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by: Xanthe (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 006 Word Count: 135758
Rating: ADULT
Warning(s): Disturbing Imagery or Content, Other (See Author's Note)
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, First Time, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Summary: When Gibbs investigates a minor robbery, he uncovers something much more sinister. The resulting investigation has unexpected and far-reaching consequences.

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

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Damage - Part Four: Demons

It was late when Gibbs woke the next morning, but at least it was Saturday, so they didn't have to get to work. He needed to piss, but he didn't want to disturb Tony, who was lying wrapped up in his arms, fast asleep. Last night had been intense, and Tony looked shattered.

Gibbs thought Tony's meltdown had been both inevitable and cathartic. Tony had needed to let it all out – hell, he'd needed to let it all out for years, but he hadn't felt safe enough until last night. He'd been carrying around a heavy burden since he was twelve; no wonder his grief, when he'd finally released it, had been so explosive and painful.

What Gibbs hadn't expected was the strength of his own emotions. It had been a long time since he'd had someone in his bed that he cared about like this and who roused all his protective instincts. He hadn't felt like this about anyone since Shannon, and he hadn't expected to ever again. Holding Tony in his arms last night, being there for him as he'd promised he would – well, Walt was right – love damn well hurt.

Gibbs lay there for an hour but finally his need to piss forced him out of the bed. He disengaged himself as quietly as he could and went into the bathroom. He relieved himself and then turned on the shower. His tee shirt was still damp from Tony's tears; he stripped it off, and his boxers, and got into the shower.

He began soaping himself, still lost in thought. When he had told Tony that he'd be here for him he had meant as a friend, nothing more. But Walt's words the previous day had really hit home. He had sleep-walked his way through three marriages and countless affairs and had been untouched by them all. He'd been numb inside since Shannon and Kelly died and hadn't honestly expected ever to love anyone again. Now he wondered how the hell he'd been such a total idiot. He loved Tony, had loved him for years probably, and it had taken a crisis of this magnitude to make him face up to it.

Gibbs knew what he was like in love – he didn't do things by half-measures. He was protective, possessive, passionate, and far more romantic than any of his co-workers might expect. He felt deeply, and losing his family had damn near killed him. He had walled off his heart to prevent himself feeling that kind of pain again, but somehow…somehow the pain had found a way in anyway.

He ached about what had been done to Tony, and he knew he wouldn't rest until he'd tracked down and punished all the men who were responsible. Tony was his now, and he'd kill for him if necessary and die for him without hesitation. That was just the way he was. He had always loved with ferocity, and it was no different this time around. That was another reason why being in love scared the hell out of him so much.

"Hey…you started without me," a voice said behind him, startling him. He turned to find Tony peering around the shower door. "Want some company?" Tony leered suggestively, and within seconds he’d stripped off and stepped into the shower with him.

Before Gibbs could ask him how he was, Tony grabbed him, pushed him against the shower wall, and kissed him, hard, on the mouth. It was the first time they'd been naked together, and Tony's body felt damn good against his own.

When Tony pulled back to catch his breath, Gibbs turned the tables on him and shoved him against the opposite wall, directly under the shower head, and now it was his turn to go in for a kiss. Tony gasped under the spray of water, and Gibbs drew back a little, knowing Tony's fear of suffocation.

Tony grinned, and used the moment to his advantage to lunge forward and push Gibbs back again. Gibbs went with an "oomph" as the breath left his body, and a second later their roles were reversed once more, and Tony was pinning him against the other wall again.

"D'you think we're always going to be fighting each other for who is in charge?" Tony grinned,
leaning in to claim a deep, passionate kiss from his lips.

Gibbs allowed Tony to plunder his mouth for several seconds before sliding a knee between Tony's legs and then, taking him by surprise, flipping him onto the middle wall.

"Nope," Gibbs told him with a grin, holding him there. "I'm always going to be in charge – but sometimes I'll let you think you are."

Tony laughed out loud. "Just because you're the boss at work doesn't mean you get to be the boss at home," he said, in a low, throaty voice, straight into Gibbs's ear.

Gibbs grabbed hold of Tony's arms and held them above his head as he leaned in for another long, deep kiss. Tony sighed and melted against him, surrendering completely.

"You were saying…?" Gibbs whispered wickedly as he drew back. Tony gazed at him from lazy, sexy eyes.

"Oh, I don't really give a shit. Just kiss me again, Gibbs."

Gibbs did. He kissed him long and hard, with every ounce of passion in his body, aware that his cock was now standing to attention, pressed between both their bodies. When he finally released him, Tony looked down.

"Want me to take care of that?" he asked, grasping Gibbs's hard cock expertly in his hand and rubbing his thumb gently over the crown, making Gibbs gasp. "Much as I’d like to give you a blowjob, I can’t stand having anything in my mouth - it always makes me feel like I'm choking,” Tony said apologetically. “I do, however, give damn good hand jobs." Tony gave another one of those happily lascivious grins and moved his hand slowly up Gibbs's hard shaft to illustrate the point.

"No." Gibbs removed his hand.

"You still not ready?" Tony asked with a roll of his eyes. "I mean, c'mon! That was hours ago!"

Gibbs shook his head. "Hell, I courted Shannon for a year before she so much as let me touch a breast."

"Yeah, but that was the olden days, Gibbs!" Tony protested. Gibbs slapped the back of his head for that.

Tony laughed and trailed a languid finger down Gibbs's wet chest. He circled a nipple with his fingers, sending sparks of arousal through Gibbs's body. Tony gave the kind of smile that showed he knew exactly what effect he was having, and his tongue slid out between his lips and licked at them suggestively.

Gibbs moved his hand down and brushed Tony's soft cock with his fingers. "I won't be ready until you're ready, Tony," Gibbs told him firmly.

Tony's eyes widened in surprise and then darkened. He dropped his head, causing the water to soak the back of his hair.

Gibbs reached out a finger and tipped up his chin to make Tony look at him. "What's going on?" he demanded. "No more secrets, Tony."

"Supposing I'm never ready?" Tony asked. "At some point you'll lose interest."

"You'll be ready," Gibbs promised confidently. "One day. I'm not in a hurry, DiNozzo."

"Since when? You're not a patient man, Gibbs."

"At work," Gibbs said. "But, as you pointed out, we're not at work now."

"And what happens when we are?" Tony asked quietly.

"Nothing." Gibbs shrugged.

"What if people find out?"

"I don't care." Gibbs reached for the soap again.

"Really?" Tony frowned. "Seems like something you would care about."

"Nope." Gibbs lathered soap over his chest and then threw the soap to Tony. "You?"

"Well, when your co-workers have seen photos of you being fucked, aged twelve, it shifts your perspective and nothing else seems to matter really," Tony said quietly.

Gibbs fought down a growl of anger and gave a curt nod, understanding. Tony seemed to sense his change in mood.

"Is this for real?" he asked grimly. "Are we for real, Gibbs? Because if we aren't, tell me now, and I'll get out of your hair. I understand if this all got too heavy for you. You were just trying to be nice, because I was freaking out all over the place, and now you don't want to risk sending me off into another meltdown so…"

"DiNozzo!" Gibbs growled. Tony winced at his tone of voice. "When have you ever known me try to be nice?" Gibbs asked with a raised eyebrow. Tony managed a little grin at that.

"That's a good point, Boss."

"It's for real," Gibbs told him. "You're mine now, Tony."

"Hmmm…sounds like you're the possessive type," Tony murmured, looking intrigued.

"You knew that already," Gibbs snorted.

"Yeah – it's one of the reasons I always feel safe with you. I know you'd never let anyone else touch me. Even before all this shit blew up. And…" Tony looked straight at him. "For someone who was once passed around like a piece of fucking meat by someone who said he loved me I guess that's kind of important."

“Nobody will touch you again, Tony,” Gibbs said firmly. “They’ll have to get through me first, and that will never happen.”

“I believe you.” Tony was quiet for a moment, and then he looked up. “You sure you’re prepared to wait?” he asked uncertainly. “I mean…this has never happened to me before, and I don’t know long it’ll be until…” He gestured in the direction of his cock.

Gibbs frowned. "Tony – do you think I'm only interested in you for what you can do for me in bed?"

"Hell, you're a guy, Gibbs," Tony shrugged.

"Yeah, but sex isn't everything."

"It isn't?" Tony grinned.

"No. You're not a commodity, and sex isn't something you have done to you, or you do to others. I'm not only interested in you for what you can do for me in the bedroom. I won't sleep with you until you're ready because it won't do anything for me. And, equally, I won't let you just use me for sex the way you've done with all the other people you've been with."

Tony looked startled.

"There's no pressure," Gibbs told him softly. "I haven't had sex for a couple of years now – it isn't a big deal for me."

"It is for me," Tony replied in a tight voice. Gibbs turned off the faucet.

"I know. That's why waiting isn't such a bad thing. I think your body knows what you need right now better than you do, DiNozzo." He opened the shower door and got out.

"And what's that?" Tony raised an eyebrow.

"Some loving," Gibbs replied. "Those men used you for sex when you were just a kid – hardly surprising you've got it all mixed up in your head and think people will only be interested in you if you put out for them."

Tony winced at that, and Gibbs thought he'd hit a nerve.

"Love doesn't come at a price, DiNozzo," Gibbs told him. "You're mine. I love you. I'll take damn good care of you, and you don't have to earn any of those things in the bedroom. You already have them, and you can't lose them. Understand?"

Tony gazed at him for a long time, swallowing hard, his eyes suspiciously shiny. Then, finally, he nodded.

"Good." Gibbs threw a towel at him. "Then let's go get something to eat."

After breakfast, Gibbs sat across from him over the kitchen table and removed the sodden dressing on his hand. Then he put on his glasses and inspected the sutured cuts. Tony watched him, fascinated. Being with Gibbs wasn't anything like he'd expected. Then again, his fantasies had never gone beyond Gibbs pulling him into bed and the two of them having hot, sweaty sex, so he wasn't sure what he'd expected. Just that it hadn't included this kind of intimacy. Intimacy usually scared the hell out of him, but he had to admit that right now, with Gibbs, it felt pretty damn good.

Gibbs was quiet, examining Tony's hand in silence. He looked like he was lost in thought, but Tony knew him better than that. Something bad was coming; he could feel it. Gibbs reached for the new bandage and then looked straight into Tony's eyes.

"Go on. Hit me with it," Tony sighed. "I know you're gonna say something I won’t like."

"You're right." Gibbs cleared his throat. Tony wondered what the hell was coming next; Gibbs looked pretty serious. "On Monday, I’m going to Long Island. One of the things I want to do while I’m there is take a trip to the hotel where the abuse happened," Gibbs said quietly. “I’m taking McGee with me.”

Tony pulled his hand away. He had known this would happen, but somehow, with everything else that was going on, he had managed to put it out of his mind. He didn't like to think of Gibbs walking along that hallway to that room, opening the door, and stepping inside. It made Tony go cold.

"I don't like the sound of this, Gibbs," he said, cradling his injured hand against his chest.

"I know." Gibbs nodded. "I'd like to ID it. I want to see if we can match it to the room in the photographs. The furnishings will be different after so long, but we can take some photos – see if we can get Abby to match the layout of the room, the windows and doors and so on. At the moment, I’m not sure what kind of a case we’ll be able to build, and we might never need it, but it could be a useful extra plank of evidence and specific details like this really help in court. Do you remember any of the room numbers? It would help us if you did – save us having to do a search."

"Room 204," Tony said immediately. "There was only ever one room and that was Room 204." Gibbs raised a surprised eyebrow. "Like I said, Roy wasn't an imaginative type of guy. If anything he was a bit OCD. He liked doing the same things, at the same times, in the same places. He always booked Room 204."

"Room 204. That's definitely the room in the photographs?"

Tony nodded. Gibbs held out his hand and gestured with his head towards Tony's injured hand. Tony relinquished it with a sigh, allowing Gibbs to take it back.

"Kind of risky going to a hotel," Gibbs commented, reaching for the new bandage. "Why didn't Quinn just take you to his place?"

"He was married," Tony replied.

Gibbs nodded. "Yeah. Of course."

Tony glared at him. "You knew that though, didn't you? You've had McGee put together a file on him, haven't you?"

"What do you think, DiNozzo? You tell me the guy raped you when you were twelve, and you expect me just to shrug my shoulders and leave him be?"

"No," Tony said quietly. "I mean, I know you're going to arrest him at some point, but…I don't know what I thought. I don't know what I want. I just feel like I've let a genie out of a bottle, and I don't know how to get it back in again now."

"You can't," Gibbs told him bluntly. "It's out of your control."

"That's what scares me."

Gibbs gave him one of his unrelenting stares. Tony sighed.

"Okay. I know. I know this has to happen, and I know it *should* happen. Hell, I suppose I should be surprised it hasn't already happened, knowing you."

"Only reason it hasn't is because Quinn is out of the country right now," Gibbs grunted. "He's back tomorrow. Now, I've read the file, but is there anything else you can tell me about him?"

Tony gave a bitter little laugh. "Oh yeah. I know a lot of things about Roy Quinn, Gibbs. Just need to think where to start. Okay - Roy's wife was called Margaret," he said. Gibbs nodded at him to continue. "She was a weird kind of person. She was really cold whereas Roy was warm and friendly to everyone. She hated kids. Maybe she couldn't have them, or maybe she didn't want them, but either way they didn't have any, thank God. We didn't see much of her – Roy usually went places alone. I can only remember her coming to our house a couple of times. Roy often came around for dinner, but she never came with him unless my mom specifically invited her. I don't think she came around again after my mom died. I heard from Dad that she died a few years ago."

Gibbs began bandaging his hand. Tony liked watching him. He liked the way Gibbs peered through his glasses and how his hands moved; fast but skilful, firm but gentle. Gibbs always knew what he was doing, and Tony was attracted to his certainty.

"And the hotel wasn't risky at all," Tony added. "People come and go in hotels all the time – nobody notices who they are. Roy said I was his son, and when Luke or Marco visited I assume they just went straight up and knocked on the door – nobody stops you walking around a hotel. I doubt anyone knew they were there. They just stayed for a few hours, fucked me a couple of times, and then left. We usually only stayed for the afternoon. Roy used a false name and paid in cash. Afterwards, he'd usually take me to see a movie." Tony rubbed his head. "Then he'd drop me back home with the housekeeper."

Gibbs finished bandaging his hand and fastened the dressing.

"How does it feel?" he asked, nodding at Tony's hand.

"Better than it did. Doesn't really hurt any more unless I knock it."

"You knocked it a few times in the night, but I've checked and all the sutures held."

Tony winced as he remembered his meltdown, and how he'd grabbed Gibbs's tee-shirt in his fists.

Gibbs gave Tony a searching look. "You said you *usually* only stayed for the afternoon?" he questioned.

Tony stiffened and put his good hand up to smooth down the hair on the back of his head again. Gibbs touched the fingers of his bandaged hand gently, keeping him in the moment.

"Yeah. Most of the time. There were a couple of times…." Tony rubbed the back of his head urgently, and Gibbs pressed down more firmly on his fingers, stopping him from zoning out. "Maybe Margaret was away, I dunno, but a couple of times we stayed overnight. I think Roy had a fantasy that we were lovers. That somehow this whole fucked up thing was normal, and that we loved each other. He told my dad's housekeeper that he was taking me camping or whatever. Roy wanted to sleep next to me, holding me, and when he woke up in the night he always woke me up too, so he could fuck me."

Tony rubbed his head repeatedly. He remembered being woken by kisses on the back of his neck, and Roy crooning in his ear.

"Tonio, Tonio…come on my beautiful boy. Wake up for me, Tonio. Ssh…just move your leg, my little sleepy one. Mmmm…does this feel good? My special little Tonio."


Tony blinked. Gibbs was squeezing his fingers and giving him that sharp-eyed look.

"Sorry. I'm still here. So, you're going there on Monday? To Room 204?"


"Okay." Tony nodded. He thought about it for a moment. "I'll come with you."

"I don’t think that’s a good idea," Gibbs told him. “You’ve given us the room number, so we can take it from here."

"I want to go with you," Tony said firmly, and he wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was a morbid kind of curiosity, or maybe it was something else.

Gibbs studied him for a moment and then nodded. "Afterwards…"

Tony knew what was coming next. "Afterwards you're going to Roy's house to search it, and then you’re going to arrest him," he said quietly.

"Yes." Gibbs nodded. "But only once we have confirmation he's on that plane. I don't want anything spooking him into not getting on that flight."

"Once you arrest Roy, my father will find out," Tony said, gazing fixedly at the table. This was the one thing he dreaded, above everything else. It was all going to come out, finally, after all these years, and he had no idea what his father's reaction was going to be.

"Yes, he will," Gibbs said bluntly. “Tony – you should know that I also have a warrant to search the premises of DQ Enterprises.”

Tony looked up, startled. “Why? My father wasn’t involved in any of this!” he protested.

“I know. But Quinn is the CEO of your father’s company,” Gibbs told him. “So I want to check it out.”

“Christ, Gibbs. My father will go mad.” Tony pushed his chair back from the table with an angry scraping noise.

“I don’t damn well care,” Gibbs replied stonily.

“Well, I do!” Tony snapped. “This has nothing to do with my father, or his business. None of this is his fault!”

“Well, you and I will have to agree to disagree on that,” Gibbs said. His jaw tightened, and Tony got a glimpse of a fury so intense it startled him. "Look, your father is going to find out whether we go to his offices or not, so you have to prepare yourself for that, Tony."

"I don't think there's anything I can do to prepare myself for that, Gibbs."

Gibbs gazed at him steadily, and Tony pushed away a sensation of angry panic. He had started this, but Gibbs was going to make him finish it, and that scared the hell out of him. Gibbs might have held him when he cried like a baby in the night, and he might have just bandaged his hand with gentle fingers, but he was still *Gibbs*. He was still demanding, unfaltering, and the bastard he’d always been. He wasn’t someone you could sweet-talk or manipulate. He’d make Tony do this. There was no way out.

"Who are you taking with you when you go to Roy's house?" Tony asked. "Not me, I assume?"

"Ya think, DiNozzo?" Gibbs growled, rolling his eyes.


"No. If you're coming with us, then he's going to take you back home after we visit the hotel. I am not letting you go anywhere alone."

"So it has to be Ziva," Tony said quietly. "Which means…"

"Yeah." Gibbs nodded. "She has to know, Tony. How do you want to play this? Do you want me to tell her?"

"No. I'll tell her," Tony said, taking himself – and Gibbs – by surprise. Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "I'll tell her," Tony repeated. "Tomorrow. I'll tell her tomorrow. I can't do it today. I feel like I've been hit by a truck today, and I need some time to get my head around it. Drop me off at her place tomorrow morning, Boss. I'll take her out for coffee and tell her."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. You had to do it with Ducky and Abby, and we let McGee find out for himself in the observation room, poor bastard. I should do Ziva. She's my partner. I should have done it before now.”

"Okay." Gibbs nodded. "What do you want to do today, Tony?"

"We're not going into work?" Tony asked, surprised.

"It's Saturday, DiNozzo!"

"So?" Tony snorted. "You always work through weekends when you've got a big case, and I know you've had breakthroughs with this one. Why else was McGee going to a prison yesterday?"

Gibbs made an irritated clicking sound in the back of his throat. "McGee can follow up any leads we get – I’ve put him in charge in my absence, and he's more than capable. It'll do him good to get out of your shadow anyway."

"My shadow?" Tony frowned. "Since when have I been overshadowing him?"

"You like to keep him in his place.”

"No, I just have to make sure he doesn't take mine - with you," Tony replied. Gibbs looked startled by that. "Most everything I've ever done in this job is about you," Tony explained. "I didn't want you liking him more than me, finding him better at his job, sharper…he already has those geek skills that I don't have. I've had to work hard to be invaluable to you, Boss."

Gibbs nodded. "I know," he said quietly. "And you are, Tony, so you can stop trying so hard. Look, last night was quite a night, and you look beat. Let's take the weekend to get you in better shape, so you can face whatever happens next week."

Tony really did feel like he'd been hit by a truck. He wasn't sure why he was so washed out. Sure, he had the hand injury, and the incident in the night had been emotionally draining, but he wished he could just get over it and move on. He wasn’t used to feeling so damn weak. He wanted to blame Tonio, the boy in the box, but Gibbs didn't like it when he did that, so he tried to squash down the internal rebuke.

They went out and bought some glass for the kitchen door, and then Tony lay on the living room couch, watching Gibbs replace the shattered glass with the new pane. He liked watching Gibbs work on the door, just as he'd liked watching him work on his hand earlier.

At NCIS Gibbs was full of imperatives, striding around, handing out orders, pushing his team relentlessly, and demanding that they always produce their best work for him. At home, Gibbs was different. He was patient and methodical. He didn't seem to want anything of Tony at home, unlike at work. Every time he passed the couch he dropped a kiss on Tony's head or tousled his hair affectionately. He didn't even seem to mind Tony watching him, although it often irritated him when Tony did that at work.

Tony wished he could be more than a boring lump on the couch, but he didn't have the energy. He didn't want to talk, and Gibbs was one of those people who didn't seem to need conversation. It was companionable just to be in the same room together. Tony didn't feel like he had to entertain and amuse; he could just be.

"Looks good," Tony commented when Gibbs was done. Gibbs shrugged.

"Easy enough job."

"For you," Tony grinned. "Not my thing."

They ate lunch, and then Gibbs went down to the basement to work on his boat. Tony followed him. He was aware that he was following Gibbs everywhere, but he couldn't bear to let the man out of his sight right now. He hated his own weakness, but he felt battered, bruised, and confused, and Gibbs was his lifeline. There was something reassuring about being in the man's presence, allowing him to take charge, and, most of all, having someone to lean on. Tony hadn't leaned on anyone since he was twelve years old, and he hadn't realised how tired he was. It was a relief to be able to take a break and be with someone who really knew him. He didn’t have to pretend any more. He could let the boy out of the box for awhile and let Gibbs take care of him, so he didn't have to. It was a welcome respite.

Tony sat on a sawdust-strewn old armchair in a corner of the basement and watched Gibbs work on the boat.

"You bored?" Gibbs asked. "Want to watch TV?" He nodded towards the ancient set on top of his work bench.

"I'm fine," Tony said, closing his eyes. Tonio didn't need distractions. He just wanted to breathe a little.

He liked the sound of Gibbs working on the boat. It was slow, rhythmic, and hypnotic. He liked the smell of sawdust, and the knowledge that he was safe here, alone with Gibbs. Nobody could touch him here. Gibbs wouldn't let anyone touch him.

Gibbs didn't want anything from him; not sex, or conversation, or entertainment. He could rest awhile here, with Gibbs, and let it all go.

He was soon fast asleep, soothed by the reassuring sound of Gibbs sanding down the boat.

Gibbs glanced over at Tony and was glad to see that he'd fallen asleep. He looked pale and drained. Gibbs didn't think he'd seen him look this bad since he'd had the plague. Not that it was surprising considering what he'd been through these past few days.

Gibbs found an old blanket under the boat – one he sometimes used when he fell asleep down here at night after too much bourbon. He dusted off the worst of the sawdust and then gently draped it over Tony's sleeping form, pausing to drop a kiss on Tony's hair.

"I will get you through this, Tony," he said quietly. "I promise."

Gibbs wondered what it must have been like for Tony all these years, never allowing anyone to get close enough to love him, and then he realised that he already knew, because he'd been living like that himself for the past seventeen years. At least he remembered a time when life had been different - when he'd trusted himself to love, and when he'd been loved in return. Tony had never had that – or at least, not since his mom died.

Gibbs vowed to make that up to him. He wanted to reach the lonely, abused child and the lost, confused man and give them both the love they needed to heal.

Tony slept all afternoon. As evening approached, Gibbs went quietly upstairs to the bathroom to wash his hands. A few seconds later, he heard Tony creep into the room behind him.

"Didn't want to wake you," he said, glancing over his shoulder. Tony was still pale, but he looked a little more human now than he had earlier.

“I was awake. Just dozing,” Tony replied. He ran a hand through his sawdust-sprinkled hair, making it stick up in points. “Look, I don’t want to piss you off by following you around, but I really don’t want to be alone right now.”

Gibbs knew just what it had cost Tony to make that admission, and he nodded, flashing Tony an understanding smile. Tony was like a stray dog, abused by his former owners and starved of genuine love and affection, sticking beside the one person who had shown him any love.

They ordered take-out and ate it on the couch in front of another one of Tony’s DVDs. Gibbs was more interested in Tony than the movie. He remembered long evenings with Shannon, back when they were dating, before they’d had sex. They would sit in the movie theatre, neither of them watching what was onscreen as they kissed and petted. It seemed like a more innocent time, but he wondered if it was what Tony needed right now; affection without the inevitability of sex, love without strings, intimacy without demands.

“Come here,” he said, putting up his legs on the couch and opening them. He pulled Tony between them, so that he was lying on the couch with his head resting on Gibbs’s chest. Then Gibbs leaned down and kissed him. Tony looked surprised, but he opened up eagerly enough to allow Gibbs’s gently exploring tongue into his mouth.

Gibbs kissed him slowly, sliding a hand down inside Tony's shirt to lazily stroke his bare skin. Tony sighed happily and responded eagerly to the kiss. Then he pushed Gibbs back onto the couch, and his hips started to move rhythmically against Gibbs's body. Gibbs moved him back to where he had been before and continued kissing him at a more leisurely pace. Every time Tony got too eager, Gibbs pushed him back, and Tony soon got with the programme.

Gibbs had forgotten how good it could be just to kiss. Tony’s lips were surprisingly soft, and he tasted so good. Gibbs felt Tony start to relax and enjoy it as he realised that sex wasn't the goal here. He wondered if Tony had ever shared any real intimacy with anyone, except maybe Jeanne. Even then, Gibbs wondered if that had been Tony play-acting at intimacy, wanting the real thing but without the risks that came with it, and using his undercover identity to protect himself.

Now, Gibbs demanded intimacy from him, and slowly, hesitantly, Tony responded. He stopped trying to force the pace and unwound in Gibbs's arms, giving himself up to the long, hazy kisses.

They spent the entire evening on the couch, just kissing, and by the end of the evening Gibbs had kissed Tony into a state of boneless relaxation. He knew how much Tony always dreaded going to bed, but maybe tonight Tony would be relaxed enough that they’d get through the entire night without drama.

Tony couldn't understand how he could sleep for most of the day and still feel exhausted when he went to bed.

“It’s all that kissing,” he told his reflection in the bathroom mirror. “That’d wear anyone out.” His reflection grinned at him, and he grinned back. He liked the way his lips looked a little swollen, and the touch of beard burn on his neck from Gibbs’s stubble. Who knew that kissing could be so good? He’d only ever viewed it as a prelude to sex before. This was all new to him.

He went into the bedroom, slid into the bed beside Gibbs, turned onto his side, and relaxed immediately when Gibbs pressed up close behind him, and put a hand on his belly. Tony fell asleep within seconds.

Gibbs got up to use the bathroom a few hours later, and Tony heard him return to bed. Then Gibbs pressed up behind him again, pulling him close.

Tony walked dreamily along a hallway. At the end of the hallway was a door with gold numbers on it.

Room 204.

He could hear a child’s voice, counting out the steps in his head.

“342, 343, 344, 345.”

He reached the door and stood outside, gazing at the gilt numbers.


He didn’t want to go inside. He wanted to turn away, but he knew that he couldn’t. The door swung open, and he found himself walking into the room, his legs carrying him in even though his mind was screaming at him to turn and run.

There was a child lying on the bed, fast asleep. Tony went over to him, got into the bed beside him, and then disappeared into his body.

"Tonio," a soft voice whispered in his ear. “My sleepy boy! Wake up and let Uncle Roy make love to you, sweetheart.”

Tony stiffened. "No," he whispered.

“Why are you being so cold, Tonio?” Roy asked, in a hurt tone of voice. "My beautiful Tonio."

Hands swept over his body, gentle but insistent. He drew his knees up to his chest, put his arms around them, and hugged them tight.

"No," he said again. He could do this. He'd done it before. He didn't have to agree to this any more.

"Oh, Tonio! I can't believe you've betrayed me, my love," Roy whispered sadly in his ear. "Wasn't I always good to you? Wasn't I always gentle and kind? Didn't I buy you everything you wanted? I always loved you, my darling boy. Do you want to see me go to prison? Is that really what you want?"

Tony blinked, and lay there, staring at the wall. A few hours ago he’d felt completely relaxed, but now he felt like he was going to throw up. The urge to run was almost overwhelming. Today had been good, and they still had tomorrow, but then on Monday…. It was all going to kick off on Monday, and he didn't think he'd ever be ready for that. Was there any way of persuading Gibbs not to do this? No. He knew Gibbs too well. There was no way the man would let this drop.

Tony felt like he was on a rollercoaster, right at the top of the ride, just before all hell broke loose, and everything went into freefall. It had been bad enough so far, through the long, slow climb to the top, but now it was going to get far worse. First there would be telling Ziva, and then there was going back to that hotel room, Gibbs arresting Quinn, and his father finding out.

Tony reached up automatically to stroke his hair. Supposing he couldn't keep it together? He'd already had several meltdowns. Supposing he had another? In front of McGee, or Ziva, or…in front of his father? Gibbs didn't know what he was asking of him. Gibbs had told him he was brave, but he knew he wasn't brave about stuff like this. Sure, he'd dive into a river to rescue someone he loved, or take a bullet for a member of his team, but he couldn't do this.

Tony slid quietly out of the bed. He walked silently along the hallway to the spare bedroom, got dressed, threw some clothes into a bag, and then tip-toed down the stairs. He didn’t have his car here – Gibbs had refused to let him drive since this had all started. Tony found Gibbs’s jacket hanging over the banister. He reached into the pocket and took out Gibbs’s car keys. Then he opened the front door, and stood there, hesitating.

He wanted to leave. He had to get away from Gibbs and all his kisses and those warm, loving hands that made Tony feel so good. He had to run from the inevitable disappointment Gibbs would feel when Tony eventually let him down, which he would.

He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t look into Ziva’s dark brown eyes and tell her what had happened to him. That wasn’t who he was. He wasn’t a victim – he was the guy who joked around and didn’t take anything seriously. This wasn’t *him*.

He couldn’t go back to that hotel. He couldn’t walk into Room 204 as if nothing had happened to him in there. He couldn’t stand by while Gibbs arrested Roy Quinn. He couldn’t just sit at his desk, working on cold cases, while NCIS agents walked into his father’s offices with a search warrant. He couldn’t do any of those things. He didn’t have the courage.

Kind brown eyes gazed at him approvingly. "You always were a good boy, Tonio," Roy whispered. "I knew you wouldn’t let this happen. You love me, don’t you?"

Tony rubbed his head anxiously. "I don't know," he muttered.

“You don’t want to see me go to prison,” Roy insisted. “Remember all the happy times we shared? Remember what a shy little boy you were, and how I talked to you and brought you out of your shell? Remember how much I loved you.”

“Shut up,” he hissed. “Please…shut up. I can’t think…I can’t decide…”

The door was open in front of him. He could leave. He could just step through this door and leave behind the one person he’d ever truly loved. He could drive away, catch a plane, and go somewhere this hadn’t happened. He could start again, some place where nobody knew him. He could be someone else. He didn’t have to be Tonio any more, or even Tony DiNozzo. He could think up a new name and invent a different identity. He could be free. He took a step forward, and then another.

“You’re doing the right thing, Tonio,” Roy whispered insistently in his ear. “You can run away, and nobody will ever find you.”

“You don’t know Gibbs,” he snorted. “He’ll track me down wherever I go.”

"You're too smart for that, Tonio. You're my beautiful, clever boy. You don't belong to him - you belong to me. You love me."

Tony rested his hand on the open door, and then he closed it without stepping through.

“No, I don’t, Roy,” he hissed. “I don’t fucking love you. I love *him*.”

"What will your father say, Tonio?” Roy asked reproachfully. "Do you really want to upset like this? I saved his life. Without me, your father wouldn't even be here. Without me, you wouldn't even exist. You owe me your life, Tonio. You're mine."

“No, I’m not,” he growled. “I’m not yours, Roy, I never fucking was.”

"No, you're mine." A hand slid over his stomach, and Tony blinked. Gibbs was standing behind him, and he realised that he must have been talking out loud. "You're your own person, Tony, and you're mine. Mine by your own choice, by adult consent," Gibbs said quietly into his ear.

"Sorry, Boss," Tony muttered. He couldn’t turn to face Gibbs and look him in the eye. He was too ashamed of himself.

“It’s okay. I’ve got you.”

Tony looked down at the keys in his hand and the small bag of clothes at his feet. Christ, this looked bad.

"I thought you found a way of dealing with this last night?" Gibbs said softly. He sounded dull, flat, disappointed. Tony winced. Gibbs was still holding him, one arm wrapped around him, one hand pressed flat against his stomach.

"This is different," Tony replied. "I have more than one demon in my head, Gibbs. Roy Quinn doesn’t scare me shitless - he guilt-trips me instead.”

"You're anxious about Monday." It wasn't a question. They both knew he was.

"Yeah." Tony nodded.

“I don’t think you should come with us to the hotel,” Gibbs said. “You can stay behind with Ducky.”

“I don’t need a babysitter!” Tony growled angrily.

“I know, but I’d feel happier knowing someone’s with you when I’m not,” Gibbs said sensibly. “Just for now - while you’re not always in the moment.”

Tony remembered walking along that hallway in his dream, seeing that door at the end with the gold numbering on it, and stepping inside. He was afraid, but that was all the more reason to go.

“I want to go back to Room 204,” he said. “I have to see it. It’s always going to be in my head if I don’t.”

“You sure?” Gibbs asked. “Only you thought it would be a good idea to face Parrish and that didn’t work out so well.”

“This is different. I need to see it,” Tony said quietly. “I need to deal with this, Gibbs. I can’t keep avoiding it. It’s out now – I have to face it. It’s the only way I’ll be able to move on. Hell, you’re the one who has been saying that from the beginning!”


"You're going to bring Roy back to NCIS for questioning, aren't you?" Tony asked.

"Yes." Gibbs linked both his hands firmly across Tony's stomach, encircling him. It made him feel warm, safe, and protected. "There's no reason for you to see him though, DiNozzo. In fact, you won't see him. I won't put you in a position where you even catch sight of him across the squad room."

"But you'll interrogate him, and he'll twist things," Tony said. "That’s what he does. Supposing he makes you believe that it wasn't how I said it was? That I'm lying?"

"I am not your father, Tony," Gibbs snapped. "I already know what happened because you told me and I believe you. There is nothing Roy Quinn can say that will change that."

"I feel bad – like I've betrayed him." Tony reached up to rub his head anxiously. "He was kind to me, after my mom died. He would talk to me for hours, take me places. He just wanted me to love him. The problem is, although I didn't like him fucking me, I never stopped liking *him*, and I wanted him to like me."

Tony glanced over his shoulder and saw a frankly terrifying expression in Gibbs's eyes.

"You don't understand it – you didn't understand it with Justin, either," Tony snapped. He pushed his way out of the circle of Gibbs's arms and turned on him. "You said it was all about sex, but it didn't feel that way. It felt like he really liked me."

"You're right. I don't understand,” Gibbs said stonily. “Seems to me that he was a bastard who preyed on a lonely child. He forced you into a sexual relationship you didn’t want and were too young to consent to.”

“It’s more complicated than that.”

“No, it fucking isn’t!” Gibbs slammed his fist against the wall, and Tony flinched. Gibbs grimaced and ran his hand through his hair. “Okay, explain it to me,” he said. “I’ll listen – I don’t promise I’ll understand, but I’ll listen.”

“I loved my mom, Gibbs,” Tony said wretchedly. “No, I didn’t just love her – I adored her. She was the only person I could talk to, and then she died, and there was nobody. Nobody. My dad threw himself into his work, and I was this lonely little rich kid sitting in an ivory tower with nobody to talk to. Then Roy came along. He knew my mom. He talked to me about my mom, and he let me talk about her. He made me feel like I mattered…like I was…” He broke off, shaking his head.

“Loved?” Gibbs said softly.

“Yeah.” Tony nodded, wrapping his arms around himself. “It didn’t feel like a lie.”

“Must have eventually,” Gibbs told him. Tony looked up. “You got out, Tony. You found yourself a way out of that situation. You took care of yourself, protected yourself. You knew it wasn’t really about love even back then.”

Tony stared at him, and then, finally, he shrugged and let it go. He couldn't explain it to Gibbs – there was no way he'd ever understand.

Gibbs picked up the bag at Tony’s feet. “Come on, let’s go back to bed,” he said.

“You must think I’m a total coward. Running out like that,” Tony muttered.

Gibbs wrapped an arm around Tony’s shoulders and pulled him back towards the stairs. “I didn’t see you run out,” Gibbs told him, planting a kiss on the side of his head. “I saw you shut the door and decide to stay.”
Ziva grinned as Eli, wet from his shower and wearing only a towel around his waist, stole up behind her and wrapped his arms around her.

“Stop it!” she laughed. “You are not even dry!”

“I thought you were going to join me in the shower,” he said, nibbling her ear. She made a face and pushed him off, still giggling.

“I already went out for a run, bought some groceries, took a shower and got dressed while you slept, you lazy oaf.”

“Then you must be exhausted,” he purred. “Want to come back to bed?”

She turned around to face him. “I could kill you with my bare hands,” she warned, as he grabbed her again.

“You could, but then who would kiss you in that special place?” he asked with a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows. She grabbed his wet face and kissed him. He was slippery beneath her fingers, his dark chest hair shining with droplets of water.

“You are very naughty,” she chided.

“I know. You want to get the handcuffs out again and restrain me?”

She cupped his ass cheeks through his towel. “That does sound tempting,” she mused. At that moment there was a knock on the door. Eli raised an eyebrow.

“Visitors? At 10 a.m. on a Sunday?”

“I will send them away,” she promised.

She went over to the door and opened it to find Tony lounging in the doorway.

“Tony!” she exclaimed, surprised. He never usually visited her apartment.

“Morning Ziva,” he said cheerfully. “Hmm, am I interrupting something?” he grinned, glancing over her shoulder at Eli, who was still standing there in his towel. Ziva grimaced. The last thing she wanted was for Tony to know about Eli. He would ask her a dozen questions, look through all her personal belongings to find out every last detail about her new boyfriend, and then tease her about it mercilessly for weeks.

“This the guy you work with?” Eli asked, coming to stand beside her.

“Yes, this is Tony.” Tony stood there, grinning at her. She saw his eyes flicker, insolently, over Eli’s semi-naked body, and then he looked back at her with a suggestive leer. “He is the annoying one I told you about,” Ziva said. Tony pouted.

“Oh, I’m hurt,” he replied. “Look, I’m sorry, Ziva, this is obviously bad timing, but…I was wondering if you had time to grab a coffee with me?”

She was even more surprised by that. This really wasn’t Tony-like behaviour at all.

“If Eli doesn’t mind that is,” Tony grinned. She gaped at him.

“How do you know his name…?” she began. “Oh never mind. You really are very annoying, Tony.”

“Yes I am,” he agreed cheerfully. “So – coffee?”

She glanced at Eli who shrugged at her. “I do have some work to do,” he sighed.

“Plans to draw up?” Tony raised an eyebrow. “I once wanted to be an architect, but the thought of drawing all those straight lines put me off.”

Eli glared at him. Ziva leaned over to kiss his cheek. “I will not be long,” she promised. He gave Tony another glare and then turned and went into the bedroom.

“How do you know he is an architect?” Ziva asked, grabbing her bag and keys.

Tony gave her another one of his infuriating grins and tapped his nose as they walked down the stairs.

“What else do you know about him?” she demanded.

“He’s 34, he likes sushi, and you met him at synagogue,” he replied promptly. “And he has great taste in women,” he added, with his best and most appealing, ‘please don’t hit me’ smile. She did anyway, elbowing him firmly in the ribs. “Ow!” He pretended to double over.

“Where is your car?” she asked, glancing around the parking lot.

“Not here. We’ll have to take yours. Unless there’s a coffee place within walking distance?”

“There is not.” She shook her head. “And how did you get here if you did not come by car?”

“Gibbs dropped me off.”

She glanced at him, startled. “Why?”

“Because I want to talk to you,” he said, neatly side-stepping her question.

“Why?” she said again. An unreadable expression flickered in his eyes.

“Let’s just go get some coffee, and then I’ll tell you,” he said quietly.

She felt her hackles start to rise. She wasn't someone like Gibbs, used to feeling things in her gut, but she was used to trusting her instincts in combat situations. Right now, she got the feeling that something bad was going to happen.

She drove them to the nearest Starbucks at her usual breakneck speed. Tony clung onto the edge of his seat the entire time, muttering under his breath. She grinned. It served him right for snooping about in her private life.

“So, what is going on, Tony?” she asked, as soon as they were seated with two cups of coffee on the table in front of them.

Tony bit on his lip and gazed out of the window for a long moment. Ziva stared at him. This really was very unusual behaviour, even for Tony. She wondered if she should fill the silence but decided against it. She sipped her coffee and waited. Several minutes passed, and then, suddenly, Tony started speaking.

“First off, I have to apologise,” he said.

She raised an eyebrow. “For digging into my personal life and finding out about Eli – that IS very annoying.”

Tony shook his head. “Oh no, not for that,” he grinned. “That’s just what I do. You should have expected that.”

She kicked him under the table, and he laughed out loud. Then the laughter faded and that unreadable expression was back in his eyes.

“Tony, what do you need to apologise for?” she asked quietly.

“For the fact I didn’t have the guts to tell you this before. You’re the last one on the team to know.”

“The last one to know what?” She reached out and put her hand over his bandaged hand where it was resting on the table. He didn’t draw away.

“We’re going to Long Island tomorrow,” he said.

“Yes. I know.” She took a sip of her coffee and watched him over the rim of the mug.

“You have a warrant to arrest Roy Quinn, the CEO of my father’s company.”


“For charges relating to child pornography,” he added.

“Yes.” She went very still, never taking her eyes off him.

“There’s a reason why Gibbs won’t let me work the case,” Tony continued, his face twisting into an expression she had never seen on it before.

“Tony, I am not stupid,” she said quietly. “There are parts of a puzzle here. I would be lying if I said I had not started to piece them together. I was not sure if I had it right in my head, but then you came into work with that bandage on your hand…”

“Gibbs isn’t happy,” Tony interrupted, as if he didn't want to hear the end of that sentence.

“No, I have noticed that. He is like a bear with a sore leg.”

"Head," Tony corrected automatically.

There was another silence. He stared into his coffee.

“Tony, how is Quinn’s case related to that of Admiral Parrish?” Ziva asked, squeezing his hand gently.

He swallowed hard, and then met her eyes again. “Quinn once took some photographs of me in a hotel room on Long Island,” he said quietly. “Those photos were on Parrish’s laptop. Gibbs saw them and connected the dots.”

She sat back, allowing that information to sink in. She had had her suspicions of course, but it was very hard to imagine Tony, the man sitting in front of her right now, the man who sat across the room from her every day at work, having this kind of secret.

“May I ask,” she said tentatively. “How old you were when Quinn took those photographs?”

He hesitated.

“You do not have to answer that question if you do not wish to,” she told him. He gave her a faded smile and gently stroked his thumb over the back of her fingers.

“I was twelve,” he replied.

She sat there for a moment, unmoving. Her heart was beating a little too fast, and she felt both angry and sad. She waited until the feelings abated, collecting herself, showing nothing of her distress. This had to be hard enough for him as it was.

“And aside from the photographs, did both Quinn and Admiral Parrish…?” She could not bring herself to finish that sentence.

“Yeah.” He nodded.

She thought about that for a long while and then leaned forward. “Tony, I know ways of inflicting slow and painful deaths,” she said quietly. “And ways, also, of disposing of the evidence. It would give me great pleasure if you would like me to…”

He gave a little chuckle and shook his head. “No, Ziva. Thanks for the offer, but no. Let’s do this the NCIS way, with, you know, law and justice and all that stuff. If that doesn’t work…well, I doubt you’ll get a chance to do it your way as I suspect Gibbs will get there first, but if he doesn’t, I might well take you up on your offer.”

She nodded and squeezed his bandaged hand very gently. “How did you really hurt your hand?” she asked. He grinned.

“Oh, I really did walk into a door!” She frowned at him, and he sighed. “Okay, so I was having a major freak-out at the time, but it was definitely me versus the door – and the door won.”

“You are staying with Gibbs? He said it was his kitchen door.”

“Yeah and yeah. And he won’t let me drive at the moment – so no car.”

“Why will he not let you drive?” She wrinkled up her forehead.

“It’s not a good idea. I’m not…as stable as I usually am, right now,” he admitted, his eyes darkening.

She gazed at him steadily. He was the Tony she knew so well, and yet he was not. He was also someone else; someone scared and vulnerable. She had never seen this person before, and her heart went out to him. Tony never liked to be serious about anything, so she could imagine how much it had taken for him to tell her this.

“You said that everyone else knows?”

“Yes, and I’m sorry you’re the last. If it’s any consolation, you’re the only one I’ve told in person. McGee found out when he taped my statement. Gibbs told Ducky because I needed medical help, and Abby because she was close to finding out anyway.”

“I do not mind. It is not a competition,” she said. He picked up his mug and drank his coffee down in one go. “And besides, you have known all of them for longer than you have known me. I will always be the outsider to a certain extent…”

He looked up sharply. “Ziva, that’s not true.”

“Yes, it is.” She gave him a tight smile. “I do understand. I have other allegiances, and you are all wary of that. It gets in the way of our team bond sometimes, I think.”

“Not for me.” He shook his head. “I had no idea you felt this way.”

“Well, we do not ever really talk, do we?” She put her head on one side and surveyed him. “You do not ever want to be serious, Tony.”

“No. I don’t.” He shrugged. “And I want you to know just how much it’s killing me right now.”

“I understand.” She nodded. “When your secret is very big, it is best never to allow anyone to get close enough to catch even the smallest glimpse of it.”

He gave a little laugh. “Trust the Mossad officer to know all about that.”

“I understand you much better than you might think, Tony. You have done an excellent job of fooling us all over the years. I think that you might even be good enough for Mossad.”

He grinned exuberantly, knowing that she had just paid him her highest compliment. Then he glanced at his watch. “I should go before Eli comes down here and starts beating up on me.”

“He is an architect, Tony, not a fighter. Even McGee could take him out,” she grinned. “So you would probably be able to do it.”

“Hey – you just said I was good enough for Mossad!” he pouted, and she laughed at him. It felt as if they were back on easy, familiar territory.

“I know that you do not rate my skills as an investigator very highly, Tony,” she told him. His eyes flashed. “While we are being honest, we might as well speak of these things,” she shrugged.

“You’re excellent at undercover work, and if we need someone in a fight,” Tony told her seriously. “But crime scene skills – investigative skills – those aren’t your natural forte.”

“I know.” She nodded. “But they are yours. The team is missing you in this investigation. Gibbs is missing you. He will not say it, but he relies on your particular skills. He is very good; very dynamic, very active in pursuit of the truth and an excellent leader. He is unrelenting and demanding, and he always gets results. His interrogation skills are the best I have seen anywhere, including Mossad. He needs you though. Your skill is in having ideas, piecing together all the clues, making the connections, and using your inherent nosiness to do the digging in all the right places.”

“I think there was a compliment in there somewhere,” he said with a frown. She grinned.

“There was. I am saying that while I lack your particular skills, I will do my best not to let you down in this investigation as you are unable to participate yourself. I will do absolutely everything I can to bring these men to justice. None of the children they harmed will go un-avenged. The child you once were - that twelve year old boy - *he* will not go un-avenged. I promise you that, Tony.”

He sat back in his chair, and for a moment she thought she saw that child peeping out of his eyes; shy, reserved, and a little freaked out by all the attention, and then the moment was gone.

“Thank you, Ziva,” he said quietly.

McGee looked up as the elevator pinged. He was the only one in the squad room, and while he relished the peace and quiet, it did feel pretty eerie. Usually this place was full of life, bustle, and energy, and it felt strange to be here alone. There were other people around – the Director was in his office, and there were a couple of support technicians in MTAC, but for the most part, the building was deserted.

Gibbs strode into the squad room a few seconds later and sat down at his desk. He didn't seem surprised to see McGee here on a Sunday morning.

"What have you got for me, McGee?" he asked.

McGee got up and took a thick file over to him. "This is the file you asked for," he said, with just a flicker of distaste as he handed it over. "Every single photo on Parrish's laptop, catalogued and numbered." He wasn't surprised that Gibbs didn't flick it open. The contents of that file would be a challenge to the strongest stomach. Gibbs just nodded.

"What happened at the prison?"

"I spoke to Xavier Ramirez. He was reluctant to talk at first. Ziva had to…" He hesitated, looking for the right word.

"Sweet talk him?" Gibbs raised an ironic eyebrow.

"Something like that," McGee agreed with a little grimace. "He's a streetwise little punk – very brash, but not as hard as he likes to make out. He admitted eventually that Parrish did start abusing him when he was fourteen, but he refuses to testify against him. He's absolutely terrified of Parrish, Boss – just like Justin and…" He hesitated and bit his lip.

Gibbs gazed at him stonily. "What else did he say?"

"I don't think Ramirez is the brightest button in the box, Boss, and Parrish – he really is a bastard."

"I already know that, McGee."

"Reading between the lines, it seems that after Ramirez got too old to be of interest to Parrish, he tried to blackmail him – said he'd go to the police if Parrish didn't give him money."

Gibbs clicked his jaw in annoyance.

"Yeah. That was a bad move," McGee agreed. "One night Ramirez and his brother were leaving a bar, and they ran into a gang of what they claim were Navy personnel, although they weren't in uniform. They were both beaten up pretty bad – Ramirez's brother lost an eye. Parrish visited Ramirez in hospital and told him that he'd been lucky. He didn't actually admit that he'd sent the men to beat them up, but Ramirez says it was definitely him."

McGee handed Gibbs another file. "This is my full report. There's also an e-copy in your inbox, Boss."

"And the other kid? Parkes?" Gibbs demanded.

"Refused point blank to speak to us," McGee sighed. "So Tony's is still the only statement we have unless we can get Justin to make one."

"Is there a reason why you didn't pull the rest of your team in today, McGee?" Gibbs asked.

"Uh, yes," McGee nodded. "We worked all day yesterday and well into the night. Abby finished up with the photos, and me and Ziva wrote up our reports on the prison visit and got everything requisitioned and in place for tomorrow. I knew I could finish up everything else myself today, and next week will be busy, and…well, probably pretty stressful. They've done a good job and deserved a day off. Owing to the nature of the case, and, uh, who is involved, these past few days have been difficult and distressing for all of us."

Gibbs sat back in his chair, gazing at him steadily, and then nodded, and McGee thought he saw the faintest hint of approval in his boss's eyes. "You're sounding like a real team leader, McGee. Good work," he said softly. "So, everything is ready for tomorrow?"

McGee hesitated.

"McGee!" Gibbs snapped. "I thought you just said…"

"Oh it is, Boss. I mean, I've done everything I can to get all the teams and vans assembled, and all the transport arrangements made, and warrants issued, and so on, but…"

"Well?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

"Director Vance won't sign off on it, Boss. He says he wants to see you in his office."

"He's in today?" Gibbs glanced up at the stairs, in the general direction of Vance's office.

McGee nodded. Gibbs's jaw tightened, and he got to his feet and grabbed the big file of photos that McGee had given him.

"Uh, Boss?" Gibbs paused. "Is Tony doing okay?" McGee asked quietly. "Abby is really worried about him." And so am I, he thought, but he didn't like to say that. Gibbs's expression was completely unreadable.

"He's hanging on in there, Tim," Gibbs replied. "That's about it. I don't think there's much more we can ask of him right now."

"The way he was when he attacked Parrish…and then he hurt his hand…" McGee winced. "And he barely said a word all day on Friday while he was working those cold case files. He just doesn't seem like Tony at the moment."

"This is really tough for him, Tim," Gibbs said quietly. "He's getting there, but he’s struggling right now, and he needs our help to see him through it."

"I understand." McGee nodded.

"Good – because I'm relying on you, McGee." Gibbs put a hand on his shoulder. McGee looked at the hand and then looked up, startled. "When it all kicks off next week – and trust me, it *is* going to kick off - there will be times when I'm not around. I don't want Tony left on his own at any point, or for any reason – understood?"

McGee nodded.

"I need you to be sure that you always know where he is, and who he's with – I want you, Ducky, Abby, or Ziva with him at all times. That thing with his hand…" A flicker of a grimace crossed Gibbs's face. "Well, let's just say I don't want a repeat of that."

"Okay, Boss." McGee had no idea what had happened to Tony's hand, but he could guess it hadn't been the straightforward accident Tony had made it out to be. "Where is he now?" he asked.

"With Ziva. Telling her."

"Thank God. That was becoming really awkward," McGee sighed, relieved that Ziva would now be in the loop.

"He's my priority, so you're on your own for the rest of the day, Tim. I'll get the Director to sign off on this, and then I'll leave the rest of the details to you." Gibbs began walking towards the stairs, and then paused and turned. "I know you'll do a good job, Agent McGee."

Leon Vance glanced at his watch, and then glanced at the photograph of his wife and children on his desk, and winced. Jackie generally tolerated him working long hours, but she did not approve of him working on a Sunday. He didn't like it much himself, but he had a potential headache on his hands, courtesy, as usual, of Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Vance gazed at the massive file of paperwork McGee had given to him. It seemed that Gibbs wanted to requisition just about every resource NCIS had to work on his current case, and frankly, Vance was getting sick of the high-handed way Gibbs conducted himself.

Vance ran this agency, but you wouldn't think so judging by the way everyone behaved around Gibbs. The entire agency was either in awe of the man, or terrified of him, or both, and Vance had a suspicion that if they had to choose between obeying him or obeying Gibbs they'd choose Gibbs. That pissed him off no end.

For all that he said he had no interest in the top job, Gibbs acted as if he was the de facto boss of NCIS. Sometimes, Vance felt he existed merely to rubber-stamp anything Gibbs put in front of him; it was time to take a stand. Gibbs had to learn that he couldn't have everything his own way. It was time that he learned exactly who was in charge.

At that moment, the man in question burst through the door, without knocking.

"You wanted to see me, Leon?" he growled, all high-handed arrogance and tight-lipped intensity as usual.

"Yes, I did, Agent Gibbs," Vance growled back.

Gibbs came to stand in front of his desk. Usually when people stood there they had the grace to look like subordinates, but somehow Gibbs managed to make it feel like Vance was answering to him.

"Do you see the name on that door, Agent Gibbs?" Vance snapped. Gibbs's eyes didn't even flicker towards the door. They stayed fixed on him.

"I do. It says Director Leon Vance," Gibbs replied.

"That's right. *Director* Leon Vance."

Vance sat back in his chair and slid a toothpick into his mouth. He gazed at Gibbs as he chewed on the stick. Usually this was a technique that worked – he'd cowed many a subordinate by just sitting back and staring at them in silence, subjecting them to his unrelenting glare. Gibbs didn't even shift on his feet; he just glared back.

"What, Leon?" he growled, and it annoyed Vance that Gibbs felt so free to call him by his first name. "You chose today to have a pissing contest with me? Trust me, now is not good timing."

"When the hell ever is? Bad enough that you treat NCIS like your own personal fiefdom, Gibbs, as if the chain of command doesn't damn well apply to you, but now you get Agent Flunky McGee to hand me this?" He pointed to the massive file on his desk. "You want to requisition half the agency's resources, and you expect me to just sign off on that," he growled. "Without details?"

"There are details in the file," Gibbs replied.

"Not many," Vance snapped back. "I know we're holding an admiral for possession of child pornography, and now you want to go chasing after some ex-marine for the same thing."

"Oh, it's bigger than that, Leon," Gibbs told him. "This isn't just a case of possession of child porn – these men have been raping children for decades, and we have a chance to bring them down."

Vance frowned at him. "You're saying that you've stumbled upon some kind of pedophile ring?"

Gibbs nodded.

"Then why the hell isn't that in the report?" Vance demanded.

"Because I thought you trusted me, Leon!" Gibbs snapped. "I thought you trusted me enough to know I wasn't just asking for all these resources for the hell of it. I thought you knew me well enough to know that I have a damn good reason for it!"

"And why the hell couldn't you have trusted *me* enough to put all the details in your report?" Vance snapped back.

Gibbs got control of his temper, visibly. "Because I haven't had time," he said quietly.

"I don't care if you have to stay up all night on it – make the damn time," Vance ordered. Gibbs's eyes suddenly turned very cold.

"I can't do that, Leon. I have other priorities right now," he said icily. "I know the job has always come first with me, but not this time. This time I'm juggling priorities, and I expect you to trust me enough to understand that."

There was something about the intensity of his voice and body language that alerted Vance. He spat out his toothpick and leaned forward.

"Explain it to me, Jethro," he said quietly. "I'm listening."

Gibbs threw a file on his desk. "This is what we're investigating," he said. "Go on, Leon, take a look, and then you can have the same sleepless nights as the rest of us."

Vance flicked open the file and grimaced as he saw the pictures.

"There are 51 boys in that file. 51 boys who were abused between, we think, some time in the 1970s and now. Parrish could well be the tip of a very large iceberg, Leon, and I will not stop until I've found out just how far this goes."

Vance winced as he turned the pages in the folder. All of them were neatly catalogued and labelled, and all of the pictures were equally explicit and disturbing.

"Some of these boys are just children," he murmured, looking at a picture of a boy who didn't appear to be much older than his own son.

"Yeah." Gibbs nodded.

"And you have an admiral and an ex-marine on your list of possible perpetrators – so you're wondering…" Vance paused.

"Yeah, I'm wondering, Leon, if this is part of a wider pedophile ring currently operating in the military. If there are other marines or serving Naval officers involved, then it's my opinion that NCIS should throw every damn resource we have at it. Or maybe you disagree?"

Vance glared at him. "It would have killed you to fill me in on this before now?"

Gibbs's eyes flickered in annoyance. "I wanted to bring you enough to make a case, Leon," he said quietly. "And I've been busy."

"That boy you arrested – Justin Merrells? Is he one of the boys in these photos?" Vance asked.

"Yes." Gibbs nodded. He flicked open the file and pointed at a blond kid on the first page. "He's Boy One."

"He going to testify against Parrish?"

Gibbs hesitated. "At the moment he’s too scared. Parrish is a Svengali figure. All the boys he abused are terrified of him, even years later."

"Have we made IDs on any of these other boys? Are we going to be able to get any of them to testify against Parrish?" Vance asked.

"I haven't given up on persuading Justin to testify," Gibbs told him. "We've identified a handful of the other boys. One of them has given us a statement that might help us bring this ring down."

"Who is this Roy Quinn you're going to arrest, and how is he linked to Parrish?" Vance asked, pulling the folder of paperwork towards him and opening it. There was silence. Vance glanced up. "Gibbs?"

"Our witness says that Quinn and Parrish worked together. They would groom a boy for sexual abuse and then pass him on to other men – or at least that's what happened to him," Gibbs growled. "Parrish is ruthless and smart. We've found nothing at all except those photos on his laptop, and they were heavily encrypted so we almost didn't find them. He won't give us any other names, addresses, details – nothing. We might get more out of Quinn than we got out of Parrish. If there are other men in this ring – and I have reason to believe there are – then I want to find them. All of them."

"Okay." Vance nodded, glancing through the file. "You're right, Gibbs – NCIS needs to throw everything we have at this. You can have all the resources I can give you."

"Thank you, Leon," Gibbs said, in a tight little voice. Vance reached for his pen and began signing his name on all the requisition requests.

"I have children, Gibbs," he said quietly. "I have a son. If I'd known all the details…" He shook his head. "Then I'd have signed these straight away. You know that."

Gibbs nodded. "Yeah, I know that, Leon," he sighed. "And if I'd had time to brief you before now then trust me, I would have. I wasn't deliberately trying to keep you in the dark."

Vance gave him a tight little smile. He signed his way through the file and then handed it back.

"The kid who has given us all this information – who is he?" he asked.

Gibbs's knuckles went white as he clenched his hand around the file. "He isn't a kid," he replied. "He's a grown man now. The abuse happened in 1984."

"Statute of limitations,” Vance pointed out.

“I know – we can’t get Parrish for abusing him, but the information he’s given us has helped blow this thing wide open. Worst case scenario is that we just get Parrish for possession of child porn.”

“Best case scenario?” Vance raised an eyebrow.

“Hell, I don’t just want to bust Parrish for possession! I want to get him for the actual abuse!” Gibbs said angrily. “If that means persuading Justin to testify then that’s what I’ll damn well do – his case is recent enough that the statute of limitations doesn’t apply.”

“Okay. Who is this witness who has been such a big help to us? How did we find him? I don't see any paperwork here about him. Where's his statement?" Vance demanded. Gibbs's eyes flickered irritably. "We need to make this watertight, Gibbs!" Vance snapped. "The media will be all over a case like this. We need to make sure the agency comes out of this smelling of roses, or heads will roll."

"Oh, I'll make sure that the agency comes out of this just fine," Gibbs growled. "If that's what you're worried about, *Director*."

All this time Vance had been wanting Gibbs to call him by his title and now, suddenly, he wished he hadn't.

"Gibbs – I just meant…"

"I know what you meant," Gibbs snapped, walking towards the door.

"Gibbs – you didn't answer me. Who is the witness?" Vance asked, icily, trying to regain at least some of the upper ground in this confrontation. He didn't like the way Gibbs was making him feel, as if he was some petty bureaucrat who didn't give a damn about people. That wasn't who he was, and he wanted Gibbs to know that. Gibbs paused by the door, his hand on the handle, his back rigid and tense. He stood there for a moment, looking like he was struggling to make a decision, and then he turned, his jaw twitching in annoyance.

"It's DiNozzo," he said.

Vance stared at him, not understanding. "DiNozzo what?" he asked.

Anthony DiNozzo was probably his least favourite agent, after Gibbs himself. DiNozzo shared some of Gibbs's more irritating character traits. He was the kind of agent who thought nothing of picking locks and entering premises without a search warrant, he had some highly unorthodox methods of conducting investigations and interrogations, and he didn't seem to feel the need to include all the facts in his reports. Like Gibbs, he had little understanding of modern technology and was forever disappearing off to pursue his own lines of enquiry. He was also, like Gibbs, someone Vance found hard to read, although in a completely different way. Whereas Gibbs never gave a thing away, intimidating with his body language and sheer force of will, DiNozzo gave every appearance of being a total idiot – except for the fact that he clearly wasn't. It was hard to take him seriously, and yet you under-estimated him at your peril.

"Gibbs?" Vance pressed. "What has DiNozzo got to do with this?”

"He's our witness," Gibbs replied. Vance frowned.

"I don't understand…"

"Take a look in the damn file, Leon! Boy 43," Gibbs growled. "Tony is our witness, he’s prepared to testify if need be, and yes, before you ask, of course I've pulled him off the case. Now, I have somewhere I need to be, and it sure as hell isn't here. You have a nice day, Leon."

He stalked out of the office, slamming the door shut behind him. Vance sat back in his chair, staggered by the turn of events. He glanced at the file Gibbs had brought in and then flicked through the neatly labelled photographs until he came to Boy 43. He felt sure that he'd misunderstood this – or Gibbs had.

The page fell open on a kid - one of the younger ones in the file. His hair was dark blond, and he was gazing straight at the camera with a look of fear and pleading in his eyes. Vance gazed at the photograph, taking in the position of the child and his probable size in relation to the large adult hands that were visible on his hips. The child looked desperate, terrified, and…familiar. It took a moment for Vance to see it, but when he did it was as clear as day: He was looking into DiNozzo's scared eyes, gazing at DiNozzo's anguished face, and staring at a photo so obscene it made him feel ill.

Vance snapped the file shut with a crash of his hand. He felt dirty just having looked at it.

He got up and tucked the file under his arm. Then he strode out of his office and went down into the squad room. Gibbs was long gone, but McGee looked up when he saw him.

"Agent McGee – I believe that Agent Gibbs has left you in charge of this case in his absence?"

"Uh…yes, sir," McGee nodded.

"Good. You keep me in the loop on this one, McGee, and if there's anything - *anything* - you need, you come straight to me, and I will expedite it immediately. We're all working this one together – we will find these men, we will crack this ring, and we will bring all those involved to justice."

"Yes, sir." McGee straightened up in his seat.

"DiNozzo is one of our own," Vance said quietly. "Let's nail these bastards." He threw the file down onto McGee's desk and then turned and left.

He didn't even collect his coat and briefcase. He just went straight down to the parking garage, called for his driver, and got into his car. He had seen many things over his years working at NCIS, but few that had affected him so much. He couldn't get that photograph of that child – of DiNozzo - out of his head. He had an overwhelming urge to get home so that he could put his arms around his son, hold him tight, and keep him safe.

Tony was relieved when Gibbs picked him up from Starbucks. He was glad he'd finally managed to tell Ziva, but he didn't really like being away from Gibbs right now. Partly, that was because he was scared of going into a fugue – only Gibbs really knew how to handle him when that happened. Partly, also, being with Gibbs helped relax him, and Tony knew that if he needed to fall apart for any reason, then he could; he didn't have to be vigilant around Gibbs. Then, also, there was simply the fact that Gibbs was Gibbs, and Tony loved him.

They spent another quiet day together. Tony was grateful for the respite, even though he knew it was just the calm before the storm. After dinner, Tony grabbed a bowl of popcorn and a couple of bottles of beer and sat down on the couch expectantly, a stack of DVDs piled up on the coffee table in front of him. Gibbs raised an eyebrow as he entered the living room with a cup of coffee.

"I thought we could, you know, do a repeat of last night," Tony said, flushing slightly. No way was he going to admit how much he'd enjoyed all that kissing.

"Uh-huh." Gibbs said, an unreadable expression in his eyes.

"Because last night was great. I mean, uh, watching a movie together. I know you're not really into movies the way I am, but you're gonna love this one." Tony pointed the remote at the TV and clicked to start the movie playing.

"Uh-huh," Gibbs said again, sitting down beside him. He grabbed a handful of popcorn and settled back in the couch as if he was actually going to watch the damn movie and not spend the night kissing him. Tony gave a little sigh of disappointment, and Gibbs's hand snaked along the couch and stroked the back of his head. "Something on your mind?" Gibbs asked.

Tony glanced at him sideways. "Just…uh, about the kissing thing…"

Gibbs raised an eyebrow, giving nothing away. "What about it?"

Tony sighed. "I've never spent an entire evening just doing that before."

"I know."

"Without it, you know, leading to sex," Tony clarified.

"I know." Gibbs's fingers continued stroking the back of his head.

"But we're not having sex."

"Nope," Gibbs agreed.

Which was weird of and by itself, because Tony *wanted* to have sex with Gibbs. However, he felt reassured by knowing that it would only happen when his body was ready for it and that Gibbs didn't seem to have a problem waiting. In fact, knowing that Gibbs enjoyed his company, and could be intimate with him without sex, was a revelation to him.

Tony grabbed a handful of popcorn, stuffed it into his mouth, and watched the movie intently. Gibbs didn't say a word. There was silence for several minutes. Finally, Tony gave in.

"Damn it, Jethro – could we do the kissing thing again?" he asked. Gibbs grinned.

"Any time you want, Tony. I was just waiting for you to ask."

He opened his legs, and Tony settled eagerly between them. He was becoming accustomed to how it felt allowing someone to hold him. He'd never really liked snuggling before, but this felt completely different. He liked the feel of Gibbs's hard body against him, and the reassuring strength of his arms around him. He liked the way Gibbs would lazily stroke under his shirt with the tips of his fingers, and, most of all, he liked being kissed.

They were long, slow, effortless kisses, going nowhere, and that was partly why Tony liked them so much. There was something almost mesmerising about spending an evening doing this. Tony would never have imagined how incredibly relaxing it could be. Gibbs tasted of coffee and popcorn, and his lips were warm and soft. Every so often they paused to glance at the TV, or snack on the popcorn, but then they'd settle down again for more kissing. It was so gently intimate, and it soothed Tony like nothing else.

By the time they retired to bed a few hours later, Tony felt like he was walking on air. He got into bed beside Gibbs and felt Gibbs settle down behind him and place his hand on his stomach, the way he always did.

Tony closed his eyes, fell fast asleep, and slept through the entire night for the first time since this began.


McGee met Gibbs and Tony at the airport early the following morning to catch the shuttle to New York. Ziva had gone ahead on an earlier shuttle to rendezvous with the agents and vans already waiting for them there. Gibbs wanted this whole operation to go off with military precision, and McGee hoped that he'd done his bit to ensure that happened. He'd been at NCIS until late last night going through all the details with a fine toothcomb.

"Did you get the confirmation we were waiting for, McGee?" Gibbs asked, as they queued up to buy their tickets. McGee nodded.

"Quinn's flight took off at 19:30 last night," he said. "And according to the passenger manifest and passport control he was definitely on it. It's a seventeen hour flight so he'll be arriving at JFK at 12:30. I've made all the arrangements for you and Agent O'Brien to arrest him and fly back to DC with him when he arrives."

McGee cast a surreptitious glance at Tony. He looked much better than he had on Friday. He wasn't as pale or drained, and he was completely ignoring their conversation as he laughed and joked with a pretty young woman standing behind them in queue. In fact, apart from the bandage on his hand, he looked just like the old Tony.

McGee wondered what the hell Gibbs had done to keep Tony occupied all weekend and how he'd managed to get him looking human again. The idea of staying a whole weekend at Gibbs's house, holed up with their taciturn boss, was McGee's worst nightmare. Tony had always had a weird kind of obsession with Gibbs though, and McGee knew he'd stayed with their boss a couple of times before when there had been various problems at his apartment, so maybe it wasn't such an ordeal for Tony.

McGee wondered what on earth they did and what they talked about. Gibbs was hardly a chatty person. If this had happened to him, McGee didn't think Gibbs was the person he'd want to scoop him up and look after him. In fact, he shuddered at the thought of it. If he was falling apart, then he thought he'd rather do it in the presence of someone kind and avuncular like Ducky, not Gibbs. He was sure that Gibbs *did* have a softer side - he just didn't think he'd ever seen it.

Tony flirted outrageously with the girl at the check-in desk, churning out a series of stupid jokes that made McGee roll his eyes. Gibbs barely seemed to take any notice, but when Tony's antics became over the top, even for him, McGee saw Gibbs put a hand on Tony's shoulder and squeeze, firmly, and Tony calmed down after that.

They boarded the shuttle, and Tony proceeded to tell a long, implausible story about how he'd once sat next to a hot woman on a shuttle flight and managed to sweet talk her into an assignation in the plane toilet within the 45 minute duration of the flight. McGee found this frankly unbelievable, even for Tony.

"Are you sure it was a hot woman, Tony?" he asked. "Just…it sounds more like something a couple of gay guys would do to me."

Tony flushed, and McGee felt a wave of intense embarrassment. Oh shit - he'd said the wrong thing. Given the nature of this case, the last thing he should do was make any kind of crack about Tony's sexuality. It was the kind of thing he'd usually say in an attempt to hold his own with his teasing co-worker, but on this occasion he could see that it was wildly inappropriate.

McGee took his seat behind Tony and Gibbs, still wincing over his comment. He didn't know how to behave around Tony any more. Tony had told him that he was one of his closest friends, but they hadn't really talked since that night Tony had given his statement. McGee didn't know what to say, and he longed for the easy intimacy they'd once shared. He had enjoyed the way they goofed around and played stupid jokes on each other, even if Tony's jokes usually went too far.

Gibbs said nothing as Tony launched into another monologue, talking too fast, pausing every now and then to smooth down the hair on the back of his head. None of them had said a word about why they were here and where they were going. McGee couldn't begin to understand how Tony must be feeling right now as they travelled to the hotel room where he'd been repeatedly abused as a child.

Tony's speech got even faster as the flight progressed, like he was on some kind of drug. He was now rubbing his head repeatedly, and whatever it was he was saying had long since stopped making much sense. Then, suddenly, Gibbs reached up, took firm hold of Tony's wrist, and replaced his hand by his side. Tony stopped talking in mid-sentence. Gibbs rested his own hand over Tony's where it was lying on the armrest between them, and McGee was surprised to see Gibbs's thumb gently stroke over the back of Tony's hand.

Tony deflated like a balloon. One minute he'd been all high-octane energy, spewing verbal diarrhoea, moving restlessly and stroking his head obsessively, and the next he seemed to slump, visibly, into his chair. McGee was startled when Gibbs moved his arm, wrapped it around Tony's shoulders, and pulled him towards him. Tony rested his head on Gibbs's shoulder, and Gibbs whispered something in his ear. Then both men fell silent. McGee had no idea what that was all about, but at least Gibbs seemed to know a way of calming Tony down, however unexpected the method.

Tony remained silent for the rest of the flight, and when they landed and got to their feet, McGee saw how pale and strained he looked compared to how he'd been earlier. Now McGee knew just how much this trip was costing Tony, and, judging by the tight set of Gibbs's jaw and his taut shoulders, he knew it too.

An NCIS agent met them at the airport and drove them to the hotel. Gibbs had been adamant that the only people going into that hotel room would be himself, Tony and McGee, presumably to keep Tony's ordeal as contained as possible.

McGee wished that he was anywhere but here, doing this. He had spoken to the hotel manager, who was expecting them and had ensured that Room 204 would be free and available to them, but there was nothing else he could do to make sure that this ran smoothly. He'd done all he could.

The NCIS agent parked the car and there was a moment of silence. Then Gibbs turned to Tony.

"Okay, Tony. We're here. I’ve said this before, but are you sure about this? You don't have to go in there. You can stay here with Agent O’Brien - me and McGee can go and get the evidence we need.”

"No." Tony shook his head, and McGee thought he looked as scared as he had a few nights ago when he'd stood in the squad room psyching himself up to give his statement to Gibbs. "I have to do this."

Tony remembered the hotel's driveway and parking lot as vividly as if Roy had brought him here yesterday. The sign above the hotel door had changed, but in many respects the hotel itself looked exactly the same.

He found himself experiencing that sinking sensation he always used to feel when Roy drove him here. He'd sit in the front seat of Roy's car on the journey, his stomach full of dread, his fingers twisting away morosely on the Rubik's Cube Roy always kept in the glove compartment.

"Never did like that stupid thing," Tony muttered as they got out of the car.

"What stupid thing?" McGee asked.

"Rubik's Cube," Tony replied. McGee and Gibbs exchanged a puzzled glance over his shoulder.

"I was pretty good at it actually," McGee said. "My best time was six minutes seventeen seconds. What was your best time, Tony?"

"Oh please." Tony pulled a face. "Like I ever solved the stupid thing. I wasn't a little McGeek like you, Probie. I was…"

He stopped abruptly. What the hell had he been like? Usually, he told stories that made it sound like he was noisy, mischievous, and adventurous, the way he was now, but that was who he had become after he went to boarding school. Before that, he hadn't been any of those things. He'd been quiet, serious and shy.

"I was the kind of kid who got taken to a hotel room and fucked," he finished bitterly, ignoring the shocked look on McGee's face.

He was grateful for the warm, firm hand Gibbs put on his shoulder, and the way he steered him towards the hotel entrance.

"Any time you need a breather, you tell me," Gibbs said in a low voice into his ear. Tony nodded. "And you talk to me, Tony. You tell me what's going on. This gets too much, we'll bail out."

The foyer was different to how he remembered it. They'd moved the reception and created a lounge area with easy chairs. He stood beside Gibbs as his boss talked to the manager and felt himself shrinking. He stood shoulder high to Roy, who was leaning on the reception desk waiting for his room key, a cigar in his mouth.

"Another fishing trip, Mr. Quayle?" the receptionist asked.

"That's right. My boy loves it! Gives me a chance to spend some time with him and gets us out of his mom's hair," Roy laughed, patting Tony's shoulder. "Isn't that right, son?" Tony nodded and gazed blindly at his feet.

"This way," the manager said, but Tony knew the way. He could walk this journey in his sleep, every single hated step of it. He remembered the way his stomach always coiled up anxiously as they walked, and how he would become quieter and slower the further they went, every step feeling like a mile. Roy, by contrast, became more upbeat and vivacious the closer they got to Room 204.

Tony felt his stomach churn again all these years later. He found himself counting each step, the way he always used to as a child, for something to do so he wouldn't have to think about what would happen next. If he was lucky it would just be him and Roy, but if not, then it might be Luke or Marco.

The manager stopped outside a door.

"This can't be right," Tony said. Gibbs looked at him questioningly. "That was only 317 steps. It should be 345," Tony said.

"You're taller now, Tony. You have longer strides," Gibbs pointed out quietly. Tony felt like an idiot. Yeah, of course, that was so obvious. He saw McGee and Gibbs exchange a little glance and wanted to kick himself.

The manager opened the door, and Gibbs walked inside. Tony hesitated and then saw McGee looking at him with those big, tragic eyes, full of a sympathy Tony didn't want. He walked swiftly into the room, more to get away from the look McGee was giving him than anything else.

He wasn’t prepared for the feeling of déjà vu that hit him the minute he stepped inside. The room's furnishings had changed, but everything else was the same. Even the bed was in the same place. The brown swirly carpet had been replaced with something more contemporary in a dull green colour, and the walls were a neutral, inoffensive cream. The bathroom door was straight ahead, and there was a window to his left, opposite the double bed.

"You okay?" Gibbs asked him quietly. Tony nodded.

"Sure. It's just a room," he said, with a nonchalant shrug.

Gibbs gave him a look that showed he didn't buy that bullshit for even a second. "We're going to get to work. You talk to me if anything happens. Understand?"

Gibbs's eyes were intense and full of meaning. Tony nodded and turned to look around the room again.

McGee opened up his bag and got out his camera. Gibbs had a file with him. Tony didn't know what was in that file, but he had a pretty good idea.

"I want the angles to match as exactly as possible, McGee," Gibbs said in an undertone, pointing at something in the file, something he kept turned away from Tony so that he wouldn’t see it.

"Tonio – come here, my beautiful boy."

Tony sat down on the armchair in the corner of the room and closed his eyes wearily. He watched as Roy locked the door behind them and sat down on the side of the bed. A kid walked reluctantly over to him. He had dark blond hair, cut into thick bangs across his forehead, and a sulky mouth.

"Don't be like that, Tonio," Roy chided him. He smoothed Tony's long bangs away from his eyes. "Such beautiful eyes! My lovely boy!" He tipped Tony's chin up and kissed his mouth. He stank of cigars. Tony hated the stench, but he just stood there, allowing Roy to slide his tongue between his lips.

"I've had an idea," Roy told him, as he began slowly unbuttoning Tony's shirt.

"What kind of idea?" Tony asked sulkily.

"An idea for something that will make things easier for you," Roy said, his eyes twinkling. "Here – drink this."

He handed Tony a bottle of chocolate milkshake, Tony's favourite. Tony was surprised – Roy didn't normally give him a drink when they got in here. Usually he was too eager to undress him. Tony wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth though, so he opened the bottle and drank it down while Roy smiled at him encouragingly. Tony tried to make it last, but eventually it was all gone, and then Roy took the bottle away from him and pulled him close. Tony felt his former sulkiness return, and he went stiffly and reluctantly into Roy's embrace.

"Come on, Tonio, don't you want to be nice to your Uncle Roy? If you're nice to me, then I'll buy you something special later."

"What kind of something?" Tony asked, brightening a little.

"Anything you want!" Roy laughed. "But you have to be nice to me first," he warned.

Tony nodded. He knew what being "nice" meant. He unlaced his boots and toed them off, then took off his socks. Roy liked him to be completely naked. He liked tickling the soles of his feet and kissing every inch of his body.

Roy watched him get undressed, his eyes gleaming approvingly. When he was done, Roy guided him onto the bed and told him to wait there for him. Tony closed his eyes, listening to the sounds of Roy getting undressed. Roy had skinny legs and a little pot belly. Tony didn't like looking at him when he was naked. Then he felt Roy climb onto the bed beside him. Roy spent a long time stroking something wet and slippery inside him – he didn't always take so long doing this, but this time he stretched Tony for ages. Then he did what he always did, crooning into Tony's neck and kissing his hair the whole time.

Tony didn't like how it felt. He never did. There was a game he played that sometimes helped. If he tried really hard he could believe that he wasn't really here, inside his own body. He was like a guest in his own mind, watching from a distance, as if none of this was really happening to him. He couldn't always do it – sometimes he couldn't get his mind to take him to that place, but when he could it made it easier.

The room was warm, and Tony began to feel very drowsy. All his muscles were relaxed, and he felt spaced out.

He heard Roy’s breathing coming faster, panting warm breath into his hair, and then he felt that little shuddering movement Roy always made.

"That's it. Good boy," Roy said, kissing the back of his neck again. Roy got up, abruptly, and began dressing. Tony lay there, feeling floppy. He was puzzled. Usually, Roy didn't get dressed so soon afterwards. Usually he cuddled him and kissed him, sometimes for ages.

Tony managed to turn himself, with a great effort of will. Roy bent over him.

"That's it. You just lie there and relax," he said. There was a knock on the door, but it sounded so far away. Even despite the fog in his head, Tony felt his insides clench in fear.

"Who is it, Uncle Roy?" he asked. Roy smoothed the hair away from his head.

"It's Marco, my love," he said softly. Tony tried to get up, his head spinning.

"No, please, no…" he begged. Last time, Marco had hurt him, and he'd bled. He was terrified of the pain and the blood, and he didn't want it to happen again. He tried to crawl his way off the bed, but Roy caught him and put him back.

"Now, now, Tonio, you mustn't be naughty," he chided anxiously.

"He'll make me bleed…I'll die…please…it hurt so much…" Tony whimpered.

"You won't bleed this time," Roy told him. "I've given you a little drink to help relax you. This time it'll be fine. You'll like it, Tonio. Be good for Marco, please. For me?"

There was another knock at the door, more imperative this time.

"No!" Tony wailed. "Please! NO!"

"Yes." Roy's expression hardened. "Enough of this nonsense, Tony. I don't buy you all those things for nothing. This is how you earn them. This is how you show your love for me. You do love me, don't you?"

Tony gazed at him, confused. Roy's eyes darkened.

"You're an ungrateful boy. Is this what I get in return for taking such good care of you? Who else would love you if I didn't, Tonio? Hmm?"

"I'm sorry!" Tony said anxiously. "I do love you, Roy."

He was relieved when Roy's eyes shone with approval once more.

"Good boy."

Roy went to open the door. Marco walked in, and the door was shut and locked behind him.

"I see you got him ready for me," Marco said with a grin, glancing over to the bed. He wasn't a tall man, but he was muscular and wiry. He had a tattoo on his forearm of a dagger dripping drops of blood.

"He'll be good this time, I promise. Don't be so rough. I can't risk taking him to a doctor," Roy hissed.

"Little brat tensed up last time."

"Well, I've stretched him myself, so he'll be fine today," Roy snapped. "Just don't leave any marks and don't tear him. It's my ass on the line here."

"This time," Marco growled. "Fair's fair, Quinn. Other times you've had a share of what I got for us, remember."

"Yes, I know. And that's why I'm letting you have Tony again. I'm just saying – be careful."

Tony gazed at them stupidly, trying to follow what they were saying. His head felt cloudy, and his body didn't seem to belong to him. It was floppy and heavy.

Roy walked towards the door, and he whimpered. "Don't go, Uncle Roy," he begged.

"I must, darling. You'll be fine," Roy told him, and then he was gone. Marco locked the door behind him and then turned back to the bed with a vicious smile. Tony tried to get to his feet. If he could just push himself up he could get off the bed, run into the bathroom, and lock the door. But he couldn't. He felt like he was moving in slow motion, every action taking forever.

He watched Marco get undressed and lay there, hating himself for not being able to get away. Marco saw him watching and grinned. He came over to the bed, got onto it, and grabbed Tony roughly.

"Roy sent me those photographs he took last time," Marco said in a cheerful voice, pushing him onto his front. "I liked them. You're a good little fuck, Tony."

Tony tried to move away, but it was too much effort. He turned his head and gazed, blankly, at the wall. He felt Marco behind him. It didn't hurt this time. He couldn't really feel anything. He was too zoned out.

The wall was moving. No - he was moving, not the wall. He was moving back and forth, back and forth, a few inches along the bed each time, the side of his face sliding along the white sheet. He couldn't move, couldn't scream, couldn't do anything but lie here. Marco was heavy, like a lead weight on top of him. He tried to angle his head so he could catch his breath, but he couldn't seem to get enough air into his lungs. Marco put a hand on his shoulder and…

"Tony, are you okay?"

Tony jumped up, grabbed the hand on his shoulder, and pushed his assailant violently against the wall. He slid his hand around the man's throat and squeezed as hard as he could.

"Don't fucking touch me!" he growled hoarsely. A pair of horrified eyes gazed at him, and he heard a choking sound.

"Tony." Another voice, in his ear, low and deep, one he knew he had to obey without question. "Let him go."

He released his grip instantly. The man he had attacked put his hand up to his throat, panting for breath.

"Get out of here, McGee," that deep voice behind him said. McGee hesitated.

“But, Boss, what if he tries to hurt you…”

“He won’t hurt me, McGee. Now go!”

McGee reluctantly left the room.

Tony stood there, still panting, unmoving, waiting for instructions. Shit, he’d fucked up. If he just stayed very still, and did as he was told, maybe it would be okay.

"Tony, I want you to listen to me please…"

"Tony, get down on your hands and knees…"

He was shaking as he obeyed, terrified of what Luke would do to him. Luke didn't like it if he was slow, or disobedient, and he knew that he'd just done something bad. He felt confused. A minute ago Marco had been here, but now Luke had taken his place. He didn't remember that happening, but he wasn't thinking clearly at the moment. There had been something in that milkshake Roy had given him.

He curled up into a little ball on the floor, head on his knees, and waited. Luke usually just came up behind him and fucked him. He wasn't like Roy – he didn't like stroking him or petting him.

He shivered as he waited. Luke liked to pinch him, to take hold of his skin and twist it until Tony squealed. The man crouched down beside him, and Tony felt his entire body start to shake. An arm came towards him, and he flinched.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…I'll do whatever you want," he whispered, shaking violently. A hand touched his head, and Tony whimpered. The hand rested there, stroking his hair gently. It felt warm and reassuring. Tony uncurled a little.

"Tony…where are you?" the man asked.

Tony blinked. Where was he? He was here, among the ghosts. Those ghosts were all around him. He could see them moving across the room, settling on the bed, picking him up, stroking him, bending him over, fucking him, and making him open his mouth or his legs. They were walking naked into the bathroom, or pulling him onto their laps and fondling him. They were sitting on the bed, and on the armchair, sometimes naked, sometimes clothed. They were everywhere in this room.

Over there was the bed, and beyond that was the bathroom, and over there was the window, and the radiator, and above the bed was the ceiling fan. He knew every inch of this room by heart.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "Please…I'm sorry. Don't hurt me…please don't hurt me…"

There was movement, and Tony tensed, waiting for the cruelly pinching fingers or the cold hands on his ass. Instead, strong hands lifted him up, and someone pulled him close and held him. He felt a warm chest under his cheek and heard the reassuring sound of a heartbeat.

"It's okay. You're safe with me. I've got you," that firm, deep voice said.

Tony felt the anger radiating from the man's body like a vivid white flame, scorching hot, and he flinched. “I’m sorry,” he whimpered again.

"Ssh, it's okay. I'm not angry with you," the man said, and Tony clung onto him helplessly, relieved beyond belief.

The man moved, so that he was sitting with his back to the wall. He pulled Tony with him and then wrapped his arms tightly around him again, holding him close. Tony felt safe in the man's arms. He could still see the ghosts moving around the room, but he knew they couldn't touch him. This man wouldn't let them touch him.

He felt his body start to relax, and he lay with his cheek resting on the man's chest, and his body curled up against him. The man's strong arms were warm and comforting around his body, and the man was kissing his hair and saying, "I'm sorry", over and over again. That was all wrong, because Tony knew this man never usually said those words.

Tony watched from the safety of the man's arms as a child moved silently among the ghosts. He had floppy dark blond hair and solemn green eyes. He never smiled. He just did as he was told; dressing, undressing, sitting, standing, bending, kneeling…and all the time he looked so sad.

Tony felt angry with the kid. Why was he so passive? Why the hell did he stay and allow these things to be done to him? He could just stand up and leave. Then the anger faded. He couldn't believe how young the child looked, or how small he was. He was just a kid. He didn't know how to stand up to three grown men. His father had always taught him to respect his elders. He didn't know he could say no. He was lost, confused, and helpless - and he wanted so much to be loved.

Tony couldn't hate him any more. He just felt sorry for him. He wished he could stride in there, among the ghosts, pick that child up, and take him away. The child slid off the bed and looked straight at him, as if he'd seen him. Tony looked back at him. He flinched from what he saw in those solemn green eyes.

"I did try and protect you," he muttered guiltily. The child nodded. "I'm sorry I hated you so much," Tony said softly. "I know you did your best. I know it wasn't your fault."

The child nodded again. He began walking slowly across the room. He stopped a few feet away and looked at Tony uncertainly. Tony sat up and held out his arms. The child ran into them, and Tony hugged him tight. He felt strong, adult arms around him, hugging him in return, warm and comforting.

Tony buried his face in the child's neck and held him close. He couldn't hate this kid. He had been through so much. He couldn't deny he existed, either. He did. He always had, no matter how hard Tony had tried to forget him. He was real, and he'd suffered, and he deserved to be acknowledged. He couldn't be stuffed into a box and forgotten about. Why would anyone do that to him? Hadn't he been through enough?

Tony stroked the child's hair and felt his own hair being stroked. He hugged the child tight and felt him become insubstantial, dissolving in his arms, merging with him.

"I love you, Tonio," Tony whispered. He felt a warm, pulsing glow in reply, and then the child disappeared completely into him. The endlessly moving ghosts in the room blinked out, one by one, and suddenly the room was silent and empty.

Tony found that he was sitting on the floor near the wall, across from the bed. The armchair was overturned on the floor beside him. Gibbs was sitting on the floor with him, his back against the wall and his arms wrapped around Tony.

Tony glanced up with a grimace. "I think I hurt McGee, Boss," he said.

"He'll be fine. Are you okay, Tony?" Gibbs asked, gazing at him searchingly. "Are you back with us?"

Tony nodded. He leaned back against Gibbs's chest and listened for the reassuring sound of his heartbeat again. Gibbs's chest was hard and warm against his cheek. He liked how it felt.

"I screwed up. I shouldn't have let you come here…" Gibbs began.

"No. It was the right thing," Tony interrupted him.

He was exhausted, but somehow he felt at peace. He had let something go, or accepted it, or come to terms with it. He wasn't sure he understood it – he just knew it had happened. His body ached, his hand throbbed, and he felt drained beyond belief, but he didn't hurt inside the same way any more.

"I had to stop avoiding him, Gibbs. I had to stop hating him. I didn't realise how small he was - and how young. I've been judging him pretty harshly."

"Yeah, you have." Gibbs kissed Tony's hair.

"I thought I could forget him, but he didn't want to be forgotten."

"No. The poor kid just wanted someone to listen to him. Nobody ever did. Not his dad. Not even you."

"You did," Tony said quietly. He glanced up at Gibbs. "You were right. Roy didn't love me. He was just using me. The second time he gave me to Marco he was afraid I'd bleed again and need to see a doctor, so he gave me some kind of drug to relax me. It didn't hurt, but I felt so damn helpless. I couldn't breathe properly, or move, or get away. I just lay there and took it, but I was screaming inside."

Gibbs didn't say anything, but Tony felt that searing anger course through his body again. Tony sat up and turned to face him.

"Go and arrest Quinn, Boss," he said quietly. "Go and get that bastard. I can handle everything that happens. I didn't know the difference before. I do now."

"What difference?" Gibbs smoothed Tony's hair where it had become all mussed up.

"I've never been loved before, Gibbs. Didn't know how the real thing felt until just now."

Tony leaned forward and kissed Gibbs on the mouth. He had spent the previous two evenings being kissed, and held, and loved by this man. Nothing had been asked of him and that love hadn't come at a price.

Gibbs had been with him through every single one of his meltdowns; holding him, taking care of him, and seeing him through them. He had never once let him down or walked away from him. He had been with him every step of the way, as he had promised he would.

"Couldn't learn to love Tonio until you loved me," Tony said. "Didn't know how. Nobody ever showed me."

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