I know I've vanished for the past few months and I apologise so much for that! I've been really busy with real life and haven't really had time to write. This also means it's been forever since I looked at my other stories and so they probably wouldn't flow properly until I've re read them and the notes I've got written down for where I want them to go. I was in a writing mood though and so I've just started this to give you something to read while I figure out what I'm doing with the others.

This is based on something Ziva said in my first story, Exploding and Crushing, where she commented that McGee defended Tony's appointment as team leader while Gibbs was gone.

I also want to say a quick thanks to people that review my stories, up until now my internet has been really slow connecting and sending so I haven't been able to reply individually, but hopefully I can now if I have time!

And I know I have no right to this, but quick favour, if anyone has had a story deleted for anything could you please take a look at His Realisation for me? I've had a couple of people warn me any M stories could be in danger but I don't think it's very graphic at all, but then I have no clue what kind of content has been picked up on.

Having just been out on his break McGee strode down the corridor. The team was coping reasonably well considering. He wasn't sure if it just hadn't set in yet but in the week since Gibbs had left the team had continued to function. Sure it was different now, Tony hadn't quite mastered the art of being the all knowing leader, and agent Lee didn't quite fit, but they were coping. Tim stopped walking as a conversation floating around the corner caught his attention and interrupted his thoughts.

"I mean I get that he's been Gibbs' senior field agent and the team know him but DiNozzo a team leader? Disaster waiting to happen right?"

Tim frowned as he heard a snort of laughter and a noise of agreement, but didn't move forward just yet.

"Maybe it's just temporary you know? Until they can get someone else?"

This time the other person snorted, and McGee clenched his hands into fists as he listened to the reply.

"Maybe, I mean Gibbs did leave on short notice, they'll need time to find someone who comes close to his standard... bet McGee and David will be glad when they do."

It was at this point that McGee saw red and refused to stay silent any longer. Without even pausing to try and calm down he walked around the corner and fought the urge to glare at the two men standing there, wanting them to wonder if he had heard rather than making it obvious. It took an immense effort to keep his facial expression neutral but he thought he was managing it rather well considering the building fury he could feel moving through his body.

He felt his lips twitch slightly as the two men jumped and glanced at each other as they saw him approaching. Looking at them he realised he vaguely recognised them from around the building, from what he could remember they were both agents on Rollinson's team from the floor below, and were reasonably well liked.

He saw the uncertainty and awkwardness in their postures and the quick furtive glances they cast at his face to try and gauge his mood. Seeming to take the initiative the one on the right, he thought his name was Davies, offered a polite greeting.

"Nice to see you agent McGee."

His partner nodded his head in agreement, and mumbled something unintelligible.

"You too agents..." he trailed off with an apologetic look trying to project the politeness he knew he was famed for.

"Davies and that's Stinton." The agent provided, both him and his partner visibly relaxing slightly at the lack of hostility he was displaying.

"Sorry" McGee smiled slightly, trying to look friendly, " I'm sometimes really bad with names, it doesn't usually happen when I know someone well though."

He saw both agents nod and then frown slightly as they processed his words. Smirking to himself McGee continued.

"Of course I wasn't under the impression I knew the two of you that well at all, but you seem to be of a different opinion, so I apologise."

He saw them shift awkwardly and glance at each other before looking at him again,

"Agent McGee?" The obvious attempt at ignorance only fuelled the simmering anger and McGee gave a small predatory smile.

"It's just that from the conversation the two of you were having it seemed you thought you knew quite a bit about me, and how I was feeling."

He saw the undisclosed panic on their faces for a brief instant before they schooled their expressions and tried to look contrite.

"Agent McGee, we apologise..." Davies began to offer, and that was when McGee snapped.

"It's not me you should be apologising to" his voice was controlled but slightly raised, the uncharacteristic anger bursting forth in defence of his friend, his partner. "Agent DiNozzo is one of the most talented dedicated agents I have ever worked with, who taught me almost everything I know about doing this job, and I will not have you questioning my loyalty to him is that understood?"

He looked at them both and they quickly nodded,

"Yes he may behave like... well like DiNozzo, but that does not make him any less capable of leading this team. He's not Gibbs but that means nothing do you hear me? He is his own person with his own methods and as for coming close to Gibbs' standard?"

He paused making sure they were looking into his eyes so they could not doubt his sincerity,

"Agent DiNozzo does that. Every single time. There's not a man out there I would prefer to have my back and if while he's in charge he orders me to run into a burning building? I'll do that without a moment's hesitation, you know why?"

They both shook their heads minutely looking at him wide eyed,

"Because although I know he's going to order me to do some stupid stuff as a joke, It's DiNozzo, I know he would never, ever risk my life like that unless it was the only option... maybe not even then, and I know that he would do everything in his power to make sure I survived, and that he would be beside me every step of the way. If someone asked me to choose someone to entrust my life to Tony would be top of the list. Yes I'm going to joke with him, maybe question some things he does, but I will follow him to hell and back if he needs me to, he won't even have to ask. You got that?"

He looked between the two waiting for them to say something or turn and run. Davies cleared his throat before stepping forward.

"I... I really am sorry agent McGee. It's just from what I've heard..."

"Tony's an immature, irresponsible joker?"

Clearly debating whether it would be wise to answer that both Davies and his partner remained silent, so McGee continued.

"Because he is." He saw their heads jerk in shock. "That's just Tony. But you know what? That's only a part of Tony. Like the damn fine agent part, the loyal to a fault part, and the best partner, I could possibly ask for. "

"Again agent McGee we really are sorry, and we will apologise to agent DiNozzo..."

McGee interrupted them,

"No you will not, what you will do is never talk about my partner, my Boss like that again. He already knows what people are saying and he doesn't need it confirmed by two idiots who can't keep their mouths shut. You also won't be repeating this conversation to anyone, not even Tony, and if I hear you making any more comments about his lack of suitability to leadership I will pass on your opinions to the director and we'll see how she feels about you questioning her judgement, clear?"

They both nodded again and McGee smiled satisfied and calmed now that he had released all of the frustration.

"It was nice talking to you but my break's over... see you around."

He turned and started to walk away before another thought occurred to him and he grinned before turning back around. They were both still standing there looking mildly shocked and he smiled,

"One more thing." Both their heads snapped up and looked at him warily.

"I never presume to speak for agent David, but I think she agrees completely with me on this one, and if she hears you talking about DiNozzo like that?... Her anger takes a slightly different form. Just saying."

Grinning as he saw their faces pale at the implication he turned around and walked off. As he made his way back to the bull pen he thought over the last few minutes. He knew it was out of character for him to go off at someone like that but everyone on the team knew that the rumour mill had been buzzing and the whispered comments had been getting on McGee's nerves. He had seen Tony come back from wandering around the building looking slightly doubtful or insecure and knew he was starting to doubt his capability to lead. Everyone had been comparing him to Gibbs and in Tim's opinion that just wasn't fair. Tony though... Tony was starting to listen Tim knew and he didn't need idiots like Davies and Stinton to be walking around the building talking the way they had been. So far people had stopped when any of the team got close and they had just happened to be the unlucky pair to get all the frustration McGee had been building up unleashed on them.

He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't notice the director standing in the corridor until he almost bumped into her. He stopped just in time and quickly offered an apology.

"Sorry Ma'am, almost didn't see you."

"Quite alright McGee." He went to continue on his way but was stopped as she began talking.

"I'm glad you approve." He froze for a second, his cheeks colouring as he realised she had overheard his rant. He hastily offered an explanation.

"I'm sorry I went off at them Ma'am, but we've been hearing people talking all week and..."

His rushed explanation was interrupted as she offered a warm smile,

"If you hadn't done it I would have, but maybe not as eloquently."


"Just Director will be fine McGee, as I've told you before."

"Of course Ma'... Director." She smiled at him again.

"You did well sticking up for your partner agent McGee, thank you for defending my choice."

McGee smiled awkwardly and almost stayed silent, but couldn't help himself.

"With all due respect Director, it was a good choice, but in all honesty, I did that for Tony, even if he wasn't team leader I would still have done it, your choice didn't factor in. If you had appointed someone else and they had been commending that, I would still have said the same... well not exactly the same but made the same..."

"I understand agent McGee, and appreciate the honesty."

He coloured again as he realised he had been babbling nervously fearing he had over stepped the mark. He had no idea where the confidence to say all this was coming from, but suspected after a week of having his partner talked down, he just needed to get it all out in the open.

"Anytime Ma'... Director. If you'll excuse me?"

She nodded in agreement and he began to walk off, only to have her call after him,

"Agent McGee?" He turned,

"Ma'am?" He saw her shake her head in exasperation at the title that slipped out,

"If you would try to refrain from running into burning buildings it would be appreciated."

He grinned sheepishly.

"I'll keep that in mind Ma'am."

"If you would."

He smiled once more before walking off. As he did the realisation of what he'd just done caught up with him and he had to pause. Did he really care that much about Tony? He would never normally stand up to two other agents and the director like that, but his anger at how they were treating Tony had made him do it without a second's hesitation.

"Pro.. McGee!" The shout jolted him out of his thoughts and he looked up to where Tony was waving to him.

"Grab your gear, we got a case!" Ziva was already waiting to go while Lee was scrambling for her things. Tim quickly moved and grabbed his bag from its place next to Ton... his desk. Turning back around he saw Tony facing him, and it slipped out from force of habit without him even thinking about it,

"On your six Boss." He saw Tony pause for a second and look at him as if expecting him to take it back or to laugh it off. He continued as if nothing had happened though, making a move towards the elevator, prompting Tony to look away and do the same.

As they stood there and as Lee rushed in just as the doors closed, Tim thought he saw the slight loosening of the tension in Tony's shoulders and a slightly more confident posture take its place. He grinned slightly to himself, and vowed that he would do more to help Tony do this; after all it was his job as senior field agent to have his leader's six.

Director Shepard' s smile remained in place as she walked back to her office. She had heard McGee's comment and seen the rest of the Team's reaction to it. Had seen Agent Lee not really recognise the importance, seen Agent David pause for a moment and look between the two before giving a small smile. She had also seen Tony, staring blankly for a second waiting for McGee to take it back, and the small hopeful smile when he hadn't.

It wasn't until she sat down at her desk that something occurred to her and she picked up the phone.


"Yes Director?"

"Could you get the head of security up here for me please?"

She smiled at the immediate concern in her assistant's voice,

"Is everything okay Ma'am?"

"Yes Cynthia, I just need him to do something for me."

"Of course Ma'am."

The line disconnected, and she sat back in her chair, picking up one of the files on her desk and beginning to flick through. She was about two pages in when there was a firm knock on her door, before it opened.

"You wanted to see me Ma'am?"

She smiled once more as she put the folder back on the table.

"Yes, I need you to do something for me."

"Of course Director."

"I was wondering if it would be possible to remove some footage from the security archive."

She saw the man raise a brow slightly in confusion.

"You mean borrow a disk from the archive to review?"

"Not exactly. There was a... conversation that took place between a group of agents, and then between myself and another agent that I think everyone involved would prefer not to have been recorded."

She saw him shift uncomfortably not sure what to do.

"It's highly irregular Ma'am... and usually against policy."

"It's just a conversation in a corridor Stevens. You have my word that you would face no repercussions from it, and I would personally take care of a copy of the footage should it ever be needed."

He seemed to relax slightly but still seemed uncertain,

"Even so..."

"Would you feel better if I allowed you to watch the section of footage I am talking about? Make sure there is nothing else going on."

"Yes Ma'am... not that I think you are covering anything up Ma'am" He added hastily, "It's just that..."

"You have a responsibility to uphold?"

He nodded in agreement, relieved that she understood.

"Yes Ma'am. Now when did the...conversation take place?"

She moved away from her computer and allowed him to step round,

"About ten minutes ago, on the camera near the conference rooms."