Friday, September 26, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Politics

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

Chapter 391: Politics

Gibbs gets a text from Abbi as he's opening up Jimmy's computer. I can get a flight now, hop all over the US, and be there by seven tomorrow morning, or I can wait, catch a red-eye, fly direct, and be there by nine.

Take whichever works best. Two hours won't kill me.

Probably nine then. How's Tim?

Sleeping. Probably. Gibbs looks over at Tim, who's laying in the bed, quiet. His eyes don't open easy, too much swelling from the broken nose, so even when he's awake, they're closed. He's not talking right now, and looks pretty relaxed, so asleep. I hope.

He can feel Abbi nod. He looks at Jimmy's computer. He's gotten himself logged in, and there's everything, just like Burley promised.

Would you look at something for me?


Tim's case.

Certainly. Send what you've got over.

He does, and after a minute she sends back. Am I looking for anything in particular?

Nail John to the fucking wall. He texts that in, and then stops, and then deletes. I'm too close to this one. Tell me how it looks from the outside?

Sure, Jethro. Have you been awake since you left?


I've got the notes. I'm leaving for the plane at 4:00 AM. Between now and then, you sleep. You can bone up on the notes then and we'll talk them through when I get there. But you get some sleep.


Jimmy's still there, right?


Have him give you something if you can't fall asleep on your own. I'll text when I leave for the airport. Sleep.

Yes Ma'am.

Time stops in a hospital. Night, day, who the hell knows? Everything slows down, the light never changes, and the routine continues twenty-four seven.

Abby's sleeping.

Gibbs is sleeping. (Or doing a convincing job of pretending to be asleep. And in that he gave Gibbs a horse-tranquilizer-sized dose of sleeping pills, Jimmy's thinking he's not faking.)

Jimmy's watching McGee's interrogation, over and over and over.

Other than the thirty seconds when Tim was seeing him for the first time in years back in '13 ('12? Jimmy doesn't remember, it was a while ago.) but with the exception of that less than a minute long encounter where he caught the tail end of Tim seeing John, and more or less going white, then storming off in a cloud of snark, he's never seen John.

Never had a clear image to go with the stories.

And now he does.

It's funny. Jimmy's never actually wanted to kill anyone before. He's thought he has. He's certainly been mad. But, especially since he shot Lincoln, and really felt that weight of an ended life in his hands, even though it was a life trying to end his, he's had no desire to kill anyone.

He does now. He can feel exactly how different this is. He cannot, on any level, connect with the idea that John is human.

He watches the interview again. It's not long, but he's catching layers of McGee each time he sees it again. That little flicker of disgust at the idea of Tim being bi. The lack of any horror at the sight of him beaten to a pulp. The shock at the idea that Tim managed to keep those four men from killing him. The fact that he is furious at being accused of sleeping with his secretary but, at most, and this is a charitable read, mildly disconcerted at the idea that his secretary ordered his son killed.

Jimmy doesn't have a "gut" per se. And he's not Ducky; he can't read a guy just by looking at him, but right now, he'd bet everything he owns on the idea that John ordered the assault on Tim. He'd bet just as much that he never had to say the words, because saying the words would be… inappropriate or something, but by voice, or by look, or the same way that Ducky could sort of think 'microscope slides for a histology report' to Jimmy and he'd go grab it without a word. Somehow, John made it clear that this was what he wanted.

Except, as he looks up at Tim, sleeping, this isn't what he wanted because Tim's still alive.
In addition to no "gut" Jimmy's not a cop, and he's not a lawyer, but even with that, he knows this can't be taken to court. There's nothing here. At all. Wanting someone hurt or dead isn't illegal.

The fucker's going to get away with it. That's the beginning and middle of the story. And right now, Jimmy's perfectly happy with the idea that one day, with a rifle in his hands, he'll be the end.

He hears Tim shift a little, like he's trying to roll toward Jimmy, followed by a soft grunt of pain, and then, "You've watched it, what? Six times now? Turn it off."

"Oh, God, sorry. Thought you were asleep." Jimmy takes his ear buds out and closes his computer. He's got the volume low, but when John starts yelling, it's probably slightly audible even with his earbuds in.

Tim turns his head toward Jimmy and opens his eyes. "And I thought you were Gibbs."

Jimmy smiles ruefully. "Not today." He takes Tim's hand in his. "How are you feeling?"

"Like shit."

"Want more pain meds?"


Jimmy hits the call button.

"Think they'll let me eat something?"

"We'll find out." Yes? Comes from the voice on the other end of the call button. "Hi. Room 245 here, could we get some more pain medication?"

Sending someone to you.


"You're not going to find anything," Tim says when Jimmy puts the call button down. "You don't get to Admiral by being the guy who makes stupid impulsive decisions. Mane's fucked. It'll all fall on him. But he'll have made sure it can't touch him."

Jimmy thinks about that, not sure what Tim knows/remembers from the last few days. "Mane's dead, Tim."

"Right." Tim winces a little. "I remember that. Sort of. Burley was here, right?"

"Yeah, he was."

"Obviously, he interviewed The Admiral, and it didn't go well."

Jimmy shakes his head. "Vance is giving us until tomorrow to try and find something."

"It won't be there, Jimmy."

"Gotta do something."

Tim squeezes his hand gently. "You are doing something. You're here."

He snorts a bit at that. "Doesn't feel like much."

"It's enough. Right now, this is all I need."

Jimmy's fingers stroke over the back of Tim's hand, careful not to brush the tender bruised skin, or the sore spot where the IV leads into him. "And later?"

"We'll talk about later when I'm sober."


Tim sighs, he's starting to go from the steady everything aches pain level to being aware of each individual pain, too. He's hoping that nurse shows up soon. "What's going on back east?" he asks to distract himself.

"Oh… Um…" It takes Jimmy a second to switch gears. "Everyone hopes you get well soon. Penny's wrecked. No one's said anything about this to your sister, yet. Don't even know what to say or how…"

"Probably a better in-person conversation."

"Yeah. Abbi's on her way here. Going to get in in the morning. I think Gibbs has her looking over the case as well."

"The girls?"

"Busy being babies. Breena tells me Kelly keeps asking where you and Abby are. Might try a call tomorrow, maybe not skype, maybe just a voice, see if that doesn't freak her out."

"Call would be good. Not skype. Don't want her to see me like this."

"You're looking a little better. Swelling's going down some. The worst parts are just really bad now." Jimmy thinks about that, looking at Tim. "You haven't seen yourself yet, have you?"


"Want to?" Jimmy asks. He can find that mirror Abby keeps in her purse.

"Do I?"

"Eh… I don't know. Not sure if your idea of how you look is better or worse than reality."

Tim looks at his left arm. "How's this compare to my face?"

"Face is worse."

Tim stares at the mottled blue, green, purple black of his one "good" arm. If this is better, his face has to look like it was tenderized with a meat hammer. "I can wait."

Gibbs feels halfway between drunk and hung over when he wakes up. He's got no idea what the hell Jimmy gave him, but whatever it was did the job.

He jerks on the sofa as his eyes find a clock. It's already 10:30, and he's way late to pick Abbi up.

Then a hand squeezes his gently. "I take it you needed the sleep," Abbi says dryly, kissing him.

He blinks once, twice, and once more, trying to put this right. She smiles gently and shakes her head. "Abbs called a bit before I landed. None of you have a car, would have made it tricky to meet me. I rented one and came over here."

He stretches, rubbing his eyes, wincing at the pain in his back.

"Got a room, too. Tonight you sleep on a real bed."

He looks around. Tim's still on the bed (like he'd be anywhere else.) Abby and Jimmy are gone.


"Sent them to use the room. Get some real sleep, on real beds. Showers. Go eat a real meal. Tim had to tell them to go, too, but they eventually got out of here."

Abbi kisses him again, and hands him a large cup of coffee.

He takes a deep drink. "Thank you."

"No problem. Though, if you want to give that back to me and sleep some more, I'm thinking you could use it."

Gibbs stands up and starts slowly walking around, trying to work some of the kinks out. "Not sure I'll ever move again if I sleep on that sofa again."

Abby points to the far side of the room. "Cot's free. Like I said, Abbs and Palmer are catching some zs at the hotel. Nurse said Tim could start having real food tonight, so they're sacking out, and'll come back with dinner for all of us."

Gibbs looks at the cot. He can feel drugged sleep clinging to him.

"Come on," Abbi says, pulling him to the cot, "You're asleep on your feet. Nothing's happening right this second that needs you awake. I'm on watch."

He nods and lets her tuck him in.

Several minutes pass, and when Gibbs starts to snore again, Tim quietly says, "You're really good for him. You know that, right?"

"When'd you wake up?" she asks, half sitting on the side of his bed. After she got Abby and Jimmy out, it looked like Tim had drifted off, too.

"Few minutes ago. Heard what you were saying, figured he wouldn't go back to sleep if I was up."

"Good figuring. How are you feeling?"

He half-smiles, wryly. "Like I've been asked that five hundred times in the last two days."

"Got at least another thousand more coming."

"Yeah. First time I've woken up in… Fuck… What day is it?"


"First time I've woken up since Friday and not felt stoned off my ass or in serious pain."

"Non-serious pain or only mildly stoned?"

"Everything aches. But that's actually better than it's been. And the room doesn't want to swim around whenever my eyes move, so I'll put that in the mildly-stoned column."

"Healing up in leaps and bounds."

Tim rolls his eyes a little. "Oh yeah." He looks around a bit, and sort of glares at that little table that's got his water on it. If he could reach over, he could get it, but he's not even remotely tempted to try reaching, because between his ribs, shoulder, and right arm, his torso is firmly convinced that it is going to stay in the position he's in, and any sort of moving is a very bad idea. "Can you hand me the water?"

"Sure." She scoots the tray table in front of him. "Here." Not only can he reach the water (which he now can, and does) but the broth the nurse brought him last night is also in reach. He's slow, and his hand is shaky, but he does manage to feed himself some.

And yes, it's slow. And he does spill some on himself. But right now, this is the first thing he's done for himself in days, and he is very glad that Abbi's letting him do it. "He got you looking over the case, right?" Tim asks between spoonfulls of broth.

She nods, not looking happy. She knew where Jethro wanted to take this, and she knows what they've got evidence for, and she knows those two are not the same thing.

"There's nothing on him, is there?"

"Your dad, you mean?"


She shakes her head. "Nothing I saw. Nothing Burley saw." She holds up Gibbs' phone. "He texted an hour ago, Mane's autopsy is done, and there's nothing to suggest it wasn't a legitimate suicide. He did it cold sober."

"Yep." Tim was expecting that. (Or would have been if he thought about it.) "Can I have that?"

"Sure." She hands over Gibbs' phone, and he goes scrolling through, looking for Leon's number. Takes a moment (He has to look through three times before he locates Vance, exactly where it should be, in the V section. He bumps his mental assessment from mildly-stoned to stoned), but he finds Vance, hits the button, and after a few rings gets him.

"Got something, Gibbs?"

"It's me, and no."


"Yeah. Up and talking, for the moment, at least. There's nothing left on this one. Pull Burley out. Give him authorization to get my stuff from the brig, and…" he looks at his left hand, his wedding ring is there, but the wrist cuff is gone. Of course, the IV tube is taped to the back of his hand and where the cuff would go, and as best as he can remember he's had that IV the whole time he's been in and out of consciousness. "The infirmary. Then… Then that's it, case over."

"You sure, McGee?"

"I'm sure. You're not going to find anything. Not on him. Not like this."

"Okay. I'll make some calls. Any news on when you can come home?"

Tim thinks about that. "I think they said Wednesday. Arm gets out of traction on Tuesday, so… Wednesday, I hope."

"Okay. I'll make the calls."

"Thanks, Director."

"Not a problem. You take as long as you need to heal up, got me?"

"Got you. I'll be in on Thursday."


"It's a joke."

"Good, or I will order you home until at least July."

"Noted, sir."

"Damn right," Leon says, hanging up.

"So there are people you still call, sir?" Abbi asks.

"It's been known to happen."

She laughs a little at that.

Leon holds his phone, debating on how exactly to do this. Finally he settles for an email. His official address to Jarvis'. It's a very formal, stilted, precise email, listing exactly where the case is, and what's happened.

Jarvis knows how the game is played; he'll understand what Vance hasn't written, what he won't write.

And while it's true that Jarvis is a political animal. It's also true that he knows that right now Vance can bring a whole lot more hurt onto him than John can, so even if Jarvis' natural inclination would be to drop and bury this, he'll go the extra mile to make sure it's taken care of, as well as it can be.

He gets a call from Clayt about an hour later. Short conversation, apparently he's rallied all the players on the board and is "handling it."

"Eat slow and easy. You haven't had any real food in days, so don't just gobble it down."

"Yes, Mom." Tim says to Jimmy, mouth watering at the plate in front of him. Any other day, two pieces of sourdough toast with butter would not be anywhere near this interesting to him, but right now, golden brown toast with a light smear of butter looks like absolute heaven.

Everyone else has bowls of cioppino, rich with shrimp and crab and scallops, and if this stays down, rumor has it he can have some of that, too.

But he can enjoy the smell of the seafood stew, and the taste of the toast, exploding in his mouth all buttery and sour and crispy, and food has never, ever been this good before.

His lizard brain thinks that, maybe, eventually, if they ever unhook him and let him shower again, sex might be really good, too. (Assuming he can find a way to do it that doesn't involve moving, or well, anything other than his dick getting touched… Might have to hold off on that.)

Which is when it occurs to him that he hasn't gotten up for three days. He knows liquids have been going into him. He can see the IV bag, and he's been drinking water and juice and broth, so… He looks around a bit and notices that, yes, there's a tube heading out from under the blankets.

He doesn't want to think too hard about that, but is rather pleased to see that apparently a catheter doesn't hurt once it's in place.

Burley's gotten the call from Leon. He's not surprised by it. There really was nothing left to do on this one. They've hit the point where the JAGs are doing their bit, quarreling among themselves about who faces what charges and how long in prison and all the rest of it.

Their job, finding the facts, is over.


Burley heads to John's quarters on his own. He relieves the MA's that have been standing watch, making sure he's remained in his quarters.

He knocks quickly, and just as quickly hears, "Enter."

Stan steps in. John's at his desk, reading something, not bothering to look up at him. Burley does not wait. He should. Waiting to be acknowledge would be showing proper respect for McGee's rank, so he doesn't.

"As of ten minutes ago, your son's case is officially closed. You are back to active duty. Your ship may disembark whenever you desire."

John looks up at Burley and nods.

"My team and I will be gone within the hour. Seamen Manz, Ylyns, Nordstrom, and Chase, as well as Petty Officer Weis have been removed from the ship."

"Lt. Mane?"

"His remains have been transferred to the mortuary at Alameda, and his family has been notified of his suicide."

John blinks, but doesn't allow any other outward display of emotion. After a moment he says, "And would that be what you meant by Lt. Mane wasn't talking?"

"Yes. He left a note saying that he had to stop Tim's lies and then blew his head off in the enlisted mess. But he's just your secretary, right? Everyone has a secretary ready to blow his head off to protect his boss's career. You're just fond of him."

It was fairly satisfying to see John's eyelid start twitching at that, but in that he's not whipping out the cuffs, it's a hollow victory.

"Whole ship's talking about it. Had to do some damage control. After all, Tim's mission is classified. Most of your ship, fortunately, doesn't have a clue as to what actually happened with that. Just that some poor son of a bitch got beaten in the brig. As for Mane, scuttlebutt has it you two had a serious lover's quarrel. Apparently you're leaving him for someone younger and hotter. Even set up his transfer to a different ship. Broke the poor bastard's heart." Burley shakes his head. All of that's a cold lie. Sure there are lots of rumors flying around about Mane right now, but to the best of his knowledge that isn't one of them.

"Goodbye, Admiral." And with that, he turns and leaves.

It's a bit before breakfast time on Monday when Jarvis comes to visit again. Gibbs and Abbi haven't come back yet, so it's just him, Abby, Jimmy, and the nurse who is in charge of Tim's morning routine right now.

Jarvis makes all the right noises while the nurse is in the room, but when she asks how Tim's pain level is he flashes a significant look at Tim, who does manage to catch it, so he says he's doing okay now.

When she leaves Tim asks, "What was that?"

"A serious conversation that has to happen now rather than later, and you need to be as close to all here as you can get for it."

Tim rubs his eyes. He's starting to really ache all over again, and he can feel his pulse through his whole right arm, so right now not being all here sounds awfully good.

"Does it have to be now?"

Jarvis looks at Abby. "Yeah, it does."


Jarvis glances at Jimmy, not entirely sure where he fits into this whole thing. "Doctor, now might be a really good time for you to take a walk."

The glare Jimmy gives him could peel the skin off an orange.

"Or not. It's this cut and dried, you cannot prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Admiral McGee ordered the attack."

Jimmy and Tim and Abby know this. And it's very obvious in their collection of no shit glances that they have aimed at Jarvis.

"Tim, if you want your day in court, if you want to smear him, you can press charges. And I can make sure the judge who gets the case won't dismiss it out of hand. And yes, it will be excruciatingly embarrassing for your father. But you cannot win the case, and in addition to your father it will be horrendously embarrassing for everyone else involved. Specifically, it is an election year and we are gearing up for the final push before the convention, so it will be horrendously embarrassing for the President and for Mrs. Clinton, as the former Secretary of State, if their pet drone warrior starts to look bad. So, I am asking you to let it lie."

That's not going over well.

Jimmy snorted at that, and Abby shoots out, "He just gets to walk away?"

"No." Jarvis pats a file that's sitting on his lap. "No, if you are quiet and discrete, I will make it beyond well worth your while. I was there, so I know he's behind it, and I know we can't prove it, and I want to see some sort of justice for this, too. So, you guys be quiet and I will make a promise."

"And what is this promise?" Tim asks, disappointed. Politics. He hates politics, and now he's smack dab in the middle of it.

"First of all, your father will never become Secretary of Defense. In fact, he's also been asked to step down from the Commission on Drone Warfare. The President and Hillary are both disassociating from him as fast as possible. He's no longer on the invite list for any of the fundraisers, his spot at the nominating convention as a speaker is gone."

That's not satisfying anyone. Yes, that will infuriate John, but that's not the level of payback Tim was hoping for.

"Eventually Leon will retire and there will be an opening at NCIS for a new Director. Short of you dying between now and then, it's yours."

Abby and Jimmy look impressed by that, but right now Tim's arm is hurting too much for that to really matter.

"You're trying to buy me off," Tim says, annoyed. Trying to hit him with politics when he hurts this bad is a terrible idea.

Jarvis looks at him, frustrated. Then it really hits him that this is the exact wrong time to do this, but that it also can't be put off, so the straight ahead no possible bullshit route is the way to handle this. "Of course, I'm trying to buy you off! This is politics, the gentle art of buying off as many groups as possible, as cheaply as possible, so you and yours get to do the stuff you want to do.

"Me and mine want to win the election and stay in power. It's that simple, and things that will make that difficult are issues to be taken care of.

"Let me be painfully blunt about this: If you go forward with this case on a criminal or civil level it will embarrass everyone involved, during an election campaign. In that that Paul guy is pulling voters away from the Democratic side by tacking hard left on the pacifist/isolationist side, by, among other things, hawking pictures of innocent people being killed in drone strikes, I have been told, in no uncertain terms, to offer you anything you want to keep you silent and to make sure that Admiral McGee does not end up with a bullet in him until after November 9th. You want Director of NCIS? When Leon retires, it's yours. Want a bigger budget? You've got it. Feeling burned on this whole thing? Your pension is vested, and you've got your full thirty years in benefits. Hell, they keep talking about spinning off a CyberTerror Division separate from Homeland. You want to head it up? It's yours. My job, right now, is to come up with something so grand that you will shut up about this and let it sleep until after the election. Novemember 10th, you can do whatever you like and still reap every reward I'm offering, but if anything happens before then, you are on your own."

"I want him publicly stripped of rank."

Jarvis shakes his head. "That's the one thing I can't give you. Can't do it now, and unless he screws the pooch again, I won't have standing for it later."

"You won't let me kill him, so that's what I want."

Jarvis takes a breath. Time for the big guns. Wouldn't be the first time he's done something like this. Unlikely to be the last, either. "Position's not the only thing on the table. You shut up, and sometime, next year, your father will have heart attack. It will happen after an appointment with me. It will appear to have happened by natural causes, and in that your grandfather also died of a heart attack around the same age, no one will question it.

"Your Grandmother and sister will never have to wonder if they are sitting at a table with the man who killed their family. You will never have to worry about someone deciding that it's awfully convenient that the man who did you wrong ran into a sniper's bullet. No one will even notice that people who hurt Gibbs' family tend to have fatal accidents involving sniper's bullets. Leon won't have to cover anything up to make sure your tracks stay clean.

"So, yes, I am trying to buy you off. If you want public revenge more than actual justice and the safety and peace of mind of your family, I cannot stop you from running that play, but I will also make it immensely worth your while to decide to sit on your own hands for five months." Jarvis hands over the file. "This is my CV. This is what I did when I was on active duty. I'm sure that after reading it, you'll know that I've got the skills and connections to do exactly what I just said and get away with it clean. Read up. Think. Talk amongst yourselves—"


Abby and Jimmy both blink. Neither of them expected Tim to take the offer.

"This will never come back to us, right?"


"Tim!" Jimmy says.

Tim flashes him the we'll talk about it later look. Much later, when they're alone and his body isn't throbbing with every heart beat. "Anything ever happens to him and our whole family is the prime suspect. Drops dead of a heart attack sounds just fine to me. No career advancement'll hurt him." Tim looks at Jarvis. "There's really no way to strip him of rank?"

Jarvis shakes his head. "Not with as connected as he is, not without proof. Now, if he goes on the warpath and does something stupid, we're going to go full bore on him, but, I don't think he's going to try anything. And I've made sure his new secretary has loyalties that are not primarily aligned with your father's, so someone will be watching him all the time."

Tim nods. He approves of that built in safety measure.

"So, what do you want?"

Tim's eyebrows raise.

"Dead body is only part of the deal."

"It's enough." Except it's not, there's a nagging sense of that not being the right answer, and it takes him a minute to find the issue. His budget, and Abby's, and Vance... too low. "No, it's not. Twenty percent increase for the NCIS budget, and we don't ever go on the cutting board again. If I ever make Director, it'll be on my own merit."

Jarvis looks deeply amused by the idea of 'merit.' "If you shut up about this, you'll have earned it. You're as high as anyone gets on talent alone. The next jump up requires going above and beyond for your agency, and something like this qualifies. Trust me, no one you've ever worked for made it to Director of NCIS based on being an excellent cop or administrator."

"That's depressing."

Jarvis shrugs. That's just how it is. Talent can take you so far. Talent and a closet full of skeletons and people who owe you will take you a whole lot further. "You were already on Leon's short list for his replacement, this bumps you to the top and keeps you there. We can cement it now, or you can wait the ten years and see if you still want it then."

"I'll wait."

"Then it will be yours to turn down." Jarvis taps the file again, and if he was hurting less, Tim might have gotten that was more than a 'check out how bad ass I really am' gesture. But he is hurting, and he's starting to lose focus, and Jimmy sees it, so he goes looking for the nurse again.

Jarvis excuses himself.

By the time Jimmy gets back, Tim can feel each and every single break in his entire arm, as well as foot, and nose, and ribs, and just about wants to throw up from how bad he's hurting. Pain's trying to sweep away every other thought in his head, but he knows Gibbs and Abbi are coming soon, so he's got to say this, now, before they get here.

He's staring at Jimmy and Abby while the nurse adds something to his IV which is taking way too damn long to get into his system. "Take the folder, stuff it somewhere, and don't mention this. At all," he says through gritted teeth.

"We're not telling Gibbs?" Abby asks, looking appalled at that, while Jimmy stuffs Clayt's folder into his go bag.

He nods, tears in his eyes. The nurse starts tutting about not waiting until you're hurting to ask for medication. "I'll keep that in mind," he whimpers, and then sighs as the first bit of whatever's in that IV starts to hit and the pain eases up a little.

By the time the nurse leaves he's back down to being able to feel his heart beat in throbs of pain in each broken bone, but that's an improvement, and he's still got two brain cells to rub together so he says, "I know you've got some sort of plan cooking. I know you're not moving on it until we can all talk. Just…" his eyes are trying to slide shut and everything's going sideways, whatever she gave him was really strong, "keep this quiet until the three of us can talk."

"Okay," Abby says from a very long distance away.

This time, John is not in his office, not waiting for Jarvis. So Jarvis waits there for him.

"Are you eager to get going?" he asks as John enters his office.

"Yes." It's clear by the look on his face that he'd be even happier if Jarvis were to fuck off and let him actually leave. "We're three days behind on our trip to Pearl."

"Yes, you are. Trips do tend to get delayed when someone's almost murdered on your ship. I take it you're not holding things up to offer your condolences to Mane's family in person?"

John's eyes narrow. "I've written them already. We're running late."

"Then I won't hold you long. Just some housekeeping to do to wrap this situation up. As I'm sure you know, as of this point in time, nothing can be pinned to you on the assault on your son."

This would be where most people would say something like, I had nothing to do with that! but John remains silent. He doesn't flinch or respond on any level to that comment. Jarvis isn't sure if that's just him refusing to even acknowledge this whole mess, or an implicit acknowledgement of the fact that he did have something to do with it, or in that it's patently obvious that Jarvis thinks he was involved, he's not going to bother arguing about it.

"However, in that this entire thing has blown up, and your history with Tim has come out, there are going to be a few changes in your circumstance. First of all, you are no longer on the Commission for Drone Warfare. That's touchy enough without possibly being linked to a child abuser. Secretary of Defense is gone. Were there to be a scandal of some sort on your watch, this too would come out, which would raise unfortunate questions as to the wisdom of the President in appointing you, so you can no longer pass the background check for it. Both Barack and Hillary have requested that I convey to you that they are deeply grateful for the aid you've offered them in their different political adventures, but in that you are currently political plutonium, and in that it is an election year, they don't want you anywhere nearby. Your invitation to speak at the Nominating Convention has been unissued. As of right now you have a "scheduling conflict."

"The President would like to suggest that you look into a well-deserved retirement. You've offered long and respected service to your country, and while no one will force you out, it would be… prudent… if you were to just vanish."

John blinks at that, looking like he's been stabbed in the chest. He still refuses to say anything.

Jarvis sees that. He knows what the President requested on this, but he doesn't want to see John go. If he moves, then it'll be more difficult to find him again, say, in January after the swearing in, when the wider world is no longer watching.

And seeing the way John's responded, the look of betrayal, the straightening of his shoulders, the set of his eyes, Jarvis knows what he needs to do to make sure that John stays right where he is.

"Now I'm going to offer my own suggestion, one I would certainly take if I were you. Retire. Now. While you've still got you rank and commission intact. Then go find somewhere far, far away, well outside of the United States. Change your name, consolidate your holdings, kiss your daughter goodbye, run there, and don't ever come back."

John's not impressed by that and it shows in his face.

"You know how I got to where I am, right?" Jarvis asks.

John nods. "Some of your missions were run off of ships under my command."

"Good. Then you know I don't scare easy."

"Never thought you did."

Jarvis steeples his fingers together, tapping the tips lightly. "Then trust me on this, there are very few men in this world who scare me. Very few men who can burn hot long enough, and keep enough of their mind in place, to act on that and get away with it. Leroy Jethro Gibbs is one of them. And since I don't have the proof to toss your ass in jail, he is going to kill you."

John laughs. "He can try. I met him once, wasn't that impressed."

Jarvis shakes his head. "Men have hurt his family before. They're dead now. And if you think somehow Tim isn't his family... or that he won't kill for him… I never took you for a fool. But if you think that, you are one. If memory serves you haven't seen combat since the '90s. I sent him on a wet work mission back in '12. Your son took on four combat ready sailors, at once, bare handed, and lived. Who do you think trained him? So, get it right in your head, if you do not vanish, Gibbs will kill you.

"Not today, not tomorrow. He's a sniper and has a sniper's patience. But one day, you're going to die, and he's going to do it."

"I don't back away from threats."

Perfect. He's got John focused on the wrong threat now. "Of course not. But you should. If you value being alive, you will run. Or, of course, you may request a protection detail, which would require you to explain why Gibbs is trying to kill you. But, let me be clear, if you remain an Admiral, then like before this happened, your movements and locations will always be known, anyone with any connections to the Navy will be able to locate you at any time, so I am suggesting that now would be a very good time to return to civilian life."

"Is that an order?"

"No. It is a suggestion from someone who doesn't want to see an Admiral murdered."

"An Admiral?" John asks, dryly.

"After the shit you just pulled on your son, I don't give a fuck if you get murdered. It didn't really hit me when he was doing it, but at three separate times, in understated ways, Tim suggested we not do this on your ship. In retrospect, I now know why.

"I was in the damn room when Mane came in, and I watched your face as he took Tim away. You know how you looked?" Jarvis smiles, brilliantly cold. "Like a predator about to kill. But, because my observation of your satisfaction at seeing your son dragged off to be murdered will not stand in court as proof of guilt, you are still a Four Star Admiral of the United States Navy, and it is my job as Secretary of the Navy to keep everything in order and looking good, so I will do that. Your current commission is up in '17. If you do not elect to retire, you will not be allowed to re-up."

"I will take your advice under consideration."

Jarvis knows the correct polite military code for fuck off when he hears it, so he nods and leaves, absolutely certain that he has made sure that John McGee will stay on active duty and under his gaze as long as need be to arrange a heart attack.


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