Title: Protecting the Pack
Word Count: 4005
Spoilers: Dead and Unburied
Warnings: It's slash of the Gibbs/DiNozzo variety, though you won't see it 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: Time to have a chat with the boys who've been slipping Abby info about Shifter society.
Gibbs pulled up to the curb in front of Tony's apartment building promptly ten minutes before ten. However, Tony was quite familiar with his boss' tendency to speed and had already been waiting outside for five minutes.
“Ready?” Gibbs asked as Tony folded himself into the sedan. He took a quick moment to appraise his second. Even though he had promised last week to back off, give the younger man some space, it was hard to keep his eyes off Tony. Looking back, he could see he'd had problems with that for a long time, even when he didn't really remember why.
“As I'll ever be,” Tony said lightly as Gibb turned his attention back to the road and pulled away from the curb. “Had an interesting conversation with Probie the other day,” he added nonchalantly.
“Do tell,” Gibbs said.
“Apparently Daddy McGee comes from a pack back home,” Tony said, smirking. “Our sweet little McGeek knows more about pack politics than I do.”
“So can he ...?” Gibbs began, but stopped when he saw Tony shake his head.
“His sister won the genetic lottery, but he lost,” Tony replied.
“And how did this come up?” Gibbs asked. It certainly was an odd choice of conversation for members of his team, though now that Abby knew ... “Did Abby let something slip?”
“Nope,” Tony said, ignoring the slight growl in Gibbs' voice. “He said something that sounded promising and figured it out when I growled at him. And no, no one else was around. This was that night you left us to wait for the ground penetrating radar crew.”
“Poor thing,” Gibbs muttered under his breath. It had been petty sticking Tony with that job, especially when Ziva was offering, but he hadn't been able to resist. He was the alpha, and sometimes he felt the need to remind Tony of that. Pinning him down and fucking him through the mattress wasn't an option anymore, so Gibbs had to come up with something. Not that that really worked; Tony was always insufferable. That was part of what Gibbs loved about the shifter.
“I survived, he survived, and one more team mate is in the know,” Tony said gleefully. “The lack of sleep sucked, but I think it worked out.”
“What exactly did you end up telling him?” Gibbs asked, wondering just how much detail had been gone into. He didn't mind telling Tony about his past, much, but wasn't inclined to be sharing it with Tim any time soon.
“Let's see,” Tony said, looking at the roof of the car in a thoughtful manner. “That I'm a shifter, you're alpha but not a shifter, Abby knows about me, and that you've had unspecified experience with shifters before.”
“Not very specific,” Gibbs commented, hoping it was accurate all the same. About that level of detail he could live with.
“We got detailed on a few things, but it was mostly personal between the two of us,” Tony said. “I didn't share any of what you told me last week. None of his business.”
Gibbs drove in silence for several minutes before finally softly saying, “Thank you.”
The rest of the trip was made in silence, except for the honking of horns by angry drivers, until they reached the Dupont Circle area. Then the silence was broken by Gibbs cursing, none too softly and very inventively, as he searched for a place to park on the overcrowded streets of the nation's capitol. Gibbs caught a few odd looks from Tony. Maybe his second hadn't know he knew that much Russian. The French shouldn't have surprised him, and neither should the Arabic. Spend some time in the Gulf and you pick up a little, most of it rude.
“So, what do we know?” Gibbs asked as they finally got out of the car, having parked several blocks from their destination.
“Abby found them through a website, or rather a series of websites,” Tony replied, falling into step and keeping his voice at levels that would attract no attention on the busy streets. Saturday wasn't the easiest time to have a private conversation in Washington DC. “I checked them out, and it seems our folks make some effort to vet those they talk to, even if they aren't doing it through proper channels. I made contact this week and set up an appointment for this morning. According to Abby, all her meetings occurred in public, at coffee shops or parks. I pushed to meet at their shop, a photography studio according to the address.”
Gibbs let out a soft noise that let Tony know he was listening but didn't really commit him to any opinion. The idea of a series of websites out there that had a connection to shifters worried him. He'd spent too many years burying the secret with everything in him. Having seen what happened to every other group that was 'different' over the years, he'd no desire to see that happen to shifters.
“So, how do you want to handle this?” Tony asked, pausing in front of their destination, taking in the window display.
“Your meeting,” Gibbs said distractedly. “Your call. I'm just backup.” In the window he saw a display of photos, in frames, in necklaces, in bracelets. The one pattern, however, was that all of the photos included humans and/or dogs. No cats, no birds, and no little yappy dogs. These were dogs, big dogs, that all look like they had at least a touch of wolf in them. “Didn't know photographers specialized this much,” Gibbs muttered, casting a curious eye over at Tony.
Tony was staring, looking more than a touch startled. However, a sharp look and he pulled himself back together. “Neither did I,” Tony replied, his spine straightening as he mentally took charge. With a small nod he turned to the door and walked into the small room behind the window.
“Good morning,” a voice called though the door behind the counter, probably in response to the jingle of the bell over the door. “Can I help you?” The young man who came into the room looked to be in his early twenties. He was dressed in a rather preppy manner, slacks and a sweater over his shoulders, which clashed sharply with his thick Texan twang.
“Are you Ted?” Tony asked, walking over to lean against the counter while Gibbs lurked behind him.
“I am,” the young man replied, glancing uneasily over at Gibbs.
“I'm Tony,” Tony said, his grin open and welcoming.
“Ah, welcome,” Ted said, thawing a little though still looking uncomfortable. “You didn't say you were bringing anyone.”
Gibbs tilted his head slightly as he caught the sound of footsteps in the hall behind Ted. His hand shifted slightly closer to his gun for a moment, but he relaxed when another nattily dressed man stepped into view to stand next to Ted.
“Oh, don't mind Gibbs,” Tony said offhandedly.
“I'm afraid that's not the way it works,” the new arrival said, his own twang just a touch mellower than Ted's. “The conversation you requested is not one we have lightly, or with just anyone.”
Gibbs was impressed with the strength of character of the man in front of him. He stood up in the face of Tony's look of disbelief and Gibb's glare with barely a hint of discomfort. Ted, however, took half a step back before his friend could stop him with an arm around his waist. Gibbs took in the reassuring look from one man to the other and the hint of a mark on each of their necks and made his decision.
“And if I vouch for him, Mister ...?” Tony asked, letting a hint of irritation show.
“Ben,” the second man said flatly, but Gibbs stepped forward before either man could refuse.
“My mate always told me to stand on my own two feet,” Gibbs said firmly, reaching up lightly to stroke the point on his neck where Shannon had so long ago taken to leaving her mark. “I vouch for myself.”
A look of relief flowed over the two mens' faces as they made the connection, but neither relaxed. “And what does a knowledgeable man like you need from two loners like ourselves?” Ted asked dryly. He was all talk, his stance screaming the urge to submit to the alpha in the room.
Rather than answer, Gibbs glanced over at Tony, letting him take over the conversation again.
“Actually, what we wanted to know was, do you know this girl?” Tony asked, flipping out a photo of Abby at her goth best that he had placed in his wallet for just this purpose.
Ted flinched and looked warily at both of the NCIS agents, but Ben stood strong and simply nodded. Gibbs pegged him as ex-military based on his backbone, but also as not being a shifter based on his attitude. He just didn't act like a pack member.
“And why did you think it would be a good idea to go telling her about our politics,” Tony asked, tapping the photo he had placed on the counter, “without clearing it with her alpha?”
Oddly enough, that snapped Ted out of his fear. His whole posture transformed from cowering puppy to dominant wolf and he glared at Tony as he spoke. “And what good would that do?” he snapped.
“It's a tradition in place to protect the pack,” Tony snapped back. “I was raised lone wolf but my mother still taught me that one.”
Ted snorted in disgust. “Then you have no idea how that tradition as been abused,” he spat. “Alphas refusing the right to tell mates the truth, or children. Relatives that should be considered pack being left in the cold, confused, wondering if their loved ones have just joined some kind of cult. Then there's the actual cults being formed that no one can stop because to do so would destroy the secret.”
Gibbs took a mental step back and saw Tony do the same. This was not the reaction they expected. Ted and Ben had been cautious from the start, truly seeming worried about spreading information about to the wrong ears. If what Ted was implying was true, it was a problem that could affect the silent balance that kept shifters safe.
“You have evidence?” Gibbs asked sharply.
“What little good it does us,” Ben said.
“We'd be interested in seeing that evidence,” Gibbs said, his words a suggestion but his tone making it more of an order.
“And what good would that do anyone?” Ted snapped back, his arms crossed firmly across his chest.
Tony smirked and waved his badge in their faces before flipping the folder to his ID. “Special Agents Jethro Gibbs and Tony DiNozzo, at your service.”
“Shit,” Ted said, his eyes looking almost dead in his face.
Ben didn't look much better, his face paling as he turned to Ted. “That's it, I want a background check added to your system. You invited a Fed here ....”
“Hey, relax,” Tony interrupted lightly. “Just wanted to make it clear we can do something, or at least might know the right people to pass the info on to.”
“How did you find us?” Ben snapped.
Tony tapped the photo still on the counter. “You've been telling stories without talking to her alpha.”
“Oh, and I suppose you're her alpha,” Ted said sarcastically even as he sidled uneasily closer to Ben.
“Nah,” Tony drawled lightly. “I'm the beta. He's her alpha.” He pointed over his shoulder at the looming Gibbs who plastered an irritated glare on his face. “However, I was acting alpha while you were chatting her up.”
“Huh ... alpha or sugar daddy?” Ben asked darkly.
Tony snarled at him, almost lunging across the counter, but an arm from Gibbs blocked his movement. Stuck in place, Tony attacked with words, growling, “How dare you talk about my pack sister that way?”
As he held Tony in place, Gibbs fought the urge to be the one lunging. He had to satisfy himself with a deep-chested growl and a glare that could make grown marines wet themselves. It didn't feel like enough.
Ted and Ben both took two steps back, fear-filled expressions on their faces. Ted's neck immediately twisted, exposing the column of tanned skin between collar and chin. Ben didn't follow suit until Ted elbowed him sharply in the ribs.
“Abby is one of ours, which you would have known if you'd done any research into her life before you started blabbing secrets,” Tony snapped, showing no sign of accepting their submission.
Gibbs struggled a moment to settle himself, then pressed a hand into Tony's shoulder, his finger brushing the shifter's neck to bring the younger man down. “You should be more careful,” Gibbs suggested as he felt Tony relax under his touch. “Just because she looks like an outcast doesn't mean it's true. Abby's the best forensic tech in the tri-state area, and anyone who knows her usually knows about the team she calls family.”
“You're the ones she kept describing, aren't you?” Ben asked hesitantly, his chin dropping slightly.
“Silly girl should have just come to us,” Tony said flippantly.
“I'm glad she didn't,” Gibbs said. He hid his amusement at the surprised expressions on all three men’s faces. “If what you said earlier is true, and you really do have evidence, then maybe this meeting has a purpose other than threatening you two with Gitmo for telling secrets.”
Ted gulped sharply. “What do you want to know?”
“We have friends at the FBI,” Gibbs said lightly. “Friends in the know,” he added pointedly. Perhaps it was absurd to continue to dance around the exact topic, but even with friends it was hard to be completely straightforward. “Friends who might be able to help if you are telling the truth about those cults.”
Ben looks uneasy but spoke. “I met Ted when he was escaping the cult his pack turned into. I told him to report it to the authorities, but ...”
Gibbs and Tony nodded in tandem. Keeping shifter existence quiet was pounded into the head of every child from day one, and living in a world tearing itself apart on lines of race, religion, and sexual preference reminded one daily just why that silence was needed. Reporting a cult to the FBI made sense, but if everyone involved was a shifter then it wasn't a safe move to make. Unless you knew the right people to report it to.
“There are others?” Gibbs asked more politely.
“Others from that group, or from others?” Ted asked, but continued before Gibbs could reply. “I'm in contact with four others who escaped the same time I did. I also know of three packs that have gone the way of my old one, with alphas with delusions of grandeur. The common theme seems to be enforced heterosexuality and male domination with a side of xenophobia. But there are a few others who are less drastic. The xenophobia is the main problem.”
“That's an interesting contrast,” Gibbs commented. “Enforced heterosexuality and male domination are usually the purview of religion. But combined with xenophobia ...”
“It does seem odd,” Ben agreed. “When Ted explained to me what was going on in his childhood pack, I couldn't wrap my head around it. It was like the new alpha had been raised by a bunch of rabid right wingers.”
Ted shivered. “Except the us against them was shifters versus everyone else on the planet. You don't go into town or interact with those few townsfolk allowed near the ranch. Instead of preaching hate against the blacks or the Jews, it was against the non-shifters. Whole pack will be inbred to death in a couple generations at the rate they're going.”
“Not sure it will take that long,” Ben said sadly. “How young did you say they were mating off?”
“Too young,” Ted said, his eyes looking haunted.
“Below the age of consent?” Gibbs asked softly, trying to ignore the shiver down his spine. Child abuse was one of the unforgivable sins in his eyes.
“My sister was fourteen when she had her first kid,” Ted said. “I didn't think too much of it at first ... everyone was doing it. But I started sneaking out and met Ben ... doubled my sins right there, falling for a man and a non-shifter.” Ben put a comforting arm around Ted's shoulders. “The alpha ... he acted like I'd chosen an animal for a mate ...”
“It's a story I've heard again and again since we moved here,” Ben said. “Shifter's are people, non-shifters are animals ...”
Tony looked positively apoplectic, and Gibbs didn't feel much better. “But ... we're all human,” Tony protested.
“That's half the problem,” Ben said sadly. “Humans seem to love destroying themselves. We keep the silence to protect the shifters, but it seems it's causing everyone to self destruct from inside. From what I've been told, fear is taught from an early age. Fear of the other often leads to anger and violence. I'm actually surprised it hasn't happened sooner.”
“Why did you tell Abby what you did?” Gibbs asked.
“She came seeking answers. There's a surprising number doing so these days,” Ted answered. “We've got a network across the country of people who are trying to answer those questions.”
“Actually,” Ben interrupted, “for as big a secret as shifters are, there are an awful lot of people who know. I don't understand how it hasn't come out yet.”
“Fear,” Tony said with a small shrug.
“Exactly,” Ted agreed. “Better to give a proper explanation and warning than letting these people fumble around and maybe blow things wide open.”
“Teaching her how to properly submit to a superior is more than a bit of an explanation,” Tony said dryly.
“She asked,” Ted said, shrugging slightly. “I don't usually tell someone that much, but ...”
Gibbs chuckled. “Abby does have a knack for ferreting out details.”
“Boy, does she,” Ben muttered, rubbing a hand across the mark on his neck and flushing a little pink under his tan.
Tony shared a worried glance with Gibbs. “Don't tell me she asked about the bruises ...” Tony muttered, then flushed when Ted nodded proudly.
“She wanted to know everything,” Ted said with a shrug. “I did my best.”
Tony sighed. “And here I was looking forward to sending her to Probie for that explanation.”
“Cruel and unusual punishment,” Gibbs said dryly with a small smirk on his lips. “What did that boy ever do to you?”
“He's the McGeek,” Tony replied as though that answered everything, and in its way it did. Tony couldn't resist tormenting any more than Tim could resist geeking.
“Who?” Ben asked shyly as he watched the interaction between alpha and beta.
“Another of our team,” Tony replied. “He was raised in a pack and I was looking forward to watching him stutter through some explanations of pack politics.”
“We should ask him if he or any of his family has heard about this new trend,” Gibbs suggested, pleased to see Tony's hand twitch towards his cell phone as reflex sent him to make that call right now.
“Right, boss,” Tony said instead of acting. “I can swing over this afternoon.”
“Now, evidence?” Gibbs said, leaving that concern with Tony and turning his attention back to Ted and Ben.
“We've got a few files in the back, but I'd rather give you copies,” Ted said, glancing over his shoulder at the doorway behind him.
“Are you sure you can do anything?” Ben interrupted before Ted could head back.
“No,” Gibbs said honestly. “But I have contacts with the FBI and some high levels of the military. Between the two of them they should be able to do something.”
“Fornell?” Tony asked pitifully.
Gibbs smiled. He couldn't blame Tony for wanting nothing to do with the FBI after Fornell and his flunky Sacks tried to accuse the younger man of murder. “He's like McGee,” Gibbs explained. Mostly, anyway. “He might have some insight himself,” Gibbs added without explaining further. Fornell wouldn't appreciate Gibbs talking about his past to anyone. Not that Gibbs blamed the FBI agent. If he were the child of rape, he wouldn't be bragging about it either. Then to prove unable to shift and be made outcast by the few relatives who would have anything to do with him, Gibbs was impressed Fornell wasn't more bitter. The other man had plenty of reason to be so.
But he was a good man and a decent alpha and would know who at the FBI to take any evidence of cultish packs to. Gibbs trusted him that far and had a feeling Tony would too, for the most part.
“Fair enough,” Tony conceded. “If you make copies of what you have and collect anything else your network can come up with, call me and I'll come pick it up.” He offered Ted a card from his wallet. “We'll see it gets somewhere useful.”
“Thank you,” Ben said as Ted took the card. There was a strong sense of relief in his words, as if a weight that had long been holding him down had just been taken away. “Maybe next weekend?”
“Just let me know,” Tony assured him. “And we'll try and keep you apprised of any progress.”
“Thank you,” Ted said this time. “My sister is still in there ... if you do get her out ...”
“If a name of relatives on the outside is included, we'll try and get the right people informed before a raid,” Gibbs offered. “But I can't make any promises. That's not our area.”
“Understood,” Ted said.
Tony reached out for the photo of Abby still sitting on the counter, but instead of picking it up he tapped the glass next to it thoughtfully for a moment. “This doesn't change that I'm not completely happy about you spilling things to my pack sister,” he said sadly.
“If you wanted her to know ...” Ted started, but a glare from Gibbs cut off his voice.
“It's not that easy,” Tony said forcefully. “A year ago, no one knew.” He tapped the glass again. “Now, I've got Gibbs and Abby and Probie ...” He looked over at Ted and Ben. “And you two. Last time this many people around me knew I was driven off the force.”
Ted looked apologetic, but it was Gibbs' hand on Tony's shoulder that lifted the younger man's spirits. “Just consider that poor upbringing and insane alphas may not be the only reason someone is researching,” Tony said. “Sometimes bringing in the alpha might just be the right thing to do.”
Ted looked confused, but Ben met Tony's eye firmly and he nodded. “I see that now. Thank you,” he said, proffering a hand.
Tony took Ben's hand and shook, then reached for the photo of Abby again, and this time tucked it away in his wallet.
Gibbs took Ben's hand next and gave it a firm shake. “Let us know about those documents,” he said as he let go.
“Please let us know about any questions you have once you start going through it,” Ben countered. “We're not experienced at this.”
“We will,” Tony assured him. “We'll train you up if we have to.”
Ben wrapped his arm back around Ted's waist and pulled the other man close as he smiled at Tony and Gibbs. “I won't say it's been nice to meet you, but it certainly has been an experience.”
“I'll second that,” Tony said with a twinkle in his eye.
Gibbs fought the urge to reach out an arm and pull Tony close as the bell on the door behind them rang. “We'll leave you to your next appointment,” Gibbs said lightly, turning and spotting the couple that was hesitating in the doorway. “Come on, DiNozzo,” he called as he started out.
“On your six, boss,” Tony called back, falling in half a step behind Gibbs, right where he belonged.