Title: Finding the Middle Ground
Spoilers: seasons 1-6
Warning: image heavy
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or this show. I do not make money off of them.
NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Services. NCIS is a federal agency designed to investigate crimes involving Navy and Marine personal. NCIS revolves around one specific crime scene investigation team.
The Main Characters
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs - Senior Field Agent
Special Agent Anthony (Tony) DiNozzo - Field Agent under Gibbs
Special Agent Caitlin (Kate) Todd- Field Agent under Gibbs (seasons 1-2)
Special Agent Ziva David- Field Agent under Gibbs (is NCIS liaison with Mossad)
Special Agent Timothy McGee - Field Agent under Gibbs
Doctor Donald (Ducky) Mallard - Medical Examiner
Abigail (Abby) Sciuto - Forensic Scientist
Jimmy Palmer - Ducky’s assistant
Director Jennifer Shepard-Ex-Director of NCIS (seasons 3-5)
Director Vance-Most resent NCIS Director. (season 6)
Special Agent Tobias Fornell – FBI Senior Field Agent
Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon) is an ex-Marine and NCIS team leader. Gibbs is dedicated, hard working and often intimidating. He has a reputation for getting what he wants no matter who he pisses off and getting the job done no matter who he has to go through to do it.
DUCKY: "Gibbs is a man of more questions than answers."
An ex-Marine sniper Gibbs can be very physically intimidating but he is also very intelligent and solves most of his cases using evidence and investigative work rather then brow beating it out of people. Gibbs is also very loyal to and fiercely protective of those he considers friends.
Gibbs’ first wife and daughter died violently when he was on tour in Iraq leaving him emotionally scarred and traumatized. Since then Gibbs has been married three other times all of which ended in extremely unfriendly devoices. Gibbs has a hard time with commitment to people and can often seem emotionally distant and disengaged. The exceptions to this is Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard, Gibbs’ oldest and dearest friend and Abigail ‘Abby’ Sciuto who Gibbs’ views as a trusted co-worker and surrogate daughter.
Gibbs can also be extremely obsessive about cases. He builds boats from scratch in his basement as the only form of relaxation we ever get to see on the show.
Physically Gibbs is striking, with blue eyes, grey hair, and a well-toned body. Gibbs eyesight is deteriorating slightly with age and he uses reading glasses.
McGee (played by Sean Murray) is the youngest of Gibbs’ field agents. He was originally introduced as a reoccurring character in the first season and then added on as a full team member during the second. McGee was originally portrayed as relatively new to law enforcement but a quick study and eager to learn.
TONY: “McTimex’s brain is hard-wired for punctuality. And sadly, scaring away potential mates.”
Tim is also a brilliant computer programmer and scientist with multiple degrees from MIT and Johns Hopkins University. Because of his background in forensic science, among other things, McGee often helps Abby in NCIS’s forensic lab. Abby and Tim were briefly a couple during the first season and although they broke up they remain close friends.
McGee is portrayed as quiet, geeky, sweet tempered, and eager to please. Although he can often be social inept he considers himself friends with all his co-workers and can often successfully tell when a suspect is lying or hiding something.
McGee is very dedicated to his job at NCIS, going through many ups and down including his sister being framed for murder, and being suspected of shooting an undercover cop. McGee has often endured the ridicule and friendly hazing of his fellow teammates especially Tony DiNozzo but also Kate Todd and to some extent Ziva David. Most often these friendly barbs will center on McGee youth, inexperience, his shyness around people whom he finds attractive, and his weight.
Although McGee is not technically overweight he is slightly rounder then his other male co-workers with something of a small belly. He is pale skinned, with light brown hair, and green eyes.
The Subtlety of Subtext:
“Subtext is freedom”
Gibbs/McGee is not a popular or easy ship, mostly because the canon evidence happens quietly and underneath the surface. While Gibbs spends most of his time yelling at or head-slapping DiNozzo, the chemistry brewing between him and McGee is much harder to get a grip of or quantify.
Seasons 1-2: Building a Trust
In some ways you can see tension between Gibbs and McGee the first time they ever meet in season one ‘Sub Rosa’. Gibbs gets very close to Tim pushing into his personal space staring him down and although obviously intimidated Tim doesn’t back down.
The season two episode ‘Witness’ Gibbs shows McGee that he both values and trusts him by giving McGee free rein on a case and then trusting McGee unquestioningly throughout the investigation.
Season 3: A Different Kind of Relationship
However the first episode to really show case Gibbs/McGee is season three ‘Probie’ in which McGee thinks he accidentally shot an undercover cop. Throughout the episode Gibbs is particularly protective of McGee defending him to both the Director of NCIS and the local police.
GIBBS: I let you done.
MCGEE: No I think it’s the other way around
GIBBS: No I should have gone with you.
In the conclusion to the episode McGee has a chance to kill the real villain and hesitates forcing Gibbs to take action instead.
GIBBS: Don’t ever hesitate because you second-guessed yourself again. I’ll take your badge. Are we clear?
This is the first time in the episode that Gibbs looses his temper at McGee and it comes across as more Gibbs fearing for McGee’s safety then anything else.
In ‘Bloodbath’ Tony teases Tim remorselessly about having a calendar with quotes on it.
TONY: I’ll hold onto that one. But the rest of these are worthless. Nice calendar, McGeek.
TONY: Relax, this stuff will melt your mind. It’s not good for you. It makes you weak.
MCGEE: To me it was a gift!
TONY: From who? Your wet nurse?
GIBBS: No. From me.
TONY: It’s a nice calendar, Boss.
We don’t know why exactly Gibbs was giving Tim gifts, but it’s a lovely little touch thrown into the episode that hints at a much closer relationship we aren’t allowed to see.
Seasons 4 to Present: A Change of Tone
Throughout season one and two it is obvious that Gibbs is very fond of McGee and protective of him. In season three undertones that do not exist between Gibbs and any other character begin to appear. However it isn’t until Gibbs faces up to his still real issues surround the death of his daughter and first wife during Hiatus I and II that the whole tenor of his relationship with McGee changes.
The change pretty much starts right off the bat in episode one season four ‘Shalom’
GIBBS: (to Tony) It's good to see you again, McGee.
GIBBS: What did I say?
ZIVA: You called him "McGee."
GIBBS: (to Ziva) Hmmmm... That's probably because if I had left him in charge you wouldn't be on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list right now.
Not only does Gibbs affectively smack Tony down but he also illustrates of confidence in McGee’s abilities.
In ‘Dead and Unburied’ season four there is the shirtless scene:
TONY: What’s your gut tell you, Boss?
GIBBS: Take your shirt off. (looking at McGee)
TONY: Here we go.
MCGEE: Well, I know it’s kind of messy…
Gibbs puts the shirt in an evidence bag and then steps well into McGee personal space, looks at him intently then gives him the shirt back. More tellingly is Ziva and Tony’s reaction to the whole scene. Tony looks slightly shocked and actually backs away, while Ziva looks smug. Both seem to pick up on some kind of meaning behind the interaction that we, the view, might not immediately be aware of.
Season four ‘Twisted Sister’ is not only totally focused on McGee but it is also heavy in the Gibbs/McGee subtext.
MCGEE: I would apologize, but I know how you feel about that. (Gibbs stops the elevator)
GIBBS: You got your voice back.
MCGEE: I never lost it.
GIBBS: No kidding!
MCGEE: I know withholding evidence is a violation of NCIS policy.
GIBBS: And a crime! One that I don’t really care about. Why didn’t you come to me?
MCGEE: I was going to. When I saw the body, I knew I had to bring Sarah in.
GIBBS: No! Before that.
MCGEE: I couldn’t take the chance. I don’t know what my sister did or didn’t do. But I know what it looked like.
The important think to notice is how hurt Gibbs is. Not because McGee broke the law or didn’t follow protocol, but because McGee didn’t trust Gibbs enough to personally come to him when McGee was in trouble. Gibbs is hurt that McGee didn’t turn to him, literally call him up in the middle of the night. Interesting in this scene Gibbs forgives McGee for breaking the law relatively quickly and easily. Also McGee holds his own and talks back to Gibbs like they are equals and Gibbs lets him. Again they stand well into each other’s personal space throughout the enter scene.
GIBBS: McGee! Hey!
MCGEE: Boss, don’t try and talk me out of this.
GIBBS: Never let someone manipulate you like that again. Not even the Director!
Although McGee technically screws up over and over again in this episode Gibbs is unusually mild towards him and obviously cares very deeply that McGee does not get into any real trouble. This whole tone of Gibbs forgiving McGee in favor of protecting him is reminiscent of ‘Porbie’ only more so.
At the end of this same scene Gibbs gives McGee a book to read that turns out to be the book McGee himself wrote, in which he bases his characters all on his teammates. This small gestures indicates that not only did Gibbs read McGee book, realize it was written by McGee, but also isn’t mad at him about it, as apposed to Tony and Ziva, who both are.
GIBBS: What’s your major?
SARAH: English Lit.
GIBBS: You intend to be a writer like your brother?
SARAH: I intend on being a writer.
GIBBS: Why the smartass answer?
GIBBS: You put your brother down.
SARAH: No, I didn’t.
GIBBS: Yeah, you did. He just resigned because of you.
SARAH: No! But Tim loves NCIS.
GIBBS: Evidently he loves you more.
Here Gibbs gets genuinely mad at Sarah despite the fact that she is young, female and he knows she’s innocent all fact at would ordinarily mean Gibbs would treat her with particular gentleness. Yet here again Gibbs puts protecting McGee first.
In season four ‘Angel of Death’ Gibbs and McGee sit together as McGee hacks into CIA database for Gibbs. Later Gibbs brings McGee coffee as he works. This is not only a nice gesture on Gibbs’ part but also meaningful since an exchange of coffee on the show is usually represents a certain kind of power play (Gibbs takes Tony’s coffee to show he’s in control not Tony. Jenny takes Gibbs’ coffee to show she’s in control not Gibbs. Ducky brings Gibbs coffee to show how sorry he is in ‘Smoked’. Random members of the team bring Gibbs coffee to stave off his anger at something they did). Maybe on some level Gibbs is acknowledging how much he needs McGee help.
In the second episode of season five ‘Family’ Tony teases McGee making a bitchy comment about McGee not really having sex with people. At which point Gibbs gets visibly angry at Tony, staring him down and leaning in closer to McGee putting a hand on the back of McGee chair. The message he sends is clear, ‘back off.’ The situation is made even more interesting because the original comment was over McGee sex life.
In the beginning of season five episode ‘Designated Target’, McGee and Gibbs crowd well into each other’s personal space looking at a taxi camera together. When McGee is walking away Gibbs reaches up and turns down the back of his collar for him.
Gibbs seems to be going out of his way to be particularly nice to McGee in the episode because when he finds lipstick on the back of McGee’s collar instead of getting mad, as he usually does when McGee dates women, he seems happy for him. Later on in the episode McGee and Gibbs stand extremely close together as McGee works on his computer. This happens not once but over and over again as Gibbs seems to make a point of being physically close to McGee through the episode. Later on when McGee is having problems with his computer Gibbs ‘head slaps’ it for him, in a particularly sweet example of Gibbs’ complete inability to fathom the technology McGee loves.
Season five ‘Internal Affairs’ is another great example of Gibbs/McGee subtext. While the team tries to work on a case out of Gibbs’ basement McGee attempts to get information on the case via hacking into the FBI’s computer system. Gibbs first offers McGee is own personal computer; a huge ancient laptop. Then express perfect confidence in McGee ability to make it do what McGee needs it to do. Gibbs hand Tim the laptop and dusts off the top of the laptop then dusts off Tim’s chest as well. In the next scene Gibbs and McGee are bent over the computer together while Ziva holds up a mass of cables. Gibbs and McGee smile at each other as they work shoulder to shoulder.
In the first episode of season six one of the most surprising features is the fact that McGee has not only been made the head of his own team of computer programmers, and hackers but he is also thriving in a leadership position. Although surprised and happy to see Gibbs when Gibbs comes to ask him for help McGee’s attitude towards his former boss is much closer to that of two equals then their usual boss/subordinate interaction. Both McGee and Gibbs seem much more comfortable with this power switch however temporary.
In season six episode ‘Love and War.’ McGee reprograms a talking bear to sound like Gibbs, then the bear-Gibbs tells McGee that McGee is brilliant and that he loves him. McGee then turns around and realizes Gibbs has been standing behind him the whole time. Unusually Gibbs doesn’t get mad instead he seems very amused by the whole thing. Later on McGee calls Gibbs from the office and Gibbs asks McGee in a rather concerned voice why he’s still at work. When McGee tells Gibbs he had a date, and then proceeds to try and tell him about the said date Gibbs abruptly gets mad and cuts McGee off.
In season six episode ‘Legend 1’ it is McGee that Gibbs chooses to take with him to LA. This makes practical sense but it’s also a nice subtext-y touch. When Tony asks Gibbs if he’s going too, Gibbs tell him no, he’s only bringing McGee with him. McGee on the other hand is absolutely thrilled by this. Tony snidely tells McGee a list of things him and Gibbs can talk about and things McGee shouldn’t mention to Gibbs. While McGee doesn’t seem terribly concerned with having to spend five hours on a plane with only Gibbs for company.
Throughout all of the seasons there are other small details touches and looks. Gibbs and McGee often work very close together, or Gibbs will lean over McGee’s shoulder while McGee works on his computer. In season five ‘About Face’ Gibbs leans very close to McGee while McGee works to locate a telephone number. Their shoulders touch and then Gibbs pat McGee’s back and smiles at him before leaving. We get another very similar scene in season six ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Collateral Damage’ when Gibbs and McGee again work on the computer together Gibbs leaning over McGee and touching him during the scene. Likewise in season five ‘Stake out’ Gibbs puts his arm around McGee and pats him. In ‘South by Southwest’ Gibbs again drapes himself across the back of McGee’s chair as he watches McGee work.
Another small but touching scene comes in season five ‘Internal Affairs’ Tony is feeling the stubble Tim is trying to grow in an attempt to look more masculine.
GIBBS: DiNozzo! Why are you touching his face?
TONY: I don't know. It's soft, like touching a bunny rabbit.
Given Gibbs’ other reactions on the show this is scenes seems to be less about inappropriate closeness between two male agents and more about the fact that Gibbs simply does not like Tony stroking Tim’s face. It seems to be a slightly jealous, territorial reflect more then anything else.
In season five ‘Leap of Faith’ McGee confides in Gibbs that he is very much afraid of heights and thus cannot climb out onto a roof ledge to take a picture of a suspect. Although Gibbs is usually unsympathetic to discomfort that his team might feel during a case, Gibbs doesn’t think twice before climbing out onto the ledge and taking the picture himself so McGee doesn’t have to.
Another nice touch comes in season six ‘Dead Reckoning’ when McGee comes into the office late. He asks Ziva where Gibbs is and Ziva tells him she and Tony assumed Gibbs was with McGee. Much like in ‘Dead and Unburied’ Ziva and Tony seems to know something about Gibbs and McGee’s relationship we don’t.
The Geek and The Old-fashioned Cop:
Gibbs: “Here,” (hands McGee an ancient laptop) “use mine.”
The relationship between Gibbs and McGee is one of opposites. Gibbs is a tough old-fashioned cop who relies more on his instincts and hunches then on technology. McGee is in many ways a stereotypical geek who loves working with computers and designing new programs for different cases. Yet Gibbs respects McGee’s abilities with technology greatly and McGee is obviously very impressed with Gibbs’ knowledge and ability to read people. A lot of Gibbs’ and McGee’s interaction revolves around technology. Although Gibbs hates and mistrusts his own technology he often watches McGee work on the computer and seems endlessly fascinated by McGee’s technological knowledge. Although he has little patients for techno-babble McGee can often be found narrating what he’s doing on the computer and Gibbs will often quite patiently listen along.
This technological focus also helps balance out there relationship. Both Gibbs and McGee excel at things the other cannot do, and therefore are never in direct competition with each other. While Gibbs often expects his team to learn by following his lead in investigations McGee also has things he can teach Gibbs. Also Gibbs often partners himself with McGee so that McGee can handle the technological aspects of a case. Gibbs is not the kind of man who admits areas of weakness easily but since McGee became a full member of the team he has had no problem admitting that when it comes to technology Gibbs needs McGee.
On the other hand often when McGee gets himself into trouble he makes it worse by being unable to read people or situations well enough. In these instances Gibbs sticks close to try and act as a buffer keeping McGee out of trouble.
Grounding And Protecting:
Tony: “What?” (smacks McGee’s head) “Huh?”
Gibbs: “Don’t do that, Tony.”
Some of the best moments between Gibbs and Tim revolve around Gibbs protecting Tim. From the very beginning was Tim was introduced, as a young, inexperienced agent Gibbs has always been very protective of him. Yelling at Tony when he catches him harassing Tim. However in episodes like ‘Probie’ that protective streak is stepped up a notch when Gibbs is willing to do things like have a show down with Jenny Shepard to protect Tim from a perceived threat. In ‘Twisted Sister’ Gibbs protects Tim, from Director Shepard, from Tim’s sister and even from Tim himself. While most of Gibbs’ physical interaction with Tony is of a rough and slightly violent nature, Gibbs often touches Tim to make sure he’s all right, or to protect him from some perceived threat. Gibbs will often slap Tony down if he catches Tony unfairly harassing Tim. More then once Gibbs has almost physically put himself between Tony and Tim when he felt Tony was in someway threatening Tim like as in ‘Family.’ Gibbs’ can also be slightly territorial of Tim, snapping at Tony when he seems to be getting too physically close to Tim like in ‘Internal Affairs’ and getting mad when Tim talks about dating women. Despite this though often there is a certain level of gentleness about Gibbs’ physical interaction with Tim.
Although Gibbs can often intimidate Tim, Tim does not hero-worship Gibbs to the same extent as other members of the team, nor does he seem to fear him to the same extent as some his other teammates. On more then one occasion, Tim has stood up to Gibbs, contradicted him, or outright told him no. Surprisingly Gibbs never seems to truly get upset at Tim over these moments instead they seem to have a certain level of understanding. Like in the elevator scene in ‘Twisted Sister’ there are clearly lines passed with Tim will not go no matter how hard Gibbs pushes and Gibbs seems to know and accept that.
This mixture of protectiveness and mutual understanding makes the relationship between Gibbs and Tim a subtly complex one.
A Ship in Contradictions:
I started shipping Gibbs/McGee on a dare. Before that I had been a confirmed Gibbs/Ducky and Ziva/Abby shipper. Then I was told that Gibbs/McGee was the only NCIS pairing that wouldn’t work. When I heard that I decided to put the particular assumption to the test and told the person who’d made the comment that I would try and ship them and see if it worked. Needless to say it did.
In the first story I ever wrote with them as a couple I concentrated on proving it could be done and not much else. However as I started to rewatch the show with an eye towards the dynamic between Gibbs and McGee I began to realize how interesting a pairing they really were.
Throughout the seasons you can see a relationship take place behind the scenes. A trust and then attraction slowly forms between them, then slowly leak into their interactions on the show. There are moments when Gibbs is extremely gentle with Tim going out of his way to be nice to him, to be close, to touch him a lot, and I always wonder what did Gibbs do or say the night before? Did they fight, are they separated for a time and Gibbs is trying to win Tim back? Tim does not hesitate to say no to Gibbs about things that really matter to him. While Gibbs seems to know instinctively when Tim needs to be protected both physically and emotionally and when Tim needs a little push. To me these moments have always spoken of a deep and on going relationship between the two and have kept me shipping them throughout the years
For me shipping Gibbs and McGee is about trust, and understanding. It’s about Gibbs being protective of Tim and Tim being able to do and understand things Gibbs can’t. It’s about mutual respect, and finding a middle ground between two totally different worlds. It’s also about bringing out the best in both characters, a relationship where Gibbs’ sweet protectiveness is played up and McGee natural intelligence is seen as a sexy thing. Tim might not be traditionally good-looking but even that opens up room for any writer to explore other characteristics Gibbs might look for in a relationship. Also the age difference allows anyone who chooses to ship these two to discuss the dynamics of a mixed age relationship. Besides the two of them have proven that they are both strong and stubborn enough to withstand any problems their relationship might face.
Gibbs: "Broke in?"
McGee: "I was going to say 'gained unauthorised access'." (Gibbs smiles)
Episode Guide at Partners Forever
Episode Stills at NCIS Bluelight
Some Very Good Gibbs/McGee Fics
Rule Something-Or-Other by evo_fic (PG-13)
The Depth of a Smile by evo_fic (R)
Spilled Coffee by gyoro (PG)
Reflection by redvelvetribbon (R)
Four Times by redvelvetribbon (NC-17)
The Taste of Leather by redvelvetribbon (R)
Why Me? by nakeisha (PG-13)
Concerns, The Finally Hurtle, A Sense of Relief by nakeisha (G - PG-13)
Wouldn't Be Right by nakeisha (PG)
Uncertain by taylorgibbs (NC-17)
Gibbs/McGee icons by lifevolutionary
Gibbs/McGee Live Journal Community