Friday, July 11, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Gossip

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

Chapter 353: Gossip

A/N: REMF stands for Rear Echelon Mother Fucker. Namely, the guys at the back of the lines that keep the army moving.

A month into being "Boss" and there are some things Tim really loves about it.

The power is great. He sees a problem. He fixes the problem. He's not feeling like he needs to ask permission or risk stepping on someone's toes by not asking permission. Sure, this has resulted in an irked electrician from physical plant standing in his office, glaring at him, getting ready to give him a hard time about the new set up before putting new light bulbs in.

And then Tim stood up, took two steps, drawing Mr. Electrician's gaze to not only the smiley face gun target right over his shoulder (he's also got the skull picture next to it) but to the fact that he knew Mr. Electrician was coming today, and had, as a result, dressed carefully for this meeting.

First and foremost, his jacket (black, leather) is draped over his desk chair. Which means Mr. Electrician is getting a full view of the newest Department Head of NCIS, all six foot one inch and one hundred and seventy-five pounds of him, standing up very straight, very tall, in a black kilt, black leather work boots (adding an extra inch), dragon ink visible on his leg, crimson button down, top two buttons undone, sleeves rolled up to show off his wrist cuff, and black matte nail polish.

The man who walks into a Federal Office building dressed like that is a man who does not give a flying fuck as to what anyone else may or may not want to say to him about anything. The man who gets to Department Head and dresses like that is also the man who is so amazingly good at his job that everyone else doesn't give a flying fuck as to how he looks. Which means, that man is the last man in the building you want to mess with.

Tim has also noticed that one of the "every day" colognes Janice picked out for him, Lightning, smells like a storm coming in. This may be some people's cup of tea, Abby, for example, likes it. (Ziva really likes it, to the point of having gotten a bottle of it for herself.) It makes most people mildly nervous, but they can't figure out why. Their inner lizard brains smell that scent and know something they don't want to be near is coming, which results in a sort of barely conscious nervousness.

So, as Mr. Electrician is doing a double take and looking like he wants to get the hell out of Tim's office about two minutes ago, Tim says to him, mildly, voice quiet, arms to the side, posture open, "Yes?"

He tries, he really does. Tim sees his eyes narrow and the way he steels himself to get ready to lay down the law in regards to who's supposed to be plugging in the computer, and he gets about half a sentence into rules and regulations before Tim says to him, calmly, cutting him off, "You appear to have a fundamental misunderstanding as to what your job is in relation to mine.

"My job is catching killers, finding kidnapped children, and putting rapists behind bars. Your job is plugging in appliances. Now, I can, and will, and have done your job when I need to, but you can't do mine, so if you want to keep yours, the next time I call down to Physical Plant and request any level assistance, you are going to drop every other thing you may possibly be doing, including wiring the Director's office, and run your ass into my office to take care of it." Tim smiles, and it's a cold, sharp look. "Do you understand me?"

Mr. Electrician, nods, slowly.

"Splendid. Go put the LEDs in."

And Mr. Electrician does.

And he'll have to admit, that was a whole lot of fun.

The schedule is great. That's something else he loves about being the Boss. Yes, he's working a lot, but he's also able to go home when he needs to. He can imagine there will be cases when he'll need all hands on deck (including his) but so far that hasn't happened.

There are no dead bodies, no ships, no dogs, no one shooting at him, no explosions, nothing dirty, messy, or gross about this job. And if there was, he could make someone else do it!

He doesn't have to spend hours trying to outwit liars who aren't nearly as good at it as they think they are. He sees no panicked eyes trying desperately to figure out how much he knows, and what the most believable spin could possibly be on what he knows.

The work is interesting. Mostly. The paperwork sucks, and there's a ton of it. But unlike being on the MCRT, he's got the power to actually do something about it. So, while it sucks and eats a lot of time, it won't be doing that forever.

But, compared to hours of paperwork he couldn't do anything about, hours spent driving from point a to point b, hours waiting to testify, hours in depositions rehearsing what he was going to say when he got done waiting to get called to the stand, hours staring at things, waiting for someone to do something, a whole hell of a lot more of his time is now spent doing something useful.

And, for a lot of the work, he's doing things that are interesting in addition to useful. A month into the job, a lot of what he's doing right now is still getting everyone on the same page and up to speed. So far, the greater world is accommodating him with that, and they haven't been hit with anything bigger than computer work for the field teams.

At the rate they're going, even with half of his team working on the paperwork project, his triaging system and moving to a twenty-four/seven schedule means that by the end of the week they will be caught up on their case backlog.

Once they're through the backlog, once they've got the paperwork software up and running, then he'll be able to get them really working, and with a hundred and fifty guys under him, he's got some big plans coming up.

Among other things, he knows he's going to be splitting everyone into two main teams, attack and defense, and for the next year half of them will spend at least an hour a week trying to break into NCIS, the Navy, or the Marines, and half of them will work on defense. Then the next year they're going to switch, and they're going to keep at it, because it's not okay to assume that he built a firewall that'll keep everything safe always.

The military war games. They run scenarios, see how their men operate, put all hands on deck and watch responses. They find holes and plug them.

And his guys are going to do that, too.

And then they're going to start hunting. A lot of cybercrime works because no one ever notices it. Sneak in, move things around, skim some off the top, snag IDs, even in cases where hundreds of thousands of records are breached, it can take weeks, months sometimes, for people to notice. And smaller scale work? Please, no one's checking.

His guys will be checking.

He loves the fact that he's starting to mold his team. High standards and petting for good works seems to be having a positive effect. The whole you-will-work-as-a-team thing is speeding cases up, and for the most part getting better results out of the Minions.

He's starting to get "his" people into place. Howard started yesterday, and she's already slipping in, inching things closer to where he wants them.

She's a code wizard, so he stuck her on the clean-up team for the paperwork project, and she's not only got mad skills, but fresh eyes, so she can see the stuff they've all been looking at too long. He's thinking she'll be a good leader for the Navy Yard's Attack team, and can't wait to see where that goes.

Hepple filed his retirement paperwork; effective June (when he hits twenty-eight years in) he'll have another open slot soon, and Tim's already got his search parameters up for that. He knows what sort of person he wants for that slot, but not who that person is, yet.

He's also found, that since he's in the building every day, he actually does get to see Abby and Jimmy more often… Or for a longer chunk of time. Sort of.

He can have lunch with them on most days. So, instead of a few quick visits, he's got one longer visit. (Granted, he doesn't end up working in the lab anymore, but that was time near Abby instead of with her, mostly. He misses that.)

And on days when Tony and Ziva aren't in the field, they often join in.

But, on Tuesday, they were in the field, and Ducky and Penny were having lunch with each other, so it was just the three of them.

And both Tim and Jimmy have some interesting gossip.

"Breena called," Jimmy says as he takes a bite of his salad. "Apparently Gibbs showed up to take Molly out, all dressed up."

Abby grins at that. She already knows Tim's half of the gossip. "Like he was going out for a date, maybe?"

Jimmy nods. "She tells me he wouldn't say who. Though he did say it 'wasn't a date.'"

"He asked me to find Borin's contact number after Bootcamp," Tim adds between bites of his grilled chicken.

Jimmy's grinning at that, too. "So, tell me about her. I've seen her, twice, maybe. She's tall, has red hair, and a good voice, but that's about all I know."

"She's Girl Gibbs!" Abby says.

Tim takes over. Sunday night, after he got home, he and Abby did some 'research' on Abigail Borin. They've both met and worked with her, but they don't know much about her. "Drinks the same black as sin coffee, and bourbon, too, head slaps her guys, was a Marine, served in Iraq, under Bush II instead of Bush I, did ordinance disposal—"

"Which is insanely dangerous," Abby adds.

Tim nods at that. Really, really dangerous. "Her whole team got killed when a bomb went off wrong, so she left the Marines, floated around for a bit, and ended up at CGIS."

"Been there since, worked her way up, and now she's in charge of the Chesapeake division."

"So, not entirely Girl Gibbs," Jimmy says. "Can't see anyone putting Gibbs in charge of an entire NCIS region."

"Not entirely." Tim agrees. "No one out-Gibbs Gibbs when it comes to stepping on toes."

"Jenny left him in charge of the Navy Yard a few times." Abby sips her water. (Usually, when they're out, she gets soda. Jimmy doesn't know if she's trying to take better care of herself or just didn't feel like it today. Her tuna and edamame wrap is about par for the course. He'll keep his eyes open and ask Tim about it later if it's a pattern.)

"I think that was punishment, not career advancement. He certainly acted like it was punishment," Tim says.

"Probably." Abby nods.

"So, I mean, is she going to be good for him?" Jimmy asks.

Tim shrugs.

Abby nods, while poking Tim. "Of course she is! She's awesome, and we already love her." Tim shrugs at that, too. She is cool. He does like her. Unlike Abby, he's not quite ready to start picking out Gibbs' wedding tux.

"I think, out of all the previous girlfriends, he got on best with Hollis, and Borin's got a lot of the same sort of feel to her. He doesn't do well with clingy, needy people and Borin's in charge of herself. So, that should be good."

"Good? That'll be great! There won't be all the nagging he hates. She's not going to get annoyed when he won't talk about the job—"

"You mean the job he doesn't have any more?" Jimmy cuts in with.

"You know what I mean. She wouldn't know what to do with a man who spills vast oceans of emotions on her, and he'll run screaming from a woman who does the same thing. So, there's one mismatch they're not going to have."

"The true love of the emotionally closed off," Jimmy adds with a healthy touch of sarcasm.

"Something like that," Tim replies.

Abby glares at both of them, then blows them a raspberry. "You two." Another glare more frustrated than angry. This is good news, everyone should be excited and happy and they're both… wary. "They'll go slow. Get to know each other. Open up a little at a time. It'll be good! Sure, he won't admit they're even dating until, mmm… probably about a week after he proposes, but it'll be good!"

Tim and Jimmy look at each other, both of them thinking about the same thing, but in that Tim's the husband, he's the one who gets to say it. "Yeah, good, or a recipe for disaster."

Abby sighs again and rolls her eyes. "Breena and Ziva need to be here."

"If they'd be so good together, then why didn't Borin offer her own name up when we were looking for a girlfriend for Gibbs?" Tim asks.

"Whoa, when did that happen?" Jimmy looks quickly from Tim to Abby. He completely missed that.

Tim waves him off. "Years ago. He was moping, annoying the hell out of us, we tried to set him up, Borin helped, one of her buddies was the perfect woman. Turns out she really was. He'd already dated her, and yes, she was perfect, and perfect was boring."

Jimmy blinks at that, perplexed look on his face. "So, wait, he broke up with the perfect woman?"

Tim nods.

"She wasn't perfect for him. But Borin might be! He needs some challenge and she's got challenge written all over her," Abby says.

Tim nods at that. "Last time we talked about this, you were telling me that Gibbs had already found his perfect woman and no one else was going to work."

"Last time we talked about this, Gibbs was still married, in his heart, at least, to his perfect woman, and I don't think that's true anymore."

"Good point." Tim nods while chewing. He agrees that there's the possibility for a perfect woman, or as close as one can get, now, but… he's not sure if Borin's her.

"And as for why not add herself in… Uh, let's start with the bet between you and Tony that she completely knew about and end with, with both of them working, what would be the point of even trying to date? They'd never see each other. You can't successfully date when both of you work seventy hours a week. And now, he doesn't."

Both of the guys seem to think that's a good point.

"Can't you just see both of them," Abby sounds very excited about this, "and Mona, on Shannon, sailing away… Long weekends at sea—"

Jimmy shakes his head. "He cannot call that boat Shannon. Not if he's hoping to put another woman in it. 'Let's go sail off on my testament to my undying love of my first wife.'"

Tim nods in agreement with that and then adds, "Maybe it won't be too much of a problem, they'll have only been on it for ten minutes when she catches a case."

Abby seems to think that's a relevant point. "Yeah, but she'll never find someone who understands that better than Gibbs will. He's not going to be moping about her having to work."

"No." Tim steals a bite of the cantaloupe Abby's wrap came with. "He'll be moping about not getting to go along and help. Duty calls, I'm off to go catch killers, you stay home and play with the kiddies. He hates when we do it to him, can you imagine when he's got to deal with a girlfriend doing that." That really does worry Tim, and it's why, unlike Abby, he's not immediately seeing this being all sunshine and roses for the two of them.

Jimmy winces at that, getting it immediately. "The two of them get together and he'll be the girlfriend. She'll be Gibbs, and he'll be Gibbs' girlfriend."

"Jimmy!" Abby's appalled by that.

"Oh come on, you think that's not how he's got it in his head? The man goes off and solves the crimes. The woman stays home and waits for him to get back from solving the crimes."

"You keep saying that, you're gonna get headslapped!"

"I'm not saying that's how I think of it, but I'm sure that's how he thinks of it. And it's fine if woman's out there solving the crimes. Obviously if he got on fine with Hollis, that's not a problem, but if you ask him who's not solving the crimes, who's home waiting for the crime solver to get back, it's the girl, and being the girl might really flip him out."

Abby glares at him again, but he and Tim are sharing a look that indicates both of them think this might be an issue for Gibbs. Still, Jimmy decides to shift topic some. "Is he getting anything going? A real job or something, so that he's not just home waiting for everyone else to get done? Look, I love the fact that he's taking Molly out, and it sounds like they're having a great time, but Breena's actually getting a bit worried for him. The girls are going back to daycare in less than a month and if there was ever a guy who needed something to keep him going, it's Gibbs."

Tim shrugs. "He's got something. But he's not talking about it, and I have no idea how much time it'll eat."

"Why isn't he talking about it?" Jimmy asks.

Tim takes a bite of his own chicken. "Knowing Gibbs, it's illegal, insanely dangerous, or both, and he doesn't want us to worry."

"And Tim's not going to press," Abby says pointedly. It's not so much that she thinks Tim can get it out of Gibbs but is choosing not to, it's that she's frustrated that he likely can't.

"No! I'm not. And like I said last time, if you want to grill him, have at it."

"He'll just shut down."

"Which is why I'm not grilling him. He'll tell us if or when he can."

"And we're stuck hoping he won't be stupid about it and get himself hurt," Jimmy says.

"Exactly." Tim says. "His knee as good as he says it is?" Speaking of Gibbs possibly being stupid and getting himself hurt…

"Best I can tell, yes. But take that with the grain of salt, I don't have an MRI or X-ray, so all I can go off of is what he tells me, how it looks, how he's moving, and what I feel when I get my hands on it. But, yes, it looks like he's healed up." Jimmy inhales, about to tell Abby about Sunday's Bootcamp, where Gibbs went up against Tony, and neither of them held back, at all, which was both worth watching, and looked like a very good work out for both of them (because they're pretty evenly matched) but his phone chirps.

He gets it out and texts back quickly, reaching for his wallet, but Tim shakes his head. It's their day to pay for lunch. (When they eat together, Jimmy gets one out of three of them, which represents as far down as they could talk him. He wanted to do one out of two.)

"Case?" Abby says when he looks up from the phone.

"Yeah, gotta get going."

He leans over and kisses Abby's cheek. "See you tomorrow, or whenever we get back with samples." (He's still on delivering the samples to the lab.)


Jimmy waves at them and heads off.

Abby looks at Tim. "You going to talk to him?"

"Which him?"

"Gibbs, about Abby."

Tim shrugs. "What would I say that he hasn't already thought about?"

Abby shrugs back. "It sounds like they're going to be bringing in more evidence, and it's my night for the late shift. Go home, grab Kelly, grab dinner, and head over."

"You know, if his date went really well, he may not want me heading over."

She smirks at that. "He put a lock on the door, I'm sure he knows how to use it if he doesn't want anyone dropping in."

Tim laughs at that.

Abby takes a bite of his chicken, and then says, a bit more seriously, "You could tell him that it's not the end of the world to be the girl. Half of us do just fine, day in and day out as girls. You could tell him it's just as important to be the person who keeps the person catching the killers going as it is to be the person who catches the killers. REMFs, right?"

Tim nods, he knows that term, (Occasionally Marines who didn't exactly get what his role in the team was would call him one. He certainly is one now, and so's Abby, and Jimmy, for that matter.) but not sure where Abby's going with it.

"The world needs REMFs. Can't go off and be Big Damn Heroes without the REMFs in the back keeping you going."

He supposes that's true, but he also supposes that after forty years as a Big Damn Hero, REMF status may be a hard sale.

"You might remind him that the people who made being the guy who caught the killers worthwhile were all girls, too."

"Maybe you should have this chat with him?"

"If you don't, I will. But from you, from another guy, it probably means more. Sort of like how if I tell Jimmy eyeliner is cool he just raises his eyebrow, but when you do it, it means there's another guy who does stuff like that, so that makes it safer. You know… being support for the Big Damn Heroes didn't make your dick fall off; you didn't have to hand in your man card."

He figures Abby may have a point with that, though translating that to Gibbs might be a trickier proposition.

When he gets back to the office, there are three Minions (2/3rd of the paperwork program testing team and Howard) all waiting, eagerly, for him.

He sees the grins and says, "Progress?"

Three heads nodding.

"Set up a case," Roger says.

"Any type?" Tim asks, all five of them heading to his office.

"Any type," Connon replies.

So he does. As soon as Dispatch gets a report of a case, they stick a case number on it. Everything involving that case goes with that number. So Tim grabs a case number and starts a false report for it. He begins working on it, running a false phone records search as well as a financial report.

"Okay, now watch." Connon waves, indicating for Tim to move over, so he does, sliding his chair out of the way. Connon takes over, hitting the icon for the paperwork software, and then hits a few more buttons and… for a few seconds all four of them hover, nervous, hopeful, and then there's the whirling sound of Tim's printer kicking to life and he smiles wide.

"Don't get too happy. It only does the 5440's right. But, we've got one of the fifteen documents we fill out for every case running properly."

"And if you screw up the case tracking number the whole thing is fucked," Roger says.

Tim nods at that. But that's always been true for any computer work at NCIS. (That was part of having to try to figure out how to dumb down the job triaging software. Most cops can't type.) "But you've got at least one bit of it working?"

"We've got one bit!" Howard looks really pleased to be doing something this concrete and useful her second day on.

"Good job! Now, go get the next fourteen of them working."

"On it, Boss!"

Kelly in one hand, take-out pho in the other, Tim heads into Gibbs' driveway.

He can see Mona, perched on the bow of Shannon, (or maybe not Shannon, there's no name painted on her, yet. Though the outside is looking awfully smooth and glossy.) looking at him, very alert. She greets him with a woof and scrambles down the step ladder Gibbs has leaning against the hull. Tim puts the food on the hood of Gibbs' truck and pats (firmly, he wants to do it gingerly, ready to yank his hand and more importantly, Kelly's body, back in a second if he needs to, but he knows if he does anything other than look like the top dog, Mona will try to run all over him) Mona's head.

"Hey, Mona. He's in there, right?"

One more woof.

"I've got food and Kelly with me, and I'm not climbing a step ladder with her."

Gibbs pokes his head out. He's wearing a face mask and has on gloves. If he's wearing protective gear, whatever the hell he's working with in there has to be pretty nasty. "Out in a minute. Go in, get set."

Tim nods at Mona. "You feed her?"

"Not yet."

"Come on, Mona, I'll get some food for you, too."

Mona perks up at that, she's always in favor of food.

However dressed up Gibbs may have been when he was over at Breena's he's in ratty jeans, work boots, and an old t-shirt now, and he smells very strongly of shellac. But he had shaved, and that doesn't go unnoticed by Tim.

Apparently Tim's outfit didn't go unnoticed by Gibbs, either.

He looks Tim over and says, "Fancy."

Tim shrugs a little. "Electrician showed up today. Wanted to make sure he knew who he was dealing with."

"How'd that go?"

Tim nods, look satisfied. "I have the feeling Physical Plant's going to be a bit more responsive to calls from Cybercrime."

Gibbs smirks, very pleased, by that.

"Breena told us you were looking pretty fancy today, too. So… you put that number to good use?"

Gibbs sprinkles a little cilantro on his pho, and then adds a lot of hot sauce. He's not exactly glaring at Tim; he doesn't want to immediately shut him out on this, but he doesn't necessarily want to go spilling about this, either.

Tim lets him think. He portions out noodles onto Kelly's place, as well as giving the little jar of mushed green beans a good shake. He opens the beans and gets a spoonful into Kelly before seasoning his own pho. He takes a bite, adds a bit more lime, then one more bite.

"You know, it was almost getting blown up by Deering that made me decide what I wanted. That 'holy shit, I'm not dead, time to get my life in order' moment. Then everything went gray, and I blacked out. She took me home from the hospital that day, and this" he points to the pho, "was the first thing we did. She brought me home, got me on my bed, and I slept for… no idea. Until the pain pills wore off. When I came to, she had a bowl of pho waiting for us. She got the noodles and meat, I got the broth. She stayed with me that night. Nothing sexy or anything. Just slept next to me, held my hand, 'cause we were both scared and upset. That's where it started, for me, at least. I don't know if she knows that. Should probably tell her at some point." Tim takes a sip of his broth, and Gibbs waits, eating, wondering where he's going to take this.

"She makes our home, you know? Last three years, every bad day, every shit thing, every time the bullet barely missed, she's been there for me. She's been my home, my heart, my safety. All of this," he pets Kelly's cheek and squeezes Gibbs' hand, "doesn't happen without her. I can't be this version of me, without her."

Gibbs nods, still not sure where this is going, but he's agreeing with what Tim's saying.

"We want you to be happy. And we're thrilled with whatever it is that you're not saying about Borin. And just… you know… maybe she needs a home, too."

Gibbs just stares at him, honestly not sure what the hell to say to that. So, finally he nods and says, "How's the paperwork software going?"

Tim decides he's done his duty by Abby to try to get the message across and replies with, "Good. Got two of the forms working right."

"Good." Gibbs takes another bite of his pho. "What's with the other thirteen?"

Tim rolls his eyes, and feeds Kelly another bite of her green beans while grabbing some noodles out of her hair. "Stupid blanks all have different names and a computer's so dumb that if one form says Date and another form says Day and a third form has mm/dd/yyyy on it, it needs specific instructions to know that those are all the same thing. You and I and pretty much every human on earth can figure out that if one form has case number on it, and the next has case no. and one just says Number up at the top, they're all talking about the same thing. The computer can't. So we've got to tell it to pull one piece of data out of the information you're working with and stick it in all the paperwork blanks that it goes with."

Gibbs nods at that, he's following.

"Tricky bit is when the 5540s use Number to mean the case tracking number and the DF-56-A," phone tracking request forms, "use Number to mean phone number, and of course, they're both ten digit numbers, and then the 34Q-Self Report uses Number to mean your employee ID. That's giving all of us headaches, but Howard—"

"Interviewed with us Howard?"

"Started yesterday." Tim smiles at that. "She had some good ideas to help the computers figure out what means what. So, right now my database wonks are working on building up the database so it can pull the data out and put it in the right places, and she's working on an AI learning algorithm to help it figure out what the hell all of these blanks mean." Tim crosses his fingers. "Any luck, by the end of the month we'll have a functional beta version to roll out."

Gibbs smiles. "Good."

They both eat, quietly, enjoying the company, Tim switching between feeding himself and making sure that food gets into Kelly.

Eventually Gibbs says, "It was good."

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"Called her up, met for coffee."

Tim smiles.

"We've got a date Saturday."

Tim smirks at that, and Gibbs can feel there's something there, something Tim's finding deeply amusing, but he's not sharing.


Tim shakes his head. "Just happy for you."

Gibbs knows that's not all of it, but he's clueless as to what else it may be.

"What are you going to do?"

"Dinner. Here." Gibbs smiles at that, and Tim's grin spreads even further across his face.

"Cowboy steaks?"

"That's the plan."


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