My first multi-chapter NCIS fic has been completed. It's a strange feeling… I hope you all enjoyed the ride as much as I did.
And, I also noticed, thanks to some comments, that it really hasn't been a good month. My last two updates were both during/after some kind of disaster. But not this week… I'm going away tomorrow and it's my birthday on Saturday!
Anyway, enjoy the final installment of Smarter, Not Harder.
"Did it make you feel better?" "Sure didn't hurt."
"Long time, no see," Kate said wryly to McGee as they entered the elevator together. McGee scoffed and hit the button for their floor.
They had both stayed late last night in an attempt to finish off the paperwork, which had apparently accumulated because they hadn't done any over the course of the actual case. However, Gibbs had said that only their preliminary reports had to be finished before they went home last night and the rest of the paperwork could be finished today.
"Won't this be fun," McGee groaned, uncharacteristically grumpy because of the little sleep he had gotten last night. After heading home, he had decided to try some writing, but found himself at a block. He just couldn't work out how Agent Tommy would react in the situation in the book. He had been shredding paper for half the night and had absolutely nothing to show for his efforts.
"It's no wonder Gibbs drinks all that coffee, he'd need it to fill out all those forms," Kate joked, walking out of the elevator next to Tim as the doors opened out into the squadroom.
"Morning, Katie," Tony said cheerfully as he bounded across several steps to catch up with them. He was carrying a cup of coffee and a single black rose, leading the two junior agents to guess that he had just been down with Abby before coming up to the bullpen.
Kate scowled at Tony for the nickname, but her annoyance was tempered down a fair amount after everything she had read the other night. She had attempted to get an early night when she went home but her mind was constantly invaded by images of a younger Tony facing all the heartbreak that she never would have imagined he had gone through.
"Coffee, Tony?" she asked, arching her eyebrow as she attempted to hide her thoughts from Tony. For one thing, she certainly didn't want him to know that she had gone through his personnel file. "Didn't get a decent nights sleep last night?"
"Oh, no, I got a very good nights sleep," Tony replied, scowling towards Gibbs to the confusion of the two junior agents, and the amusement of their team leader, if the slight smile on his face was anything to go by.
"Good, because we all have work to do," Gibbs said simply, hiding his smile. He and Tony had gotten in about two hours ago, and considering the fact that Tony had hardly been at his desk in that time, he got the feeling he was in for an interesting day.
"Yay," Kate said, deadpan, throwing her backpack down beside her desk and turning on her computer before sitting down, leaning back to stretch. McGee and Tony both did the same, and it was silent for several moments as everybody waited for their computer to start up.
"Uh, Kate, what are you trying to do?" McGee asked several minutes later. Kate was frowning and pressing the on button of her computer with increasing frustration.
"My computer won't turn on," she exclaimed, glaring at the inanimate object.
"You mean it's giving you some kind of error message?" McGee asked, glancing at her as he opened the file that held his case report. He impatiently closed the pop-up that appeared, making a note to himself to check and install any updates today or tomorrow.
"No, I mean, it won't start up," Kate told them, pushing the on button again angrily, trying to hold down her temper. Sometime she really hated computers.
"Did you check whether it was plugged in?" Tony asked, already having opened his file and typing. Gibbs was surreptitiously looking at his three agents, guessing that these 'random' occurrences had something to do with why his senior field agent had been down with his forensic scientist for so long.
"No," Kate acknowledged, hoping that it was the case, even if it would make her feel stupid. At least she wouldn't have lost anything important on her computer, nor would she lose time waiting for it to get fixed.
"I'll… what the heck?" McGee said, now staring at his own computer. He had been about to say that he would check Kates wires and cords, when he noticed that another pop-up had appeared. He closed it, but then another immediately appeared, with an annoying dinging sound. 'How are you,' he read silently, wondering what in the world was going on. Computers did not randomly come up with pop-ups asking their owner how they were. He clicked the exit button in the corner of the pop-up again, but another immediately appeared with a ding. He tried it twice more to the same effect.
Gibbs was getting annoyed with the incessant annoying beeping noise. He looked up from his work to glare at his newest agent and saying sharply, "Will you shut that thing up, McGee."
"Uh, sorry, boss," McGee said, flushing as he went to the volume icon at the bottom of the screen. But when he clicked on that, the computer made another noise and the pop-up simply flashed on the screen. In rising desperation, he tried to hit the little loudspeaker several times, to the same effect.
"It… uh, it won't work," he nearly whispered, trying to exit the pop-up, only to have another one come up immediately afterward.
"What do you mean, it won't work," Gibbs asked, looking up from his work to glare at the probationary agent. The incessant noise was really beginning to annoy him.
"As far as I can tell, everything is plugged in," Kate announced, getting out from under her desk, hitting her on button again with a scowl.
"I'll… uh, help you in a sec," McGee said, now flustered as he continuously kept clicking his mouse to try and get rid of the damned pop-ups.
Tony hid a smile as Kate hit her mouse in frustration, glaring at the stubbornly pitch black computer screen. Abby really had outdone herself, even if the annoying beeping from McGee's computer was beginning to get frustrating. But it was well worth it for the look on McGee's face.
Gibbs just sighed, shaking his head, but also pleased to see his senior field agent enjoying himself. Tony hadn't looked that legitimately happy on the job for a long while now, and for a man that lived for his job, that was a slight worry. His smile quickly turned into a scowl as McGee's computer beeped for what had to be the hundredth time. At least he knew why Tony had brought him coffee, he thought, bringing the cup to his lips.
"Stupid bloody…" Kate swore at the machine, frustration getting the better of her. Technology always seemed able to ignite her temper. That and overbearing men who reminded her of her brothers. "Maybe I should call Abby," she considered, watching McGee still trying to deal with the pop-ups on his screen.
"Patience is a virtue, Katie," Tony said to her, smirking as he leant back in his chair.
"It's Kate," she snapped at him with narrowed eyes, temper frayed by the annoying malfunctioning of technology. She pressed the on button one more time before finally caving, picking up the phone to call Abby since it seemed like McGee wasn't going to be able to get rid of his pop-ups anytime soon.
She picked up the handset and pressed the speed dial for the extension to Abby's lab, bringing it up to her ear as it started to ring. "What now?" she asked frustratingly, staring at the phone as the cord refused to stretch out more then a few centimeters. "Oh, this is ridiculous," she grumbled, leaning close to the phone to be able to speak into the handset. "Hey Abs, you got a sec?"
"Hey, Kate. And I kinda don't at the moment, one of the other techs is out sick and I've got like a hundred tests to run. Why, is something the matter?" Abby asked, keeping the phone tucked between her shoulder and her cheek down in the lab – where she was lounging back in her chair, it hardly looked like she was busy with forensic tests.
"Ugh, my computer won't start up," Kate moaned, rolling her eyes. "But don't worry about it, I'll just wait for McGee to finish… whatever it is that's happening to his computer."
"What, is it wacked computer day, or something?" Abby asked, chuckling, before she hung up the phone and started laughing for real. She wished she could be up there to be able to see their faces properly, but instead she was stuck just looking at the security cameras, which didn't really have the best quality.
Back in the bullpen, the sound of beeping was still permeating the air, though McGee had stated hopefully that he thought he was nearing the end of all those damn pop-ups.
Kate was trying not to glare at Tony as she waited impatiently for McGee to finish with his computer so he could fix hers. She knew he had to have something to do with this, it was too much of a coincidence that the computers decided to act up on his first day back. This was exactly why she found it so hard to believe that he had such impressive hidden skills. More often then not, he acted as though he were still in college, and interrupted their work by playing pranks on them for no particular reason. It was difficult to correspond this Tony to the one she had read about the other night.
Letting out her frustration, she hit the computer screen lightly, not wanting to break it, but she frowned when she heard a slight rustling noise as she made contact. Narrowing her eyes, she touched her screen suspiciously, groaning when, instead of cool, hard glass, she felt the rough surface of paper instead. She leant closer to get a better look and realized that somebody really had sticky-taped several pieces of black paper to her computer screen. She groaned, closing her eyes for several moments when she noticed just how well it had been sticky-taped. It was going to take her a long time to be able to undo that.
McGee, on the other hand, crowed with delight. After getting rid of what felt like at least three hundred pop-ups, that had finally stopped. But before he could even move his cursor back to the file that held his report, another box appeared, saying, 'You know what? Maybe another hundred would be fun.' McGee just stared at the screen in horror.
Gibbs held back a chuckled as he watched his two junior agents preparing to come to him with their printed out reports and several of the filled in forms he needed with them. After the initial pranks, it had actually been surprisingly quiet. He had expected more from DiNozzo and Abby. Sure, the junior agents computers randomly started to blare out 'It's a small world' several times throughout the day, but that really was tame considering what Tony and Abby could do.
Heck, he could remember when they really hadn't liked one of their current transfers. However, the director had been insistent on the needing a third at the very least, so his then newly promoted senior field agent and forensic scientist had decided to take things into their own hands. The newbie had requested a transfer within two days. And, as an added bonus, after that incident, Morrow let Gibbs hand pick his team by himself.
The two agents walked over to his desk from the printer, and handed their boss the sheets they had just printed, both not bothering to even look at the print out, too annoyed at the constant interruptions that had occurred while writing them. Not only were there Tony's usual interruptions, but their computers would freeze up at the most random times, though thankfully they never lost any of their work – they'd just had to live through 'It's a small world' about a dozen times.
Gibbs raised his eyebrows after just looking at the sheet. He sat up properly, reading through the reports thoroughly, having to hold back the urge to laugh out loud at moments. The agents had become too complacent, and apparently hadn't even checked what was coming up on the computer while they were typing.
"You two may want to take a trip down to the basement," Gibbs informed them sharply, looking displeased as he threw the two reports down on his desk.
"Cyber Crimes?" McGee asked, confused.
"Why?" Kate asked, almost dreading the answer. She was beginning to wonder whether McGee had a point about Tony being able to get back at them with ease. Though she wished she knew why it had reached such a level all of a sudden. After all, he couldn't know what had happened while he'd been gone. Not even Gibbs knew.
"Why don't you tell me, Sexy Barbie," Gibbs answered her, completely deadpan as he nudged the report closer to her.
McGee stared at them in surprise as Kate made a squawking noise with her throat, refusing to meet her superiors eyes. She grabbed the report and saw, to her horror, that instead of 'Special Agent Caitlin Todd' the header and footer both read, 'Special Agent Sexy Barbie'. She tried to explain, but could only stutter, "I… that… explain… I…"
She gave up, looking at the report and noticing other differences after McGee coughed lightly to get her attention. She stared at the paper and realized that somehow her t, h and e buttons had been replaced with s, e and x.
"And, McGee, you may want to retake some spelling courses," Gibbs added, grabbing the report again and throwing it at his youngest agent.
McGee groaned and blushed lightly, fearing what might have happened to his report after having seen Kates. He was slightly relieved to note that his had no innuendo, though a lot of it seemed to be complete gibberish. He groaned as he realized that after he worked out what was wrong with the computer he was going to have to retype the entire report and they still hadn't finished out filling out all the forms. He looked morosely at the large pile of papers sitting on Kates desk, as he returned to his own, grabbing his jacket, deciding to go down to the Cyber unit as Gibbs had suggested, because he honestly had no idea how such a thing could have happened. He hesitated a moment, checking the cables between the keyboard and the computer, but sighed when he realized they were all fine.
Kate had watched him check impatiently, and then just sighed, rolling her eyes and trying not to glare at Tony. This was definitely his fault. She was finding herself falling for his façade all over again, but she was struggling not too, now that she knew that it actually was a façade, a mask he used to hide from the rest of the world. She had to admit (grudgingly) that he was a very good actor.
"Come on, McGee, we may as well just go down the basement, they'll probably know something," Kate said, rolling her eyes at the thought and glaring at the pile of papers lying innocently on her desk. One day, she was going to find the bureaucratic moron that invented paperwork and shoot him.
"Yeah, coming," McGee said, coming around to join her. They turned around and started to head to the elevator.
"Hey, Kate, Probie," Tony called out, stopping them before they reached the elevator. The two junior agents turned around, glaring at him, both knowing that he probably knew exactly what had happened with their computers. He flashed them one of his megawatt smiles, and toning it down and saying in a slightly more serious voice, "while you're down there, can you ask them about the laptop that belonged to our team and was found in the stairwell yesterday?"
Kate and McGee both registered surprise clearly on their face, McGee quickly starting to feel horrified that Tony had found out. The occurrences of the day suddenly took on a whole new meaning. Tony kept eye contact with them until the elevator opened and the other two agents stepped in, glancing at each other, but not saying anything, neither having any idea what they could say after that.
When the elevator doors closed, Gibbs turned to Tony and asked, "Special Agent Sexy Barbie?"
"It seemed like a good idea," Tony replied shrugging and flashing his boss with a grin.
Gibbs shook his head with a fond chuckle. "You wanna head out? You finished the report and technically this is your last day of leave."
"Sure, just let me finish this stuff quickly first," Tony agreed easily. "Oh, and I should probably call Abby and tell her about everything."
Kate and McGee stepped into the bullpen close to two hours later, not surprised that it was empty. After stopping by the CCU, an agent had taken one look at the reports and told them that someone had switched the key around on their keyboards, they then decided to grab some coffee, since it looked like it was going to turn into another late night. On their way back in, they had seen Ducky who had informed them that Tony and Gibbs had both already left.
"I – " Kate started but then stopped. McGee was staring at the pile of paperwork on her desk in shock. "What? Did somebody bring more of the stuff?"
Looking down, she opened her mouth in surprise, looking like a goldfish in the process. The paperwork had all been completed in the familiar neat handwriting of their senior field agent.
Well, that seems a good a place as any to end it. It's done… all of you, please, let me know what you thought, I would love to hear any and all of your thoughts on the story! And it is my birthday… ;) Hopefully I'll have some more NCIS stuff out soon!