Word Count: 2243
Spoilers: Singled Out
Warnings: It's slash, but you won't see that here
Disclaimer: They're not mine, pretty as I find them. Go to the producers if you want to talk money.
Summary: AU but following canon events: Tony has to confront Gibbs about what he's forgotten eventually, but maybe Gibbs is tired of waiting him out. Later that night ...
It was after one in the morning when Gibbs knocked on the door to Tony's apartment, but he knew his senior field agent was awake. After the efforts of the day and their argument earlier, there was no way Tony was going to be able to sleep. That, and Gibbs had called the office and security had told him that Tony had just left. He always did do his best work late at night, that Gibbs had not forgotten.
When Tony opened the door, it was clear that he had known who was on the other side. His body language was defensive, and Gibbs wondered whether he really should try and push things on Tony's territory. Then again, where else would Tony feel safe enough sending his boss, his alpha, packing if necessary?
“May I come in?” Gibbs asked politely, his eyes down cast, unchallenging, as he held up the six pack of Tony's favorite beer. Only a minimum of saw dust was scattered across the top. Realizing why he keep spare beer in the basement had been one clue to getting his memory back.
“I'm not sure,” Tony replied, shifting slightly to further block the door.
“I just ... there are a few things I should say, that you should hear, but preferably not in the middle of the hall. If you send me packing after that, you're well within your rights.” He held out the beer, resisting the urge to stare the shifter down. “This is yours either way.” He wanted to be holding himself out rather than the beer, but that was pushing things as they stood now. And demanding entrance ... well, he knew he could do it, but that wouldn't win the younger man back.
“You're bribing me with beer now?” Tony asked, his tone more playful. But still he blocked the door.
“Just seemed polite,” Gibbs replied with a slight shrug of his shoulders.
Tony let out a huff of air and rolled his eyes, but this time he stepped back and waved Gibbs in.
Once the door was securely shut behind him, Gibbs let out a sigh of relief. One hurdle down. He offered one beer to Tony, which he accepted, took one for himself, and put the rest in the fridge. When he returned to the living room, Tony flipped open the pizza box on the table and grabbed a slice from the half eaten, cooling pizza. Taking the invitation, Gibbs grabbed a slice for himself and closed the box before settling into the recliner, leaving the couch to the still edgy looking Tony.
Silence reigned for the next ten minutes, broken only slightly by the sounds of chewing and drinking. Finally, Tony turned to Gibbs with a look that screamed 'get on with it.'
“After Kate's funeral, I came over and found you sleeping on the couch, that couch, in wolf form,” Gibbs said. He took a deep breath. It had been difficult dragging these memories out of the black hole of oblivion in his head, not because of their content but because of what it said about him that he had forgotten. “You tried to resign, and I told you that you were my second. Then I offered you more than I offered my last three wives, and there is no excuse for having forgotten.”
“No,” Tony said darkly, his eyes fixed on the bottle of beer he was rolling between his hands.
“Why didn't you come after me?” Gibbs asked. It was the first question that had hit him after the memory did. Tony stayed silent, so Gibbs continued. He needed to know. “You weren't at the hospital, never came to the house. We were mates. Why didn't you say something?”
Tony looked up and growled. “What was I supposed to say?” he asked harshly. “I came to the hospital while you were still in the coma. After that, the case was too hot. I'm your second. That meant I was in charge. Why didn't you come to me in the hospital when I got the plague?”
Gibbs sighed and dropped his own gaze. “The case was hot. The note said there was a cure, so I kept looking for it. Once there was nothing else to look for, I came.”
“And ordered me not to die,” Tony said sarcastically.
“Even before I knew why, I knew you'd never disobey,” Gibbs said, a slight smile on his lips. “It was hard staying away ...”
“Yes,” Tony replied, complete comprehension in his voice.
“But in the end I came,” Gibbs countered.
“In the end, you came to us,” Tony replied, slouching back into the couch. “And you didn't remember. You called me McGee and went charging up to MTAC. I didn't know what to say and certainly couldn't say anything before the entire team. But you left orders, and that I could deal with ... I'd hoped that in a day or two I could have come to the house ... we could have sorted it out. But you were gone.”
“How long did it take Abby to find me?” Gibbs asked, still not quite getting the answers he wanted.
Tony chuckled, but it was not a joyful noise. “Less than an hour,” he admitted. “I almost booked a ticket out that weekend.”
“Why didn't you?” Gibbs asked, his newly discovered anguish plain in his voice.
“Because you left,” Tony snarled back. “Because I didn't know if you remembered or not, if you didn't care, if you were so lost in memories of your past pain ... I did the only thing I could think of, picked up the pieces and soldiered on. You left them to me, remember. 'They're your team now.' I thought staying with them was what you'd want.”
Gibbs covered his face with his hands, pushing sharply against his temples and tugging at his hair. His gray hair. Sometimes that still threw him when he saw himself in a mirror. Sometimes Shannon and Kelly were closer to the surface than anyone else in his life. But there had always been wolves chasing around in his dreams—he just hadn't realized there was a new one. “I thought I needed distance. I was broken, confused. What use would I have been at NCIS?” he snapped as he fought the urge to chuck his nearly empty beer bottle across the room. “If you'd come, maybe ...”
“We'll never know now,” Tony interrupted.
Rubbing at his cheeks again, Gibbs sighed. “No, we won't,” he admitted, though it felt as though every word was dragged from him. “The question is: what now?” He looked up hopefully, trying to catch Tony's eye.
“I don't know,” Tony replied, his frustration clear in his voice, his eyes fixed on the wall behind Gibbs. “I got used to being in charge, but really, it wasn't me.” He let out a frustrated huff of air. “Everyone just kept complaining that I was trying to be you, but since I wasn't ... it never seemed to be enough.”
“You don't have to be like me to be a good leader, Tony,” Gibbs said reassuringly. “You have your own way of leading. I ... may not have been as supportive as I could have been, but what I saw impressed me. You deserve your own team” Gibbs didn't miss the hint of red that bloomed on the tips of Tony's ears.
“So maybe I can do it,” Tony said shyly. “But I'm not sure I want to. Some shifters are born alphas, some aren't. I thought I'd always be a lone wolf, but ... I like working under you, boss, being your second. It ... it fits. That's why ...” He hesitated, and Gibbs considered saying something, anything, but Tony finally spoke again before Gibbs figured out what. “Jen offered me a team, in Rota. I said no.”
“God, Tony. Why?” Gibbs asked, suddenly realizing that was what Tony was going to talk to Jen about earlier. Rota should have been like a dream come true, and with his own team thrown in ...
“Because my pack is here,” Tony snapped. “Fucked up as it is, this is where I belong. And even with you leaving ... you're everything I ever wanted in an alpha. I couldn't let that go. Not yet.”
“It could be years before an opportunity like this comes up again,” Gibbs pointed out, pride in his second's abilities waring with relief that he wasn't going to lose the man yet.
“I'll turn it down then too,” Tony said firmly. “I don't want my own team, especially if it means leaving.”
“Someday I'm going to retire again,” Gibbs said, continuing to play devil's advocate. “I can't stop aging. What then?”
“It depends,” Tony said hesitantly as he hunched uncomfortably forward. “I might ... leading the team in your place might be okay ... just don't make me the alpha. If you're still here ...”
Gibbs stood and strode to the couch. He wanted to take Tony into his arms, but he would not take liberties, not now, so he settled for sitting next to Tony and clasping the shifter's hands in his own. Tony needed some physical contact to anchor him. “If you want me, I'm here. I'll stay. I may have forgotten before, but I know now, my pack is here.” He couldn't express how much he regretted forgetting that, and he damned well intended to make sure he didn't forget again.
“I'm not sure I'm worthy to be in your pack anymore,” said Tony in a pained whisper, an odd shiver running through him.
“Why?” Gibbs asked flatly. He didn't make it an order but let the implication ride. His second was hurting, and that was unacceptable. He didn't like the sudden attitude shift at all.
“Jenny ... Director Shepard ...” Tony began awkwardly. He coughed and tried again. “I'm not an alpha, and with you gone I found myself looking for someone to follow. She asked me to do some undercover work, keep it secret.”
“I understand the chain of command,” Gibbs said reassuringly, though what he wanted to do was growl. Tony had just promised to stay, so it was hard to hear he'd been looking to anyone else, and even harder to hear it was Jenny. He'd been fighting her attempts to manipulate and control his team, his pack, for almost a year before running off to Mexico. Another thing that had been frustrating to remember, all too late.
“When you were gone, it felt like a way to impress my alpha,” Tony admitted, his body shaking hard. “But with you back ... it feels like a betrayal.”
“Tony,” Gibbs said confidently, switching his grip to Tony's face, gripping it firmly with just a little extra pressure against the jaw, pulling the shifter's head up until their eyes met. He could see it was the contact that let Tony react, but it was also contact that could anchor him enough to calm down. “It is not a betrayal,” he said sharply in his best 'I'm the boss' voice. He didn't want to say this, but he would not see one of his fail to finish an assigned task. He hadn't permitted it in the corps, he wouldn't permit it here.
“You finish this job. Do it right. You're a damned good investigator and an incredible undercover agent. That's why you're my second. So finish this. Take that as an order.” His thumbs slid down as Tony swallowed hesitantly, pressing lightly but firmly against the younger man's neck. “But if you need anything, from an excuse to backup, you let me know. That's an order too.”
Tony didn't nod, just tilted his head further up, and a touch to the left, leaving himself open, exposed, submitting to his alpha.
Gibbs stroked Tony's neck lightly before he retreated, pulling his hands back and standing up. He needed distance if he was going to continue talking. Just being this close to Tony was bringing a lot of old memories to the surface, memories he wanted to relive. But that wasn't fair to Tony, not yet. “There were a few other things I meant to tell you when I came over here,” he said softly, still standing, waiting.
“I'm not sure I'm ready to hear them,” Tony admitted, slowly dropping his head. “It's been a hell of a night.”
“That it has,” Gibbs said sadly, his head hanging slightly. He wanted ... God, he wanted Tony back, but he didn't dare ask, not now. There were things Tony had the right to hear first, should have heard before.
“We working tomorrow?” Tony asked, yawning widely.
“Shouldn't be,” Gibbs said. “We just closed one, and Riviera's team is on call.”
“Go home, get some sleep,” Tony suggested, standing and stretching out. Gibbs fought the urge to reach out and run his fingers along those lean sides. “I'll come over with lunch. We can talk more then.”
“Fair enough,” Gibbs said, looking away before he did something he shouldn't. He should have walked away, turned and gone, and yet he felt as though his feet were nailed to the floor.
“Go home, boss,” Tony said with a soft growl, taking half a step closer.
That seemed to loosen Gibbs' feet, and he took a step back. “Good night, Tony,” he said softly, and forced himself to turn and leave.
Just as he reached the door, he heard Tony softly say, “Thank you, boss.” Gibbs turned back and just gave his second a soft smile before he closed the door.