Clowning Around

Summary: Katie's a bit too clever for her own good. Set in the 'Future Perfect' universe. Warnings: corporal punishment of a child; contains clowns.

Disclaimer: Caitlyn and Leigh are mine; the rest belong to other people.


A/N: This takes place in the 'Future Perfect' universe, which features Caitlyn and Leigh, the twin daughters of Tim and Abby. This story contains references to the corporal punishment of a child. If you have a problem with that, click on that 'back' button now. You've been warned.


'DADDY!'

Hearing the blood-curdling shriek, Tim dropped the laundry he was sorting and ran towards his daughters' room, his heart pounding and his hand moving unconsciously towards his left hip even though his gun was safely locked away.

Katie was still at school, at her science club meeting, and he'd just sent Leigh to get changed and started on her homework. What on earth could have his fearless tomboy daughter so upset?

He found her standing in the doorway of the bedroom, still wearing her school uniform, her eyes flashing with fury. Glancing over her head, he immediately saw what was wrong.

On Katie's bed, propped up against the pillow where an aged teddy normally sat, was a clown.

Or, rather, a doll dressed in a spotted jumpsuit, whose face had been literally painted to resemble a classic white-faced mime.

'It's ok. I've got it,' Tim reassured Leigh, ruffling her hair. He didn't really understand why Leigh found clowns so disturbing, but even he had to admit that Katie's version was a little creepy. He'd have to have a little chat with her when she got home about deliberately tormenting her sister, especially since she'd clearly put some effort into it.

'It talks, Daddy!' Leigh warned as he stepped past her into the room to remove the doll. Taking a closer look, Tim recognised Katie's old 'Babbling Betty' doll under the paint – if you poked it in the chest, its mouth would open and shut and a small recorder imbedded somewhere inside it would play one of several phrases. He smiled, impressed that Leigh had gotten close enough to the clown to set it off.

He was halfway to the bed when it started laughing.

Tim froze, staring at the cackling doll in astonishment. What the hell?! After a few seconds it stopped laughing and he took a slow step towards it.

'Hello, Leigh!' the doll said.

Tim was speechless. He had no idea how Kate had managed to reprogram the doll's verbal repertoire, but she clearly had. And she'd somehow made the wretched thing motion-sensitive as well. For a kid not yet in high school, that was pretty remarkable. If she hadn't been using it to screw with her sister's head, he'd have been damn impressed.

Tim snatched the doll from Kate's bed and tucked it under one arm as he turned to leave. Leigh took a step back from the doorway to let him and the clown pass.

'I'm watching you, Leigh!'

Right, that's it!

Tim flipped the doll over and yanked the batteries out angrily.

'Is it dead?' Leigh asked in a small voice.

'Yes,' he assured her, holding up the batteries to show her.

She still eyed it warily as he carried it out of her room. She quickly traded places with him, ducking into the bedroom and shutting the door as soon as the clown was safely in the hallway. Tim finally let himself smile at the absurdity of the scenario.

A moment later, the smile faded.

Taking a closer look at the doll, he could see that one of its eyes had been removed and replaced with a small motion detector. He flipped the doll over, taking in the neat incision in the back of its head that had made the substitution possible. A little prodding revealed a small digital voice recorder tucked inside the head as well. Fairly sophisticated wiring connected both to the doll's batteries and speaker.

But Tim's pride that his precocious electronics wizard had managed such a feat was outweighed by his anger as he recognised the new components as part of the standard NCIS surveillance kit. A few minutes later, a quick survey confirmed that a number of items were indeed missing from the tote-bag that he kept at home in case of late-night emergency call-outs.

Not messing with his and Abby's work things was one of the basic rules of the household, and it had been years since he'd had to remind the twins that NCIS gear was off-limits. He was meticulous about locking up his weapon, of course, but they didn't necessarily keep harmless things like reports or binoculars under lock and key. But that didn't mean they were unimportant, and the girls knew to leave them alone.

He was frankly astonished that Katie had taken the devices. Outright disobedience was unusual for her, and this was definitely one of the worst offences either of the girls had committed.

And yet, a part of him regretted that he had to punish her for something that was so clever. He didn't want to discourage her from pursuing her technological interests.

Still, there was no doubt in his mind how he had to deal with her behaviour. Taking the equipment, plus the deliberate cruelty to her sister, added up to big trouble for Caitlyn McGee, regardless of how impressive her creation was.

Hearing Abby's car turn into the driveway, Tim headed towards the front hall.