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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:46 pm 
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Name: Merzibelle
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Title: Shakedown
Summary: Tim takes control as Vance is buried and the pieces come together to reveal the real mastermind behind Dearing's obsession.
Rating: PG-13
Warning: Referenced Character Death; Spoilers for NCIS S9x24 "Til Death Do Us Part"
Disclaimer: NCIS is ©2003-2012 Belisarius Productions. Created by Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill. Produced by Belisarius Productions in association with Paramount Television (2003–06), CBS Paramount Television (2006–09) and CBS Television Studios (2009–present). Criminal Minds is ©2005-2012 The Mark Gordon Company. Produced by ABC Studios in association with CBS Television Studios. Created by Jeff Davis. Produced by Erica Messer and Mark Gordon. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: This opens the day after "Requiem for an Angel" and includes a crossover with Criminal Minds. The title comes from the Bob Seger song of the same name.

Shakedown

* CHAPTER ONE *


Timothy McGee, now officially and publicly acknowledged as the Director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, draped his suit coat over his arm and left the bedroom of his temporary quarters aboard Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. He descended the stairs and paused at the bottom. The soft sound of voices gave him a direction to go and, with a faint smile, he turned into the living room to greet his house guests. He stopped in the entranceway to observe the visitors. Eli David smiled that enigmatic smile of his from his position beside the fireplace with Malachi in watchful attendance nearby; however, it was the quavering, softly accented voice from the sofa which caused him to bite his lip to contain his feelings. Until that very moment, he’d actually thought Jimmy had been lying to him just to allow him to maintain his focus on the job at hand. “Ducky...”

“Timothy, my dear boy...”

“No.” Tim strode across the room to press his hands on Ducky’s shoulders. “Ducky, don’t get up.” He tossed his jacket on the back of the sofa and sat down beside his friend. Like Gibbs, Ducky now looked his age. He looked diminished without the energy he usually had about him. He looked Ducky over, nothing the somber formal suit, and tilted his head to the side in question. “When did you arrive back? Are you certain you’re up to attending?”

“Indeed, Doctor Mallard, do not strain yourself.” Eli moved to join them by sitting in the nearby armchair. “Tim, are you sure it’s wise to ask me to your home?”

“Yes. You...” Tim waved a hand unable to accurately explain himself. “It’s difficult to explain, Eli, but yes.” He reached across the sofa and took Ducky’s hand. “Tell me the truth, Ducky, are you up to the funeral. I’d rather you go rest than attend it.”

“I will attend, Timothy. Leon and I had, if not a friendship, then a good working relationship. I promise I will not overdo it.” A soft familiar laugh escaped Ducky. The sound actually relaxed some of Tim’s tension. “I won't be allowed to overdo. I have it on good authority that Brenna and James will be riding herd on me.”

“James?” Tim arched an eyebrow but smiled. He knew what it meant when Ducky started addressing someone by their full name rather than by a formal title. “They won’t be the only ones riding herd on you, Ducky. I promised Jackie I’d be with her but I’m certain everyone will be watching out for you.”

“Indeed?” Ducky gave him an arch look in return. “Oh well. I must get used to it until I’m recovered. And it is indeed James. I think Mister Palmer has proven himself completely.”

“So you won’t protest my formally hiring him as your replacement and later as co-chief, if you return?”

“I was going to suggest you hire him outright. I can consult as needed.” Ducky sighed. He looked down and rolled the head of his cane around in his hand. “It’s time to pass the torch, as Jethro has done with you.”

“That particular torch goes to Tony.”

“No.” There was a firm decisiveness in Ducky’s voice. Tim gave him his full attention. “Tony is now senior lead agent and second in command. You are the new leader of the agency.”

“I know, Ducky.” Tim rose and paced a bit in the space between the sofa and the fireplace. “Not only have they announced it, even did a private little swearing in yesterday, but I’m being dragged everywhere for senseless time-wasting meetings. How did Vance get anything done?”

“The same way I do.” Eli’s voice smoothly slipped into the conversation. “Choose some trusted people and delegate.”

“Eli...” Tim began before trailing off with a tired sigh. He stopped pacing and leaned a shoulder against the wall by the fireplace. “The only people I know for certain I can trust are either hospitalized or foreign agents.”

“Hospitalized, yes, but their brains work just fine.” Eli shared a brief smile with Ducky. “Use that. Use them. Then start developing your own network of contacts and agents loyal to you.”

“I know. Tony already volunteered to do the paperwork around what he’s calling ‘necessary classes before I embarrass myself again’ whatever those are.” Tim shrugged one shoulder with a self- deprecating sigh. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be venting like this to the two of you, but it’s been one hell of a week. Vance’s funeral is the last local one and the most formal. I’m hoping things calm down afterwards so I can start getting things done.”

“Believe it or not, you are getting things done.” Eli nodded over at Malachi. “Even being here, I have had reports. You have made a good impression in your counterparts from the other agencies. ‘Cool, calm, and nobody's patsy’ is the consensus. The President's idea of appointing you, which seemed so irrational last week, is now being considered another stroke of brilliance.”

“I doubt you have any idea how embarrassing that praise is,” Tim said. He dropped his gaze to the floor for a moment. It deeply upset him that the primary reason he held the post was a combination of supposed heroics and more senior agents being killed in the blast. “I never wanted to get this job this way.”

“But you did.” Ducky’s voice was unexpectedly stern. Tim found himself straightening his back in response to it. “And you will do your best to do it right, because that is your nature. I believe that is why you were trusted with it.”

Tim stared intently at Ducky for several minutes before shifting his gaze over to Eli. Once again the enigmatic smile had appeared but his silent question received a single answering nod. He wasn’t ready. He knew he wasn’t ready. Yet, he had a feeling no one was ever truly ready for these kinds of responsibilities, especially with the added burden of rooting out the base of a deep reaching conspiracy invading the highest levels of the government. Tim turned slightly away from his guests to stare out the window to the waiting cars. His hand came up to press against his shirt front pushing the rosary hidden beneath against his skin. He had a promise, a vow, to keep and a job to do. He nodded and dropped his hand again. He slowly turned back to face Ducky and Eli.

“Ducky? I need to know exactly what you are allowed to do. And Eli, I have a request which if it gets out could destroy my reputation before its even developed but I know what kind of work the Mossad does. Could I ask you to discretely research the remaining DC based agents and technicians? Protocol broke down and I need to know if it was solely the MCRT’s fault or if we received bad advice from somewhere else. Vance’s car should have been stripped down. We failed in that.”

“Already done.” Eli’s smile slowly morphed into a smirk. “Malachi has left the file with your assistant.”

“I owe you one for anticipating my request, Eli.” Tim gave Eli a barely there smile of his own. “I know you'll collect one day.”

“Of course. It is the nature of the business we do.” Eli stood and nodded to Malachi who started out the door to check on their car. “Time for the two of you to head off. I'll go spend time with Ziva and Gibbs. They will be most unhappy to be missing this.”

“Gibbs especially. Tony's meeting us there.” Tim crossed the room to stand beside Eli. He rested a hand on his arm and leaned closer. “You’re Ziva’s father and, I hope, becoming my friend. That makes you family in a way, Eli. Of course, you’ll stay here.”

“Just for two nights.” Eli nodded in return before starting for the door himself. “It can be explained away by our joint concern for Ziva.”

“Of course.” Tim smiled and waited until Eli was nearly at the door before calling after him. “And Eli, thank you.” He watched the older man leave, gave the always watchful Sandoval a nod, and turned back to the living room. “What the hell am I doing, Ducky? When I’m not channeling the Admiral’s attitude, I’m making guesses in the dark as to what to do.”

“Your guesses seem to be remarkably inspired, Timothy. Trust your instincts.” Ducky turned around on the sofa to face Tim. He tapped his cane once on the floor. “And, by the way, you are not channeling your father’s attitude. You just behave as you should behave for your station. You don’t realize it yet but part of you has accepted your new role.”

“My first instinct was to run away screaming. I reminded myself that my father didn’t raise an idiot and that Gibbs didn’t deal with shirkers. I did my job. Now I’m in charge of everything.” Tim took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He glanced over his shoulder at Sandoval. The lead officer of his detail looked like he was struggling to hold back a comment, and only the rules and protocols of his position kept him quiet. “Oh, just say it, Sandoval. I’d rather you say what you’re thinking when we’re in private than stand around struggling to keep quiet. It may not be protocol but I know the details give damned good advice when allowed to.”

“All I wanted to say is that you’re nothing like your father. He has no time for any subordinate except to give them orders. He doesn’t consult anyone, especially not those below him, and that has lost him not only respect but opportunity.”

“So he has no friends and no one he can trust,” Ducky added. “You have both and a great well of goodwill to draw upon.”

Tim stared at Sandoval. Despite the fact that his detail was made up of Marines and his father was Navy, he knew that the words were the truth. He’d never really thought about the fact that the Admiral likely treated his men the way he’d been treated at home. Sixteen years of being treated like a coward and a whiner by his father left him unable to even think of how his father would be perceived by his peers and subordinates. He thought back to his childhood and some things suddenly began to make a lot more sense to him. “I...” Tim began then paused and nodded. “Thank you. I try not to think of my father but he’s come to mind more and more since this began. I really was afraid that I was starting to act like him.”

Sandoval snorted and moved further into the living room. “Your detail brags about you. His snarls.”

“Brag about me?” Tim laughed. “I get outrun by my dog.”

“And you laugh about it, you try again, and you never take your frustration out on the enlisted men.”

“So you see, Timothy, you’re the right person for the job.”

“Why in the hell would I do that?” Tim looked between the two men in true confusion. “I’m the one who can’t run long distances. Great at sprints, lousy at distance.” The mantle clock chimed softly reminding him he agreed to meet up with Jackie and the Vance children before the start of the funeral. “And now I have to go do the hard part of the job.”

“You're getting better at it, sir. But even if you don't, you try.” Sandoval stepped back into the foyer and opened the front door. “"Gentlemen, you have an official act to attend, and a friend to bury.”

“Having a DI yell at me about being beat by the dog is good incentive.” Tim waited for Ducky to join him. The sound of footsteps on the stairs heralded the arrival of Breena and Jimmy. Tim let the others go out first and turned to Sandoval. “Thank you.”

Sandoval took a half step back into the shadows of the door before shrugging and smiling faintly. “It’s the truth.”

“Still, I needed to hear it. Don’t stop advising me, Sandoval.” Tim took a deep breath and stepped out of the residence. “One last funeral. I’m so tired of attending funerals.”

“This one is going to be difficult. I’ve been in touch with the President’s detail.” Tim heard Sandoval closing and locking the door behind them. “Press everywhere.”

“Just what we don't need.”

“They're going to take an interest. This is national news. Ignore them.” Sandoval took his customary place just to his right shoulder and slightly out of step with him. “They won’t get close enough to be offensive.”

“I know. Kate told us about the perimeters for things like this.” Reaching the car, Tim rested a hand on the top of the open door. “Let’s do this. Then we have a much harder job to do.”

___________________________
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:55 pm 
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* CHAPTER TWO *


Tim stood to Jackie Vance’s left with Kayla standing between them. On Jackie’s right stood the President with Jared between them. The chapel service had been brief and private with attendance limited to immediate friends and family, just twenty minutes in order to keep to Arlington’s schedule. As Jackie had requested, Tim delivered the formal eulogy for his predecessor. Now, he stood by her side to support her through the more public graveside service which included the President, SecNav, other members of the Joint Chiefs and ArmFed plus any other local politician who could arrange time to attend. The majority of the surviving members of the NCIS headquarters staff were also attending. Tim hated that what should have been a private farewell for the family had turned into this circus.

As the military chaplain stepped back from the grave for the rifle salute, Kayla shifted a bit to lean against Tim’s side. Her hand crept up between them to tightly hold his; he heard her soft sniff and freed his hand from her hold to wrap his arm around her shoulders. He looked sidelong at Jackie and briefly shook his head. He could help Kayla through this. It wasn’t the first time he’d helped a little girl through the end of a military honors funeral, though this time he was a lot older than the last. Tim gently squeezed Kayla’s shoulder as she shuddered through each volley.

Taps echoed through the silence of Arlington. Tim rubbed Kayla’s shoulders as they watched the casket team lift the flag and fold it for the presentation. He wondered if protocol would be followed with the chaplain presenting it or would the President do it himself since he was actually attending the service. Tim briefly shook his head to get his focus back on the present. He shifted a bit so that he now stood between Kayla and Jackie with one arm around Kayla and a hand ready to steady Jackie if she needed the support. Folded flag in hand, the chaplain and the Marine Corps representative stepped forward to stand before Jackie.

“On behalf of the President of the United States, a grateful nation, and a proud Marine Corps, this flag is presented as a token of our appreciation for the honorable and faithful service rendered by your husband to his country and the Navy and Marine Corps as Director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services.”

Jackie swayed slightly as she accepted the flag with a murmured thank you. Tim brought his hand up to rest against her back until she steadied herself. He dropped it then but caught the flash of gratitude in her eyes as she glanced over at him. The chaplain stepped back, saluted the flag and took another step back as the Marine representative took his place to convey his condolences. As the two men resumed their place at the head of the grave, the final military salute was rendered before the cemetery organizer announced the conclusion of the funeral. Tim heard the murmurs and sounds of people leaving behind them; however he refused to leave his place by Jackie’s side. The President and First Lady took a step forward and spoke softly to Jackie before leaving with their detail in tow.

“Jackie?” Tim spoke softly rather than break the gradually falling silence. “You ready?”

“I’ll never be ready, Tim.” She turned to him with a sad little smile. “But yes, we can go.”

Tim echoed her smile and offered her an arm. He waited while she handed the folded flag off to Jared then started to lead her across the grass to their waiting car. A gentle tug on his other arm caused him to look down at Kayla who frowned up at him. After a moment, a faint chuckle escaped him and he offered her his other arm. “Better?”

“Yes.” Kayla smiled for the faintest of moments at him before dropping her gaze. “Thank you.”

“I understand, Kayla. You’re doing very well.” He nodded to the car where Tony was leaning against the back panel with his crutches under his arms. “Tony’s waiting for us at the car.”

Kayla’s head came up sharply. She stared at Tony for several minutes before glaring up at Tim. “He should be in the hospital, sir!” She poked him in the side with a finger. “You should have made him stay there.”

“Well, he wanted to say good bye to your dad too. I couldn’t order him otherwise as he’s the lead agent for the MCRT now.” Tim lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “But you could do me a favor and keep an eye on him for me while we’re at your house. Tony doesn’t always know when he’s reached his limits.”

“I can do that.” Tim watched her back straighten and some of the sadness leave her eyes. He kept his grin inside. Like his sister more than a two decades ago after their grandfather’s funeral, Kayla needed a distraction to get through these first hours when everyone was being overly sympathetic in the wake of the funeral. Tim knew Tony wouldn’t mind being the distraction. A soft snort from beside him had him smiling over at Jackie.

“Well done, Tim.”

“It’s nothing.” They reached the car without incident. Kayla moved rapidly to Tony’s side and started ordering him into the back of the car before climbing in after him. She pulled Jared in after her and the two children settled on either side of Tony in the rear facing seat of the limousine. Tim stood by the door and offered Jackie a hand to get into the car. “I did the same for my sister when my grandfather died though that time I had an aunt who needed to be ‘watched’. Tony will understand.”

“Mrs. Vance!” The yell came from the watching press corps just outside the perimeter established by the various protection details. “Mrs. Vance, how do you feel about a junior agent taking your husband’s place?”

Tim saw Jackie stiffen and felt her hand tighten on his for a moment. A glance into the car and a quick hand gesture had Tony keeping the kids inside and out of sight as Jackie strode off toward the press. Tim whirled about to follow her barely containing his anger at this interruption to both the solemn silence of Arlington National Cemetery and the funeral of his late director.

“Which one of you asked that question?”

Tim heard the crisp edge to Jackie’s voice. He gave a well concealed shudder at the sound of it. He was a military brat with generations of tradition behind him. He knew that tone of voice. It was the female version of a serving officer’s ‘you are an idiot and I am about to hand you your ass’ tones. Tim didn’t know if he wanted to be afraid for the press or worried for Jackie. Like Jackie, Tim scanned the press corps until he picked out the now happily smiling idiot in question just as he raised a hand to acknowledge Jackie’s question. Tim caught Sandoval’s eye and gave a quick head jerk at the man. He received a nod in return. If the PSD had their way, someone would be losing their cushy access soon.

“My husband believed that one of his biggest jobs was to find and train bright young men and women to take over leadership positions in NCIS. But only once did he say to me that he had found his own replacement. That was the day he met Special Agent Timothy McGee. He and Special Agent Gibbs began grooming him for the job years ago, and his actions the day of the explosion proved them right. Timothy McGee will do a fantastic job.” Jackie’s gaze roamed over the entire group before turning hard and cold on the idiot who interrupted their leaving. “Does that answer your idiotic question?”

“Uh...” The reporter stuttered a bit before clearing his throat. “Yes, ma'am, it does.”

Jackie gave a brisk nod, turned on her heel and whirled about to head back to the limousine. Tim gave the press a cold look of his own before he too turned on his heel and followed Jackie. He handed her into the car, murmuring, “You didn't have to say that.”

“It's the truth, Tim. He did say it.” Jackie looked up at him from her spot in the car. “He was joking that we could start choosing the Caribbean resort of our choice to retire to as soon as you had a few more years under your belt.”

“I didn't know.” Tim settled into the car and shared a look with Sandoval. Again, he received a nod as the door was closed. As he watched, the other man settled into the front passenger seat and pulled out a cell phone. Tim was satisfied that his unspoken order was being followed.

“You weren’t supposed to.”

“I knew he kept watching me, but...” Tim shook his head. Sometimes he’d wondered about the watching, the independence in some of his actions that Vance approved of. “I sorry Jackie. I’m looking into why protocol was broken that day. We all screwed things up badly.”

“You will find the people who did this and you will make sure it never happens again. Leon would have expected you to and I expect you to. This is what he trained you for.” Her voice broke on a sob. Jackie’s jaw clenched and her eyes closed tightly for a moment before she opened them to stare hard at him. “Do him proud, Tim.”

“I will. I promise.” Tim reached over and pulled her against his shoulder. “No one can see you now. It’s okay to break for a bit.”

“No, I’ll break down later. Right now there’s still a chance there’ll be a damn camera pointed at us when we get to the house.”

“I’m starting to hate the press.” Tim agreed with a nod. She was right. There would likely be press camped out at the Vance house for most of the day trying to get human interest shots and nice ‘off the cuff’ comments by politicians paying condolences. “Just promise me something? Promise me you’ll let us know if you need anything... anything at all... you’re still a part of this convoluted family. We take care of our own.”

“I know.” He watched her look over at the children. Tim knew that part of her refusal to cry yet had to do with their presence. He just hoped she allowed herself time to mourn Leon and share her mourning with the children. Jackie looked up and out the car’s windows as it slowed down near the Vance home. “And there they are. Time to get back on stage, Tim.”

The car halted and Tim waited patiently for Sandoval to open the door for him. He slid out and offered first Jackie and then Kayla a hand from the car. The two women were followed by Jared and finally Tony. As they started up the walk toward the front door, the gathered press began to shout questions and demands at the family. He watched Jackie stiffen and Kayla cringe in response to the racket. He reached forward and squeezed Jackie’s shoulder. “Go inside.” He looked over at Tony. “Keep an eye on them, Tony. I’ll handle this.” He then turned toward the press while schooling his expression into one of Gibbs’s many specialty glares.

“Oh no...” Tim heard Tony mutter as he started toward the press gathered in the street. “Probie’s channeling the Boss.”

___________________________
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 9:26 am 
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Name: Merzibelle
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* CHAPTER THREE *


Four days later, on the following Tuesday, Tim dragged his exhausted and aching self into his temporary office adjoining NCIS’s Pentagon team’s office. He dearly wanted to head slap himself for voluntarily getting up every day to do physical training with his security detail. The previous Thursday and Friday hadn’t been too bad but being woken up at the crack of dawn on Saturday for a full day of ‘training’ by the same Drill Instructor who’d yelled at him for being beaten by his dog killed his weekend. It seemed that this DI, a Gunnery Sergeant Simms, had decided that Tim’s inability to keep up with his detail was an insult of some kind and it was his job to train him. And that Tim had to do the training on top of his expected work as Director of NCIS. He was completely exhausted after three full days of this training.

“Good morning, sir. If I may, you're moving a bit better this morning.” Tim merely grunted in response to Laurel's cheerful greeting. She followed him into his current office. He could hear the laughter in her voice. “Right. Here’s your tar impersonating coffee. I stole it from the Marines next door. And here’s the pills. It does get better, sir.”

“My dog is still better at this than me.”

“Well,” Laurel drawled the word while giving him a bit of an impish smile. He was rapidly coming to realize she had a truly wicked sense of humor. He was certain he was about to have it unleashed on him again. “You could just pretend he’s going to bite you in the ass. That will get you moving.”

“You are evil.” Tim took a deep drink of the coffee before tossing back the aspirins she’d handed him with even more coffee. “Really, just completely evil.” He debated sitting behind the desk but knew if he sat down he’d never manage to get up again and settled for leaning back against the front of the desk. “Why did I let Gunny Simms intimidate me into agreeing to do this?”

“You want the truth, sir?”

“I want you to stop calling me sir.” Tim all but snapped. He then ran a hand through his hair. “Sorry. I’m really tired so I’m getting snappish. Please, I may be the Director but I’m still just Tim so...”

“All right.” Laurel held up a hand as she settled into the chair in front of him. She set the pile of folders she carried on her lap. “Based on what I’ve heard around the Pentagon, Tim. I’m certain all your childhood indoctrination to respond to authority did it. Now, you won’t quit because you’re just stubborn like that.”

Tim sipped his coffee and thought about her words. She was right. He was a stubborn bastard just like his father as his mother had once told him. His grandmother also called him stubborn. Penny seemed to think him reaching out to the Admiral was enough to bridge that gap but he knew better. Still, he wouldn’t give up. He’d do the damned training if it killed him in the process.

“You’re right. I am.” Tim set his cup aside on the desk behind him. He nodded to the folders she held in her lap. “What have we got?”

“Agent Fornell sent over the initial forensics report on the bomb. There’s also a report from a Derek Morgan of the Behavioral Analysis Unit about possible signatures in the design and the type of bomber who likely made it.” She handed him a folder with the familiar FBI logo on the front. He flipped open the cover and began to skim the summary sheet on top. “Tim, if that summary is right...”

“I know, Laurel.” Tim nodded to her. His eyes lingered on the sentence about ‘bomb residue confirms military high grade explosives initially sold to the Navy’ were used in the making of the device. “There’s still time for me to demote you.”

“If you do that I'll sue for discrimination or something.” She glared at him over the top of the folder she was holding up. “I’m here to stay, Tim.”

“I had to give you the choice.” Tim resumed reading the summary. “Tell Fornell he needs to find out which base the explosives came from. That will give us a better chance of tracing down that source at least. I think, but don’t quote me on it, that these came from Alameda.”

“Right.” Laurel made a note on the pad she’d started carrying everywhere they went then handed him the next folder in the pile. “Officer Ben-Gidon dropped that off while you were at the funeral last week. Background checks on every survivor of the explosion. I...”

“What?”

“I know why you wanted them done. Reading over them before giving it to you, I understand why you did it, but...”

“Tell me.” Tim leaned forward and considered her for a long moment. “What’s bugging you about this, Laurel?”

She didn’t verbally answer him just took the folder back, flipped a few pages, and handed it back to him. She reached over the edge and placed a finger just above one name. “Read that.”

Tim looked from her to the page and back again but she refused to meet his eyes. Shrugging one shoulder, he skimmed the entry - not hers but one of the evidence garage technicians - and growled softly at what he read. “You little bitch. They’re going to name lots of babies after you.”

“What?”

Shocked disbelief colored Laurel’s voice. Tim looked up at her with what he was certain was an evil smirk. “It’s one of Eli’s.” He leaned back against the desk and crossed his ankles. “Jews only name babies after dead relatives.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.” Tim tapped the edge of the folder on the side of his desk then lifted it and flipped pages until he found the one he was looking for. Reading quickly, he nodded and tossed the folder onto the desk behind him. “Call Cassie Yates. Tell her to pick that bitch up. Take her to Quantico. We’ll borrow the FBI’s interrogation rooms. I want answers.”

“Yes, sir.” Laurel handed him the rest of the stack of folders and started from the office. She paused with a hand on the doorknob. “When you get like that, Tim, it’s definitely ‘sir’.”

Tim watched her leave his office before he circled the desk and settled into his chair. The sound of his door opening again caused him to look up but he smiled as Sandoval brought him a fresh cup of coffee before taking up his post in the corner behind his desk. Close enough to protect, far enough away to maintain the illusion of privacy while he worked. Tim set the bulk of the folders aside and pulled the folder from Eli back in front of him. He skimmed it slowly smiling as he received the confirmation he sought - out of the roughly two hundred employees assigned to Headquarters which included the Pentagon team - he had only one traitor in the bunch. If those notes were right, it was money which took down this technician. He flipped back to the page with the woman’s name and rested his fingers on it while dialing Fornell’s number. “Tobias?”

“Director.” A laugh echoed behind the title. “I just talked to your assistant. Why are you calling, Tim?”

“Can you arrange for one of your profilers to watch an interrogation? I need one I can trust completely. I want an opinion on why someone sold NCIS out. Maybe it’ll give us a starting point on how to track down the lower echelon of this group.”

“I’ll do you one better. I can bring a whole team. One of them is the one who gave you the evaluation on the bomb.”

“Do you trust them, Tobias?”

“Absolutely.”

“I’m having Cassie bring the one NCIS traitor down to Quantico.” Tim sat for a moment in silence. He listened not only to Fornell’s words but his own instincts. Fornell definitely trusted this team. It was there in his voice. And Tim, based on his own history with the man, trusted Fornell’s opinion. “I’ll be down later. I want to see this.”

“I’m sure you do, Tim.” Fornell paused for a moment. Tim could hear voices in the background before Fornell laughed softly. “I’ve got to go run down these explosives. Alameda? You know who’s in charge out there.”

“Yeah, I do.” Tim leaned back in his chair. He closed his eyes and rubbed at them with his fingers. “I know, Tobias. I’m trying not to consider it. Jarvis also called him out here. Aside from that first meeting, he’s not been to see me at all.”

“I’m sorry, Tim.”

“I expected it, Tobias.” Tim sat back up and reached for the next folder in his pile. “Let me know if you run into problems. I’ll see what I can do to get around them.”

“You got it. Give me a call before you head down. I’ll have that team waiting to meet you.”

“Thanks, Tobias.”

“Anytime, Tim.”

A click echoed in his ear. Tim reached across the desk and dropped the phone into the place before angrily shoving his chair back away from his desk. He hated this. He hated having to suspect friends and family of betraying the country. Yet, he already had proof of one friend’s betrayal. A falsified report which led to the MCRT not ordering a total strip of Vance’s car, a payoff found by Mossad, and a bomb report which proved the NCIS sniffer equipment should have noticed the bomb residue around the back of the car which took him back to the falsified report on the car. They hadn’t stripped the car because they had trusted their tech, and that trust had killed Abby, Vance and so many others. He picked up the phone again. “Ducky? I need a consult.”

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 1:38 pm 
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* CHAPTER FOUR *


Late afternoon sun illuminated the interior of the helicopter as it departed the Pentagon heading south to Quantico. Tim smiled across at Sandoval before shaking his head slightly. “Do I even want to know how you arranged for this?”

“I asked, Director.” Sandoval returned the brief smile before it melted away to nothing. “Taking the helicopter will you get you there and back faster and more securely than a car right now.”

Tim considered the man across from him. He glanced sideways at the other member of the detail on the helicopter with them. Both men were openly carrying their weapons while they were riding in a VH-60N Blackhawk helicopter which Tim knew carried both defensive and offensive weaponry even in this VIP transport configuration. “What happened?”

“Director?”

“Don’t try to pass me off, Sandoval.” Tim leaned forward slightly to meet his lead PSD’s eyes. “What did you find on the car?”

They stared at each other for several minutes before Sandoval gave a brief nod and leaned back in his seat. “There was a tracker on the back bumper but the Pentagon sweep team’s dog alerted to residue hear the front tires. Until we can strip it down...”

“No taking chances with the new Director.”

“Exactly.” Sandoval did smile at him this time. “I’m glad you understand.”

“Well, I plan on living a very long time. I have a few things I need to do.” Tim glanced out the window at the passing terrain before turning back to Sandoval. “Got a job for you then.”

“What kind of job?”

“One suited to the unique talents of a protection detail.” Tim leaned back himself and shifted slightly in the seat. “I need you to find me a secure location to move the remnants of my former team to. It needs to be close enough to medical support that it won’t compromise Ziva’s or Gibbs’s health yet not leave them vulnerable to attack. We also need to set up a secure MTAC style communications center for them. If they can get to my car while we’re at the Pentagon then they can get into Bethesda. The MCRT is my best team, even laid up like this, I need them protected. You can work with Doctor Donald Mallard and the Palmers for advice on what the MCRT will need. In fact, Doctor Mallard should remain with the team for his own safety as well.”

“Understood.” Sandoval nodded to him. “I’ll work on that while you’re meeting with the BAU and interrogating this first suspect.”

“Thank you.” Tim settled into the ride and watched the scenery go by outside. He knew there would be threats against him. He’d expected it but he thought he’d have more time before those threats started to manifest themselves. Add that to Fornell’s implication about his father, his lunchtime consultation with Ducky and Tim knew an already complicated situation had escalated exponentially. He had a choice now. He could worry over abstract possibilities or the immediate concrete situation. He decided to focus on what he knew of the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Their premiere field team was considered the best in the country when it came to critical incident responses needing their unique talents. Tim had heard rumors that this team, despite its larger size, was as close knit as the MCRT. He was actually looking forward to meeting them.

A soft thump heralded the landing of the helicopter on the roof of the FBI facility in Quantico. He waited patiently for the members of his detail to exit the helicopter and clear the roof before following them out. He understood the need for the protection especially now that a bomb had likely been planted on his car while it was parked at the Pentagon. He still didn’t like it but he could adapt to the situation. It was part of the motto of the Marines which Gunny Simms insisted he memorize as part of the training he was doing with his detail.

A scan of the roof in the direction of Sandoval’s subtle hand gesture allowed him to spot Fornell standing next to the access door with another suited man. From habit, he noted details of the stranger: nice suit, expensive but not designer; a stern, controlled expression; older than himself but younger than Fornell. Tim’s initial thought was ‘lawyer’ which when combined with the location told him this was the Unit Chief himself. A belief confirmed as he joined the two men at the entranceway.

“A helicopter, Tim, really?” Fornell’s voice held a hint of laughter as he nodded to the man beside him. “Special Agent Aaron Hotchner, this is the new Director of NCIS, Timothy McGee.”

“Sir.” Agent Hotchner both nodded a greeting and offered his hand. They shook before Hotchner gestured to the door behind him. “This way. We have your suspect under watch on our floor.”

“Thank you for agreeing to help, Agent Hotchner.” Tim followed the man’s lead inside where two other men waited their entrance. One was older, around Gibbs’s age with the same casual dress sense though his taste was more towards designer jeans and sports coats paired with silk shirts, while the other, younger man, looked like he was still trying to find his personal style. “Tobias, they found a tracker and bomb residue on my car.”

“At the Pentagon?” Fornell’s disbelief was plain to hear in his voice. “They got to your car at the Pentagon?”

“Yes.” Tim almost walked into the older of the agents escorting them as the man stopped so abruptly in front of him. “Sir?”

“David Rossi.” The agent introduced himself even as he pulled a cell phone from his pocket, dialed and set it on speaker. “Morgan, grab Blake and JJ. Go to the Pentagon. They discovered a bomb on the NCIS Director’s car.”

“Another car bomb? Dearing’s already dead...”

“Which means a pack or a dominant partner with multiple submissive ones.” Rossi spoke right over the end of Morgan’s sentence. “You’re our bomb expert...”

“Signature and similarity. Got it.”

The dial tone signaled the end of the call. The group started moving toward the elevator again. It wasn’t until they were inside that Tim felt he could ask the question nagging at him. “I already knew this was a conspiracy. What are you thinking?”

“Dearing’s obsession with the Navy and getting revenge for his son’s death made him a good fall guy and distraction from the real conspiracy.” Agent Hotchner smiled over at him from his position closest to the elevator doors. “You and your former teammates should have accepted that Dearing killed himself rather than face persecution for his crimes and not continued to investigate. Whoever’s behind this is scrambling to cover their tracks while creating additional distractions for you.”

Tim leaned back against the back of the elevator. He thought back through their recent cases, most of them dealing with Harper Dearing and his obsession with the Navy, though they also completed their usual workload of murder, vice, and extortion cases. Thoughts of Dearing led to Jonathan Cole which took him back almost a year to the end of E J Barrett’s career and her father’s stepping down as SecNav because of the Port-to-Port Killer case. “Son of a bitch.” Tim let his head thump back against the back of the elevator. “We’ve been played for nearly a year already.”

“Tim?”

He glanced over at Fornell before looking at Hotchner and Rossi. All three men were staring at him with various questioning looks. The still unnamed youngest agent seemed fascinated by him for some reason. Tim just barely chuckled as he shook his head in response. He pulled out his own phone and hit the speed dial for Tony.

“Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo.” There was a pause while Tony chuckled softly into the phone. “How can I assist the all mighty Director Timothy McGee?”

“Cute, Tony.” Tim laughed in return. “You with Gibbs or Ziva right now?”

“Actually, I’m in my ‘class’ while they’re having more tests done. What’s up?”

“When Gibbs gets back to his room, I need you to ask him if he still has any material related to Cole’s background. I know he had some records he received from Franks...”

“How’d you know that?”

“He had me researching the files before we found Cole.” Tim debated his options for a moment before giving a nod. “Tell him I think this is related to those files and Cole’s black ops jobs. If he still has the files, call Fornell and tell him where they are.”

“You got it, Probie.”

“What are you getting me into, kid?”

“A big mess.” Tim tucked his phone away with a soft laugh. “I have an idea but I want to confirm it first. You may want to see if Diane and her husband would be willing to take Emily on a long out of town summer vacation.”

“You don’t...” Fornell stared at him and, when the elevator doors opened before the glass doors leading to the BAU’s offices, peeled off while dialing his phone. “Diane...”

Tim looked back at Agent Hotchner. The man stared at him for a moment before leading the way through the elevator lobby, across a busy bullpen and into a conference room where the most flamboyantly dressed woman he’d ever met waited for them. As Rossi and the unnamed agent settled at the large round table which dominated the room, she handed iPads to Rossi, Hotchner and himself while giving the other agent a thick file folder. Tim looked from the computer to her and shrugged before taking a seat at the table.

“Before we start, I need an official request from NCIS to assist in the case for the record.” Agent Hotchner slid a piece of paper over to Tim. He glanced down, read it over and pulled out a pen to sign it. He slid it back with a smile of his own.

“I’ll need a copy for our files.”

“Of course. Agents David Rossi and Spencer Reid and our technical analyst, Penelope Garcia. The rest of our team is on the way to the Pentagon to check out your car.” Hotchner nodded to Rossi seated across from him. “We have a report from Agent Fornell as well as all the publicly obtainable information, Director. Now we need to know everything else leading up to the bombing before we can plan strategy.”

“First, call me Tim.” Tim gave the group a brief smile. “Second, I didn’t start putting some of this together until just now. So, I can’t promise how coherent my summary will be.”

“That’s fine, Tim.” Rossi nodded to him while grabbing a pad of paper which he handed off to Reid. “We can sort it into order later, just need to know before we start questioning your suspect.”

Tim gave another nod and started tapping on the iPad in front of him. He wondered if he could hack into NCIS’s few remaining servers from here while talking to them. It would make it easier to refer to the case files while he talked. “While much of what led up to the bombing occurred in the last few weeks, those cases seem to have their roots in a different case we dealt with more than a year ago. We called it the Port-to-Port killer case...”

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 6:05 am 
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* CHAPTER FIVE *


Cradling a cup of coffee in his hands, Tim stood in the observation area watching through the glass as Rossi and Yates sat down across from their suspect. As much as he would like to question her directly, he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep his composure if he did. He wanted answers but not at the expense of getting the case thrown out of court for roughing up one of their suspects. His fingers stroked his shirt while he sipped at the coffee.

“What’s the talisman?” Tim turned a questioning look on Reid standing to his left. Reid nodded to his hand on his chest. “You keep touching your shirt. I can just see a few black beads of a necklace where you opened your collar.”

“A reminder.”

“That’s what most talismans are to people.” Reid turned around and leaned back against the two way mirror separating the rooms. Tim watched him flick a glance at Hotchner who nodded and slipped out of the room. The silent communication was so telling of the depth of the friendship between the two men. “So, what is it?”

Tim debated for several minutes before setting aside the coffee cup. He hooked a finger beneath his collar and pulled the rosary from beneath his shirt. “It belonged to a friend.” He stroked his fingers over the pendant cross as he held it. “I keep it to remember a promise.”

“She died.”

“Crushed when the ceiling collapsed into her lab.” Tim clenched his jaw and his hand while dropping his gaze to the floor. He couldn’t break yet. He had to see the case through first. Before he could fully control himself, Reid reached out and slowly peeled his hand from the cross.

“She wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself.” Reid gave him a small smile. “Suppressing your emotions like this will definite harm you in the near future. You’re also not sleeping.”

“I hate profilers.”

“No, you don’t.” Reid smile twisted into a smirk. “You just hate that I’m right.”

“That too.” Tim reached behind himself, grabbed a chair and dropped into it. “No, I’m not sleeping. I’m living on coffee. I should have crashed for hours by now especially now that I’m doing PT with my Marine detail but every time I attempt to sleep I see...”

“Tell me.”

“Why should I?”

“One, telling reduces the emotional impact of the event allowing you to rest and recuperate. Two, I’m not close to anyone in the story. I only know you so it won’t affect me as it would anyone else you could tell.” Reid grabbed a chair of his own and steepled his fingers before him. “Three, I think it would do you some good to start mourning your friends. You can’t maintain this level of anger for too long without other consequences.”

“It’s hard to believe you’re the ‘socially awkward genius’ everyone tries to seduce away from the FBI.”

“And you’re deflecting.” Reid laughed softly. “I discovered that label works to my advantage on cases. Only a few people know I’ve grown out of it.”

“Yeah, I am. And I bet Agent Hotchner is one of those few.” Tim nodded and looked down at the table. He considered the table for several minutes before looking up at Reid again. “Anyplace more comfortable than here to talk?”

“We can use Hotch’s office.” Reid rose and started for the door. Tim grabbed his coffee and followed the younger man out the door. Another glance was traded between Reid and Hotchner - a question silently asked, the answer given in a brief nod - as they went pass the unit chief. Reid led the way though darkened corridors back to the BAU’s primary office then up a small set of stairs to an office right at the top of them. “Grab a seat.”

Tim sprawled tiredly on the sofa in the office. He heard the sound of wheels on carpet and looked over to see Reid pulling Hotchner’s desk chair around before settling in it beside the sofa. Tim’s fingers went back to the rosary absently playing with the pendant cross while he considered the other man. “So, what did you want to hear?”

“Whatever keeps you up at night.”

“Thinking I failed Abby.” Tim sat up a bit and tucked the rosary back beneath his shirt. “I worked my way down from the upper floors to the basement labs rather than bottom up. I knew the people upstairs would be easier to rescue which would allow time for specialized equipment to be called in. When I found Abby and Gibbs in Abby’s lab...”

“Tim...?”

A muffled sob escaped him. He couldn’t believe he was crying about this in front of an agent he’d just met but now that the dam he’d held on his emotions broke he couldn’t pull them back in. Tim bit his lip hard but after several minutes just gave in and cried. “I watched while they went in to rescue Abby and Gibbs. Gibbs was stroking Abby’s back where she lay on top of him. I only knew it was him because I recognized his watch. They tell me Abby died instantly but...”

“You don’t believe them.”

“Gibbs wouldn’t have been petting her like that if she’d been dead for a while. Even with the injuries he had, he would have been trying to get out. He just kept petting her.” Tim draped an arm over his face as he laid his head back. “Gibbs doesn’t remember the collapse. I don’t know if he’ll ever remember, so I can’t ask him. Jimmy, our current medical examiner, says she died instantly. I should believe him.”

“Your instincts say he’s lying to you. You don’t really want to know the truth, if he is.” Reid calmly handed him a box of tissues. “Your other teammates are injured while also mourning her. You feel you need to be strong for all of them so you suppressed everything.”

“Exactly.” Tim dropped forward to rest his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He shook with the force of his tears. “I have to find the bastards who set up NCIS. I promised Gibbs and Abby that I’d find them and make them pay.”

He jumped when the sofa creaked beside him. An arm was tentatively laid across his shoulders. “I’m not good at this kind of thing but you need to let this out, Tim.”

Tim debated all of thirty seconds before moving to accept the offered comfort. He twisted on the sofa to face Reid. He wrapped one arm around Reid’s waist and let his head fall onto the other man’s shoulder while he sobbed, his hand clenching on the back of the younger man’s shirt. He barely heard the office door opening but felt Reid shift a hand to gesture at whoever was there. The door closed again without a word being said. Now that he was mourning, Tim just couldn’t seem to stop.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:06 am 
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* CHAPTER SIX *


“You look better, sir.”

“I feel better.” Tim looked up from the iPad he’d liberated from the BAU with a promise to return it as soon as possible to smile at Sandoval. He tapped the iPad once to activate the screensaver and set it aside on top of his suit coat for the moment. “Where you able to complete my request?”

“I found a suitable location but the transfer was delayed while the MCRT had another set of tests. We cleared their principal medical staff so the whole group is being moved now.”

“Good.” Tim nodded and picked up the iPad again. This little device was just as useful as those fancy monitors OSP used out in Los Angeles. Speaking of, he needed to arrange a virtual meeting with Deputy Director Granger and the various Executive Assistant Directors to insure a smooth transition from Vance’s leadership to his own. That was a meeting he definitely wasn’t looking forward to if his recent emails were any indicator of attitudes amongst the senior NCIS staff. “I need to arrange a meeting between my hand selected team and the MCRT with the addition of the BAU team in order to get this finally moving. We have the leads now we need to get the people.”

“When do you want it to occur?”

Tim sat back and thought for a bit. It was rather late to hold a meeting tonight. He was only returning to the Pentagon as it was impossible to land a helicopter at Anacostia-Bolling plus he needed to check in with Laurel before finally finishing up for the day. He knew at least two members of the BAU had children that needed moving and protecting before word got out that they were working on this case. That was also being done tonight. “First thing in the morning. I’ll pass the word to the BAU via Agent Reid. You can contact him or Agent Hotchner with the location and any security passwords needed to get inside. I want Fornell and his group there. Cassie Yates as point for NCIS and Officer Ben-Gidon in case Mossad has anything to add. Laurel and I will come with you from the Pentagon.”

“What about Agent Cruz?”

Tim frowned at the mention of Ray Cruz. Not only was he Ziva’s former boyfriend but his name had come up in the interrogation of their one and only confirmed suspect. He thought of the files Cruz had given him and his frown deepened further. “No, don’t tell him.” Tim stared hard across the small cabin at Sandoval. “I don’t trust him.”

“Is he a risk, sir?” The question came not from Sandoval but the Private seated to Tim’s left closer to the hatch. Both Tim and Sandoval turned hard looks on the man and watched as he managed not to cringe back into his seat. “I only ask as he’s spoken to myself and two other members of the detail wanting details of your daily schedule.”

“Son of a bitch.”

Tim and Sandoval spoke simultaneously then looked at each other with identical barely there smiles. Tim waved a hand to allow Sandoval to lead the interrogation of his Private. He listened with half his attention, since internal matters in the detail weren’t really for him to know about, while mentally running through the files he’d been given by Cruz at the initial task force meeting. The more he thought, the more he suspected that Cruz was playing both sides against the middle to see which one would come out on top and be more likely to protect him in the future. Files... flash drives... their computers... Tim grabbed his cell phone and quickly dialed Laurel. “Laurel. Shut it down. Everything. Computers, systems, all of it. I’ll explain when I get in.”

“Sir?”

“Laurel, do it. I’ll explain when I’m there.” Tim snapped the phone shut and tossed it down beside the iPad. He stared at that for a long moment before picking up the phone again. He dialed a newly added number and smiled when it was picked up.

“Spencer Reid.”

“Spencer, Tim. I need to talk to Garcia.”

“Garcia? Why Garcia?” Tim heard the sounds of Spencer walking through the BAU’s offices and several voices tossing questions at Reid who brushed them off. A door was opened and closed while Reid’s voice murmured to Garcia. There was a click as the phone went to speaker mode on Reid’s end. “How can the Goddess of Information help?”

“Goddess of Information?” Tim chuckled softly. “I don’t even want to know, Garcia. I need a favor. I’ll even give you a nice ‘get out of jail’ free card in case anyone there gets on you for doing it.”

“What kind of favor, Navy-Bossman?”

“Hack NCIS’s servers.” Tim heard a chorus of shocked gasps from the other end of the line. It took him a moment but he sorted the voices as Garcia, Reid and Hotchner. “Agent Hotchner...”

“Hotch. If we’re going to be working together like this, I’m Hotch.”

“Hotch, then. I have reason to suspect that the NCIS system has been compromised. Under normal circumstances there’s only three people who can hack into our primary servers from outside our system. Not even our Cybercrimes division can because I’m the one who secured the system from attack. I need to know if there’s a breach in security now.”

“Bossman?” After Garcia’s question, there was silence on the line. Then Hotch asked, “Tim, are you certain of this?”

“That I want you to try to hack in, yes.” Tim leaned back in his seat while considering how to explain himself. “That we’re compromised, no. I’m not sure if the potential source of any breach was used on the remaining bits of our primary systems or if it was kept off it. Normally, it would go through Cybercrimes to be scanned and cleaned of anything before files were used but...”

“But they were in the basement like we have ours here.” Hotch finished the thought for him. “Do it, Garcia.”

“Thank you. Keep me posted?”

“You got it, Navy Bossman... Garcia out.”

The phone hung up with a decisive click. Tim tossed it down again then dropped his head back against the back of the seat. He was really starting to loathe this job. He felt like he couldn’t trust anyone, that he needed to vet everyone he talked to several times before giving them any information. Sandoval cleared his throat. With a soft sigh, Tim focused on his PSD leader. “Yeah?”

“We’re about to land, sir.” Sandoval nodded to the windows where the sides of the Pentagon were looming large as the helicopter descended to the ground. “While an attempt was made, there’s no breach in the detail nor has the move of your team been compromised.”

“Yet.”

“Yet.” Sandoval conceded the point with a nod. “You think Agent Cruz is a part of this?”

Tim watched the Private climb down from the helicopter. Sandoval started to follow. Tim reached forward and rested a hand on Sandoval’s arm. “I’m not sure what to think anymore, but I know he has no cause to trust NCIS.” He dropped his hand, let Sandoval exit and followed him out of the helicopter. Sandwiched between Sandoval and the Private, Tim allowed himself to be guided across the Pentagon grounds and into the building. The detail stepped back and Tim stalked through the halls past a smugly smiling SecNav Jarvis to his current office.

“One of these days...” Tim muttered the words as he stepped into the office. “Laurel, I need to know who was working on the CIA flash drives and how they accessed them. I have the BAU’s tech analyst attempting an offsite access to see if we’re compromised in any way. Get a hold of the Engineers. I want final design plans incorporating as much of the surviving building as possible on my desk by tomorrow afternoon with a completion timetable.” He reached for his office doorknob, only then noticing the Petty Officer standing at attention beside the door and Laurel’s angry look. “Who?”

“Admiral McGee is waiting inside, sir.” Even Laurel’s voice carried an overtone of anger and frustration. “He refused to remain outside the office, demanded entrance and coffee. Secretary Jarvis repeated the order and threatened...”

“Jarvis threatened you?”

“Yes, sir.”

His jaw clenched tightly. Now he knew why the bastard looked so smug when he passed him in the hall. He glanced at Sandoval who in turn gestured for the Private to follow them inside rather than maintain a watch in the outer office. Tim took a deep calming breath while returning to Laurel’s desk. He leaned down in front of her and turned her notepad around to face him. Plucking a pen out of the stack on her desk, he scrawled a note to her and smiled as she read it and grinned up at him. With a final nod to his assistant, Tim stepped to the door and entered his office with Sandoval on his heels. It was time for a confrontation Tim really didn’t want to deal with at the moment.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:21 am 
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* CHAPTER SEVEN *


“Admiral McGee.” Tim nodded a greeting to his father as he crossed the room to settle behind his desk. He felt Sandoval take up his usual position behind him. He sat and stared at his father as the man turned his own glare on him. Compared to Gibbs, the Admiral’s glare was that of an angry wet kitten. “Why did you feel the need to invade my office?”

“Marines, Timothy?” The Admiral demanded as he moved closer to the desk. “Really?”

“Yes, Admiral.” Tim glanced over his shoulder at Sandoval. Then, he returned his father’s look with a cold one of his own. “Marines.”

“McGees are Navy men. McGee’s have always been Navy men. NCIS is Navy. Let me get you a proper Navy detail.”

“No.” Tim’s voice was flat and cold as he considered his father. He’d never noticed before how much his father relied on his height and his rank to intimidate him until now. Tim shook his head and lazily reached for a pen laying on his desk. “The Commandant of the Marine Corps himself chose my detail. I’m not going to insult him or them by tossing them away for a group of potentially compromised Navy Petty Officers.”

“Timothy!” The Admiral’s voice took on that sharp tone of command which previously had Tim jumping to do whatever the man asked of him. “Do you have any idea what it would look like for me if my son is being protected by Marines.”

“I know.” Tim leaned back to get comfortable in his chair. “And I don’t care. You haven’t spoken to me in seven years even after I attempted to reach out to you. Why should I care about your reputation now?”

“You need to...”

“Admiral!” Tim cut off the older man with a sharp snap of his own. “I know you were at my initial meeting with SecNav. I also know that you were copied on the memo which informed everyone that NCIS was leading a special investigation of the services. What part of ‘the current leadership of the Navy is under investigation’ did you miss?”

“There is nothing wrong with the Navy. That NCIS couldn't do their jobs is no reason for you to tarnish the McGee name by working with Marines.” The Admiral’s hand clenched by his side. Tim knew that move, a prelude to his father losing his temper, and tensed himself. “We are Navy!”

“I will not discuss this any longer, Admiral. Thank you for the offer but I will keep my Marines.”

“You are my son.” The Admiral took another step closer to the desk. “You will not speak to me like that.”

“No, as you so often told me, I am my mother’s son.” Tim rose to his feet and carefully set his pen down on his desk. “I’m the Director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. By the direct and personal order of the President, I’m in charge of investigating not only the attack on NCIS but the root causes leading up to that attack. And you think to come here and dictate to me?” Tim rested a hand on his desk and glared across it at his father. “Tell me, Admiral, if I didn’t obey you when it was a personal matter what makes you think I will now?”

“You are my son, Timothy. I helped bring you into the world. I can certainly help take you out of it.” Admiral McGee took the final step separating him from Tim’s desk and slammed his hands down on top of it. “Now you will do as I said, if only for appearances sake!”

“Stand down.” Tim threw up one hand to stop Sandoval and the other Marine standing just inside his office door advance on his father. He rested his own hands on the desktop and leaned close to his father. He lowered his voice to a harsh grating whisper. “Is this the time and place you choose to reveal that you’re a traitor to the United States of America?”

“I am an officer of the United States Navy. I am also your father.” The Admiral leaned even closer to Tim. His voice lowering to match Tim’s own. “And no matter who you think you are, you will always be my son and therefore required to obey my orders as your elder and superior.” He straightened and twitched his jacket back into place. “This matter is not over. You will do as I asked of you. I expect a call to that effect tonight. Is that understood?”

“Admiral, you are not my superior. You’ve never been my superior officer. My father, yes, and it is only because you are my father that I’m allowing you to walk out of here with your dignity intact rather than being escorted out under Marine guard. Consider how that exit would affect your reputation.”

“How dare...”

“I dare because I outrank you. A fact you seem to have conveniently forgotten. I am a civilian member of the President’s cabinet, Admiral.” Tim sat back down into his chair. He knew he was smiling a coldly vicious smile at his father as he spoke. “You have come here to try to bully me into not investigating the Navy and when I refused you threatened my life, a fact that my security detail will confirm. Don’t think I will forget that fact during my investigations.”

“Clayton was right about you.” Admiral McGee shook his head. Disgust was clear in his voice and his expression. “This is not over, Timothy.”

“Yes, it is.” Tim gestured to Sandoval who stepped around the desk to the Admiral’s side. “Please leave before I have the Staff Sergeant escort you out. And since you threatened me in front of him, I doubt he’ll be polite in the removal.”

The Admiral snorted once and again straightened his uniform jacket. He then turned on his heel and stalked out of the office. The door slammed behind him yet his snarl at his own detail was clearly audible through the thin wood. Tim waited until he heard the second slam - this one of the outer office door - before an explosive sigh escaped him.

“Well, shit.”

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* CHAPTER EIGHT *


Despite a decent night’s sleep for the first time since the bombing and yet another exhausting round of physical training, Tim was still pissed as hell as he stalked through the hallways of the Pentagon toward the Concourse entrance where Sandoval assured him a suitable car waited to take him to his next meeting. He didn’t know what pissed him off more: his father’s attitude and determination to dictate to him or the condescending way his new subordinates treated him during their first video conference. He could somewhat understand Deputy Director Granger’s attitude as he currently held Vance’s previous position before Vance was promoted to Director but the rest of the Executive Assistant Directors had no reason for their attitudes. At least the Special Agents in Charge understood the situation, the reasoning for his promotion and were carrying out their duties as expected.

A small smile came and went on Tim’s face as he thought about the video conference he’d just left. Laurel was still snickering beside him as they strode through the building. He knew if they were in the car or their offices she’d likely be outright laughing over his method of ending the arguments. They didn’t have to like him. They didn’t even have to respect him. But they damned sure had to obey him or he could have them removed from their positions. That had shut them all up pretty damned quick. The Chief Psychologist had even managed a quickly hidden smile before they’d settled in to discuss the transition. Tim hoped there wouldn’t be too many more problems with them but he knew his age and previous position would be held against him until he’d really proven himself to those twelve executives.

Reaching the entrance, he paused for a moment before quickly descending to the car and climbing inside. It was becoming easier to accept the security protocols which went with his job even if he hated not being allowed to drive his Porsche. Laurel settled into the car after him and, as soon as the door closed, did indeed break out into laughter. He glanced over at her in question.

“That was almost as good as the time you told the Assistant Secretary of State to ‘stick it’.”

“I was angrier this time.”

“A controlled anger though which made it harder for them to brush you off.” Laurel handed a folder and the liberated iPad over to him. “Ms. Garcia sent her report to the tablet, Tim. The folder is everything I could talk out of the CIA about Ray Cruz.”

Tim weighed the folder in his hand for a minute. It was a hell of a lot thicker than he expected. He flipped the pages with his thumb and shook his head. “How?”

“Personal assistants have their own network with each other.” She shrugged one shoulder at him. “Two days ago, the Assistant to the Director of Defense’s Criminal Investigative Service...” Laurel paused and frowned at him. “Isn’t that a mouthful? Anyway, she dragged me off to lunch and introduced me to a lot of the PA’s in the building. I learned a lot real fast which came in handy for getting that file.”

“Summarize it for me?”

“Honestly, they’re hoping you’ll take care of their problem for them.” Frowning, Laurel shook her head at him. “All that paper boils down to while Cruz was once a good agent, he’s now gone rogue on them. He’s too good to be caught in one of their usual accidents or suicides, so they need to arrange for a mission to go wrong or for him to be caught working both sides. They have suspicions but no proof.”

“And Garcia?” Tim tossed the folder down on top of the iPad. “How’d that work out?”

“She got in. Keating sent her on a merry chase for a while despite having a fractured wrist, but she still managed to find a hole. We’re going to have to purge and rebuild the system from the last pre-explosion off-site backup.”

“I hoped I was wrong.” Tim leaned back in the car seat with a tired sigh. “Why do I always have to hurt my friends?”

“It’s the nature of the beast, Tim.” Laurel smiled across the car at him. “Besides, I’ve heard a rumor that you played matchmaker for Tony and Ziva. I lost the pool on that one though most of the bettors...” She trailed off and shifted her attention to stare out the window at the traffic outside. He reached over and squeezed her hand. She returned the gesture before sighing softly. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Tim shifted a bit in the car to watch her better. “I totally understand. Technically, I should quote one of Gibbs’s rules here at you but it’s the only one of his rules I don’t believe in.”

“Which one is that?”

“Number six...” Tim frowned slightly as he recalled the exact wording. “Never apologize, it’s a sign of weakness.”

“What?”

The shock in Laurel’s voice told him she thought of that rule the same way he did. He nodded once and shrugged one shoulder at her. “Yeah. It takes a stronger man to honestly apologize and mean it then it does to idly speak the words because it’s expected of you.”

“I hope you’re not keeping that rule.”

“Nope.” Tim smiled again. “Definitely one of the ones I’m striking off the list.” He squeezed her hand one last time before picking up the iPad and paperwork. “When we get there, set up everything for our meeting. If she agrees, arrange it for Ziva’s room. If she’s not up for it, then use the conference space. Tony can catch her up on things later.”

“You got it. Where will I find you?”

“I’ll be with Gibbs.” The car halted inside a parking garage. Tim climbed out as soon as the door was opened and started for a nearby elevator. He wasn’t the least bit surprised to see Sandoval moving quickly to join him nor to hear the driver of the car telling Laurel to accompany him to another elevator. Tim hit the button but let Sandoval chose the floor once they were inside. “This is still Bethesda.”

“A smaller building that is still undergoing renovation. The floor we’re going to is already done. Just did a few modifications to fit your needs.” The elevator announced their arrival. Tim gave Sandoval a questioning look then followed the other man’s lead down a hall around a corner by a desk manned by an armed Marine and to a door which Sandoval stopped beside. “This is Agent Gibbs’s room. Agent David is across the hall. The conference room is at the end of the hall.”

“Thanks.” Tim shoved the door open and was forced to smile at the frowning occupant. It seemed that Sandoval had commandeered a former maternity ward if the soft lavender walls of the large room on the other side of the door were any indication. Gibbs turned his glare from the walls to Tim. “Hey Boss.”

“I have you to thank for candy colored walls?”

“I wanted you safe.” Tim crossed the room and dropped down into the chair beside the bed. He nodded to Tony who sat on the other side in a recliner with his leg propped up before him. “Tony.”

“Probie-Boss.” Tony grinned at him as he sipped from a cup in his hand. “I’m hiding out. You might want to too. Ziva’s on a warpath.”

“Why?”

“Her room’s pink and white. I made the mistake of telling her that she’d see those walls again in the future. She threatened the future generations of DiNozzos with her paperclip.”

“She has one?” Tim frowned. “How’d she get one?”

“Director David brought her one. She also has at least one of her knives. She feels better armed.”

“We all do.” Gibbs shifted on his bed and took Tony’s coffee now that it was in his reach. “So, why are you here early, Tim?”

“Dealt with pompous jerks this morning after dealing with an asshole yesterday.”

“Yeah, we heard about yesterday, Probie.”

“One of the detail slipped over last night, didn’t they?” Tim’s question was rhetorical. All three of them knew it. “I knew they were hovering closer all day. Sandoval’s just outside the door now.”

“Father or not, someone threatened your life.” Gibbs set his purloined coffee down in order to raise the head of his bed. “Marines take that seriously.”

“I noticed.” Tim shoved a hand through his hair. “They moved a bit faster than I could react yesterday.”

“I don’t think he’s one of the bad guys in this, Tim.” Tony flashed a quick smile in his direction. He waved a pad of paper on which his familiar scrawl could just be read by Tim. “I think he’s just used to barking orders and having them obeyed. You’re probably the only person who’s ever told him off. And you’re his son!”

“Yeah, I have but...” Tim trailed off. He didn’t like to bring up his family history but he was certain there was a relevancy to it somewhere. “The Admiral’s Navy. All Navy, all the time. He never accepted that I have an inner ear problem. That I couldn’t join the Navy even if I wanted to. And...”

“And he’s stupid enough to think that’s all there is to you.” Gibbs’s expression clearly showed his disgust with Tim’s father. “He threw away the opportunity to get to know his son. His loss, Tim.”

“He did that years ago when I first joined NCIS. He told me I was just like my mother. That I would never amount to anything. When you pulled me onto your team, he refused to speak to me. I tried to talk to him after the case with my grandmother but he just hung up after I introduced myself.” Tim sighed tiredly and leaned his head back. “My head says ‘he’s your father, it’s an empty threat.’ My gut...”

“Your Marines are watching. He’s already been put on the ‘do not allow entrance without an escort’ list. You’re living in a safe house. I sent the details to Fornell. He’ll start a background investigation going.”

“I know, Boss. It’s just.... if it had been you in charge, he’d likely be in lockup cooling his heels right now.”

“Actually, probably not. If he is involved in this, we need to have him watched. He might lead us to someone else.”

“Okay, Boss.” Tim nodded. It was a relief to know he did the right thing by letting his father walk out of his office the previous day. “I can’t believe he said that. In front of my detail no less. Not that they ever really leave me alone but...”

“The Admiral’s angry that the son he decided was useless has outstripped him. He convinced himself you would never amount to much. Now here you are. He knows that, but he can’t accept it. Too rigid to change.”

“I would have realized that eventually.” Tim just barely smiled. He glanced over at Tony before focusing on Gibbs again. “So, when Sandoval sent over someone with the update, did they remember to tell you I delayed the ‘public for the press’ swearing in?”

“Yeah, but not why.”

“It wouldn’t be right if you weren't there, Boss.”

“That’s stupid, McGee.”

“Not to me.” Tim watched Gibbs carefully. After nine years of working for the older man, he’d gotten pretty good at reading him and knew his words touched him deeply. “I know you remember what I told you. And what the overly silent Tony said too. It wouldn’t be right to not have my ‘real’ family there. The President understood. We put it out that I wanted to wait until the investigation into the bombing was complete so as to not distract NCIS from the job.”

“We better get this case wrapped up quick then.”

“Boss?”

“I would have been disappointed to miss it, Tim. All of you are heading where I thought you would, doing what I trained you to do. I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks, Boss.” Tim started to get up but sat back down again. “You really think the Admiral isn’t a traitor? That he’s just pissed that I did better than he ever has?”

“Almost certain but we’ll nail it all down so that there aren’t any questions left after it’s all over.”

“I just don't want to think about it...” Tim shook his head and again shoved his hand through his hair. “I don't know what I would do if I had to arrest him.”

“You won’t have to.” Tony’s harsh words brought Tim’s focus across the bed to his former mentor now subordinate. There was something in Tony’s eyes which told him if his father was a traitor then Tony would do the arresting for him. “Stop worrying, Probie, we have bigger fish to fry. Tell us about this meeting you set up.”

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:28 pm 
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* CHAPTER NINE *


An hour later and the various components of Tim’s task force reassembled in Ziva’s room. Tony carefully perched beside Ziva’s hip, holding her hand and idly playing with her fingers while she flipped through his notepad. Gibbs’s bed had been wheeled in beside hers with Ducky seated beside him. The two older men were talking softly; Tim suspected from the looks shot at him that they were discussing him. The door opened again, admitting Fornell, Reid and Morgan. Morgan carried one of the BAU’s iPads. Fornell looked at the walls and shook his head with a grin.

“I should have traded with Ron.” Fornell grabbed a chair, flipped it around and straddled it. “He’s giving Dorneget lessons while tailing your father, Tim. Yates is tailing Cruz.”

“Ray?” Ziva’s head came up sharply from the paperwork to stare intently in Tim’s direction. “Ray cannot be trusted, McGee.”

“So we’ve learned.” Tim grabbed a chair of his own and sat down. He welcomed Malachi, the late comer to the meeting, with a tired smile. “The files he gave us contained an interesting mess of contradictory reports plus a backdoor Trojan which would have allowed a hacker access to all our records.”

“How are you going to fix that, Probie? Most of NCIS’s geeks are dead or laid up in the hospital.”

“Laurel and Keating are going to supervise the installation of last month’s data dump onto a clean set of servers. They’ll plug all the holes they can while checking over the MTAC backups from the 15th.” Tim pulled out a pen and absently began to tap it against the edge of the iPad in his lap. “Once that’s done, I’ll dump a couple of meetings on Tony and reinstall my firewalls on the system before having Garcia attack it. Depending on her results, we may have cleared that potential mess up.”

“I still do not understand why you trusted Ray.”

“I wasn’t thinking clearly, Ziva. I was overtired and lucky I could remember what I wanted anyone to do by the time I held that first meeting.” Tim tossed his pen onto the foot of her bed. “I wanted the information the CIA offered. I had no real reason to distrust them at that point.” He leaned forward and lightly squeezed Ziva’s ankle. “When he screws us over, you can say I told you so.”

“I will.”

Tim nodded and smiled before shifting his attention to the rest of the FBI group. He retrieved his pen and used it to point out who was who. “Derek Morgan and Spencer Reid from the Behavioral Analysis Unit. I had Fornell bring the BAU in so we could get some insight into who might have ultimately been behind the bombings. Morgan?”

“Based on the evidence we were able to go over, you have two different bombers. The thermite fuses and the car bomb which destroyed NCIS were based on typical designs taught to special operations forces. All bomb makers have their own personal signature. Whoever created the designs for the thermite fuses used a particular design element which was common to all the recovered devices regardless of who was planting them. Which means your UNSUB is also a good communicator since he conveyed all the details to everyone who worked under him.” Morgan’s finger swiped along the front of the iPad. He scanned whatever information was there before continuing to speak. “The second bomb, recovered intact from Director McGee’s car, was a stereotypical amateur pipe bomb attached with magnets to the undercarriage of the car. The design of that second bomb can easily be located through a Google search.”

“The people who put the bomb in Vance’s car were pros and the ones who put the bomb on Tim’s were amateurs?” Tony snorted and shook his head in disbelief. “What? Did they blow up all the experienced guys?”

“I don’t think it was connected.” Reid interjected before Morgan could do more than open his mouth to speak. “The first several weeks of fires and explosions which culminated in the big bombing at the Navy Yard has nothing to do with the attack aimed at Tim. The bomb on his car is a desperation move by someone driven by fear and anger. That UNSUB was angry enough to disregard the fact that all cars entering or leaving the Pentagon are searched. Since Tim has a security detail, his car would have been checked whenever it was left unattended and before he was allowed to use it.”

“So...” Gibbs’s silent method of process met with smiles from everyone in the room. “You’re saying that Tim has rattled someone’s cage hard enough that he took action without consulting the pros.”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“If we don’t find the amateur soon, he’ll end up dead.” Morgan set his iPad down on one of the small tables dotting the room. “The pros are ruthless. They’ll eliminate anyone they see as a threat.”

“Of course they will.” Gibbs shifted in his bed until he was almost sitting up completely. “That’s how special operations trains.”

“Under questioning by the BAU, Melanie Gasden confirmed that she accepted a hefty bribe to falsify reports. Her reasons for accepting don’t matter in the long run.” Fornell waved a hand at Tony and Gibbs to silence their questions. “They’re in the formal report. You can read it later. What matters is that she later saw the same man again at Cafe Atlantico having dinner with Philip Pierce and Clayton Jarvis.”

“The CIA...”

Tony perfectly impersonated Sean Connery as Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October but it was the sight of Gibbs leaning over to smack Tony in the back of the head while Ziva ducked down between them which broke Tim out into full blown laughter. Now, even with them laid up in the hospital, things felt somewhat normal again. He saw Reid’s confused look out of the corner of his eye and turned a to smile happily at him.

“Your team has strange dynamics, Tim.” Reid continued to observe as they all heard Tony’s squeaked ‘ow’ followed by his classic ‘thanks, Boss’ line. “They work, but they’re definitely strange.”

“Pot, Kettle.” Tim retorted his smile deepening as he heard Tony and Gibbs debating back and forth how useful it would be to bring in Ray and pressure him.

“Watch it.” Reid pointed a finger at Tim but still grinned back at him. “Should we interrupt?”

“Not yet.” Tim pulled his iPad closer to read over Morgan’s report. “We’ll know when it’s time to get back to discussing things as a group.” He tapped the edge of the tablet with his pen. “Answer me a question, Reid?”

“If I can.” Reid grabbed a chair and sat beside him. “I’m better at abstract facts then personal stuff most of the time, but I’ll do my best.”

“This one’s right up your alley.” Tim messed around with the tablet until he could bring up the security footage of his office the previous afternoon. He handed the tablet over to Reid. “This is my temporary office at the Pentagon. I’d like your opinion - without knowing the topic of the conversation - of whether or not the Admiral is a threat to me.”

“He’s angry.” Reid paused the playback to point at the screen. Tim leaned over to see where he’d stopped the image. It was frozen on the moment his father slammed his hands onto the desk after threatening his life. “From the start of the confrontation with you until that moment, he was merely angry and trying to use that anger plus his physical size to intimidate you. Whatever he said here, whatever threat he made, he means it, Tim.”

“You’re certain?”

“Considering everything I’ve learned and all I’ve experienced with the BAU, yes, I’m certain.”

“Well, shit.” Tim repeated now the words he’d spoken after banishing his father from his office. He shoved his hand through his hair and closed his eyes tightly for a moment. “Shit...shit... shit...”

“Who is he?” Reid’s question fell hard into the sudden silence in the room. “Why did you want to know?”

“My father.” Tim tapped the screen in front of Reid. “And he’d just threatened to kill me.”

“He is used to controlling everyone around him.” Reid considered the tablet again for a moment. “It infuriates him that he cannot control you. And it scares him.”

“It still leaves the question of how much of a threat to me, is he?” Tim shook his head. “It’s not important now, I guess. We need to set up surveillance and start collecting up Dearing’s contacts to eliminate this conspiracy.”

“It is important, Tim.” Ziva’s surprisingly strong voice cut across the shocked silence in the room. “You must make certain you are never alone with him. Go nowhere without your detail, not even if your grandmother or sister is present. That won’t stop him. The detail would.” She paused for a moment; her hand coming up to rest on her chest as she coughed softly. Her gaze shifted from him to the spot by the door where Malachi leaned to watch the meeting. “Malachi...” The rest of her sentence was in Hebrew. His reply was the same. They went back and forth for several minutes before Malachi seemed to resignedly agree to her request. She then turned back to Tim. “You will make additional time in your physical training schedule. Malachi has agreed to teach you until I can do so.” She smiled up at Tony. “I have even more incentive to heal now. I must teach my younger brother to protect himself.”

Tim didn’t know whether to be flattered that she was having him learn Mossad defense techniques or pissed that she thought he couldn’t defend himself. Then he remembered all the times that she’d taken him down in one or two moves. He focused instead on his increasing lack of privacy. “I think once Sandoval hears about this, I’ll be lucky to be allowed to breathe on my own.”

“Tough.” Gibbs growled the word at him. “Until we find out exactly what your father’s involvement is in this, you’re on lockdown.”

“Boss!”

“No.” Gibbs’s voice was also flat and hard. He added one of his more intimidating glares to reinforce his words. “You are the boss, and at the moment, we would be crippled without you.”

“I don’t get a choice in this, do I?”

“No!”

The denial was chorused by everyone in the room, even Malachi added his voice to the bedlam. Tim watched them all glower at him before sighing tiredly. He wondered if he could build himself a time machine or something as he was going to need more hours in a day to get everything done. Under the combined glares of most of the men in the room, he slumped a bit in his chair and nodded. “All right.”

“It’s for your own good, Probie.”

“I know, Tony. I don’t like it, but I know. I’m just trying to figure out where I can find more hours in the day is all.” Tim managed to muster up a smile for his current senior agent. He scanned the group as a whole then nodded again. “So, aside from killing me with even more physical training, all we can do at this point is gather up those on Dearing’s contact list, interrogate them, and continue surveillance on Jarvis, Cruz and Admiral McGee?”

“Yeah, kid. Sorry to say we don’t have anything more than circumstantial evidence on anyone at the moment. Maybe some of Dearing’s contacts will confess and give us more to work from, but as of now that’s all we have.” Fornell grabbed his notepad and stood. “We can’t even officially connect this to Director Pierce yet.”

“Right. Keep me posted on the surveillance?”

“You got it.” Fornell nodded to the rest of the group. He left with Morgan immediately following him. Reid stood, started to leave, then turned back and leaned down beside Tim. His voice was barely above a whisper as he spoke, “They’re right. You are too important right now. Not just to NCIS but the country as a whole. You can do this, Tim. Just remember that promise of yours.” With a smile and a nod, Reid also turned and left the room.

Tim waited until Malachi slipped out the door. He could just hear the Mossad agent speaking to Sandoval as the door closed behind him. It was only then, when only his teammates remained, that Tim allowed himself to truly accept that his father really meant the threat he’d made the previous day. He slid down a bit in the chair before closing his eyes tightly. More to himself than anyone else, he murmured, “I’m glad you aren’t here to hear this, Mom.”

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:17 am 
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* CHAPTER TEN *


“Oh, come on, Probie.” Tony goaded him from his perch on the sidelines of the training ground. “How long have you been getting taught this stuff? And he can still take you down as easily as Kate used to.”

“Can it, Tony!” Tim snapped back as he levered himself up off the ground. “And it’s been a month as you well know. I don’t see you down here.”

“I have an excuse remember. Broken leg, Tim.”

“He should also be studying for his test.” Malachi added his comment to the conversation as they circled in the sandpit. It still amazed Tim the odd friendships which had developed since he’d become Director of NCIS. Not just his own friendships but the one’s between his former teammates and new allies. “Eli will be returning next week. If Tony is serious about having a tena’im signed, then he must have the Rabbi’s endorsement.”

“I’m serious. I’m serious.” Tony nodded firmly and picked up the book set beside him. “I just never knew there was so much to know, especially since I’m not converting.”

“You are marrying a woman of the people.” Malachi retorted with a small smile. “And I know you agreed to allow any children of the marriage to be raised as Jews. So you need to know.”

Tim took advantage of Malachi’s slight distraction to make a move. He grappled the other man before flipping him down onto his back. Just as he went to straddle him to contain him, Malachi twisted and grabbed his ankle. Tim ended up on his back, panting, and staring up at a frowning Spencer Reid.

“I don’t think that was what you planned, Tim.”

“No, definitely not.” Tim frowned at Reid. Of all his new friends, this friendship was definitely the strangest. They taunted each other with complex mathematical questions no one else would understand, emailed constantly, and teased whenever they were together. Yet, Tim had also seen Reid at work with his team where he acted like the most awkward young adult imaginable. The contrast drove him insane some days. “What’s up, Reid?”

“You know Hotch and I have been intensively profiling everyone we suspect as well as those already apprehended.” Reid watched both Tim and Malachi while moving slowly around the outside edge of the sandpit. “We think we found an exploitable weakness. After examining our profiles, Rossi agreed with us.”

“And?” Tim found it fascinating to watch Reid when the slightly younger agent worked. It was amazing to watch him mentally multitask. At this moment, Reid was reporting to him while simultaneously profiling a watchful Malachi. “What weakness?”

“Ambition.” Reid paused in his circling of the pit to smile across it at Tim. “Everyone so far has had frustrated ambitions in their fields or felt they’d been treated badly by superiors. It made them vulnerable. Our first confirmed suspect hated to be called a ‘bag bunny’ by Agent DiNozzo. Several of the lower level aides we’ve brought in have complained about their bosses taking credit for their ideas. The junior senator, the one who quietly resigned for ‘health reasons’, hated being kept off a prestigious committee.”

“So, what? Contact Pierce and play on his ambitions?”

“No.” Reid shook his head. His lips twisted into a smirk that looked pure evil. “Your father’s. His career has stalled. He wants a promotion and more power. His confrontation with you has made the gossip rounds. It’s not helped his career either.”

“Reid...”

The profiler raised a hand. Tim quieted and let Reid continue to talk. “I know they don’t want you alone with him. It’s good advice, but any kind of reconciliation between the two of you would certainly be noticed. Add in his current command, the information we have so far, and I think it’ll bring you to Pierce’s attention.” Reid watched Malachi shift in the pit and chuckled. “He guards his right more. That’s likely where he usually has his gun.”

“You are very observant.”

“That’s my job.” Reid sat on the edge of the pit. “Rossi thinks the best option is to arrange a meeting here at Quantico between NCIS, the FBI, someone from the President’s staff and your father. I’m certain we can force his cooperation in taking down Pierce; however...”

“That will keep him pissed with me.” Tim scrambled to his feet and began to pace himself. “Not that it matters much. Sarah accepted Liat’s invitation to spend the rest of the summer in Israel. Penny’s gone on a cruise so she’s out of the way.”

“Which is why we suggested it.”

Tim stopped pacing to consider the three men seated around him. He didn’t know if he could make this decision. For all intents and purposes, he was declaring his father a traitor and attempting to bargain with him in order to catch a bigger fish. He glanced at each one individually, trying to assess their thoughts. Reid’s expression was perfectly neutral yet his eyes all but screamed worry at him. Tony looked pissed as hell but also deeply worried. Malachi seemed resigned but then the Mossad agent always seemed to look that way. Tim whirled about to consider the last person who was anywhere nearby and watching this impromptu meeting. “Sandoval?”

“Sir?” Sandoval straightened away from the piece of PT equipment he’d been leaning against and crossed the grass separating them.

“I know you heard.” Tim kept his voice calm despite the anger and despair coursing through him. “What do you think? Should I threaten my father in order to get our ultimate target?”

“My personal opinion, sir?”

“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want it.”

“Yes.” Sandoval shared a look with the other men in the group but still nodded a confirmation to Tim. “This is dragging on too long. It needs to be dealt with before they start seeking out new targets. If it was me or my team, I’d treat it as any other mission prior to delivering the threat. Confirm your background information, compile any other evidence from other sources you have, then confront the Admiral and force his compliance. At this stage of the game, you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

“Except my life.”

“Admiral McGee won’t make a move against you at this point.” Reid spoke up from behind him. Tim twisted about to look at him. “Too many people know he threatened you at least once. If he does try to set something in motion against you, he’ll wait until something else has become the lead topic of conversation in... what did you call it?”

“Scuttlebutt. We call it scuttlebutt, but essentially gossip.” Tony interjected as he came down to join them. “Sandoval’s right, Probie. Threatening your father is our best option at this point. We don’t have enough evidence otherwise.”

“All right. I’ll make the calls to set things in motion.” Tim knew he failed to keep his resignation out of his voice when all the men gave him apologetic looks. “I suppose this means even more bruises for the collection?”

“Bruises now means you live later.” Malachi nodded to him and waved him back into the pit. “Let us resume.”

“And when he’s done, we’re going to the range, sir.” Sandoval added as he stepped back a few paces to join Tony where the other NCIS agent sat watching the action. “Your gun skills are almost as bad as your self-defense ones.”

“Won’t somebody defend me?” Tim whined as he rejoined Malachi for another round of ‘hit dirt, stare at sky’ training. He knew he’d get it right eventually. “Please.”

“You’re over thinking it, Tim.” Reid added as he rose to his feet. “Stop thinking. Go with your instincts on when and how to move. Trust me on that.” Reid laughed softly as he started away to join Tony. “Besides if I defend you too much, they’ll start on me. I’m even worse than you are.”

“Somehow that’s not reassuring, Reid.” Tim nodded to Malachi. “Do your worse. I’m ready.”

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 12:55 pm 
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* CHAPTER ELEVEN *


Twenty-four hours, four searches, three arrests, two meetings, and one video conference later, Tim angrily stalked through the BAU bullpen with Sandoval on his heels to discuss strategy for the upcoming blackmail session. There was no other way to think of this meeting with his father, especially after the information had come in from Ms. Lange at the Office of Special Projects about his father’s personal Yeoman accepting ‘monetary incentives’ on his father’s behalf in return for insuring that a CIA operative was assigned to a particular ship under his father’s command. Monetary incentives: such a polite way to refer to a bribe.

“Can’t I just arrest the bastard?” Tim snarled the words as he entered Hotch’s office. He all but threw himself into the chair in front of the desk. “I’m starting to wonder how a woman as intelligent as my grandmother raised such a pig-headed idiot. And what my mother saw in him.”

“Something happened, I take it?” Hotch looked up from where he’d been working on a file to give Tim one of his amazingly bland looks. “Bad or just stupid?”

“Both.” Tim looked back at the office door. A soft relieved sigh slipped from him as Reid closed the door effectively shutting out the sounds of the bullpen. “OSP caught his Yeoman accepting bribes on his behalf. We have sound and video. Just to test it out, Hetty had Callen make an offer late last night. She sent me footage this morning during a videoconference.”

“It gives us more leverage.” Reid patted Tim’s shoulder as he passed him on his way to Hotch’s side of the desk. He leaned down over Hotch’s shoulder to make a note on the papers in front of the Unit Chief. “With everything other than the threat against you being so circumstantial, that’s a help. Though truthfully, it doesn’t sound like something your father would do. He’s definitely a hot headed martinet but he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his Navy career. His entire self is wrapped up in the Navy.”

“Doesn’t mean I have to like it.” Tim conceded Reid’s point with a head tilt and faint smile. “What bits of his life isn’t taken up by the Navy is consumed by Sarah. He never understood that I couldn’t join the Navy. I even had a legacy appointment to the Academy that I turned down. He’s never forgiven me that.”

“He had a problem with your choice of MIT?” Reid chuckled as he perched on the corner of Hotch’s desk. “How could anyone complain about their child getting into that school?”

“Oh, it was very easy for him.” Tim smiled and shrugged one shoulder. “As far as he was concerned, if I didn’t directly enlist then my next option was to go to the Academy. The fact that I was offered a full ride scholarship to MIT at sixteen, two years too young for Annapolis, didn’t matter to him.”

“He’s an idiot, Tim.” Hotch capped his pen and tossed it down onto his desk. “Sure, I’d love to see Jack follow me into law, but I know he’s his own person. Learning too much from...”

Tim watched as Hotch trailed off while Reid ducked his head slightly before tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. All the little things he’d noticed for the last month came together in one instant of surprise and he chuckled softly. “Taking after his ‘stepfather’? CalTech in his future?”

“I did attend MIT too, Tim.” Reid looked up with a wide smile. “I think it was after your time there.”

“The point is,” Hotch interjected, “I won’t mold my son into a clone of myself which is what your father tried to do with you.”

“He’s lucky then.” Tim conceded the point with a nod. “So how do we do this?”

“We’ll be meeting in the formal conference room rather than the BAU’s working one. Myself, Deputy Bedford, and you will be attending. Staff Sergeant Sandoval of necessity as he refuses to allow you to be around your father without him.” Hotch smiled as he marked off points on his notepad. “By preference, I would prefer if you didn’t confront the Admiral directly. He’s going to try to get a rise out of you. Expect you to give in to his previous demands. The best option is to remain silent or respond as icily politely as you possibly can rather than get into an argument with him.”

“Channel Gibbs.” Tim nodded. “I can do that.”

“Let Hotch and Bedford do the talking.” Reid added as he rose to his feet again. “They will present the evidence and make the consequences clear to your father if he doesn't cooperate.”

“So, sit, watch and say nothing?”

“Exactly.” Hotch also rose and began gathering up his notes in preparation for the meeting. “Do you have a plan of action?”

“That’s where things get sticky.” Tim looked up at the two FBI agents and shook his head. “Reid suggested yesterday that we fake a reconciliation between myself and the Admiral. I don’t know if it would work as I’m so disgusted by what I learned this morning from Hetty. I honestly don’t know if I could pretend to be on good terms with him. Not with that information and the previous threat from him.”

“You don’t have to go that far.” Reid smiled and offered him a hand. Tim allowed the other agent to pull him up out of the chair. “We can let it out that you’re trying to protect your own political career. Being known as the son of an Admiral who was cashiered from the service for taking bribes would play hell with any further career moves. Whoever is behind this will buy it.”

“I can probably manage that.” Tim nodded his agreement to the idea. “Barely, but manage it.”

“That’s all that is needed.” Hotch grabbed one last file folder before circling his desk. “Jarvis and Pierce play those kind of games. They’d expect you to start playing them as well.”

“Understood. Let’s set this up.”

Hotch and Reid shared a long look before Reid nodded once. Hotch opened the door and led the way out of the room. The three of them, with Sandoval following behind, took a side corridor toward another darker hallway. Partway down the hall, Reid clapped him on the shoulder before slipping through a door into a windowless room. Tim’s quick glimpse at the busy interior told him that was likely Garcia’s domain.

“He’s going to be watching somehow, isn’t he?”

“Garcia’s tapping the internal feeds.” Hotch acknowledged as they turned another corner and started down another hallway. “If Reid sees anything of concern, he’ll text you or I with the information. More likely me unless it effects you directly.”

They stopped outside a plain wooden door beside a large plate glass window. Hotch turned a hard stare on him. Tim returned it as best he could considering the situation. For the first time in nearly nine years, he wanted to step back, shrink in on himself and stutter. It wasn’t Hotch causing him problems either but the whole situation with his father. He drew in a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then reached past Hotch to open the conference room door. Stepping inside, he summoned up a smile for the man already waiting for them. “Deputy Bedford, thank you for coming.”

“The President wants this concluded as quickly and calmly as possible. Your method of inducing cooperation met with his approval.”

“I’m glad it did. I know my father well. Threaten his career and he’ll either give you what you want or threaten back. In this case, giving in is the better option.” Tim waited until Hotch waved him to a chair before sitting down himself. “Hotch, this is Deputy Chief of Staff Daniel Bedford. Daniel, this is Special Agent Aaron Hotchner of the Behavioral Analysis Unit. He’ll be leading this meeting.”

“I’ve heard of your unit but I’ve never seen it in action, Agent Hotchner. I look forward to learning.”

“This isn’t our normal remit.” Hotch tilted his head to acknowledge the words. He pulled a piece of paper off his notepad and handed it across the table to Chief Bedford. “While I wouldn’t presume to dictate what you say, I did make a few notes on the best way of delivering the information to get the response we want.”

Before Chief Bedford could do more than read over the notes, the conference room door opened again to admit his father in full dress uniform. Tim surveyed the man, noting the details of his dress, and bit back a sigh as he realized his father was going for formality in yet another attempt at intimidating him. He rose to his feet long enough to introduce the Admiral to the other men.

“Chief Bedford, I’d like to know the purpose of this meeting.” Admiral McGee very precisely laid his cover on the table before taking a seat.

“You are here, Admiral, because evidence has surfaced which links you tangentially to the bombings at NCIS’s headquarters aboard the Washington Navy Yard.”

Tim watched carefully as Hotch squared off against his father. He forced himself to ignore the contemptuous look which was cast in his direction before the Admiral refocused on Hotch and Bedford.

“And you believe him?” All his father’s contempt for him was encapsulated in that single pronoun. Tim bit the inside of his lip to maintain his focus.

“Our evidence comes from several sources. Not just Director McGee.” Hotch neatly stacked the papers in front of him. “Why do you think we are meeting here and not at NCIS?”

“Because Timothy is not senior enough or powerful enough to beat the FBI at their own game.”

“That’s where you’re mistaken, Admiral.” A cold smile, one much better suited to a courtroom than a meeting appeared on Hotch’s face. Tim could now see why Hotch still had a reputation as an excellent persecutor despite no longer formally practicing law. “My team is working under Director McGee to resolve certain points of interest about the people behind the bombings. Do you know what the Behavioral Analysis Unit does?”

“I’ve heard the rumors.”

“Our job consists of reviewing and assessing the known facts of a criminal act, interpreting the behavior of the offender and his interactions with the victim as exhibited during the commission of a crime or as displayed at the crime scene.” Hotch clasped his hands on top of his notes and leaned slightly forward toward the Admiral who shifted a bit backwards in his chair in response. “In this case, we were asked to create psychological profiles of the people involved or thought to be involved in the bombings.”

“So, based on that and my son’s decidedly biased opinion, you’ve decided I had something to do with it.”

“Our profile showed that you are primarily concerned with your career and secondarily with the Navy’s reputation.” Hotch’s smile twisted a bit into a near smirk. “Your last interaction with your son was recorded in the Pentagon’s security cameras. It showed your attempts at intimidating your son into changing his security detail to Navy men, even though you knew the Navy was under investigation in this case. It also showed your threat to kill your son.”

“And your point being?”

“My point is, Admiral, that there is strong circumstantial evidence that you have attempted to influence the outcome of the investigation.” Hotch sat back in his chair and picked up his pen. “Whether for a personal reasons or because you are part of the conspiracy remains to be determined.”

“This is insane.” Admiral McGee leaned forward and glared across the table. When Hotch was unmoved by his look, he shifted it to Bedford. “You can’t possible believe this. What did Timothy offer you to discredit me?”

“He didn’t need to offer us anything.” Bedford returned the glare with one of his own. “Your Yeoman was very forthcoming.”

“My Yeoman?” Admiral McGee snorted contemptuously. “Really?”

“Yeoman Matthew Cameron was arrested last night after accepting a bribe on your behalf, Admiral.”

“I know nothing of those actions.” The Admiral sat back in his seat and shook his head. “An arrested man’s word means nothing, Agent Hotchner.”

“We have evidence, Dad.” For the first time since this fiasco began, Tim addressed the Admiral as his parent and not a Navy officer.

“Which can be created or doctored, Timothy.”

“Admiral, this evidence has been vetted by the FBI as well as NCIS.” Hotch briefly tapped his pen against the table. “Yeoman Cameron is ready to testify to the bribe taking as are several of the men who paid the bribes. Unless you have evidence to the contrary, we have a prima facie case to proceed to a General Courts-Martial with the potential for the death penalty for the treason charges.”

“The President wants you to understand something, Admiral.” Now Bedford entered the conversation to deliver the final threats. “You can play ball with us, walk away with one last promotion and an honorable retirement that will let you walk into all those cushy board of director appointments with the right companies or you can end up with an dishonorable discharge and all your rank stripped. Potentially even shot as a traitor. Your name would be erased completely from Navy history. The President is pissed, Admiral, and your son and his agency are all that is standing between you and complete disaster.”

The Admiral scanned their faces one at a time. Tim struggled to maintain his expression. He’d forgotten that a treason charge in a military court was an automatic death sentence. As much as he fought with his father, he didn’t want to sentence the man to death or provide the evidence which led to such a conviction. Finally, the Admiral nodded once. “Very well. What do you want?”

All of them relaxed just a bit as Hotch nodded to Tim. “Director McGee will explain.”

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:36 am 
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* CHAPTER TWELVE *


Three days. Three very long tense days had passed since the meeting where he’d calmly blackmailed his father into assisting in their investigation. Tim stood at the firing line with his SIG Sauer in hand and focused on the distant targets. He continually ran that meeting through his mind as he tried to sort variables. He wondered if he’d given his father too much leeway that afternoon. The itch came again. The one which made his nerves scream that he was being watched. A covert scan of the area showed no one other than his own detail. Sandoval stood beside him firing at his own targets. Two of the privates stood a bit further away keeping watch. Tim just couldn’t figure out what was bothering him so much. His instincts and gut were screaming at him. Setting the pistol down, he pulled the ear protection off and turned around to look directly behind himself. His father stood there, arms crossed over his chest and a twisted smile on his lips, watching him fire the pistol at the targets.

“Not bad, Timothy.” The Admiral nodded to the target. “I’m surprised that a Director keeps up his qualifications.”

“You never know when there might be trouble, Dad.”

“Too true.” A bitter laugh escaped the older man. “You have time for lunch with your old man.”

“I think I can make time.” Tim reached over and tapped Sandoval on the shoulder. The Staff Sergeant stopped firing. Tim relayed the invitation and received a short, unhappy nod in return. Both of them gathered up their weapons before starting across the range toward the parking lot. “So, where are we going?”

“I thought we could meet up with an associate. You might find him useful in your new position. He was very useful in my gaining my current command.” The Admiral rested a hand on his shoulder and led the way to a black armored Lincoln parked beside the curb. As they reached the car, the rear door opened and a tall lean man slid out from inside. He smiled widely but his eyes were ice cold as he assessed them. “Timothy, I don’t believe you’ve met Director Philip Pierce of Central Intelligence yet, have you?”

“I can’t say that I have.” Tim forced himself to not react to the naming of the man. This was their principal target, just standing there smirking at him, and Tim’s already tightly wound nerves began to scream a protest. He dropped on hand to his side and flicked his fingers at Sandoval who stood just one step behind him. “So, he’s the one who got you command of the Watcher Fleet?”

“I did.” Pierce answered and flashed a pure politician’s smile at him. He took a step to one side of the door allowing Jarvis to also step out of the vehicle. “Of course, Clayton did well at choosing which Admiral was best suited for the post.”

“I see.” Everything he’d been feeling all day coalesced in one single moment. Tim dropped his head a bit and closed his eyes tightly as realization dawned on him. He felt the hand on his shoulder slide down his back until it could retrieve the gun off his hip. “Dad...”

“Get in the car, Timothy.”

He heard the soft faint click as the safety on his pistol was flicked off. His own gun pressed against his lower back. Tim knew a shot there as close as the SIG was to his body guaranteed the end of his career in the ArmFed. He clenched his jaw tightly and took a half-step forward. A flash of light out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Tim gave the smallest of nods and watched as the light flashed briefly again. He couldn’t help the smile as he let a month and a half’s worth of training dictate his actions. He caught Jarvis’s wrist and pulled the man around and between him and his father as a gunshot shattered the scene. The bullet pinged off the car and ricocheted into Pierce’s shoulder.

Tim heard the various shouts but focused on his principal targets. A well placed kick sent Jarvis sprawling on the pavement as Pierce began to run only to be tackled by Sacks and Dorneget. He was almost certain he heard Dorneget shout something about ‘winning the bet’ as he straddled Pierce. Tim held out a hand and snapped his fingers. A set of handcuffs was dropped into his hand which he quickly used to subdue Jarvis. He all but tossed the soon-to-be former Secretary of the Navy at Fornell, the source of the handcuffs, before turning his attention to his still armed father.

“Admiral.”

“Timothy.” The Admiral raised a very expressive eyebrow. The SIG was pointed directly at Tim’s abdomen. “Our agreement?”

“Only covers this conspiracy. As the paperwork states, no charges will be filed as long as you don’t break any additional laws, testify to everything you know and file for retirement.” Tim held a hand out to his father. Letting his father walk really was the lesser of two evils. He just hoped it didn’t come back to bite him in the ass in the future. “Give me the gun, Dad.”

“You’re still too much like your mother.” The Admiral took a step toward him. Tim gestured for everyone to stay back. He knew his father wouldn’t do anything right now. There were too many witnesses. The safety clicked and the gun was flipped around. Tim closed his fingers around the butt of the weapon but before he could take it away, his father leaned even closer. He turned his head and lowered his voice so only the two of them heard his next words. “She never knew when to stop either. There will likely come a time when you regret today, Timothy. I’ll enjoy watching every moment.”

The Admiral straightened and released the gun into Tim’s hands. With a nod to everyone and a contemptuous look at Jarvis, Admiral McGee strode away toward his waiting car where a new Yeoman opened the door for him. Tim watched the car pull out of the parking lot before a tired sigh escaped him. He leaned back against the Lincoln and let his head fall back to thump against the roof.

“Tim?”

“Tobias?”

“Oh, don’t answer a question with a question, kid.” Fornell’s hand landed on his shoulder. Fingers squeezed and released before the hand fell away. “How’d you know about the gunshot?”

“Do you really think I’d trust a man who threatened to kill me?” Tim lowered his head to meet Fornell’s gaze. He saw the surprise in the older agents eyes and chuckled softly. “Malachi’s over there with a sniper rifle. I expected to be double crossed from the moment my father demanded to have our deal with him in writing.”

“And...?”

“I told him to use his best judgment.” Tim turned and watched as first Jarvis then Pierce were loaded into cars. One was driven by Ron Sacks, the other by Cassie Yates. He knew they’d head over to the FBI building where a helicopter transport waited to take both men to Andrews for a flight to Guantanamo Bay where they’d likely live out the rest if their lives. “That I wanted them alive but if it was a choice between my life and theirs, well, I’d like to live long enough to get lectured by you, Gibbs and Eli.”

“Trust me, Tim.” Fornell clapped him on the shoulder again. “I won’t have to lecture once Gibbs gets started.”

“So what was the bet?” Tim allowed Fornell to lead him away from the Lincoln toward the FBI issued sedan. Sandoval followed after ordering one of the privates to take possession of the Lincoln. Fornell never got a chance to answer as the Lincoln started and a deep click echoed across the parking lot. “Down!”

Tim pulled Tobias to the ground as a second click echoed from the car behind them. Sandoval’s weight came down on his back as all three of them twisted to look in the direction of the town car. The private scrambled out of the car while another man looked underneath it. Everyone ran in different directions and dove to the ground as a third click came from the car. This final one accompanied by a faint bang and a fizzling sound. Tim shoved Sandoval off him and glared at the other car.

“DiNozzo was right.” Tim shook his head in disgust as the other car’s engine started to slowly burn. “They blew up all their expert bombers. They couldn’t even manage to assassinate me properly!”

Fornell and Sandoval both gave him shocked looks before breaking out into laughter.

“Only you, kid, could be disgusted over not being murdered!”

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 21, 2013 3:27 pm 
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This is the best thing I have read since Emerald's Backfired. You definitely rank up there with her, and I can't wait for Resurrection. Not only is the story superb but the writing is superior.

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