The Changing of the Guard
AN: Late (as always) but for the numbers character challenge we completed. Since I kept the charts, I had a couple of friends choose numbers that I would use to write stories for them. Bree chose numbers corresponding to Tony & TIm & this is what the muse came up with....
Spoilers for - Hiatus & brief mentions of circumstances in Bait, Kill Ari, and One Shot, One Kill
Gibbs was gone…
The three words replayed through McGee’s mind as if on an endless loop. McGee sat at his desk. Normally if not operating under his ‘Elf Lord’ persona, he’d be either working on his novel or marveling at the sleek, clean lines of his home set-up and wishing for something similar at work instead of the standard, government authorized cubies they all had. This evening found him staring at the monitor as it ran the custom made screen saver he’d programmed.
The end of their workday had been skewered by the man’s sudden departure, not to mention his giving his badge and Sig to Tony before leaving with Ducky. Semper Fi. Gibbs’ sure, confident voice had made the two little words seem like the most important order he’d ever given them before he’d turned and left them. Left them to Tony – a man he so obviously didn’t remember.
A smile briefly crossed his face as he thought about how much being forgotten must be bothering DiNozzo. The man had given him an endless amount of grief since he’d been permanently assigned to the team. McGee’s payback attempts never seemed to be quite as successful as Tony’s digs, name-calling and endless jokes. Never one to resort to holding grudges, Tim still had not forgotten any of what Tony had put him through and took a small amount of pleasure in the expressions he’d seen on the older man’s face upon hearing about Gibbs’ amnesia and hearing himself called by the wrong name.
“Oh no,” he whispered as the knowledge hit him that, at least temporarily, DiNozzo would now be his boss as leader of the MCRT. Rubbing his eyes tiredly, he considered transferring to another team, as a way to avoid the daily teasing he knew would be coming his way before nixing the option.
His two mind-sets argued with themselves. A part of him was convinced that giving Tony team leader authority was like opening Pandora’s box. Yet a smaller voice reminded that Tony had already been in charge a few times and, outside of an occasional nickname, had never strayed to his normal frat-boy persona until Gibbs was back in control of the team. McGee thought back to when Tony had been in charge at the base school. He’d been his own unique self, without a doubt, but had also been set on the outcome he wanted and no one, not Ziva, the director or the SWAT leader, would have been able to change his mind. Sure, he’d preened a bit about Gibbs calling him ‘boss’ and how it had been a movie that had saved the day but still, during the actual crisis, taking orders from Tony hadn’t really bothered him.
But to do it every day?
McGee’s head snapped up as he finally thought about the one detail he had completely forgotten. Tony was in charge of the team! He was the boss and not the senior field agent anymore! “That’s me now,” he whispered. “I’m the senior field agent.”
Rising from the chair, McGee wandered into the kitchen to pour glass of milk and grab a couple of cookies before moving to sit on his couch. As he munched the milk-soaked treat, he thought quietly about what type of senior field agent he wanted to be.
~ ~ ~
Tony DiNozzo sat on his large, overstuffed couch with a cold beer bottle and an open box of untouched pizza on his coffee table. He should have been physically exhausted after the events of the last week or so but the workout he’d done after leaving the office had energized him. He’d ordered the pizza as soon as he’d walked in his door, using the waiting time to shower and change into sweats and an old t-shirt. Comfort clothes and comfort food. Yet his gut churned and his mind reeled, refusing to allow him the peace he craved.
The last two words Gibbs had spoke…well, now technically, that wasn’t completely true, Tony thought. Unless of course he put the qualifier in that they were the last two words Gibbs had spoken to him. But which him?? Coming off the elevator, Gibbs hadn’t known who he was - or so that was how it appeared. Had the Boss done that on purpose to throw off his team? To keep them unbalanced, on edge like he always had done in the past?
No. This time Tony didn’t think it had been done on purpose. Well, on purpose, yes, but not on purpose in typical Gibbs’ fashion. Gibbs truly hadn’t known his name which made Tony wonder if Gibbs had even meant what he’d said as he handed over his badge and firearm.
You’ll do. It sounded more like a reluctant compromise than a ringing declaration of faith, of trust. And that was all that Tony had wanted from Gibbs over the last couple of years - his trust. He’d desperately wanted to be the one Gibbs looked to for backup on an op. But more often than not that had gone to either Kate or, more recently, Madame Director. He grimaced, silently admitting to himself that he’d wanted to be the one Gibbs turned to no matter what the situation.
But the man had left probably not even remembering his name and now Tony was saddled with running the team - a back door promotion that wasn’t even a real one. If Gibbs stayed gone, a point Tony wasn’t completely sure of, protocol and agency SOP said that the job of MCRT leader would be posted at least internally. He’d have to apply and interview for a position he’d already be doing with no guarantee of actually getting it. There were plenty of agents out there more qualified and with more experience than him. Add in his relationship with the director….Tony couldn’t help but feel that he shouldn’t even bother to apply if it came down to that.
But deep down he knew it wouldn’t reach that point. His gut told him that the boss would be back. That the book on the legend of Gibbs was not yet complete. All Tony needed to do was to take care of Gibbs’ people. To ensure that Abby was not completely devastated from watching Gibbs leave - even if temporarily. To see that Ziva was kept safely within the confines of the agency and not returned to face the wrath of Mossad and her family for choosing to kill her brother and saving Gibbs. To keep the director from becoming more of a stuffed shirt than she already had. To give Ducky an outlet for his stories until his normal listener returned. And to not allow McGee to return to the stuttering computer specialist he’d been when they first met him.
McGee was his most important task. The younger man would be the (temporary) senior field agent for the team. It was Tony’s job to ensure that McGee grew in the role, matured even more as an investigator and an agent than he had already.
Tony sighed and moved until he was reclining on the couch, pulling an afghan down more for comfort than for needed warmth. He’d have to make sure he got to the office early. It wouldn’t do for the team leader to come rushing in barely on time.
~ ~ ~
The elevator dinged and Tony DiNozzo exited the small space, a large tray of cups in hand. He’d already dropped off Abby’s first CafPow of the day. It had taken longer than he’d thought to extricate himself from the clingy lab rat. He’d have to remember to make more time for her in the morning if he was going to get into the bullpen when he’d planned. Moving towards their area, he immediately noticed that he wasn’t the first one there. McGee’s coat and pack were evident in his normal space.
First things first. Tony placed the tray of cups on the now empty desk and then dropped his own pack down in front of it. He turned just as McGee emerged from around a wall.
McGee was startled but quickly schooled his reaction to DiNozzo being in the office so early. It wouldn’t help his new resolve if he was unable to start off on the right foot immediately.
“Morning, Tony.” He spoke as he headed over to his desk.
DiNozzo reached over and pulled a cup from its holder before starting forward. “You know, McGee, was thinking last night that you need to change a few things now that I’m in charge.”
McGee sighed and bit his tongue, determined not to sink into the snarky trade-offs the way he usually did. He’d promised himself he’d support Tony however he could in his new role as team leader and, somehow, he was going to manage that.
“What’s that, Tony?”
“The senior field agent usually sits over there, Tim. I’ll help you get situated. But first - here. Thought you could use some coffee this morning.”
McGee’s jaw nearly dropped at the polite words and gesture from Tony. He looked up and accepted the large cup, not surprised to find the coffee just as he liked it. McGee couldn't help but wonder if the other man had come to the same realizations he had the night before. Taking a sip, he looked over at the desk area Tony referred to.
“Maybe I could help you get settled first, Tony.” He glanced over at the tray of cups. “After breakfast, of course.”
Seeing the confused look on Tony’s face, McGee gestured to the small box on his desk. “I brought donuts. They’ll go well with the coffee.” He opened the lid, offering his ‘new boss' first pick.
DiNozzo grinned and grabbed a sugary treat before reaching for his own beverage. They’d be ok. With time and careful attention, Gibbs’ team would be fine until the boss returned.