They made an amusing sight, Abby and Darrell, as they studied the documents spread out on the lab table. Darrell Woods spent most of his days in the Questionable Documents Lab at Quantico and was thrilled when Agent Fornell personally sent for him. He had never had to work so fast and never with such an interesting lab partner, but they were piecing together which papers Stephanie Bolton had slipped into which packet. In the outer lab, DiNozzo found the scene enjoyable.
"So where did Fornell dig up this dinosaur? He's got to be close to eighty." Kate smiled at his comment. She had worked with Darrell on several counterfeiting cases while she had been with the Secret Service.
"Try ninety-three. Rumors in the Secret Service are that he's actually immortal." Behind them, Hayes entered the room flanked by Gibbs and Morrow with Fornell bringing up the rear. Hayes stared at the lab technicians working on his signed documents.
"I want all those returned to me as soon as they are finished examining them."
Gibbs shook his head. "No can do, I'm afraid, Deputy Director.
Before Hayes could mount a protest, Director Morrow stepped in. "The legitimate papers will eventually be returned to the CIA, of course. It will take some time and there are a great number of channels necessary, but at some point they will be back in the possession of someone at the CIA. The other papers, the ones connected to the theft of two hundred million dollars, I'm afraid will stay in our custody as part of our investigation. You do understand, I'm sure, Deputy Director Hayes."
For a moment Hayes wondered if his life would have been easier if Stephanie had been successful in framing him.
"Ducky, I can rest at my desk." Tim frowned at the makeshift bed that the medical examiner had made up on one of the autopsy tables. It may have been well padded, but it was still kind of creepy to try to sleep down here. Ducky just patted the table.
"I promised Jethro that you would rest while they worked on the documents, so rest you will. I assure you this table is much more comfortable than being hunched over your desk, young man, so up you go." McGee had never argued with the doctor, but the idea of sleeping on an autopsy table was pretty unsettling, even if it was something Gibbs was known to do. When Ducky turned around with the large cutters he used to separate the sternum from the ribcage, Tim quickly acquiesced and settled into his assigned bed. Ducky didn't let him see his smile as he turned back around.
"We can prove which paper was hidden between which pages in each document in question." Abby's words were confident as Darrell nodded emphatically beside her.
He wiped the dust off his glasses as he explained further. "What young Abigail means is that we can prove it right down to a molecular level. I am quite looking forward to showing this evidence in court. It will be a record breaking day when the testing we have developed is accepted as fact by the judicial system." The two shared a smile as they turned to the director, Abby jumping slightly as she remembered something.
"Oh, let me give you back the test samples." With a look of apology to Kate, Abby handed back the three pages they had hidden to prove to Hayes the possibility that he had been duped. Tom Morrow folded two of the pages carefully and placed them in the inner pocket of his jacket. The third he handed to Kate.
"I believe you have earned this, Agent Todd." Kate accepted the paper with a wide smile and looked at DiNozzo, bouncing slightly on her heels.
"Thank you so much, Director. I will enjoy it so very much." Behind them, Hayes observed, realizing just how different the two agencies were. Morrow watched Hayes out of the corner of his eye. The man was beaten, but still trying to hold onto a few scraps of dignity. Morrow almost felt sorry for the man, but couldn't quite muster enough compassion to truly care.
The combined teams escorted Hayes into MTAC later that day. He noticed that McGee was given a hero's welcome and escorted to the best seat in the house to watch the take down of Stephanie Bolton as she waited on Cebaco Island for the private plane carrying the bearer bonds. A Navy Seal team was hiding in the jungle, ready to take her into custody and satellites beamed the entire event back to the screens in MTAC. The door behind Hayes opened back up as Director Jamison was ushered in to sit next to him. Neither man said a word as the image showed a seaplane landing in the shallow water.
The pilot was obviously skilled at water landings and brought the plane up onto the sandy beach with no difficulties. Once he killed the engine, a figure stepped out of a nearby shack; it was a woman with short brown hair and brown eyes. Back in MTAC, Gibbs turned to McGee who was already running the facial recognition program, using the images the FBI had captured before she had caught a flight using her undercover name and identification.
The computer program dinged and McGee turned to the others in the room. "It's her; we have a positive match." Next to him one of the MTAC technicians relayed the positive ID to the waiting Seals. The aerial view from the satellite showed the Seals moving into place as she stepped closer to the airplane, unaware that her plans had been discovered. The pilot handed her a large satchel and waited for his reward for delivering the merchandise. None of the watchers back in the Navy Yard were surprised when his reward was comprised of a single shot to his head, but they were surprised at how easily she drew her weapon.
The Seals swarmed the beach and quickly surrounded her and the plane. The relays from the microphones worn by the Seals echoed as they repeatedly ordered her to stand down, to drop her weapon, to give it up. Two hundred million dollars may be able to buy a person a great deal, but not invincibility as Stephanie Bolton found when she tried to outgun an entire Seal Squadron
In the anticlimactic moments afterwards, MTAC was uncharacteristically quiet. After the days of hurt and uncertainty, the woman they had come to hate had taken the easy way out, taking with her any knowledge of unknown accomplices as they all turned to stare at Director Jamison. He stood, methodically brushing unseen lint from the lapel of his designer suit. "I will be expecting the return of the satchel with all due speed."
Instead of answering him, Tom Morrow nodded at the technician to his right. The man returned the nod and pulled up another image on the screen. "Mr. Secretary, sir, I assume you saw all of that?"
The Secretary of the Navy was an imposing man, especially when he filled an entire screen. "A well planned out operation, Director Morrow, congratulations to you and your people. Director Jamison, the satchel will remain in the custody of the Navy until such time as Director Morrow tells me his investigation is complete. Then NCIS will return the satchel and its contents to the General Accounting Office. After all, the money involved wasn't actually part of your agency's operating budget. I'm sure you can understand that. Good day, gentlemen." His image blinked out and Jamison stormed towards the door, Hayes at his heels. Gibbs stepped forward, blocking their path.
"It must be very embarrassing. We're such a small agency, bottom of the ARMFED food chain and all that, heck our annual operating budget would only be a line item in that big budget of yours." Gibbs couldn't help but to smirk as he cleared the path for the angry man, now speaking to his back as he left MTAC. "I'm sure next year's budget hearings will be very entertaining, but what I'm not sure of is how your political cronies will take this."
Jamison spun around, shoving Hayes back when the other man ran into him. "This isn't over, Agent Gibbs!"
It was DiNozzo that answered him. "Oh, I think it is. After all, what can you do about it? Complain to Homeland Security that we stopped your agents from stealing money?" Without a comeback, Jamison settled for trying to slam the door behind him. Unfortunately, the hydraulics used to control the heavy security doors made even that impossible. Once the doors had finally closed, Fornell cupped his ear with his hand and made a show of listening for something.
"Did you hear that? I do believe it's the sound of someone's political clout fluttering away. Take care of yourself, you dragonslayer." He clapped a puzzled Gibbs on the back before heading out, himself.
By unspoken agreement, the entire group ended up at Guffy's after leaving headquarters, even Director Morrow stopped in for a drink before heading home. The manager took one look at the size of the group and opened up the banquet room for their comfort and his sanity. Most of the wait staff had heard rumors about what had happened to the young agent the rest of the group was fussing over and were eager to serve the boisterous group. Ducky fussed at first when Tony handed Tim a beer, but the younger man reminded the doctor that his pain pills were still at Gibbs' home and he hadn't had one since before the shootout. Once that was settled, DiNozzo turned to Kate to ask the question he had been dying to ask ever since that moment in the observation room.
"So, Katie, tell us exactly how you knew she got him to sign off on the money transfer? I believe it had something to do with prior knowledge of the method." She blushed and the entire room quieted down to hear the story.
After glaring at DiNozzo, which did no good, she resigned herself to the facts and began to tell about the events leading up to her senior prom.
"Okay, my last year of high school I worked at this really nasty fast food place. The manager's daughter was trying to steal my boyfriend so she convinced her dad to not let me have the day of the prom off from work. He was getting transferred to the corporate office the day after the time off requests had to be turned in, so I couldn't wait for his replacement."
DiNozzo wouldn't admit it, but he was impressed with her ingenuity and spunk. "So you slipped your request in with a bunch of other papers he had to sign, right? You never got caught?"
"Nope I didn't get caught," Kate paused to finish her drink. "The new manager just expected all the high school kids working there to have the night off and he scheduled the adults to cover the shift."
Gibbs leaned forward and tapped his beer bottle against Ducky's ale mug. "Good thing she's on our side." Both old friends watched in amusement as a rapidly fading McGee was hugged by Abby and kissed by Connie from the financial department. "Looks like it's somebody's bedtime."
"Come on, kiddo, you're going to stay at my place a few more days." McGee was a little unstable when he stood, but Gibbs didn't call him on it. It might have been the three beers, it certainly could have been the exhaustion catching up with him, and it was even possible that the multiple lipstick marks on his face showed the cause. Whatever it was, Gibbs knew that Timothy McGee had earned it.
The two men were quiet during the drive, exhaustion and contemplation compelling the silence. When they were in the driveway, Gibbs pulled a card out of his pocket and handed it over. "Director Morrow gave me this for you. This doctor specializes in treating people who have been hurt in ways like you were. Whenever you're ready I'll drive you, all right?"
McGee swallowed hard as he read the information on the card. Deep down he knew that he would need more help than just his team to fully recover, and this gentle reassurance that it was alright to need that extra help lifted a burden he didn't realize he was carrying. "Thanks, Boss. I'm not quite there yet, but when I am, you'll be the first, well, second one to know." He tapped the card as he spoke before sliding it into his pocket.
The cracked door frame was a stark reminder of what had occurred in his home. Gibbs propped the door closed as best he could without drawing too much attention to what he was doing. They both deliberately didn't look at the bullet holes as they made their way through the house. Gibbs delivered him to the downstairs bathroom. "Tomorrow, if you're up to it, I'll help you get up the stairs and you can have a soak in the tub. Down here's only a shower."
"Actually right now that sounds kind of good." The forced enthusiasm wasn't reflected in his face and Gibbs placed both of his hands on Tim's shoulders to look at him closely.
"You sure, kid?"
McGee sighed. "No, but I've got to face it sometime and I'm pretty sick of sponge baths." He straightened and began to remove his jacket and tie. Gibbs watched for a moment to make sure he was now steady on his feet before moving out of the small bathroom. He took the stairs two at a time to the room at the end of the hall where he stored all the useless things he had been given over the years. In the back of the closet he found the heavy, oversized terrycloth robe one of his ex-wives had given him. He ripped off the tags as he came back downstairs.
By the time Gibbs tapped on the door and let himself in, McGee was in the shower. The sound of water echoed loudly in the small tile covered room. "You doing okay in there?"
"I'm okay, Boss."
Unconvinced by the shaky voice, Gibbs hitched his hip up on the countertop and began to tell stories about his days in boot camp, his first encounter with KP duty, and his first time on leave at a wild Singapore nightclub, anything to help drown out the sound of that damn water. Just as he was afraid he was going to run out of funny stories the water turned off.
"Thanks, Boss." McGee sounded drained and looked like a drowned rat. He reached for the towel next to Gibbs, but instead Gibbs eased him into the robe and tied it around his waist.
Gibbs could feel Tim trembling with the effort of holding it together and decided to end the charade right then. He picked up the towel and gently dried Tim's face and hair as if he were a child, all the while easing him closer. Once he had Tim's forehead resting on his shoulder, he wrapped his arms around him, encouraging him to let go. "Easy, Tim, I've got you. It's all right, let it go, that's it."
When the sobs came, they were silent, as Tim clung to Gibbs. The older man let himself be the anchor, murmuring nonsense until the storm passed. As the weight on his shoulder increased, Gibbs walked him to the hospital bed and eased him into it. Tim was asleep before his head was on the pillow. He watched the younger man sleep, brushing his hair back, until he seemed completely settled. Only then did Gibbs retreat to the kitchen to pull down a bottle of the good stuff he kept hidden away. Once he had a glass poured, he wandered through his home, taking a good look at the damage caused when Byers had attacked McGee and Ducky. The medical examiner had told him enough details for him to determine which bullets came from Byers and which ones had been fired by McGee, but even without that information, the differences were clear. The wild, indiscriminate shots came from the rogue agent intent on covering his own crimes, while the careful, successful shots came from a well trained agent in control of his actions.
His musings were interrupted by sounds of distress coming from McGee's room. Gibbs rushed back in before the nightmare woke him. "Easy, Tim, easy." Gibbs smoothed the blankets as the nightmare faded away, speaking once again before sleep retook the young agent. "You did good, kid. I'm proud of you."
a/n - Well you've made it all the way to the end of this monster, thank you. I hope you found it an enjoyable read. Thank you for all the wonderful feedback, let me know how you liked this now that it's finished. Some of you may be upset that Hayes and/or Jamison weren't led away in handcuffs. I considered it for quite a while, but in the game known as DC, this was a more painful punishment - this loss of power. Who knows. I may visit with them again, do you think they'd be happy to see Gibbs and co? Over the weekend I will start posting my next story. It will be a wild, fun romp and I hope you will enjoy it. After that will be the long awaited sequel to the Tarot Twins. Stay tuned