Title: What Makes An Alpha?
Word Count: 2627
Spoilers: Faking It
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: After the events of Faking It, did you really think Gibbs was going to get to let Franks go and not get a talking to?
Gibbs leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head and a laugh hiding behind the curl of his lips. Mariachi music rang through the bull pen as his eyes stared unfocused on the ceiling in disbelief. Mike had played them, played him, like a virtuoso. Oh, Gibbs had doubted there was any evidence, but he had hoped, and Mike hadn't let his story falter for a second, right through to the end. The man was a master.
He wasn't quite sure what alerted him to look down because he didn't hear or see anyone coming, but suddenly Gibbs sensed someone at his desk. When he looked, he found Tony staring back at him with an amused look in his eyes. Gibbs fumbled for the stop button on the tape player even as he took in his senior agent's apparel. Tony was dressed to the nines, a look that suited him more than Gibbs had ever admitted, but that was not what he'd been wearing earlier when they'd raided the hotel or when Mike had hit the younger man over the head.
“Got plans for the evening?” Gibbs found himself asking without any input from his brain. He didn't like to think about Tony going out with someone else. He really was a jealous old bastard. But it wasn't his place to say Tony couldn't, not after what he'd done four months ago, not after Tony had had to remind him that they'd had a relationship at all.
“Dinner out, soon,” Tony replied with a slight shrug of his shoulders that seemed to settle the suit jacket better. It certainly drew Gibbs' eye to the breadth of the younger man's shoulders.
“Have fun,” Gibbs offered before turning to his computer. He had thought everyone had gone home before he started trying to log this laughable bit of evidence. It was going to take him a bit, given his mediocre computer skills, to remember how to delete the evidence log, hopefully without leaving a trail. Well, he could always have Abby fix it in the morning if he had to.
“Will do,” Tony said, but he still stood before Gibbs desk with a negligent nonchalance that drove Gibbs crazy. “That Franks' 'evidence'?”
Gibbs sighed and popped the tape from the player. “Unfortunately,” he admitted. For a moment he considered smashing or burning the tape, but he'd have to clean up after either and the latter would release some pretty noxious chemicals, if he recalled correctly.
“He played us six ways from Sunday,” Tony said, and Gibbs looked up at him in surprise. His stance was still relaxed, but his tone had been viciously angry.
“He was always adept at that,” Gibbs replied blandly. He didn't know quite what to make of the extent of his second's anger.
“You let him go,” Tony said pointedly, his teeth pulled slightly back as he glared down at Gibbs.
Gibbs stared back. He didn't like being below Tony, but he knew instinctively that if he stood he'd be admitting that he was at a disadvantage, and that would never do. He didn't really have an answer for the implied question in Tony's words, so he didn't say anything.
“Boss ...” Tony dropped his eyes, rescinding the challenge, and sighed. “I've been doing some thinking about ... well, a lot of things. Will you listen?” He kept his eyes down, waiting for a response, every line of his body tense under his perfectly tailored suit.
“Don't you have a dinner to get to?” Gibbs growled softly. “This isn't sounding like a conversation to have here.”
“We're the only ones on the floor,” Tony countered, raising his eyes to meet Gibbs' but without the challenging stare. “And I have a few minutes before I need to get going.”
Gibbs stared him down for another minute, waiting to see if his second was firm enough in his desire to speak that nothing would cause him to back down. He had a bad feeling about what he'd hear, but if Tony was determined enough, the best he could do was delay the moment. Tony showed no sign of backing down this time, so Gibbs waved his hand to indicate 'go ahead.'
“I've been trying for months to understand why a born alpha like you would ever knuckle under a man like Franks,” Tony began, leaning his hip against Gibbs' desk in a more relaxed pose. However, the sharp line of his spine screamed his tension. “Sure, Franks has a strong personality and a number of traits that seem oddly familiar, but that makes me start considering chicken and egg arguments. Were you an alpha before you met Franks or did you learn to be an alpha from Franks?”
Gibbs interrupted with a soft growl, really not liking where this was going.
Tony shook a finger at him. “Ah, no interrupting. I said I've been doing some thinking, and I finally have a theory. Fifteen years ago, you lost everything. What was it you said ... your mate, your cub. You'd been injured and sent home injured from the life you knew how to live, leaving you with nothing but nightmares and an empty house.” Gibbs snorted, but this time Tony ignored him, continuing to pontificate to the ceiling. “So the alpha, born and bred, has a broken back and in walks a strong man who offers a purpose.”
“So he offered me a job,” Gibbs grumbled, glaring holes though Tony's side.
“Ah, but he didn't offer you a job, or not at first, or not just a job,” Tony said smugly, leaning down with a challenge in his eye. “He offered you revenge.”
Gibbs froze for a moment, then began looking anywhere but Tony, scanning the room around for anyone else who might have heard that.
“I told you, there's no one else on the floor. I'd have heard them arrive,” Tony assured him, but his tone was no less smug. “Don't worry, I'm not going to say a thing. I can't say I approve, but at the same time I can't say I disapprove. I'd probably do the same for my mate ...” He trailed off, his eyes closing for a second in pain.
Gibbs felt himself wince at the same time. For his mate. Except right now, he didn't exactly have one, but neither did he not. They were stuck in limbo until Tony made up his mind, but that moment of pain didn't seem to indicate the younger man was any closer to making a decision.
“So,” Tony said, straightening up and visibly pulling himself back together. “Franks offers you revenge, not exactly proper but something you'd respect. Then Franks offers you a job where you can protect people, maybe make up for not saving them. You appreciate the chance to rebuild you life and remake your life in the image of your role model.”
Gibbs sat back, staring at Tony in surprise. “What are you talking about?”
Tony smirked. “I did some research, asked around for people who knew the redoubtable Mike Franks back in the day. They described him as a terse and pithy man who always called his partner probie, insisted on being called boss, and always had a cup of coffee or a cigarette in one hand. Now if we discount the cigarette, who else does that sound like?” He gave Gibbs a pointed look that left the older man feeling three inches tall. Gibbs found he wanted to shrink back into his chair, but he didn't dare let himself look that cowed. They might have settled the issue of who was alpha for now, but there was always the chance that Tony would challenge fully, and Gibbs had no intention of leaving openings for the younger man.
“And then he left,” Tony continued, looking away again. “You stayed and used a lot of his methods for building your own team. You're strong again, an alpha in control of your life for the most part. But maybe you've forgotten a few truths that made everything work the first time around or never realized that was why things worked. After all, one successful marriage turned into three divorces. But that's just your social life. At work, everything is great. Until that explosion fifteen years later, the one that wipes out your memory and leaves you back in that broken state where you'd just lost everything.” Tony sighed and started to reach out a hand towards Gibbs, a longing look in his eyes. But he stopped himself before he got too far and dropped his hand back to the desk.
“One of the first things you remembered was Franks, the man who'd help you recover last time. So it makes sense that when things here got tough you followed his example again. You followed in his footsteps to Mexico and sat on a beach and pickled your liver for four months. It's a disturbing thought that you could actually sit still that long, but under the circumstances it makes sense. Hell, there's a chance under similar circumstances that I'd end up doing the same thing. When you left I sure ended up acting like you.”
“Thought you said you weren't alpha material,” Gibbs said. He was frustrated; no, he was pissed. He didn't like what Tony was saying. And yet, he couldn't deny that Tony had a point. When he'd first come back to help Ziva, and then Tobias, before he'd reassured Tony that he was Gibbs' second, the two of them had been acting more like identical twins than anything else. Though Tony still drank his coffee with more sugar than was good for anyone.
Tony grinned, his eyes lighting up for a moment. “I'm not, boss, not by birth like you. Doesn't mean I can't learn to act like one. And who else would I model my alpha behavior on than you?” Gibbs let out a huff of air that was as close as he was going to come to agreement. “So I behave like my alpha, and you behaved like your alpha. Except, you're not Mike Franks, and neither am I. I don't like being alpha and you don't like abandoning your responsibilities. So you came back and I stepped down and here we are.”
Gibbs sat, leaning back in his chair, looking up at Tony, and waiting. There was something more waiting to come out, and if it didn't come out now it would at some point, quite possibly a less appropriate point. Not that this was a conversation he was happy to be having in the office at all, but this seemed to be when Tony needed to say it. “That all?” he asked blandly, trying to hide the whirling emotions that were knotting his belly.
“No, boss,” Tony admitted, turning back to face the older man with a hard stare. “I understand why you respect Mike Franks. He's done a lot for you. But you're not Mike Franks, and I will never respect him.” Tony spat the last words with a great deal of venom.
“Is this because he hit you?” Gibbs asked, unable to hide the growl in those words. That was one thing he did not like about this case. Well, there was a lot about this case he wasn't ecstatic about, but he could stomach most of it. Hurting his second, his ... once mate, that wasn't acceptable.
“No,” Tony spat. “Though I sure as hell didn't appreciate it. I understand why Franks did what he did. I can't say we've always played it above the table ourselves, but we're always careful about the mess we leave behind. Franks didn't care who got hurt and went after his allies as readily as his enemies. That I do not respect.”
Gibbs nodded, silently, hearing many of his own frustrations with this case echoed by Tony.
“And I feel the need, as you second, to make a few things clear,” Tony continued. “I follow Leroy Jethro Gibbs. He is my alpha and I am his second. You do what you need to to be comfortable with that role again.” He rubbed his finger pointedly against his upper lip. “But if it ever changes so that you are Mike Franks second again, I will be gone before you can name me third. Is that clear?”
Gibbs couldn't ignore the snarl in Tony's voice or the hardness in those green eyes as they met his. He also couldn't ignore the way his upper lip prickled under the younger man's gaze. Had he really decided to keep his mustache because it reminded him of Mike, like some kind of safety blanket?
He couldn't dig deeper into that thought now. Tony was waiting for an answer, and much as he hated that Tony had someone else he also wasn't going to be responsible for the younger man being late for his date.
“You see me walking down that road, you tell me first,” Gibbs countered. He wasn't going to just knuckle under, not this time, not even if Tony did have a point. To do so would make Tony's point.
“Fair enough,” Tony said, dropping his gaze and tilting his head slightly to the side. It made Gibbs want to reach up and stroke the long column of the shifter's neck, but this was neither the time nor the place.
“Don't you have a date to get to?” Gibbs asked pointedly, as much to remove temptation as to change the subject.
“I'm gone,” Tony said, his lips turning up in a wide grin as he walked to his desk and grabbed his bag. “Don't stay too late, boss.”
Gibbs didn't respond, just sent Tony off with a glare. But that glare faded as he watched the younger man go. As much as he hated hearing his own actions dissected so completely, that knack was exactly what he'd hired the younger man for. That he had the courage to do it to Gibbs himself, to stand up to the big bad alpha when he had to, was the reason he had stayed on Gibbs team so long, was the reason Gibbs had been so willing to name him second in pack terms as well as pay scale, was the reason Gibbs had wanted him as his mate. He knew he was a bastard, and anyone who stayed with him needed to be able to stand up to his temper and make their point heard, but preferably without the use of sports equipment.
As the elevator doors closed behind Tony, Gibbs shook his head and sighed, settling back into his chair. He'd finally found someone who could keep up on every level, and he'd walked away without even realizing what he was leaving behind. It hurt like hell, but he understood why Tony was resistant to let him back fully into the younger man's life. Even if there hadn't been another person, he didn't doubt he'd still be sidelined. He deserved it. Shannon would have torn his throat out, so really he was ahead of the game so far. No second chances there. No, he still had a chance to win Tony back, as long as he stayed true to himself and didn't let Mike Franks take over his brain any further.
Gibbs ran a hand across his face and stood, but an uncomfortable look crossed his face when his hand encountered that mustache again. That was going to have to be the first to go. Maybe he wouldn't go back to a high and tight haircut, but he didn't need a furry worm on his face anymore. Grabbing his office toiletry kit from the filing cabinet, Gibbs headed off to the head to start proving that he was Leroy Jethro Gibbs, not Mike Franks.