Tony had trouble settling back into his role as sidekick. He'd gotten use to being the boss and when he came into the office that first day to find Gibbs sitting back at his desk, with that silly moustache and all their things moved back to their old desks, well it took time.
He'd find himself mentally giving orders, but bit his lip just before they came out as words. He'd almost laugh then, when Gibbs would give that exact order a second later. For those first few days, it was really hard, but then Gibbs was still more or less Gibbs and that made it easier. He snarled and slapped Tony's head and Tony wanted to smile, because he'd missed that.
Jenny... they'd become friends in Gibbs absence, he was never quiet sure why, no one else called her Jenny, but she'd asked him too and it felt right. Maybe it was because they'd both lost something special when they lost Gibbs, both lost someone they'd loved.
Oh Tony wasn't stupid, he knew Jenny still had feelings for Gibbs and he was pretty damn sure she knew he had feelings for Gibbs, but it was never discussed, instead they chatted about work, about Jenny's cat and Tony's movies and they'd become friends.
He wasn't surprised when she offered him the chance at his own team and neither of them was surprised when he turned it down. He'd gotten use to being the boss, even believed he was good at it, but as long as Gibbs was there, his job was to be there for Gibbs. He'd get use to playing second fiddle again and after a while, everything would be almost like normal.
He stopped giving orders in his own head, but still anticipated just enough of Gibbs orders to remind them all he was Gibbs right hand. He stopped popping up to see Jenny, just because, although they kept having dinner once a week, a tradition, a needed one, that gave them chance to wind down from Gibbs watch for a while. He started calling McGee 'Probie' again, but less now, only when there were others around to hear it or when it would most annoy him.
After a while things were almost like normal and Tony almost forgot what it was like being the boss, but he never forgot the pressure, the weight of lives on his shoulders, the pain of a wrong decision, because even as the sidekick, Tony took them all took the pains that Gibbs couldn't handle and hid in the shadows, while Gibbs took the glory neither of them wanted.
"I'm not going to break," Gibbs told him one night, late when the office was almost dark, only their two desk lamps shining.
"I know boss," Tony replied, not bothering to look up from the computer screen.
"But you're still afraid I might," Gibbs said, because Gibbs knows. Knows Tony has been there, watching in the shadows, taking the weight of the world on his shoulders like any good sidekick would.
"No boss," Tony tells him, because he really isn't. He knows as long as he's around, as long as he has any say in the matter, Gibbs won't break, won't falter, won't fall, because Tony will be there to hold him up, to hold him together, because that's what Tony does, it's what he's done as long as he's known Gibbs and it's what he'll always do.
"Thanks Tony," Gibbs said. Quiet and almost unheard, before Gibbs light went out and off he went, leaving Tony alone in the shadows and like any good sidekick, Tony stayed there.