Disclaimer: I own nothing!
A/N: Okay, so I know it's been a while since I posted, but I hope that you enjoy this short one-shot. It could be very loosely connected to my Family series, but it is absolutely not necessary to have read those first. Even so, if I had to pick a spot for it, I'd put it somewhere after Do You See Him but before Stranded.
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2:30 a.m. - Somewhere in Washington D.C.
Picking the lock wasn't difficult. At least, if wouldn't have been if he hadn't needed to be absolutely silent whilst doing it. But, while silence wasn't something he had been taught to keep up during this particular activity, he had foreseen the necessity and practiced accordingly.
Pressing up slightly on the handle, he eased the door open carefully keeping pressure off the hinges. It made not a sound.
He was cool as a cucumber as he crept – as ever – silently into the seemingly innocuous suburban house. It would be difficult to guess that this nicely kept, white-picket-fence home was owned by a very dangerous man.
The intruder inhaled quietly, inching forward, gently testing the wooden floor-boards for any give. He couldn't afford to have a squeaky floor give him away. His heart-beat thundered in his ears, but he kept his breathing steady, sure.
He was in.
The stairs presented a challenge. The target was slumbering upstairs, ignorant – hopefully – of his early morning guest. Stealthily, the operative navigated the tricky obstacle. He kept his head, focusing forcefully on his mission. He would not – could not fail.
He had been here before – on stressful missions where one false move would most definitely compromise the entire operation. He had been entrusted with matters of National Security (with capital letters).
This mission, however, was more than just duty; it involved his professional and personal pride.
Finally, he crested the top step. He paused, beating back his impatience. Rushing would only lead to mistakes. Mistakes he could not afford.
Taking his time, he worked his way into the master-bedroom.
He grinned – and immediately tamped down on his elation. He wasn't out of the woods yet. It was, however, an excellent omen that his target was still sound asleep. Tip-toeing ever closer to his target, the intruder finally came into range of the closest night stand. One of a set – very nice, maybe oak.
He congratulated himself on the very normal observation in such a stressful situation. With steady hands, he set down his package on the table and backed out of the room.
It was only once he'd made it back out the door without raising alarm, that he allowed himself a proper smile.
Wednesday, August 3rd, 8:15a.m. – NCIS Headquarters
"I did too!"
"He says he did," Ziva interjected. "Why can you not take him at his word?"
"Because we're talking about McGeek, here, Ziva," Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo exclaimed. He turned to the man in question obstinately. "There is no way you made it all the way up to Gibbs' room without him hearing you. The man has like super senses or something. He always hears you coming."
"Don't need 'super senses' to hear you coming, DiNozzo." Gibbs' gruff comment had all three agents spinning around to confront their boss.
McGee very wisely kept his mouth shut. Better to let Tony work this one out on his own. He bit back a smug smile.
"Boss, come on, you can't honestly say you didn't hear McGeek break into your house last night!" Tony gesticulated wildly for emphasis. "Tell me you didn't!"
"Nooope." The gray haired agent drawled his denial, leveling a bemused stare in McGee's direction. "That explains it," he added softly.
"Explains what?" Ziva prompted, unabashedly reveling in Tony's humiliation. McGee had done it – what Tony could absolutely not. He had snuck up on Gibbs. Ziva herself was above such petty games – she didn't need to sneak into Gibbs' house to prove she could catch him unawares, but it was nice to see Tony up-oned by McGee. It was becoming a rather frequent occurrence.
"Found a book on my night stand this morning. Wondered where it came from." Gibbs turned back to McGee, staring at the younger agent as he leaned against DiNozzo's desk. "You want that back, McGee?"
"Naw, you keep it, Boss," McGee answered debonairly. "You might even like it."
"One of yours, is it?"
McGee just smiled, pushing away from Tony's desk.
Tony would probably grumble and fuss and whine about the whole thing for the rest of the month, but when it came lunch time, Tim knew who'd be buying. And, yeah, Tony was an inventive and irritating complainer, but this?
This was so worth it.
Wednesday, August 3rd, 9:07a.m. – Gibbs' Office
Tony stared thoughtfully at the shiny walls of Gibbs' adopted office. Tony had always preferred bathrooms or broom closets for clandestine meetings. He didn't really have a problem focusing in a little metal box, suspended many feet from the ground, but – well, he preferred bathrooms or broom closets for clandestine meetings.
"Well?" Tony prompted. Gibbs' silence was beginning to wear. "How'd he do, really?"
"Better than you, your first time."
"What, really?" Tony looked hard at his boss. "Naw, you're just screwing with me."
"Well I –'
"Living room throw rug."
"Yeah, well, you were younger then. A lot younger."
"You calling me old, DiNozzo?"
DiNozzo very quickly denied the accusation. Old geezer or not, Gibbs' patented glower still terrified him – on occasion.
"You think Rikers heard?" After all, that, really, was the whole point of the bet. Tony was taking the next week off. While he was gone, Jeremy Rikers would be serving on Gibbs' team – officially a personalized 'punishment' from Director Vance. Tony wasn't one-hundred percent on who exactly the Director thought he was punishing. He was familiar, however, with Jeremy Rikers – the bully type, through-and-through.
Lazy. Disrespectful. Arrogant. Slimey so-and-so.
Gibbs would still terrify him. Ziva could take care of herself. Ducky was so much tougher than he looked. Palmer was clever enough to stay out of the line of fire (Tony would have a word with Abby about that, before he left). And nobody messed with Abby. Period.
Well, Tim was an excellent agent. He was coming into his own quite nicely. The younger agent did, however, still have a rather unfortunate condition. It seemed that his back bone only surfaced when pushed across the line. And Tony – and Gibbs – were the only people allowed to do that.
Hence Tony's Very Clever Idea.
Gibbs snorted in response, sending Tony a pointed look.
"Well, okay, of course he did." Tony grinned a bit sheepishly. "So, mission success! Rikers will most assuredly show McSneak the proper amount of respect while I'm gone."
Tony's grin faded when Gibbs' hand did not instantly move toward the elevator's control panel. Crap.
"You don't need to coddle him DiNozzo." Tony winced, but Gibb's continued bluntly. "Probie's all grown up. He could've handled Rikers."
"So'm I, Boss." Tony stated, hoping to put his mentor on the back-foot. "Why haven't you stopped coddling me?"
"You think I coddle you, DiNozzo?" Gibbs' tone was full of gruff warning.
Never mind that playful gleam in his Boss's eye – Tony still had three days before his plane left Saturday morning.
"You know what I mean, Boss." Tony firmly grasped his foot, trying not to choke as he worked it out of his throat. "You're always getting me out of trouble."
"You're always getting into trouble."
"And McGee isn't?"
"You don't let him."
"Sometimes you gotta learn-"
"By experience." It was Tony's turn to sigh. "I know, Boss."
And he did.
But, still. Rikers was – Rikers was almost as inventive as DiNozzo. Only his practical jokes weren't carefully thought out life-lessons, but targeted cruelty. It was about more than just protecting Tim from this guy – Tony didn't want the younger agent to start making comparisons.
Tony couldn't afford for McGee to start seeing him as the enemy – again. He couldn't-
"Give McGee some credit, DiNozzo." Gibbs used his head-slapping hand to punch the emergency stop button. "He's earned it."
And he had.
Really, Tim had listened and heard Tony – despite all his ramblings and juvenile pranks. Really, with that spine of his, McGee wouldn't put up with nearly as much crap as he did if he didn't get Tony.
If he didn't trust him.
"Gotcha, Boss," Tony responded, rubbing his head. He couldn't find it in him to complain, though.
Gibbs' head slaps always worked wonders on his thought process.
A/N: This is my first post in a very looong time, so reviews would be doubly welcome. Thanks for reading!