Animals and Myself
First and foremost, thanks to everyone for your reviews, I appreciate the feedback. As always, I have no proprietary claim on either BTVS or NCIS. Nor do I have any claim on the poem 'You, Darkness' by Rilke which is the source of the chapter titles.
ANIMALS AND MYSELF
At the sound of a voice she didn’t know; Ziva’s head snapped up even as her hand blurred down to her gun. Time seemed to slow down for her and she took in everyone’s reactions while her body was on autopilot. Tim just looked even more confused than before as his eyes darted everywhere except in the direction of the threat. Tony was mimicking her reactions; his was just a touch slower than hers, Ziva thought with a hint of pride. One big surprise was Gibbs. Her boss just continued to sip his coffee, as though there was no problem but the tightening of the forehead and the subtle wince told Ziva that Gibbs was mentally kicking himself for making such a rookie mistake.
As the maintenance guy’s face came into view, Tony knew that it was Harris. It wasn’t the face’s shape or the hair color or even the eye patch; no, it was the strange little half assed grin that he was wearing. It perfectly matched the one in the picture of Harris that he had; actually it matched the look any kid might have when he pulled something over on an adult. Tony realized that his hand was still going for his gun, almost of its own volition; because Harris had not stopped moving. Harris had to realize that surprising a bunch of armed law enforcement types was an invitation to become Swiss cheese but the guy was just casually stripping off his coveralls. As DiNozzo’s gun was coming up, even as part of his brain was making sure that it wasn’t fired, the rest of his brain was wondering if their new probie was flat out crazy.
McGee felt even worse than he had before. When the voice spoke, it had taken him seemingly forever to not only locate but identify. Once he did figure out what was going on and was going for his gun he realized that Ziva’s was already covering the guy and that Tony’s wasn’t far behind. He’d been working on his field skills, working hard; but right now he realized just how far he still had to go. Other than self recrimination, the one thought that went through McGee’s head was that considering the color of the shirt Harris was wearing, it was no wonder the man had worn coveralls.
Gibb’s could almost feel the smack of Mike’s hand on the back of his head, he was too old and too experienced to make such a bone headed mistake. Knowing that the others had Harris covered, he turned to look at his new pain in the ass. He was about six two, with messy brown hair and a chocolate brown eye. He was well muscled although it was hard to tell due to the baggy clothes he was wearing. He was dressed in a t-shirt and old fatigue pants with an eye searing Hawaiian print shirt over all and combat boots, boots that looked as though they may have actually walked across Africa. The thing that struck Gibbs, though; was the man’s casual air. He had to know that there were at least two guns pointed at him, but he looked just as calm as if he were simply standing in a line at McDonald’s. “What should we ask,” Gibbs calmly inquired.
Harris’ grin widened just a bit. “Well, you all obviously have questions and here I am, so ask away.”
“That was the official conclusion of both the local and state police.”
Gibbs realized that the way Harris had answered the question told him more than the kid was probably allowed to. Gibbs wondered if it had been intentional and as he paused for a second considering all of the ramifications of that answer when DiNozzo blurted out, “Your eye?”
“Right before Sunnydale became a crater a crazy serial killer who dressed like a minister showed up in town. One of his targets was my best friend’s girlfriend. I stopped him from killing her but he gouged out my eye as a way of saying ‘Thank You’.”
Everyone winced at the thought and McGee even looked a little sick at the story. Typically, Ziva recovered first and asked, “And he is . . . .”
“Fertilizer,” Xander replied coldly.
“Anya Jenkins?” McGee asked and Gibbs saw a wince of pain when her name had been spoken.
“She died when Sunnydale collapsed.”
“We owned a business, The Magic Box. Everyone knew something was up, the whole town was evacuating. We were on our way out when Anya realized that she’d left some rather important papers at the Magic Box and went to get them. She thought she had enough time to get what she needed and get out, but things went faster than we had thought.”
“Where were you?”
“Driving a friend who had been hurt by one of our local crazies to the hospital in Oxnard. The man had been practically gutted.”
“Why the delay?”
“We wanted to confirm things, she’d survived so much that we had to make sure that she was really gone. So some colleagues retrieved the body. That’s when her name was added to the list.”
“The guy you took to the hospital?”
Gibbs eyes flicked briefly to DiNozzo and he was quickly tapping away as Gibbs turned his attention back to the man in front of him. “The two girls?”
“You mean my daughters,” Xander asked.
“I suppose,” Gibbs replied
“I ran across them at different times in Africa. They were both in bad situations but legally I couldn’t just take them, so to smooth things over I became their official guardian and eventually adopted them both. Mchumba was originally from Botswana and Lalani was from the Sudan.”
“My computer,” McGee asked before Gibbs could launch into another series of questions. It earned him a glare, but he really wanted to get Abby off of his back.
“I am sorry,” Xander replied.
“Well you should be,” McGee shot back with a bit of whine in his voice.
“No,” Xander corrected with a smirk. “The password is ‘iamsorry’. I’m not sorry it happened. You went sniffing in places that you shouldn’t have and got burned. If you hadn’t done something illegal then it wouldn’t have tripped on you,” Xander replied, clearly unrepentant. “You’ve probably heard of the Wisp, well that’s who handles our cyber security so you might want to tread lightly in the future.”
McGee paled, looked like he was going to say something a couple of times and then just turned away and was quickly on the phone to Abby while Xander turned his attention back to the others.
“Why were you working on your desk, I mean aside from being able to hear what we were talking about,” Ziva asked.
“On a desk, that seems a bit excessive,” DiNozzo chimed in as he handed the file on Robin Wood to Gibbs.
“When you are one of the top members of an organization that’s a mystery to the CIA, DIA, MI6, Mosad and every other intelligence agency in the world you have to be a bit more cautious than your average bear. No even bothering to mention how cautious I am after surviving ten years in Africa with next to no backup. If I’d put a work order through normal channels with my name on it, by the time the work was done I’d have more bugs in this desk than a bait shop. The upgrades needed to be done and it gave me a chance to see how you all work without putting on a show for my benefit. And I now also know what you people know about me so I can be sure what I can and can’t talk about.”
“That’s pretty damned paranoid,” Gibbs observed.
“Perfect paranoia is perfect awareness,” Xander quoted.
“Ahh, Stephen King,” DiNozzo said, recognizing the quote.
“Not his best work, but it yielded some good things,” Xander shot back. Then looking at the four of them he asked, “Anything else?”
“Yeah, just what are you doing here?”
“Well, my boss decided that our organization was just being reactive.”
“That’s the NSWC?”
“What’s that stand for.”
“Sorry, that one’s classified,” Xander smirked again then picked up his story. “Of the available personnel, I was chosen to learn how to make our organization more proactive. You know, squash trouble before trouble starts and explain to the troublemakers why what they’re trying to do is bad. Anyway, it seems as though your group here has quite the reputation so I was assigned here to learn how to do what you all do. That and set up things like intelligence networks and what not, but mostly how to sift information for the important stuff and then see the pattern to it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna get my stuff and start to get settled in.”
As Harris was walking away, Gibbs called out; “What kind of trouble does your group deal with?”
Xander paused at the elevator, obviously thinking. Finally he called back, “You familiar with Rwanda?”
“Heard anything about it lately?”
“Ever wonder why that is,” Harris replied with a smirk as the elevator door closed.
They just looked at each other for a second; not really believing what Harris had suggested could possibly be true. Gibbs was the first to come out of their little group trance. He turned to Tony, “DiNozzo, why don’t you go see if he needs any help.”
“On it Boss,” Tony replied. He’d caught the unvoiced, ‘and snoop as well’ command that Gibbs had issued.
As he hurried off, Gibbs turned to the other two members of his team. “Was there any other information that you all had that didn’t get shared?”
“No,” Ziva replied immediately. “I was quite thorough and left no unturned stones.”
Gibbs mentally translated this, then asked; “And your father was the only one that came up with anything?”
“Anything beyond the basics, yes,” she nodded emphatically. It had bothered her that her usual sources had been so frugal with the details, but that happened sometimes. And from what he had said, Harris went out of his way to be as anonymous as possible. “I would suggest contacting someone at the CIA, but I doubt they would have much more than my father did.”
“I’ll keep it in mind,” Gibbs replied, then turned to McGee. “When Harris said “Wisp” you looked like you were having a heart attack McGee, why is that?”
“The Wisp is a legend in the hacker community. Whoever it was could do the most impossible hacks you could ever dream of,” McGee replied with a bit of hero worship in his voice. “So far as anyone can tell, the Wisp is still out there and has never been caught. It was thought that whoever it was gave it up, but every now and then someplace with insane security will crash and burn and the Wisp’s name will always come up in the chat.” McGee leaned forward on his desk, becoming more animated. “There are a lot of hackers who believe that the Wisp is like 'Keyser Soze’, a phantom or hacker spook story, that there couldn’t possibly be someone out there who’s that good. But for Harris to claim that that is who’s doing the security for his group would tend to confirm that the Wisp really does exist. That’s very exciting to me.”
“I can see that McGee, Gibbs almost snarled. “What I want to know is , can you find out anything else?”
“Probably not boss,” McGee replied. “I got by with what amounts to a slap on the wrist, if I go looking again and get burned then it’s gonna get ugly.”
“Because I’m just not that good, and warnings tend to increase in severity, so that the next time it will be a lot worse than just a password.” Tim finished, but Gibbs could see that the young man was still troubled.
“Anything else McGee?”
“Well boss,” McGee started. “I’m wondering if we should stand down a bit.” Seeing Gibbs expression hardening he continued. “Harris is supposed to be one of the good guys, nothing we’ve found says otherwise. Yeah, he might be dangerous, but I honestly don’t think he’s dangerous to us. And yeah, he has secrets in his past, but all of us do, don’t we? So I’d suggest we sit back and take a wait and see attitude and if it starts to look like something from his past is gonna bite us in the ass, we ask him what’s going on. If he stonewalls then, we should know more about him by then so that we could do a more focused search and ask the right people instead of shooting in the dark and hoping we hit something.”
Gibbs glared at the young agent for a few moments but McGee metaphorically stood his ground. Reluctantly Jethro had to admit that McGee had a point and that charging head first at Harris would probably do more harm than good. He was impressed that McGee had suggested a course of action that wouldn’t be popular but was probably the right way to do things and had then stood behind his beliefs. Yeah, Gibbs was impressed, but that didn’t mean he had to led McGee know it. He just intensified his glare for a moment or two and then just grunted and turned away. He caught a thoughtful look on Ziva’s face and realized that McGee’s suggestion had her thinking about her approach to Harris as well.
Just then the elevator chimed releasing Harris and DiNozzo on an unsuspecting world. “Seriously, what have you got in here Harris, and anvil or two?”
“Quit whining Tony, those are just my weapons. I’ve got all the heavy books and stuff, you got the light load.”
“It doesn’t feel light,” DiNozzo grumped as he adjusted an old army duffel bag on his shoulder. From his expression Gibbs could tell that Tony was worried about what the bag was doing to his suit.
Harris set down a large box and a laptop case next to his desk and took the duffel off of DiNozzo. “Thanks Tony,” he said.
“What have you got in there,” McGee asked as he watched Harris undo the top of the bag and open it up.
“Just the basics,” Xander replied as he started to pull weapons out of the bag. His new team mates just stood there in clear astonishment as he pulled out five pistols, three knives a shotgun and axe and . . . .
“Is that a sword,” Ziva asked.
“Yeah,” Xander replied. “It’s a replica of a roman gladius that a friend had made for me.”
DiNozzo looked at the array of weapons and asked what was on everyone’s mind. “Don’t you think that all this is kind of overkill?”
Xander turned to him with the devil’s own grin, “There’s no such thing.”