Title: Six and Counting

Rating: T for swearing

Characters: Tony, McGee. Cameos by Abby, Ziva, and Ducky. Mention of Gibbs.

Warnings: None

Summary: ' "On your Six, Boss," McGee says quietly, and dares anyone to think that it was on accident.' Six times McGee announces he has Tony's six. . Gen/Friendship fic.

A/N: Just wanted to explore the change we see in McGee. By "Shalom", he seems pretty confident and comfortable with Tony. Also, I wanted to vent my EXTREME ANGER at Gibbs for ditching Tony in the proverbial Maui Hotel.

Shout out to my lovely Beta, my best friend and sister, who worked on this in the mist of a MAJOR HOMEWORK BACKLOG! If you're as in need of her major awesome skills as I find myself, you can find her here at live journal (.com/ )

Happy Reading!


"On your six, Boss."

The first time he says it, it's only one week after Gibbs had left them. Abby has been crying nonstop, Ducky refuses to open his mouth, and Ziva looks like she's dying to impale everyone and everything that has made it onto her black-list. As in, more than usual. And Tony? Tony is barely holding everyone together, stretched in a million different directions. He keeps calling McGee "Probie" on accident, before shaking his head like a wet dog and offering a terse "Sorry McGee." He is constantly moving, talking to the Director one moment, filing paperwork the next, bribing smiles out of Abby, baiting stories out of Ducky, slogging through interviews with IA, arranging the new TAD agent that everyone is dreading the arrival of. And of course, solving crime as impeccably as always.

Everyone freezes after he says it, slack-jawed. He slowly looks up to meet Tony's eyes almost defiantly, silently daring anyone in the room to think it slipped out by accident.

He is only afraid that he's made a terrible mistake for as long as it takes the tension to snap; Tony face splits into a wide smile, the first real one in days. Abby starts to cry again but these are loud tears, not silent sobs. She blubbers and clings to the new Senior Field Agent. Her words are barely audible, but he's almost certain he hears 'thank you.' Ziva mutters something vaguely uncomplimentary about the English language, but she does it with smiling eyes, while Ducky discreetly wipes at his own.

Tony doesn't say anything, just very gently cuffs McGee's head and gestures for him to smile. Dinozzo doesn't need to say anything. He knows exactly what McGee is telling him.

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The second time, he and Tony have their hands in the air and their guns on the ground. No one had thought that calm Skipper Knowles could ever be involved in the drug trade. Unfortunately, the good Skipper is interested in keeping that way, and isn't afraid to introduce his gun to anything that gets between him and that goal. Namely, Tim and Tony.

"Got your six, Boss." Tim mutters, because if anything is going to be his last words, those might as well be them, and Tony needs to hear it, besides.

Dinozzo sends an inscrutable look his way. "I know, Tim."

They don't die that day. They do come close.

Ziva shows up with the cavalry (consisting of basically her and enough weapons to staff a private army) and Tony uses this distraction to pull a knife out of somewhere and send it careening hilt first into the back of Knowles' skull.

McGee makes his first kill, a one of Knowles Cuban contacts who is aiming for the back of Tony's head. He later finds out that the knife was actually the team lead's belt buckle. Ziva is jealous and impressed and tries not to show it, and McGee knows exactly what his Christmas present will be.

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Tim is sitting in the hospital, listening to the beep of various monitors and shifting in his uncomfortable plastic chair. Tim is sitting there waiting for Dinozzo to wake up.

This time there had been no last minute save, and it had taken all of McGee's skills to pull him and his leader out alive. As for the unharmed part… He glances at Tony's bandaged and bruised form. It is a process.

It was rather stupid of him, McGee reflects, to not take into consideration Tony's massive propensity fro getting himself shot kidnapped, beaten, blown-up, or just generally mauled when formally accepting his position as Tony's SFA. Granted, the man had looked like absolute hell when he'd asked and it was against McGee's moral practices to refuse people who looked as if they'd fall flat on their faces it you so much as poked them.

It had been an inexcusable oversight to make. The fact that Tony managed to average more trips to the hospital than any other agent even with Gibbs around was a clear indicator that if the man needed a person that would reign him in. As that person, McGee decides that sometimes he hates both his moral code and oversights.

"I come bearing gifts." Abby announces. Her gifts consist of: a kiss on the cheek, coffee, a brown bag, what looked to be Ziva's report, and his brief case. "How is he?"

"Asleep." McGee answers with a sigh, glancing at the hospital bed's occupant. "Where's Ziva?"

"Bossman told her to process our guy. Before he passed out."

"Great. Can you tell her that she can take the rest of the day off, when she finishes?"

"You're staying?" It's phrased like a question, but it isn't, so he doesn't bother to answer. She smiles knowingly and gives him a farewell hug. "Call me when he wakes up."

McGee stares at his briefcase and sighs. He had never truly appreciated all the bureaucratic sludge that Tony had dealt with as Gibbs' second. And really, still does, because "You're a good agent, ex-probie, but you're still a bit green around the edges and more useful when you're not completely overwhelmed." He stares at the Agent lying obliviously on the bed and smiles, taking out some work and prepares to sit in the uncomfortable plastic chair for a while.

"Got your six, Boss." He informs his unconscious friend, even thought the other man should know this by now.

He does not imagine it when Tony smiles ever so slightly in his sleep.

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Tim is playing at Tony's old shoot-a-terrorist game. He is also beating Tony's high score. This will annoy Tony, which is Tim's primary (and favorite) job as SFA. Providing support and advice were only minor duties. Today is slow, anyway, and Tony's not even in yet. Their new TAD is.

Special Agent Lee. Honestly., Tim doesn't know what Tony sees in her

When he'd asked this very relevant question in a tone nowhere near bordering on 'you're a complete idiot, Boss,' Tony had just smiled and said, "She's moldable, McGee. Figure it out."

It hadn't taken long. Lee was nervous, Lee was hung up on protocol, she had spent the first several months of her NCIS career consulting with various teams, and she was as green as a vegetable garden. In short, she could be summed up in one word. Probie. And if she didn't change, she wasn't going to last long on any team, let alone the MRCT.

So McGee teases her, heckles her, orders her around, gives her the worst assignments. Generally abuses his authority, takes outrageous liberties. Anything to get her to snap back, loosen-up, and grow a spine, all the while gifting her with his still very limited knowledge of naval terminology, field work, and investigative process. Tony is way better at this than McGee is (a fact which he has only recently come to appreciate) but when Dinozzo catches him at it, all he does is shake his head and smile.

He hears Dinozzo's footsteps, and Tim quickly closes down the game and brings up something vaguely work-like in record time.

"Grab your gear, we've got a case. Ziva, take Probie-Lee with you to the shipyard and ask for a commander Tate. I want his alibi for 2300 last night. McGee, you're with me."

He snaps, "On your six, Boss" and loves it when that's the most natural thing in the world.

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their last case was shot completely to hell and everyone know it, so McGee decided to pay Tony's apartment a visit.

"How the hell do you know where I live?" In the first thing Dinozzo greets him with when he opens the door.

"Abby." It is a testament to tired Tony is that he even has to ask.

The second thing Tony says is, "Is that beer and 'Transformers?'"

Tony actually admits to the movie being good, and though he gleefully threatens to call McGee 'McOptimus Prrime' for the rest of eternity, the SFA considers the effort worth it.

"Thanks for coming, Tim. You didn't have to. I know I'm not a cheery guy right about now." Tony admits, a bottle of beer later.

"I'm your SFA, Tony." Tim replies. "And your friend. I wouldn't be here unless I wanted to be."

"Plus you know it was what Gibbs and I used to do after a tough case. Give or take the movie and a half-built boat." Tony's lips twitch upward, and he takes a sip of his beer. "Thought mostly it was my screw-ups we drank to, not his. '

"It wasn't your fault."

"It wouldn't have been Gibbs' fault."

"Well you're not Gibbs." Tony starts at McGee's harsh tone, and when he looks up, his eyes are raw and troubled. "And you shouldn't be. So what if you aren't Gibbs? No one wants you to be. Gibbs left, Tony. "

The you didn't is implied.

"That…" That's twice in a lifetime McGee's managed the impossible; stunning one Tony Dinozzo into speechless-ness. "That's… thanks, McGee."

"Got your six, Boss." Tim murmurs it like a reprimand and a declaration and a promise all at once.

Tony laughs, and the pain might not be gone, but it's mended for a while. "I'll drink to that."

A key to Tony's apartment and a bottle of bourbon show up on McGee's desk the next day. Accompanying them is a note.

McCepticon: Dinner, 2000. Hope you like Italian food. Bring the next movie.

It's not signed.

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Gibbs is back. Abby's muttering something about Tony taking a team in Rota, (he hadn't wanted to get to close to the emotionally turbulent Goth and it was difficult to pinpoint exact words over the sound of the guitarist being beat to death with his own instrument while the drummer spasm-ed in the background) but he knows it's a load of crock. Tony cares about Gibbs far too much. He's going to step down as team lead and give Gibbs his job back, and truthfully, Tim is as pissed as hell about it.

Gibbs had left them all, true, but mostly he had left Tony. With Gibb's team, and Gibb's responsibilities, and with a ludicrous undercover mission (that Tony thinks Tim doesn't know about). Gibbs left, and its far worse than anything Tony's own father could have done and the man knew it. He did it anyway.

Now the ex-marine suddenly wants everything back, including the abstracts like trust and loyalty, as if he hasn't stabbed Tony in the back enough. Tim is all for second chances, unless they happen to translate into 'New ways to screw over Tony Dinozzo.'

Tim finds Tony in the head, poking absentmindedly at his gelled hair. The agent is staring blankly into the mirror like it has somehow removed his capacity to emote.

"Did you accept the team in Span?" Tim asks causally. Ah, there's an emotion. Mock Disgust.

"Really, McGee? You think I would go to Spain? Well I have news for you, McOptimus. There are no blonds in Spain."

McGee makes an honest effort to look put out at the nickname.

"You're not going to convince me to change my mind." Dinozzo announces. "Gibbs is getting his job back."

"Doesn't mean I'm not angry about it. If it had been Lee who ditched us, you wouldn't be letting her back."

"Lee did ditch us, McGee. Apparently, Gibbs scares her. Your Probie is a paper pusher in the legal department now, my young protégé." Dinozzo turns to face him, looking incredibly earnest for someone who has the ability to talk the sky into being green. "About that, McGee. I'm not going to ask you to step down as Senior Field Agent. You've earned your spot."

"I'm your second, not Gibbs' " Tim tells him firmly. "Besides he'd probably end up killing me, at least we all know you can survive it without going crazy. –Er."

Dinozzo brushed the joke aside. "Are you sure? Tim-"

"On your six, Boss."

That's all that needs to be said.

My first foray into the NCIS fandom, so I hope it was a passable attempt. Feedback, especially constructive criticism, is ALWAYS appreciated!