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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

Previous Chapter

Damage - Part Six: Daylight

Vance paced up and down the hallway, with long, impatient strides.

“What the hell is taking them so long?” he growled.

Gibbs was sitting on a bench with his back against the wall and his legs up on a chair he’d commandeered from somewhere, looking completely unfazed by the long wait.

“It’s a big case, Leon,” he said with a shrug. “A high ranking Naval officer – an *admiral* for God’s sake - up on child sex offence charges. The media interest alone is piling the pressure on them; they know they have to reach the right verdict.”

“And will they?” Vance asked, leaning against the wall and looking at Gibbs searchingly. He had thrown everything he had at this investigation, and he was pinning everything on the outcome of this court martial.

“Hell yes,” Gibbs said, with an impatient flick of his head.

“Parrish had some pretty convincing character witnesses.”

“And we provided enough evidence to sink him, Leon. Quinn’s testimony alone was damning.”

“Thanks to you.” Vance sat down. He had no idea how Gibbs had got Quinn to testify against Parrish, but he guessed that he'd terrified the man into it. Quinn had certainly sung like a canary in the court room. “You did a good job on this case, Jethro,” Vance said quietly.

Gibbs turned to look at him. “I had to, Leon.”

Vance got a toothpick out of his pocket and stuck it between his teeth. It immediately made him feel better. “Yeah,” he agreed. “You did. We all did.”

And they had. Gibbs had been working his team into the ground for months. They had worked most weekends, and Vance didn’t think that any of the team, but especially Gibbs, had taken more than a day or two off in all that time. The prosecution team told him that Gibbs had provided more evidence, of greater detail, than they had needed to make the case and present it in court.

At that moment, Justin stepped into the hallway, his mother and boyfriend beside him as they had been throughout. He was a tall, skinny, blond kid, with a little ginger goatee. His boyfriend was just as tall and skinny, but darker.

"Justin. Mrs. Merrells. Liam." Gibbs nodded at them. "How you holding up?" he asked Justin.

"Okay, I guess," Justin shrugged. "Do you think it'll be much longer?"

"I don't know, Justin. I hope not."

Vance stood up. "You did a good job in there, Justin," he said. "Took a lot of guts."

Justin's pale skin flushed, but he looked pleased by the praise.

"When Agent Gibbs told me that Parrish had done the same stuff to Agent DiNozzo and a whole bunch of other kids that he did to me, I knew I had to testify," he replied. "How's Agent DiNozzo doing?" Justin asked Gibbs.

"He's doing fine," Gibbs replied, with a flash of a smile. "One day he might even forgive me for talking you into testifying."

Justin gave a little grin in response. "You can be pretty persuasive, Agent Gibbs. It was the right thing to do though. Tell Agent DiNozzo I'm okay – and that I appreciate him looking out for me."

"It's just a pity Parrish pleaded not guilty so you had to take the stand," Vance grunted. Parrish's lawyer had given Justin a tough ride on the witness stand. Luckily both his mom and his boyfriend were supportive, and he seemed to be handling the pressure.

Tony had been prepared to testify, but it hadn't been necessary in the end. Vance thought his agent had done enough in any case. It had been Tony's original statement that had led them to Quinn's storage locker, and the information they’d found there had blown open the entire pedophile ring. Gibbs had made three other arrests and identified several of the remaining boys in the photographs. Quinn had already been tried and convicted – unlike Parrish, he'd pleaded guilty, so the trial had been quicker and less painful for all concerned.

Parrish's court martial was the big one – he was a high-ranking, serving Naval officer, and Gibbs had personal reason to see that justice was done. Vance had never seen Gibbs more driven or obsessive. The man even frightened him at times, and Vance wasn’t a man who frightened easily.

There was a sudden movement in the doorway, and they were called back in. Vance took his seat and watched as Parrish stood. He was dressed in full military dress uniform, complete with the many medals and decorations he’d acquired during his long and distinguished Navy career. How could a man be so brave and yet such a monster? It confounded all Vance’s values. He didn’t understand it; he didn’t think Gibbs did, either.

Parrish looked so tall and certain, every inch the war hero, standing there in his uniform. It would take a brave jury to convict him. Vance felt all his old doubts returning – no matter how good a case Gibbs had made, there was still a chance that Parrish would walk. Not that he’d walk far; Vance was sure of that, judging by the look Gibbs had worn on his face these past few months. That was a headache Vance didn’t want. He had no doubt at all that Gibbs could kill a man and dispose of the evidence without trace, and he wouldn’t blame him for taking the law into his hands in this instance, but Vance didn’t want anything leading back to the agency. This was too high profile a case, with too much media interest, for any of them to survive that.

Vance bit down hard on his toothpick and felt it snap in two. Only he and Gibbs from NCIS were in court today to witness this. The rest of Gibbs’s team were finishing up the paperwork for one of the other cases while DiNozzo – well, Vance wasn’t sure where DiNozzo was. He assumed that Gibbs had arranged for him to be kept out of the way somewhere, because Tony DiNozzo hadn’t made an appearance at Parrish’s trial or Quinn’s sentencing. Give Gibbs his due, he might be a hard bastard, but he’d protected his boy throughout this entire ordeal.

The charges were read out again, and Vance closed his eyes, waiting to hear the verdict. He worried away at the two woody shards of the toothpick with his tongue.


He almost didn’t register it. The other charges were read out, one after the other, and he heard the same word after each one: “Guilty.”

The court room erupted in a buzz of stunned reaction. Justin's mom wept into her handkerchief, and Justin's boyfriend swept him up into a hug.

Vance turned to look at Gibbs, but the man just sat where he was, unmoving, gazing at Parrish’s back with a stare that could penetrate stone. The admiral stood there, just as unmoving as Gibbs, nothing about his body language betraying his feelings about the verdict. Vance wondered if Parrish could feel Gibbs's hard stare slicing through his shoulder blades.

“Guilty - guilty on all charges,” Vance said, feeling a huge sense of relief coursing through his body. He spat out the remains of the toothpick into his hand and shoved it into his jacket pocket. “Christ, Jethro, we did it. You did it. That bastard is going to go down for years for this.”

Gibbs’s eyes flickered. “Oh yeah. Guilty on these charges and all the others - the ones we couldn’t bring,” he growled softly, still not taking his stony gaze off Parrish.

“Isn’t this enough?” Vance asked.

The savage flare of fury in Gibbs’s eyes told him that it wasn’t. Not for Gibbs.

“He’s lost everything he loves, Jethro,” Vance pointed out. “The uniform, the status - he goes from admiral to convicted felon overnight - and for someone like him, that has to hurt.”

At that moment Parrish finally moved. He turned, slowly, to stare straight at Gibbs. Gibbs stared back at him. Vance froze. It was like a snake looking at a wolf.

Parrish’s icy stare said everything: You have ruined me. When I am free, I will come after you.

Gibbs’s reply was equally clear: If you do, I’ll be waiting for you.

Parrish gave Gibbs a slow, macabre grin of pure malice and mouthed the word “squeal” at him. Gibbs’s jaw tightened, and his eyes narrowed. Vance thought that if it was possible for a man to be killed by a look, then Parrish should have dropped dead in that instant. Then the moment passed, and Parrish turned back.

“He won’t have an easy time of it in jail, Jethro,” Vance said softly. “They don’t much care for child molesters where he’s going.”

“Hell, Leon, they don’t much care for child molesters any damn place,” Gibbs growled, getting to his feet. “You know, I think I’ve had my fill of Matthew Parrish. Let me know what the sentence is when it comes in. I have someplace else I want to be right now.”

Vance put a hand on his arm. “You’re right – you do. Go home. Don’t come back to the office for a couple of weeks. Get some rest - you’ve earned it.”

Gibbs made an irritable motion with his head. “I have work to do.”

“The only work you need to do for the next two weeks is on that damn boat of yours,” Vance told him. “I’m giving your team the time off too. You’ve been working them into the ground, Jethro.”

“Not down to me, Leon. I never once asked them to work the hours they’ve been putting in. They did that all by themselves.”

Vance nodded. Gibbs turned to go.

“Hey, Jethro - give my regards to DiNozzo,” Vance said. Gibbs paused and then turned back, with one eyebrow half-raised. Vance grinned and shrugged. “He’s still staying with you, isn’t he?”

Gibbs’s expression hardened. “I don’t think he’ll ever be leaving, Leon. You have a problem with that?”

Vance laughed out loud. “After what that boy’s been through? Hell no! There might be some details you and I should figure out, but that can wait. Go home – tell him he can sleep easy now. We all can.”

“Not me,” Gibbs growled.

Vance sighed. “Gianni Marconi?”

“While he’s still out there, some kid somewhere is in danger.” Gibbs made a little clicking sound with his jaw. "He's a murderer and a child rapist, Leon."

“The man probably died years ago.”

“Well, until I find out for sure I’ll keep on looking,” Gibbs shrugged.

Vance sighed. He supposed he hadn’t really expected anything else. Gibbs had been following up leads on Marconi since Quinn's arrest, but so far he'd only found dead-ends.

“Fine. Just let yourself enjoy this victory for now though – okay?”

Gibbs gave a tight little shrug and then managed a half-grin. “Okay,” he agreed.

“Oh – and Jethro?” Vance called him back one last time. Gibbs raised an exasperated eyebrow at him. “Don’t talk to the press on your way out.”

Gibbs laughed out loud at that. He had become something of a minor media celebrity for his curt, borderline rude replies to their questions. Vance had stepped in quickly to ensure he was the official ‘voice’ of the agency, but not before a couple of videos of Gibbs’s responses to some of their more inane questions had become instant YouTube classics.

“My lips are sealed, Leon. This is your moment.”

Vance watched him go over to Justin and talk to him and his mom for a few minutes, and then Gibbs slipped quietly out the door. It wasn’t his moment – it was NCIS’s moment - and Vance was so damn proud of his agency.

His agency, the people in it who had worked around the clock to get this result, and that man walking out of the room right now whose unshakeable thirst for justice had driven this investigation from the beginning.

Vance was proud enough to burst.

It was late when Gibbs got home. It was an unseasonably hot spring evening, and the house was in darkness when he opened the door. He walked through to the living room and saw the lights shining on the back patio.

Tony and Alessandro DiNozzo were sitting out there, talking quietly, enjoying the warm weather. Tony was sitting back in his chair, his long legs stretched out in front of him, nursing a beer. Alessandro was sitting next to the remains of a barbecue which was still smoking gently. He was wearing an NCIS baseball cap and was sipping a glass of bourbon. There were a couple of empty dinner plates on the table between them.

Both men looked up when he opened the patio door.

"Hey," Gibbs said quietly, looking at Tony.

"Hey." Tony looked back at him, and they gazed at each other in silence for a long moment. "So we're done," Tony said quietly.

"Yeah. We're done." Gibbs nodded.


Alessandro looked from Gibbs to Tony and back again. "That's it? Do you two talk in code? Anyone gonna fill me in on what happened? Did that bastard go down?"

"He went down," Tony said.

"And you know this how?"

"He knows because if Parrish had walked, I wouldn't be able to look him in the eye," Gibbs replied. Tony gave him a small, tight smile and Gibbs knew they were both remembering Tony's meltdown in the elevator months ago, and the promise Gibbs had made to him that day.

"That and the fact he came home," Tony added. "If Parrish had walked, he'd have arrested him for something else the minute he set foot outside that court room. Wouldn't have been your fault if he'd walked though, Jethro; you put together a hell of a case."

"My case, my investigation…my insistence that you tell me all about it in the first place," Gibbs shrugged. He leaned down and planted a kiss on Tony's head and then pulled up a chair and sat down on it with a weary sigh.

"Bourbon?" Alessandro asked, holding up the bottle.

Gibbs nodded. He’d come to have a genuine respect for Tony’s father. He might have failed Tony twenty-five years ago, but he hadn’t failed him now.

He’d made every effort to patch up relations with his son these past few months. He'd put everything in his life on hold in order to spend time with Tony, including his business. And, as he’d promised, he hadn't made any judgement about his son’s relationship with Gibbs. In fact, he and Gibbs got on rather better than Gibbs suspected Tony was comfortable with. They had a lot in common.

Tony went into the house and returned with a glass. Alessandro poured the bourbon into it, and Gibbs swallowed it down in one gulp. Alessandro didn't say a word; he just poured another measure of bourbon into the glass and then sat back.

"How's Justin?" Tony asked.

Gibbs and Tony had fought several times on this issue. Tony had never wanted Justin dragged into a trial, but Gibbs wanted Parrish to face charges for actual sexual abuse rather than just possession of child porn.

"He's fine. He's tougher than he looks. Vance was more uptight - you should have seen him pacing. I think he went through an entire jar of toothpicks today." He gave a wry chuckle and knocked back the rest of his bourbon. Alessandro poured him some more. "Justin's just relieved it's all over."

"Does he regret agreeing to testify?" Tony asked.

"No," Gibbs said shortly, with a challenging stare in Tony's direction. "And you've changed your tune. Last time we talked about this, you called it 'being bullied into testifying by…' what were your exact words, Tony?"

Tony grinned. "Oh, you haven't forgotten." He glanced at his father, who raised an eyebrow. "I called him an obsessive-compulsive justice junkie," he explained. Alessandro gave a little laugh.

"Well, if the shoe fits, Jethro."

"It does," Gibbs grunted. "Your son knows me far too well."

"You eat anything?" Tony asked. "We could fire up the barbecue again – still got a couple of steaks left - and there's salad." His eyes twinkled mischievously as he said that.

"Can't stand salad, as you well know," Gibbs grunted. "Anyway, I'm not hungry."

Tony gazed at him for a moment, and Gibbs knew he was seeing all the things he didn't want to tell him. Tony's playful manner was always misleading – he saw much more than he ever let on.

"What did you guys do today?" Gibbs asked, trying to deflect that sharp-eyed scrutiny.

"We went to the zoo," Tony said.

"The zoo?" Gibbs raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "You two?"

"Well, Tony’s taken me to just about every tourist attraction in DC over the past couple of weeks," Alessandro said. "That was the only one left."

"The spy museum was definitely the best," Tony grinned. "But the zoo was okay. It was hot though - Dad's got this massive bald spot on the back of his head, so I gave him my baseball cap to stop his scalp frying."

"Headslap him for me, will you, Jethro?" Alessandro said, rolling his eyes. Gibbs grinned and made a gesture with his hand, mock-slapping him, and Tony laughed. "Just you wait, Tony - hair loss is genetic, so if I'm going bald on the back of my head today, that's where you'll be going bald tomorrow," his father pointed out.

"Not me," Tony winked. "Gibbs has slapped the back of my head so often over the years that the increased blood supply has made the hair grow really strong there."

They all laughed at that, and Gibbs reached out and gently rubbed the back of Tony's head, enjoying the feel of that thick, soft hair under his fingertips.

There was an easy companionship around the table that he had never thought would be possible between the three of them. He wondered what would have happened if Roy Quinn hadn't got his claws into Tony back when he was a kid. Would he and his father have somehow found a way to be close? They had now – but maybe only because of Alessandro's desperate need to make amends. Gibbs kind of liked the idea of the two of them spending a day at the zoo – it might be twenty-five years too late, but at least father and son were finally spending some time together and discovering they did have things to talk about after all. It might take some time to repair the relationship completely – and maybe that would never be entirely possible - but they'd all been willing to try.

"Well, it's getting late. I'm going to head back to the hotel," Alessandro said, getting up.

None of them had been sure how this visit would pan out, so Gibbs hadn't offered for him to stay at the house. He didn't want Tony stressing out about a difficult house guest while Parrish's court martial was going on. As it turned out, it wouldn't have been a problem, but Gibbs was relieved that he and Tony got the place to themselves at the end of the day all the same.

"Night, son." Alessandro patted Tony's arm affectionately. "Night, Jethro." He held out his hand. "And thank you," he said quietly. Like Gibbs, he wasn't a man of many words, but he meant every single one of them. Gibbs shook his hand firmly, and then Tony got up and showed his father to the door.

He returned a couple of minutes later and put his hands on Gibbs's shoulders.

"So…just how beat are you?" he asked.

Gibbs put his head back to find Tony looking down on him with that intent look he always got in his eyes when… "Oh God. You're insatiable," he growled.

"Why, yes I am!" Tony grinned. He dug his fingers into Gibbs's shoulders and then frowned. "Man you're tight here, Jethro. I should have realised all this was getting to you far more than you were letting on. This is like solid brick instead of muscle."

"I'll be fine." Gibbs liked the way Tony kept on massaging his shoulders anyway. "I've got a couple of weeks to unwind. Vance is making us all take some vacation time."

"Me too? I mean, I've just had a couple of weeks off," Tony said, his fingers working away at the knots in Gibbs's tense muscles.

"Tony – you've worked the same hours as the rest of us these past few months, even though you weren't working on any of the cases," Gibbs pointed out.

"Only way I got to see you," Tony muttered.

"And you solved four cold cases all by yourself."

"Nearly died of boredom in the process," Tony complained. "Going through endless witness statements, making a load of pointless phone calls, sifting through a ton of old forensic and autopsy data."

Gibbs grinned – he knew Tony was pretty damn pleased with his solve rate, and he had done a fantastic job even if it wasn't the job he wanted to be doing.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to normal and working with you guys again instead of sitting on the sidelines, watching," Tony commented. Gibbs winced as his fingers found a particularly sore spot.

"I don't think McGee is looking forward to you working with us again so much."

"Aw c'mon! The probie needs a little hazing to keep him on his toes. He's been getting way too serious lately," Tony grinned.

"Forget McGee – you gonna be okay working with me again?" Gibbs asked quietly.

Tony frowned. "Sure. Why not?"

"A lot has changed since we last worked cases together, Tony."

"You haven't – not at work anyway," Tony replied. "I don't expect you to be any different there. I know you're gonna kick my butt around again, same as you always did. Now – are we done here? 'Cause these shoulders need more work than I can give them while you're still dressed."

Gibbs allowed Tony to pull him upstairs to the bedroom.

"Get undressed," Tony ordered, before disappearing into the bathroom. Gibbs did as he'd been told, and Tony reappeared a few seconds later with a bottle in his hand.

"Please tell me that's not honey dust," Gibbs groaned.

Tony grinned. "It isn't – although that's a good idea. Maybe another time," he leered. "This is massage oil." He held up the bottle. "I'm gonna try and loosen your shoulders some more. Get on the bed – on your stomach."

Gibbs obliged, and a few seconds later he felt Tony straddle him. He gave a little grunt as Tony's slippery fingers dug into his shoulders, finding sore spots that he hadn't even realised were there.

"So…what happened in court?" Tony asked as he worked.

"Hmmm?" Gibbs muttered into his pillow.

"Something happened in court," Tony said, with one of those little flashes of perception he so often had. "What was it?"

Gibbs thought of Parrish mouthing the word "squeal" at him. It had been a calculated move, designed to elicit a response from him. Men like Parrish didn't like to lose. He had wanted Gibbs to go charging over to him and possibly even take a swing at him in front of witnesses. It had taken all Gibbs's self-control to stay where he was and not give Parrish exactly what he wanted.

"Whoa," Tony murmured into his ear, as Gibbs's muscles bunched up beneath his fingers. "That bad huh?"

Gibbs grunted and gave a little wince as Tony's fingers found a tight knot in his shoulders. Tony worked away at it for several minutes. He knew his stuff, and before long Gibbs felt his body loosening under Tony's strong hands.

Sometimes Gibbs wondered which of Tony's three abusers he hated the most. Roy Quinn had led Tony into this nightmare, taking a shy, grieving child by the hand and sweet-talking him into ever worse acts of pain and degradation. Gibbs had spent enough time with the bastard to know that even now he didn't even think he'd done anything wrong. He remained deluded to the end.

Matthew Parrish was a different kind of bastard. He didn't hide his acts behind words of sentimental romance, like a bad Hallmark card, the way Quinn did. He liked having power over people, and he had enjoyed scaring a twelve year old Tony out of his wits. Gibbs still went cold when he remembered Tony going down on his hands and knees in that hotel room, trembling in fear. Parrish was cruel, calculating, and ruthless, and he'd got into Tony's head and screwed with his mind as much as his body.

Then there was Marco. Gianni Marconi. He'd almost certainly murdered that Vietnamese boy he’d abused all those years ago, and he'd used Tony like a piece of meat. He'd raped him so viciously that he'd bled, and then got Quinn to take photos of him raping Tony a second time. Gibbs had been looking at those photos for months now, and he didn't think he'd ever be able to get the pleading, desperate look in that child's eyes – in Tony’s eyes - out of his mind. It haunted him.

Gibbs wasn't sure that he could choose between them. He hated them all with an equal intensity, and until he brought Marconi to justice his job was only part done.

Gibbs couldn't stay still any more. He rolled out from underneath Tony and plucked the bottle of massage oil out of his hand.

"Your turn." He nodded with his head at the bed.

Tony raised a puzzled eyebrow. "Look, I've just spent two weeks trawling around DC like a tourist. I haven't worked my ass off to bring a hard case to court, and I haven't had to spend the past two weeks listening to a guilty bastard lying through his teeth on the witness stand. I should be the one handing out the massage, not you."

"You're right – I've had a tough day. All the more reason why we should do it my way,” Gibbs growled softly. “C’mon, DiNozzo – I want to touch you.”

Tony's expression softened. He loved it when Gibbs stroked and touched him, but he could never lose himself entirely in the sensation. Just when Gibbs thought they might be getting somewhere, Tony would tense up and scramble away from him apologetically. Then he'd get angry with himself about it, which annoyed Gibbs more. It was always going to be slow-going, and he wished Tony would give himself a break.

Tony removed his clothes and lay down on the bed. Gibbs straddled him and poured a pool of oil into his hands. He rubbed them together, warming them, and then placed them on Tony's shoulders. He loved caressing Tony's broad, muscled back. He slid his fingers down, gently working out any knots he felt, and, in the process, felt his own shoulders opening up. The action, and the intimacy, was relaxing him as much as it was relaxing Tony.

He leaned forward and trailed a line of kisses along Tony's spine and then scooted back and placed his hands on Tony's firm, round buttocks. He loved the way these felt under his fingers. He knew he wanted to slide his hard cock between them and make love to Tony, but Tony wasn't ready for that yet. Maybe he'd never be ready for it.

Tony began moving his hips rhythmically against the bed. He looked completely wanton and abandoned right now, the ends of his hair dark from the oil, his body loose and relaxed under Gibbs's fingers.

Gibbs leaned forward and kissed Tony's buttocks and then slid them open and licked the dark hole within. Tony gasped, his hands clutching the sheets. Gibbs sank his tongue in deeper and rimmed Tony, enjoying the sensation of Tony's ass cheeks beneath his fingers.

They really had come one hell of a long way. It had been slow but strangely satisfying watching Tony gradually learning to relax and accept his touch over the past few months. It was kind of like watching his boat slowly take shape beneath his fingers, and Gibbs got the same sense of satisfaction from it. Sure, sometimes it was frustrating. There were times when it felt like they were taking one step forward and two steps back, but when Gibbs remembered where they'd started out, he realised just how far they'd come.

Gibbs stroked Tony's lower back, signalling to him what he was going to do next. Tony glanced over his shoulder and nodded, moving his ass up hopefully. Gibbs poured more oil onto his hand and slid a finger into Tony's hole. Tony sighed, and Gibbs moved his finger back and forth, enjoying the way Tony's body rose and fell beneath him.

He risked another finger and felt Tony tense a little. This was as far as they'd ever got, and they both knew it.

"Easy," Gibbs murmured, leaning forward to kiss Tony's ass cheeks again. "Just let me know when you want me to stop."

"I don't want you to stop," Tony growled. "That's the damn point."

"Then stop fighting it – just let go," Gibbs said, and he sank his teeth gently into Tony's butt cheek in reproach. Tony laughed and squirmed. Gibbs kept moving his fingers and then risked a third. Tony bunched his hands in the sheets and then slowly relaxed again. Gibbs smiled – this was definitely progress. He knew Tony was loose enough to take him; the problem wasn't physical - it was mental.

He licked the hollow of Tony's back, moving his fingers smoothly the entire time. Maybe tonight would be the night. Now that Parrish and Quinn were both behind bars, maybe Tony would relax enough to let Gibbs inside him.

Gibbs's fingers were starting to ache, so he removed them. Tony looked at him questioningly over his shoulder.

"What do you want me to do now?" Gibbs asked.

"Fuck me," Tony said grimly, his jaw clenching. Gibbs laughed out loud.

"No way in hell I'm gonna fuck you with that look on your face," he said. "It's not an ordeal, Tony. When I fuck you, I want you to enjoy it. If you won't enjoy it, I won't fuck you."

He didn't add that the idea of fucking a grimly tense Tony made his skin crawl. The thought of taking his pleasure in Tony without Tony getting any in return reminded him of Boy 43. The memory of the look on that child's face as he was being raped was guaranteed to make Gibbs's cock wilt immediately.

"I *want* to enjoy it," Tony said miserably.

"Yeah, me too." Gibbs gave a rueful smile. He leaned forward again to stroke Tony’s ass, but the sudden movement must have spooked Tony, because he rolled over, an expression of panic on his face. Gibbs went sideways immediately, allowing Tony his space. Tony calmed down, passing shaky fingers through his hair.

"Sorry. I know you weren't…shit." Tony slumped down on his side and looked at Gibbs despairingly.

"No problem," Gibbs told him firmly.

"Christ, you must be sick of having to be so damn patient with me," Tony growled.

"Stop trying to please me," Gibbs said sharply. "I told you before - sex is something we share. I won't take anything you don't want to give."

"I just want to lose control." Tony rested his hand on Gibbs's thigh and stroked his thumb over the skin. "You have no idea how much I want that. All my life I've had to be guarded, vigilant, to make sure nobody ever got in. Now I *want* you in, but I can't seem to let go enough to make it happen. Fuck it, I hate him so much."


"Yeah. I know it's different with you – I know the difference between rape and consensual sex. I just freeze whenever I think it might happen."

Gibbs nodded. He knew all this – they'd talked about it several times – but Tony could never get beyond it.

"I don't know why it's Quinn in my head and not the others. Maybe because I knew I hated Luke and Marco, and I knew I wasn't consenting with them. With Quinn it was so confusing. I liked him. I wanted to please him, and I wanted him to love me and…" Tony broke off.

"And you feel the same about me," Gibbs grunted.

"No! I mean, yes, but in a completely different way," Tony insisted. "I never wanted him to fuck me, but you're not forcing anything on me. And…I, you know, love you, and I didn't love Quinn."

Vulnerability sparked in Tony's eyes as he said that. Gibbs wished he could give him the reassurance of a caress, but he didn't want to freak him out again. He gave him a little smile instead.

"I hate always having to be so in control," Tony sighed. "Whenever I have sex, there's always a part of me sitting on the sidelines, watching. I want to lose myself in it, but I never can."

"Hey – what we do is pretty damn good. You don't hear me complaining," Gibbs said. Then he grinned. "I've had more sex in the past few months than I had in an entire decade before, and it's been damn good sex too, Tony. I enjoy it, and you sure as hell seem to."

"I do!" Tony said, his hand sliding around to cup Gibbs's ass. "But…"

"No buts," Gibbs told him firmly. "Stop beating yourself up over this, Tony. It'll never happen while you think about it so much. And right now you're talking too much when there's something else you could be doing."

Tony smiled and rolled over on top of him, the way he always did when he needed to feel in control again. Gibbs let him. He understood the impulse. Every time Tony felt vulnerable, he had to reassert himself, and Gibbs always allowed him to do that. Tony trusted him, but his psychological scars went so deep that it would take time for him to believe, deep down, that Gibbs wasn't going to abuse that trust. Gibbs remembered Ducky's analogy about the fox. He might have Tony resting by his fireside and eating out of his hand – he might even have him tame enough to pet - but he didn't yet have him at the point where he could completely let go and trust Gibbs not to hurt him.

Gibbs allowed Tony to push his hands above his head and work on his body with that intent look he always got when they were having sex. He opened his legs obligingly when Tony wanted to slide his fingers inside him and opened them even wider to allow Tony to sink his hard cock into him. He loved the feel of Tony going in – it was such an incredibly pleasurable sensation. Tony grinned down on him, the way he always did, all dazzling white teeth and glowing green eyes.

It was lazy, comfortable sex. Gibbs sank back onto the pillows as Tony nuzzled at his neck and slowly moved his hips. Gibbs liked this kind of sex. It wasn't urgent or passionate, but it was intensely intimate. Tony always took his time and liked to maintain eye contact throughout. This kind of sex always relaxed them both whenever they'd had a hard day, and gave them a sense closeness and connection.

Tony moved his head and kissed Gibbs repeatedly as he slid in and out of him with gentle, unhurried thrusts. Gibbs rested his hands on Tony's broad back and stroked him, keeping his movements slow and unthreatening.

The friction of Tony's body against his hard cock, where it was trapped between both their bellies, slowly took Gibbs towards a hazy, lazy orgasm. Then he just lay back and watched Tony as he worked his way towards his own climax.

He liked the way Tony's tongue protruded between his lips as he thrust, making them glisten sinfully. He liked the little noises of pleasure Tony made as he got close to orgasm. He *really* liked the way Tony always looked so surprised when he was inside him, as if he still couldn't believe Gibbs would allow him to do this, even after all these months.

Most of all, Gibbs liked the way Tony always gasped out his name when he came and then kissed him on the lips straight after, as if saying "thank you", or to reassure himself that Gibbs still loved him. It was strangely endearing.

Tony rested on him, panting after his orgasm, his thick hair soft beneath Gibbs's chin. Gibbs kept his hands resting lightly on Tony's body. Sudden movements always freaked Tony out in any kind of sexually charged setting, but Gibbs satisfied himself with just stroking Tony's back softly with his fingertips.

Tony kissed his shoulder, relaxing on top of him, still lodged deep inside him. Gibbs liked the weight and feel of him, and he was comfortable having him there. Letting Tony in, both emotionally and physically, had proved to be far more rewarding than he'd expected. If this was the only way they ever had sex, then Gibbs was perfectly happy with it. It was Tony who wanted more.

Gibbs kissed Tony's hair every so often as the sweat cooled on their bodies, until eventually Tony withdrew and rolled over, his back towards Gibbs. Gibbs moved up behind him and pressed his hand over Tony's stomach. This was the way they always went to sleep, and he knew that it made Tony feel loved and safe. Gibbs kissed the back of Tony's neck and felt Tony go drowsy and limp in his arms. Gibbs closed his eyes, his weariness kicking in. He was almost asleep when Tony spoke.

"What did he do that pissed you off?"

Gibbs didn't reply. He thought he'd headed this off earlier.

"Parrish," Tony said quietly. "What did he do at the court martial today?"

Gibbs considered lying to him, but he hadn't done that since this began, and he didn't want to start now. He didn't want to tell him the truth, either. Tony had come a long way, but he was still vulnerable.

"He mouthed something at me. That’s all.”

"What was it?"

"Just a word."

“What word?”

Gibbs sighed. He knew Tony all too well, and when he got hold of something like this Gibbs knew that he wouldn’t let it go. Gibbs pressed his hand more firmly over Tony's stomach and held him tight.

“Squeal,” he said quietly. Tony tensed up as if he'd been hit. "It was aimed at me, not you, Tony. He was trying to get me to react and go after him in court in front of all those people – trying to land me in trouble. Also, the son of a bitch takes a sadistic pleasure in this kind of thing."

"Ya think, Gibbs?" Tony flung over his shoulder. Gibbs snorted and kissed the back of his neck again. He stroked Tony's belly softly until he felt him start to relax again.

"You okay, Tony?"

"Yeah. You?"

"Sure," Gibbs said smoothly.

"You said we were done earlier," Tony murmured. "Are we?"

"We're done with Parrish. If he comes after you when he gets out, which I doubt, then I'll take great pleasure in putting a bullet through his head. No second chances."

"I believe you. But you didn’t answer my question. We're not done yet, are we?"

Gibbs sighed. "No," he replied. Tony pushed his hand away and turned over to face him. "Well, like you said, I'm an obsessive-compulsive justice junkie." Gibbs gave a little shrug.

"And Marco is still out there somewhere," Tony said quietly.

"Yeah." Gibbs felt his gut clench. "And Marco is still out there somewhere."


Tony's eyes snapped open. The clock said it was 4 a.m.

"You do love me, Tonio, don't you?" an insistent voice said in his ear.

Tony blinked. The memory of the first time Quinn had raped him was in his head. Maybe that wasn’t surprising in the circumstances. Tony put his hand on Gibbs's hand where it was resting on his stomach. He was safe here. Quinn was in prison now. He couldn't hurt him any more. Hell, Gibbs hadn’t let Quinn so much as catch a glimpse of Tony since his arrest.

This memory was a particularly difficult one for him, and one he'd often tried to push down. There was no point in doing that any more though; he'd learned that the hard way. This time he let it come, holding onto Gibbs’s hand the entire time for reassurance.

Roy had been excited, like a randy teenager, his body quivering with excitement as he locked the hotel room door behind them.

"We're going to do something special today, Tonio," he said, his brown eyes alight. Tony didn't like the expression in them. It didn't look like Uncle Roy was in there any more. He seemed strange and distracted, and he was looking at Tony in a really weird way.

"Are we going to see a movie?" Tony asked, wondering what Roy meant by 'special'.

"No – something much better. We're going to do something very grown up. You do love me, Tonio, don't you?"

Tony nodded, reluctantly. Roy had asked him this before, and he knew how upset he got if Tony didn't agree.

"Say it," Roy prompted.

"I love you," Tony said listlessly. He didn't like all this sappy stuff, but Roy liked it and if saying it made Roy happy, and meant he got to see a movie later, then what did it matter?

Roy's face lit up. "Do you know what people do when they love each other?" he asked.

"Kiss?" Tony hazarded. That was usually the answer Roy wanted. Roy beamed at him.

"They make love, Tony," he said softly.

Tony stared at him. Making love was something that happened between the beautiful women and equally beautiful men on movie screens. It didn't happen between old guys like Roy and kids like himself.

"I don't get it," Tony said.

"I'll show you." Roy reached out and began unbuttoning his shirt. Tony fought down a little wave of revulsion; Roy had done this before, and it wasn't so bad. Roy removed his shirt and folded it neatly. He always folded everything neatly. It was like some weird compulsion he had. Then he turned back to Tony and ran a nicotine-stained hand over his bare chest. "You're so beautiful, Tonio," Roy sighed, his breath hitching in his throat. "That's why I must have you. You do understand that, don't you?"

Tony nodded uncertainly, unsure what Roy meant. Roy's fingers fumbled at Tony's pants, and Tony stood there, unresisting. Roy had done this before as well. He liked to put his hand inside and play. Tony didn't like it exactly, but it wasn't that bad; Roy liked it, and when Roy was happy he could be so nice.

"It's going to be so good, Tonio. Your first time. Our first time together," Roy told him as he finished undressing him. Tony bit on his lip, feeling anxious, but he nodded anyway. What was going to happen? "You mustn't tell anyone though," Roy warned him. "This is our special secret. Nobody else must know. You like secrets don't you, Tony?"

Tony nodded again.

"Good boy. Such a good boy." Roy kissed him on the mouth, and Tony felt himself flinching. He hated the smell of cigars on Roy's breath, and the way he tried to put his tongue in his mouth. Roy pulled back, much to his relief. "Go and lie on the bed, my beautiful boy," he said, pushing Tony over towards the bed. Tony went. This was new, but then they'd never been in a hotel room before. He wasn't sure what was going to happen next. Roy started undressing, and he closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see Roy naked. He felt Roy get onto the bed beside him, and then he began stroking and kissing him. His fingers were gentle but invasive.

“This is good isn’t it, Tony? You’re loving this aren’t you? Oh, I can tell you are!” Roy said. Tony bit down hard on his lip. He didn’t like it, but Roy seemed to think he should. Maybe there was something wrong with him?

Tony felt his breathing hitch at the memory. He knew that he could roll over and wake Gibbs, and they could talk through the memory. They’d done this a few times and it often helped. But it was the middle of the night, and Gibbs had had one hell of a day. Tony decided to ride out the memory alone.

“I love you, Tony,” Roy crooned as he stroked him. “You’re such a good boy. I love you so much. There, just let me do this…that’s right…you’re such a dear boy. Remember, you must never tell anyone about this, Tony - this must always be our special little secret.”

“It hurts,” Tony said, wriggling.

“Hush now, Tony,” Roy told him, his hands clasping Tony’s thighs more firmly. “I’m always doing things for you. I’m always buying you presents and taking you places. This is just a little thing you can do for me. It only hurts to begin with – you’ll soon learn to love it, I promise you, Tony. There, there…good boy. Let me stroke you until it feels better, hmm?”

Tony took several deep breaths, calming himself. The rest of the memory was mercifully blurred. He'd kept his eyes closed through the worst of it. He'd wanted to crawl off that bed and run away, but he'd felt paralysed. He could remember his rising sense of panic, how he'd struggled to breathe and longed for it to be over, but he hadn't moved. He'd just pushed all those feelings down and kept them repressed for years.

Back then he'd wanted to escape, but hadn't been able to get away. Now he wanted Gibbs, but he pushed him away every time he got too close. The irony didn't escape him. Even after all these years, he felt as if Roy was still controlling him.

"You still belong to me, Tonio, in your heart. I shaped you. I made you what you are."

Tony eased himself out of the warmth of Gibbs's arms and got up. He pulled on a bathrobe and paused to gaze back at the bed. Gibbs was still asleep, his silver-grey hair resting on the pillow, one arm flung out, laying claim to the bed the way he always laid claim to everything. Tony didn't mind being laid claim to by Gibbs. It had been pretty much all he’d ever wanted.

He walked quietly out of the bedroom and wandered along to the spare room. He hadn't slept in here since that night he'd smashed his hand through the kitchen door. That seemed like a lifetime ago now. He’d been a different person then. Now Quinn and Parrish were both behind bars, and if Gibbs would just let the thing with Marco drop, then maybe they could get on with their lives. Except he wouldn’t. Tony knew that. There was no way Gibbs would ever let that drop.

Tony glanced around the room. Boxes of his stuff were dumped on the bed. They still hadn't completely cleared out his apartment – they'd made the occasional random journey over there to pick up some of his stuff, but he hadn't had time to unpack it, and he was also unsure about how much space he could take up in Gibbs's life. Tony didn't know how moving in worked, and Gibbs was a territorial kind of man; he liked his own space and his own stuff. Tony was starting to trust that Gibbs meant to keep him around, but he didn't want to push his luck.

Living with Gibbs had been surprisingly easy. By rights, it should have been harder. Gibbs had, after all, gone through four wives, and Tony had never lived with anyone as part of a couple before. Somehow, they just seemed to get along without annoying each other too much.

Tony closed the door to the spare room and walked downstairs. The kitchen door was shut. He touched the glass with his fingertips. He hadn't fugued in months – not since the hotel room. Once he'd stopped trying to shove that boy into a box the fugues had stopped.

It wasn't easy though. The memories would hit him when he least expected it. Anything could set him off - a stray word here or there, or someone standing too close behind him. Tony allowed the memories to come now, instead of pushing them away. They didn’t have the power over him that they had once had.

Tony opened the kitchen door and went inside to get a glass of water. He returned to the living room and twitched open the drapes to look out at the yard. It was pretty outside in the early morning light; Gibbs was a gardener as well as a carpenter, and the yard was in full spring blossom. Gibbs liked working with his hands; he was practical, a craftsman, and he displayed a patience at those tasks that he rarely showed at work. Tony could see the qualities that had made him such a good sniper.

Tony glanced down at his own hand, where it was holding the glass of water, and traced a finger over the faded scars on it. He wasn't patient. He had wanted to bypass all this pain and skip straight to recovery. Even now, he knew that if he could pack this all up and never look at it again then he would, but he also knew that it didn't work that way. Ignoring it, squashing it down, only stored up problems for later. Dealing with it was harder – and at times frustratingly slow – but it was the only way forward. He’d learned that the hard way.

There was a photograph of Gibbs, with his arms around Shannon and Kelly, on the shelf in the alcove. Tony picked it up and looked into Kelly's bright blue eyes. She'd been such a pretty little kid. Tony suspected there were elements of the bereaved father and the lost child in his own relationship with Gibbs. It was part of what connected them, and what made it work so well between them. The different damage they'd suffered made them uniquely qualified to heal each other.

The family grouping in the photograph looked so natural – like they all belonged together. Did he and Gibbs look that way? Like they belonged together?

"How can you belong to him when you still belong to me?" Roy's voice purred insidiously in his ear.

Tony put the photograph down and reached up to rub the back of his head. He didn't want to do this, but it felt undone, unfinished. It felt like something he was avoiding, and he knew where avoidance led.

"Hey," a voice said quietly behind him, and he glanced over his shoulder. Gibbs raised an eyebrow at him. "What's going on?"

Tony continued rubbing the back of his head. Gibbs moved closer and reached out a hand to stop him. His fingers were warm around Tony's wrist. He held it loosely in his grasp and gazed at Tony searchingly.


"I need to see Roy."

He watched Gibbs's eyes darken.

"No. Remember what happened when you saw Parrish?"

"Yeah, I remember," Tony grimaced. "But I have to do it anyway. Roy's where it all started for me – and I don't think I'll ever be free of his voice in my head until I face him. I need to see him, Jethro."

"What the hell for?"

"Because he's the one thing I'm still avoiding," Tony said quietly. "The times when I faced up to it; when I told you all about it; when I saw Parrish; when I went to that hotel room; and when I finally found the guts to tell my father what had happened and *make* him listen; they weren't easy, but they were breakthroughs. I need to do the same with Roy."

"He's a sick bastard," Gibbs warned. "You won't like getting a glimpse into the inside of his head. I know I sure as hell didn't."

"I already know what the inside of his head is like," Tony said bitterly. "I've been there, Jethro. I'm still there, in a way."

"Then why…?" Gibbs began.

"Because it isn't finished for me until I do!" Tony said forcefully. "Listen, Jethro - the way you feel about finding Marco? That's how I feel about facing Roy. It's just something I have to do if I'm ever going to get over what he did to me and move on."

That got through to Gibbs. He might not like it, but he'd supported Tony in every decision he'd made this far, and he'd do it again. He gazed at Tony for a long time, a muscle in his jaw twitching furiously, and then, finally, he nodded. He wrapped an arm around Tony's shoulders.

"Okay. I'll make arrangements in the morning," he said in a tight tone of voice. "But there's no way I'm letting you go alone. I'm coming too. Now – let's go back to bed."

Roy Quinn sat waiting expectantly for his visitor, wondering who it was. So far nobody had been to visit him, not even when he'd first been arrested. To be honest, he was a little disappointed by that. He had once had so many friends, but it seemed they had all abandoned him now. He missed Alessandro the most; they had been the best of friends for so long. Maybe his visitor was Alessandro. He hoped so.

The door opened, and Roy's heart missed a beat as he caught sight of a tall, broad-shouldered figure. The years rolled back, and for just an instant he was in Vietnam with Alessandro again, helping his injured friend to safety, and then the moment passed. This wasn't Alessandro standing in front of him; this was someone even more precious.

"Tonio," he murmured, pressing his hand against the transparent panel dividing them. Tonio was all grown up now, in his mid-thirties, a big, solid man just like his father. Roy struggled to reconcile this handsome, confident-looking adult with the boy he'd once known. He gazed at the man in front of him searchingly, and then he saw it: Tonio – his Tonio - was still there, peering out at him shyly from green eyes that were suddenly achingly familiar. Roy didn't see the self-assured federal agent - he saw the boy - and he felt his eyes grow suddenly misty.

"You didn't forget me," Roy said softly. "You came to see me, Tonio."

He suddenly became aware that someone else had followed Tonio into the room, and he stiffened: Agent Gibbs. He hated that man and feared him even more.

Tony sat down in front of him, while Gibbs took up position leaning against the wall behind him.

Roy ignored Gibbs, choosing to concentrate on Tonio instead. "I knew you would want to see me, Tonio," he said, smiling happily. "I knew you couldn't resist. Agent Gibbs doesn't understand what was between us – he says I damaged you - but it wasn't like that, was it, Tonio?"

"That's not my name," Tonio replied bluntly. His green eyes were dark as he leaned forward. "That's not my name, Quinn. My name is Tony. The only person I ever wanted to call me Tonio was my mom. Not you."

"I understand." Roy nodded. "It was such a sweet name. It suited the boy you were then but not the man you are now, so tall and grown up. It's not the right name for you now, I can see that."

Tony leaned back in his chair, staring at him. Roy stared back. "You look a lot like your father," he commented. "How is Alessandro?"

"He's fine," Tony said shortly.

"He hasn't been to see me."

Tony looked at him incredulously. "Did you really expect him to visit you after he found out what you did to me?"

"What did I do?" Roy raised a surprised eyebrow. "All I ever did was love you, Tony. People don't understand – Agent Gibbs doesn't understand - but you do, Tony. You were there. You know how it was between us. We were in love."

Roy heard an angry little growl emanate from Gibbs's throat, but he was too scared to look at the man. He was such a dark, glowering, brooding presence, standing over there by the wall. Roy wished he wasn't here, spoiling this precious reunion.

"That wasn't love, Quinn," Tony said quietly.

"Ah, I see he's poisoned you against me," Roy murmured sadly. "I'm sorry about that, Tony because you're only lying to yourself. Just think about all those long years you kept our little secret – why would you have done that if you didn't love me, hmm?"

Tony's eyes were troubled and confused. He looked as adorable as he had all those years ago, during their affair. Roy smiled at him indulgently.

"I didn't want to remember it," Tony said. "I tried my best to forget."

"I don't believe that," Roy replied, still smiling. "I never loved anyone as much as I loved you, Tony. There were others – I'm not denying that – there have been so many others, but I didn't love any of them as much as I loved you." He leaned forward. "Has there ever been anyone else for you, Tony?" he asked eagerly. "Can you honestly say that anyone has ever loved you as much as I loved you?"

"I ran away from you, Quinn," Tony replied. "Doesn't that tell you something about how much I loved you?"

"I was hurt," Roy admitted with a nod. "When you went away to boarding school, I thought I'd at least see you in the vacations, but you always stayed just out of reach. When you did come home, you avoided me. I was very hurt by that, Tony."

"You raped me," Tony told him quietly. "You gave me to other men and let them rape me."

Roy shook his head vehemently. "I always loved you. Yes, I had to make some difficult choices, and I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your time with Gianni and Matthew as much as I'd have liked, but I'm flattered too, in a way. Your heart belonged to me – you didn't like giving yourself to anyone else."

Tony laughed out loud. "Christ, you've got a unique way of looking at things, Roy."

Roy grinned. "Oh, you still have such a beautiful smile! You were such a serious little boy – I always loved it when you smiled."

Tony's smile faded, and he leaned forward. "I want you to listen to me, Roy. You ruined my childhood. Not my life – because I’ve made a success of that, despite you – but you completely fucked up my childhood. Every memory of me that you treasure is one that makes me feel sick. You exploited my loneliness and fractured my relationship with my father. You didn't love me, and I sure as hell didn't love you. You used me to satisfy your own sick fantasies. When I think of the way you used to touch me – the way you used to fuck me - it makes me want to throw up."

Roy moved his hand up to his throat and felt the pulse fluttering there, in his own neck.

"You don't mean that, Tony," he said softly. "This is Agent Gibbs talking, not you." He glanced over Tony's shoulder and caught Gibbs's icy stare. He leaned forward. "When I look in his eyes, I see the thousand different ways he wants to kill me. Does he scare you too, Tony? He should. He's a monster."

"No, he doesn't scare me." Tony shook his head. "And he's not the monster, Roy. You are. I can't believe I came here. You're a sick bastard, Roy. You're not worth my time."

He got up, and Roy gazed at him pathetically, wanting him to stay just a little bit longer. "I always asked after you!" he said hurriedly. "I always asked Alessandro how you were and what you were doing. I followed your career. I'm so proud of you, Tony!"

Tony's jaw was taut, his hands bunched into fists. "I'm not yours to be proud of, Roy."

"Of course you are," Roy insisted. "You'll always be mine."

Roy heard a low, feral growl emanate from Gibbs's throat, and he flinched. It wasn't Gibbs who slammed his hand angrily against the transparent screen dividing them though – it was Tony.

"No, I'm my own damn person!" Tony said forcefully. "So don't think about me again, Roy. Any time you find yourself thinking about Tonio, and all the sick things you did to me, remember me the way I am right now. I'm not that little kid any more – I fight back now."

"But Tonio will always be in my head – in my heart!" Roy protested.

"Not any more." Tony shook his head. He seemed suddenly big and intimidating. "He doesn't belong to you any more, Roy. He belongs to me now. So if you ever try using him in some sick jerk-off fantasy in your jail cell, I promise you that little kid will turn into me and beat the shit out of you. I'm in your head now, Roy, the way you've been in mine all these years." He stood back and gave a tight little smile. "How does it feel, Roy? I hope it hurts."

Gibbs stepped forward, and Roy cowered back instinctively, terrified of the man.

"You know, I don't think it's me you should be scared of, Quinn,” Gibbs said, in a wry tone. He nodded his head in Tony's direction. “It's him."

Roy looked up into Tony's cold green eyes, and his heart flipped anxiously in his chest. Maybe Gibbs was right. He couldn't see any trace of his adorable little Tonio in Tony now. All he could see was the icy fury of a strong, resilient man – a man who hated him.

Tony glanced sideways at Gibbs with an expression Roy had never seen on his face before: It was love, affection, and trust all rolled into one. Tonio had never looked at him like that.

"I'm done. Come on, Jethro. Let's go," Tony said softly.

Roy watched them leave. As a prisoner, friendless and alone, he had nothing except his treasured memories, and now they had been ruined. Tony had stolen them from him. Roy glanced down at his own hands to find that they were shaking. Then he glanced back as the door slammed shut behind his visitors.

Tonio was gone.

Tony strode out of the prison feeling strangely euphoric.

"He's pathetic," he said as he got into the car beside Gibbs. "I can't believe he ever had any kind of power over me. He's just a deluded old man."

"Yup." Gibbs grinned.

"Christ, what a complete loser." Tony shook his head. Gibbs just continued grinning at him. "What?" Tony asked.

"I just liked what I saw you do back there. It's what I've been waiting for."

He started the car and began driving. Tony gazed out of the window for awhile, lost in thought, before finally registering that he didn't have a clue where they were.

"Uh, where the hell are we going?" he asked. Gibbs shrugged.

"You'll see."

Tony leaned back, wondering what this was about. They pulled up in the middle of nowhere an hour or so later, and Gibbs got out of the car.

"This is it?" Tony frowned.

"Nope. First we have to do some hiking." Gibbs opened the trunk of the car and pulled out a couple of fully packed rucksacks.

"You have got to be kidding me!" Tony protested. "I hate hiking."

"I know." Gibbs gave him an infuriating grin.

"There aren't any horses around, are there?" Tony glanced around. "The one thing I hate more than hiking is riding."

"No horses. Just a good, long hike and then some camping."

Tony gazed at him in disbelief. "Camping? We're going camping? Don't I have a say in this?"

"Nope." Gibbs threw the rucksack at him; it was so heavy Tony almost dropped it.

"Is this some weird Marine thing?" he asked, as Gibbs began fastening his own rucksack onto his back.

"Nope. This is a Gibbs thing. Come on. We have some distance to travel before sunset."

Tony glared after him as Gibbs set off without a second glance. Finally, with a resigned sigh, he pulled the rucksack onto his shoulders and set off after him.

They walked for what felt like miles to Tony's city-slicker legs. He was fit enough for his NCIS work, but he never kidded himself he was in Gibbs's league. The man was still Gunnery Sergeant-fit, and could probably drop to the floor and do a hundred push-ups without breaking into a sweat.

Tony trailed along behind him, feeling increasingly angry. They still had a few days vacation time left, and Gibbs wanted to waste it communing with the great outdoors? What the hell for? What was so great about nature anyway?

They climbed up the side of a mountain – or that's what it felt like to Tony - and he arrived at the long, flat summit panting, the sweat trickling uncomfortably down his back, to find that Gibbs had removed his rucksack and was busy unfurling his bedroll.

"What took you so long?" Gibbs demanded. Tony glared at him.

"This isn't fun."

"Sure it is. Look at the great view."

Gibbs pointed, and Tony had to concede, grudgingly, that it *was* a great view. The countryside stretched out for miles beneath them, and the sun was hanging low in the sky, bathing everything in orange light. Tony fought to get his rucksack off and then turned to find Gibbs had finished with his bedroll and was busy unpacking some food.

"Tell me you at least brought a tent," Tony grumbled.

"Nope." Gibbs grinned at him. "There's nothing like spending the night looking up at the stars."

"We could get eaten by wild animals," Tony complained. Gibbs rolled his eyes.

"I brought my rifle, but somehow I think we'll be safe, Tony." He put a hand on Tony's shoulder and pushed him over to the edge. "What do you see?" he asked.

"Nature?" Tony shuddered.

"How does it make you feel?" Gibbs was giving him an oddly intent stare.

"Like I want to kill someone, preferably you right now," Tony muttered.

"What did you say?" Gibbs demanded. Tony stared at him; this was weird.

"That I want to kill someone?" Tony repeated more hesitantly.

"What's the problem, Tony?" Gibbs asked, getting in his space. Tony thought about it for a moment.

"This is my vacation too, Jethro, and you didn't ask me if I wanted to spend it hiking up some fucking great hill. You might be my boss at work, but we're not at work now."

"So, you're pissed with me?" Gibbs was nose to nose with him now, completely getting in his face. "It doesn't sound like it."

"Yeah, I'm pissed with you," Tony muttered. "Kinda." He didn't like the way this was heading.

"I never see you get angry," Gibbs told him. "Or at least never with anyone but yourself. You're entitled to be angry with me. You're right – I didn't ask you if you wanted to come out here."

"Why the hell did you bring me here then?" Tony asked sullenly.

"To get you mad. Get mad for me, Tony. We are out here, right in the middle of nowhere – there's nobody for miles around. Nobody can hear you. Yell at me. Scream at me. Just find the anger, and get mad."

Tony thought about it for a moment and then shrugged. "It's not really my thing."

"Sure it is. I once heard you yelling at some little kid inside your own head – why can't you yell at me?" Gibbs demanded.

Tony frowned. "That was different."

"Why? Because he was a defenceless little kid who couldn't fight back? Bullshit!"

"No – because…I don't know…" Tony shrugged helplessly.

"You're angry, Tony. You're mad as hell," Gibbs told him. "I know you are – but you won't let yourself feel it."

"What's the point?" Tony snapped. "It won't change anything."

"It's part of what's holding you back. Tony – some men once took you to a hotel room and raped you, repeatedly. That wasn't your fault. You were just a kid. It was their fault. Get mad about it, the way you got mad at Quinn back there. Get mad about what happened to you. Find that anger and get it out."

Tony gazed at him helplessly, feeling both sullen and confused. "I'm not like you. I don't growl and snarl whenever I'm pissed off," he muttered.

"No – you just turn it in on yourself," Gibbs said. He moved a step closer. Tony stood his ground. "Do it, Tony. Shout, scream - lose control. It's safe. I'm here, and I can take anything you throw at me."

Tony looked around. Gibbs was right about one thing – they were in the middle of nowhere.

"Remember how good it felt back there," Gibbs said softly. "Remember how you felt, finally standing up to Roy Quinn and telling that twisted bastard the truth? Where's that anger, Tony? It's in there. I know it is." He put his hand on Tony's stomach, and Tony heaved in a deep breath. "I can feel it," Gibbs hissed. "You can feel it too, can't you, Tony?"

Tony found his breathing coming in deep, harsh gasps. There was a fury inside him, buried so deep he hadn't even been aware of it. He never got angry; even when he was annoyed he didn’t do more than snap. He was always in control. He never let his feelings out – he had to keep them contained, in case someone got hurt. His rage felt so big, and went so deep, that he thought it might tear him apart if he let it out.

"That kid wasn't to blame for what happened to him, Tony," Gibbs continued, his hand warm against Tony's belly. "You weren’t to blame for it. Those men were. Scream at them, Tony. Scream at the pain, and the fear, and the confusion, and the degradation. Scream at the injustice of it. Scream it out."

"I feel like an idiot," Tony said, pushing Gibbs's hand away, clamping down hard on the rage inside and trying to make it go away again.

"So?" Gibbs growled. "I'm the only one here to see you. I'll scream with you if you want." He threw back his head and yelled at the darkening sky overhead. Tony watched him, fascinated. Gibbs always seemed to find it so easy to access that anger inside.

Tony opened his mouth and managed to squeeze out a small growl. It sounded pathetic to his own ears, like a cub trying to emulate a wolf.

"What the hell was that?" Gibbs taunted.

Tony felt a surge of anger, and he opened his mouth and screamed. The scream seemed to rip out of his belly and fly across the deserted landscape, taking him by surprise. God, it felt good!

Tony paused for breath and then opened his chest and yelled again. Gibbs was right – he *was* angry. He hadn't realised just how angry until he got up here and started yelling. The fury felt like a twister that started in his stomach and emerged from his lungs in a constant flowing torrent. He surrendered to it, flinging out his arms and roaring out his rage.

Tony turned around and around, screaming at the top of his lungs, furious with the world. He was angry with his mother for dying, and he was angry with his father for not being there for him. He raged against the injustice of what had happened to him, and he yelled out his fury towards Quinn, and Parrish, and Marconi for what they had done to him.

A warm breeze rustled through his hair, and he felt his shirt billowing out around him. Gibbs was there, goading him on and guarding him at one and the same time, his blue eyes shining in the orange half-light.

The anger was so massive, and went so deep, that once he started letting it out he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to stop. He thought that maybe he'd just have to stand on this hillside forever, yelling at the sky. His body was a conduit for his fury, and it just kept rising up inside, on and on, too big to be contained.

He yelled, he hollered, he shouted, and he raged. He lost control. He prowled around the hillside, screaming until his throat hurt and his voice was hoarse. He wasn't aware of himself any more – he was just a ball of burning anger, blazing so brightly he was sure he had to be visible for miles around. And through it all there was Gibbs, standing beside him, watching over him, and keeping him safe.

Tony wasn't aware of time passing. He wasn't aware of anything except his own fury. Then, suddenly, it was over. He found himself standing with his arms outstretched, a shout dying in his throat. His body felt weightless, as if all that anger had been weighing him down, making him heavy.

“You done?”

Gibbs came up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Tony swung around, knocking the hand away. He seized Gibbs, and for a moment he wasn't sure if he wanted to scream at him or hit him, and then he realised that he didn't want to do either of those things. Another need rose up inside him, just as powerful as his rage had been earlier, and he pushed Gibbs over towards the bedding.

"Fuck me," Tony whispered urgently into Gibbs's ear. "Fuck me into the ground. Fuck me so hard that I can't think about anything else. Fuck me. Please…fuck me."

Gibbs didn't say a word; he just began stripping Tony of his clothes. When he was done, he pushed Tony down onto the bedding. Tony pulled Gibbs down on top of him, undressing him urgently. Gibbs was solid and powerful, his scent familiar and reassuring. He kissed Tony hard on the mouth, and Tony lost himself in the sensation. He wasn’t thinking now; he was just feeling.

Gibbs moved over him, caressing him with his mouth and fingers, igniting Tony’s senses wherever he touched. The stars were starting to come out above, little pinpricks of light in the almost-dark sky. Tony arched up against Gibbs, his body acting on instinct. He wasn’t watching from the sidelines any more – he was lost in the moment, and it felt so incredibly good.

Gibbs took control, and Tony surrendered to his expert touch. It was such a relief to just let go, and let Gibbs take care of him. Gibbs's hands and mouth were everywhere, touching him all over, and this time it didn't freak him out – it turned him on. He opened his legs to allow Gibbs's slippery fingers inside his body, and then mewled, wanting more. Gibbs grabbed his arms and pushed them above his head, and Tony went limp and angled up his head for a kiss. Gibbs covered his body with his own, and kissed him hard, exploring Tony’s mouth forcefully with his tongue. Then he drew back, his eyes holding a question.

Tony nodded, not needing to even think about it. Gibbs kissed him again and then grasped Tony's buttocks in his hands and positioned his hard cock between them. Slowly, carefully, he began pushing inside. Gibbs was big, but Tony’s body stretched easily to accommodate him. Tony gave a moan of pleasure - it felt so incredibly *good*.

"Okay?" Gibbs asked, looking down at him.

Tony nodded. "More!" he panted.

Gibbs grinned and thrust forward, surging into him with more force. Tony wrapped his legs around Gibbs's back, wanting to pull him inside as deep as he'd go. Gibbs paused, buried to the hilt inside Tony. Tony nodded again, and Gibbs moved his hips back and then thrust forward again, even more powerfully. Tony gasped as white lights exploded inside his head.

"Oh shit," he whimpered.

"More again?" Gibbs asked.

"Mmmmm," Tony replied incoherently.

Gibbs drew back and then surged forward once more, filling him completely. Tony lay there, gazing up at Gibbs blindly. He wasn’t aware of anything except how good it felt to have Gibbs moving inside him. Gibbs thrust into him deeply, every inward movement of his hips sparking flares of rippling pleasure through Tony's body. Gibbs's gaze never left his face as he thrust in and out, and Gibbs's hand was firm on his cock, stroking it in time to the movements of his hips. Tony didn't have to do anything except enjoy. He was boneless, weightless - and totally not in control.

Tony screamed again, but this time he wasn't angry. This time he was ecstatic. He screamed out his orgasm as every single nerve-ending in his body exploded at the same time. He thought he was coming, but he wasn't sure because everything seemed hazy. There was just him, and Gibbs, and the stars above, and rolling waves of intense pleasure.

Tony's screams became whimpers and then they slowly died away. Gibbs rested himself on his elbows, his cock still lodged deep inside Tony's ass, and kissed Tony tenderly on the mouth. Tony moaned into the kiss, and Gibbs held him there, kissing him for what seemed like hours, until the sky had turned completely black overhead. Then, finally, he rolled off him and pulled the spare blanket over them both.

"I fucking love you," Tony whimpered.

Gibbs grinned and stroked his fingers lazily down Tony's chest. "Love you too, Tony."

"I still hate hiking, and nature, and camping, and all that shit, but I fucking love you - and I fucking love being fucked by you," Tony sighed.

"That's a lot of fucking." Gibbs leaned over and kissed his mouth again.

"Yeah." Tony grinned stupidly. "And you gotta promise me there will be a whole lot more."

Gibbs laughed. "Hell yeah! That's something I can definitely promise."

Terry Dyer glanced up at the apartment block as he walked past. He often came this way. He told himself that it was the quickest route to work, but he knew there was another reason. Every time he passed by, he always looked up and counted along the windows to Tony's apartment. He often wondered what had happened to Tony. They had shared such a strange, dramatic night. It was like catching a tiny glimpse of a TV show and wondering how it had ended. There hadn't been any sign of Tony though, in all these months. The drapes were always open, even when it was dark, and there were never any lights on in the apartment.

Terry glanced away from the window, and his eye was caught by a man loading a box into a car in the apartment parking lot. He was wearing faded, ripped jeans, a red tee shirt, and a baseball cap with the letters "NCIS" emblazoned across the front. Terry paused, in shocked recognition, and at the same moment the man looked up and saw him.

"Hiya!" Terry said feebly. Tony gazed at him.

"Hi," he said uncertainly. "Uh…have we met?"

"Kind of. Once." Terry made a face. "Typical – he doesn't even remember you, Terry. I remember you though, Tony. Of course, you were only conscious for the first half hour of our acquaintance, so I suppose I have to forgive you for forgetting me."

Tony flushed and made a face. "Shit. Sorry. I remember now. Not the best night of my life." He sounded apologetic at least.

"I always wondered if you were okay," Terry said. "Nobody called. I gave Mr. Grumpy my phone number, but I never heard anything."

"Mr. Grumpy?" Tony looked confused for a moment, and then his face split into a delighted grin. "Oh man, I can't wait to use that one on him."

"Unwise, DiNozzo," a voice said, and both Terry and Tony jumped. Gibbs appeared seemingly from nowhere, carrying a box. Like Tony, he was dressed in jeans and a tee shirt. Gibbs dumped the box in the car and turned back to Terry. "Mr. Dyer. How are you doing?"

"Fine. Nice to see someone remembers me," Terry said pointedly. "Although, to be fair, I might have been on a one night stand with you, Tony, but I ended up talking more to him."

Terry glanced at Gibbs. The guy looked a hell of a lot more relaxed today than he had that night. He still looked like he could kill you with a flick of his hand, or that icy stare of his, but right now he was smiling and looked happy.

"Are you okay now, Tony?" Terry asked, with a little flutter of his eyelashes.

"Yeah." Tony glanced at Gibbs, who rested a territorial hand on his shoulder.

"Oh. Right. I see," Terry sighed. "I wondered why I hadn't seen you in the clubs since that night. I guess you don't need to pick up those Mr. Grumpy clones any more now you've got the real thing, Tony. God help you."

Gibbs gave a wry chuckle, shaking his head. "You and I never did exactly hit it off, did we, Mr. Dyer?"

"What the hell happened while I was out of it?" Tony asked, looking from Terry to Gibbs and back again, a confused expression on his face.

"Oh, he was just jealous of me," Terry said. Gibbs laughed out loud at that, and it was so unexpected coming from a man like Gibbs that Terry couldn't stop himself barking out a little laugh too; Gibbs's laugh was surprisingly infectious. "You moving, Tony?" Terry asked, glancing at the boxes.

"No…I kind of moved ages ago. Just never got around to clearing out the rest of my stuff. Should have done it before, but we were too busy with…things." Tony shrugged. "I'm living with Mr. Grumpy now," he added, grinning sideways at Gibbs. Gibbs grinned back at him and moved his hand. Tony hunched his shoulders, as if expecting a slap, but instead Gibbs just stroked his hair. Tony laughed out loud and relaxed. There was something so easy between them - so right. Terry envied them.

"Well, good luck," he said. "Nice to, uh, bump into you again." He waved his hand and began walking away.

"Hey, Terry," Tony called after him. Terry turned, and Tony gave him a megawatt smile that made his heart skip a beat. "Just wanted to say thanks – for not running out on me that night. For, you know, taking care of me, and for calling Jethro."

"Jethro?" Terry raised a surprised eyebrow in Gibbs's direction. "That's his name? Wow, the world is full of surprises," he muttered to himself. "And you're welcome, Tony. I'm glad you're okay."

Terry turned and continued walking. He glanced back over his shoulder and saw them closing up the trunk of the car. Then Tony turned and looked up at his old apartment window.

"I just realised I never slept here again after that night," he murmured. "Feels like a lifetime ago." He glanced through the car window. "Hey, where are my black satin sheets?" he demanded. "Are we missing a box?"

"Aw, did I forget to bring that box down?" Gibbs asked.

Tony's eyes narrowed. "I spent some damn good nights on those sheets, Mr. Grumpy."

"Call me that again, and you can sleep on them again – in the spare room."

The teasing banter faded behind him as Terry passed out of earshot. He knew that he wouldn't need to come this way again. Handsome princes never did end up with guys like him anyway. He should know that by now.

McGee was sure it was ridiculous to feel nervous about going to work, but he did. It was like the first day back at school after the summer break. They had all been working on the fallout from that stolen laptop and camera for so long that he was sure it would feel strange to go back to their old jobs.

Director Vance had assigned a different team to cover for them at crime scenes for the past few months. McGee knew that he'd offered Tony the job as team leader, but Tony had turned it down. McGee still wasn't exactly sure why, but he suspected that Tony hadn't wanted to be split up from his team, even if he wasn't able to work on the pedophile cases with them. More specifically, McGee was sure that Tony hadn't wanted to be far away from Gibbs. That was understandable – after hearing what Tony had been through as a kid, McGee had a whole different perspective on his obsession with Gibbs. He'd always been aware of it – hell, anyone with eyes had been aware of it – and they'd all teased Tony about it over the years. Now, it kind of made more sense.

Still, it was going to be weird working with Tony again. McGee wasn't sure whether they could ever go back to the way they had been before. It seemed like such a long time ago, and they all knew so much more about Tony now. McGee longed for the old days of easy banter, but they seemed long gone. These past few months had been intense, and there hadn't been much time for goofing off. Tony had only been a semi-detached team member for that time, sitting at his desk but working his own cases, so they had interacted with him much less. Annoying though he could be, McGee now saw exactly why the team needed Tony so much. He provided light relief, and for the past few months that had been missing.

The elevator pinged, and the doors opened. McGee squared his shoulders and then walked out into the squad room.

Tony was sitting with his feet up on his desk, sipping a cup of coffee as he flicked through a magazine, and Ziva was perched beside him, reading the magazine over his shoulder, sipping her own coffee.

"Hey, McProbie! Coffee!" Tony pointed to the cup on the side of the desk without taking his eyes off the magazine.

"Why thank you, Tony," McGee said, with a surprised smile. Maybe it wouldn't be the same as before. Maybe it would be better. McGee certainly liked the idea of a new, improved Tony. On the other hand, McGee was sure he could see pictures of scantily clad people in the magazine, so maybe Tony hadn't changed all that much.

He took a sip of his coffee and then spat it out again. Tony and Ziva burst out laughing.

"Soap? You put soap in my coffee, Tony?" McGee tried to make his tone sound threatening, but he was barely able to keep a straight face. God, it felt good to be laughing with Tony again, instead of tiptoeing around him!

At that moment, Gibbs swept into the room, and Tony almost fell out of his chair in his hurry to stuff his magazine hastily into his desk drawer. Gibbs went over to his desk, grabbed his gun and badge, and then made for the elevator.

"Come on, people, gear up," he said impatiently. They all scrambled to grab their stuff and follow him.

"What we got, Boss?" McGee asked, wiping coffee off his tie.

"Dead petty officer in an alley outside a bar," Gibbs replied as the elevator door opened.

"Why is it always the petty officers that get themselves killed?" Tony mused as they stepped inside. "Why not the lieutenants? You should start a spreadsheet on it, McGeek."

Gibbs reached out and slapped the back of his head soundly.

"Ow!" Tony rubbed his head. "What was that for? I'm right about the petty officers!"

"Maybe." Gibbs shrugged. "But that was for reading trashy magazines on my time, DiNozzo."

"Yes, Boss. Thank you, Boss," Tony said promptly, still rubbing his head.

The elevator doors closed, and McGee's face creased into a massive grin. Just like that, everything seemed to be back to normal.

Ziva glanced around the crime scene. The dead petty officer was a woman in her late twenties, with long dark hair.

"She was pretty," Ziva mused.

"Yeah." McGee took a photograph and then paused and grinned. "Hmm. Feels good to be back."

"I doubt our dead petty officer would agree with you, McGee," Ziva pointed out.

She took in a dozen different details that she wouldn't have noticed a couple of years ago; the position of the dead woman's body; the slightly paler band of skin on her finger where a wedding ring might once have been; and the blood on her knuckles.

Tony was kneeling beside the body. He got up when Gibbs came over.

"What you got for me, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked.

"Our dead petty officer is called Sara Sharma. She was drinking in the bar last night. According to the barman, she saw a guy being abusive to his girlfriend and got involved. There was a fight, and the barman threw them all out – that was the last he saw of her."

Ziva watched as Gibbs wrote something in his notebook.

"Is Tony still staying with Gibbs?" McGee asked her in an undertone. She frowned at him. "I mean, isn't that kind of weird?" McGee whispered. "I could understand it a few months ago when Tony was falling apart, but now?"

Ziva watched as Gibbs said something to Tony, and Tony arched an amused eyebrow in reply. They shared a momentary joke. Ziva frowned thoughtfully. Something had changed between them; something subtle. Tony was still Tony, but he seemed less fidgety now and far more relaxed. He wasn't pulling faces at Gibbs or getting in his way any more.

"Have you not figured it out yet, McGee?" she asked. McGee gave her a startled look. "Tony is no longer trying to attract Gibbs's attention," she said softly.

McGee glanced over at them. "You're right. But what has that got to do with him still staying at Gibbs's house?"

"Tony does not need to attract Gibbs's attention any more," Ziva told him, with a little smile. "Because now he has it - and he knows it."

"Oh." McGee still looked stumped. Then the realisation hit him. "Oh!" he said, looking back at them again. "Really? Tony and Gibbs? I mean, I had noticed they seem pretty close, and I've seen Gibbs put his arm around Tony a couple of times, but I assumed he was just looking out for him." He looked over at them again with a frown. "Are you sure?"

Ziva smiled. "Yes, I am sure. I am a trained investigator. I see these things." She laughed at the bemused look on his face and patted his arm. "Tony isn't staying with Gibbs any more, McGee," she said softly. "He lives there now."

"My poor dear girl. How did such a pretty thing meet such a sad end, hmm?" Ducky mused, as he worked on the body in front of him.

He glanced up as a shadow fell over the corpse. "Ah, Jethro. Punctual as ever."

"You said you had something for me, Duck?" Gibbs asked.

"I do, yes. I have empathy," Ducky said. He watched in delight as Gibbs gave him an entirely predictable glare. "Empathy," Ducky repeated. Gibbs made an impatient motion with his head, but Ducky had no intention of letting him off lightly. It had been months since they'd had a chance to chat over a dead body, and he intended to positively relish the moment. "Empathy - the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings," Ducky explained.

"I know what it means, Duck," Gibbs said, with just a trace of a sigh. Clearly he knew he wasn't going to be allowed a quick getaway today.

"Our dead petty officer has evidence of several old injuries," Ducky explained. "Scars on her back, fractured wrist, broken nose…I would go so far as to say that she was regularly beaten. And judging by this…" Ducky held up her hand and pointed to a slightly paler area of skin on her ring finger. "I would say that she was once married - but not any more."

"Your point, Ducky?"

"I'm getting to it. Slowly." Ducky smiled happily to himself. He loved his friend dearly, but sometimes Jethro was far too impatient. "I spoke to Anthony earlier. He said our dead petty officer got in the way of an arguing couple at a bar last night. Empathy, my dear, Jethro. This poor young woman got involved in a fight that was nothing to do with her because she had suffered an abusive relationship herself. I've heard that it is often the case that those people who have known the greatest pain are most able to empathise with the suffering of others."

He glanced at Gibbs sharply.

"For example, I have often found Anthony to be an extremely empathetic person, underneath all the silliness. And I am glad that in his hour of need there was someone nearby who had experienced great suffering himself and was therefore able to give Anthony the time, space, and support he needed in order to heal."

"Is this going somewhere?" Gibbs asked impatiently.

"I believe it already did," Ducky said softly. "I'm not blind, Jethro, and nor am I easily shocked. I am delighted that you have found happiness, and even more delighted by who you have found happiness with."

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "You called me down here to tell me that?"

Ducky grinned. "Yes I did."

Gibbs rolled his eyes and strode towards the door. He paused when he got there, and glanced back. "I read that book you told me about, Ducky."

"Hmm?" Ducky frowned.

"The one about the fox?"

"Ah, The Little Prince! Technically it's not actually about the fox, Jethro. In fact, he's a relatively minor character. What did you think of it?"

"Irritated the hell out of me."

Ducky laughed. "Ah, I rather thought it wasn't your kind of thing. It is full of wise little sayings though. 'It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important'," he quoted happily.

"Roses, foxes, princes, sheep – couldn't understand a word of it," Gibbs grunted.

Ducky shook his head. "Just don't neglect that boy, Jethro, the way you did some of your wives. You can be frighteningly single-minded at times."

Gibbs grinned. "No intention of neglecting him, Duck, but thanks for the unsolicited advice. As usual." Then he turned and strode out.

Ducky watched him go with a fond smile and then turned back to his dead petty officer.

“'One runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets himself be tamed',” he quoted to her. “You know, my dear, I was never really sure whether the fox tamed the prince, or the prince tamed the fox," he mused, as he returned to his work.

"What you got for me, Abs?" Gibbs demanded as he walked through the door. Abby turned, with a delighted smile. It had been just over a week, and she hadn't stopped smiling in all that time. She loved having her team back together.

"Well…you didn't give me much to work with," she told him.

"I know."

"But I'm good – I mean, *really* good."

"I know that too." He handed her a Caf-Pow.

"Thank you, Gibbs!" She took a happy sip and then returned to her keyboard, fingers chasing over it at top speed. "So, I ran all the tests I could think of and the upshot is..." She pressed one final key and a picture came up onscreen with the words "Positive Match" flashing over it in big green lettering.

Gibbs's expression changed, and he gazed at the screen intently. "It's him?" he asked quietly.

"It's him," she said, nodding.

"Good work, Abs." He leaned over and kissed her cheek and then strode towards the door.

"Where are you going?" she called after him. He paused and turned to her, one eyebrow raised. "Okay. Stupid question. But what about the case?"

"Tony is perfectly capable of handling the case."

She was familiar with the dark look in his eyes, but it made her sigh anyway.

"Oh no – now you've gone all scary again," she said, making a face. "And that's a shame, Gibbs, because I like the way you've been all week."

"The way I've been all week?"

"You know – kind of relaxed and smiley. I just assumed it was because of all the great sex you're having with Tony, and I'm so happy for you, Gibbs! And for Tony, because if anyone deserves great sex it's him, but…uh…did I just say too much?" She winced.

"Uh-huh." His blue eyes were glacial, but she saw just a glimmer of amusement in there somewhere.

"Sorry." She put her hand over her mouth. "Is it a secret? I just assumed everyone knew. I mean, there are some things you don't have to be a forensics expert to figure out."

"It isn't a secret, Abby, but it's not…" He grimaced. "Just keep the sex comments to yourself, okay?"

"Okay." She drew her finger over her mouth, like she was fastening a zip. He shook his head and then turned and strode out of the room. "Be careful!" she called after him.

She put her fingers in her hair, twirled her pigtails anxiously, and then turned back to Major Mass-Spec.

Half an hour later she heard footsteps, and Tony walked into the room.

"What's going on, Abs?" he asked. She frowned.

"No – it's 'what you got for me, Abs'?" she said, in her mock-Gibbs deep voice. "Gibbs left you in charge of the case, didn't he?"

"Yeah – but I'm not trying to be Gibbs, Abby."

"You're not?" She frowned at him. "But you always do Gibbs when Gibbs isn't here."

"I used to, but now I'm doing Tony." He grinned at her. "And Tony says, 'What's going on, Abs?'. That's his catchphrase. Good, huh?"

She gazed at him. "I think it could use some work. Also, you should stop referring to yourself in the third person because that's just freaky."

"Understood." He grinned at her, and she launched herself at him for a hug. She had mostly got the hugs down to a manageable two a day, but it was hard. There were times when she felt that she just *had* to hug him, and he seemed okay with that.

"So what *have* you got for me?" he asked, with a resigned sigh, when she finally released him. She walked back to her workstation and was about to fill him in when she realised that he'd gone very quiet. She looked around to see him gazing at the picture onscreen, all the blood draining from his face.

"Oh shit! Tony, I'm sorry, you weren't supposed to see that." She slammed her hand down on the keyboard, and the picture disappeared.

"That picture – that was Marco…Gianni Marconi - wasn't it?" he asked quietly. She winced.

"Yes. Sorry," she said again.

"And Gibbs just disappeared in the middle of a case."

"Yes," she sighed.

"Gibbs never disappears in the middle of a case."

"No. He doesn't." She twisted her pigtails anxiously in her fingers again.

"You gonna tell me where he went?"

"Uh, no." She made a face. "Gibbs would kill me if I said anything, and you want me to live, don't you, Tony?"

His expression softened. "Of course I do, Abby."

He reached up and rubbed the back of his head absently. This was a danger signal they were all familiar with by now. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it.

"Sister Rosita has been asking after you. If you're not doing anything later, would you like to go bowling with us?"

"Yeah. Okay." He smiled at her, but those shadows were back in his eyes. She felt honoured that he didn't feel he had to hide them around her any more. "Hey, Boy 43." She pulled him down into another hug, and he put his arms around her and held on tight. "It's okay. I've got you," she said softly.


Nurse Roberts glanced at the ID that was flashed at her and then at the man holding it.

"You're Agent Gibbs?" she asked. She'd never met a federal agent before, and this one was grim-faced and intimidating.

"Yeah. I phoned earlier." He put away his ID and gazed at her expectantly.

"You were asking about Gianni?"

His jaw tightened, and he gave a curt nod.

"Well, he's in intensive care. I didn't realise his case was being investigated by the government."

Gibbs frowned. "His case?"

"Yes – isn't that why you're here? Because of what happened to him?"

"What did happen to him?" Gibbs asked.

"Oh – I thought you knew. He's just a harmless old homeless guy, but a few months ago he was brought in with third degree burns over half his body."

A muscle in Gibbs's jaw twitched. "Do you know how he was injured?"

"Well, I assumed that's what you're here to investigate. The local police think he was deliberately set on fire."

"Any idea who did it?"

"Nobody's sure, but there are rumours it was a bunch of kids."

Gibbs gave a frightening little smile. "Let's hope so," he said. Nurse Roberts frowned.

"I'm sorry?" she murmured, assuming she'd misheard.

"Can I see him?" Gibbs asked.

"Sure." She led him towards the room where Gianni was being cared for. "He can't really talk much though – his lungs were badly damaged by smoke inhalation. Also…" She paused, one hand on the door handle. "I don't know how familiar you are with burns victims, Agent Gibbs, but you should prepare yourself. He's in a bad way. He's in terrible pain, so we've put him on a constant morphine drip, but that means he's pretty much out of it for most of the time. We're just offering palliative care really – he won't be with us for much longer."

"I understand." Gibbs nodded.

"It's such a shame," she sighed. "Poor old guy. What on earth did he do to deserve this? I honestly wonder what the world is coming to. I mean, what harm did he ever do anyone?"

Gibbs didn't reply. He just gave her another one of those tight, disturbing smiles as she opened the door to Gianni's room.
Gibbs walked over to the bed and looked at the man lying on it. His skin was red and oozing in some places and looked like it had been melted off his body in others. He was a mess.

"I did warn you," Nurse Roberts sighed. "Gianni – you have a visitor," she said loudly.

The man on the bed moved his head a fraction, and Gibbs found himself looking into one dark eye.

"We couldn't save his other eye," Nurse Roberts told him.

"Could I have a few moments alone with him?" Gibbs asked.

"Sure." She nodded and walked towards the door. Gibbs followed her there and shut the door behind her. Then he returned to the bed. Most of the skin on Marconi's body had been badly burned, but there were patches that were untouched. There was a small area of unharmed skin on his neck and another on his wrist. Gibbs glanced at it, and his jaw tightened as he saw a tattoo – three red droplets of blood dripping down Marconi's forearm, part of a larger tattoo that had been burned away.

Gibbs sat down on the chair beside the bed and opened up the bag he'd brought with him. Then he leaned over and spoke directly into the man's ear.

"You don't know me, Marconi, but I know all about you. You're dying, and to be honest, there's nothing I really want to do make that happen any faster. I don't want to put you out of your misery. I just want to tell you a story – but I want you to be fully conscious when I do, so I'm going to remove this."

Gibbs leaned forward and removed the morphine drip from Marconi's arm. Then he leaned back and took a file out of his bag.

"This story goes back a long way, Marconi," he said quietly. "I'd start with, 'Once upon a time', but it isn't really a fairy story - although there are children involved. It belongs more in the horror genre I think."

He opened the file and showed it to Marconi. The man's one eye flickered. "I don't know if you remember this kid. I don't know his name, but we'll call him Boy 51. He's Vietnamese. You should remember him – you had sex with him, and you murdered him."

Marconi made a gurgling sound in the back of his throat. Gibbs leaned forward.

"What's that? I didn't hear you."

"Fuck…you…" Marconi mouthed. Gibbs grinned.

"You don't like my story? That's a shame. I have several more I want to tell you. Let's move on to another boy. We do have a name for him. His name is Anthony DiNozzo, and you raped him several times. You hurt him so much the first time you raped him that he had to be drugged the next time just so you wouldn't rip him up again."

He turned to another page in the file. The pictures had all been cropped, so they were just faces – Gibbs didn't want Marconi taking any kind of vicarious pleasure from looking at them.

"This is Tony. Do you remember him?"

Marconi's one good eye flashed at him, and Gibbs saw that he did. "Are you in pain now I've taken away your morphine, Marconi?" he asked. "Tony was in pain when you raped him. You made him bleed."

Marconi made a gasping sound in the back of his throat, and he gestured feebly towards the morphine drip.

"We caught Parrish and Quinn," Gibbs told him, ignoring the gesture. "They're in prison right now, and that's where you'd be heading too if it wasn't for the fact that a different kind of justice seems to have caught up with you instead. Nurse Roberts said a bunch of kids set fire to you? Rough justice, sure – but you have to appreciate the irony."

He gave a tight little grin.

"There are a lot of kids in this file, Marconi, and we don't have names and stories for all of them, but I want you to see a picture of each and every single one of them before you die. It might take awhile." Gibbs shrugged. "But you can do without the morphine while we do it, can't you? I know it must be painful, but then so is bleeding internally because some bastard twice your size raped you."

Marconi's breathing was more shallow and pained now, so Gibbs guessed he was really missing the morphine.

"I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to arrest you," Gibbs said, conversationally. "But this will have to do. Nurse Roberts says you don't have long to live anyway, and, like I said, I don't want to do anything to put you out of your misery. I hope you linger on in pain for another few weeks. Now…where was I?"

He turned a page in the file. Marconi moved his hand and grabbed Gibbs's wrist. Gibbs leaned forward.

"Fucking…little…brats. Enjoyed…every single…one…" Marconi mouthed. Then he leaned back, a triumphant look in his eye.

"Yeah, I thought you'd say that," Gibbs growled. "That's why this is going to take a couple of hours. If the pain gets too much, you let me know. I won't do anything, but it'll sure as hell make me feel good."

He gestured to the file. "This is Boy 32. His name is Ryan Watson…"

Tony was lying on the couch, dozing, when he heard the front door slam. He looked up as Gibbs walked into the living room. Tony gazed at him searchingly; he looked drained and exhausted but grimly satisfied.

"Hey." Gibbs leaned over to drop a kiss on his head. "You still up?"

"Yeah." Tony grabbed hold of his head and pulled him down so he could kiss his mouth. "Where have you been?" he asked when he released him.

Gibbs shrugged. "Tying up some loose ends," he said evasively.

"Right,” Tony said slowly. “And are they all tied up now?"

"Yes." Gibbs nodded firmly. "They are." He stretched, and his back made a little popping sound.

"I saw Marco's photo on Abby's computer screen," Tony said quietly. Gibbs sighed. "Not her fault," Tony added.

"I'm not angry with anyone. I was going to tell you anyway."

"So – are we done? For good this time?" Tony felt his gut clench anxiously.

Gibbs took off his jacket, flung it down on a nearby chair, and then turned to look at Tony again.

"Yeah. We're done," he said. “For good. Gianni Marconi won't be hurting any more kids.”

"Want to tell me about it?" Tony asked quietly. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know. Judging by that look in Gibbs’s eyes, he probably didn’t.

Gibbs shook his head. He ran a hand over his chin, and Tony heard it rasp on the stubble. "Trust me?" he asked.

Tony gazed at him for a long moment, and then, finally, he nodded. "Always," he replied.

Gibbs gave a tight little grin. “I know it's late, but I need to go work on my boat,” he said to Tony.

It felt like a compulsion. He needed to lose himself in the grain of the wood and the smooth feel of it under his fingers. Tony nodded. Gibbs knew he understood – he knew all about the need to lose yourself in something.

Gibbs went upstairs first and got changed into a pair of soft, old, grey sweatpants and his very old, very faded, NIS tee shirt, and then he went to the basement. He paused at the top of the stairs. Tony had got there first and was sitting on the sawdust-strewn armchair in the corner.

Gibbs smiled at him, recognising immediately that he was in the presence of Boy 43. It had taken him awhile to identify the shifts in Tony’s personas, but he’d become an expert at it now. He was fascinated by the process Tony had gone through, integrating the shy, introverted boy he’d once been into the extrovert, fun-loving persona he’d adopted to protect himself. Both were recognisably Tony, but the extrovert Tony, always the protector, was usually the more dominant. At work, Tony was pretty much the same as ever, but he allowed Boy 43 to shine through more often than before.

Boy 43 made most of his appearances at home, where he felt safest. He liked to follow Gibbs around and sit, quietly, as close to Gibbs as possible. He was happy to hang out in the basement, saying nothing, just enjoying their time alone together. The extrovert Tony found the boat boring, and either tried to persuade Gibbs to abandon it in favour of sex, or just left him to it and went upstairs to watch his DVDs. Gibbs had offered to get a big plasma screen for the basement, but Tony preferred watching DVDs in the comfort of the living room, and Boy 43 never wanted to watch DVDs when he was in the basement. He preferred to hunker down in the armchair and watch Gibbs working on the boat.

Gibbs didn’t mind which of them he was with – at least life was never dull, and he liked spending time with the quiet, sensitive Boy 43 as much as with the more talkative, extrovert Tony.

Gibbs ran down the stairs and poured himself a glass of bourbon. He took a sip and then set to work on his boat. Tony sat there, curled up into a ball on the armchair, eyes half-closed, watching him work. Every now and then, Gibbs paused to take a sip of his drink and tousle Tony’s hair, or drop a kiss on his head. Tony didn't speak, but his eyes gleamed at these small gestures of affection.

Gibbs worked well into the night, climbing over the boat, banging in wooden pegs and sanding down the curved prow. He liked the way Tony’s eyes followed his every movement. He loved their quiet intimacy, and the way neither of them felt the need to fill the silence.

Gibbs allowed the peace to soothe him and slowly dissolve the cold, hard knot of vengeance he’d nursed in his belly for so long. It was over. The bad guys had been dealt with. Justice had been done. Tony was safe. He would always carry the psychological scars of what had been done to him, but he was over the worst of it. He’d faced up to it in a way that made Gibbs proud. He’d been right, that night back at Tony’s apartment, to describe him as brave. He was. Gibbs thought he was the bravest person he’d ever known, and he’d known a few.

Gibbs’s glanced over at Tony and saw that he was fast asleep, still curled up in the armchair. Gibbs smiled, and grabbed the blanket he kept under the boat. He shook out the worst of the sawdust and then gently placed it over Tony.

It hadn’t been easy. When he’d made that promise to Tony, all those months ago, that he’d stick by him every step of the way, he hadn’t realised just how tough it would be. He hadn’t once considered walking away though. Loving Tony came as easy to him as breathing, no matter how much it had hurt at times. And it had hurt. It still did sometimes. But with the pain had come greater rewards than he’d ever expected.

He’d forgotten how good it felt to be in love. Ever since Shannon’s death, he’d kept his heart frozen and aloof behind the high, cold walls he’d built to keep himself safe. Only Tony’s heart-breaking vulnerability had persuaded him to venture out and take a risk. Now, looking at the sleeping man in the armchair, he was so damn relieved that he had.

That reminded him of something. He took his cell phone out of his pocket and dialled a number. It was late, and he wasn’t expecting anyone to pick up, so he wasn’t surprised when his call went straight to voicemail.

“Hey, Walt, it’s Gibbs,” he said, speaking quietly so as not to wake Tony. “That thing we were talking about a few months ago - the thing you kicked my ass about? Well, I took your advice, and it all worked out fine in the end, so tell Cyndi she can stop bugging you about it.”

He paused and looked at Tony sleeping in the chair, a little sprinkling of sawdust in his hair.

“Oh – and Walt? Thanks.”

The End

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