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Two Masters

by: Xanthe (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 004 Word Count: 198504
Rating: ADULT
Warning(s): BDSM, Kink
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Action/Adventure, Angst/Drama, First Time, Hurt/Comfort, Mystery, Romance
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Summary: Tony decides that he wants more from Gibbs than headslaps. But can Gibbs be persuaded to love again, and is Tony prepared to confront the demons from his past and learn how to trust?

Extract: "You can belong to me, or to the past - but not both. You can't serve two masters."

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Previous Chapter

Two Masters: Part Four

Tony opened his eyes and immediately wished he hadn't. His head was pounding and the daylight seeping in around the edge of the drapes felt bright and jarring. He moved onto his side, wondering why the bed felt so hard beneath him. Then he remembered a jumbled up, chaotic version of what had happened the previous night, and he broke out into a sweat.

Shit, he'd screwed this one up. No matter how often Gibbs told him it was never a choice between kicking him out and punishing him hard, Tony couldn't quite get his head around the fact that there might be any other options. He was pretty damn sure there wasn't this time.

He glanced over at the bed, but it was empty – it didn't even look like it had been occupied all night, but then Gibbs was notorious for making his bed the minute he left it in the morning so that didn't necessarily mean anything.

Tony got up, slowly, and made his way gingerly into the bathroom. He looked at himself in the bathroom mirror and winced. He looked like exactly what he was – someone with a bad hangover who'd fucked up so much these past few days that there wasn't much hope of any kind of redemption.

He took a shower, shaved, and cleaned his teeth, which at least got rid of the disgusting morning-after feel in his mouth.

He pulled on a pair of sweat pants and tugged a plain black tee shirt over his head. Then, finally, he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and set off slowly down the stairs to face what he was pretty sure would be the most unpleasant conversation of his life.

He found Gibbs sitting in the kitchen, wearing the same soft sweats he had been wearing the previous evening, holding a mug of coffee and reading through the Sunday papers.

"Hey." Tony stood in the doorway, unsure what to do.

Gibbs glanced up. "Hey," he said, in a voice that gave nothing away. He moved his foot and kicked the chair opposite him away from the table. "Sit," he ordered, gesturing towards it.

Tony edged forwards and sat down cautiously in the chair. Gibbs nudged a glass of water and a couple of headache pills across the table towards him.

"How did you guess?" Tony asked with a self-deprecating grin, swallowing the tablets gratefully.

"Considering how drunk you were last night, wasn't hard," Gibbs grunted.

Tony nodded. "So…first off, I'm sorry," he said, needing to get that out of the way before this all got too heavy. "I was a shit last night, and you didn't deserve that."

"What are you referring to specifically?" Gibbs asked, leaning back in his chair, one hand wrapped around his mug of coffee. "The fact you lied to me about where you were going, the fact you didn't tell me about some guy who has been threatening you for the past few weeks, or the fact that you were so drunk you thought you could taunt me into taking a swing at you?"

"All of it," Tony said firmly. “I’m sorry for all of it.”

"Yeah, I think you are." Gibbs nodded. "And I think you'd do it all again tomorrow if you were in the same kind of headspace again."

Tony thought about summoning up his most abject Tony DiNozzo mask and wearing it so convincingly that Gibbs would be sure to believe in his sincerity, but his dom seemed to see right through him.

"Don't do it, Tony," Gibbs said softly. "Don't. Just don't."

"Okay," Tony sighed. "I won't. You're right - I'd do it all again tomorrow, Gibbs. And I'd regret it, just like I regret it today, but I can't promise you I won't do it anyway."

"Yeah. I know." Gibbs put down his coffee and leaned back in his chair.

"So where do we go from here?" Tony wasn't used to being this exposed in front of anyone. He was always able to deflect and hide – he was a master at it. Only he couldn't do that right now. Gibbs wouldn't let him, and he didn't have the heart for it in any case.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Well, usually round about now you ask me if I'm gonna throw you out or beat up on your ass. Those are the only two options you can ever see."

Tony nodded. "Do you have any others?"

"Yeah. First off – I'm not giving up on you that easy, Tony. I took you as my sub knowing full well what you're like, and I have every intention of keeping you."

Tony felt an enormous and unexpected sense of relief. "Thank you," he said. "I don't think I deserve that, but thank you."

"Secondly – I'm gonna ask you some questions, and I want your honest answers."

"Right." Tony shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Kind of like an interrogation?"

"If you like." Gibbs shrugged.

Tony bit on his lip. Gibbs was a master of interrogations – Tony would have to be at the top of his game if he was going to hold his own against his dom. He wished his head wasn't pounding so much. The meds were starting to work, but he needed his wits about him if he was going to go head to head with Gibbs and stand any chance of winning.

"Okay then." Tony sat back in his chair and waited.

"Your dad ever spank you, Tony?" Gibbs asked unexpectedly.

"Yes." Tony nodded. "A few times – I was kind of a naughty kid, Boss, as you can imagine. Can't say, looking back, that I didn't deserve it. All my friends got spanked too. I'm guessing your dad put you over his knee a few times as well."

"Yeah. He did." Gibbs nodded, gazing at Tony thoughtfully. "Your dad ever punch you, or kick you around, Tony?"

"No," Tony replied firmly. "No, Gibbs. He used to fall down drunk sometimes, but he wasn't like that. He's a good man. Okay, so we're not close, but he's a good man in his own way. He didn't spank me any more or any harder than any of my friends' dads did, and he didn't beat up on me."

"What about your mom?" Gibbs asked. "She ever hit you?"

Tony felt his body tense up. "No," he said quietly. "She was like me – you know, the fun-loving type. She left the discipline to my dad – it wasn’t her thing at all. She used to take me out shopping and dress me up in crazy-ass clothes just for the fun of it. We'd laugh our heads off in the store changing rooms. She'd dress me up and show me off to her friends. She was good fun. She wasn't like most people's moms. She'd take me off on adventures. We'd drive off in her car, and she'd get lost, and we'd end up in the middle of nowhere. Some kind of crazy shit always happened with her. She was that kind of person."

He realised he might have said too much, and he shut up. Gibbs was still gazing at him intently, the way he did with suspects in the interrogation room.

"You ever get into any trouble at boarding school, Tony?"

"Plenty." Tony nodded. "Like I said, I was a naughty kid. My mom taught me how to have fun and so…I always chased the fun in any situation."

"Did the principal ever use corporal punishment on you?"

"Yeah. I got paddled a few times." Tony shrugged. "It was never hot back then the way it is when you do it though, Boss." He gave Gibbs a cheeky grin which Gibbs completely ignored.

"Anyone at school ever kick you around?" Gibbs asked. "Bully you? Beat up on you?"

"No," Tony said, with a shake of his head. "Look, what the hell is this about, Gibbs?"

"Just trying to judge how you view physical punishment."

"Why?"

"To decide whether to go ahead and give you what you want. One last question…"

Gibbs leaned forward. Tony braced himself. He knew that this one was the important one, regardless of what had gone before, and how he answered it would be crucial to whatever his dom had in store for him. When the question came though, it wasn't at all what he expected.

"Did you lie to me in any of the answers you just gave?" Gibbs asked.

Tony gazed at him steadily, his heart beating a little too fast in his chest. Gibbs's piercing gaze was unrelenting, and Tony found he couldn't look away.

"Yes," he replied honestly.

Gibbs sat back in his chair with a gruff little shake of his head. "Believe it or not, that's actually progress," he grunted. "Thank you, Tony."

"Just once," Tony clarified. "That's all. I only lied once."

"Can you tell me which question you lied about?"

Tony shook his head. "No."

There was a long silence.

"I could make you," Gibbs said at last.

"I know," Tony replied.

"I won't."

"I know that too," Tony said softly.

"I can't trust you, Tony, because you won't open up to me."

"I know. I'm sorry." Tony gazed at him despairingly. "If I could, I would, I promise. And if I could with anyone, it'd be with you. But…it's all locked up inside. I don't know how to explain it, but…I can barely tolerate having it in my head – I can't drag it out into the daylight and have it exposed."

"Why not?"

"Because, Gibbs, I can't even look at it myself – I never do. I *can't*. It's not the fact of anyone else hearing it or knowing it – it's me. It'll tear me apart. I can't…I just can't."

"If you don't handle it, it'll always be there."

"Yeah. I know. You think I don’t know that!" Tony growled. "I can't do it, Gibbs."

Gibbs leaned forward. "One day, I might make you, Tony."

Tony felt his heart flip. "Not yet. Please. Give me more time," he requested softly.

Gibbs sat back in his chair again. He began tapping the fingers of his right hand on the table, playing out a little rhythm. Tony just sat there, looking at him, awaiting his fate.

"Okay," Gibbs said finally. "Here's what I can give you, and here's what I want from you. I will punish you, Tony, if that's what you want. I'll punish you for what happened to Abby."

"How?" Tony asked eagerly.

"Well, I won't damn well punch you or kick you around, so if that's what you want then forget it. I won't lose my temper with you, and I sure as hell won't lose control," Gibbs growled. "I will give you the choice of how it's done. I won't tie you, and you'll choose the implement and how many you take. It'll all be in your control. I'll do it for you, but that's it."

Tony bit on his lip again. "And what do you want from me?"

"Your honesty," Gibbs said firmly. "I know that's not your strong suit, but I need you to tell me when to stop. That's all. Can you do that?"

Tony nodded. "Yes. That's a bargain I can accept. Thank you, Boss." He sat up straight in his chair. "When?" he asked. "Now? Today?"

"No," Gibbs said sharply. "You're in no shape to take anything like that right now. You were in a car accident a couple of days ago. Also, I want to give you time to change your mind. So you have until Friday. If you still want to go ahead on Friday night, then I'll do it. That'll give you the weekend to recover before going back to work, because I'm guessing this'll be a hard one."

He was right about that. Tony wasn't looking forward to this, but if it helped quell that aching sensation in the pit of his stomach, if it got those damn images out of his mind, and if he felt he'd *paid* for his screw up, the way he deserved, then it would be worth it.

"If you decide you don't need it on Friday, then that's fine by me," Gibbs told him firmly. "This is all totally your choice and in your control. Clear?"

"Clear." Tony nodded. He glanced around the room. "I'm starving – are there any bagels, Boss?"

"Tony." Gibbs's tone was hard. Tony turned back to him. "I mean it – you fuck this up, and I *will* make you face whatever it is you're hiding. Do you understand?"

Tony's heart flipped again. "Yes, Gibbs," he said quietly. "I understand."



~*~



It was a long week. Gibbs allowed Tony back into his bed, and they resumed making love on a regular basis, but Gibbs didn't feel like continuing Tony's training while Friday was hanging over them.

They caught a big case at work which meant they didn't have much free time anyway, and Gibbs spent most of Monday yelling at Abby's useless temporary replacement who didn't seem to have a clue what was required of him. Gibbs became so exasperated that Tony stepped in and took over the task, keeping the new guy out of Gibbs's firing line.

Tony didn't put a foot wrong at work all week. He was back to his old self, joking around, pulling pranks, and nosing into Ziva and McGee's personal lives, while at the same time doing his job with a quiet competence that most people missed. Gibbs didn't miss it – but then he never had.

They didn't talk about what had happened again. They were both so tired when they got home late each evening that all they did was order take out and slump on the sofa while they ate it, watching the news or one of Tony's DVDs.

When they were done eating, Tony edged up against Gibbs, and Gibbs allowed him to lie down next to him and put his head on his lap. He wordlessly stroked Tony's hair, wondering all the time what the hell went on in Tony's head. Tony seemed to require the comfort of being close to Gibbs, without being able to ask for it, and for that entire week, every night, that's what Gibbs gave him.

They managed to wrap up the case by Friday afternoon, so Gibbs sent the rest of the team home. Then he turned to his sub.

"Go home too, Tony. You have some thinking to do."

"What will you do?" Tony asked, shoving some papers into a file and slinging it into his desk drawer.

"I'll finish up here, and then I'll come home. Be there," Gibbs warned.

"I will."

"And know what you want," Gibbs added sharply.

Tony grabbed his backpack and left the office without saying another word. When he'd gone, Gibbs turned back to filing his report. He wasn't looking forward to this. It was one thing to spank Tony for their mutual pleasure, as part of their sex roles, but another to deliver this kind of hard punishment. He could do it, sure, but that didn't mean he had to like it. Although it was what Tony seemed to think he wanted, Gibbs wasn't convinced, in his gut, that it was what he *needed*. Without knowing what was behind Tony's underlying sense of guilt, he couldn't be sure that he was doing the right thing - and that bothered him.

He finished off shortly before seven and left the office. With any luck, Tony would have decided he didn't need this, and then perhaps they could put the whole sorry business behind them and move on.

Gibbs found Tony sitting on the couch in the dark waiting for him when he got home. Gibbs snapped on the light, took off his jacket, and threw it over the back of a nearby chair. Then he turned to his waiting sub.

"So – what's it going to be?"

Tony's face was grimly determined. He stood up, and Gibbs noticed that he'd changed into a pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt.

"I want to do this," he said quietly.

"Yeah, I thought you’d say that." Gibbs gave a terse jerk of his head. "Okay then, Tony. Follow me. Let's get this over with."



~*~



Tony followed his dom out of the living room – and then, much to his surprise, Gibbs began walking up the stairs.

"We're not going to the basement?" Tony asked.

"Nope."

Gibbs took them along to the second spare bedroom, and Tony hesitated in the doorway. This room had always been a storage area, mainly holding spare supplies of wood and other carpentry equipment. Now it seemed to have been cleared. He wasn't sure when Gibbs had done this, but now the room contained the spanking bench that had previously been in the basement. Beside it was a hand-made wooden rack, containing all the disciplinary implements that had previously been stored in the toy box.

"Okay." Gibbs closed the door behind him. "This is your show now, Tony. You tell me how it should go down."

Tony looked around, uncertain now that the moment had arrived. It was much easier leaving it all up to Gibbs. He wasn't used to having input, let alone having to stage-manage the whole event.

"Uhhh…" He had spent the past couple of hours thinking about this, but now it was actually happening, he wasn't sure. He didn't like having this kind of responsibility. It felt wrong, the way it felt wrong on the rare occasions Gibbs had allowed him to run a case they were working. Gibbs was so much the boss, both at work and at home, that it was hard to accept that he'd created an environment, in this room, where that responsibility fell to Tony.

Gibbs just stood there, his face completely blank, waiting for instruction. Tony went over to the wooden rack and examined the implements on display. His stomach began churning with anxiety.

“I’m not sure…” he began helplessly.

"I told you, Tony – this is your show. I'll do what you ask, but you have to tell me what you want."

"I know that!" Tony snapped irritably. "Sorry…" He turned to face Gibbs, immediately apologetic. "I'm just…this is new to me, Boss."

"This is neutral territory, Tony. It isn't a room we've played in before. This, here, is where you can be whoever you need to be."

Now Tony understood the significance of the space Gibbs had cleared – he just wasn't sure he could handle all that it meant. He gave a helpless shrug.

"Come here." Gibbs beckoned, and Tony went over to him. Gibbs grasped his chin in his hand, making him look into his eyes. "You screwed up, and you want to be punished for that – yes?"

"Yes," Tony agreed.

"Okay. I agree that you screwed up, but I don't think you need to be punished, Tony. I think you've punished yourself enough. But I promised I'd do this, and I will. What I won't do is take it out of your hands. It's yours – not mine. I'm just helping you out. I'm not going to make this easy for you by taking the responsibility away. You want this – you make it happen."

Tony nodded grimly. "Fine. I understand."

He pulled away from Gibbs and returned to the rack of implements. He ran his hand over them, touching each of them in turn. He paused when he got to the cane. This hurt the most – he hated how it felt. That was a good reason to choose it, but he hesitated because he wasn't sure how much he could endure of this particular implement – and he needed this to last long enough to work. He moved on, and in the end it came down to a choice between the strap and the paddle.

He was aware of Gibbs behind him, leaning against the wall, taking no part in the proceedings. That, of and by itself, felt weird. Gibbs always called the shots where punishment was concerned, and it felt almost sacrilegious to be touching these implements so freely in his dom's presence.

The paddle hurt, but the strap…the strap was more flexible. He thought he'd be able to take more from the strap, so he picked that up, and went back over to his dom.

"This," he said, handing it to Gibbs. Gibbs looked at it for a moment, and then he took it out of Tony's hand. Tony stood there. Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

"Well? Where d'you want to be? Over the bench? Against the wall? Over my knee? What?"

"The bench," Tony said firmly. The bench was sturdy, well made, and comfortable. He didn't want to be distracted by having to hold himself in place, or by any discomfort in his leg muscles. There would be enough discomfort, of a different kind, and that was what he wanted to feel.

Gibbs put the strap down on the window ledge and began unbuttoning his shirt sleeves. Tony stood there, watching him. Usually, he got a thrill from seeing Gibbs slowly turn back his sleeves to the elbow, but not this time. This occasion felt flat and serious.

Gibbs finished and picked up the strap again. Then he turned back to Tony.

"What next?" he asked. "You gonna stay dressed, or get naked, or what?"

Tony stripped his tee shirt off and then toed off his sneakers and shucked off his pants. He stood there, naked, screwing up his courage to see this through. He wanted this. He could feel the aching need for it in his belly, but it was so damn hard.

"It's easier when you tell me what to do," he said to Gibbs.

"Well, yeah, Tony, I guess it is. This time you know you're doing it to yourself," Gibbs grunted. "But you've been doing it to yourself in your head for a long time now. Maybe it's better this way – get it out, take the punishment, and then move on."

"Yeah." Tony nodded.

“If you can move on. Think you can, Tony?” Gibbs looked at him searchingly.

Tony hesitated. “Yes,” he replied eventually, but he was by no means certain.

"Unless you've changed your mind?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

"No," Tony said sharply. "I haven't."

He went over to the spanking bench and got himself into position. Gibbs didn't touch him. He didn't help him get his knees in place, and he didn't stroke him or pet him, the way he usually did. He just remained where he was, watching.

When Tony was finally settled, Gibbs walked over to the bench.

"How many, Tony?" he asked.

"I'll let you know when I'm done," Tony replied, glancing over his shoulder at his dom.

"Then I need to know how you'll tell me that. Will you use your safe word?"

"Yes."

"What is it?" Gibbs asked.

Tony sighed inwardly. "Magnum," he replied. God knows, Gibbs asked him what the damn word was often enough.

"When you say that word, I'll stop. Yes?" Gibbs clarified.

"Yes – for God's sake! It's not rocket science, Gibbs!" Tony exploded. Then he bit on his lip. "Sorry. Again," he sighed. "I'm jumpy, Gibbs. I don't know how this'll pan out. I'm not sure…I've never done anything like this before."

"You've done something else though, to handle the guilt, haven't you?" Gibbs asked.

"What do you mean?" Tony glanced up at him.

"You've let someone kick you around, beat up on you – yes?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “The only part I can’t figure out is whether you let them do it for your sake or theirs; maybe it was a bit of both.”

Tony didn't reply. He put his head back down and held on tight. "Do it," he ordered.

"Where?"

"What?" Tony growled.

"Where d'you want me to deliver the strokes? Your back? Your butt? Your thighs?"

"Anywhere between my shoulders and the backs of my knees.”

"Remember your side of the bargain," Gibbs told him. "You use your safe word when it's time to stop. You let me know when you feel you've been punished enough."

"Yes. I'll use my safe word when I want you to stop," Tony told him through gritted teeth. He put his head down again and waited.

A second later, the first stroke fell on his ass. It wasn't a warm-up stroke. This wasn't an erotic spanking, designed to stoke up the endorphins and make him fly. It was flat, hard and painful. It was, he realised, exactly what he'd asked for – a punishment.

He closed his eyes and let the image of Abby lying unconscious in the wreckage of the car seep into his mind. He could see the blood soaking her dark hair, could smell the gas all around them.

He backtracked to them leaving the courthouse. He saw her dumping her shoes in the trash and tucking her hand through his arm. He saw them both getting in the car together. He remembered thinking he should tell her to sit in the back, but the danger was over, wasn't it? He stayed there, in that moment, and took the punishment for his stupid damn mistake that had almost cost her her life and left her permanently scarred.

The strokes came down steadily. Gibbs didn't say a word. He didn't help him through it, the way he usually did. He didn't stroke him, or praise him, or tell him he had no choice but to take it. He didn't *make* him take it – Tony was left in no doubt that the only person making him take this was himself.

He could feel his flesh heating up with each new stroke. His shoulders ached under the onslaught, and now Gibbs moved lower, avoiding his lower back and the sensitive kidney area, and moving onto his butt. Tony gasped as the blows rained down on his buttocks. He panted with the effort of taking them, and then screamed as they continued, each one stinging and burning him.

He buried his head in his arms, screaming down into the surface of the spanking bench, using every single ounce of his own determination not to say his safe word. It was so hard to stay in position and suffer this, knowing that nobody was making him do it. He didn't have the comfort and reassurance of Gibbs's usual implacable commands. He wasn't tied. There was just him and the leather strap beating down on his skin.

He moved beyond Abby and saw Jenny, her dead hazel eyes staring up at him. He was supposed to be protecting her, but he'd screwed that up.

"Idiot," he berated himself. "Stupid damn idiot."

Why the fuck had he followed her orders? Why had he cared more about renting that stupid car and hanging out in LA than doing his job? He seemed to make the same mistakes over and over again.

He could hear himself screaming in the distance, and it felt comforting. His thighs were flaring with pain, and he welcomed it. He floated back to a different kind of pain, a very long time ago, but just as well-deserved.

Then, all of a sudden, he'd gone back even further, and he was lying on his side on the road, gazing at his misshapen, broken arm, and the blood that was spewing out everywhere, mixing with the shards of glass on the ground. And beside him…beside him…

He sobbed helplessly into his own arms. It hurt. God it hurt. And it *should* hurt. Yet no matter painful it was, it couldn’t match the hurt inside.

Tony bit down hard on his own arm. There was no way he could ever say his safe word and end this - because no amount of punishment could ever be enough.

The sound of leather on skin stopped. It took him a little while to even notice. Then he felt a gentle hand stroking his hair.

"Tony, can you hear me?" a voice asked.

He didn't reply. A pair of firm hands pulled him to his feet. God, how he ached! He felt as if his body was on fire. He felt one of his arms being slung over a set of sturdy shoulders, and he was walked out of the room, along the hallway, and into the main bedroom. He was gently guided onto the bed, face down.

He felt some kind of cool gel being soothed into his burning skin, and he shivered.

"Ssh. You're okay. It's okay." A sheet was pulled over his body. He looked up and saw Gibbs, looking down at him.

"Fuck it. I screwed it up, didn't I?" he muttered.

"Yeah." Gibbs sat down on the bed beside him. "Did you ever intend to say your safe word, Tony?"

"Yes…at the beginning, going into it, I thought I would…but when it came to it…"

"You couldn't?"

"No. I couldn't. I'm sorry."

Gibbs leaned over and kissed his face. "Ssh. Don't worry about it now. We'll handle it. I'll handle it."

"How?" Tony asked helplessly. Everything seemed so incredibly fucked up. He didn't have a clue how the situation could be salvaged.

"Leave it to me. It's out of your hands now. Get some sleep," Gibbs ordered. Tony whimpered as his dom got up off the mattress. "It's okay. I'm just taking off my shoes." Gibbs did that and then sat back down on the bed, beside his sub. "I'll stay here until you're asleep," he promised.

Tony nudged himself over, every single tiny movement sending flares of pain through his body. He rested his head on Gibbs's lap, and Gibbs began combing his fingers through his hair. It felt so good, the way it always did. He knew he shouldn't need this, and God knows he didn't deserve it. He was surprised Gibbs kept letting him do it, but he couldn't stop himself.

He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, with Gibbs's hand still gently stroking his hair.



~*~



Gibbs waited until his sub was asleep, and then he moved Tony’s head aside, placed it gently on the pillow, and got up. His sub was covered in strap marks, from the top of his shoulders to the back of his knees.

It had been a tough call, but the realisation had slowly dawned on Gibbs that Tony wasn't going to honour his side of the bargain. Gibbs had been very sure going into this that he wouldn't step outside his comfort zone. Tony had taken a hard strapping, but Gibbs hadn't crossed his own self-imposed line. He'd gone right up to that line, giving Tony every chance to say his word, but nothing would have induced him to cross it.

Maybe he should feel angry and betrayed right now, but he didn't. Tony was so obviously struggling with something pretty big – it was impossible not to feel sorry for him, and to want to help him in some way.

Gibbs walked down the stairs and opened the basement door. He went slowly down the basement stairs and over to the workbench. He took out the brown envelope from the drawer and pulled out the file inside.

This time he didn’t hesitate, as he’d done so often before. This time he opened the file.

He sat down on the workbench, turned on the lamp, and began to read. He read for an hour. When he'd finished, he threw the folder onto the worktop with a sigh.

"Yeah, that pretty much explains it," he muttered to himself. There were gaps, sure, but he could fill them in for himself. He put the file away, turned off the lamp, and walked back upstairs. Tomorrow, he'd make a few calls and check a few details – and then he had to decide what to do next.

He returned to the bedroom, got undressed, crawled into the bed beside his sleeping sub, and pulled Tony into his arms. He held him gently against his own body, mindful of his sore skin, and Tony muttered something in his sleep and nestled in as if by instinct. Gibbs buried his face in his sub's hair, enjoying the familiar scent of him, needing to hold him close and keep him safe after what he'd just read.

"I'm not giving up on you, Tony," he said softly. "We'll figure this out, somehow."



~*~



Tony awoke the next day to find himself lying wrapped up in his dom's arms. Usually he was in bondage, facing away from Gibbs, but today he was chest to chest with him, his chin resting on Gibbs's shoulder, their bodies pressed closely together, and Gibbs's hand was wrapped loosely around his waist.

He knew without moving that he hurt. He couldn't blame anyone but himself for that, and a part of him even welcomed the pain. He'd asked for it, and he'd deserved it. He knew that he'd made a bad mistake in not calling an end to it though. Gibbs had displayed a hell of a lot of patience in dealing with him these past couple of weeks, but that had to be wearing thin right now.

Tony knew that he was running out of time. There was no way a man like Gibbs would allow this to just go away. There were hard questions to be answered and hard truths to be faced.

A part of him wanted to just roll out of this bed and leave, but another part, that weak, needy part that he despised, couldn't face the thought of disentangling himself from the warmth and security of his dom's arms. Gibbs got him, the way nobody else ever had, his entire life. He couldn't leave. He belonged here. Gibbs might kick him out one day, but he couldn’t imagine ever leaving of his own free will.

He was suddenly aware of a pair of blue eyes looking at him, and he made a face.

"Hey, Boss…didn't realise you were awake," he muttered sheepishly.

"Clearly. It's interesting – watching you when you don't know you're being watched. Nice to see you without the mask, Tony."

There was something different about his dom. Gibbs wasn't angry – he didn't even seem disappointed by what had happened last night. There was a kind of weary sadness to him, but under that was the usual Gibbs steel. He looked like a man who had come to some kind of decision.

"How ya feeling?" Gibbs asked.

Tony made a face. "Like everything hurts," he replied honestly.

"I'd be surprised if it didn't. Did you get any kind of catharsis from that last night, Tony?"

Tony thought about it. "Not really," he admitted at last.

"Yeah, that's what I thought. So from now on, we go back to doing it my way. I'm in charge of your punishments again because frankly, you're really crap at it."

Tony grinned, aware of a warm glow of relief in his belly. He preferred things this way.

"Yes, Boss!"

Gibbs leaned in and kissed his lips. "I'm back in control now, Tony," he said firmly.

"So what happens next?" Tony's stomach flipped as he voiced the question. He wasn't sure that he wanted to know the answer.

"That's not up to you. Today, you're just gonna do what you're damn well told."

"Yes, Boss," Tony replied quietly, feeling a surge of relief at that news.

They took a shower together, and Gibbs washed Tony gently - which was a good thing, because Tony could barely lift his arms above his shoulders, let alone wash his own hair. Afterwards, Gibbs patted him dry and then applied that soothing gel that Tony had become so familiar with. He dressed Tony in a pair of light, loose sweatpants and a tee shirt and then took him downstairs.

It was a quiet day. Tony lay on the couch, on his stomach, watching one DVD after another, trying not to move too much, while Gibbs sat at the table, working on some files he'd brought home.

Every so often, Gibbs left the room. Tony could hear him on the phone out in the hallway, making calls, but he couldn't decipher what they were about.

Gibbs made him lunch and brought him coffee throughout the day. He didn't say much, and he didn't encourage Tony to talk, either. Tony was glad about that. There was really only one thing for them to talk about, and it wasn't anything he wanted to discuss right now.

Gibbs fed him frequent painkillers and rubbed that gel into his back, buttocks and thighs every few hours. Tony slept intermittently, zonked out on the painkillers.

They went to bed early, and Gibbs slipped in beside Tony and pressed dozens of light kisses over every inch of his body before gently, oh so gently, making love to his sub. Afterwards, Tony rolled over and rested his chin on his dom's shoulder again. Gibbs wrapped his hands loosely around his body, holding him close. Neither of them said a word.

It was the calm before the storm. Something was going to happen – Tony knew that.

He just wasn't sure what.



~*~


After breakfast the following day, Gibbs beckoned Tony over. His sub came eagerly. He was still moving slowly, but he looked a hell of a lot better than he had the previous day. Gibbs would have preferred another day or two before doing this, but they were back at work tomorrow so that wasn't an option.

Tony glanced at the collar and cuffs lying on the kitchen table, and Gibbs saw the gleam of anticipation in his eyes.

"You want me to get undressed, Boss?" he asked, gesturing to his sweatpants and tee shirt.

Gibbs shook his head. "Nope." He buckled the collar around Tony's neck. "Hands," he ordered. Tony held out his hands, and Gibbs fastened the cuffs on his wrists. "With me." Gibbs walked down into the basement, his sub at his heels. "Here." Gibbs pointed at the beanbag on the floor, against the wall. Tony raised a questioning eyebrow. "You can sit down, crouch, or stand if your ass isn't up to that. Up to you," Gibbs said with a shrug.

Tony gave him a perplexed look, but he crouched down and gingerly settled himself on the beanbag.

Gibbs attached a chain to his sub's collar and then fastened it to the wall. He likewise chained his sub's cuffs to the wall too. He made sure the chains were tight – he deliberately fastened them so that Tony couldn't move around much. He wanted it to be restrictive.

Then Gibbs padlocked the chains into place. He was aware of Tony's puzzled eyes following his every move; Gibbs rarely locked him into bondage like this, and if he did, he usually insisted that his sub was naked beforehand.

"What's going on, Boss?" Tony asked.

"Nothing. I'm gonna work on the boat. You're gonna watch," Gibbs told him, making sure that Tony saw him putting the key to the padlock in the pocket of his jeans.

Satisfied that Tony was secured in place and couldn't escape, he turned and went over to his workbench. He opened up a fresh container of wood and drew out a plank. He examined it carefully, and then he took it over to the boat and rested it against the side. He climbed up onto the curved prow and began measuring, taking his time, making sure he got it right.

An hour passed. Over by the wall, Tony began whistling under his breath.

"Bored, DiNozzo?" Gibbs glanced over to him.

"Well, yeah, kind of. I figured that was the point." Tony shrugged, a little wince passing across his face as the movement hurt his shoulders.

"Want me to tell you a story?" Gibbs asked.

Tony grinned. "You gonna read to me again, Boss?"

"Nope." Gibbs shook his head. "Different kind of story. Up to you.” He shrugged, returning to his measuring.

Tony sighed. "Okay, Boss, tell me a story." He said it in a pained tone, like he was indulging his dom.

"Right." Gibbs jumped down from the boat, retrieved the wood, and then climbed back up again, holding it. "It's a story about two kids," he said.

"Brothers?" Tony asked.

"Nope." Gibbs shook his head. "They don't know each other – not yet, not when the story starts. They lead very different lives, but maybe in some ways they aren't so different. I don't know. I'll leave you to be the judge of that. So, this first kid, he comes from a pretty poor family. There isn't much, but there's always just about enough."

He held the plank of wood in place and examined it critically to make sure it was straight.

"The kid is happy – but his folks aren’t. They aren't getting along, and after a long time trying to patch things up, they separate. The kid goes to live with his mom, but back then not many folks got divorced, so he was the only one in his class at school with parents who didn't live together. He felt pretty angry about that. He was particularly angry with his dad, who he blamed the most for his parents’ marriage breaking down."

"Why? His dad sleeping around?" Tony asked, looking intrigued.

Gibbs sighed, and ran a hand over his chin. "He certainly had an eye for the ladies so maybe. I don’t know. He did start seeing another woman soon after he separated from the kid's mom so…well, who knows when that started?" He shrugged. "When the kid found out, he got even angrier – he'd thought there was a chance his mom and dad could get back together, and they could all be happy again."

"How old was this kid?"

"Eleven. Still young enough to believe in happy endings." Gibbs grinned. "But it didn't happen. Soon after that, his mom started getting thinner and thinner, and she was coughing a lot, and after a short illness, she died."

Tony's head shot up. "She died?"

"Yeah. Cancer. She'd always been a heavy smoker," Gibbs replied, with a little shake of his head. He fixed the plank in place then picked up his sander and began smoothing it.

"What happened to the kid?" Tony was gazing at him intently.

"He went to live with his dad – but he was angrier than ever now. He was angry with his mom for dying, and angry with his dad because on some level he blamed him and not the cigarettes for his mom's death. But mainly he was just an angry little kid, and he stayed that way for a long time."

"Sounds kind of unforgiving," Tony muttered.

"Yeah." Gibbs gave a little laugh. "Yeah, he sure as hell can be."

"What happened to him?"

"He grew up and went looking for his own happy ending. He found it…and then he lost it.” Gibbs shrugged. "So he went looking for it again, and again, and again – but always in the wrong places. He gave up on it for a long time. Then, one day, it crept up on him unexpectedly - long after he'd stopped looking - and took him by surprise."

He put down the sander, scrambled off the boat, and went over to his workbench. He picked up his hammer and some sturdy wooden pegs and went back over to the boat again.

"Meanwhile, the other kid is growing up someplace else, leading a very different kind of life."

Gibbs banged a couple of the pegs into place.

"His folks are wealthy – they live in a big house, and this kid's mom showers him with love. She takes him everywhere – he's her only child, and she likes showing him off to all her friends. He's a cute kid, kinda pretty for a boy, and he adores his mom. The kid's bright and precocious, and he and his mom are close. Maybe too close – the kid's dad thinks that his son is becoming too much of a momma's boy, and that he needs to be toughened up. Maybe he's even a bit jealous of the close bond between the kid and his mom.”

Tony was quiet. Gibbs glanced over to find him sitting there, very still, green eyes fixed on him as he worked.

“Anyway, the kid's dad is distant with the kid, kind of formal, keeping him at arm’s length. The kid wants his father's attention, so he does something pretty naughty to get it. His dad is furious and decides it’s time to send him away to boarding school. The kid's ten – kinda young to be sent away from home - but his dad thinks it'll toughen him up. It'll get him away from his mom and give him a chance to grow up. Maybe it’ll stop him goofing around and being such a pain in the ass."

Gibbs picked up a couple more wooden pegs and began hammering them into place.

"So, the kid doesn't like being sent away, but he's a sociable boy, and he makes friends easily. He even kind of likes boarding school. He misses his mom though – and at first she writes all the time, and he can call her every Friday night. But she's busy – her husband's business is going through a rocky patch, and she has to do a lot of socialising and entertaining to help him bring in work. And the kid is a long way from home, wondering why the presents and letters have dried up, wondering if his folks remember him, and wondering what the hell he did that was so damn wrong that he got sent away in the first place."

Tony moved his hand, and the chain fastening his cuffs to the wall clinked. Tony tugged on it, as if testing it, his movements jerky. Then he dropped his hand in frustration as he realised he was well and truly locked into place and wasn't going anywhere.

"You don't like the story, Tony?" Gibbs asked.

"I know how it ends," Tony told him sullenly.

Gibbs nodded thoughtfully. He reached for his sander again and began smoothing down the wood, working slowly, calmly.

"So, this kid…he hates being ignored. He can stand just about anything but being ignored. And when this kid wants attention – well, he knows one sure fire way of getting it. It’s a way that's always worked in the past; he does something that will get him noticed. So, one day, he steals the principal's car and takes it for a joyride."

Gibbs paused and wiped a hand across his forehead, rubbing a combination of sweat and sawdust away. He gave a little laugh.

"Gotta admire this kid – he's got guts, and he's not afraid of being punished if it gets him what he wants – which is attention from the people he loves. So, he takes this car out, and inevitably he drives it into a ditch. He’s fine, but he gets dragged back up to the school by the police. And the principal, unsurprisingly, decides to expel him."

Gibbs glanced over at Tony again, to see that his sub's jaw was set in a tight line.

"You can stop now," Tony told him. "I know the rest – and it looks as if you do too."

"I do," Gibbs confirmed.

"How long have you known?"

"Only since Friday night – after you broke that promise you made to me."

"Christ – how did you find out so quickly? Do you have a file on me or something?" Tony looked more furious than Gibbs had ever seen him.

"A dossier. Ziva gave it to me when she first joined the team, but I didn't open it until Friday night," Gibbs told him. "I wanted to see if you'd tell me first, but when you blew it on Friday you left me no other choice, Tony."

"Fuck it!" Tony roared, pulling against his chains angrily. "Ziva knows? She knows too?"

"I told her to forget whatever she'd read in that file, but yeah, she knows." Gibbs shrugged. "I made a few calls yesterday to check the facts, but they're pretty much what Mossad uncovered."

"Unlock these damn chains," Tony hissed. "Let me out of here."

Gibbs shook his head. "I'm not done yet. So…the principal calls the kid's folks and asks them to come and collect him from the school. The kid's mom arrives the following day, and she's really upset. She's angry and disappointed in the kid. It's a difficult time for the family – the kid's dad recently lost a lot of money in a lawsuit, the business isn't doing so well, and the last thing she needs is the kid acting up like this."

"You can give the kid a name," Tony said tightly. "We know who he is. We know the first kid was you, and we know the second kid is me."

"Yeah. We do. So, Tony's mom picks him up from the school, and he's so happy to see her that he doesn't give a damn if she's upset with him. Hell, it's a price worth paying. He figures she'll calm down in a few days and then things can go back to the way they used to be between them. His dad – well, he might be tougher to win around, but even if they send him to another boarding school that'll take a while to arrange, so he has some time with his mom. Tony thinks that maybe they can do some of the stuff they used to do – hang out together, go shopping, have lunch with her friends, go on road trips – have fun. He doesn't know that things are kinda bad at home and that the family is under stress, because they haven’t told him any of that. He doesn't even know that his mom is drinking too much – she and his dad have always been drinkers, same way my mom was a smoker."

"She wasn't drunk when she got in the car," Tony said hotly. "I know that. She wasn't drunk then."

"No. She wasn't. She was angry though, wasn't she? She was angry with you for pulling a stunt like that precisely when she didn’t have the time to deal with you."

Tony didn't reply. His shoulders were hunched, and he looked as if he was going to throw up.

"I don't know exactly what happened – only you know that – but I read the police report and the statement you gave at the time," Gibbs continued. "You and your mom got into an argument. You were petulant – you didn't mind your dad being angry with you but not your mom. You and she had always been partners in crime. She never got angry with you – never had before. Not like this. Suddenly, your plan to get yourself expelled doesn't seem like such a good one. You hadn't anticipated that she'd be this mad with you, and you’re hurt that she isn’t pleased to see you. You say some pretty mean things to her. You get into a big fight, both of you yelling at each other in the car...and she gets distracted and loses control. The car goes off the road – nobody else is involved, and the conditions on the road were good that day – but she loses concentration because you're fighting so hard, and the car skids off the road, bangs into a tree, rolls over a few times, and crashes back onto the road again."

Tony's eyes were closed, and he was breathing heavily. Gibbs waited for a moment, and then he continued.

"You're thrown clear, but you’ve been banged up pretty bad. Your left arm is broken in several places. You're bleeding, and you're crying because you're in so much pain. You're just a kid, and you hurt, and you want your mom. You can see her, lying in the road alongside you. She's not moving, but her eyes are open. At first you think she can see you, so you call out to her, try to tell her that you're okay, but then you realise that…"

"Magnum."

Gibbs stopped. It was the word he'd been waiting for all these weeks, but there was no victory in finally hearing it. Tony looked pale, and he was tugging repeatedly on the chains securing him to the wall.

Gibbs jumped off the boat, took the key out of his pocket, and went over to his sub. He crouched down in front of him.

"It wasn't your fault, Tony. It was an accident," he said softly. "I lost my mom too at the same age. I know how it feels – that's why I told you my story first."

"I said the damn word," Tony snapped. "I fucking said it, Gibbs. Magnum – now get me the hell out of these chains."

Gibbs quickly removed the padlock, and Tony pulled himself free and lurched to his feet. Gibbs reached out a hand to steady him, but Tony shook it off and ran towards the stairs, looking like he was going to be sick.

Gibbs sighed. He hadn't been sure how this would pan out, but he'd suspected it wouldn't go well. Clearly he'd been right. He’d spoken to Tony’s old school principal the previous day and had managed to get in touch with his mom’s sister, who had been very helpful in filling in the details of Tony’s mental state – all the little things that weren’t included in the more factual Mossad report. He had been able to fill in the rest of the gaps himself – and judging by Tony’s reaction he’d been pretty spot on.

Gibbs climbed the stairs after his sub and got to the top just in time to hear the front door slamming. Then he heard the sound of a car screeching away. He thumped his fist against the wall in annoyance. He didn't want to follow Tony, in case he inadvertently caused another accident. He didn't want Tony feeling like he was cornered right now.

He noticed something lying on the floor by the front door and went over to it. His heart sank as he crouched down and picked it up.

It was Tony's collar.



~*~



His apartment was cold, and it smelled strange, which was hardly surprising as he hadn't been back here in weeks. It was a relief to be here now though, in its comforting emptiness. He had always liked being alone – he had spent more time alone here than his co-workers would ever have imagined when he was playing the part of footloose bachelor with a steady stream of girlfriends. What nobody knew was that he never allowed those girlfriends to stay over, if he could help it. When the sex was finished, so were they.

Tony turned on the heating, selected one of his favourite jazz albums, and allowed the familiar lazy, haunting tunes to soothe him.

The light was flashing on his answering machine. He hit the button, more out of habit than anything else. There were only a handful of messages. One was from his cleaning lady, wondering if he wanted her to continue cleaning for him as there was so little to do these days.

The next one was from his dry cleaner, asking if he was ever going to come in and pick up his grey Armani suit. He'd almost forgotten about that suit – he'd got blood on it a couple of months ago. His dry cleaner was always joking with him about the amount of wear and tear his suits took. "Wouldn't it make more sense not to wear fancy suits in your line of work?" she would mutter darkly as she surveyed yet another wrecked suit. He had once dressed more casually at work, back in the old days, when things had been simpler. God knows, it wasn't as if Gibbs set any standards for sartorial elegance in the office.

But since coming back from the Seahawk, he'd needed a new layer of protection. The suits worked well for that. The suits had become another layer in the Tony DiNozzo mask that he'd been carefully building up over the years. They were expensive, tailored and smart. People were so dazzled by the exterior that there was no need for them to look beneath the shiny surface. He didn't want them to have to work too hard to think they'd figured out Tony DiNozzo. He gave them exactly what they expected, and only a couple of people had ever questioned that. Fox Mulder had been one, and Gibbs was the other. Gibbs had always seen through him to a certain extent - he'd just never called him on it. Until now.

The next message was from his aunt. She said she was calling to catch up, but there was a worried tone in her voice. He checked the timestamp – her message had been left yesterday.

There was one final message, terse and to the point.

"Tony. Call me."

Gibbs. He'd left it just a few minutes ago.

"Fuck you, Gibbs." Tony erased all the messages with a sharp jab of his finger. "And fuck rule number one," he told the answering machine. It felt wrong to disobey that terse injunction all the same. How many weeks had he been jumping to it every time Gibbs threw an order at him?

"Hell, not just weeks, Anthony. Years. Eight years as Gibbs's unofficial sub, and you can't even make it to eight weeks as the real thing – and even that still makes it one of your longest relationships," he muttered to himself ruefully as he walked into the kitchen. "You always knew it'd fall apart. They always do. No surprises there."

It didn't usually hurt though. Usually he just felt relieved.

There was nothing in the fridge – not even a few beers. He considered calling for take out, but he wasn't hungry. And he hurt - inside and out. He ached.

He returned to the living room, opened up his wet bar, and located the bottle of fine, smooth whisky that would blaze a fiery trail down his throat and take him happily to oblivion. He didn't need a glass; the bottle would do just fine.

He took a mouthful of the liquor and then eased himself down on the couch. He lay there, face down, allowing the silence, the drink, and the music to soothe him. Christ, he was tired.

His first few weeks as Gibbs's sub had been so sublimely wonderful that it had lulled him into a false sense of security. He should have known that nothing that good could last for long. And sure enough, the past couple of weeks had been a train wreck as he'd lurched from one crisis to another, fucking everything up as he went along.

Being with Gibbs 24/7 meant that he had no access to his usual coping mechanisms. He hadn't been able to come back here, lie low, lick his wounds for a few days, and then emerge with his happy, shiny Tony mask firmly back in place.

He could do that now. Might take a while to polish up the mask, but he could do it. He'd had plenty of experience after all.



~*~



Gibbs spent the day on his boat. He wished he could lose himself in the familiar grain of the wood, but his gut was taut with anxiety for his missing sub. He kept his cell phone out, but nobody called.

Tony hadn't taken his cell phone. Hell, Tony hadn't taken anything except the clothes on his back and his keys. Gibbs wasn't sure where Tony had gone, but without money or clothes, Gibbs suspected he'd end up back at his old apartment. There weren't a whole lot of options open to him.

Gibbs left one message for Tony on his home answering machine – he didn't see the point in leaving any more. If Tony didn't want to be contacted, then it was best to leave him be – for now anyway. If he wasn't at work tomorrow, Gibbs would have his ass, but he'd give him tonight. Tony just needed some time and space to figure this out.

Gibbs kept glancing at the basement door as he worked, hoping for his sub's return. He wasn't sure what they'd say to each other exactly, but at least it'd be a start.

Tony didn't show though. Finally, at 1 a.m., Gibbs threw down his sander and accepted the inevitable; his sub had gone and wasn't coming back – not tonight at least.

He’d been left before, many times, and he’d let them all leave because he didn’t care enough to convince them to stay.

This was different. Tony was his – and there was no damn way Gibbs was giving up on him.



~*~



Tony got into work early the next day. The last thing he wanted was to give Gibbs an excuse to interact with him any more than was strictly necessary.

"See, this is why Rule Number Twelve is such a good idea," he muttered to himself as he walked into the empty squad room. "Because if you date a co-worker you have to *see* them every day at work, even when you don't want to."

He could have gone awol. He'd considered it, but he knew Gibbs would track him down wherever he went. The man was like a bloodhound. It was better to just come into work, act like everything was fine, and keep his dom at arm's length until he'd figured out a way to handle this. He'd been so tired yesterday that it had been easy to spend the day dozing, drinking, and not thinking about what happened next. It'd be harder today, but he could do it.

"Hey, I'm the great Tony DiNozzo. Avoiding reality is one of my special gifts," he told himself, sitting down cautiously at his desk and turning on his computer. His body still ached, but it was a less severe ache now. He only had himself to blame. He'd wanted that punishment so much, but it hadn't done what he'd thought it'd do. It hadn't been enough. What could ever be enough?

Ziva arrived a few minutes later. She looked happy. Glowing. Tony was pretty sure she had a new boyfriend - but he wasn't asking, and she wasn't telling. He felt a stab of envy in his gut.

McGee arrived next, hurrying, falling over his own feet in his haste to get to his desk. It was an unofficial rule in the department that if you arrived after Gibbs then you were late. This was tricky, as nobody knew exactly when Gibbs would arrive. Tony had flouted this unofficial rule a few times since becoming Gibbs's sub but not today. Today that would have been suicidal.

"Busy weekend, Probie?" Tony raised an eyebrow. "Been up all hours defeating hordes of rampaging orps again?"

"They're orcs, Tony," McGee told him in an irritated tone of voice. "As you well know."

"Whatever." Tony grinned at him.

Ah yes, this was good. This was what he needed - the soothing tones of mindless banter with his co-workers. No need to think or remember anything. No need to consider just how fucked up his relationship with Gibbs was right now. No need to think about what had happened in the basement yesterday. There was just the easy back and forth of a long-standing working relationship. He could play the role of irritating co-worker in his sleep – it was familiar, easy, and just what he wanted right now.

He heard the elevator ping, and his stomach flipped queasily. He looked down at his work, pretending to be studiously occupied. A second later, a shadow fell over his desk.

"DiNozzo - didn't you get my message?"

He looked up. Slowly. Gibbs was standing there, blue eyes boring into him. Damn the man for being able to see into his soul like this. Tony didn't like it.

"Oh, hey, Boss. What message was that?" Tony gave his easy Tony smile, bright, shiny and utterly insincere.

"The one I left on your answering machine yesterday. Telling you to call me."

"Ah. Right. No. Didn't get it," Tony lied.

Gibbs gazed at him inscrutably, the lie standing between them, as clear as day.

"Something important?" Tony raised an eyebrow, challenging his dom to continue with this line of questioning.

Gibbs settled back on his heels, a distinctly un-amused grin distorting the corners of his mouth. "This really the way you want to play this?" his eyes asked.

Tony kept on smiling at him, his happy, beaming face making his reply clear: "Oh yeah. This *really* is the way I want to play this."

Gibbs gave a little grunt of acknowledgement. "Yeah – you left your cell phone lying around. I wanted to give it back to you."

He took the phone out of his pocket, grabbed Tony's hand, placed the phone in his palm, and folded Tony's fingers around it. Gibbs's hand felt warm on his skin, his touch electric and familiar.

"You shouldn't be so careless with your belongings," Gibbs said, his eyes fixed meaningfully on Tony's neck, where his collar had once been.

"You're right," Tony said softly. "Not like you, huh, Boss? 'Cause you're always really careful with what belongs to you."

Gibbs's fingers tightened on his hand, and he looked as if he was going to explode. Tony continued smiling up at him, seemingly innocent. Nobody listening to them would have guessed the tension that lay between them. Then Gibbs relaxed.

"Yeah. I am, Tony," he replied. "I take good care of what's mine. I think you know that though."

Tony's heart skipped a beat. He gazed up at Gibbs helplessly. Gibbs gazed back at him, his eyes radiating the sincerity of his words. There was a depth of compassion in that blue-eyed gaze that Tony couldn't bear to see. He was acutely aware of the way Gibbs's fingers were lingering on his hand, stroking softly, and he couldn't handle it. He yanked his hand away, muttering something about needing to check on Abby's useless replacement in the lab. Then he made a run for the elevator, threw himself inside, and slammed his hand on the emergency switch the minute it started moving.

Damn Gibbs for not yelling at him. Damn him for looking at him like that, with concern, understanding and affection. Damn him for not tearing Tony a new one for running out on him, leaving his collar behind, and not returning his call. Tony didn't want his sympathy or concern. He didn't want to be understood, and he didn't want anyone's pity.

He slammed his hand against the elevator wall a few times until he started feeling a little better. Then he composed himself, pasted his happy, shiny Tony face back on, and flipped the elevator switch again.

Luckily, Mondays were always busy for Gibbs, so Tony managed to avoid him quite successfully for most of the day as his dom went in and out of various meetings with Vance.
He was aware of Gibbs's gaze falling on him every so often, when his boss was leaning on the rail outside MTAC, or passing by his desk on his way to the elevator or the head. Gibbs didn't speak to him though, or try to get him on his own.

Tony managed to slip out of the office later that evening without being alone with Gibbs all day. He wondered if Gibbs would drop by his apartment and was fully prepared to not answer the door, but his dom didn't show. It looked as if Gibbs was giving him some breathing space, for which Tony was profoundly grateful.

There was only so much avoidance they could do though. Most of his clothes were at Gibbs's place, and he worked with the man every day. Tony didn't want to handle this, but he felt like throwing up at the thought of addressing it. He couldn't bring himself to even think about what had happened in the basement.

He was pretty pleased with himself when he managed to avoid being alone with Gibbs for nearly three days. Tony began to wonder whether he could sneak into Gibbs's house and steal back his clothes. Then they could pretend that the past few weeks hadn't happened.

He got into the elevator, mulling over the issue of how to retrieve his possessions from Gibbs's place without actually talking to the man. A second later, he heard an almost silent footfall behind him, and someone got into the elevator just before the door closed. Tony turned, cursing under his breath, knowing exactly who it was. Gibbs was staring at him, one eyebrow raised, as the elevator began to glide downwards.

"What? You hadn't figured out that I was *allowing* you to avoid me these past few days?" Gibbs asked. He flicked the emergency stop button and the elevator came to a grinding halt.

Tony sighed. "I thought I was just doing a good job of staying out of your way."

"I was giving you some space." Gibbs edged closer, moving silently, a deadly predator cornering his prey.

Tony took a step back, and then another, until his back hit the mirrored elevator wall. ""Yeah. Right. Space. I can see that," he said sarcastically.

He could feel the heat of Gibbs's body, sense the tautness of his dom's muscles, and smell his familiar, enticing scent.

"So, I was thinking of dropping by for my clothes," Tony said, trying hard to stay in control of the situation. That wasn't easy when he was backed up against the wall by a man whose sexual dominance had mesmerised him for years.

Gibbs shook his head. "No," he said firmly.

"No?" Tony raised an eyebrow. "It's over, Gibbs."

"No, it isn't. I've just been allowing you a long leash." Gibbs shrugged. "But not for much longer, Tony. You have until the end of the week – then I'll rope you back in, whether you like it or not."

"I told you it's over," Tony repeated in a hard tone.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Because you'd rather keep running and hiding than turn around and face it?"

Tony's jaw tightened. "You don't know shit."

"I know there's more," Gibbs snapped in reply. "You're kind of like an onion, Tony. You peel off one layer, and there's another one beneath. Then, just when you think you're done peeling, you realise you've barely even started. How many people ever see even a fraction of what you are? How many people catch even a glimpse of what's under the pretty surface, huh?" He flicked at Tony's newly cleaned, grey Armani suit.

Tony gazed at him stonily. "Drop it, Gibbs."

"No." Gibbs moved his hand and gently caressed Tony's cheek. Tony tried to turn away, but he didn't have the strength. "I told you once that if I fucked you, and if I collared you, that you'd be mine, and I don't give up on what's mine, Tony. And I don't think you want me to. Not really."

He held Tony's jaw lightly in his hand and then moved in and dropped a gentle little kiss on Tony's mouth. Tony balled his hands into fists in an effort not to respond, but he couldn’t bring himself to push Gibbs away. He liked the feel of those soft, insistent lips too much. Gibbs drew back.

"If I come back…" Tony began. Gibbs raised an eyebrow, making it clear that the 'if' was redundant. "We could put this behind us, right?" Tony suggested. "Never talk about it again?"

Gibbs gave a little grunt of a laugh, shaking his head. "Yeah. Right."

"I mean it," Tony said firmly. "I don't want to talk about it."

"You can't have it both ways, Tony. You can belong to me, or to the past - but not both. You can't serve two masters."

"It's two different things," Tony snapped.

"No. It isn't. Can't have a repeat of the past couple of weeks, Tony," Gibbs told him flatly. "I need to understand every single bit of how my sub ticks if I'm gonna handle you properly."

"I'm not a fucking horse," Tony growled. "I don't need 'handling'."

Gibbs grinned. "Yeah, you do."

"You already know everything there is to know about me – thanks to Ms. Mossad out there." Tony flicked his head derisively. "There's nothing more to know; nothing more to say; nothing more to talk about. That's it. That's all there is."

Gibbs snorted. "Yeah. Right. Tell me, Tony, what was it I did in the past eight years that made you think I'm a total idiot?"

Tony glared at him. Gibbs leaned in close again, and Tony felt his entire body react to his dom's proximity. He broke out into a sweat, his cock hardened, and he had to fight hard to control his overwhelming impulse to go down on his knees in front of Gibbs, where he belonged. And Gibbs – the bastard - knew the effect he was having.

"I'm taking you down, Tony," Gibbs promised. "You belong to me, and I'll fight for you. Even if it's your own demons I have to fight. And you know me – I fight to win." He reached out and flicked the switch and the elevator lurched into motion. "You have until Friday on the long leash, Tony – after that, the short leash is back."

The doors opened, and Gibbs left the elevator without looking back. Tony watched him go. He didn't know if he felt relieved or cornered – or both.

He was Tony DiNozzo – deflection, deception, and avoidance were his finely honed
weapons of choice. And now he was pitting them against a master – a man who had never yet been beaten in a fight. Tony didn't rate his own chances very highly. However good he was, Gibbs was better.

And Tony, who had always been so adept at concealment, was now running out of places to hide.



~*~



Gibbs watched Tony for the next couple of days, but gave him his space, as he'd promised. He hoped that Tony would make the first move, but if he didn't, Gibbs had no qualms about reeling him in. He was engaged in a battle for possession of his sub's soul, and it wasn't a battle he intended to lose. Tony belonged to him, pure and simple, and Gibbs would do whatever it took.

Tony was uncharacteristically silent for most of the day on Friday. He kept shooting surreptitious glances at Gibbs as he worked, but for the most part he said nothing. Even McGee and Ziva noticed, and they kept exchanging surprised looks as a multitude of teasing opportunities went by unexploited by their usually mocking co-worker.

Gibbs sent them all home on time for once, leaving just him and Tony alone in the office, gazing at each other warily across the room.

Gibbs got up. "I'm going to spend the evening at Murray's Bar," he said quietly. "Neutral territory. You have until eleven to show up."

"And if I don't?" Tony raised a challenging eyebrow.

"Then I'll come and get you."



~*~



Gibbs got to Murray's bar at eight and ordered a coke. He didn't want to get drunk tonight. He glanced at his watch, wondering when Tony would show up. He had no doubt at all that his errant sub *would* show up – but, knowing Tony, he'd leave it until 10:58.

His cell phone rang, and he glanced at the display, feeling a surge of annoyance when he saw it wasn't Tony. He didn't recognise the number, but he picked up anyway.

"Gibbs," he snapped, glancing up at the stairs to see if Tony had put in an appearance.

"Boss?"

He frowned. That was an old, familiar voice – but one he hadn't heard in a long time. "Stan? That you?"

"Yes, it's me. I really need to see you. You busy?"

"Right now?" Gibbs grimaced, glancing up at the stairs again. "Can't it wait?"

There was a moment's hesitation. "No, I don't think so," Stan replied. "See, it's about Tony DiNozzo."




~*~



Tony looked at the clock ticking away on his computer: 20:37. He ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up in messy points. He didn't want to do this. He didn't want to have this particular conversation with his dom, his boss, his lover – hell, whatever it was Gibbs was to him these days. Mulder had been right, he realised ruefully, that day back in the playroom at Crystal City. Mulder had told him he wouldn't be able to hide from Gibbs.

"Should'a listened," Tony muttered.

20:39.

How long could he leave it? He knew that Gibbs would be true to his word, and if he didn't show up his dom wouldn't hesitate to track him down. If Tony pushed him into that then he was pretty damn sure that Gibbs would be pissed off – and nobody liked a pissed off Gibbs.

He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. He was immediately a child again, lying on the road, screaming in pain, gazing into his mother's dead green eyes. Gibbs would want to know everything. There was no way he'd settle for hearing half the story. Once he'd opened Tony up a tiny bit, he'd want him opened up all the way. He'd gut him like a fish, leaving Tony gasping and exposed. He'd want to know what had happened after…

Tony opened his eyes and slammed his hand onto his computer keyboard.

"You're gonna have a long wait, Gibbs."



~*~



Gibbs watched as Stan made his way down the stairs and into the main seating area of Murray's bar. His old sub was looking good; he was lean and tanned, and he attracted a few lingering looks as he jogged down the stairs.

Stan paused at the bottom, saw Gibbs, and his face broke into an anxious kind of half-smile. Gibbs frowned; whatever it was that Stan had to tell him, he had a feeling he wasn't going to like it.

He stood up as Stan drew close and pulled his old sub into a hug. He didn't usually do hugs, but his time with Tony had given him a vague sense of guilt about how it had ended between him and Stan. Tony had been so easy to love, but he'd never been able to give Stan even a tiny piece of his heart. Gibbs drew back and nodded his head at the bottle of beer on the table.

"See you haven't forgotten what I like to drink," Stan said, with a little grin, sitting down opposite him.

"Nope. You're looking well, Stan," Gibbs said gruffly.

"You too." Stan gave a strained little grin.

Gibbs sighed inwardly. Stan had always been a fantastic sub and a willing, hard-working subordinate at NCIS. What was lacking - what had always been lacking, he now realised - was his ability to take Gibbs. He was like McGee – he was happy to roll over and show Gibbs his belly, but he lived in perpetual anxiety of him too, and that was wearying. Tony wasn't like that. Gibbs was surprised to realise that Tony had been right, all those weeks ago, when he'd said he could handle him. He could. He was tough inside, however much he liked to fool the world with the shiny idiot persona. And he *got* Gibbs, like nobody else ever had -except Shannon.

"Surprised to see you in a place like this," Stan commented, glancing around. "You never liked the scene much when we were…" He left the sentence hanging.

"Still don't. I was waiting for someone," Gibbs replied.

Stan's eyes widened as he took in the implications of that. "Oh. Right…okay. Because this is a members' only kind of place, so I was wondering."

"I figured it was the kind of place you'd be a member of," Gibbs grunted.

Stan grinned. "I am – just surprised you are."

"I'm not. I know a friend of the owner. He's…accommodating."

"Right," Stan said slowly.

"Let's not waste time on the small talk, Stan," Gibbs said abruptly, taking a sip of his coke. "You said you wanted to see me about DiNozzo?"

"Yeah…" Stan took a deep gulp of his beer. "Look…I wasn't sure what to do about this, but…I thought it was something you should know. I like DiNozzo – only met him once, but I liked him. Thought he had the hots for you though, Boss."

He grinned at Gibbs. Gibbs grunted. He saw no reason to let Stan know how close to the mark he was there. Stan swallowed hard, clearly sensing Gibbs's tension.

"Okay…look, you know I took over as agent afloat from Tony on the Seahawk?"

Gibbs shook his head, surprised. "No. I didn't know that, Stan."

"We docked this morning, so I'm on leave now. I kept my old apartment and it feels good to be back in DC, but I'm surprised I haven't missed it more. I guess I just like being an agent afloat." Stan gave that gentle, easy smile of his. "It's a hell of a lot less stress than working with you, Boss."

Gibbs grinned. "Tony called it being the only cop in a city of 5,000. That's not a low-stress environment, Stan."

"Compared to working for you, Boss, it's like a spa retreat." Stan grinned back. "Anyway, Tony…he had kind of a unique style as agent afloat."

Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

"He didn't take any shit, Boss. He didn't turn a blind eye for an easy life like some agents afloat I've known. You trained him well."

"Yeah. I know." Gibbs took another sip of his coke. "Trained you well too, Stan."

"Yeah, but Tony's got a cop's nose, and he never lets anything lie – not the important stuff anyway. Made him a lot of enemies."

Gibbs stared at Stan, eyes narrowing. "You referring to one flight deck chief in particular?"

Stan leaned forward. "You know about Grasso?" he asked eagerly, looking relieved.

"No." Gibbs shook his head. "All I know is that Tony had some kind of a problem with him, and now the guy calls him when he’s drunk and talks shit at him."

"Grasso calls him?" Stan looked troubled by that news.

Now it was Gibbs's turn to lean forward. "Tell me what's been happening, Stan. All of it. Don't leave anything out."



~*~


Tony rubbed his forehead morosely. He had a pounding headache, partly from the pressure of deciding what to do next, and partly because the cleaner had entered the squad room fifteen minutes ago and was now vacuuming the place noisily.

He glanced at his computer screen again. 22:03. Gibbs had given him until 23:00, which meant that he was running out of time. What was it Gibbs had said? He could belong to him or to the past, but he couldn't serve two masters?

Tony gazed across the room at Gibbs's empty desk. Damn it, he was so tired of running from this. Gibbs had been in his life for eight years, and he'd loved the man for pretty much all that time. Now they were lovers, and Gibbs seemed to satisfy some aching need inside him that he hadn't even realised was there. The sex was pretty damn good too.

He wanted to be Gibbs's sub. Hell, he loved being Gibbs's sub. He ran a finger over the empty expanse of his neck. He missed wearing Gibbs's collar. He missed sleeping in bondage, with Gibbs's arm wrapped around him. He missed lying in Gibbs's bed and feeling warm and safe because Gibbs was pressed up close behind him. He missed waking up to the feel of Gibbs's hard cock sliding into him. He missed the bite marks, the spankings, and all the exquisite sexual tortures that aroused him more than he'd ever have thought possible.

Most of all though, he missed lying on Gibbs's couch, with his head on Gibbs's lap, and the feel of his dom's fingers as they gently stroked through his hair. He missed that so much it made him ache. He had come this far – wasn't it time to take the final step, and give Gibbs his total trust? Hadn't he been holding out on the man for long enough?

The cleaner finished vacuuming, and Tony sat back in his chair with a grateful sigh. Maybe now he'd be able to think more clearly.

His cell phone rang, and he picked up eagerly, thinking it was probably Gibbs calling to ask him when he was going to show. He was therefore taken by surprise when a familiar voice spoke in his ear.

"Hey, motherfucker. I'm home! Miss me?"

"Fuck off, Grasso," Tony snapped.

"Aw – I think you missed me. I think you missed the Friday nights we used to spend together."

"Yeah – 'cause it was so much fucking fun."

"You showed up every week – I think you liked it."

“You know why I showed up – and it had nothing the hell to do with liking it.”

"C’mon - we both know there’s something sick inside you, DiNozzo – something sick and fucked up and useless. That part of you liked it."

"What do you want, Grasso?" Tony growled.

"You. It's Friday night, and I'm at this gym where my little bro works. It’s late, and the place is shut. Little bro’s given me the keys, and I’ve got the place all to myself. I’ll text you the address.”

"Don’t fucking bother, Grasso. I won’t be coming.”

"You sure about that?" Grasso chuckled. "'Cause you left without saying goodbye. Seems to me like we have some unfinished business, DiNozzo."

"I was glad to get the hell away from that ship – and from you."

"Well, now you get the chance to show me just how much you hate my guts. No ship, no rules, nobody to interfere…just you and me. You got the balls for that, DiNozzo?"

The phone clicked, and Tony snapped it shut angrily. He shoved it into his pocket and grabbed his bag. He wasn’t going back to that. That fucked up deal with Grasso was in his past. There was only one person in his future – and he was waiting for him in a bar. They'd find a way to work this through somehow. It might be painful, and he knew he wouldn't like it, but if Gibbs hadn't given up on him then he wasn't ready to give up on himself.

He glanced at his watch. If he hurried, he might just get there in time.



~*~



Stan sat back in his seat. He looked nervous – Gibbs wondered what the hell was coming next.

"I'm not trying to get Tony into trouble," Stan told him.

"Oh, Tony doesn't need any help getting himself into trouble," Gibbs muttered darkly.

"I wasn't sure I should even tell you this, but then I figured you ought to know. Tony left a lot of notes for his successor. He didn't know it'd be me, but I was grateful to him for the intel. There was one person in particular that he wanted me to keep a close eye on - Chief Petty Officer Dale Grasso."

"He told me he thought the guy was bullying his men – that he'd raised it with the skipper but been knocked back."

Stan nodded. “Last week, Petty Officer Lewin came to see me. Lewin is on Grasso's crew. They're good lads – they work hard, and Grasso makes sure they are the best, fittest and fastest crew on the flight deck.”

"You think Grasso crossed a line in how he handled them? Tony did." Gibbs gazed at Stan searchingly.

"Crossed a line? Hell yes! Lewin told me that Grasso makes his crew do a fitness regime every day. He oversees it, and whoever performs the worst during the week gets the honour of sparring with Grasso on Friday night in a gym on the lower decks."

"Sparring?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

"He calls it that, but in reality he makes them take a good, old-fashioned beating. It was Lewin's turn last week, and he was terrified. Grasso is a bastard – he fights mean and his crew aren't supposed to learn anything from the experience. There are never any witnesses – people know to steer clear of that particular gym at that particular time. He’s careful – he never leaves any marks on the face – but he gives them a damn good kicking."

"How the hell was this able to go on?" Gibbs growled angrily. "Why didn't anyone stop it?"

"Tony tried to – but, like I said, the skipper didn't want that boat rocked – literally – and Grasso is smart. Nobody ever caught him in the act. And I’m sure that if they did, he'd just say it was a bit of friendly sparring and bruises were inevitable – but trust me, this was a systematic campaign of bullying against his men.”

Gibbs felt his jaw tighten. He nodded at Stan to continue.

“I questioned Petty Officer Lewin, and he said that Grasso stopped beating up on his men for a period of time during Tony's tenure as agent afloat. Once Tony left, the beatings started again. Lewin couldn't handle it any more – that's why he came to me last week to tell me the whole story."

"Tony told me that he'd warned Grasso off. Threatened to break the bastard's legs if he continued bullying his men," Gibbs said, finishing his coke. "I'm guessing that once Tony left, Grasso felt free to go back to his old ways."

"Oh, it's worse than that," Stan said softly. "Grasso's Friday night sessions never stopped, Boss."



~*~



Gary, the doorman, let him into the bar, even without a member's card. Tony figured Walter must have had a word with the management, or else Gibbs had told Gary to expect him. He walked down the stairs and paused for a moment on the landing, looking for his dom.

The place was busy, and it took him a moment to locate Gibbs. Then his gaze honed in on Gibbs's familiar taut shoulders and silver hair. He was about to run down the stairs when he realised that his dom wasn't alone. There was a man sitting opposite him, and he and Gibbs were engaged in an intense conversation. Their heads were so close together that they were almost touching, and there was an air of easy intimacy about them. Who the hell was this guy? Tony's stomach did a jealous flip as he recognised the blond hair and chiselled jaw of Gibbs's companion: Stan.

"What the fuck…?" Tony felt liked he'd been punched in the gut. Gibbs had told him to meet him here because it was 'neutral territory', but had somehow forgotten to mention that he'd be inviting his old boyfriend to the reunion. Stan the golden boy. Stan the perfect ex-sub who never fucked up. Stan who sure as hell never said his safe word and then walked out on his dom, leaving his collar behind on the door mat.

"Fuck you, Gibbs," Tony growled under his breath. It had taken him all his courage to come here tonight – and for what? To find this?

He turned and walked shakily back up the steps, out of the bar, and onto the street.

"FUCK!" he yelled, banging his fist against the brick exterior wall. "Fuck you, Gibbs. Christ, I should never have fucking believed in you."

He slammed his fist into the wall again then leaned against it, panting. He was dimly aware of the sound of his cell phone ringing. If it was Gibbs… He reached into his pocket and looked at the caller ID. Not Gibbs. He answered the call.

"You chickening out on me, DiNozzo?" Grasso asked. "Figures. You're the same weak sack of shit you always were."

Tony stared at the wall sullenly. Then he gave a bitter little laugh. Really, where else was he going to go? At least this way he got to slam his fist into something other than a brick wall.

"Screw you, asshole," he snapped into the phone. "I'm on my way."



~*~



Gibbs frowned. "I don't understand. You just said that the beatings stopped while Tony was agent afloat."

"No, I said that Grasso stopped beating his *men*. But he needed someone to beat up on.”

Gibbs stared at him. "What are you saying, Stan?"

"Tony felt like he’d let Grasso’s men down. Petty Officer Lewin was too scared to make a formal complaint against Grasso back then, but he begged Tony for help. And Tony said he’d take care of it.”

“Shit.” Gibbs had a feeling he knew where this was going now.

Stan leaned forward. "Tony did some kind of deal with Grasso, Boss. From then on he was Grasso’s Friday night sparring partner. It seemed to keep Grasso happy – I'm guessing Tony was a more challenging opponent than his terrified men. Still, I've no doubt Tony took a few beatings in the process – Grasso likes to win."

Gibbs felt a surge of protective anger. He wanted to believe it wasn't true, but it sounded all too likely. He remembered the many times Tony had taken the brunt of his own bad temper. Ziva and McGee would sometimes disappear when Gibbs was on the warpath over a case, leaving just Tony, with his wide grin and inane chatter, deflecting Gibbs for all that he was worth, taking the heat off the rest of them. And hadn’t it been Tony who had taken over the handling of Abby's useless replacement when Gibbs had felt like throttling the guy?

He thought of the many times Tony had placed himself in danger to save one of his team, from taking the full force of a bomb blast for Kate and McGee, to rescuing Gibbs himself when he'd been trapped in a car at the bottom of a river.

"Damn it! Damn Tony and his endless fucking need to take one for the team!" he growled, banging his fist down on the table. "Christ, I'm gonna kill him when I get my hands on him."



~*~



The gym was a small dive in a rough part of town. Tony pulled up in the parking lot and slammed the car door shut behind him. This was stupid. He knew that, but he also didn’t seem to care right now.

Grasso was right about the place being empty – they wouldn't be interrupted. Not that they ever had been before, back on the ship. One of Grasso's men had always stood watch outside the door, and the crew, by and large, knew to avoid the place. Grasso had a reputation for throwing his weight around, and nobody liked to mess with the man.

Tony paused outside the gym door. He remembered the first time he'd done this. He'd been upset and angry about being sent away from Gibbs and his team. He had also been lonely. He'd needed to bond with someone – and the boys on Grasso's flight crew had become his new team. They needed him – and nobody else had needed him on that hellhole of a ship.

Tony couldn't stand by and let those boys be bullied by Grasso. At least he was a veteran of close combat training with Gibbs. He knew how to fight hard and mean – he stood a chance with Grasso. His plan had been to whip Grasso's ass so hard that the bastard wouldn't touch his crew again.

"Yeah, and that plan was one total, giant failure, DiNozzo," he muttered to himself.

He’d fought hard, but Grasso had the edge on him. He'd gone down fighting though – he thought Gibbs would have been proud of him. Grasso seemed to find him more fun to kick around than his own men, and he'd challenged Tony to come back the following week and take some more – if he had the balls.

After that, it had become a regular weekly occurrence. Sometimes Tony showed up drunk – it dulled the pain and made the whole thing pass in a haze. There was something about Tony’s willingness to offer himself up repeatedly for their version of fight club that seemed to fascinate Grasso. Tony had been feeling so guilty about Jenny's death back then, and Grasso had sensed that in him – and exploited it ruthlessly. He seemed to know how to reach straight into Tony's guilt and twist it to his own needs. In the end, the whole thing had become so fucked up that Tony wasn’t sure why he was doing it any more.

The gym door was unlocked. Tony pulled it open and stepped inside.

Grasso was waiting for him. He was a big man, taller than Tony, standing at around six feet five, and he was built like the side of a barn. He was busy working on a punching bag when Tony entered the room, but he looked up, a smile creasing his features at the prospect of a more interesting opponent.

"Hey, motherfucker! I knew you’d come. You’re a sick fuck, DiNozzo – I think you actually like getting your ass kicked.”

"Dale." Tony inclined his head sardonically. He knew Grasso hated being called by his first name. "You missed me then, judging by all the pathetic emails and phone calls."

"I missed kicking you around until you whine like a beaten dog."

"Your men not filling that need for you?" Tony raised an eyebrow.

"They're a bunch of pussies. They fold too easily. Besides, none of them cries like you do, DiNozzo. I always liked that sound."

Tony took off his jacket and threw it down to one side. He tore off his tie and dropped that on top. Then he unbuttoned his shirt and threw that onto the pile of clothing.

"Before we start…" Grasso got out a bottle of whisky and put it on top of Tony's discarded clothes. "Thought you might be thirsty."

"You mean you want an easy fight." Tony raised an eyebrow.

"I don't need you to be drunk to take you down, motherfucker," Grasso growled. "I just like the way the liquor makes you cry for your mommy."

Tony felt his jaw tighten.

"Go ahead. Take a sip. You know you will before we're done. Everyone knew you're a drunk," Grasso grinned. "You used to drink yourself to sleep in your bunk, didn't you, DiNozzo? Homesick were you? Poor little momma's boy."

Tony stepped forward and took a swing at him, but Grasso was ready for him and blocked. He elbowed Tony in the ribs and then kneed him in the groin. Tony rolled sideways and got to his feet, fighting for breath. There were no rules in this fight. Grasso would fight dirty – and so would Tony.

"Nice to see you're still the same fucking loser you always were, DiNozzo," Grasso taunted.

"Nice to see you're still the same knuckle-headed bozo you always were, Chief Petty Officer Asshole," Tony replied. "Do you know that's what your men call you behind your back? Grasso – asshole. Kind of fitting, don't you think?"

He grinned pleasantly and deflected a pounding blow Grasso aimed at his ribs. A follow-up punch to his jaw sent him reeling sideways, and he went down onto the floor. He looked up at Grasso in shock; Grasso winked at him.

“We’re not on the Seahawk now, DiNozzo – that changes things," he said, with an ugly grin. "Your face isn't off-limits now. You have no idea how much I've wanted to pound my fist into that pretty-boy face of yours, DiNozzo. After tonight you won't be so pretty."

Tony reached up a hand to touch his split lip and felt the blood dripping down his chin. He got to his feet, feeling a surge of anger as the pain kicked in. He threw himself at Grasso and landed several hard, brutal punches. This felt better than pounding his fist into a brick wall. This felt much better.

Grasso would win eventually. He always did. And Tony would take the beating because on some level, he knew he deserved it. But first…first he got to fight out his anger and pain. He thought of Gibbs's betrayal, thought of him leaning across the table in the bar, talking to Stan in that intense, intimate way. Those thoughts drove him crazy, and he redoubled his attack, burying his fists into Grasso's midriff over and over again.

Grasso laughed out loud and blocked him, then cuffed him sideways, sending him flying. Tony lay on his back on the floor, blinking blearily as Grasso came towards him.

"You're feisty tonight, DiNozzo. I like it. It’ll make it all the sweeter when you finally beg for mercy."

"In your dreams, asshole. I never beg," Tony said, in a tone of derision.

Grasso gave him a macabre grin. "Nah – but you do scream."



~*~



“Did you say Grasso has been calling Tony?” Stan asked.

Gibbs frowned. “Yeah. Think I should be worried?”

Stan pulled on his lower lip thoughtfully. “Maybe. That guy's got one hell of a mean streak. He's a bully – and he's got some kind of weird obsession with Tony. I don't think anyone's ever stood up to him before, the way Tony did. And nobody ever went into a fight with him willingly – and kept on coming back for more. He talks about Tony all the time – nothing complimentary, but he can't stop going on about him. It's kind of creepy. And if he's been calling him, then yeah, I think you should be worried.”

Gibbs reached for his cell phone. “I'll call Tony and warn him."

He glanced at his watch. It was past eleven now, and Tony still hadn't showed. He had been so sure that Tony wouldn't let him down. Things might have been strained between them this last week, but he'd seen something in Tony's eyes that told him not to give up hope. Had he been wrong?

Tony’s number rang a few times, but it wasn’t picked up. Eventually it went to voicemail. Gibbs snapped his phone shut with a growl.

"Idiot. He knew I'd want to talk to him."

"Did he know you were meeting me here tonight then?" Stan asked with a puzzled frown.

"No – Tony was who I was waiting for when you called."

"Here? In a fetish bar?" Stan looked startled. Then realisation set in. "Oh…you and Tony?" A little spark of sadness flared in his eyes but was soon muted. "Kind of makes sense," he sighed. "Is it good between you, Boss?"

"Yeah. It is." Gibbs gave Stan an almost apologetic smile. "I finally figured out what I wanted, Stan."

"Well, I always knew it wasn't me. That's why I left."

"Yeah." Gibbs made a little gesture of acknowledgement with his head. "Tony gets me, Stan. And he can handle me."

"Then he deserves you, Boss. Nobody else could handle you." Stan grinned. "I know I never managed it. So – where is he? You said you were meeting him here?"

"I told him to be here by eleven. We had something pretty big to discuss. I was sure he'd show." Gibbs frowned. "Oh shit…" He glanced towards the stairs. "Maybe he did."

"When?"

"When you and me were talking." Gibbs got up.

Stan got up too. "So why didn't he come over?" he asked, looking puzzled.

"Because you were here. He kind of has a thing about you, Stan."

"About me? Why?"

"Just…one of Tony's many insecurities." Gibbs made for the stairs at a run. He had a bad feeling about this. "Gary – have you seen Tony this evening?" he asked the doorman when he reached the upper landing.

"Yes, Mr. Gibbs. He came in about half an hour ago. Didn't stay long – left straight away looking kind of pissed off."

Gibbs cursed under his breath. "Did you see where he went?"

"No, sir." Gary shook his head nervously. He and Stan exchanged the kind of anxious looks that irritated Gibbs. They were both so apprehensive of his anger. That made him even more desperate to find Tony. Tony was strong; he would stand up to Gibbs if he needed it, or joke him out of a bad mood. Tony wasn't afraid to get in his face and risk his displeasure like these two subs here. He needed Tony. Christ, he *loved* Tony, and he wanted to get hold of him, right now, and figure out all that had gone wrong between them.

Where the hell would he have gone? To his apartment? Maybe…but Gibbs's gut discounted that idea. It seemed to think that Tony would have gone somewhere much more dangerous. But where?



~*~



Tony laughed out loud as Grasso thudded a hard punch into his solar plexus.

"D'you want a drink, loser?" Grasso stood over him, offering him the bottle. It was tempting. Tony gazed at it blearily, blood running down his face.

"Just like old times, huh?" He squinted up at Grasso from his half-closed eye.

"Almost." Grasso waved the bottle impatiently in front of his face. "Sometimes you showed up drunk."

"Yeah." Tony reached out and took the bottle. "Sometimes I did."

Tony wondered why Grasso wanted him to get drunk. He’d never brought along liquor before. Was it just because he liked kicking him and calling him names when Tony crawled around in a drunken stupor on the floor? Or was there another reason?

Tony threw the bottle back onto his pile of clothes and got slowly to his feet again. He didn’t want to get drunk. He wasn't done yet.

There was a rage roaring inside him that was nowhere near being quenched. When he'd done this before, it had been for many different, complex, and often contradictory reasons. Tonight was different – tonight was about something else. He wasn't even sure what, as he launched himself at Grasso. He just knew that he hurt and wanted to be hurt in equal measure, and Grasso was the means by which to make it happen.

~*~

Gibbs went through the options in his head. Tony would have been feeling mad, jealous, insecure, pissed off as all hell. Where would he go when he was feeling like that? Gibbs turned to see Stan looking at him anxiously, and that was when the thought hit him.

“Damn it - he wouldn’t…”

Yeah. He would.

Gibbs grabbed his cell phone again and called McGee. “I need a location for the GPS in Tony’s cell phone,” he snapped. “And fast!”

Stan was staring at him, looking confused.

“Do you have any idea where Grasso might be right now?” Gibbs asked, pacing anxiously. He just hoped that Tony had his cell phone switched on. He hadn’t picked up earlier, but he could have just been ignoring the call – or not in a position to answer it.

“I think he stays with his brother here in DC when he's on leave. Why? You think he’s gone after Tony?”

“No.” Gibbs shook his head. “I think he's thrown down a challenge that Tony might just be stupid enough to accept.”



~*~



“I’ve been thinking,” Grasso said, as they circled each other warily.

“Must be a new experience for you." Tony threw a punch – but Grasso ducked out of the way.

“I bet nobody knows you’re here,” Grasso said, landing a glancing blow to Tony’s jaw.

Tony felt himself go cold. Was this Grasso trying to put him off his game? Or was something more sinister going on? The guy was a psycho – who the hell knew what he’d do?

“I had a good thing going until you screwed it up, DiNozzo,” Grasso told him. “The new agent afloat has been on my case for months because of you – I can’t fucking piss without him watching me. And he's trying to persuade that snivelling little shit Lewin to make a formal complaint against me.”

“Aw, I’m sorry I made it harder for you to be such a fucking bully,” Tony snapped.

Grasso's expression turned murderous. "Fuck you, DiNozzo," he snarled, and then he came at Tony, swinging punch after punch.

Tony suddenly realised that this was serious. Grasso had a grudge against him, and with no witnesses, and no prospect of any kind of interruption, the bastard was fighting harder and meaner than ever before.

It was now chillingly apparent to Tony that if he lost this fight he wouldn't just be crawling home on his hands and knees with a bloody nose.

The stakes had suddenly become much higher.



~*~



“I’ll find Grasso’s address,” Stan said, pulling out his cell phone.

How long would that take? Gibbs just hoped that Tony’s cell phone was switched on, and McGee would be able to get him the answer he needed. Otherwise, he had a horrible feeling that they’d be too late.

Gibbs’s cell phone rang, and he picked up, impatiently.

“McGee? What you got for me?”



~*~



Tony fought hard. He’d trained with Gibbs – he knew how to fight with the best of them. All he could hear was the sound of his own laboured breathing as he moved, darted, punched and parried. He was starting to feel tired. His arms ached, and he could feel the blood running down his face from a cut above his left eye, which was bleeding copiously. He could barely see a thing out of that eye, and he could feel how swollen it was.

Then he made a mistake. He moved too fast and tripped – and Grasso got a leg behind his knees and sent him reeling over backwards. Tony landed on his ass on the floor and before he had a chance to get back up again, Grasso had grabbed a handful of his hair.

Grasso pulled him up bodily by the hair and then raised his fist. There was a twisted grin on his face.

“Would anyone even miss a whiny-assed loser like you?” Grasso taunted. “You never had any friends on the Seahawk, and I figure you don't have any on dry land, either. Does anyone give a damn if you live or die, DiNozzo?”

Tony blinked the sweat out of his one good eye, trying to see. So this was it. Christ, he’d really fucked up this time.

At that moment, he heard a bellow of sheer rage from over by the door. There was a blur of motion, and then Grasso was yanked backwards, away from him, causing Tony to fall to the ground. He heard the sound of fist meeting flesh, over and over again, and Grasso’s grunts of surprised pain. Then the punching sound stopped.

“*I* give a damn,” a familiar voice said.



~*~



Gibbs looked down on Grasso – the man was doubled up, stumbling around and clutching his belly where Gibbs had landed several hard blows. Gibbs wasn’t done with him yet though.

“This is for your men,” he snapped, delivering a savage uppercut to Grasso’s jaw. Grasso almost went over backwards but somehow managed to stay upright, shaking his head blearily.

“And this is for touching what's mine.” Gibbs drew back his fist and then delivered a brutal punch that sent Grasso reeling. He was a big man, and he hit the floor with a gratifying thud. Satisfied that his opponent wouldn’t be getting up again any time soon, Gibbs left him in Stan’s custody and went over to his sub.

Tony was battered and bloody. Gibbs crouched down beside him and looked him over intently. He had a bleeding cut over one eye; the area around the eye was swollen and puffy, and the eye itself almost closed. He also had a split lip and several bruises on his face and torso.

"Were you having fun, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked sourly.

"Not really, Boss," Tony croaked, looking up at him, panting heavily, one hand clutching his ribs.

"Yeah. That's what I thought." Gibbs reached out a gentle hand to touch Tony's bruised face. Tony caught the hand in his own, stopping him.

"Why are you here?" he rasped belligerently.

“Told you I'd reel you in - and not a moment too soon by the look of it." He sat back on his heels and surveyed his sub's injuries with a meaningful shake of his head.

"How did you know where to find me?"

"When you didn't show up at the bar I got McGee to trace the GPS in your cell phone. I figured something was wrong because Stan told me…"

“What the hell does *he* know about anything?” Tony interrupted.

“He took over from you as agent afloat on the Seahawk, and he thought I should know about your fight nights with Grasso. That’s what we were talking about when you saw us in the bar this evening."

"Oh." Tony looked nonplussed. "So…you weren't…uh…"

"Interviewing him as a replacement for you in my bed? Yeah. Right," Gibbs snorted. "You're an idiot, DiNozzo."

"I know." Tony stared at him moodily. “So, you know about Grasso?”

“I know you tried to protect his men by letting him beat up on you every week for a couple of months,” Gibbs snapped. “I can just about understand that. What I don’t understand is why the hell you let him beat up on you tonight.”

“I was angry. And…” Tony shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea at the time. So…I guess I’m in trouble for this?" He tried to get to his feet and gave a gasp of pain. Gibbs put a hand under his arm to steady him and then pulled him the rest of the way up.

"Hell yes!" he retorted. “You're in big trouble, boy.”

“Don’t remember it being in the rules,” Tony said petulantly. “What is it? Some new rule? Rule number eight – don’t get into fights you can’t win?”

“No. It’s an existing rule.” He took hold of Tony’s arm and slung it over his shoulder.

Tony gave him an uncertain look. “Can’t place it.”

"Damn it, it’s rule number five, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said in an exasperated tone. “Nobody touches you but me.”

"Oh come on! That wasn't touching! Well, not that kind of touching anyway…"

Gibbs silenced him with a glare, and Tony bit down on his already split lip. He glanced over at Grasso, who was lying dazed on the floor with Stan's cuffs on his wrists.

"Still never been beaten in a fight, huh, Boss?" Tony managed a faint grin as Gibbs deposited him on a chair in the corner of the gym. "Thought Grasso might have given you more trouble, but I guess not."

"You wore him out before I got to him. Also, I was kinda pissed." Gibbs picked up Tony's shirt from the pile on the floor and started to help him into it. "Really not happy about you being half naked in front of anyone, DiNozzo."

"For Chrissakes! It was a fight thing, not a sex thing," Tony said irritably.

"You don't get it." Gibbs grabbed his head and made him look at him. "Nobody gets to look at you half naked, Tony, and nobody *ever* gets to hurt you. Nobody gets to lay a goddamn finger on you! I thought I'd made all this clear."

Tony looked startled by his vehemence. "Didn't get my head around the not hurting me bit," he muttered. "Besides…I wasn't sure where we stood any more."

"That’s no goddamn excuse! I told you where we stood, Tony. You're mine – that's it."

He finished helping Tony back into his shirt and began buttoning it up for him.

"You're on punishment detail until further notice," he said as he worked. Tony glared at him mutinously. “Got a problem with that, DiNozzo? Want to argue with me about it?” Gibbs asked dangerously.

“All I want to damn well argue about is what you were doing in that bar with Stan,” Tony snapped.

“I *told* you. He called me this evening while I was waiting for you. He’d figured out what had gone down between you and Grasso, and he thought I should know. That’s it.”

“You sure? ‘Cause the two of you looked pretty damn cosy. You sure you don’t wanna take up with the golden boy again?” Tony demanded.

Gibbs reached out and slapped the back of his head. Tony had the grace to look a little abashed. He lowered his head and looked up at Gibbs through the eyelashes of his good eye.

“Okay. Fine,” he muttered. “Whatever. Just, I see you getting up close with the sub who got away – what the hell am I supposed to think?”

“You are sailing really close to the wind right now, DiNozzo,” Gibbs growled. “Snap out of it.”

Tony swiped away the trickle of blood running down his jaw with the back of his hand. Then he looked up again, and finally Gibbs saw a hint of contrition in his eyes.

"Sorry, Boss. So…back on the short leash again, huh?" Tony asked with a little sigh.

"So short you'll be asking my permission to damn well piss," Gibbs told him tersely. “Like I said, you’re on punishment detail until further notice. I'll tell you what that entails tomorrow. For now – let's get you home."

He helped Tony into his jacket and then went over to Stan.

"See that bastard is busted for what he did to his men," he said, shooting Grasso a derisory glance. "Find some way of nailing him – get Lewin to testify - but don't drag Tony into this. I'll take care of him," Gibbs said grimly.

Stan’s gaze flickered over to where Tony was sitting. "Poor guy. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes right now."

Gibbs gave a wry grin and patted Stan's shoulder. "Yeah, but you'd never put yourself in his position, Stan."

"He make you happy, Boss?" Stan asked softly.

Gibbs glanced back at Tony. "Yeah, Stan. He really does. When he's not pissing me off.” Then he grinned again. “And sometimes even then,” he added with a wry shrug.

Stan smiled. "I'm pleased for you. Okay if I have a few words with him, Boss?”

“Sure.” Gibbs nodded, and Stan went over to where Tony was sitting.

“Wanted to say thanks, DiNozzo,” he said, crouching down in front of Tony.

“For what?” Tony growled, stiffening. Gibbs rolled his eyes; Stan really was Tony’s bete noir.

“Leaving me all those notes. Best handover files I ever had coming onboard a new ship as agent afloat,” Stan told him serenely, ignoring Tony’s attitude. “Also – for taming him.” Stan gave a little grin and a backward nod in Gibbs’s direction. “You did something I never could, Tony. Hell, I don’t suppose there are many subs in the world who could handle the boss. You must be something pretty special.”

Tony gazed at him with a look of stupefaction on his face. Gibbs couldn’t stop himself grinning at the sight.

“Not really. I screw up all the time,” Tony muttered. “Like tonight for example.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sure the boss will punish you for that, and frankly I think you deserve it. But I wanted to thank you also on behalf of those guys on Grasso’s flight crew. What you did for them took guts, Tony, and I know they appreciate it. Lewin hero-worships you like nothing I’ve ever seen.” He glanced at Tony and then back at Gibbs. “Well, almost like nothing I’ve ever seen.” He grinned. “The way you look at the boss comes close.”

“You telling me you don’t look at him the same way?” Tony asked grouchily.

“No.” Stan shook his head. “I left him, Tony, not the other way around. And for awhile I regretted it, I’ll admit that. Maybe I even still regretted it - until tonight.”

“What changed tonight?”

“Saw him with you. Could never compete with that.” Stan patted Tony’s arm. “So long, Tony. And don’t worry about Grasso – I’ll make sure that bastard gets what’s coming to him.”

He got up, returned to his prisoner, hauled Grasso to his feet, and pushed him towards the door.

“So long, Boss. Tony.” He waved his hand at them and then left.

Tony watched him go. “Nice guy,” he said to Gibbs. “Always liked him.” He gave his dom a wide, self-deprecating grin.

Gibbs gave a snort of amusement at the obvious lie and went back over to where Tony was sitting. "Come on. We're going home."

"You sure? I mean, d’you still want me now I'm not pretty any more, Boss?" Tony asked, as Gibbs helped him to his feet.

Gibbs laughed out loud. "Who the hell ever told you that you were pretty, DiNozzo?"

Tony gave a little chuckle, clutching his ribs painfully. "Don't make me laugh, Boss," he implored, as Gibbs put an arm around his waist to help him walk.

"Oh, you won't be laughing when I get you home, Tony. Trust me."

Tony leaned in close, and Gibbs held onto him tightly.

"I'm learning how to do that, Boss," Tony said quietly. "I'm kind of a slow study on this one. It's hard for me."

They swayed there for a moment, alone in the room. Gibbs kissed Tony's forehead gently.

"Yeah. I know," he said softly, holding his sub close. "But you're getting there, Tony. You're getting there."



~*~



Gibbs didn't say a word the entire journey home, and Tony was too exhausted to say anything. He stared out of the window wondering what 'punishment detail' would entail exactly. Gibbs had told him about it several weeks ago, but he couldn't remember all the details. He did know he hadn't liked the sound of it. He had a feeling the next few days were going to be anything but pleasant.

First they had to deal with the reasons behind their temporary break-up and then there was the issue of him breaking rule number five. Gibbs seemed really pissed off about that for some reason. Tony wasn't sure why - it wasn't as if he'd run off and had sex with another dom. Tony didn't think he agreed with Gibbs's interpretation of rule number five.

They pulled up at the house, and Gibbs helped him out of the car and into the living room, where he deposited him on the couch. Tony watched him punch a speed dial number on his cell phone.

"Kinda late to be calling someone, Boss," he ventured.

Gibbs glared at him. Tony bit down on his lip and tasted blood.

"Ducky – it's me," Gibbs said into the phone. "I need a consult. Yeah, I know it's late, but it's DiNozzo."

Tony winced. Gibbs finished up the conversation and snapped his phone shut. Then he sat down on the coffee table opposite Tony and put a firm hand on his jaw, turning his face so that he could examine his injured eye in more detail.

"Can you see anything out of that?" he asked. Tony shook his head. "Thought not. It's swollen shut, although hopefully the eye itself isn't damaged. It's bad, but I've seen worse."

"Really? When?" Tony asked, glad that Gibbs was talking to him again.

"Iraq," Gibbs replied tersely, and that ended that conversation effectively.

Ducky arrived, all bustling good humour and brisk efficiency even while he complained about being dragged out of bed this late on a Friday night.

"Saturday morning now!" he exclaimed, glancing at his watch as Gibbs ushered him into the living room. He took one look at Tony and gave a cheerful smile. "My word, Anthony, you have been in the wars! What on earth happened?"

"He's been an idiot," Gibbs replied, before Tony could reply.

"Ah - a fight over a young lady's attentions no doubt!" Ducky said, opening up his battered brown medical bag. "Well, not to worry, Tony, we'll have you right as rain in no time." He set about prodding Tony uncomfortably for the next twenty minutes.

Tony watched as Gibbs went over to the window and twitched aside the drapes. He stood there, looking glacial, while Ducky went about his business. When he was done, Ducky sat back and surveyed Tony with a sympathetic smile. "You'll live!" he pronounced happily.

"I'm not so sure about that, Ducky," Tony hissed, nodding his head in Gibbs's direction. "Have you seen the expression on his face?"

"Ah, my dear boy, I simply meant that you'd survive your injuries," Ducky said ruefully. "Whether you'll survive his displeasure, I couldn't say. He doesn't look best pleased. What in heaven's name did you do, Anthony?"

"I kind of screwed up." Tony made a face. "Again," he added.

Ducky patted his arm reassuringly. "Ah well, we all do that occasionally, Tony. And it's not as if Jethro hasn't made his share of screw-ups," he said in a louder voice. Gibbs turned to look at them, the death-glare on his face.

"Not helping, Ducky!" Tony said in a strangled tone.

"Jethro – I'm a tad concerned about possible concussion, and also about the state of that eye," Ducky said, brisk and businesslike. "Tony really needs to be under constant supervision for the next 48 hours. I know that might be awkward, and I'm happy to volunteer for the daytime shifts, but…"

"He'll be staying here, Duck. With me," Gibbs said impatiently. "I'll keep him under supervision, trust me. He won't be going anywhere."

Tony grimaced, and Ducky shot him a sympathetic smile.

"I really do think that's for the best, Tony," he said. "Just in case any complications develop. I'm sure you'll be fine, but it's best to be on the safe side. Jethro – you'll need to wake him every two hours to ask him some basic questions and be sure he's compos mentis."

"Every two hours. Understood." Gibbs nodded curtly, and Tony wished the ground would open up and swallow him. Not only had he caused all this mayhem, but now his condition meant that Gibbs had get up every two hours in the night to check on him. He had a feeling that his punishment detail had just got exponentially worse.

"Tony's being very stoic about it, but he's in a fair bit of pain, so I'm leaving some heavy duty pain killers." Ducky waved them in the air and then put them on the coffee table. Gibbs looked at them expressionlessly, and then at Tony, and Tony thought the pain he was in right now was the least of his problems.

"He'll need rest for a few days," Ducky added.

"Oh, he'll get it," Gibbs said grimly. "I'll make damn sure of that."

"Here's some topical cream for the cuts and bruises." Ducky left that on the table too. "Call me if you notice anything unusual, or if he deteriorates in any way."

Ducky got up and began gathering his things. Tony gazed at him mournfully, wishing he could stay. He was dreading being left alone with his dom right now. Ducky seemed to sense his mood because he patted him reassuringly on the shoulder.

"You'll be fine, Tony," he said, with a benign smile. "I have no doubt that Jethro will make an eminently efficient nurse – if a little lacking in the bedside manner department."

Gibbs escorted the amiable doctor to the door, while Tony waited in trepidation for his dom's return. When Gibbs came back, he got a glass of water and handed it wordlessly to Tony, along with a couple of painkillers.

"Painkillers make me really woozy, Boss, and the pain really isn't that bad…" Tony began. Gibbs fixed him with his death glare again. Tony swallowed the pills obediently. “We gonna talk about what happened?” Tony asked. “Because okay, I accept the punishment detail because we both know I screwed up. I just don’t see how it’s breaking rule number five. I wouldn’t cheat on you, Boss. You know that, right?”

“You really don’t get it, do you?” Gibbs gave his sub a look of intense exasperation.

“No,” Tony said petulantly. “Look, I get that I took my shirt off – I get that much, and I get why you’re pissed about that - but it wasn’t so that he could ogle my body. Trust me, Grasso really wasn’t interested in me in that way.”

“You let him touch you, Tony.”

“I let him hit me,” Tony frowned. “That’s something else.”

“You treated this body – my property – like it wasn’t worth anything to me. And it is,” Gibbs told him, touching a finger to his chest. “And so is the person inside. Isn’t that the point of rule number five, Tony?”

Tony gazed at his dom helplessly. “I guess…when you put it that way…” Maybe Gibbs did have a point after all. He blinked, trying to clear his head.

"Bed," Gibbs ordered. He helped Tony to his feet, slung his arm over his shoulder, and they walked slowly and wearily up the stairs to the bedroom. Gibbs dropped Tony's arm when they got inside, and Tony glanced around.

"Shall I just…" He pointed at the floor. Gibbs turned to give him a questioning stare. "Just…you said before that when I was on punishment detail I didn't get a mattress, pillow or blanket," Tony recalled, with a wince. He wasn't happy about the prospect of long nights spent on the hard floor, but he wanted to show Gibbs that he knew he'd screwed up. He was willing to take whatever his dom handed out.

"Yeah – that's the default setting each morning," Gibbs said. "But if you stick to all the rules, and if I think you've made progress during the course of each day, then you can earn back the mattress, blanket, and pillow by bedtime. That starts tomorrow though. Tonight, I have to wake up every two hours to check on you – so you'll sleep in the bed where I can keep an eye on you. That's for my convenience, not yours. Understood?"

He stood in front of Tony, gazing at him from steely eyes.

"Yes, Boss," Tony said quietly. He started to hobble, slowly, in the direction of the bathroom.

"Where the hell are you going?" Gibbs demanded.

"Uh – to piss, clean my teeth…" Tony paused, confused. "That not allowed?"

"Tony – when I said earlier that you needed my permission to piss, I meant it. You're not just on a short leash, DiNozzo – you're on punishment detail. That means you ask for everything – for food, water, to use the bathroom. Everything."

Tony nodded, slowly, recognising that this was less about causing him embarrassment and discomfort than Gibbs re-asserting his authority over him. It actually felt kind of restful. It was a relief to know that he wasn't going to be allowed to make any decisions for himself in the foreseeable future. It wasn't as if he'd been doing that great a job of it recently anyway.

"Yes, Boss," he said obediently. "So…uh…can I?" He gestured with his head in the direction of the bathroom, and Gibbs nodded curtly.

When he returned to the bedroom, Gibbs helped him undress and then pointed to the side of the bed.

"Sit."

Tony did as ordered, and Gibbs reached for something on the nightstand. Tony's stomach did a sudden flip; it was his collar. Gibbs held it up.

"You want to wear this again, Tony?"

Tony swallowed hard. "If you'll let me, yes."

"Once it's on, only *I* get to say when it comes off," Gibbs told him meaningfully.

Tony nodded. "I can live with that, Boss."

"Can you?" Gibbs rocked back on his heels and looked at his sub thoughtfully. "See, thing is, you can't be my 24/7 sub just when you choose to be, DiNozzo. If the going gets tough again, like it did last Sunday, then I have to know that you'll commit to staying and figuring it out."

Tony gazed at the collar mutely. That was one hell of a big commitment. Could he do it? He longed to feel the leather around his neck again, but Gibbs was asking a lot from him.

"If you'd stayed last weekend, instead of taking off your collar and running out on me, then tonight wouldn't have happened." Gibbs ran a gentle finger over his bruised face.

"I know."

"The collar saves you from yourself. That's why I need to know, before I put it back on ya."
Gibbs’s gaze was searching. "Not asking you to be perfect, Tony. Just to stick with it, even when it's tough."

Tony looked up at his dom from his one good eye. "I want to wear the collar so much, Boss."

"Comes with obligations, Tony." Gibbs held it up. "Need a commitment from you this time. I know that doesn't come easy for ya, but it's the only way."

Tony gazed at the collar helplessly, wanting it, needing it, but knowing he wouldn't lie to get it. Gibbs would never trust him again if he did.

"If you wear it, you'll commit to being my 24/7 sub, and to answering all my questions honestly, without holding back. You don't get to hide from me any more, Tony. Not ever again. If you accept the collar, you have to agree to that."

"That's not easy, Jethro," Tony said quietly.

"Nothin' good ever is, Tony."

"I’ve kept myself safe this way for a long time. It’s worked for me.”

Gibbs looked at his bruised face with a meaningfully arched eyebrow. "This is the third crisis you’ve had in as many weeks, Tony, and the third weekend I’ll spend nursing you. You're not exactly doing a great job with the keeping yourself safe thing."

"That's because I didn't have my normal defences, Gibbs!" Tony protested. "You stripped them away. I needed to go to ground and be alone, so I could find a way to block it out. You made me face myself instead."

"Had to happen one day, Tony. Could be a hell of a lot better for you, going forward, if you’ll accept the collar and the conditions that come with it. Less lonely. Less painful too, in the long term. Hard in the short term though. I accept that, and I’ll help you through it, but it’ll be tough. No doubt about it."

"Will I still get a safe word?" Tony asked.

"Will you use it?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah."

"Then you can have a safe word. Got some trust to rebuild here though, Tony."

"I know." Tony bit on his lip again, tasting the familiar, salty tang of his own blood.

"Why did you do that tonight, Tony?" Gibbs demanded. "Why did you go to that gym? You knew Grasso would kick your ass in a fight – you knew that from experience."

"Yeah." Tony nodded. "I knew."

"The other times I could understand. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm still pissed about it. We'll talk about your insatiable need to take one for the team some other time. But that wasn't why you went there tonight. What were you looking for tonight, Tony?"

"I don't know. I wasn't exactly thinking straight. I saw you with Stan, and I got mad." Tony shrugged.

"With me? With Stan? Who did you get mad at, Tony?"

Tony gazed at him blankly. He'd never thought about who he was angry with. He'd just assumed…

"With myself," he said quietly, realisation kicking in. "For screwing it up with you so much that you'd go back to Stan. You were the only good thing I ever really had - and I fucked it up."

"So you wanted to punish yourself again?" Gibbs sighed.

"Yeah. I guess. I never saw it that clearly before."

"If you wear the collar, you’ll have to agree, once and for all, to let me decide what punishments you're due. It's a hell of a lot safer in my hands," Gibbs said wryly.

"Yeah," Tony agreed, with a little wince. "I think you're right there, Boss." He felt like all the fight had gone out of him as he finally accepted that one basic fact. He'd always struggled with it before - it had been one of the hardest aspects of his submission. "Been punishing myself for years though, Boss. Hard habit to break."

"Yeah – but if you accept this collar, then you agree to give me the responsibility for your punishments. That means you won't get to punish yourself any more, Tony," Gibbs told him firmly. Tony stared at him helplessly. "You can ask me if you feel you need to be punished for something. You can explain it to me, so I can understand, but you have to accept my decision. If I say no, then that's it. My word is final.”

Tony shook his head. "I don’t know if I can do that. That's really hard, Boss."

"Yeah, it is. But d'you know what else is hard? Finding some bastard beating up on your sub – now that's damn hard. Do you know how that felt, Tony?" Gibbs demanded. "And knowing that you'd gone there willingly, knowing what he'd do to you? Do you know how that made me feel?"

Tony blinked his good eye, feeling a wave of deep and unexpected sadness.

"Sorry, Boss," he whispered throatily. He was exhausted and drained beyond belief, and he realised that he'd reached rock bottom. All this struggling had got him nowhere, and he was so tired of it. He looked up at Gibbs again. "Collar me, Jethro," he requested softly. "I accept your terms. Just…collar me again. Please?"

Gibbs looked at him from steely eyes, their blue depths piercing him to his core. Tony sat there meekly, taking the full force of that stare, gazing up at his dom in abject submission. He wasn't hiding any more. He was completely spent.

Gibbs didn't say a word. He seemed to see the truth in Tony's eyes and accepted it without question.

He stepped forward and fastened the collar around Tony's neck, caressing Tony’s throat as he buckled the strip of leather in place. Tony closed his eyes, gratefully accepting the collar and all the obligations that came with it. It felt warm, snug and familiar around his neck, and he gave a shuddering sigh of relief to feel it there again.

"Sleep," Gibbs said gruffly. "No bondage tonight – not while you're on pain meds. Wouldn't be safe."

He helped Tony to lie down, and then he got into the bed beside him. Gibbs turned off the light and reached out and took his sub in his arms. Tony went easily into his embrace, coming to rest against Gibbs's solidly muscled body. He rested his chin on Gibbs's shoulder and relaxed as Gibbs placed his hand on his butt and stroked it firmly. It wasn't sexual – it was just calmly reassuring.

Tony closed his eyes. God how he'd missed the gentle comfort of sleeping in this bed, next to this man. He'd missed wearing this collar, and being held by these firm, capable hands. He was so damn glad that he was back here, in Gibbs's bed, where he belonged.



~*~


Gibbs set his internal body clock to wake him in two hours – this was a trick he'd somehow acquired in the Corps. As a sniper, he'd often found himself holed up behind enemy lines, grabbing sleep on the run. It wasn't safe to set his watch alarm – any kind of noise could give his position away - so he'd learned to wake himself, on cue, at the appointed time.

He woke after two hours to find Tony had moved in his sleep and was now lying, in a foetal position, on his own side of the bed. Gibbs pulled back the blankets and smacked his sub's ass lightly – once on each butt cheek.

Tony made a startled noise and turned, blinking blearily. "Whaaaa?"

"What's my name?" Gibbs demanded, leaning over his sub.

"Uh…" Tony gazed at him blankly. "Your name? Your name is 'Boss', Boss," he mumbled. Gibbs rolled his eyes and slapped his ass again. "Oh…uh…Leroy Jethro Gibbs," Tony said hurriedly, snapping into wakefulness.

Gibbs fired off a couple more basic questions, which Tony answered promptly and correctly. His sub looked tired, but his eyes were focussed and alert.

"I'm fine…can we go back to sleep now?" Tony asked, his eyelids drooping. He moved towards Gibbs and snuggled against him.

"How many fingers am I holding up?" Gibbs asked, holding up four.

Tony didn't open his eyes. "Three," he muttered.

Gibbs smacked his ass harder than before, four times. "How many swats was that?"

"Ow. Four." Tony nuzzled into his neck, making it impossible to remain remotely annoyed with him. Gibbs settled back down beside him. "You gonna fuck me now?" Tony muttered sleepily.

"What?" Gibbs asked incredulously. "You're thinking about sex after taking a beating like that a few hours ago?"

"Mmmm." Tony's lips found his in the darkness. "Been a week, Boss. Didn't come all week. Horny." He pressed himself against Gibbs. "Missed being in this bed. Missed you inside me. Missed you."

"You didn't come all week?" Gibbs queried, surprised.

"Nope. Wanted to stick to the rules, even though I walked out and left the collar behind, Boss. Can't come 'less you're inside me. Want you inside me, Boss."

Gibbs gave a startled hiss as Tony's hand found his cock and began to stroke. Gibbs grabbed his hand and pushed it away.

"Ya need sleep more than sex. Oh don't worry," he added, as Tony began a bleary protest, "I'll fuck you in the morning. I'll be riding your ass hard for the next few days, boy."

"Mmmm…good," Tony muttered and within seconds he was fast asleep again. Gibbs grinned and pulled his sub close, holding his sleeping body tight.

"Missed you too, Tony," he whispered, dropping a kiss on Tony's hair.



~*~



It seemed to Tony like every time he dropped off to sleep, he was woken up by Gibbs smacking his ass and shouting questions at him. This seemed to go on all night.

Then it was morning, and Gibbs was sliding his lubed fingers into him, stretching him gently. They were soon replaced by the sweet, arousing glide of his dom’s cock. God it felt good! It had been a week since Gibbs had last fucked him, and he'd missed it. He lay there, blinking drowsily, enjoying the sensation of that hard, throbbing cock sinking into his hole. Gibbs held his hips loosely and thrust into him lazily. Tony sighed happily and slid his hand down towards his own hardening cock. Gibbs pushed it away.

"You're on punishment detail, so there's no chance of you coming any time soon," Gibbs told him firmly. "Subs who are being punished don't get to come."

Tony gave a little whimper, but he moved his hand away from his cock obediently. He felt content. He was back in Gibbs's bed, and Gibbs was making it clear who was in charge. All he had to do was accept. It was actually kind of relaxing.

Gibbs fucked him slowly, taking his time, and Tony found it fascinating to just lie there, taking it, knowing there was no chance that he'd get off himself. It made him focus on other things. He was acutely aware of Gibbs's warm breath on the back of his neck, of Gibbs's thumb, pressed into his thigh, and of Gibbs's mouth, which occasionally ghosted kisses on his shoulder. Most of all, he was aware of the long, slow glide of Gibbs's large cock as it thrust into his body and then pulled back out, snagging his prostate with each lazy thrust. He could feel the heavy slap of Gibbs's balls against his butt and smell the scent of his dom's arousal.

Gibbs came with a little growl of pleasure and then lay there, panting. Tony closed his eyes, enjoying the intimacy of lying here, with Gibbs's come in his ass, and Gibbs's spent cock still lodged inside him. He didn't want the day to start. He had a feeling he wasn't going to like today very much. Gibbs pulled out and got up.

"Up and in the shower, Tony."

Tony went into the bathroom and then stopped short, gazing at himself in the mirror. He looked like a monster. His face was swollen, his left eye was puffy and badly bruised, and he had a split lip. There were cuts and bruises all over his jaw and several nasty bruises on his torso. He gazed at himself in absolute shock. Gibbs appeared in the mirror behind him.

"Now d'you see why I was so pissed off last night, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked quietly.

"Didn't realise I looked this bad," Tony muttered in reply. "Surprised you could bear to fuck me, Boss."

"Nothing wrong with your ass," Gibbs grinned, pinching it. Tony managed a faint smile at that.

Gibbs removed his collar, but only so that they could take a shower. Afterwards, he fastened it back on again – along with wrist and ankle cuffs.

"No clothes today," Gibbs told him. "Hell, not much of anything today."

"Yeah. I figured," Tony said quietly. Seeing himself in the mirror had brought him up short. His earlier elation at being back in his dom's bed faded as he realised the enormity of what he'd done, and what he'd be facing in the next few days. Injured or not, there was no way Gibbs would go easy on him.

He was right. Gibbs took him downstairs and made him kneel in the kitchen. He fastened Tony's leash to the hook in the wall, tying him securely into place. Then he added a blindfold. Tony accepted the darkness – in fact he welcomed it, settling down into himself.

He heard Gibbs making breakfast, then heard his dom sit down and the scrape of cutlery on plate as he ate. Tony suddenly felt ravenous – he hadn't eaten anything the previous evening, and the smell of the eggs and bacon Gibbs was eating made his mouth water.

Gibbs finished his meal, and then he unfastened Tony and made him kneel beside him at the table, still blindfolded.

"Open up," Gibbs instructed, and Tony felt a fork press against his lips. He opened his mouth eagerly, expecting to taste the eggs and bacon he'd smelled…and nearly choked as he found himself chewing on a piece of raw carrot instead.

"Boss?" He nearly spat the food out.

"Basic rations, Tony. Raw fruit and vegetables, and bread and cheese. That's it."

"No donuts then?" Tony asked around his mouthful of carrot.

Gibbs laughed. "Definitely no donuts, boy," he replied, pressing a piece of apple into his sub's mouth. "No takeout, no pizza and no TV either, in addition to the no coming. This is a punishment detail, DiNozzo. You don't get to do any fun stuff."

"No, Boss." Tony sighed and settled back on his heels as he crunched slowly on the apple.

"What's rule number five, Tony?" Gibbs asked unexpectedly.

"Nobody touches me but you, Boss."

"Yeah. That's right." Tony felt his dom's fingers trailing gently over his bruised face. "Don't ever let someone hurt you like this again, boy. Understand me?"

"Yes, Boss."

"This body belongs to me - and the only marks I want to see on it are mine."

"Yes, Boss," Tony agreed, as Gibbs pressed some bread into his mouth.

"And I will never, ever put these kinds of marks on you, Tony," Gibbs said softly, his fingers spidering over Tony's puffy cheekbone. "I'll never beat you with my fists, or kick you. I will never do that to you. Do you understand that?"

"I guess." Tony sat back on his heels, his shoulders hunched.

"But someone did," Gibbs said. "Someone kicked you around, and made you think that was okay. Maybe they made you think you deserved it, or maybe you already felt like you deserved it. Either way, someone put the idea into your head that you could be punched and kicked around and it didn't matter. Who was it?"

The bread tasted like cardboard. Tony swallowed it down.

"Tony?" Gibbs's tone was insistent.

"Magnum," Tony said hoarsely.

"Okay." Gibbs caressed his hair gently. "We'll try again later."

He pressed a glass of water to Tony's mouth, and Tony drank obediently.

"I miss coffee, Boss," he sighed mournfully afterwards.

"Yeah, I figured you would," Gibbs chuckled. He gave Tony a couple more painkillers, and then he led him into the living room. He made him kneel on a cushion and tied him to a hook in the wall.

"I'm gonna work. This is a modified punishment detail because of your physical condition. So it's one hour kneeling followed by one hour resting," Gibbs explained. "Blindfold stays on. Any time you wanna talk, go ahead. Any time you need to use the bathroom, or you want something to eat or drink, then ask. I'm gonna spank you every hour. I'll keep it light, but you'll feel it."

The cushion was comfortable and the room was pleasantly warm. Gibbs sat down on the couch beside him, and Tony heard him rustling around, getting out files. There was a long silence.

The painkillers took the edge off the throbbing in his face. Tony leaned against Gibbs's thigh, wondering if that was allowed. Gibbs didn't push him back or move away, so he guessed it was. It felt good. Tony closed his eyes behind the blindfold and drifted off. Gibbs's brand of tough love should have felt restrictive, demeaning and uncomfortable, but instead it just made him feel safe and content. He nestled in even closer and rested his chin on Gibbs's thigh, and his dom's hand came to rest on his head, stroking gently.

Tony supposed an hour must have passed, although it felt like just a few minutes. Then Gibbs got up and guided Tony so that he was face down on the couch.

Tony buried his face in the cushions and braced himself. Gibbs laid a couple of swats on his ass with his hand – it was barely more than a light tap, but Tony liked the way it gently warmed his butt. Mostly he just liked that Gibbs was spanking him again. He'd missed it.

As the day wore on, the tension of the past few weeks seemed to fade. Tony zoned out in the hourly spankings, the blindfold, and the basic rations. He lost himself in the bondage and in sitting beside his dom, with his chin resting on Gibbs's knee, doing nothing except dozing while Gibbs worked. He relished every single light slap on his ass and every gentle stroke of fingers through his hair. His tight muscles started to relax, and he felt better than he had since Abby's accident.

"It was all going so well up 'til then," he muttered, and then he knelt up straight, surprised by the fact that he'd said that out loud.

"Til when?" Gibbs asked.

"Abby."

"Well, yeah. It was, DiNozzo." He heard Gibbs sit back on the couch and the popping sound as his dom moved his shoulders and stretched. "But you screwed up, I screwed up, and she screwed up. Accept it and move on."

"Yes, Boss." Suddenly, it really did seem that simple. "Christ, I've been such an idiot!"

Gibbs's hand came to rest on his hair. "Yeah, well, the accident reminded you of what happened with your mom, Tony. Nobody could have expected you to react well to that. Just wish I'd known so I could'a handled it better at the time."

Tony leaned forward and rested his chin on Gibbs's knee again.

"What happened after you went home, Tony?" Gibbs asked.

"Nothin'. I drank a lot," Tony muttered. "Oh, and I picked up my suit from the dry cleaner. You know - the shiny grey Armani…Ow!" He sat up as Gibbs slapped the back of his head.

"Not when you went back to your apartment last week. When you went home as a kid. After the accident."

Tony leaned against his dom again.

"I was in the hospital for a few days. I hated it in there. Everyone felt sorry for me, and I couldn't sleep at night. I wanted my mom. Dad visited a couple of times, but he never had much to say. We just used to stare at each other. Then they let me out. Dad came to pick me up."

The blindfold seemed to make it easier to talk. Deprived of any other visual stimulation, he could see the memory vividly in his mind's eye.

His father hadn’t said a word to him all the way home. When they got there, Tony couldn’t believe it was the same place. How could it look the same and smell the same now that his mom was dead? Hadn’t that changed everything?

"It's late. Go to your room," his father said. "I'll come up and see you before you go to bed."

He walked slowly upstairs to his room. It was dark outside, but he didn't want to turn on the light. He didn't want to see his room looking just the same as it had when he'd last been here – when she'd still been alive.

He sat down on the side of the bed and let the darkness swallow him whole. It felt restful. He didn't have to face himself in the dark. He didn't have to see himself in mirrors and windows. He didn't have to look himself in the eye and see his own guilt reflected back. He could be anonymous in the dark.

He was aware of the house all around him. It felt so big and silent. Usually she made it come alive, with her laughter and sense of fun. Now he saw that her death *had* changed everything. The house might look the same, but it no longer had a heart. He had wanted to come home so much while he’d been at boarding school, and now he wanted nothing more than to go back to the dormitory he’d shared with all those other boys. He wanted to forget this hollow house, with its empty, echoing hallways. He didn’t belong here any more.

His father didn't come up. When it got late, Tony went to bed. He missed the way his mom used to come into his room at bedtime and sit down beside him. She’d tell him all about her day, laughing as she sipped her dry martini. She used to mimic all her friends – she had an amazing ear for mimicry and would have him in fits of laughter. Then she’d lean over and kiss his cheek, and he’d smell her familiar perfume.

He had never once gone to bed in this house without her visiting him to say goodnight. It had always been his favourite part of the day, lying in bed, chatting to her, and laughing. They used to laugh so much. She would be in her element, dressed for dinner – usually there were guests, so she’d be wearing a beautiful gown that showed off her elegant figure. She’d linger with him, reluctant to go down to dinner because he was making her laugh so much. But eventually she’d tear herself away, scolding him for keeping her from her guests.

Tony spent half the night staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep any better at home than he had at the hospital. Eventually, at around two a.m., he gave up. He pulled on his bathrobe and tip-toed down the stairs to his father’s study. He stood outside for ages, hesitating. Finally, he took his life in his hands and pushed open the door.

His father was lying slumped on the stiffly upholstered brown couch by the big fireplace. There was an empty bottle of brandy at his feet. He was so drunk that he’d passed out and was snoring loudly.

Tony stood there for a long time. Then he tiptoed over to the couch and sat down beside his father. His father stank of liquor and was muttering to himself in his sleep, but he didn't wake up. Tony edged closer and closer until he was nestled up beside him. Then he took hold of his father’s arm and pulled it so that it was around his own shoulders.

Then, finally, he fell asleep. In the morning, he woke up to find that his father was still lying there – still drunk and still dead to the world.

Tony crept out of the study and went back upstairs to his room. His father never even knew he’d been there.



~*~



Gibbs was glad that Tony was blindfolded, so his sub couldn’t see the expression on his face as Tony falteringly told him his story. He thought of the nights Tony had hesitantly insinuated himself onto his lap to be held and suddenly saw that endearing little habit in a whole new light. He rubbed a hand over his stubbled chin, wishing that he’d known all this a long time ago.

He wondered whether now was the time to push for more, or whether to leave it and allow Tony to get there in his own time. Only he wasn’t sure Tony would, without prompting. Hell, Tony had spent his entire life avoiding this particular issue. He was only talking about it now because Gibbs had stripped away all his defences and taken him down. There was still more though. Gibbs was pretty sure he knew what it was, but he needed Tony to tell him.

He put aside the file that was open on his lap and then turned back to his kneeling sub. He gently touched Tony's bruised face with his fingertips. Christ, this all made total sense now.

“So tell me, Tony,” he said softly. “When did your father start using you as a punching bag?”

There was silence. He knew that if Tony hadn't been wearing the blindfold he’d have freaked out. The blindfold, and the strict disciplinary regime Gibbs had imposed, were working to make him feel safe right now. It might seem restrictive – maybe even cruel – to an outsider. However, Gibbs had no doubt that it was giving Tony the peace of mind he’d been unable to achieve ever since Abby’s accident.

Gibbs waited, wondering whether Tony would say his safe word. He watched Tony struggle with himself as he knelt there, naked, chained, collared and blindfolded. He watched as Tony tried to deny the truth he'd been hiding for so long – and failed.

Tony swallowed hard and lowered his head. “It wasn’t like that," he whispered.

“What was it like?” Gibbs asked, keeping in constant physical contact with his sub to reassure him, his knee pressed against Tony’s chest, his hand stroking Tony’s hair.

Tony was silent for a long time, frozen into place. Gibbs could be a patient man though, when he tried. He might bark orders at work and send his team scurrying to do his bidding, but he had once been a sniper. He knew how to wait, silently, for hours on end if need be.

He needed those skills now. Time ticked by as Gibbs waited. He didn’t want to rush this. It had been a long time coming – it was never going to trip out easily.

When Tony did eventually start to talk, it came out of the blue, almost taking him by surprise.

“Dad’s business was failing. He worked all hours to save it. When he came home, he was tired and stressed out. He…you have to understand how much he loved my mom. She was beautiful, funny, and smart – she was special.”

“Just like her son,” Gibbs thought to himself.

“Dad was inconsolable. He missed her so much, and he was working so hard. I had his drink ready for him every night when he came home. I knew he blamed me for her death and…”

“How do you know that?” Gibbs asked quietly.

“Because he told me.”

“When?”

“Every night.” Tony shrugged. “He used to drink for a few hours in his study, and then he’d come up to my room in the middle of the night and tell me that he was ashamed of me. I'd been a bad son before the accident, but he disowned me completely now I'd killed my mom. He said I shouldn't ever count on him for anything – he had to feed and house me by law, but that was it. He was done with me. He wished every day that it'd been me who died in that accident and not her. They’d have had more kids if I’d died. She was irreplaceable; I was not.”

Gibbs fought down the growing sense of anger. So many things about Tony’s personality suddenly slotted effortlessly into place. Tony was silent for a moment.

"Go on," Gibbs urged softly. "What else happened, Tony?"

"If I stayed quiet, he usually just yelled at me for awhile and then went away again."

“And if you didn't stay quiet?”

“Then he hit me.” Tony shrugged. "But you know me – when have I ever managed to stay quiet?” Tony gave a strained, unconvincing version of his usual bright, shiny Tony grin. Gibbs waited. Tony’s grin faded. “It was okay. It was just a few slaps.”

“No, it wasn’t,” Gibbs said tersely. “He didn’t just slap you. He punched you and kicked you. He beat up on you, didn’t he?”

There was silence. Tony’s body was stiff. His head was angled upwards, as if he was gazing into space behind the blindfold. He held himself that way for a long time, and then, finally, he bowed his head.

“Yes.”

Gibbs looked down on his sub sadly. There – at last - was the truth. He put a gentle hand on Tony’s head and stroked his hair. Tony just knelt there, swaying a little. He looked lost. They were silent for a long time, before Tony spoke again.

“He needed it, Gibbs. He was in a bad way. He needed to let it out. I was there. I could do that for him. It was the least I could do after…after what I'd done.”

“So you felt you deserved it?”

Tony hesitated, and then he nodded. “Yes.”

“Which brings us to your recurring need to take one for the team.”

Tony looked up again. “The team’s my family, Gibbs. Can’t lose any one of you because of something I did or didn’t do. Not again.”

“And it’s always your responsibility, huh?”

Gibbs already knew the answer. Tony had been blamed for his mom’s death, every night, night after night, by his alcoholic father. It was hardly surprising he blamed himself, and on some level considered his own wellbeing less important than those around him.

“You don’t understand! My dad loved my mom so much. You don’t understand what it was like for him to lose her.”

“Bullshit!” Gibbs said forcefully. “I lost my wife too, Tony, and trust me, if Kelly had survived I’d have been *grateful* that I hadn’t lost them both. I wouldn’t have gone to her room every night to beat the shit out of her for not being her mom. I would have held her close and thanked God that she was still with me.”

Tony didn’t seem to have an answer for that. He just knelt there, still swaying, looking totally shattered. He had spent his life trying to atone for one terrible event. But what could ever be enough to atone for the loss of such a beautiful, vibrant, much-loved person? In Tony’s mind, Gibbs was pretty damn sure that nothing ever could.

“I could tell you that it wasn’t your fault, but you wouldn’t believe me, would you?” Gibbs asked quietly.

Tony shook his head.

“Then all I can do is tell you that you’re mine, and that whatever you once did, or whatever you think about yourself, I don’t blame you. Not for your mother’s death, or what happened to Jenny, or Abby’s accident. I think you've been punished enough."

Tony didn’t reply. His head was raised, as if he was staring off into space behind the blindfold. He was trembling slightly, but Gibbs didn’t think that was because he was cold.

“And you promised me, when you took that collar, that I was in charge of your punishments – and you wouldn’t punish yourself any more. Now I’m calling you on that. Can you do it, Tony?”

“Hardest thing you ever asked me, Boss,” Tony muttered.

“I know. Just give it up to me though, Tony. Like you’ve given everything else up to me since I took you as my sub. Think you can do that? Think you can let me take it on, so you can leave it behind?”

“Don’t know how that works, Boss.” Tony was trembling in earnest now.

Gibbs leaned forward. “Oh it’s easy,” he growled into Tony’s ear. “You’re mine, boy, and I’m giving you an order. Give it up to me, Tony. Give it all up to me. I’ll take care of it.”

“How?” Tony’s voice was barely more than a whisper.

“You don’t need to know. You just need to accept.”

He ran his hands over Tony’s trembling body, keeping his caress firm, as if he was gentling a frightened horse.

“You want to obey me, don’t you, boy?” Gibbs asked, working his hands on Tony's skin with expert precision. This wasn’t about sex – this was about ownership. Tony’s muscles felt taut, and he soothed them firmly, insisting that they relax.

“I don’t know that I can,” Tony said hoarsely.

“You can,” Gibbs insisted. “You just have to do one thing.”

“What?” Tony shivered.

Gibbs leaned forward again. “Trust me,” he said simply.

There was silence. Gibbs knew this issue had been between them all along. Trust. It was the one thing Tony found so hard – and, after hearing his story, Gibbs wasn’t surprised.

“Want to,” Tony whispered.

“Then do it,” Gibbs said firmly. “You’re mine, Tony. I’ll never give up on you. Easier if you just surrender now, give in and trust me. You want to. You’ve wanted someone to trust ever since you lost your mom and found your dad wasn't there for you. That’s why you've hung around at NCIS so long instead of moving on. You want to believe in someone. You want to believe in me.”

Tony gave a little grin. “Reminds me of something Mulder said to me, weeks ago, when I was trying to decide whether to become your sub or not. Always comes back to that, huh?”

“Always does, Tony. Can't promise to make it easy for ya, just like this isn’t easy – but if you trust me, I’ll walk with you out of the darkness. I’ll bring you home – and you’ve been looking for a home for a long time, haven’t you, Tony?”

A visible sweat broke out on Tony’s body. He was tempted – Gibbs could see that – but could he do it?

“Yeah, I want it,” Tony said, and there was a note of intense yearning in his voice.

“Home’s right here, waiting for ya,” Gibbs told him. “You’re so close to it, Tony.”

He tipped Tony’s head back and lowered his mouth to claim his sub's lips in a sweet, loving kiss. Tony made a little sound in the back of his throat, but Gibbs ignored him. He kissed Tony persuasively, holding his face tight the entire time.

Then it happened. He felt the exact moment when Tony finally broke. He felt all the resistance leave Tony’s body, and felt his sub – his beautiful, troubled sub – surrender totally and without reserve to his will.

He had won. He had fought Tony for possession of his own soul and emerged victorious. Now he had to take care never to abuse this trust that had been so incredibly hard won.

He released his hold on his sub’s face and placed his fingers on Tony’s blindfold.

“Time to face the world again,” he said quietly. “Ready, Tony?”

Tony nodded, and Gibbs carefully untied the blindfold and removed it. Tony blinked as he came back to himself after the intensity of the day.

Gibbs wasn’t sure what his sub was going to do now that he wasn't able to hide behind the blindfold any more. He was taken by surprise when Tony moved onto the couch beside him and lay down. Then, with much greater confidence than he'd ever shown before, he nestled in close, resting his head on Gibbs’s lap like it belonged there.

Gibbs moved his hand so that it came to rest on his sub's hair.

“Welcome home, Tony."




~*~



Tony wasn’t sure if punishment detail was over, because although Gibbs still fed him by hand, he allowed him take out instead of the boring food he'd made him eat all day.

After they were done eating, Tony lay with his head on Gibbs's lap while Gibbs read out loud to him again. He was surprised to find he didn't miss the TV or his extensive DVD collection. This was much more restful, and God knows he needed the rest.

Later, they went upstairs, and Tony hesitated again.

"Did I do enough to win back the mattress, pillow and blanket?" he asked, thinking back over the day's events. He thought he'd done pretty much everything Gibbs had asked, although there were only so many raw carrots a guy could eat, so he'd baulked a little there.

"You won't ever be sleeping on the floor again," Gibbs told him firmly.

"Have you changed the rules?" Tony asked blankly.

Gibbs pulled him close and kissed him. "Yeah, DiNozzo, I changed the rules."

"Why?"

"'Cause before, I didn't know you so well. Now I do. I still own your ass, but making you sleep anywhere 'cept in the bed would make me more of a bastard than I ever wanna be."

"You're still a bastard though, right?" Tony grinned.

"Hell yeah!" Gibbs grinned back. "Also, I want you next to me, so that I can roll over and fuck you whenever I'm in the mood."

"You in the mood now?" Tony grinned lasciviously at him. "I think you are." He pressed up against Gibbs, feeling his dom's cock hardening through his sweatpants.

"Oh yeah. I'm in the mood."

Gibbs pulled him even closer, and his lips roved over Tony's face, leaving little kisses wherever they paused. He slid his hands down Tony's arms and then held them behind Tony's back while he continued to trail wet kisses over his sub's skin. Tony hung there, immobilised. He always enjoyed the feel of Gibbs's fully clothed body against his own when he was naked. He liked how it felt to be this available for his dom. Gibbs owned him, body, heart, mind and soul. Tony had never fully surrendered to him on all those levels before – but he did now.

He could feel Gibbs's warm, aroused breath on his naked skin as his dom pushed him down on the bed. He gasped as his dom's blunt fingertips roved over his body with total confidence, claiming him.

Gibbs straddled him, and Tony pushed at his dom's tee shirt urgently, wanting to touch bare skin. Gibbs slapped his fingers away and removed the tee shirt himself, then threw it onto the floor. Tony gazed up at his dom hungrily. Gibbs's body was a source of endless fascination for Tony. His dom had a washboard stomach, and his chest was covered in a light smattering of salt and pepper coloured curls of hair.

Gibbs grinned down on him. He took hold of Tony's arms and pushed them above his head, pressing his sub down into the pillows, and then he kissed him again.

Tony opened up. He had never before felt his submission as deeply as he did right now. He was mesmerised by his top, entranced by him, and totally within his thrall. He belonged to this man here and always would. It was such a relief to have a place where he could finally be himself, and where he didn't have to hide. Gibbs had taken away all his hiding places but not without offering him something else in return - something much better.

The moment felt hazy and unreal. Tony was aware of Gibbs touching his body, always firm but strangely gentle too, taking care of his bruised skin. Gibbs was never hesitant or unsure where Tony's body was concerned; it belonged to him, and he knew how to make good use of it.

Gibbs slid off his sweatpants, releasing his beautiful, hard cock, and then straddled his sub again.

"Suck me," he ordered, pressing the head of his cock against Tony's lips. Tony opened up eagerly, longing to feel that hard flesh in his mouth. "Slowly," Gibbs warned. "Don't want you opening up that cut in your lip."

Tony slowed down as ordered and enjoyed the long, easy glide of Gibbs's cock between his lips. He felt so completely and lovingly dominated. He liked the feel of Gibbs's fingers pressing his wrists into the mattress, and Gibbs's cock lazily fucking his mouth. His dom withdrew, and Tony moaned his protest.

Gibbs chuckled. "Want to come in your ass, boy, not down your throat – not this time."

He moved down, kissing and sucking Tony's skin along the way. There was a pause, and then he pushed open Tony's legs and slipped his lubed fingers into his hole. It didn't take long to prep him; he was already relaxed and welcoming.

Gibbs pulled his buttocks apart gently and pressed his cock against Tony’s hole. He went in easily, gliding right in, up to the hilt, in one effortless thrust. Gibbs lowered his weight down, so that he was almost resting on Tony's chest, and looked into his sub's eyes as he moved his hips back and then forward again. Tony couldn't look away. He could only look up as he surrendered to his dom, pinned into place by the force of that blue-eyed gaze.

Gibbs didn’t touch his sub’s cock, and Tony made no move to reach for it, either. He wasn't interested in his own arousal – he just wanted to offer himself up to Gibbs, for his pleasure.

Gibbs held Tony still beneath him, as he slowly but forcefully took what he wanted from his sub. Tony could feel his prostate being stimulated with each inward stroke, and his own arousal built inside him, but still he didn't move.

Tony wasn't sure how long his dom made love to him in this way, fucking him so slowly, looking into his eyes as he moved inside him, taking his time. It felt so intimate and loving – and he was more aware of his own submission and Gibbs's dominance than at any other point in their relationship. Then, at last, Gibbs moved the pace along, thrusting more forcefully, and his body convulsed as he came with a loud growl.

He hung there for a moment, blinking, still looking down on his sub, then sank down onto Tony's body and kissed his sub tenderly. Tony wrapped his arms around Gibbs's back, holding him there, enjoying the connection.

After several minutes Gibbs withdrew – and then, without warning, he moved down and took his sub's cock into his mouth. Tony gasped, his fingers scrabbling at the sheets in surprise. Gibbs worked his lips over Tony's hard flesh, sucking expertly, and before long Tony was coming in his dom's mouth. He watched, blinking incredulously, as Gibbs swallowed every single drop. Then Gibbs wiped his hand over his mouth and returned to Tony's side. He dropped down beside Tony, grinning at his sub as he pulled him into his arms.

"You let me come!" Tony exclaimed.

Gibbs laughed out loud. "Well yeah, DiNozzo. I noticed." He licked his lips in a way that was positively obscene.

"But…why?" Tony asked, in a befuddled, post-orgasmic haze.

"'Cause you didn't ask, or try to get yourself off. And because you gave me everything today, Tony – and I know how hard that was for you. And because you gave me everything in bed tonight too – and making love to you has never been sweeter than it was just now. And also – 'cause you're mine – and I want to keep you well fucked and happy."

"That's a lot of reasons," Tony grinned, rolling onto his side and resting his chin on Gibbs's shoulder. "Mmm, well fucked and happy," he muttered, and within seconds he was fast asleep.



~*~



Gibbs woke in the middle of the night to a soft, whimpering sound. He looked around blearily, wondering what it was – it sounded like a trapped animal. Then he realised it was Tony. His sub had never had nightmares before, but maybe after what he'd been through over the past couple of days, and what Gibbs had asked him to face yesterday, it was hardly surprising.

Tony was trembling. He was mumbling something incomprehensible – his voice steadily growing higher in pitch until it ended in a helpless whine. Gibbs reached out, put a hand on his sub's shoulder, and pulled him in close. The effect was immediate. Tony curled up against him, chin coming to rest on his shoulder. Gibbs stroked him and the shaking slowly stopped.

Tony didn't wake up. Gibbs watched as his sub slumbered on, more peacefully this time. He was looking a little better. The swelling on his face had gone down, and his skin had lost its pallor. Gibbs thought he was on the road to recovery. It might take a while, but he'd get there. Gibbs would see to that.

Gibbs couldn't get back to sleep. Having his sub show this degree of trust in him was humbling – but it was also a responsibility, and Gibbs didn't take his responsibilities lightly. He lay there, thinking about what he had to do next. When he’d told Tony to give up his guilt to him so he could take care of it, he'd meant it. He had a pretty good idea where to start.

He spent the rest of the night stroking his sub's warm skin and occasionally pressing a kiss to Tony's cheek or his hair. When morning came, he fucked Tony gently awake, and then they spent the day much like the previous one. Gibbs kept Tony in bondage, fed him healthy food and forced him to rest. The one thing he couldn't bring himself to do was spank him. After what he'd heard about Tony's childhood, he didn't feel comfortable with it. Tony’s punishment issues were complex, and Gibbs needed some time to get his head around them.

As the day wore on, Tony started to look more and more like his old self, and by the evening, Gibbs thought they were done. "Punishment detail's over," he told his sub.

"Really? Wasn't that bad." Tony grinned at him. "Okay, the carrots were bad – don't ever do that to me again, Boss!"

"I will if you need it, Tony. But now, we need to talk about tomorrow."

"Okay, but I'm well enough to go back to work. Eye's doing fine. I can see again!" Tony pointed to his eye. The swelling around it was greatly reduced, and the eye, although bloodshot, was unharmed. His face was covered in an array of bruises in a variety of different colours, but he was making good progress.

"You're not going back to work tomorrow, DiNozzo," Gibbs told him firmly.

"Why not? I don't want to sit around here on my own all day. I told you, Gibbs, I'll be fine…"

"Neither of us is going to work tomorrow," Gibbs interrupted him. "Or the rest of the week."
He leaned forward and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Tony," he said. They were hard words to get out, and he wasn't used to saying them.

Tony gazed at him in disbelief. "Uh…did you just say you're sorry?" He looked around as if waiting for a drum roll. "Did Leroy Jethro Gibbs actually say the 's' word?" He laughed out loud. "Oh man, this is good! Damn it, I wish I had it taped; McGee will never believe me."

Gibbs glared at him.

"Uh…and I won't tell him! I promise!" Tony grinned. "Hang on – why are you sorry, Boss? I mean, what are you sorry for? What did you do? You didn't go and get yourself beaten up by some Neanderthal, did you, 'cause I have to tell you – not a good idea. Hurts like hell."

"You gonna shut up, or do I have to gag you?" Gibbs asked impassively.

"Uh…shutting up, Boss," Tony said cheerfully. Gibbs couldn't help grinning all the same. God, it was good to have the old Tony back.

"I'm sorry because I screwed up when I first took you as my sub. I just picked you up one Saturday night, brought ya home with me, and then we went back to work on Monday like nothin' happened. Should’a taken the week off then and got to know my sub properly. If I had - well, maybe things would have turned out differently."

He gazed at Tony's bruised face meaningfully.

“Not necessarily,” Tony sighed. “I’m a stubborn shit, Gibbs. I was holding out on you all this time. Took that chain of events to bring me to where we are now. I don’t think it would have happened any sooner even if we’d given it more time that first week.”

“Well, we’ll never know. Should have done it anyway.” Gibbs shrugged.

"So we have the week off?"

"Yeah. I figure we need the time to get really comfortable with who and what we are to each other before we go back to work."

"And have lots of sex?" Tony suggested.

Gibbs rolled his eyes. "Yeah. That too."

"A sex vacation! I like it!"

"Idiot." Gibbs slapped his sub's thigh. "I can see I'm gonna have to find ways of keeping you under control during the next week, DiNozzo. I'll happily deploy that gag if necessary."

Tony grinned at him cheerfully. "You can gag me if you want, Boss, I don't mind. Hell, I kinda like it - although I like it more when you…

Gibbs rolled his eyes as his sub rambled on, but he was delighted by the sense of ease that now existed between them. They needed this – they needed time to be sub and dom, time to just be lovers, without any of the pressures of work and the outside world. They had some challenges to face in the coming week, but Gibbs wasn't about to tell Tony that.

For now, he just rolled on top of his sub and kissed him until Tony – finally! – shut up.



~*~



Tony was surprised when Gibbs threw some clothes at him the following morning.

"You're allowing me to get dressed?" He held up the black jeans and green shirt. "And in nice clothes too?" He raised an eyebrow. "Usually you don't like me wearing this kinda stuff in case other guys ogle my ass."

Gibbs slapped the back of his head.

"Yes, Boss. Thank you, Boss. So – why the clothes?" Tony asked, as he got dressed.

"'Cause you have a visitor, DiNozzo."

"A visitor?" Tony frowned. "Who?"

"Someone you need to see."

"Can't be Ziva or McGee then," Tony mused. "'Cause, you know, much as I love them, I really don't need to see 'em during my week's sex vacation." Gibbs slapped his head again and then gently tousled his hair, and Tony grinned happily. "Is it Ducky? Is he coming around to check the eye is okay?" He pointed at his left eye, which was now fine – if you discounted all the bruising around it. He started buttoning up his shirt.

"It isn't Ducky," Gibbs told him.

Tony looked up, his fingers suddenly faltering. "It's Abby, isn't it?" he asked softly.

"Yes, Tony. It's Abby." Gibbs finished buttoning up his shirt for him while Tony stood there, feeling winded. "Have to see her some time," Gibbs said sensibly. "And she really wants to see you. I've been holding her at arm's length for the past few days."

"Uh…I dunno," Tony muttered, looking at the floor.

Gibbs put a finger under his chin and lifted his face. "Mine now, DiNozzo. You gave it up to me, remember?”

"Okay." Tony swallowed hard, recognising that this would be a test of the promise he'd made to his dom.

There was a knock on the door at 11 a.m. Tony got to his feet nervously as Gibbs went to answer it. He rubbed the palms of his hands together, feeling them prickling with sweat. Christ, this was Abby! He shouldn't feel anxious about seeing her again, but he couldn't get their last meeting out of his mind. Seeing her sitting in that hospital bed with that big white bandage around her head…

A second later, a blur of excited motion burst into the room. Abby ran over to him, took one look at him, uttered a disapproving, "Oh, Tony!" at the sight of his bruises, and then enveloped him in a big bear hug.

His arms went around her, and it felt so good to hug her again. He hadn't realised how much he'd missed his Abby-hugs.

It was only when she finally released him that he got a good look at her. He was dreading it – but she actually looked really good. Her hair was growing back in, soft and…blonde?

"Hey, goldilocks!" he teased, running his fingers through the short golden strands. She laughed – and blushed.

"You like it?"

"Yeah. Wow…who'da thought our Goth girl was secretly a blonde, huh?"

He examined the hair in more detail. There wasn't much of it yet, and her scar was still visible underneath, but somehow the extremely short hair lent her a sophisticated quality that was very appealing. It brought out the colour of her eyes, making them seem particularly luminous. She’d always been pretty, but without the Goth make-up and ultra-dark hair, the natural beauty of her face shone through even more.

"Well, don't tell anyone, but I've been dying my hair black since I was thirteen." She grinned.

"And I thought that particular shade of raven was natural." He grinned back at her. He wasn't sure where Gibbs was – the man seemed to have disappeared.

"Nah – it's always been blonde, but who wants to be a blonde, huh?" she said, sitting down on the couch and pulling on his hand to make him sit down beside her. "I mean…just the blonde jokes alone…" she shuddered.

"So – you gonna dye it again?"

"No." She shook her head. "Um, don't tell anyone this, Tony, but I'm 32. Kinda old to still be doing that teen rebellion stuff. So…I'm gonna own up to being a blonde and to hell with the consequences! I figure it's time. These past couple of weeks have given me time to think a few things through…"

"You're not leaving NCIS are you?" Tony asked in alarm. "Don't do that. Gibbs would be torture to live with."

"Aw, I think you kinda like it when Gibbs is in a torturing mood.” She winked at him.

He laughed out loud. "You could be right. But that guy they sent to replace you is useless – Gibbs can't even be in the same room as him without exploding. I’ve spent the past two weeks running up and down between your lab and the squad room with messages just to avoid a bloodbath. I'm exhausted." He clutched his chest, panting dramatically. "So, please, please tell me you aren't leaving."

"Idiot." She punched his arm. "No way, Mister! We're family – you don't get rid of me that easily. I just meant that there’s more to me than the clothes and hair and all that stuff."

"You're not gonna start wearing your court suit to work every day are you?" Tony shuddered.

She grinned. "Hell no! But…it might be time to explore some other parts of Abby – y'know?"

"Yeah. I do. I came to the same conclusion a few months ago and…well, it wasn’t easy at first, but it's pretty damn good now."

She looked at him searchingly, her gaze lingering on his bruised face. "Gibbs wouldn't tell me what happened, but you've been kind of an idiot, haven't you?" she asked quietly.

"Kinda. Yeah." He shrugged.

"Bet Gibbs gave you a hard time about those bruises."

"You have no idea!” Tony grimaced. “Yeah, he's been tough on me, Abs.”

“And that makes you feel loved,” Abby grinned. “I guess because someone cares enough to bother?”

He looked down and then up again, straight at her. “Yeah. I guess.”

She leaned over and gently kissed his cheek. "He's not the only one who cares, Tony." Then she drew back. "Okay, tell me what’s been happening at NCIS," she demanded. "I want all the gossip! Are my babies all okay? Major Mass Spec, and Bert and all the gang? Is this new guy treating them properly? Oh – and is Ziva still seeing her mystery boyfriend? I want to hear it all!" She settled in beside him.

He put his arm around her and pulled her in close. She was fine. She was better than fine – she was good. Maybe she was telling him what he wanted to hear about her hair, but, knowing Abby, he suspected she was genuinely able to be that positive about it.

He grinned down on her. "Okay…well, Vance is missing you like crazy, obviously…”



~*~



Gibbs pulled the living room door shut with a smile. At least that was one situation resolved, although it had been relatively easy compared to his next task.

He went down into the basement and called the NCIS HR department to get the number he wanted. He'd almost called this number once before, several years ago, when Tony had been infected with the plague. Things hadn't looked good for awhile back then…but something in his gut had stopped him making the call. He was glad about that now, knowing what he did.

This time it was different. This time he *did* have to make the call. He dialled the number and waited.

A young, female voice answered: "DiNozzo Holdings, good morning, how may I help?"



~*~



The following day Gibbs woke Tony early, and then surprised him by throwing clothes at him again, for the second day running.

"Is it my birthday or something?" Tony grinned, holding up the jeans and his favourite blue sweater. "I get to run around without my ass hanging out for two days in a row?"

Gibbs fondled said ass on his way to the bathroom. "I like your ass hanging out – makes it available for whatever I wanna do to it."

"So why the clothes?" Tony called after him.

"'Cause you have more visitors, DiNozzo," Gibbs replied.

Tony had no idea who to expect this time, but half an hour later two old friends arrived.

Mulder walked into the living room, took one look at Tony’s multi-hued face, and grinned. “You’ve been an idiot,” he said.

Tony made a face at him. "I wish people would stop saying that."

"It's true though," Gibbs grunted.

Walter stepped over to him and looked at him searchingly for a few moments. Tony wilted under that solemn, brown-eyed gaze.

"You *have* been an idiot," Walter said sternly.

"Yeah. I know," Tony muttered.

"But Jethro's taken care of it." Walter pulled Tony into an unexpected hug. Then he released him and shot a grin at Mulder. "Reminds me of the old days – taking care of you after you did something stupid. You were a full-time job back then. Still are sometimes, although I think I've managed to spank some sense into you."

Mulder rolled his eyes. "There's no reason to bring up the bad old days, Master. C’mon, Tony - let's get moving before Walter starts reminiscing, or we'll be here all day."

"We're going somewhere?" Tony asked, startled, as Walter put an arm around him and began ushering him towards the door. Tony looked back over his shoulder at his dom. He suddenly noticed that Gibbs was wearing a suit – and Gibbs never wore a suit unless he was due in court or in a meeting with Secnav. "You coming with us, Boss?"

"Nope." Gibbs shook his head. "I have someplace else to be today, Tony. Rest of the week is all yours though," he added quickly. "Trust me?"

Tony bit on his lip and then nodded. "Yes, Boss. So…" He turned back to Walter and Mulder. "Where are we going?"

"Shopping," Walter announced. "Clothes, shoes – I know this great tailor I want to introduce you to, Tony. I figure you're the kind of guy who appreciates the finer things in life."

"Really? Cool!" Tony was delighted. "Jethro avoids shopping like the plague – although if he'd ever actually *had* the plague, he might realise that shopping isn't so bad in comparison."

"I'm with Gibbs on this," Mulder said. "I can't believe there's someone else in the world who likes going to see a tailor as much as Walter does. It's insane."

"I'll see you later, Tony." Gibbs took hold of his face and dropped a light kiss on his mouth. "Have a good day."

Tony watched his dom disappear out of the front door. "Could we buy some stuff for him?" he asked Walter mournfully. "I mean, he's a great guy, don't get me wrong, but did you see the cut of that suit?"

Walter laughed out loud. "You're a man after my own heart, Tony," he said, ushering Tony out of the door.

"When we're finished with the shopping – which can't be a moment too soon as far as I'm concerned," Mulder said with a shudder. "Walter is taking us to the Hoover Building to look at this case he's overseeing."

"A case?" Tony looked up, surprised.

"Yeah – I could use some 'outside the box' type thinking on this one, and…" Walter paused, and gazed at the two subs with a glint in his dark eyes. "Well, they don't come much more outside the box than you two."

Tony grinned; this was shaping up to be an extremely good day. Good company, good shopping, and people he didn't have to pretend with. The only downside was that he wouldn't see Gibbs all day – and he had absolutely no idea where his dom had gone.



~*~



Gibbs sat in the lobby at DiNozzo Holdings, pretending to read his newspaper. At 1 p.m. sharp, he saw the owner of the company emerge from the elevator, deep in conversation with two men.

Gibbs studied DiNozzo senior over the top of his newspaper. If he hadn't had McGee pull up some photographs, he wouldn't have known this man was Tony's father. He couldn't see much of his sub in this big man with the crop of thinning white hair and the wide, bullish jaw.

Gibbs got up, leaving his newspaper behind on his seat, and followed his quarry out into the street. He caught up with the three men a block away from the office and moved up alongside them. Then he reached out and gripped DiNozzo's arm - hard. He turned, a startled look on his face.

"Mr. DiNozzo? I'm Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS," Gibbs said pleasantly, with just a hint of steel in his voice.

DiNozzo looked surprised. "Agent Gibbs? NCIS? Is this about my son?"

"Yup."

"Is he okay?"

Gibbs searched for a sign of genuine concern in the man's eyes, and thought he saw it, but with a big, bluff businessman like DiNozzo Snr, it was hard to tell. At least the man had asked the right question.

"He will be if I have anything to do with it," Gibbs responded curtly. "I believe you have a reservation at an Italian restaurant on the next block?"

"How do you know that?" DiNozzo demanded.

"I'm an investigator, Mr. DiNozzo. It’s what I do." Gibbs gave a deceptive smile. He gestured at his suit. "I hope we're eating at Marcello's because I dressed for somewhere classy."

DiNozzo looked confused. "You're having lunch with us?"

"No. I'm having lunch with you. The flunkies can disappear." Gibbs glared at the two men with Tony's father. DiNozzo senior bristled angrily at his tone.

"The hell they can! Look, Agent Gibbs, if you want a meeting with me, then you can damn well make an appointment like anyone else!"

"I tried – yesterday," Gibbs replied. "Apparently your calendar is full for the next three months. I asked to be put through to you, but your secretary guards you closely, Mr. DiNozzo. And this wasn’t something I wanted to leave a message about."

"Do you want us to call office security, sir?" one of the flunkies asked, looking at Gibbs nervously.

"Go ahead." Gibbs grinned at them. "I just want a quiet word with you about some injuries your son sustained as a child, Mr. DiNozzo. But if that's a conversation you'd prefer to have in public, that's fine by me."

All the blood drained instantly from DiNozzo's face. "I'll answer your questions, Agent Gibbs," he said quietly. "Go back to the office," he ordered his people. The flunkies didn't need telling twice, and they melted away without a word.

Gibbs kept his tight grip on DiNozzo's arm as they walked the rest of the way to the restaurant in a grim silence. Gibbs almost hoped the man would try and make a run for it – he'd enjoy chasing after him and landing a punch or two.

DiNozzo didn't make a move though. They were greeted at the restaurant by the Maitre'd, who was clearly expecting him.

"A table for three, wasn't it, Senor DiNozzo?"

"Just two now," DiNozzo growled. "And make it somewhere private, Mario."

They were ushered into the back of the restaurant. Gibbs sat down and watched DiNozzo take his seat. The man was big – he hated the thought of him towering over a young Tony, punching and kicking him in a haze of drunken abuse. Gibbs clenched his fists and reeled himself back in.

DiNozzo ordered a brandy; Gibbs just ordered mineral water. The brandy arrived, and DiNozzo downed it all in one gulp and then ordered another.

"What's this about, Agent Gibbs?" he demanded. “Has something happened to Tony?"

"Yeah - he got beat up pretty bad a few days ago."

He saw something he hadn't expected in the other man's eyes – concern maybe?

"You said he'd be okay?" DiNozzo asked. The replacement brandy arrived, and he took a substantial gulp.

"Yeah. He will. He always bounces back after a beating - but I figure you know that already."

DiNozzo winced. He finished the second brandy and looked at Gibbs, his eyes dark.

"Okay, Agent Gibbs, you can stop toying with me. What do you want from me? Does Tony know you're here? Did he send you?"

"No, Tony doesn’t know I’m here, and he sure as hell didn’t send me. I’m here to try and figure out what to do about you. See, I have a thing about justice. It’s why I joined NCIS. I don’t like to see people walk away from their crimes unpunished.”

“That’s what you think I did? Walk away unpunished?”

“Didn’t you?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “Do you deny what you did to Tony after his mom died?”

DiNozzo drew out a handkerchief and wiped it over his forehead. “You’re talking about…”

“I’m talking about you using him as punching bag, yeah,” Gibbs growled. “Christ, he was just a child! How the hell could you do that to your own son?"

DiNozzo's eyes flashed. "You don't know anything about it."

"You're wrong – I know everything. Tony kept your nasty little secret for a long time, but he finally spilled to me. He told me how you used to get drunk and then go yell at him and beat up on him night after night for months on end.”

DiNozzo mopped his brow again, with shaking hands. "It was the drink. I was drinking far too much back then."

"Still are," Gibbs retorted, jerking his head meaningfully at the empty glass on the table.

DiNozzo shook his head. "No – I drink hard, all the men in my family do, but it's not the same. I was never sober back then. It was a dark time. I wouldn't expect you to understand. Nobody could. I'd just lost my wife, and…"

"Before you go any further – *you* have to understand this." Gibbs leaned forward. "I lost my wife in a car wreck too, so don't try and bullshit me. I *will* see through you."

DiNozzo gave him a startled look. “I didn’t know that. Tony never said. I’m sorry. Look, I deserve the way you're looking at me right now, Agent Gibbs, but you have to understand how it was."

"I do understand how it was. Tony had been in a serious car accident - he had a broken arm, and he’d just lost his mom. He was in shock, he was grieving, and he was just a kid. He’d only just turned eleven years old for Christ’s sake! And instead of being there for him, to help him through all that, you turned around and beat up on him instead. That part I’ll never be able to understand, DiNozzo.”

The other man’s hands were trembling where they were still clutching his handkerchief. "I know, I know. I can understand your anger, Gibbs. The truth is that I blamed Tony for his mother's death.”

"Yeah, he told me. And hey – guess what? He blames himself too."

"He still does? After all this time?" DiNozzo looked surprised.

"Did you ever tell him any different?"

"No." DiNozzo shook his head. "I didn't want to bring up that time – that terrible time. Tony seemed to get over it. He…well, you know what he's like, always joking around. He's so like his mom." His voice broke a little as he said that, and he grabbed Gibbs's glass of water and took a gulp.

"I took a look at the police report of your wife's accident," Gibbs said, leaning forward. "The brake pads on the car were in poor condition. Business wasn't going so well for you back then, so the car hadn't been serviced in a while."

DiNozzo sat there, as if he'd been turned into stone. "The police report? How the hell did you…?"

Gibbs gave a dismissive jerk of his head. "NCIS. I can get hold of things like that."

DiNozzo nodded. "You're right. We were struggling financially. We could only afford to keep Tony in that damn school because his aunt paid for it."

"You never told Tony about the brakes on the car?" Gibbs asked.

DiNozzo took another gulp of the water.

"You didn’t, did you?" Gibbs slammed his hand angrily on the table, making the man jump.

"No! No, I didn't."

"You let that poor kid blame himself," Gibbs growled. "All those years, you let him blame himself, even though it wasn't his fault."

"I told you – I didn't want to bring the subject up again. I thought it was better if we put it behind us and moved on."

"Better for who? You or him?" Gibbs sat back, a derisive sneer on his lips.

"You think you know how it was, but you don't," DiNozzo snapped, clearly stung by the accusation. "Tony and I weren’t close before the accident. I loved him very much, but he and his mom were like an exclusive little club, and I wasn’t part of it.”

“You were jealous of your own son?” Gibbs asked, in disbelief.

“No! But he was turning into a mommy's boy. I used to worry that he might grow up…not one of us. Y'know? Thought he might turn out queer."

Gibbs laughed out loud at that.

"Back in those days it wasn't as accepted as it is now," DiNozzo hissed, in an agonised tone. "I wanted the best for the boy, but he didn’t need me – he only ever wanted his mother."

"You’re his father!" Gibbs leaned forward, feeling angrier than ever. "Of course he damn well needed you. Do you know that he used to go down to your study when you were drunk, sit down on the couch beside you, and put your arm around his shoulder to pretend you were giving him some affection?”

"He…he told you that? He did that?" DiNozzo crumpled, visibly, taking Gibbs by surprise. "I didn't know,” he whispered hoarsely.

"You were too damn drunk to know."

"Yes." DiNozzo nodded. "I don't deny it. After my wife died, I was constantly drunk for six months."

"Do you even remember beating up on Tony?"

DiNozzo gazed down at the table.

"Or were you too drunk to remember?" Gibbs demanded.

DiNozzo raised his head, his eyes dark with shame. "I saw the bruises on him, but I didn't want to admit that it was me who had put them there. I told myself he'd hurt himself playing around – you know, the way kids do. Climbing trees – he spent a lot of time doing that. Probably to get away from me. I’m horrified by what I did, Gibbs, you have to believe that."

Gibbs sat back in his chair and surveyed DiNozzo thoughtfully. He had been negligent, abusive and weak, but he knew what he’d done, and he was ashamed of it. That at least answered one of his questions about the man.

"I kept him out of school. Pretended he was being home-schooled – but in reality he just ran wild during those six months. So there was nobody to see the bruises on him - nobody except me."

DiNozzo ran a shaky hand through his hair again. "And I did see them, Agent Gibbs…and one day I woke up, and found he had a black eye and a split lip. That's when I couldn't keep pretending any more. I sobered up pretty damn quick."

"What did you do?"

"I sent him away. Made some calls, got him into a military academy."

"You damn coward," Gibbs said coldly.

"I thought I was doing the right thing!” DiNozzo protested. “I was trying to protect him. I thought I was keeping him safe, getting him out of harm’s way.”

"You beat up on him every night for months on end, called him names, told him he was the cause of his mom's death, and then one day you just sent him away? And you think that was the right thing? The right thing would have been to man up and take some responsibility. The right thing would have been for you to sit down and apologise to the kid and try to make amends. The right thing would have been to not let him go through his life thinking he killed his mom. Christ, you’re a piece of work.”

So much of Tony's personality made total sense now. Gibbs wished he could grab his sub, hold him close, and never let him go.

DiNozzo's jaw tightened – Gibbs guessed he wasn't used to being challenged.

“Those are hard words, Agent Gibbs.”

“Do you deny them?”

“I thought I was doing it for the best. I couldn't trust myself to be around him. He looks so much like his mom – he was a constant reminder of what I'd lost.

"Sending him away might have got him out of the reach of your fists, but he just thought you'd rejected him.”

“I tried to make it up to him! I spoiled him later – gave him far too much money for awhile, until it became clear it was having a bad effect on him. I offered him a place in the business when he was older, but he wasn’t interested. He didn’t get along with my second wife – there were blazing arguments. He wasn’t an easy teenager, Gibbs.”

“I’m not surprised,” Gibbs grunted. “So you thought disowning him would bring him back into line?”

“He was spending my money like it was water. All he thought about were girls, parties and cars. I didn’t want him turning into a spoilt brat.”

“Maybe he was trying to get your attention?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “Or get back at you for how you’d treated him? Did you ever think of that? How did you respond?”

DiNozzo’s eyes flickered in annoyance. “I sent him away to stay with his mom’s family in England.”

Gibbs gave a bitter bark of laughter. “Ah. So he learned that if he screwed up, he either got kicked around or sent away?” Tony’s two dead-end options suddenly came into focus with stark clarity.

“He was heading towards the gutter! I tried to pull him around before it was too late! How would raking up the past, talking about his mom’s death, and opening up any of those old wounds have helped him?” DiNozzo snapped.

“They never damn well healed!” Gibbs slammed his fist down on the table again, making DiNozzo blink in surprise. “Those old wounds never healed. They’re still there.”

“What do you want me to do about it?” DiNozzo demanded. “I tried to help him, but he made his choices. He rejected me and the business. He went his own way.”

“Do you blame him?”

DiNozzo’s jaw clicked angrily. They were silent for awhile.

"So what are you going to do?" DiNozzo asked eventually. "I'm a wealthy man. There's some mileage in this if you wanted to go public with it."

"How the hell would that help Tony?" Gibbs growled.

“Does Tony need any help?” DiNozzo looked surprised. “He sounds fine when I talk to him. He loves his job – he talks about you all the time when he calls.”

“He does?” It was Gibbs’s turn to be surprised.

“Hell yes. It’s all ‘Gibbs this’ and ‘Gibbs that’. He has a serious case of hero worship.” There was a note of bitterness in his voice.

“Yeah, well, I guess his dad wasn’t much of a role model.” Gibbs intended the barb to hit home, and it did. DiNozzo’s eyes flashed angrily again.

"Look, I pulled myself around, Agent Gibbs. I went through a bad patch, and I did some things that I regret. But I cut back on the drinking, I got Tony out of harm's way, and I made my company a big success. I give myself credit for that.”

"Well, I'm glad you give yourself credit," Gibbs told him coldly. "Now give your son some credit for surviving the many ways in which you fucked him up.”

“What do you want from me? You want me to make amends somehow? Is that why you’re here?”

“You think you can?” Gibbs leaned forward. “Because Tony needs to hear something from you that he won't hear from me. Think you can do it?”

“I’m not the coward you think I am!”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow, and DiNozzo looked like he wanted to slap him.

“Do you even have it in you to be humble, DiNozzo?” Gibbs demanded. “Can you forget that Tony is a disappointment to you, that you disapprove of the choices he’s made in his life, and that you resent that he’s never given you the respect you think you deserve? Can you put all that aside and remember the child you punched and kicked and yelled abuse at for six long months? Can you do that? Can you talk to that child and not the adult son who pisses you off so much in so many different ways?”

DiNozzo glared at him.

“You admit you did wrong. Now - are you man enough to do something about it?” Gibbs asked. “You think about it. If you think you can do it – if you think you can put aside all the other crap and just tell him what he needs to hear, then call me.” He threw his card down on the table. “In the meantime, if you try and contact Tony you’ll answer to me – and trust me, you won’t like that very much. We're done here. You enjoy your lunch.”

And with that, he got up and stalked out of the restaurant. He went to a nearby park and banged his hand against a tree a couple of times until he started to feel less like throttling someone. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.

"Hey, Boss," Tony's cheerful voice answered. "Nice timing. We're buying shoes. What size are you again?"

Gibbs laughed out loud. God, it was good to hear his sub's voice.

"Thought Walter was going to get your help on a case?"

"Yeah – he is. We kind of got side-tracked by the shoes. Mulder's leaning against the wall looking like he'd rather be mauled by tigers. It's the same expression you always get when I mention going shopping, Boss – although obviously in your case it's the tigers who end up getting mauled. Hey – where are you, Boss? What you doing?"

"I'm on my way home," Gibbs told him firmly. "I'll pick you up at the Hoover building later."

He closed the cell phone with a smile. Talking to Tony was guaranteed to soothe him out of a bad mood.

He called Tony again when he got back to DC, but Tony was having a great time at the Hoover Building so he left him there and went into the office for a couple of hours to check on how much of a mess McGee was making of things in his absence.

He was just thinking of leaving when his cell phone rang.

“Gibbs?” He recognised the voice immediately. He hadn’t expected to hear from Tony’s father so soon, and he stiffened, wondering what the man had to say. “I’ve been thinking about everything you said,” DiNozzo continued. “And I have an answer for you.”



~*~



Gibbs seemed to be in a serious mood when he picked Tony up. He was distracted, like there was something on his mind. Tony was used to his dom being a man of few words but this seemed like more than that. He wondered where the hell Gibbs had been all day.

Tony threw his bags into the trunk of the car and got in beside Gibbs.

“Hey - you’ll like this – I saw Fornell while I was at the FBI this afternoon,” Tony said, trying to get a reaction out of his dom.

Gibbs frowned. “Aw, hell, Walter promised me he’d keep you two apart. You didn’t piss Fornell off, did you?”

“Moi? Of course I damn well did, Jethro! No fun in being the guest of the Deputy Director of the FBI if I couldn’t make some mileage out of taunting poor old Tobias.”

“What did you do?”

Tony grinned. “I told him that Walter had *personally* asked for my help on this case, because his own people were making such a crap job of it. As Fornell is heading up the investigation, he wasn’t too happy about that.”

“Ya think, DiNozzo?” Gibbs turned to glare at him.

“Fornell will probably be calling you at some point. Uh…he might want to make a complaint about me.”

“I’m used to it,” Gibbs sighed.

“So – how was your day?” Tony asked cautiously.

“It was fine. What the hell is in all those bags you threw in the trunk, Tony? ‘Cause we’re running out of closet space.”

“Yeah, but I figure one of the perks of having a dom who can make boats and, uh, *certain* items of furniture, is that he can also build us a new closet if we need one.” Tony winked.

They arrived home, and Gibbs helped him take the bags upstairs.

“You gotta see this stuff…” Tony began opening up one of the bags. “Look at these!” He pulled out a pair of glossy, honey-coloured shoes. Gibbs caught the price tag.

“$695? You paid nearly seven hundred bucks for a pair of shoes, DiNozzo?”

“Not just ANY shoes, Gibbs! These are a pair of Tanino Crisci originals! Did you know that Crisci only makes 25,000 pairs of shoes a year? And they only retail in ten stores around the world?”

“How did you get hold of this pair then?”

“Ah,” Tony tapped his nose infuriatingly. “Walter’s tailor, Elliott, is *really* good. He knows people who know people.”

Gibbs was staring at him as if he’d grown another head.

“Moving on then…” Tony pulled a pair of black leather pants out of another bag. “What do you think?” He held them up.

“Waste of money.” Gibbs shrugged.

“Why?”

“Because you’re not wearing pants like that out in public.”

“Oh - they’re not for me.” Tony grinned.

Gibbs glowered at him. “DiNozzo, do I have to check you for concussion again? ‘Cause if you think I’m going out to some club dressed in those…”

“Not any club – Murray’s. Saturday night. It’s Walter’s birthday, and he’s having a party there. No theme. Just, you know, regular fetish wear. We’re invited.”

“No.” Gibbs shook his head firmly.

“You’d look good. All the subby boys will fall at your feet and kiss your boots.”

“I’ve already got one to do that, and Christ knows, one’s enough.” Gibbs grinned.

“I bought a shirt to go with the pants. Okay, when I say ‘shirt’, it’s really more of a harness thing, but…”

“No.”

Gibbs sat down on the bed, and Tony was aware of his dom watching him, an amused, fond look in his eyes. There was something different about him, something that Tony couldn’t place. He was looking at Tony in a way that was both protective and predatory.

“How about this then? Thought you could use a new work shirt.” Tony held up the deep purple shirt.

“Purple?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “People will look at me like I’ve gone nuts.

“Hah! No - people will look at you like they want to jump your bones – which is how most people look at you anyway, although I doubt you’ve noticed. How about this?” Tony pulled another shirt out of the bag, in a more acceptable shade of navy blue.

“Hmmm.”

Gibbs was still looking at him in that intent way. Tony unpacked an array of shirts, pants, jackets, ties, and shoes, holding them all up for inspection. Gibbs barely seemed to look at any of them. He just made a muttered ‘uh-huh’ kind of sound as Tony held up each garment. He kept his gaze directed at Tony, and there was always that strange look in his eyes.

“I don’t want you to think I just got stuff for myself – and you.” Tony grinned. “I bought presents for Walter and Mulder too. They’ve been really good friends to us since all this – you, me – started. They were so cool today.”

“What did you buy them?”

“Got a money clip for Walter, saying ‘World’s Best Dad’, which is kind of an in-joke between us, ‘cause when we first met I thought he looked like Daddy Warbucks from the movie 'Annie', and you know how he’s always trying to take care of people, like he’s everyone’s dad,” Tony babbled. He was a little freaked out by the expression on Gibbs’s face. He was looking at him like he could see into Tony’s soul and knew every little demon that lurked inside.

“And that’s what dads do, is it? Take good care of you?” Gibbs’s raised eyebrow was uncompromising.

Tony put down the bag he was holding. “Not always, no,” he replied quietly. "Just…in my head, that's the way it should be."

"Yeah. I know. C’mere,” Gibbs said suddenly, holding out his hand.

Tony took the hand, and Gibbs pulled him onto his lap. It felt weird to be sitting in his dom’s lap like this, two grown men, but Gibbs pulled his face down and kissed him gently on the lips, and Tony relaxed into the embrace. If this was how his dom wanted him, that was fine by him.

“Everything okay, Boss?” Tony asked.

Gibbs rested his forehead against his sub’s. “Everything’s fine. I just wanna…” He pushed Tony off his lap and onto the bed. “Just wanna play with my sub’s body,” he murmured, looking down on Tony.

Tony gazed up at him. He’d never seen Gibbs in such an unguarded moment before, and he was stunned by the depth of love and affection he saw in his dom’s eyes. Gibbs brushed Tony’s hair off his forehead, and then he ran a gentle finger down Tony’s face, ending up at his lips. Tony sucked the finger into his mouth, never taking his eyes off Gibbs, fascinated by the expression in his eyes. He’d had girlfriends who proclaimed to love him before, but none of them had ever looked at him like *this*. Gibbs had never said the actual words to him, but Tony was beginning to understand that with Gibbs, actions always spoke louder than words.

Gibbs withdrew the finger and began unbuttoning Tony’s shirt.

“You sure you’re okay?” Tony asked.

“Ssh.” Gibbs undressed him slowly, like he was some kind of precious parcel. This wasn’t like Gibbs, who usually barked out a terse “strip!” whenever he wanted his sub naked. Tony lay there, looking up at his dom, puzzled. Gibbs opened his shirt to reveal his torso. He dipped his head and sucked gently at Tony’s nipples until they stood up in two aroused points.

Gibbs unzipped Tony’s jeans and released his hardening cock. He eased Tony out of the rest of his clothes, kissing and caressing him gently as he went. When he was done, he removed his own clothes, quickly, and then turned back to his sub’s naked body.

He made love to Tony like he’d never made love to him before. There was a look of such sweetness in his eyes, combined with an expression of such loving intent that it made Tony shiver. Gibbs’s mouth, his tongue, and his fingertips went everywhere, roving over Tony’s body with a loving ease.

He teased Tony for what felt like hours, nipping his skin, sucking on it and licking it. He blew little caresses over the surface of Tony’s body and tickled him with the very tips of his fingernails, making Tony laugh and squirm and sigh.

“Am I allowed to use my safe word for tickling?” Tony gurgled, wriggling as Gibbs pitter-pattered out a staccato rhythm on his belly.

“If you want…” Gibbs sucked a line from Tony’s navel to his groin and then blew on the wet surface of his flesh. It felt sublime.

Tony sighed. “No…I don’t want…but that’s…ohhh…”

It was amazing. It felt like Gibbs was making love to every inch of his body. He didn’t leave any part of it un-tasted, un-kissed, or un-touched. Tony lost himself in the tenderness, in the incredible sensations, and, most of all, in his dom’s expression of total love as he worked on his sub.

When Gibbs finally sank his cock into Tony’s body Tony cried out in pleasure, and he came in time to the feel of his dom’s slick hand on his cock, and his dom’s long, slow, loving thrusts into his body.

Afterwards they lay there, entwined in each other’s arms, sweat cooling on their bodies.

“How long…?” Tony paused, trying to gather his thoughts. “Uh…how long did we just spend uh, doing that? Whatever that was?”

“Hours. Good?” Gibbs caressed his face lightly.

“Good? It was amazing. Nobody has ever…” He didn’t know the words to describe it. Nobody had ever made love to him like that before, as if they really *meant* it. Suddenly he understood why it was called ‘making love’, because it felt like that was what Gibbs had just done to him, for hours on end. “Why?” he asked quietly.

Gibbs turned and gazed at him. “Want ya to know how I feel about you. Not always good with the words. Thought I’d show you instead.”

Usually Tony would make a smart-assed remark to deflect from any intense emotional situation, but that didn’t seem appropriate right now.

“Love you too, Jethro,” Tony said softly.

Gibbs gave him a smile so breathtakingly intimate that it made Tony’s heart skip a beat.

“So what did you buy for Mulder?” Gibbs asked, resting his hand on Tony’s ass. Tony raised a tired eyebrow. "You said you got a gift for Walter *and* Mulder?"

“Oh…right…yeah! I got him a belt. Okay, so technically I bought the belt for Walter – it was sleek black leather, really nice quality, with this shiny silver buckle…but I really bought it for Mulder – thought he might enjoy how it felt on his bare butt.” He grinned at his dom conspiratorially as he said that. “Talking of which…” He hesitated. He didn’t want this to come out the wrong way.

“Mmm?” Gibbs stroked his ass cheek lightly.

“You haven’t spanked me since I told you about what happened with Dad,” Tony said quietly. “You said it was part of punishment detail, and you spanked me on Saturday, but after I told you…you stopped. And you haven’t done it since.”

He looked into Gibbs’s eyes, to find them dark and thoughtful.

“It’s not the same, y’know,” Tony said. “I like the spanking, Jethro. I liked it when you slapped my head all these years too. I like how it makes me feel. Damn it, I can’t believe I’m trying to talk myself into more spankings.” He grinned at Gibbs, but Gibbs didn’t smile back.

“You like it because it feels like punishment?” Gibbs asked.

“No,” Tony said honestly. “I like it because it makes me go kinda tingly inside. I like how it feels to know you can do that to me. I like it when you throw me over your knee and slowly warm my ass with your hand.”

“You like the paddle, the strap, the whip and the cane the same way?”

Tony shook his head. “No. Some are harder to take than others. I like the marks the cane gives me, and I like the way you can make me fly with the whip. I don’t say I understand it, but I like taking the things you hand out. It arouses me…it’s different to that night in the spare room, when you strapped me because I asked you to. That was about slaying the demons…but the other stuff – that’s about sex, Jethro. That’s about what makes you and me us – what makes it work. Even when I don't like the actual spanking, I like how it makes me feel inside. The act of surrendering to it, even though it's hard sometimes, turns me on. I don’t know how to explain it better than that.”

“Okay.” Gibbs leaned over and kissed him.

“You gonna start up again?”

“When I’m ready.”

“You need a safe word?” Tony grinned. “Hey, what would you choose as your safe word? I’m thinking something personal – like ‘semper fi’.”

“That’s two words.”

“Or ‘sniper’.”

“That’s just dumb.”

“So where *did* you go today?” Tony thought he’d timed that just right. He’d seen Gibbs run enough interrogations to know you slipped in the sucker punch when your opponent was least expecting it.

Gibbs wasn’t a rookie though, to be lured into that kind of trap. He looked at Tony steadily, his hand resting firmly on Tony’s ass, his thumb stroking gently over the bare skin.

“I went to see your father,” he said.



~*~



Tony stiffened beside him. Gibbs kept his hand where it was, stroking Tony’s ass the entire time.

"I said I'd take care of it, Tony. You had to know I'd do something."

"Yeah. I know what you're like. What did you say to him?" Tony looked resigned rather than angry, as if knew this was necessary, even though he wasn't happy to be facing the reality of it.

"I wanted to find out what kind of man he was. Not your view of him – my own."

"Bet he fucking loved you." Tony sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

"Yeah – you could say we locked horns."

Tony managed a faint grin. "I am totally seeing that mental image."

Gibbs sat up too. He watched as Tony ran his hands through his hair, clearly struggling to deal with this news.

"So, you talked about me?"

"Well, yeah, DiNozzo. That was kind of the point."

"And about *it*?"

"Yes." Gibbs nodded.

"And?" Tony looked at him sideways.

"He wants to see you."

"No," Tony said immediately.

"Yes," Gibbs said implacably. "You're mine now, remember, Tony, and so is this. You gave it up to me."

"I don't…I can't…"

"There's something he needs to say to you – and something you need to hear. I wouldn't have agreed to it if I wasn't very sure about what it is he wants to say."

"You don't understand. We have never, ever talked about it. Not even when it happened. He used to look at me some mornings like he was *surprised* I was covered in bruises, but he never once said a word to me about them."

"Maybe he was too drunk to remember giving them to you."

Tony gazed at his own hands moodily. "Then one day he just sent me away. No warning – just told me I was going to military academy the following day so to pack my stuff. It never happened again after that, but I always wondered if it might. I thought that maybe if I annoyed him enough he'd take a swing at me again, and as I got older I even wanted him to so I could punch him back. But he never did."

"Bet you had some fun trying to bait him into it though," Gibbs grunted.

"Yeah." Tony gave a little grin. "I was a nightmare. Must have driven him insane. I’ve taken a perverse kind of pleasure in being a disappointment to him all these years."

"You want to hurt him, the way he hurt you."

"Probably." Tony shrugged. "It's a complicated, fucked up relationship, Gibbs. I don't think one meeting is gonna mend it."

"It isn't," Gibbs agreed. "I don't know that you and he can ever be close – or if you'd want to be. This isn't about giving you a relationship with him that you've never had. This is about one thing and one thing only."

"What?" Tony raised an eyebrow.

"Forgiveness."

"What the hell makes you think I can *ever* forgive him?" Tony asked bitterly.

"Not you forgiving him – I don't give a damn about him," Gibbs growled. "No, this is about you forgiving yourself."

Tony stared at him blankly, his green eyes glassy. Gibbs leaned forward and squeezed his shoulder.

"I'll come with you. I'll be there. You won't be doing this alone."

Tony gazed at him for a long time, and Gibbs knew he was struggling with the trust issue again. He sat there, still squeezing firmly on Tony's shoulder, waiting for his sub to finish freaking out and come back to him. It took a few minutes, but then, finally, it happened. Tony released a long sigh and nodded.

"Where and when?" he asked quietly.

"Tomorrow. Lunchtime. He's coming to DC – said we'd meet him at the Mayflower restaurant at 1 p.m."

"Does he know about us?" Tony asked curiously. "Does he know that you tie up his son and fuck his brains out on a daily basis?"

"Hell no! This isn't about us, Tony. It's about you and him. If you wanna tell him about us another time then fine. That's your choice. But not tomorrow."

"He won't like it. He hates queers." Tony hunched his shoulders.

"I don't give a damn what he likes or hates," Gibbs growled. "He's a man who regularly beat up on his kid. I don't give a flying fuck about his opinion on our sex life. That's not an issue tomorrow anyway. Just hear what he has to say."

"Okay." Tony nodded. Then he gave Gibbs a little grin. "Would'a loved to be a fly on a wall when you met him today."

“Yeah…I bet you would.” Gibbs put his hand in Tony's hair, pulled his sub towards him, and kissed him.

"Come back to bed. It's late."

Tony lay down beside him, and Gibbs pulled him close and slung an arm over him to keep him there. Tony rested his chin on Gibbs's shoulder and they both lay there, eyes wide open.

Somehow, Gibbs didn’t think they’d be getting much sleep tonight.



~*~




Tony played with his cufflinks. He wasn't sure if he was nervous, or angry, or sad, or what the hell he was feeling. Gibbs was a solid presence by his side, as they walked into the restaurant, but that wasn’t much comfort.

Tony wasn’t sure what he expected of this meeting Gibbs had arranged. He and his father weren’t estranged - he still saw the man every so often. Once a year usually – Thanksgiving or Christmas. That was mainly because his father’s third wife had a soft spot for him and talked him into it. He and his father exchanged small talk and, if Tony was in a mood for a fight, he’d start one just for the sake of it. He knew it was childish, and he’d never really known what he was trying to achieve by it. It was just something he did. This meeting would be different. It would be honest if nothing else – and DiNozzo men preferred avoidance to honesty any day, so they’d both be out of their comfort zone. It wasn’t a happy prospect.

They were early, and his father hadn’t arrived yet, so they waited at the bar.

“I’ll have a whisky,” Tony growled.

“Two mineral waters,” Gibbs told the barman.

Tony glared at him. “It’s not like you have a great track record where liquor is concerned,” he snapped. “Amount of times you've mainlined bourbon while working on that boat of yours.”

Gibbs turned and gave him the death glare.

"Wish you'd let me wear my collar," Tony muttered, pulling at his shirt. He didn’t like the feel of his neck without the comforting reassurance of the collar. They'd had an argument about it before they left the house, but Gibbs had insisted that Tony wear the key on the thong instead of the collar, just in case the collar showed. Gibbs didn't want any distractions from whatever the hell it was he expected Tony and his father to talk about.

"If I'm gonna go through with this, then I'd at least like to know it's because I'm your collared sub and haven't got a damn choice," Tony added petulantly.

"There's always a choice, Tony," Gibbs told him blandly. "You can safe word your way out of this if you want."

Tony glared at him. "Yeah. Right. You know I won’t do that. Bastard."

"Guilty as charged." Gibbs glanced at his watch. "It's early. Your dad won't show for another half an hour. With me," he ordered.

“Where are we going?”

Gibbs didn’t answer, so Tony had no choice but to follow his dom into the restaurant's men's room, wondering what the hell Gibbs had planned. The men’s room was empty. Gibbs shoved him into a stall and locked the door behind them.

"Suck me," he said.

"WHAT?"

"You heard. Do it." Gibbs put his hands on Tony's shoulders and pushed him down. Tony checked the floor but it was spotless, so he went down onto his knees.

"I can't believe you're making me do this NOW," he grumbled.

"You might not be wearing my collar, but you're still my damn sub, and I want you to suck me. So do it," Gibbs ordered.

Tony glared up at his dom in mute rebellion, but then gave in and opened Gibbs's fly.

"It isn't normal for anyone to be this horny," Tony complained, as Gibbs's semi-erect cock sprang out. "You already fucked me this morning and now…unmph…"

Gibbs took hold of Tony’s head and slid his cock into his mouth, effectively shutting him up. Tony continued glaring at him, but that wasn't easy when he was having his mouth so comprehensively fucked. In the end he surrendered, and started to relax at the familiar sensation of taking his dom's big, smooth cock in his mouth. He closed his eyes and sucked down, enjoying the way Gibbs was exercising his authority. He had no idea why he found it such a turn on, but he did.

He forgot about the imminent meeting with his father, forgot about everything except the feel of his dom's large cock sliding between his lips. It seemed to soothe him, and before long he'd zoned out to the rhythmic thrusts of Gibbs’s hips against his face. Gibbs took his time, and when he finally came Tony enjoyed the taste of his warm come. He swallowed it down and then cleaned up Gibbs's cock with little laps of his tongue. Then he tucked Gibbs’s cock back into his pants and zipped him up.

Gibbs looked down on him, one hand stroking his hair. "Better now?" He arched an eyebrow.

"Mmmm," Tony said softly. "Yeah. Sorry about earlier. I was…"

"I know." Gibbs pulled him to his feet and took Tony’s chin firmly between his fingers, making him look at him. "But you'll do fine. I want you to know that I’m damn proud of ya, Tony."

Tony rested his head on his dom's shoulder, feeling that warm, happy sensation he always got whenever Gibbs praised him. Fuck his father! This man here had given him more than his father ever had. Gibbs loved him for who he was, including all his failings. He’d filled up all those aching holes in Tony’s soul and made him feel at peace with himself.

"Love you, Boss," Tony muttered.

"I know. Now let's get out there and do this, Tony."

They walked back into the restaurant a few minutes later, side by side, moving completely in synch with each other. Tony glanced around – and his heart skipped a beat. There, coming towards him, was a familiar figure. He took a deep breath and stepped forwards.

It was time to finally face this.



~*~



Gibbs watched as DiNozzo set eyes on his son. He saw the way the older man flinched at the sight of the bruises on Tony’s face – he guessed they were all too vivid reminders of why he was here.

He was surprised when Tony’s father kissed him on both cheeks. Somehow, he’d imagined a formal handshake would be more his style, but it was clear there was some degree of familiarity and affection here, however strained.

“Dad. Good journey?” Tony asked, making small talk as they were ushered to their table.

“Fine, fine. But you…son…Gibbs told me you’d been hurt, but it looks bad. That job of yours…”

“Yeah, I know…if only I’d taken that office job you offered me then I wouldn’t get shot, beaten up, and infected with the plague on a regular basis, huh?” Tony managed a faint grin. “Didn’t get the bruises because of work though, Dad.”

“Then how did you get them?” DiNozzo looked like he didn’t really want to know but had to ask anyhow.

“I was an idiot.” Tony grinned, glancing at Gibbs. Gibbs gave a wry grunt.

“When Gibbs told me you’d been hurt, I wasn’t sure what to expect. How did it happen?”

“I was chasing demons,” Tony replied bluntly. “From the past. I got hurt. I think that was kind of the point.”

Gibbs was proud of him for taking the bull by the horns so early in the conversation. DiNozzo reached for his napkin, and Gibbs noticed that his hand was trembling.

“So that’s why we’re here,” DiNozzo said quietly. “That’s why you told Gibbs…”

“About our dirty laundry? Yeah. That’s why. The boss here is a master at interrogations. I couldn’t hold out for long.” Tony glanced at Gibbs who gave him a rueful grin in return.

DiNozzo cleared his throat. “We never talked about what happened after your mom died, Tony.”

“No, Dad. We never did.”

They stared at each other for a moment. Then DiNozzo's gaze flickered towards Gibbs; he seemed flustered by Gibbs's presence.

“You want me here for this, Tony?” Gibbs asked. “I could go sit by the bar if you want some privacy.”

“No. I want you to stay,” Tony told him firmly.

Gibbs nodded and sat back in his chair. He didn’t intend to say anything unless necessary. He was just here as a support for Tony. He didn't give a damn what Tony's father wanted.

“I’ve been rehearsing this speech for the entire journey, but now I’m here…” DiNozzo’s eyes glittered. “And seeing you…like that…” he gestured towards Tony’s bruised face. “I forget what I was going to say." He hesitated, looking completely out of his depth. Gibbs guessed he wasn't used to baring his soul or apologising to anyone. "I can only tell you of a father’s deep shame and remorse,” he continued, in a hoarse but sincere tone of voice.

Tony was playing with his napkin, folding it into squares. He wasn’t even looking at his father. He looked pale and tense – Gibbs couldn’t begin to guess what he was feeling.

“I could blame the drink,” his father continued. “But that would be the easy way out, and I want to prove to your boss that I'm not the coward he thinks I am. I take responsibility for my actions, Tony. You didn’t deserve what I did to you during those terrible months after... You weren’t to blame. It wasn’t your fault.”

Tony looked up for the first time. “Mom…”

“You weren’t to blame,” DiNozzo repeated. “It was an accident.”

“If I hadn’t got myself expelled just to get your attention, if I hadn’t argued with her in the car, if…”

DiNozzo sighed. “We all have our ‘what ifs’, Tony. Do you think I don’t? I used to ask myself why *I* didn't go and collect you from school that day. And what if we hadn’t both neglected you while you were at boarding school? We could have visited more…written more…But it’s too late. We are who we are, and we made the mistakes we made.” DiNozzo gave a fatalistic little shrug. “There’s more…something I’m not sure you know…I don’t know if Gibbs told you.”

Tony frowned. “Told me what?”

“The car hadn’t been serviced in a long time – we were struggling financially. It was easier to put it off until another day. The brakes weren’t in good working order…”

“Wait.” Tony put up his hand. “Are you telling me…Mom died because of faulty brakes?” He looked at Gibbs for confirmation.

“It was in the police report.” Gibbs shrugged. “Might not have caused the accident, but it was probably contributory.”

“All these years, you let me believe it was my damn fault, and it turns out it was the fucking brakes?” Tony’s voice had become raised, and he stared at his father in angry confusion.

“I didn’t know you blamed yourself until Gibbs told me,” his father replied. “I didn’t want to reopen old wounds by bringing it all up.”

“Then Gibbs is right – you are a fucking coward, Dad,” Tony said bitterly. “Christ…all these years…” He ran his hands through his hair.

“I didn’t know!” his father said vehemently. “Your mom took care of all those things while I ran the business. She took care of the household bills, the car…”

“So now it’s Mom’s fucking fault?” Tony demanded incredulously.

“No.” Gibbs cut through the emotional intensity of the conversation. “It was an accident, Tony. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.”

“You bullied me, Dad,” Tony said, his face white. “You bullied me, and I fucking let you because I was so damn scared of losing you too…” Tony broke off. “All my life, all I wanted was for you to give a shit about me…for you to give one fucking sign that you love me…”

“I did. I do,” his father said hoarsely. “We might not see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I do love you, Tony. You’re my son.”

“Yeah. Well.” Tony looked nonplussed. He glanced at Gibbs. “Then why does it mean more to me when *he* says he’s proud of me, than it ever would if you did, Dad? Not that you ever have.”

DiNozzo looked as if someone had stabbed a knife in his gut. Gibbs winced; that had to have hurt.

“I didn’t come here to talk about your life, Tony, or the choices you’ve made. I came here to apologise for that one thing…that one thing I did that was inexcusable. I understand your anger, but I won’t apologise for anything else. I did my best for you even when you were behaving like a spoilt brat. You never gave an inch. You were so damn stubborn.”

“Yeah, well, I guess in that, at least, I take after my father,” Tony replied with a sardonic grin.

“You think I should have given you a free pass because of what happened after your mom died?” his father demanded. “You think I should have stood by and let you party your life away and fritter my money down the drain just because of that?”

“No, but some support for my chosen career would have been nice,” Tony said bitterly.

“I was never convinced you wanted to be a cop for any other reason than the guns and the car chases. I blame it on those stupid police shows you used to watch. That one about the private eye that you were so obsessed with - what was it called?”

“Magnum,” Tony said, and then he glanced at Gibbs with a tight little grin. “Yeah. Magnum. I think that’s the right word for now.”

“Your call," Gibbs said. "Whatever you decide, I'm with you, Tony."

Tony threw his napkin onto the table and got up. “I think we’re done here, Dad.”

“Tony!” DiNozzo got to his feet too. Gibbs watched as the man struggled – visibly – with his pride. DiNozzo stood there, looking at Tony, and then, suddenly, his expression changed as his gaze lingered on the many multi-coloured bruises on Tony’s face.

Gibbs remembered asking him if he’d be able to see the child he’d once hurt so badly, and not the grown-up son who had disappointed him so much. Now, for the first time, he thought that DiNozzo was doing just that.

DiNozzo reached out, blindly, and put his shaking hands on either side of Tony’s face. Tony didn’t move.

“I'm sorry, son,” DiNozzo said in a choked voice. He gently stroked the bruise by Tony’s left eye with his thumb. “I am so, so sorry.”

Something in Tony seemed to break. He gave a nod, his eyes glistening. Then he leaned forward and pressed a kiss on each of his father’s cheeks, Italian style.

“I’ll call,” he said hoarsely. “Give me a few weeks, but I’ll call. I promise.”

His father didn’t seem to have any words left, and neither, Gibbs suspected, did Tony. Gibbs put a hand on Tony’s shoulder and steered his sub towards the door. As he left, he glanced over his shoulder, saw Tony’s father watching them, and gave him a nod of acknowledgement. The man had done what he'd promised he'd do, and for that, at least, Gibbs gave him some respect. There were no magic wands, but this, maybe, was as good as it got.

It was a start.



~*~



Tony strode out into the parking lot, Gibbs beside him, hand still on his shoulder.

"How ya doing, Tony?"

Tony turned to face him. He put his arms on his hips and gazed around the parking lot.

"How am I doing? I have no idea. I'm angry, and sad, and fucking furious, and kind of okay too…and...Christ, my father freaking well apologised! You have no idea what that means. He's like you – he never, ever apologises. For anything. Not to me anyway!"

Gibbs leaned against the car, watching him.

"It didn't fix anything. I'm not sure it changed anything, but maybe it moved something that was stuck. I dunno. It got it out there – this silent *thing* between us. This thing that happened that we never, ever talk about. Y'know, sometimes I even used to wonder if it DID actually happen the way I remembered it. Maybe I was delusional. The fact that he never mentioned it, and I never dared…"

Tony turned around wildly. All the tension of the past few hours had broken, leaving him with a wild surge of excess energy.

"Christ, I wanna run, or fuck, or *do* something," he growled. Then, without warning, he slammed the palm of his hand onto the side of the car, so hard it made it rock. "The brakes? The fucking brakes?" he asked incredulously. "After all these years of thinking…and him letting me think…and the damn brakes didn't work properly? Shit!" He hit the car again. Gibbs just watched him, impassively.

Tony stood there, his chest heaving, looking at the ground. "He said he loved me."

"Yeah. He did."

"And I didn't *feel* anything." Tony looked up. "Why didn't I feel anything, Gibbs?"

"Too many other things to feel?" Gibbs suggested. "It'll take some time for this to all settle down in your head, Tony. Maybe you won't know how you feel about it for awhile. But at least it's done. At least you faced it – both of you."

"I guess." Tony hugged his arms around his body. "And you have no idea what a miracle that is. We're DiNozzo men – avoidance is our speciality."

"Not any more," Gibbs grunted. "C'mon – I'm starving, and we didn't eat anything back there. Let's go get some food."

"Pizza?" Tony raised a hopeful eyebrow. Gibbs grinned.

They bought take out and took it home with them. Tony talked the entire way back in the car and continued talking as they sat down on the couch with the pizza.

He felt strangely light-headed, as if some great weight had been lifted from him. He didn't want to think about the meeting with his father in too much detail right now, because Gibbs was right, it'd take a while for it all to sink in.

"Dad was right about one thing - I did want to be a cop because of Magnum," he said as he chewed on a slice of pepperoni pizza. "Well…he was partly right." He grinned. "The car chases, the guns, the hot women – they were definitely a big part of the appeal. But you wanna know the biggest one?"

"Uh-huh."

"Tom Selleck." Tony grinned. "I might not have admitted to myself that I was bisexual until I met you, but, man, that was one hot guy. Not many guys can carry off a moustache like that, either…uh, present company excepted, Boss, although I really prefer you without it, but…" He paused. "What was I talking about?"

"Damned if I know," Gibbs grunted. "I'm just letting you ramble on. I figure you'll run out of steam sometime soon."

"Perhaps I should grow a moustache," Tony mused, barely listening to him.

"No," Gibbs said firmly.

"Or a beard…I'd like to look different, like someone else."

"Still be you."

"Yeah…but sometimes, I wonder what it'd be like to be free of all the shit in my brain for awhile. To pretend to be someone else...Like when we go undercover, y'know? I love going undercover – well, except that crazy, mixed-up shit with Jeanne. But the regular stuff – the one-off things – those are cool. You should let me go undercover more often, Boss. I'm good at it."

"I know." Gibbs took another slice of pizza. He gave Tony a thoughtful look. "But I have a better idea."

"You do?" Tony looked up.

"Oh yeah. I didn't have anything planned for the rest of the day – wasn't sure how you'd feel after that meeting. But you have some excess energy to burn and after the few days you've had you could do with some R&R."

“What did you have in mind?" Tony asked, intrigued.

"Well, as you're lookin' and feeling better – I think it's time to play."

"Playing sounds good. It is our sex vacation after all," Tony agreed with a lascivious grin. "Did you have a certain game in mind, Jethro?"

Gibbs grinned. "Oh yeah. You ready for this though, Tony? 'Cause I play to win..."



~*~



Several hours later, Gibbs walked into the bar and looked around. He'd given Tony his head – told him he could be whoever he wanted, but to do it properly, as if he was going undercover; name, clothes, back story – all of it.

Then he'd left him to it. The only stipulation was that Tony be in this particular gay bar tonight, at 8 p.m. Gibbs couldn't see him, so he figured he'd got here first. He went over to the bar and ordered a drink, glancing around to make sure he hadn't missed his sub.

There was a sound over by the door, and Gibbs glanced up, looked away - and then looked back again, his jaw hanging open.

He almost laughed out loud. Only Tony…

His sub – his beautiful, wilful, strong, independent, irritating, stubborn, complicated, fucked up, funny, sexy, infuriating sub – was standing there, dressed in full service dress whites. Every detail of his enlisted sailor's jumper whites was correct, from the bell-bottom pants to the tar flap collar, black silk neckerchief, and the Dixie cup hat.

Gibbs was used to seeing every variety of naval uniform during the course of his job, but nothing prepared him for the sight of his sub in this particular outfit. The white looked good on Tony, but there was something so inherently sexual about the way he moved that made him look like a caricature of a sailor. Gibbs suspected that if Tony walked onto an actual ship looking like that, he'd either be thrown overboard or find himself ensconced as the Captain's cabin boy pretty damn quick.

Gibbs sat back in his chair and watched everyone else in the bar watching Tony as he walked confidently across to the bar and ordered a drink. Tony was too tall, too broad, and too good-looking to go unnoticed in a gay bar wearing that outfit. Gibbs fought back a possessive growl as the denizens of the bar gaped at him.

Tony gazed around the room, looking nonchalant, although he was obviously totally aware of the effect he was having on everyone. His gaze fell on Gibbs, lingered there for a second, moved on…then came back in an obvious double take. Gibbs gave a little grin – Tony wasn't the only one who'd dressed up tonight.

The barman brought Tony's drink, and Gibbs moved fast. He walked over to where Tony was perched on a bar stool and opened his wallet, revealing the huge wad of cash he'd brought with him this evening.

"This one's on me," he said, sliding the money across the bar.

Tony looked him up and down as if he'd only just seen him. "No thanks. I buy my own drinks," he said in a cool, dismissive tone.

Gibbs fought down an urge to slap him. Trust Tony to make this difficult. Of course his sub would insist on playing him. Gibbs didn't mind – he knew how to handle Tony, and he wanted this to be a good evening for them both. They needed some fun after all they'd been through lately.

"Not in my bar," he said.

Tony raised an eyebrow. "You own this bar?"

"Hell, I own half the city," Gibbs told him, leaving his wallet open so that Tony could see the cash inside.

"And the people in it?" Tony asked.

"If they're for sale." Gibbs looked him up and down. "You for sale, kid?" Two could play at this game.

"Kid?" Tony glared at him in outrage, almost breaking character.

Gibbs bit back a laugh and shrugged. "Ya look like a little boy lost in that uniform, sonny." He leaned in and spoke directly into Tony's ear. "Like a kid playing dress up."

"Some people find the uniform sexy," Tony replied icily.

Gibbs grinned. “Oh you look good in it, kid. Bet you look even better out of it."

Tony leaned back on the bar. He picked up his bottle of beer and sucked on the rim suggestively, looking at Gibbs the entire time, a sexy gleam in his eyes. Gibbs bit down a groan as the gesture went straight to his cock.

"Oh I do." Tony put his head back and drank from the bottle, his adam's apple bobbing enticingly. His throat was exposed against the crisp white uniform, and Gibbs wanted nothing more than to suck on it. Damn Tony for turning up here looking like *that* and then playing hard to get. He'd make him pay for it later, but for now, he had to admit that it was turning him on beyond belief.

"And how much does it cost to get you out of it?" Gibbs asked.

The barman shot him a look of disbelief, rolling his eyes silently, and then went to serve another customer.

"What makes you think I'm for sale?" Tony challenged.

Gibbs gave him a predatory grin. "Everyone's for sale – if the price is right." He flicked through the contents of his wallet ostentatiously.

He saw Tony's eyes glitter in excitement as he watched the gesture. He knew Tony was remembering that time in the elevator, what felt like a lifetime ago, when he'd confessed his rent boy fantasy to Gibbs. Gibbs wanted to give him that fantasy, and he wanted it to be good –Tony deserved it.

"I'm expensive," Tony told him.

"But worth every dime," Gibbs replied, looking Tony up and down like he was mentally undressing him. He saw the bulge in Tony's pants get a little more prominent and knew this was turning his sub on. "Kid like you…I figure you know some pretty good tricks."

Tony was looking at him like he wanted to tear Gibbs out of the fancy, expensive suit he was wearing and do the deed on the bar-room floor.

"You figure right," Tony murmured throatily. He pressed the cold beer bottle against his throat, leaving behind little droplets that Gibbs wanted to lick away.

"You got a name?" Gibbs asked.

"Gus," Tony replied, a cheeky look in his eyes. Gibbs could have throttled him – he was daring Gibbs to break character by using the name he'd chosen in a previous undercover op. Gibbs bit back his bark of laughter and gave him a hard stare.

"Gus? Suits you," he said.

Tony narrowed his eyes, clearly disappointed that he'd failed to trip Gibbs with his choice of name. But Gibbs was a veteran of many an undercover op, and he knew exactly how to play them. True, he'd never been on one this sexually charged, but there was no way he was letting Tony win this game. It only ended one way as far as Gibbs was concerned. If anyone broke character tonight, it wasn't going to be Gibbs.

"You?" Tony asked.

"Shane," Gibbs told him.

Gibbs could see Tony struggling not to burst out laughing on the spot.

"S…hane?" he queried, jaw twitching furiously. "Like in the movie? Alan Ladd?"

"Yup. My folks loved that movie – they went to see it on their first date," Gibbs said smoothly. He'd prepared for this well – but he'd had no idea it'd be *this* much fun.

"Shane. Okay – could have been worse, I guess," Tony said, nodding thoughtfully. "Your folks could have called you Leroy. Or Jethro. Or something like that."

Oh, he was just asking for trouble. Gibbs moved fast; he grabbed the bottle out of Tony's hand and slammed it down on the bar, pushing Tony's legs apart at the same time. Then he moved in close, his groin pressing against Tony's. He could feel the heat of his sub's arousal through the cool fabric of his uniform.

"Enough small talk. We've already established that you're for sale – name your price and let's get on with this, Gus."

"Easy there, Shane." Tony put a hand on his shoulder, but Gibbs refused to be pushed back.

"You want some up front? That it?" Gibbs took a couple of crisp fifties from his wallet. He waved them under Tony's nose, then folded them, and slid them provocatively down the front of Tony's pants. Tony gulped. "That enough of a down payment on your no doubt very expensive services?" Gibbs asked dangerously.

"Uh…yeah," Tony said feebly. "That'll do for starters."

"Then let's go." Gibbs drew back, replacing his wallet in his jacket pocket.

"Where?" Tony asked.

Gibbs grinned. "Your place."

He didn't want them doing this back at his house – it was too familiar. He wanted somewhere they'd never made love before – and Tony's apartment was the ideal venue. Tony seemed to think so too, as his eyes lit up at the prospect.

"I'll follow you there," Gibbs said, striding out of the bar.

He had a raging erection all the way there. Just the thought of Tony in that white uniform, *teasing* him that way in the bar…

He got out of his car in the parking lot and followed Tony up some stairs, his eyes fixed on Tony's ass in those tight white pants. God, he couldn't wait to get his hands on his sub and *peel* him out of that uniform.

Tony let them into the apartment, and Gibbs slammed the door shut behind them and immediately got hold of Tony and shoved him against the nearest wall, nearly knocking off his hat in the process.

He pressed his hands against that crisp white uniform, enjoying the heat of Tony's skin through the cool fabric. He kissed Tony hard, keeping him pinned up against the wall. When finally he released him, Tony was gazing at him in shock.

"You charge extra for kissing?" Gibbs smirked, getting out his wallet. "Here." He stuffed another fifty down Tony's pants. "Now…let me see what my money's bought me." He sat down on the couch, legs wide open, and released his aching cock from the tight confines of his suit pants. "C'mere, Gus."

Tony came towards him, grinning at the sight of Gibbs's massive erection.

"Not bad," he said. "Seen bigger though."

"The hell you have," Gibbs snorted.

Tony laughed. "Okay. You got me. Nobody's bigger than that. So, Shane, what kind of things do you like?"

"Come here, and you'll find out."

Gibbs beckoned him close, and, when he was within reach, he grabbed hold of Tony's wrist and pulled him between his open legs. He undid Tony's uniform pants and pulled them down, releasing Tony's own impressive erection. Like him, Tony wasn't wearing any underwear.

"I want you to ride me, sailor," Gibbs told him gruffly, his voice thick with lust. He pulled a tube of lubricant out of his pocket and spread some on his own fingers, then handed the tube to Tony. "Lube yourself. I want to watch."

He sat back and slid the lube over his cock, coating it completely. He played with his cock, watching intently as Tony slid slippery fingers into his own ass. When Tony was done, Gibbs took hold of his arm and pulled him towards him.

"You want me to undress?" Tony asked.

"Hell no! I paid for a sailor, and that's who I wanna fuck. Now get your ass on my cock, Gus."

He pulled Tony onto his lap, adjusting him so that he was poised over his cock. They'd never done this position before, and Gibbs was incredibly aroused by it; he could see Tony was too. Tony lowered himself onto Gibbs's cock, guiding its tip into his hole. Gibbs put his hands on Tony's hips and tugged him down – hard. Tony gave a squeak as Gibbs entered him, pulling Tony down so that he was fully sheathed in one smooth move. It felt sublime. Gibbs blinked at the intensity of the sensation.

He gave a groan as Tony moved his hips sinfully, sliding up and down on Gibbs's cock. Gibbs ran his hands over Tony's uniformed body, inhaling the scent of starch combined with the heady smell of Tony's arousal.

"Ride me," he panted. "That's it, Gus…ride me…make it good…"

He sat back and watched as Tony did just that, moving up and down on his lap, riding his cock hard, milking him for all that he was worth. Tony was still wearing the Dixie cup hat, and although his pants had been discarded, the rest of his uniform was intact, from the black silk neckerchief down to the shiny leather shoes.

He looked so incredibly sexy in that uniform, as he rocked up and down on Gibbs's hard cock. Gibbs couldn't hold on – he came with an explosive shout, shooting up into Tony's warm body. Tony sank down on him one last time and came to rest there, with Gibbs's softening cock still inside his ass. The hat finally fell off as Tony rested his forehead against his dom's, both of them panting hard.

"Shit that was good," Tony moaned. "The angle…we have to do this again, Boss."

Gibbs gave a little shout of victory. "You broke character first, Tony, so I win."

"Damn it!"

"Those were the rules," Gibbs said smugly.

"What is it with you and rules anyway?" Tony gathered up the wad of notes Gibbs had given him and handed them back to him. "There you go. Your winnings. And I worked so hard for them too." He gave a mournful little sigh.

"If we'd actually been undercover, that slip-up could have got you killed, Tony," Gibbs told him cheerfully.

"Hate to point it out to you, Boss, but we never go on undercover missions that require us to have hot sex. Anyway, you already pretty much did kill me in case you hadn’t noticed. Shane!" he snorted. "What the hell…?"

"Gus?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

Tony laughed. "I thought you'd enjoy that." He slowly rose up from Gibbs's lap. "Did you like the uniform?" he asked, gesturing to the service dress whites.

"Oh yeah. Hell yeah." Gibbs nodded appreciatively.

"And you wore the suit I bought for you!" Tony fingered the sleek fabric appreciatively. "And the navy blue shirt – looks damn sexy, Boss."

"Thought the clothes went with the wealthy businessman persona." Gibbs grinned.

"You look all shiny and scrubbed up. Even your hair looks different." Tony ran his fingers through it suspiciously. "Gel, right? You're wearing gel?"

"Yeah."

"So…" Tony glanced down at his still proudly erect cock. "Do I get to come tonight, or does the winner really take it all?"

"Oh, I think I can afford to be generous." Gibbs opened his legs wide, pulled Tony so that he was standing between them, and enveloped his cock in his mouth with one smooth motion of his head. Tony gave a startled shout and gripped onto his shoulders.

Gibbs deep-throated him expertly for a short amount of time – which was all it took before Tony came explosively, moaning and whimpering in pleasure, his body convulsing. Gibbs swallowed his come and then released him, and Tony threw himself down on the couch beside his dom.

"Wow, who'd have thought, a few months ago, that I'd end up having such amazing sex on this couch with you," he muttered wearily, leaning against his dom's shoulder.

"Miss the place? Wanna spend the night here?" Gibbs asked.

Tony looked around the room. "Nah," he said softly. "I'd like to go home, Jethro."

Home. There was something about the way he said it that made Gibbs feel warm inside. Tony clearly didn't view this place as his home any more.

They'd come a long way these past couple of months, and there had been times, God knows, when Gibbs had wondered if they'd make it this far. Now, he couldn't imagine his life without Tony in it – and he knew that Tony felt the same way. Gibbs leaned over and kissed his sub's mouth.

"Sure, Tony. Let's go home."



~*~



Tony stood on the landing at Murray's Bar, gazing down at the heaving throng of people below. He could hardly believe that it had only been a couple of months since he'd first stood here, wondering what the hell he was doing – and what the hell he wanted. So much had happened since then, and his life had changed beyond all recognition.

He fingered the collar around his neck. Now he was owned. He belonged to someone – no, not just *someone*. He belonged to Gibbs; that made all the difference.

This place was where it had all begun – and yet it might so easily not have happened. He went cold as he thought of what might have been if Brad Yates hadn't conveniently died, and if he hadn't, just as conveniently, had that private members' card in his wallet for Tony to find.

"Thank you, Commander Yates!" Tony made a little salute into the air. He liked to think that the ghost of the dead commander was smiling down on him. The guy had been a dom after all, and Tony liked to think he had a soft spot for subs like himself.

But if he'd bottled out that night – if he hadn't come here, used the card to get in, and if Hammer hadn't called Walter…Tony shivered. It didn't bear thinking about.

"Hey – Tony!" He saw Walter bounding up the stairs towards him, and then he was pulled into a warm bear hug.

"Happy Birthday!" Tony pressed a little box into Walter's hand. "Dad," Tony added with a grin. Walter cuffed the back of his head affectionately.

"Jethro not with you?" Walter asked, looking around.

"Nah. You know him – he hates these scene things," Tony said with a shrug. "There's something weird about a guy that prefers sanding down a lump of wood to a good party, but you know what he's like."

"Yeah. He's an anti-social bastard," Walter agreed. "And I wouldn't change him for the world."

"Me neither." Tony grinned.

Walter opened the present Tony had given him and looked at the beautiful gold cuff links nestled inside with genuine pleasure.

"Thank you, Tony. They're exquisite."

"They're from both of us," Tony pointed out.

"Yeah – but you chose them, right?" Walter raised an amused eyebrow.

"Hell yeah! Like I'd let Gibbs loose in a store by himself!"

Tony looked Walter up and down. The big man was wearing an outfit very similar to the one he'd worn for that pirate theme night. Tony glanced down at his own more conservative outfit of jeans and his favourite clubbing shirt. The soft black collar around his neck was the only remotely kinky thing he was wearing.

"I'm not dressed right for this," he said mournfully, looking down at the people below, who all seemed to be clad in a variety of rubber, leather, or fantasy outfits.

"You look fine. It's my party – there's no dress code. Jethro wouldn't let you out in anything more revealing, huh?" Walter grinned.

"Nah," Tony sighed. "I don't mind. I'm not really that comfortable being on display for anyone but him. Makes me feel weird."

"You're a sensualist – not an exhibitionist," Walter told him, patting his arm. "I gotta go mingle. Fox is around somewhere – go find him – he'll want to catch up with you."

"Sure. Okay." Tony nodded. "Hey Walter?" Walter turned back. "Uh…" Tony flushed. "I…uh, just wanted to say thanks. For taking me under your wing. For helping get me and Gibbs together. I know Gibbs was your friend first – but you've been a good friend to me too."

Walter came back over to him and put his hands on Tony's shoulders. "Well you're a good kid, Tony. I could see that the minute I first met you. Fucked up as all hell, but you've got a good heart. I liked you then, and I like you even more now. And don't thank me – seeing you here now, looking so damn happy – that's all the thanks I need, son."

He kissed Tony's cheek affectionately and then disappeared back down the stairs and into the throng below.

Tony stayed where he was, leaning on the rail, gazing down into the bar.

He remembered standing down below, in a pair of too-tight leather pants, his stomach flipping in fear and excited anticipation as he took his place at the whipping post. He remembered that dom, whose name he'd forgotten, taking up position behind him…that had been all kinds of wrong. Thank God Gibbs had shown up when he did. He remembered the smooth caress of Gibbs's whip on his back – and how he'd known, even back then, that he was now in the hands of a master. His master. The only master he'd ever acknowledge or submit to. The only master he'd ever wanted. It might not be the name he called Gibbs, but it was what Gibbs was to him, in his heart.

That whipping had been amazing. He'd never known that something like that could be so nuanced. Gibbs knew just how to stoke his endorphins, gradually building the pace so that Tony was hardly aware of it hurting – it just felt so intensely *good*. He hoped he could experience that feeling again, but Gibbs hadn’t so much as slapped his ass for nearly a week now.

"Hey – penny for them," a voice said, and he jumped, startled, to see Mulder standing next to him.

"Oh. Hey. I was just thinking that I miss being spanked.”

Mulder raised an eyebrow. "Gibbs doesn’t spank you? Seriously? 'Cause if ever a man looked like he handed out regular spankings, it's him."

"Yeah, well, I think he got freaked out by my punishment issues, and I don't blame him. He doesn't want me screwed up any more than I already am."

"You told him that you like being spanked though, right?" Mulder rested his elbows on the rail.

"Yeah. I think so. It's a hard thing to explain. I mean, sometimes I love it, and sometimes I hate it – but even when I'm hating it, I always love that he's doing it. I love submitting to him, even when it's really hard – maybe especially when it's really hard. Is that weird?"

"Nah. I totally get it." Mulder grinned at him. "Don’t worry about it. Gibbs will start spanking you again soon."

"How d'you know that?" Tony glanced at him sideways.

"Because he owns the most exasperating sub in the entire world." Mulder winked. "No way he'll be able to resist turning you over his knee again sometime soon, Tony!"

"Gee, thanks!"

"You're welcome." Mulder patted his arm. "C'mon, let's go down and mingle."

The party was in full swing when they got down there. Tony ordered a coke as he was driving. He talked easily to the complete strangers Mulder introduced him to – he wasn't shy and never had a problem talking to people.

“This is a good friend of mine – Ian,” Mulder said, introducing him to a guy with an open, friendly face. “His partner, Perry, is here somewhere. And you already know Elliott.” He waved his hand at an older man, dressed with impeccable elegance. He was the tailor Tony had met on their shopping expedition. Tony also recognised Elliott’s much younger assistant, Donald, who was busy bustling around after Elliott, getting him drinks and generally hovering. Tony had known instantly that they were a couple.

“Yeah, Elliott is my dealer for expensive Italian shoes.” Tony grinned. Elliott made a little moue with his mouth but smiled indulgently at Tony. As well he should considering how much Tony had spent at his establishment earlier in the week.

There was a sudden lull in the conversation, a collective intake of breath, and Tony looked up to see what was going on. His gaze went to the landing above, where someone was standing, unmoving, surveying the scene below. Someone wearing a pair of tight black leather pants that seemed to stretch forever along a pair of long, slim legs. Someone with the kind of dominant energy that made everyone's heads turn, just for a second, creating the momentary hush in the room. Someone wearing a deep purple shirt…

"Oh. My. God." Tony put down his coke on a nearby table, left the little group of people he was talking to, and ran across the room. People turned back to their conversations as Tony sprinted up the stairs towards his dom, taking them two at a time. When he got there, he dropped to his knees in front of Gibbs and bestowed a little kiss on each of his dom's shiny boots. Then he looked up, with a grin.

"Idiot." Gibbs rolled his eyes.

"Well, I told you that subby boys would fall to their knees and kiss your boots if you ever wore those pants!" Tony told him with an appreciative leer. "You came, Boss! And wearing…" Tony waved an impressed hand at Gibbs's outfit. "In the pants! And the shirt!"

"I drew the line at that ridiculous harness thing you bought to go with the pants. The shirt’s okay though - I'd never wear it to work, but here?" Gibbs glanced down at the crowd of people below, in all their many and varied outfits. "Here, it seems to blend in."

Tony got to his feet. "But you hate parties – and dressing up and the whole fetish scene thing."

"Yeah. I do. But I figure…my sub's had to do some things he hasn't liked much, either, lately – so the least I could do was show up here. It's not such a big deal. And I wanted you to know that I can bend sometimes too, Tony."

"Thank you, Jethro." Tony kissed his dom on the lips.

Gibbs removed something from his pocket, and Tony gave a grin of pure delight as his dom clipped a leash to the ‘D’ ring on the front of his collar.

“Now, this is *literally* a short leash,” Gibbs told him, wrapping his fist firmly in the leather strap and pulling.

Now Tony felt he was dressed appropriately for the event. He got a distinct glow of subby pleasure at being on the end of his dom’s leash for all to see. He liked the feeling of belonging. Gibbs owned him – visibly - and he was pretty sure that most of the other subs in the room were envying him right now. Gibbs looked so incredibly hot in those pants and that shirt, and Tony was the sub who got to wear his collar and leash.

"Gunny! You’re actually admitting to being another year older? Just how old are you anyway, old man?" Gibbs asked with a sly grin as Walter came over to him.

"Never too old to warm your ass with my belt, Private Gibbs." Walter grinned in reply, enveloping Gibbs in a hug.

"Hey, Tony – come and meet Elaine and her sub David," Mulder said, tugging on his arm.
Gibbs nodded his permission and allowed the leash to drop so Tony could go mingle while he talked to Walter.

Tony turned to see a buxom woman with dark golden hair and twinkling blue eyes. There was a tall, dark, lanky man on her arm, who clearly worshipped his mistress.

"So, this is the new submissive that Walter and Fox have been mentoring," Elaine said, looking Tony up and down. "I’m delighted to finally meet the sub who has been causing so much havoc for the past couple of months – or at least that’s what I’ve heard!"

Tony flushed. "I'm not *that* bad," he told her, taking her offered hand with a bashful grin. She was one of those effortlessly sexy women, with a glint of mischief in her eyes. He liked her immediately.

“Don’t believe him. He really is,” Mulder said.

“You can talk,” she snorted. “You should have known Fox back when Walter first enslaved him,” she confided to Tony. “The trouble he got into! I’m amazed Walter didn’t just set him free and boot him out of the door.”

“Oh really?” Tony grinned at Mulder. “And he just told me *I’m* the most exasperating sub in the world! Tell me more, Elaine!”

All Walter's friends were easy to talk to, and Tony felt at home here. He mingled freely, chatting to groups of people, enjoying the party.

Later in the evening, a familiar looking whipping post was brought out and a few people started to play.

“Bring back memories?” Fox asked, as Tony leaned against the wall, watching.

“Yeah. Best night of my life. The night Gibbs first took me as his sub,” Tony replied with a smile. “And you told me you envied me the journey, and I can see what you meant now. It’s been kind of a rollercoaster, but I’m so damn glad I got on the ride in the first place. Is Walter gonna take you flying tonight?” He nodded his head at the whipping post.

Mulder shook his head. “Nah. It’s his birthday, not mine! He’s got too many people to talk to tonight. But…maybe tomorrow.” He grinned. “At home. In the playroom.” He leaned in close and gave Tony one of his disconcerting looks. “It’s over, isn’t it?” he said. “Whatever was going on – the phone calls, the weird shit in your head, the guilt, the avoidance…you’ve got it all figured it out now, haven’t you?”

Tony thought about that for a moment. His relationship with his father would be different going forward – hopefully better, but he didn’t know that for sure.

His relationship with Gibbs was another matter – Tony was much more optimistic about that. That was rock solid and always would be. He was certain of that. They’d been through so much together and come out the other side.

And his relationship with himself? Well, that was evolving. He’d been stuck in a holding pattern of guilt and atonement for a very long time, but he thought he was finally learning to let some of that go.

“All figured out? No. But I’m getting there,” he replied. “You were right.”

“Right about what exactly?” Fox asked.

“Pretty much everything you said to me. That Gibbs would strip me bare and lay me open. That I wouldn’t be able to hide from him – although God knows, I tried. That I wanted to be punished – and that it doesn’t work that way. And that I wanted to belong to someone,” he added softly.

“Yeah, well, I went through it all myself once, Tony.” Fox gave a rueful little smile. “But I guess nobody can really ever tell you – you have to figure it out for yourself.”

Tony looked across the room, past the whipping post, to where Gibbs was talking to Walter. They were laughing at something and that made Tony smile. Gibbs wasn’t a man who laughed easily or often, and it was good to watch him enjoying himself here and letting go a little.

“Nice to see our two masters having fun,” Fox said, as if guessing his thoughts.”Gibbs actually looks like he’s having a good time. You’ll have to persuade him to get out more often.”

“Yeah. I will. I can be very persuasive when I try.” Tony grinned.

Gibbs looked up and caught Tony looking at him. There was something fierce, loving and proudly possessive in his eyes as he gazed at his sub. It wasn’t an expression Tony had ever seen on his dom’s face when he looked at anyone else. He remembered once envying Fox the expression of love in Walter's eyes, and now the person he'd loved so devotedly for eight years was looking at him the same way. Tony didn’t think he could be any happier.

He glanced at the whipping post with a raised eyebrow. Gibbs shook his head. Tony sighed.

“He won’t go for it, huh?” Fox asked.

“Nah – I knew he wouldn’t. He doesn’t like performing for a crowd – and he sure as hell wouldn’t like me taking off my shirt in front of all these people. Also – there’s the whole spanking embargo thing he seems to have going at the moment.”

“Well, I told you my views on that already,” Fox said, with a smug smirk. “Excuse me, Tony – I’m gonna go get another drink.”

"Hey – Tony isn't it?" A tall, dark-haired man approached him as Fox disappeared in the direction of the bar. "Blake," the man said, pointing to himself. "You and I almost had a thing together." He nodded in the direction of the whipping post. Ah – Blake – that was the guy's name.

"No, we really didn't," Tony replied. "But hey – it's good to see you again, Blake."

They made polite small talk for awhile. Tony knew he could never have gone down on his knees for this man here – for any of these men – not even Walter. He belonged to Gibbs and had from the minute he first met the man. Thank God Gibbs had shown up that night! He’d saved them all the trials and tribulations of Tony finding out that he couldn't submit to anyone but him.

A hand slid around his waist. "Is my sub flirting with another dom?" a low, throaty voice purred in his ear. His heart skipped a beat.

"No, I was just…" He turned to glance at Gibbs and saw the amused gleam in his eye. Tony laughed, recognising that Gibbs was giving him an opportunity to play. "Maybe," he admitted, looking at his dom through his eyelashes. "This is Blake – you remember him. He's the guy who was whipping me that night when…"

The gleam in Gibbs's eye hardened into something much more threatening. "Yeah, I remember," he grunted. He grabbed hold of the leash around Tony’s neck and pulled him in close. "He's mine," he snapped, giving Blake the death glare. The poor guy melted away into the crowd instantly.

"Aw – you scared him, Boss!"

"I don't like him. He touched you once," Gibbs growled.

"Well technically, he didn't actually touch me - he flogged me - but…" Tony paused, seeing the expression in Gibbs's eyes. "Yes, Boss," he said quickly.

"I think you need reminding who you belong to," Gibbs whispered in his ear, in a tone that went straight to Tony's cock.

Tony grinned. "I haven't forgotten! I belong to you, Boss."

"Then clearly that's a message I haven't been hitting home often enough lately," Gibbs said, sliding a hand down the back of Tony's pants. He squeezed Tony's ass meaningfully.

"No, Boss," Tony said huskily. "Uh…I mean yes, Boss. Oh, I don't know what the hell I mean," he moaned as Gibbs squeezed again.

"Home," Gibbs ordered.

Tony didn't need telling twice. They said a hasty farewell to Walter and Fox, and then Gibbs wrapped his hand in Tony’s leash and strode towards the stairs. His dom was going so fast that Tony had to trot to keep up.

Gibbs only released him when they got to the parking lot. “See you back home – don’t stop off anywhere on the way,” he commanded.

As if! Tony’s entire body was quivering in anticipation. He couldn’t wait to get back home to find out exactly what his dom wanted to do to him.

Gibbs's car was already in the driveway when he drew up, which wasn't surprising considering the way Gibbs drove. Tony scrambled out of his car, ran into the house, and then paused, frowning. The place was in darkness, so he had no idea if his dom was in the basement, the bedroom, or somewhere else.

In the end, he headed for the living room – and was waylaid by a pair of strong arms the second he stepped inside. His leash was grabbed, and he was pulled sideways and then pushed forcefully against the wall, face first. He went, easily, allowing Gibbs to manhandle him, loving how it felt to surrender to his dom.

"So…" Gibbs placed his hands on either side of Tony's head, his groin pressing against Tony's ass. Tony could feel the promising hardness of his dom's cock through his leather pants. “You need to remember who owns you,” Gibbs growled into his ear.

“Yes, Boss,” Tony agreed happily.

Gibbs nipped the back of his neck, just beneath the collar, then sucked down on his skin, making Tony shiver in anticipation. “I saw the way you were looking at that whipping post earlier. I think it’s been too long since I spanked you, boy,”

Tony’s heart skipped a beat. "If you say so, Boss," he gulped. Oh thank God!

“Oh, I do, Tony. I do.”

Gibbs turned him effortlessly. He hauled Tony over to the couch, unfastened his sub’s jeans, yanked them down to his ankles, and then flipped Tony over his knee.

Tony went with a strangled yelp, surprised by how fast that had happened. He felt cool air on his ass – and cool leather under his thighs. Then Gibbs's arm went around his waist, holding him in place, and he found himself face down and completely helpless over his dom's knee.

Gibbs stroked a hand over Tony's bare ass, and Tony felt himself begin to tingle.

"I've kept you on a long leash for the past few days. Now it's time to reel you in, ready to go back to work next week," Gibbs said, still stroking Tony's ass. "I’m gonna spank this lily-white ass hard, boy. I want you to feel the imprint of my hand when you’re sitting at your desk next week.”

Tony was so aroused by that thought that he could hardly keep still. He didn’t have a choice about that though, as Gibbs had him secured firmly in place. Tony knew from experience that once Gibbs had put him over his knee, there was no escape.

“Who do you belong to, Tony?” Gibbs demanded.

“You, Boss! I belong to you!”

"You sure as hell do. And *this* will help you keep that in mind."

And with that, Gibbs began slapping his ass. He wasn't in a hurry, and he went slowly at first, covering every single inch of Tony's bottom with firm, even slaps. Tony sighed and stretched out his body, relaxing into the spanking, intending to enjoy every single second of it.

This was pleasure, pure and simple. Gibbs knew just how to warm Tony's skin with his hard, flat hand. He knew just how long to concentrate on one spot before it became unbearable, and then he moved on to the next. Tony wriggled sensuously; God, he'd missed this! Gibbs seemed to be totally over his freak-out, if that's what it had been, because he was relentless. He held Tony ruthlessly in place as he lovingly spanked his ass until it was glowing like a beacon and felt warm enough to toast marshmallows on.

Surrendering to Gibbs's will was easy for him, and Tony went happily into his sub space, panting and moaning as his dom spanked him mercilessly for several long minutes.

Then the pace slowed, and Gibbs resumed stroking his sub's now thoroughly hot ass. Tony sighed, floating blissfully on a cloud of endorphins. Gibbs finally released him, and Tony slid off his lap and onto the couch. He nestled against his dom, the way he always did, resting his head in Gibbs's lap. Gibbs's hand came to rest, automatically, on his hair.

"Thank you, Jethro," Tony murmured hazily. "Thought you were never gonna spank me again. Missed it."

"I'll remind you of that next time you try to talk your way out of one." Gibbs grinned, looking down on him.

"Mmmm…maybe next week – when we're back at work? 'Cause you mentioned the back of the van, and over your desk, and Autopsy…and I want to know what it's like to be spanked in all of those places. Or fucked. Or both," Tony said sleepily.

He was okay with going back to work. He'd be fine. They'd be fine. He was sure there would be dramas and crises, but he was equally sure that nothing could shake what they had together. Not after all they’d been through these past few weeks. Gibbs accepted him. He knew everything Tony was and everything he’d ever done, and Tony could be himself around him. He didn’t have to hide any more.

"You look totally hot in these pants." Tony moved his head and sniffed the leather appreciatively. "And that shade of purple is a good colour on you. You should think about wearing that whole outfit to work one day. Abby would love it! You’d scare the probie to death though so maybe not."

Gibbs rolled his eyes. “You’re talking crap now, Tony.”

“Yeah. I know. It was that fantastic spanking. I’m floating...”

Tony snuggled in close, feeling lazy and content. He was a 24/7 sub. He was lying here, with a glowing red ass, wrapped up in his dom’s arms - and that was exactly where he belonged.
And he was loved. He knew that without a shadow of a doubt. It didn’t get any better than this.

"C'mon – let's go up to bed, or you'll fall asleep before I have a chance to fuck you," Gibbs said, carding his fingers through Tony's hair. "And there's no way I'm gonna let a well-spanked ass like that go to waste, trust me."

Tony smiled up at him.

"Oh, I do, Jethro," he murmured peacefully. "I do."


The End

If you enjoy my stories, you might like to buy my original character BDSM slash novel, Ricochet! Available now from Smashwords and Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Ricochet-ebook/dp/B00A0WD2E4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351937833&sr=8-1&keywords=xanthe+walter

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