwards the email to Gibbs with: Your boy in action in the subject line.

Two minutes later, Gibbs is staring at his computer screen, smiling, chuckling quietly, very glad to see Tim putting his mark on Cybercrime.

He'd been hoping to get a chance to talk with Tim, see how he was liking running a team, but between Tim on full work mode with his new team, and them on a hot case, it hasn't happened.

With any luck he'll get to see him tomorrow or the next day. Gibbs can already feel that tonight is off the menu. They aren't breaking this before tomorrow morning at the earliest.

Tim's wrapping up for the day. He's got a beta(ish) version of the job allocating software in the can, and on Monday, the Minions'll start playing with it again.

He heads up to Abby, and as he heads in, he notices that all four of them are in there, and they're all still working.

No music, they've all got earbuds in, listening to their own stuff. But he knows the feel of this, the sort of energy that goes with the Lab humming away.

Abby looks up from her pipettes, and smiles at him. She's in full on lab protection gear, so is the other three, so he hangs back and waits for her to take her earbuds out.

"Not quitting time for you, is it?"

She shakes her head.

"They're all working away upstairs, aren't they?"

She nods at that, too. "Gibbs was in three minutes ago for an update. I think Tony and Ziva are heading to Baltimore. Draga's still digging through financials, and Gibbs has a suspect he's about to break with what we just gave him."

Tim nods. "Okay." He knows Jimmy went home after lunch. "I guess I'll pick up some food and Kelly and head over to Jimmy's."

"Probably a good plan. Make sure to give both of them kisses from me."

"How about hugs?"

She quickly switches to signing, which he appreciates once he got the message. Jimmy kissed you when you needed it.

Jimmy's not on the verge of a panic attack, does not need to be shocked out of anything, and getting kissed by me, even if it is "from you" isn't going to do much to cheer him up.

It'll perk up Breena.

Tim shakes his head, no.

The looks she's giving him indicates that she thinks that's BS, but isn't going to argue it. "Fine, hugs. I'll get home when I can."

He kisses the nape of her neck. He'd like to do more than that, but she is covered in protective gear, so he doesn't want to risk getting whatever it is she's messing with on his skin by going in for a hug or a real kiss.

He's in the parking lot, texting Jimmy and Breena, seeing what they want to do for dinner, when it hits him that a whole week went by, with a hot case, and beyond chatting with Abby and Jimmy about what they were up to, he was just out of it.

He didn't feel any need to go up. There wasn't any sort of itchiness or wondering. He wasn't craving the mystery and didn't feel any need to head upstairs and make sure Draga was doing his job right.

In fact, other than a sort of missing his family, because besides Jimmy and Abby (and Ducky for a second), he hasn't seen any of them since Sunday, he's not feeling any craving for his old life, at all.

And he's honestly not sure if he's okay with that.

Not sure if switching over that fast, that completely means this is good, that he was ready, more than ready for a new job, or if this is his usual routine and he's just got his feelings so deeply buried under making sure he's doing the job right that he can't feel them.

He gets a text back from Breena, saying they're in the mood for Japanese, and right now, he can contemplate his emotional interior, or grab his baby girl, a bunch of sushi, and spend a few hours trying to cheer up his hurting friends.

Doesn't even take a tenth of a second for him to know what he's going to do.

Place the order, go crazy and splurge, it's on me. (Has Jimmy told you the story that goes with that?) I'll pick it up. See you soon.


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