Title: Judging Pack
Word Count: 5031
Warnings: Slash of the Gibbs/DiNozzo variety, but nothing graphic.
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: Tying up some loose ends after the events of Judgement. Ziva and Gibbs really need to have a talk. Unfortunately, Jen can't seem to stop sticking her nose into places it doesn't belong.
“So what was the final decree?” Tony asked as Gibbs stepped into the elevator.
“Natural causes,” Gibbs grunted, hitting the button for the garage rather than the one that would return him to the bullpen.
Tony raised an eyebrow as he leaned jauntily against the elevator wall. “And how accurate was that description?” he asked, his disbelief strong in his voice.
“Brain aneurysm. Ducky says it was a congenital defect,” Gibbs said blandly, his face firmly towards the doors. “Anything could have set it off.”
“Oh, sure,” Tony said sarcastically. “A cough, a sneeze, or a small love tap to the throat ...”
“Enough, DiNozzo,” Gibbs snapped, but his heart wasn't in it. He just sounded tired.
Letting out a deep sigh, Tony nudged Gibbs' shoulder with his own just before the elevator doors opened. It wasn't an apology, but it was as close to one as Gibbs would accept. “Chinese or pizza?” Tony asked softly as they walked shoulder to shoulder towards their cars. Tony was not about to let his mate go home alone tonight, and to be honest, he didn't really want to go home alone either.
“Chinese,” Gibbs muttered before splitting off towards his car.
Tony continued to his car, flipping open his cell and putting in an order at a restaurant that would be on the way home. It had been a long day, and they both deserved a bit of down time. And they needed to discuss Ziva, though Tony wasn't quite sure what he was going to say on the matter. Ziva was still something of a sore point for him, what with her being shoved at them after the whole Ari fiasco. Which wasn't to say he wasn't trying, but their weekly dinners were more a verbal fencing match than a bonding experience. He wasn't quite ready to just give her the benefit of the doubt. Not yet.
Except ... Hell, maybe it was time to give up waffling and just file her as pack. Everyone else seemed to have done so.
That thought sat sour in his stomach until he pushed it aside to focus on driving. Gibbs' house, food, then deep, philosophical thoughts. Not the other way around.
When he arrived in Gibbs' neighborhood, the first thing he did was drive past Gibbs' house. There was always space right out front, but Tony was over often enough, and long enough, that he figured it was worthwhile to park around the corner. The close neighbors probably knew exactly where he was parking, who he was visiting, and how often, but it seemed logical to put a little distance between the house and his car just in case. Besides, driving past gave him a chance to see if anyone else was visiting or if the FBI had decided to stake out the block for some reason.
They appeared clear on both fronts tonight, so Tony parked around the block and sauntered up to Gibbs' house, bag of Chinese food swinging from his hand. The front door, as always, was unlocked, and Tony found Gibbs already at work in the basement. Pausing on the stairs, Tony took in the image of his alpha in repose. The older man had clearly changed, now garbed in his preferred boat working attire of jeans and an old shirt. Tonight it was an old NIS shirt; Tony had just returned that one the day before, having stolen an old Marine Corps shirt to replace it. The shifter wasn't sure if his alpha noticed the way his old shirts disappeared in rotation, but Gibbs might have noticed them show up under Tony's pillow at his apartment. Tony would keep them there for lonely nights until the scent faded too much, then return it and steal another.
He stayed silent as he arrayed the food on the workbench behind Gibbs, the older man seeming to ignore the intrusion into his space. Tony had dragged out a tall stool to sit on and eaten half of his dinner before Gibbs finally put down his drill and snagged his own food. Tony let his alpha eat for a few minutes before he spoke.
“I guess that's it, then, Ziva is pack,” he said softly, tapping his fork against the side of his food container.
“Ducky seems to think so,” Gibbs muttered through a mouthful of sweet and sour shrimp.
Tony shook his head. “That's nice ... but what do you think?” he asked, reaching over and tapping his mate on the forehead with one finger. “You're the alpha, not Ducky.”
Gibbs sighed and leaned back against a boat rib. “Sometimes I wonder about that,” he said darkly.
“You think Ducky is the alpha?” Tony said, the words light but his disbelief plain.
“No,” Gibbs said, a hint of amusement curling his lips before his glower came back. “No, but I wonder if I'm alpha.”
“Director Shepard sticking her nose in again?” Tony asked, a subvocal growl building in his chest. He only had to see the look on his alpha's face to know the truth of the matter. “I miss Morrow,” he said with a sigh.
“Yeah,” Gibbs sighed.
“Look, boss, do you want her?” Tony asked seriously. “If not, there are things we can do ...”
Tony let his words die, the thought die, as Gibbs shook his head. “She's shaping up well.”
“She's no Kate,” Tony interjected wryly.
“And Kate was no Vivian,” Gibbs said teasingly, a slight grin on his lips.
Tony snorted. “Thank God,” he said fervently. “All right, point made. Everyone is different and Ziva seems to be settling in fairly well. She didn't kill the guy on purpose, and trust me, she couldn't have wanted to any more than I did.” He sighed and popped a chunk of chicken in his mouth. “As long as she learns from her mistakes,” he mumbled around the food in his mouth.
“Looks likely,” Gibbs said. “Once she winds down a bit.”
“Can't say I would have dealt with it any better,” Tony admitted softly.
“You didn't,” Gibbs pointed out, a slight smirk on his lips.
Taking a moment to consider the extent of his freak out in the FBI cell when he had been accused of murder, Tony had to agree with Gibbs. He didn't have to like it, but he had to agree. However, he knew, on every level, that his team was rooting for him. Ziva on the other hand ... “She'll eventually realize you were trying to protect her.”
“Hopefully,” Gibbs said. He sounded as though he didn't care one way or the other, but Tony knew better. There was something bonding his alpha to this particular Mossad Officer. Tony had his suspicions, but if Gibbs didn't want to talk about it then the shifter wasn't going to pry. Even if it would probably make it a bit easier to trust the interloper. Tony had never quite forgiven her for the run around with Ari.
“You all right with that decision?” Gibbs asked after he finished with his dinner, looking up warily at his second.
Looking thoughtful, Tony rubbed his chin for a moment before sighing. “Yes and no,” he finally said. “Even when I didn't want to, I knew deep down that she didn't kill Dempsey, not on purpose. For one, it would be far too sloppy.” Tony paused to chuckle and smiled when Gibbs joined him. “But also because she seems quite dedicated to making a life here,” he continued more seriously. “I suppose she could be some kind of sleeper agent, except you are convinced otherwise.” He shot Gibbs a pointed look, but the older man just shook his head. “I just wish I could be a little more sure of her loyalties. It's hard to trust her to watch your back when she proves she doesn't trust you in return.”
“I think she's still learning that trust against terrorists can still apply in other situation,” Gibbs offered. “She's used to being a lone wolf.”
Tony leaned back against the workbench beside him and considered that for a moment. He remembered what it was like to be a lone wolf, never letting his guard down for an instant. It had been awkward, sometimes strange, but over all wonderful since he had made the switch to pack wolf. Ziva didn't have instincts that were as strong, so maybe she just needed a little longer to adjust, and a little more support and encouragement.
“Fair enough, boss,” Tony said. “But if it turns out you're wrong about her motivations ...”
“I'm not,” Gibbs interrupted firmly. “She just needs to decide if her first loyalty is to the pack or to Jen.”
Tony gave his alpha an uneasy look. That split of loyalty was one he was not comfortable with, mostly because of the way the new director was always sticking her nose into their cases, but also because of the way she sniffed around his mate.
“It's been less than a year,” Gibbs pointed out. “Give her a little more time to feel settled before setting down an ultimatum.”
Tony thought about it a moment more, then shrugged. “Like I said, I'm trusting your gut on this one,” he said. It was as close to acceptance as he could get. At least her aim had improved since the shipping container incident. “As long as you're not expecting me to give the Director the same benefit of the doubt.”
Gibbs grinned, but shook his head. “Wouldn't do that to you,” he assured his mate, leaning in to plant a kiss on the younger man's lips.
Tony had stepped upstairs to use the restroom, and his timing couldn't have been better. Just as he shut off the water after washing his hands but before he opened the door to the little half bath, he heard the front door open. Instinct drove his hand to flick the light switch to off, ensuring he would not advertise his presence even though the door was not visible on the route between the front door and the basement. Whoever had just arrived hadn't bothered to knock, indicating a familiarity with the house's owner, so he or she would probably know where to look this time of day.
“Are you sure this is the right tact to take?”
Tony heard the uncertain voice, and his jaw dropped as he recognized it as belonging to Ziva.
“Better to deal with these issues privately, and I'm happy to act as mediator.”
A soft growl echoed softly in Tony's chest as he recognized the second voice as that of the interfering Director Shepard. He aborted his reach for the door handle and began considering his options. He absolutely did not want to get caught at his boss' house by the Director, but he also didn't want to leave Gibbs to face these two alone. Maybe if it were just Ziva, but not both of them.
Fortunately for Tony, he didn't have to show up in a recognizable form. And Gibbs had been the one to point out how cathartic being free to growl at Jen would be. Tony quickly shucked his clothes and stuffed them into the storage cupboard in the small bathroom. Everything would end up wrinkled, but at the moment Tony didn't care. He'd just get his pants pressed later, and this shirt wasn't one of his best. After being pressed against a corpse's legs earlier today, he wasn't sure he even wanted to wear it again anyway.
Gibbs' house seemed to have an unusual number of niches, cupboards, and other little spots perfect for shoving one's clothes, or hiding an emergency change of clothes. Tony had never asked what triggered that particular habit for Gibbs, but had guessed there were a number of other shifters in the older man's history. It fit with the fact that the door handles were all easily opened with paws, the old fridge was very accessible, and there was always a bowl under the large, paw accessible faucet out back. The alpha's house was an absolute shifter's dream, and Tony loved it. He made full use of those handles now as he shifted and slipped out of the bathroom.
Padding around the corner of the hall into the living room, Tony saw Jen and Ziva disappear through the basement door. Pausing, he stretched out his hearing and his back, listening in as he finally worked the last of the kinks this afternoon had left in his spine. Oh yeah, he should have done this hours ago.
“What are you doing here, Jen?” Gibbs said gruffly, his voice echoing clearly up the stairs as though he were trying to warn Tony, an action the shifter considered rather sweet. He'd have to remember to show his appreciation later. For now, he padded quickly but silently to the basement door and down the stairs.
“Ziva expressed a few concerns to me about the events of today,” Jen began, but was cut off when Tony muscled past her. She and Ziva were standing side by side at the base of the stairs, and to be perverse, Tony pushed between them to get to Gibbs, lightly nudging Ziva and almost knocking Jen over. “What the ...?” Jen cried out, barely catching her balance against the railing beside her.
“I did not know you had a dog, Gibbs,” Ziva said quietly, her confusion plain.
Tony ignored both of them, settling at Gibbs' feet and looking up at his mate. He let his tongue loll in a friendly, canine manner, and gently nudged his alpha's hand until those clever fingers started massaging his scalp.
“I don't,” Gibbs said, his apparent attention fixed on Tony in a manner that made his words seem unbelievable.
“Rude creature,” Jen muttered, none too quietly.
Tony responded by pulling in his tongue and baring his teeth, a deep growl growing in his chest as he glared at the Director of NCIS. For all her power at work, she had no authority here and looked out of place still wearing her power suit from work. However, it was hard to maintain that growl with Gibbs' fingers working firmly around the bases of his ears. To knowledgeable ears it sounded a bit more like a purr than a threat.
“Play nice, Jen,” Gibbs hissed as she took an uneasy step back. “At least this guy was invited.”
“If he's not yours, then where did he come from?” Ziva asked.
Gibbs shrugged. “Not sure, but he's been polite enough I gave him an open invitation.” He reached over to the leftover Chinese food on the work bench and fished out a shrimp, which Tony was more than happy to take off his hands. The echo of sawdust on the finger was expected, but the shifter was surprised by the hint of gun oil, specifically the brand Gibbs used on his old sniper rifle. Why would Gibbs have been checking out his sniper rifle earlier?
“Wait, you have a huge dog, of unknown breed and unknown origins, who just showed up, and you just let him?” Jen asked, her tone incredulous and her expression concerned.
Gibbs pinned her with a disapproving stare. “He doesn't chew on my tools or my shoes, stays out of the paint thinner and bourbon, keeps his messes out of the house, and doesn't complain about the silence.”
“What's not to like?” Ziva said approvingly, a small smile curling her lips. “May I?” she asked, holding out a hand towards Tony. When Gibbs nodded sharply, she sidled a little closer, as if approaching a wild creature, offering her knuckles in a nonthreatening manner, her lips pulled firmly over her teeth.
Tony played the situation up, moving warily closer before sniffing her fingers delicately. He could tell she hadn't eaten dinner (the food smell was faint and the grease count matched lunch), was nervous (now why couldn't he tell that in human form?), and had passed the time waiting for Ducky's final pronouncement cleaning her gun (was that the same gun oil Jen used?). After a suitable pause, he presented his head for caressing.
“He has green eyes,” Ziva announced amazedly as her fingers began a proper dance across his scalp. “How unusual.”
“Seems an unusual fellow,” Gibbs agreed, a hint of laughter hiding under his bland tone.
Jen let out a huffing noise before stepping forward and pushing her hand in Tony's face. The shifter pulled his head back and growled, his hackles fluffing under Ziva's deceptively gentle fingers. Jen quickly stepped back, though Tony wouldn't have actually connected when he snapped. He had no desire to taste where those fingers had been.
“Odd,” Gibbs said, and Tony knew he was being teased. “Usually he likes most everyone, but especially the ladies.”
“Sounds like Tony,” Ziva said laughingly, seeming completely unbothered to be petting a dog who was growling at someone else.
Tony let out a bark of laughter that almost overwhelmed the one Gibbs was covering as a cough. “That's what I call him,” Gibbs said, a corner of his lips curling up in a partly repressed grin.
“Wait,” Ziva said thoughtfully, her fingers pausing as she looked over a Gibbs. “I remember Abby mentioning seeing a dog when she was staying with you to get away from her stalker.”
Tony bumped his head firmly against her leg until her fingers began moving again, but kept an eye on Jen even as he played it up for Ziva.
“Yep,” Gibbs answered flatly.
“So this is the lovely fellow who watched over her all night,” Ziva said, her tone, surprisingly, almost one would use with a child. Well, one would use with a child if one weren't a Mossad killer, which was what made it so surprising. Tony looked up at her in bemusement, letting his tongue loll and trying to look sweet and innocent.
Gibbs laughed. “Watch it. You shouldn't encourage his ego.”
“Well, nice as he is,” Jen said, her emphasis making it clear she thought Tony anything but 'nice', “we came to talk to you about what happened today.”
Tony fought the urge to growl at Jen again, instead slipping out of Ziva's reach and settling next to his alpha. Gibbs' fingers quickly found their way back into his ruff, but instead of scratching they just held as they both eyed the women before them.
“I thought we covered it all before I left, Director,” Gibbs snapped formally.
“Ziva was concerned,” Jen began.
Gibbs cut her off. “If Ziva is concerned, maybe Ziva should talk,” he said, turning to look at the Mossad Officer.
Ziva looked uncertain, an expression hard to identify due to the rarity of its appearance. Tony remembered seeing it when she'd left him in the hotel room with the assassin's henchman. He wondered when Gibbs had first seen it.
“Perhaps we could speak privately,” she finally suggested.
“Fair enough,” Gibbs replied, nudging Tony towards the stairs with the hand buried in the shifter's ruff.
“Are you sure, Ziva?” Jen asked, looking upset, and Tony thought she wasn't going to leave the basement without being dragged. Feeling perverse, Tony walked up to her and snapped at her knees, growling softly. When she took a step back towards the stairs in response, he repeated the action, herding her.
“Please, Director,” Ziva said formally, but Tony was surprised to catch a hint of amusement in her eyes as he nudged Jen up the stairs. Once they reached the top, he paused and looked back to see laughter in her eyes almost matching that in Gibbs'. With a happy yip, he stepped through the doorway and kicked the door mostly shut.
He knew that Gibbs had directed him out because it wasn't fair to Ziva to let him hear it all when she didn't know he was there. However, he wasn't above eaves dropping, and would take great pleasure in ensuring Jen didn't do the same. He planted himself next to the door on the kitchen floor and growled whenever Jen got within six feet. With any luck, she'd give up soon and go to the living room.
When she wasn't distracting him, Tony listened to the conversation downstairs.
Silence reigned for several minutes. Tony could hear the faint shush of Gibbs sanding and the slight wooden clatter as Ziva took a seat on his stool, the one shorter leg hitting the floor as she found her balance.
Finally, Ziva broke the silence, softly saying, “I wish to apologize for my behavior today.”
“Don't apologize,” Gibbs snapped.
“It is a sign of weakness,” Ziva finished. “I have heard you say that before. And yet, I feel it is appropriate. I have challenged you repeatedly today, and only looking back do I see it was unnecessary.”
“Do you?” Gibbs asked. Tony could almost feel the serious look his alpha was surely bestowing upon Ziva now.
“I was afraid. Yes, Dempsey angered me, but I do not want to lose my place here,” Ziva explained. “I never intended to risk it ... As the outsider, I feared you would use this as an excuse to turn on me, thought you were.”
Silence echoed up the stairs for a minute, and Tony was certain of the expression on Gibbs face. It was the one that said 'you're an idiot. Now think that through again.' Tony had been on the receiving end of that one all too many times.
“Once Jenny told me the autopsy results, I was no longer afraid,” Ziva finally continued. “Without fear, I could look back on the day with clear eyes. You were trying to protect me, even as you did when Tony as accused of murder.”
Tony felt as if a cold wind ran down his spine at Ziva bringing up that experience. He only hoped someday he could get through a day without thinking of that case a couple times a day, or at least without that feeling of overwhelming horror.
“And I thank you for that,” Ziva said.
“You should have expected it,” Gibbs replied, his tone bland, almost bored.
“Perhaps,” Ziva said uncertainly. “I know I was forced on you by Jenny.”
“You wouldn't have lasted a day if I didn't trust you,” Gibbs countered.
“I think ...” Ziva began hesitantly, “I am beginning to see that. Then, I wanted this, to be here, so I grabbed the opportunity. But now I want more.”
“Always been there,” Gibbs said cryptically.
“Has it?” Ziva asked in disbelief. “Certainly not when we first met, or when you found out about Ari.”
Silence echoed for a minute before Gibbs answered, and Tony wished he could see his alpha's expression. “I wouldn't have brought you as backup if I didn't think you had potential,” Gibbs finally said gruffly. Tony's jaw dropped slightly. From Gibbs that was tantamount to a declaration of love.
“You couldn't know I wouldn't support Ari first,” Ziva said sadly.
“You were trying to do right by your fellow agent,” Gibbs said. “But I knew Ari better than you.”
“I could have been a double agent too,” Ziva replied, a hint of tears entering her voice, a first in Tony's experience.
“Nope,” Gibbs said flatly, no room for doubt in his response.
“How do you know that?” Ziva cried out, her voice anguished enough to attract the attention of Jen lurking in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. She moved towards the basement door but paused when Tony bared his teeth and growled low. He had to step forward and snap twice before she got the idea that he wasn't going to let her past and she finally retreated back out of the room.
This argument meant that Tony missed Gibbs' response to Ziva, but he knew the answer. He trusted Gibbs' gut as much as the older man, and it rarely steered either of them wrong.
When he finally tuned back in on the conversation in the basement, he heard Ziva saying, “I owe Jen for creating the liaison position for me.” She sounded calmer. Whatever Gibbs had said, it must have helped.
Gibbs grunted an affirmative noise in response.
“But I owe you for even wanting the position,” Ziva continued. “If you had not opened my eyes ...”
“You would have seen it someday,” Gibbs insisted.
“After how many more died?” Ziva asked, her flat tone unable to completely hide the sense of horror that even Tony could sense radiating from her.
Gibbs didn't make a sound, but Tony didn't need to hear or see his alpha to know the older man was thinking that one too many had already died before anyone acknowledge the truth about Ari. Tony felt exactly the same way.
“I shouldn't have let her talk me into letting her come,” Ziva finally said, breaking the silence that echoed with Kate's loss.
Tony could hear the snort Gibbs let out without straining his hearing.
“Next time I have a problem I will not go through your ears,” Ziva said.
The silence that followed was puzzled and amused rather than grief stricken, a nice, if odd, change. Tony thought about it for a moment and assumed she meant 'go over your head,' but he had no idea if Gibbs made the correct connection. Probably.
“Please,” Gibbs said politely.
“Jen wants to be in charge,” Ziva said. “But sometimes she cannot accept that being in charge does not mean overseeing every detail.”
“As long as you do,” Gibbs replied.
Ziva must have nodded, because moment later Gibbs bellowed, “Tony!”
Tony happily pushed the door open and sauntered lightly back down the stairs, ignoring the glimpse of Jen he caught peering furtively around the kitchen door frame.
“He even responds to his name with the same swagger,” Ziva commented as Tony passed her and settled next to Gibbs.
“Rather,” Gibbs said, smirking slightly as he reached over to scratch Tony's ears. “Anything else you wanted, Jen?” he added in a louder tone, not looking up at the door. Tony caught the faint creak of the floor near the door that indicated the Director was approaching the basement.
“I'm just here to help Ziva settle things with her team leader,” Jen insisted, pausing in the doorway with her eyes nervously fixed on Tony. He stared back, baring his teeth slightly.
“Things settled?” Gibbs asked, glancing over at Ziva.
“Yes, Gibbs,” Ziva replied. “Thank you.”
“Don't do it again,” Gibbs said dismissively.
“Do what?” Jen demanded, leaning forward against the railing.
“Leave Ducky to cover your ass,” Gibbs said bluntly.
“Jethro,” Jen snapped. “She didn't kill him.”
Gibbs glared up at her, but it was Ziva who responded. “Yes, I did,” she said. “Without my actions, he would have survived. That no one could have expected him to die is irrelevant.”
Gibbs shot her an approving look. “Always learn from your mistakes,” he said.
“Is that another Gibbs rule?” Ziva asked cheekily.
Gibbs just smirked back.
Tony waited until he'd heard Jen's car pass out hearing range before he shifted back. He had remained plastered to his alpha's side throughout the process of seeing the two women out, despite Jen's vociferous disapproval of the 'dangerous animal,' and was disinclined to change that now that they were gone. The result was Tony being human, nude, and still plastered to Gibbs side.
“Bed?” Tony asked suggestively, wrapping an arm around his mate's waist. Now that they were alone, he had several ideas on how to cheer his mate up.
“Depends,” Gibbs said blandly, but his interested was clear in the proprietary way his arm slipped around Tony's bare shoulders.
“On?” Tony prompted. All that talking earlier meant Gibbs was likely to be rather cryptic the next day or so, like he'd used up his allotment of words for the week.
“Ziva,” Gibbs replied simply, leaving Tony to sort out the rest.
“She apologized,” Tony said, leaning his head on Gibbs' shoulder, ignoring that his words would prove he'd been eavesdropping. “And just maybe she really did learn from her mistakes.”
Gibbs didn't speak, but the 'And?' rang through loud and clear in the way his fingers gripped Tony's shoulder and his cheek pressed against the top of the shifter's head.
“She's pack,” Tony said softly. He could have said more, but he didn't have to. Pack meant companionship, family, love, and support. Pack watched each other's six, got each other drunk when the world went south, and shared dinner when things were good. Tony didn't have to explain pack to Gibbs. Gibbs had taught Tony everything he knew.
A subtle shift in the way Gibbs' head leaned against Tony's told the shifter that the older man was smiling. Nine months as Gibbs' mate, six months having weekly dinners with Ziva to try and figure her out, and Tony still didn't see what drew his mate to the Mossad Officer. Oh, she was pretty, she was competent, she was scary, and she was learning, but ... well, he still didn't know why Gibbs put up with him, so why should he expect to understand how the older man chose who else he associated with.
“Bed?” Tony suggested again, his fingers slipping down Gibbs hip the brush against the older man's ass. He'd done his share of deep thought for the week and was ready for some life affirming distraction.
It seemed Gibbs agreed, because he quickly pulled Tony flush against him and kissed the younger man soundly. When they finally broke for air, they were halfway up the stairs and Gibbs was down a few items of clothing.
Tony looked down at his mate from a slightly higher step, taking in the reddened lips, mussed hair, and the way his hands were possessively gripping Tony in places he quite approved of. “We going to celebrate this way every time we welcome someone to the pack?” he asked teasingly, his voice almost breaking into a squeak as Gibbs tightened his grip on the word celebrate.
One hand broke free and quickly slapped Tony firmly on the back of the head before returning to its original position. But Gibbs' grin countered the slap, as did the words whispered into Tony's ear. “Who says we have to wait for an excuse to celebrate?”