Chapter 2

AN: I made another reference to The Cop and The Con. It's number 11-Story Time. I didn't mean to include so much of that series here. But it's worked out well.

"And I may have not told the whole truth about the college student thing." Neal admitted.

Kate and Tim nodded. It took them a moment to absorb what Neal had said about not graduating high school. That just couldn't be possible, there had to be more to it than that.

"I was Chance Howard at Harvard for about three months." Neal paused. He was enjoying their expressions. He knew Peter already knew about this. But he was not sure if Gibbs knew, and he was positive that Kate and Tim didn't.

Tim and Kate mouthed the word Harvard. They were very impressed, but they waited for him to continue.

"I…Tony was nice enough to let me stay in his dorm room." Neal explained.

"What?" Both Kate and Tim said, at once.

Gibbs just smiled. He had bothered to actually read Tony's file. He knew all about Tony's 'other' education.

"I stayed in Tony's room. He was working on his master's in criminology at the time. I just…I sat in on some of his classes actually. But I really spent most of my time in the art department. I had the instructors believing…." Neal remembered.

"Harvard…Tony…." Tim said, shaking his head.

"He had a double major at Ohio State, with a minor in criminology. Then he went to Harvard." Neal said, unbelieving. "I can't believe…didn't you two even look at Tony's personnel file?" He asked.

Neal shook his head. "Amazing…your file, Agent Todd, said you were a profiler. Was it wrong?" Neal didn't wait for an answer. "It would seem if you got to know anybody it would be your co-workers, especially in a job like this, where your life could literally depend on them." He then turned and looked at Tim. "And you, Agent McGee, an M.I.T. grad. I know you know your way around a computer keyboard. So you could have easily…." Neal then looked at the both of them in turn. He shook his head. "Never underestimated people, I'm surprised you haven't learned that. I know the image Tony portrays to the two of you. I know all about it."

Gibbs was smiling now. He loved the way that Neal was handling the situation. Gibbs knew he couldn't command Tim and Kate to respect Tony. That wouldn't work. But this may be just the thing to make them see what they're doing wrong.

"It was part of his teaching method. You two knew nothing about crime scenes and he knew Gibbs would eat you alive if you didn't know how to handle him." Neal glanced at Gibbs, and Gibbs grinned. Though Gibbs was surprised at how much Tony had told Neal. "Your individual training didn't teach you forensics. So…as smart as you may be and as 'qualified' as you may be, you still didn't know how to work a crime scene."

Peter could tell that Neal was determined to have his say. But being guest in D.C. and at NCIS, he didn't want to step on any toes. "Maybe, Neal, this is not the…."

Neal nodded, but then continued. "People think conmen have no respect for authority. That's not, at all, the case. I had every respect for the Agent Burke while he was chasing me. I knew what he could do if he caught me. I knew he was very good at his job, and I knew that he worked hard. And I even came to admire him after a while." Neal paused. "But my situation is a little bit different now. Peter, for all intents and purposes, is my boss. He's earned the position, and he deserves it. He moved up in ranks and became a leader while he hunted me. He's never given me a reason to question his commitment to our arrangement, or his commitment to me and my safety."

Peter wasn't sure where he was going with that, but he didn't speak.

Neal looked, pointedly at Kate and Tim. "Has Tony ever let you two down out in the field?" Neal paused for them to answer, though he already knew what the answer would be. "I already know the answer, so you don't have to say anything. And I would have expected people who are superior and professional to act that way. They should be able to accept authority, not matter what it looks or acts like, and work with it. That's what…professionals do."


END NOTES: I'm cutting it off here because I don't think that there is anything that Tim or Kate can say to that. Neal's got them. I hope you enjoyed. JackiLeigh