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PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:37 pm 
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Director's Secretary

Joined: Fri Jul 30, 2010 5:47 pm
Posts: 2382
Location: Southern Tier
Name: Jennie (please NOT Jen)
Gender: Female
link: Blog
link: First Novel
AN: This was my entry for round 10 of the NCIS Last Fiction Writer Standing contest on LJ. Prompt was: AU. Pick a character and explain what they would be doing if they hadn't joined NCIS. You guys know I'm not an AU fan in general, but I'm actually pretty happy with how this turned out.

The Way Leads On

Lt. Timothy McGee powered up his computer. The area around his Pentagon cubicle was still dark this early, but he'd had a brainstorm at 0430 about the information they had gathered on the Venezuelans. Once immersed in the familiar zeros and ones, he lost track of everything around him. He didn't know how much time had passed before he was able to confirm his hunch — they were using bit-plane complexity segmentation steganography to pass intel. Now to find the key.

"Lieutenant McGee." The voice behind him sounded pissed, and McGee leaped to attention, flashing back to his father's childhood inspections. He knocked over his chair, and McGee felt familiar heat at the tips of his ears.

"At ease, McGee." Capt. Wilkerson turned toward two men. "He's all yours, Agent Gibbs."

The older man had a military haircut, but wore a jacket, polo shirt, and slacks; the younger man, a sweater and jeans.

"Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, NCIS." Both men held out their badges, flipping them to reveal their IDs. "Lt. McGee, we need to speak with you for an investigation we're conducting."

McGee nodded.

"Not here." Gibbs turned and walked away. McGee felt DiNozzo's gaze upon his back the whole way down the hall as he followed Agent Gibbs to the conference room.

"We're investigating your unit for potential treason." Gibbs sat across from him, while DiNozzo leaned against the wall behind the older man.

"You- you are?" McGee just stared at Gibbs.

"Knock off the dumb act, kid," DiNozzo said. "SRB shows you're pretty smart."

"I'm- I'm not acting." McGee flushed. "I didn't kn- know." He looked up at DiNozzo. "Treason?"

"Yes." Gibbs didn't say anything more, and McGee finally dropped his gaze to the table.

"You- You think I did it?" His father was going to kill him when he found out.

"Did you?" Gibbs' tone was mild.

"No!" McGee shook his head. "I would never betray my country." He bit his lip. "I'm the fifth generation of my family to serve."

"That why you didn't go private sector?" DiNozzo again.

"Huh?" McGee just stared.

Gibbs answered. "MIT, Johns Hopkins, biomedical engineering, computer forensics. Thesis on advanced string theory. Graduated top of your class, finished your second degree before you could legally drink. Had to have gotten offers from a dozen tech and biotech firms. And yet you join the Navy, go through OCS, and make a quarter of what the private sector would pay."

"Yes, sir."

"Doesn't answer the question." DiNozzo again.

"I'm a McGee," he replied. "I wasn't going to be the first McGee in five generations to not join the Navy." He tried not to think of how his father would have reacted. Even his seasickness wasn't an excuse as far as Commander McGee was concerned.

Gibbs and DiNozzo exchanged glances.

McGee swallowed, wondering what was going on.

"We're going to have to ask you to come with us," Gibbs said.

"You're... You're arresting me?"

"Just need to talk about a few things," Gibbs said, before heading down the hall.

"Come on, kid." DiNozzo motioned for McGee to follow him in the opposite direction.

Next thing McGee knew, he was in the back seat of a sedan, trying not to lose his lunch. "Where... where are we..." That was all he could get out before a wave of nausea hit.

"Navy Yard. NCIS Headquarters." Gibbs said.

"Boss." DiNozzo's voice was quiet.

Next thing McGee knew, the car had slowed down some.

"You OK back there, kid?" DiNozzo looked over his shoulder.

McGee shrugged. "Motion sickness." He flushed. "It's worse on boats."

"And you're in the Navy?" DiNozzo stared at him, and McGee could feel his face turn red.

McGee sighed. Back when it was still NIS, McGee had thought about joining, figuring it was something exciting and non-geekish in the Navy that didn't require him to set foot on a ship. But SecNav had made it a civilian agency, and there went that idea. Working for the Navy wouldn't cut it — he had to actually be in the Navy to avoid losing what little respect his father had for him.

Maybe his father wouldn't find out. Yeah, and maybe he'd be one of the cool kids someday.

When they finally got to NCIS, McGee wobbled as he got out of the car.

"Easy, kid," DiNozzo said. "Boss, you want me...?"

Gibbs just looked at him, and DiNozzo nodded. McGee was lost. Then as DiNozzo led him through hallways and up and down elevators, he began to think he really would get lost.

DiNozzo opened a door labeled "Interrogation" and motioned McGee inside. Inside, he waited uncertainly until DiNozzo pointed to the chair facing the mirror. McGee sat and watched as the agent flipped the other chair around and straddled it.

"So, kid, why cryptography?"

McGee frowned, but did his best to answer. "They didn't have computer forensics programs for undergraduates, so I started out with biomedical engineering. But most of those research positions are on ships." He got queasy just thinking about it. "I knew I'd be going on to earn my master's before joining the Navy, because I wouldn't be old enough for OCS when I finished my bachelor's. Besides, it made sense to wait on the computer science degree and learn the latest. Cryptography is all land-based."

"It always had to be Navy? No other options?"

McGee nodded. "Yeah."

"Because it's tradition? Or because your old man said so?"

McGee winced. "Look, you don't know what it's like."

"Yeah, kid, I do." DiNozzo paused, and McGee waited for the snark that didn't come.

"My father had my place all picked out: degree at Harvard, position in the family business, marriage to a debutante..." DiNozzo shrugged. "Not what I wanted. So I got a sports scholarship to Ohio State, played ball, got a degree, went to the police academy, eventually wound up here." He looked at McGee. "My father doesn't like it, but he's not living my life. I am. And I like this a hell of a lot more than any stuffy board meeting."

McGee tried to wrap his mind around the idea, but the thought of not being Navy — not being worthy of his father's attention... "I'm a McGee, therefore I'm Navy."

He thought DiNozzo would push, but he just nodded. "You get pretty wrapped up in your work, don't you?"

McGee looked at him. How was he supposed to answer that? "I guess. I mean, I get pretty focused. That's how my brain works."

"Enough that your CO had to call your name three times?"

McGee flushed. "Is that- No. I mean... yes, I guess so." McGee looked down at the table.

When the agent stood, McGee looked up.

"You stay." DiNozzo picked up the folder and walked out.

McGee was left to sit.

**************************


Tony walked into the observation room, where Gibbs and Ducky were waiting. "Boss, there's no way this kid is the mole," he said. "He's so green he could be Kermit."

"I know that, DiNozzo," Gibbs said.

"Of course you do, Boss."

"Look, get the kid down to Abby's lab. Explain what's going on. I'll be down in a minute."

"A moment, Jethro." Ducky held up a hand.

"Yeah, Duck?"

Tony paused at the door, but Gibbs waved him off.

"If your theory is correct, this young man's commanding officer is trying to sacrifice him so he'll be arrested for the leaks instead of the captain." Ducky paused. "Yet he comes from a career naval family. Why would the captain take such a risk? Incurring the the elder McGee's wrath when he finds out his son was made the scapegoat would seem to be enough of a deterrent to have your treasonous captain picking a more suitable target."

Gibbs shook his head. "Father doesn't carry much clout. He's a career officer who'll never make it beyond commander. He was passed over last year for promotion, and scuttlebutt says he'll be passed over again and mustered out. Wouldn't have made commander at all if the Navy wasn't so short-handed from the wars." He shook his head at the thought of the kid. "His son's fast-tracked — promoted below-the-zone last year. Needs a backbone before he moves up to lieutenant commander. But if he ever develops a spine, he could be leading that unit based on his fitness reports. Pretty impressive for a 22-year-old."

"So what you are saying is that the elder McGee is a nonentity as far as the Navy is concerned, and the younger one shows much more promise." Ducky nodded. "Jethro, if your plan should succeed, I think a formal, written note for his permanent file should be made. Not as much for the Navy bureaucracy, but for this young man. I suspect his father will look askance at this escapade."

"Noted, Duck."

**************************

McGee looked up when DiNozzo walked back in.

"Come on, lieutenant."

"Are you arresting me?" McGee swallowed.

"No." DiNozzo shook his head and led him out of the room. His cell phone rang. "Stay here." He walked away, and McGee stood there, hoping the men he could hear talking in the next room wouldn't come out and find him standing there listening to a conversation they obviously hadn't intended for him to hear.

When DiNozzo got off the phone, he motioned for McGee to follow. "We know it wasn't you. We knew that before we went over there today."

"Then what-" McGee almost cursed. "Why did you-?"

"Because, McGee. We need your help to catch the real mole." DiNozzo went on to explain as they walked down another long hallway, but McGee had a hard time believing what he said.

After DiNozzo finished, McGee took a second to process what the agent had said. "So you know Captain Wilkerson is the mole, but you can't prove it. You made it look like you were arresting me in order to get me here to help you gather the evidence you need from our system." This time McGee almost did curse. Where did Wilkerson get off trying to make him the fall guy?

The agent nodded. "You got it." He led the way into a room where loud music was blaring.

"Abs." DiNozzo had to practically yell to get the pigtailed... Goth?... to turn around.

"Hey, Tony," she said. "This your crypto-wizard?"

"Lt. McGee, Abby Scuito, our forensic scientist. Abs, we need McGee to help us nail Wilkerson."

She frowned — was that black lipstick she was wearing? — and said, "I told Gibbs I could get in there."

"Not legally," Tony said. "And we need an airtight case if we're going to nail this dirtbag. Besides, you really think you could hack into the cryptography unit of the Pentagon?"

"Well, maybe not today," Abby said. "So, McGee, you get to help Team Gibbs on this one? Pretty exciting."

"Um, yeah. I guess." He blushed. "So, um, wh- what do you need me to do?"

He spent the next couple of hours in the lab with Abby and DiNozzo — no, Tony — accessing his CO's records and pulling the evidence they needed. At first he was totally focused on the computer, but then he realized Abby was practically resting her chin on his shoulder.

"Wow. Gibbs was right, you do have mad skills."

"Yeah, like the Boss would even know what that meant." Tony snorted.

"Tony!" Abby punched him in the shoulder, but Tony just rolled his eyes. Before McGee could really process that, Abby started firing questions at him. He answered them as he worked his way through the Pentagon system, careful to cover his tracks so Wilkerson wouldn't know he had been there. The man was not getting another chance to pin this on him.

When he had everything, Abby handed him a form to sign.

"What's this?"

"Oh, that's where you promise to hand over your first-born, let me suck your blood, and sleep in the coffin." McGee blinked and felt his knees go wobbly. "Geez, McGee. I'm just kidding. It's the form saying you accessed the system and downloaded the evidence for us. Just routine stuff the court needs."

He nodded and signed, forcing his hand not to shake. "Now what?"

DiNozzo spoke. "Now Boss and I pick up your captain, and you go back to work tomorrow like normal."


Two days later...

McGee was sitting at his desk in quarters trying to write, but his fingers were stalled on the typewriter keys. He hadn't been able to write anything since his trip to NCIS — he hadn't been able to get what he'd overheard Agent Gibbs say out of his mind. He didn't know who he'd been talking to, but the agent's assessment of his father had shocked him. He'd had to resist the temptation a dozen times since then to hack into the Navy's personnel records and see if Agent Gibbs was right, but he didn't want to risk getting caught.

When his phone rang, he answered without thinking.

"McGee."

"You got arrested by NCIS? What the hell were you thinking, boy?"

"Dad. No, I didn't get arrested. They-"

"First you go into the Navy and don't set foot on a ship, now you have NCIS after you? Do you go out of your way to try and embarrass me?"

McGee tried twice to interrupt, before finally just letting his father wind down. Once he paused for a breath, McGee rushed to speak. "Dad, NCIS asked me to help them catch a mole. It only looked like an arrest to keep Wilkerson from realizing they were after him. I spent the day helping them collect evidence to convict him."

His father sputtered for a few minutes before McGee ended the call. It was as close as he'd ever come to hanging up on his father, and it felt good.

Afterward, he stared at his typewriter. His time with NCIS had been — well, he'd been scared for most of it, but other than that, it had been kind of fun to use his computer skills that way. DiNozzo's words came back to him. "My father doesn't like it, but he's not living my life. I am." McGee couldn't help but wonder how his life would have been different if he'd ignored his father as a teenager and tried to get a job with NCIS the way he'd wanted to. Still, he couldn't go back and change the past. All he could do was decide what he was going to do with his future.

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