Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 006 Word Count: 167952
Warning(s): Disturbing Imagery or Content, Violence
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Hurt/Comfort, First Time, Romance
Summary: While investigating the disappearance of a Marine, Gibbs is abducted, sold, and forced to fight in a brutal tournament where the price of winning is almost as high as the cost of losing, and death waits constantly in the wings. After five months of hitting brick walls, Tony finally hatches a desperate plan to rescue Gibbs, only to find him a very changed man. In order to escape, Tony has to remind Gibbs who he is and awaken a sleeping wolf inside him. But, haunted by his ordeal and the acts he's been forced to commit, can there ever really be a way back for Gibbs?
Tony is jolted awake when the truck comes to a stop. The back doors are opened, and the fighters are taken out, one by one. There’s a long wait, and then Gibbs is removed too, leaving Tony alone with Hurrell in the back of the truck.
“Are you an NCIS agent too?” Hurrell asks.
“Yeah, but they don’t know, so let’s keep it that way, huh?”
“Whatever.” Hurrell looks completely defeated.
“That guy they killed earlier – Steve? You and he were friends?” Tony asks gently.
Hurrell gives a little bark of laughter. “Yeah, Agent whoever the hell you are, we were friends. No, screw that, we were more than friends; we were fucking.”
Tony can’t hide his surprise. Over the past five months, Jan Hurrell has told him all about her love story with this guy, and he never expected to hear that.
Hurrell looks angry and shamed by his reaction. “Yeah, Jan’s faithful husband was fucking some guy in the stalls at night. Not just that guy, either – there were others, before this, when I was in other stables.”
“Hey, look, it’s none of my business,” Tony says quickly.
“You don’t know what it’s like here. It’s been months and the drugs…you have no idea what the drugs do to you. I’m horny all the time – 24/7. I try to remember who I am, but it’s so hard, Tony.”
“I’m not judging you, Sam, and I don’t think Jan would judge you, either.”
“She should. She deserves better than me.” Hurrell hunches his shoulders moodily.
“Like you said, the drugs are making you…”
“Gibbs doesn’t do it!” Hurrell snaps unexpectedly.
“Gibbs doesn’t do what?”
“Gibbs doesn’t fuck any of us, and he has his pick if he wanted – Scott’s made that damn clear. The drugs make it hard to think about anything except fighting and fucking, and that’s the way they want us. We’re like animals to them. But Gibbs never fucks anyone outside the pit. I have no idea what kind of self-control that takes, but I know that I don’t have it.”
That sounds like Gibbs. He’d view it as an act of rebellion, and a way to retain some control over his own body in a situation where that’s been ripped away from him. Tony can’t help but wonder what that bloody-minded rebellion must be costing Gibbs, if even Sam Hurrell, a faithful, loving husband, can’t hold out against the drugs.
At that moment the truck door is opened, and Tony is unchained from the wall and pushed out into a huge room, still wearing his manacles. It looks exactly like Walid’s stable, and he has a moment of disorientation, wondering if they’ve brought him back to the same place.
He’s so tired that he can barely walk, and he stumbles repeatedly as they shove him down a few hallways and into a communal shower area. His legs don’t seem to be working properly, and he aches all over. His face hurts, his hand is throbbing, and his ass is sore too, but he doesn’t want to think about that particular ache too much.
The guard removes his manacles and then nods at the shower.
“Talkative, aren’t you?” Tony mutters. He looks down on his bandaged hand, wondering how he’s going to do this without getting it wet. At that moment the door opens, and he feels a surge of relief as Gibbs walks into the shower room, accompanied by his guard.
“I told Tanner you’d need help,” he says, holding up a plastic bag and a rubber band. “I don’t think he really gave a damn, but they like keeping me sweet if it doesn’t cost them anything.”
As Gibbs is their big shining hope in the pits, Tony can believe that. Besides, most sane people are scared of the Gibbs death glare, and he’s sure even the cokehead doctor and the armed guards aren’t immune to its power.
Gibbs fastens the bag over his wrist, covering the bandage completely, and then he guides Tony under the hot water.
“So, tell me, do you ever get used to the being naked thing?” Tony asks with a grimace. In other circumstances, he’d be embarrassed about hanging out naked with his boss, but right now it’s the least of his problems.
“No,” Gibbs growls in reply. He puts a finger on Tony’s face and turns it, examining the damage. Tony’s glad there are no mirrors around, because he has a feeling he doesn’t look so pretty right now. “Christ, you look a mess.”
“Well, you were hitting me pretty hard for a while back there, before…” Before you knew who I was. He doesn’t say that out loud, because the guards are there, but it’s been bothering him. How could Gibbs NOT have known who he was? Just what is going on inside Gibbs’s head right now? He’s still there, he’s still Gibbs – Tony can see that much – but he’s not exactly the Gibbs he knew five months ago. Maybe that’s hardly surprising, but is that Gibbs still there, buried somewhere deep inside? And if he is, can Tony reach him?
Gibbs grunts but doesn’t reply. He grabs the soap, lathers some in his hands, and then gently wipes away the caked blood on Tony’s jaw. Tony mutters a feeble protest when Gibbs begins soaping his back, but he’s so tired it’s not exactly convincing.
“You’re about to fall over. Just shut up and let me get you clean,” Gibbs replies, but the flash of guilt in his eyes tells Tony that isn’t the only reason he’s doing this. “Trust me, if the guards have to do it you’ll like that even less.”
Tony closes his eyes and rests his head against the shower wall as Gibbs goes about the task. Gibbs is right – he’s so tired he can barely stand, and Gibbs is just being his usual efficient self. He can sense Gibbs’s guilt in the gentle, careful way he’s washing him – Gibbs punched him repeatedly, fucked him, and then broke his fingers, and now he feels responsible for taking care of him because of that.
The warm water is soothing on his sore muscles, and it feels good to be clean. When he’s done, Gibbs guides him out of the shower, throws a towel over him, and gently rubs him dry, and then they’re both escorted along yet more narrow hallways and into what’s clearly an infirmary.
Dr Tanner is sitting at a desk, a bright, inane grin on his face.
“Ah, good! I wondered if sending Leroy to help was a bad idea; I thought he might break the fingers on your other hand,” he announces cheerfully. “And that would have been more work for me!”
Tony has nothing to say to the idiot, so he just sits on the side of an exam table where directed. One of the guards puts a hand on Gibbs’s shoulder to push him out of the door, but Gibbs shakes it off.
“I’m staying,” he says, stony-faced.
“Now, Leroy, you know these consultations are one on one,” Tanner replies.
“I’m staying,” Gibbs repeats.
The guard’s hand goes to the whip sticking out of his belt, but Gibbs just turns towards him and gives him the death glare. The guard hesitates, and Tony bites back a grin. He was right; all the weapons and whips in the world can’t give you the confidence to stare down Leroy Jethro Gibbs when he’s in full badass mode.
“Oh, let him stay!” Tanner says with a wave of his hand, and the guard shrugs and leans back against the wall. Anything for an easy life it would seem.
Tony has no choice but to submit as he’s poked, prodded, weighed and measured, and a vial of his blood is taken.
“Standard new fighter procedure, Tony,” Tanner tells him. “I need to decide what dose of drugs to start you on.”
Tony doesn’t like the sound of that, but he’s too tired to really care right now.
"Not that there's any hurry. I'll discuss it with your owner, but with those fingers you won't be going into the pit for a while," Tanner adds.
Finally the exam is over, and Tanner pushes him towards his guard. “Off you go – time for bed, sleepyhead!” In a different time and place, Tony thinks he’d cheerfully smack the idiot in the mouth. “Is there a spare empty stall?” Tanner glances at a chart on his desk. “We lost a few fighters this evening, so there should be. Put him in one of those on his own; he needs rest.”
“He’s sleeping in my stall,” Gibbs growls. It’s the first thing he’s said in the past twenty minutes.
“Really, Leroy? You never share your stall with anyone. Did you take a liking to this pretty boy?” Tanner asks, with another one of his inane giggles. “Did you enjoy the kisses he gave you in the pit? It looked totally gay to me, but maybe that’s how you like it, Leroy.”
Gibbs gives him the same death glare he gave the guard. “My stall,” he repeats stubbornly. “Scott told me I could have any of them I want, and I want him.”
In other circumstances, Tony thinks that might sound hot, but right now, with Gibbs like this, it’s closer to scary.
Tanner gazes at him for a moment, but he’s no match for Gibbs’s death glare, either.
“Very well.” He shrugs. “I don’t care. Just don’t break him anymore than you already did, or Scott will be annoyed. It’s already doubtful whether we’ll be able to put him back in the pit before the end of the season, so Scott will have to feed him through the down season without him having earned his keep.”
Gibbs doesn’t reply. He just turns and strides out into the hallway. Tony follows him, and the guards fall into place behind them. Gibbs leads them along a few narrow hallways and stops beside a doorway. He goes inside and grabs some bedding from the floor and then moves on again, further down the hallway. They stop outside another stall, and Gibbs jerks his head at the door, gesturing that Tony should go in.
“Knew you’d change your mind, Leroy,” one of the guards says with a leering grin, and Tony wonders how Gibbs feels about all these idiots calling him by a name he doesn’t like and never uses. “I had a bet with McGuire that you would. Knew you couldn’t hold out forever. They’re all at it; fucking like rabbits in their stalls at night.”
“That why you play your damn radio so loud, Ellis?” Gibbs asks. “Drown out the sound?”
“Nah – I do that to fuck you off. ” Ellis gives a big grin and shoves Gibbs into the stall.
Then the door is slammed shut behind them, and Tony hears the jangle of keys as they’re locked in.
He looks at Gibbs, and Gibbs looks back at him. It’s the first time they’ve been alone together since Tony arrived, and he has no idea what happens next.
Gibbs slings the thin mattress, pillow and blanket down on the floor next to his own bedding. The stall is tiny, and the only space for Tony’s mattress is pressed up close against his own.
Tony looks terrible, and Gibbs knows he should let him get some sleep, but he has too many questions he needs answered first.
“The stall isn’t bugged so we can talk,” he says.
“Right.” Tony glances around and gives a little whistle. “It really is a ‘stall’ isn’t it? Like in a toilet or a horse’s stable. Not much privacy.”
“Tony, they don’t let us wear any damn clothes; that should have clued you in on how they view our ‘privacy’.”
“Sorry…I’m just tired…and oh shit…apologies are a sign of weakness, I know!” Tony adds hurriedly. He slaps the back of his own head and then winces and falls down in a heap on the mattresses. “Ow. That hurt much more than usual,” he says in such a mournful tone that Gibbs can’t help but grin. It’s just so very Tony, and it makes him acutely aware of how much he’s missed the big goofball. He suppresses an unexpected urge to hug him; he’s never been the hugging type, and it’d probably just freak Tony out.
“What’s happening, Tony? Fill me in,” Gibbs says urgently, leaning against the wall and gazing down on Tony.
“We never gave up looking for you, Gibbs – you need to understand that,” Tony says first, and the big goofball is instantly gone. Gibbs can see he’s looking at the brave, relentlessly loyal man he knows Tony also is instead. “But we were shut down every which way we turned. Oh, they let us poke around a bit – but in this soul-destroying way, always turning up blank leads, never finding anything useful. I think we got close a few times, but they were onto us and always one step ahead.”
“By ‘they’ – you mean Walid?”
“Yeah – although I didn’t know that at the time. I couldn’t figure out why we could never get warrants in time, and why the local LEOs were so damn unhelpful wherever we went. One day we’d see a sheriff, and he’d be nice as pie. Next day we’d go back, and he’d be all closed up like a clam. I think it was a combination of bribery and threats – whichever worked. Walid is seriously well-connected, and I mean *seriously*,” Tony says meaningfully.
“Are you saying he’s got Vance in his pocket?” Gibbs demands, frowning.
“Worse – SecNav. Not sure what he’s got on him, but I think SecNav’s been a naughty boy, accepting bribes over various defence contracts – Walid found out and is blackmailing him. I left McGee digging into that.”
McGee…he hasn’t heard that name in months and thinking about all the people back at NCIS makes him feel suddenly homesick. Gibbs tries to shove the feeling away, but it’s been a long, shocking day, and he can’t control his emotions as well as he’d like. The feeling persists, all the stronger for Tony being here. He’s having trouble coming to terms with the reality of Tony’s presence in what has been, up until now, his own personal nightmare. It feels so strange.
“How are they all?” Gibbs asks quietly. “Abby…Ducky…all of them?”
“They’re fine. But worried about you. All of them,” Tony repeats firmly. “Nobody gave up on you, Gibbs. Nobody forgot about you.”
Gibbs looks down, struggling as unexpected emotions surface, making a lump rise in his throat.
“Gibbs, you didn’t think we’d forgotten about you, did you?” Tony asks. “You didn’t think we’d walk away and leave you here to rot? That we’d ever just give up on you?”
Gibbs swallows hard. He can’t look up for a long time, but when he does he finds Tony’s eyes gleaming brightly in the semi-darkness.
“No,” he says hoarsely. “No. I knew that you would never give up, Tony.” But he can’t talk about all the long, lonely nights when it felt that way. They’re seared into his soul, and it hurts to even think about them. “So what happened, Tony? How did you end up here?”
“Vance tried to shut me down – on orders from SecNav,” Tony says briskly, clearly trying to move them both on from Gibbs’s uncharacteristic emotional lapse. “From talking to Walid, I think I was supposed to try and fail, and then, when I was at a low point, they offered me the bribe of a promotion and a hike in pay, on condition that I give up looking for you.”
“Boy, they really misjudged you.”
“Well, that’s the way I like it,” Tony says seriously, and Gibbs nods. He’s never misjudged Tony or been taken in by the mask Tony presents to the world. He knows Tony likes his opponents to underestimate him, and he’s seen the tactic work time and again on a variety of people from murder suspects to the director of Mossad. He’s seen Vance being fooled by it too, and he suspects Walid made the same mistake; and that could turn out be the most serious tactical error he’ll ever make.
“So, what’s the plan?” Gibbs asks, leaning back against the wall. “It can’t just be finding me – that gets us nowhere except us both being in captivity.”
“Yeah – it’s not the plan – well, it’s only part of the plan,” Tony replies. “See, everything these guys do is transportable. I even found the site of one stable a few days ago, but when I showed up again the next day it was gone. They’re wealthy men, with resources. Moving their fighters around the country for fights and to hide them is easy for them.”
“So, we need to tell someone where to find us,” Gibbs says.
“Yup. That’s where the plan comes in.” Tony pauses and takes a deep breath. “It, uh, well it involves technology, Gibbs.”
Gibbs rolls his eyes. “Tell me.”
“Okay – McGee has set up this gizmo. I won’t go into details; it was boring enough when he explained it to me. All I have to do is steal a cell phone and call a number I’ve memorized. He has this automatic trace set up – the minute that number gets called, any time, day or night, it starts locating the source automatically. Ideally he needs the line to stay open for about 28 seconds…”
“A cell phone?” Gibbs interrupts, frowning. “Christ, DiNozzo – how the hell are we going to get our hands on a cell phone? None of the guards is allowed to bring a cell phone into the building. Nobody is – not even Tanner.”
“Yeah right.” It’s Tony turn to roll his eyes now. “And I’m not supposed to play Tetris at work, Gibbs, but that’s never stopped me!”
“Worse you ever got for playing Tetris at work was a slap on the back of the head,” Gibbs retorts. “What these guys would get for bringing a cell phone to work is a bullet through the back of the head. Big difference.”
Tony makes a face. “You do make a good point there, Gibbs, but it’s the only plan I’ve got. We just need to be vigilant. At some point one of them will screw up – and we have to take advantage of that.”
“No,” Gibbs snaps.
Tony’s head jerks up. “No?”
“No. It’s too dangerous.”
“What?” Tony looks confused. “Come on, Gibbs…” then he pauses. “You have a different plan? Is that it?”
Gibbs shrugs. “When the season is over, and when I win, Scott says he’ll give me privileges – move me to a house somewhere. I figure the security will be a hell of a lot looser there, so there will be far more opportunity for escape.”
“And between now and then you have to fight that bastard Mac in the pit – and not only survive but win,” Tony points out.
“You think I can’t?” Gibbs raises an eyebrow.
Tony sighs. “I’d never bet against you, but that guy is a man mountain, and he’s a serious head case as well. I met him at Walid’s place.” He shudders theatrically. “Nice guy; told me that if I won, he’d ask for me to be put in his stall so he could fuck me.”
“I saw him fight tonight. I know he’ll be hard to beat.”
“So, I’ll just have to beat him,” Gibbs says firmly. Tony opens his mouth to argue, but Gibbs cuts him off. “I said no, Tony, and I mean it. Do not try and steal anyone’s cell phone. That’s an order.”
“You’ve been here for five goddamn minutes, and I’ve been here five months. You don’t know anything about this place. I do!”
Tony stares at him for a moment and then gives a reluctant nod.
“Good.” Gibbs exhales loudly. “Okay – now, is the Tony DiNardo cover watertight, or do we need to worry about Scott finding out who you really are?”
“Jenny set up a full paper trail for the cover which is still in place,” Tony replies. “There hasn’t been anything new on DiNardo for a few years since that assignment ended, but hopefully Scott won’t notice that. Man, I never thought I’d have to use that name again. What a clusterfuck of a mission that was.”
He gives an elaborate shudder, and the movement makes him sway; he looks like he’s about to pass out.
“You need to get some sleep. Now,” Gibbs orders.
Tony doesn’t argue this time. He just slides under the blanket, closes his eyes, and is asleep within seconds.
Gibbs sighs. He had hoped for more promising news. Now he has all the complications of protecting Tony without any real hope of rescue. It’s not good.
He goes over to the mattress next to Tony and lies down on it, pulling the blanket over his body. He’s spent every single night in this stall for the past five months on his own, and it feels strange having someone sleeping beside him. He can hear the soft snuffle of Tony’s breathing and can smell the scent of him – soap mingled with some smell that’s all Tony, and that reminds him vividly of their days working together at NCIS, a lifetime ago.
He closes his eyes…but all he can see is Tony lying beneath him in the pit whispering, “I won’t be raped” fiercely in his ear. He clenches his hands into fists, willing the image away. They’ve both been avoiding that subject since they’ve been alone together, but is it something that can be avoided forever?
What the hell kind of relationship can he and Tony have after this, even if they do escape? How can they ever work together again after he screwed Tony in the sawdust in front of all those people? Yes, the alternative was so much worse, but he and Tony both know one horrible truth – that a part of him enjoyed the sex. It was such a blessed relief to sink into Tony’s body and feel the tight heat of his hole milking his cock. He hates that he was forced to do it, but he hates the fact that his body took pleasure in it more. How can they ever get beyond that?
He opens his eyes and lies there, looking up at the ceiling. Christ, this is such a mess!
There’s another problem with having Tony in his stall; one that he hadn’t considered. He’s used to jerking off, often more than once a night. It only relieves the aching pressure in his balls for a short while, but it’s some respite from the constant urge to fuck. Now, with Tony here, that activity will have to be curtailed. It was bad enough being forced to fuck him in the pit, but Gibbs has his pride; he’s not going to jerk off in front of him like a randy teenager unable to control himself.
Tony mumbles something in his sleep and turns over, and one of his arms comes to rest on Gibbs’s hip. Gibbs can feel his warm breath tickling the back of his neck, and it’s more than he can stand.
He gets hold of the hand on his hip and slings it away, shoving Tony as far from him as he can in the process. Tony mumbles something again, but he doesn’t wake up.
Somewhere down the hallway, Gibbs hears a couple of fighters in their stall, fucking noisily. It’s a familiar sound, but this time it gets to him more than ever before. Presumably Ellis isn’t on hallway guard duty or the radio would be blaring out too, but tonight he’d welcome that if it shut out the noisy pants and moans and the wet, slapping sounds from down the hall.
Gibbs closes his eyes again, but this time he finds himself fantasising about turning over, grabbing Tony and sinking his hard cock into that warm, tight hole again. He knows it’s the drugs, but that doesn’t make it any easier. There is no way he’d do that to Tony, who worked so hard to make it seem like the sex they had in the pit was consensual, but the images taunt him all the same.
Gibbs takes hold of his pillow and buries his teeth in it, stifling the scream of helpless, frustrated rage.
Tony wakes up a little while later and immediately remembers where he is. It’s like waking from a nightmare to find you’re still in one. His body aches all over, and he moans as he stretches out on the thin mattress on the floor.
He can hear noises down the hallway – sex noises. He closes his eyes again and then is aware of another sound. Gibbs is breathing hard and there’s a rhythmic rustling sound emerging from under his blanket. Tony realizes that the poor bastard is trying to jerk off – quietly, so as not to wake him. He can only guess how humiliating this must be for Gibbs. He’s such a proud, private man; this must be its own special kind of torture for him.
Tony thinks about it for a minute. They’re going to be trapped here, at close quarters, for God knows how long. Hurrell told him about Gibbs’s phenomenal self-control in not fucking any of the other fighters, but the poor guy needs some release. He shouldn’t have to feel ashamed for trying to meet the needs caused by the drugs they’re pumping into him.
It’s a risk…but Tony decides it’s one worth taking. He turns over and slides his good hand under Gibbs’s blanket.
There’s a momentary startled hiss. “DiNozzo!” Gibbs growls, grabbing hold of his wrist as his hand goes lower.
“It’s okay, let me,” Tony says softly into Gibbs’s ear. “Boarding school,” he adds by way of explanation.
Gibbs releases his grip on his wrist with a sharp exhalation of breath. Tony moves his hand and finds Gibbs’s hard cock. He’s pretty good at this, knowing just the right pressure to apply in all the right places, and he rubs a firm rhythm along the hard shaft. Gibbs’s breathing gets faster and faster, and Tony can feel he’s close, but also that he’s holding on, unable to completely give into the pleasure and have his release.
“Let it go,” he whispers. “Trust me,” he adds, remembering the pit.
Gibbs gasps, his body shuddering, and then he relaxes, moaning softly and rocking into Tony’s skilful hand. A few seconds later, Tony feels his warm come spilling out over his fingers. There’s a momentary almost shocked silence, and then Gibbs gives a strangled sob and turns towards him. He buries his face in Tony’s neck, all the muscles in his back taut and quivering, and Tony wonders how much it cost him to have such a human moment.
For one horrible moment he’s afraid Gibbs is crying. Then he realizes there are no tears, but Gibbs is breathing fast, making these little gasping sounds into his neck. Tony wonders if he did the right thing, but then he suddenly understands that Gibbs isn’t upset – he’s overwhelmed. The man has suffered months of loneliness and abuse, so for someone to touch him with gentle affection and give him that kind of unselfish release…it’s all too much for him.
Tony puts his bandaged hand on the back of Gibbs’s shorn head and strokes him gently. “S’okay. Ssh, ssh…”
Gibbs slowly calms down, his breathing deepening, and at some point in the night they both fall asleep again.
Tony is woken up a few hours later by a loud klaxon blaring and the lights in the hallway outside being turned up to full brightness. He sits up blearily, to find Gibbs is already up and pissing in the toilet in the corner.
“Get up.” Gibbs finishes up and jerks his head at the door. “Time to get moving. They don’t like it if you’re slow.”
Tony gets up, every muscle protesting the movement. The door is opened by one of the guards, and Gibbs stalks out of it without a second glance at him.
“I get it,” Tony mutters under his breath as he follows on behind. “We don’t talk about what happens in the night. I get the message – loud and clear.”
He’s actually relieved; the idea of having a chat with his taciturn boss about anything involving sex would probably just about kill him on top of everything else. It’s not as if his own avoidance techniques aren’t just as finely honed as Gibbs’s, if not quite as direct. Besides, there was something so intimate and humbling about what they shared last night that he doesn’t want to drag it out into the open and ruin it by talking about it.
They’re herded back to the showers, where Gibbs helps him wash again, which feels, to Tony, just as intimate as the hand job. This whole situation is so confusing. He might have been in love with Gibbs for years, but he’s under no illusion that the man returns his feelings. Right now, Gibbs is being driven by a combination of loneliness and the drugs in his system, and Tony knows he’s treading a fine line between alleviating the effects of both those things while at the same time not taking advantage of Gibbs.
After showering, they’re prodded into another room to eat. Tony’s so hungry he doesn’t really care what’s put in front of him, but he notices there’s no coffee, which is yet another thing his caffeine addicted boss is having to manage without right now.
Breakfast over, they’re taken to a huge training room, complete with punching bags, boxing ring, treadmills, rowing machines, and every variety of gym equipment, all of it state of the art.
Tony stands and watches as the trainers set the fighters to work on various machines. Now he understands why Gibbs has that lean, muscled look; he’s been doing a fitness boot camp for the past five months. “World’s worst way to diet,” he mutters to himself.
Nobody seems interested in him, so he sits down in the corner to watch. He supposes they’ll devise a training regime for him at some point, but for now he’s being ignored. In fact, both the trainers seem far more interested in Gibbs – and he’s aware just how important Gibbs is around here. He’s Scott’s ticket to the big time, and they’re putting everything into him.
“Hey,” a voice says, and he looks around to see Hurrell coming over. “Thought I should…” Hurrell shuffles his feet. “Look, I want to apologise for last night. I was in a bad place after what happened to Steve, but I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”
“No problem.” Tony gestures to the floor, and Hurrell crouches down beside him, his back to the wall. “Are they always all over him like this?” Tony nods at where the trainers are taping Gibbs’s fingers, talking to him intently.
“Yeah. The guards are always close by too. He’s their star asset – they guard him well, and they train him well. Can’t say I care; takes the heat off the rest of us.” Hurrell shrugs. “Look, Tony,” he glances around, lowering his voice. “Have you talked to Gibbs about getting us out of here?”
Tony chews on his lip thoughtfully. “Yeah. We talked.” He’s still having trouble making sense of Gibbs’s vehemence about not trying to escape; maybe Hurrell can shed some light on it.
“And? See, if there’s anything going down I want in on it, only he says there isn’t. Practically bit my head off when I asked him about it.”
Tony leans forward. “I had the same problem, and it threw me. Trust me, it didn’t sound like the guy I knew back at NCIS.”
Hurrell nods eagerly. “I know what you mean! I felt the same way! Look, Tony – Gibbs is a legend around here. All the fighters are in awe of him. He’s a natural born leader, and we’d do just about anything he asks.”
Tony nods thoughtfully. “Yeah – now that sounds like the Gibbs I know.”
“So, if he’s that strong, mentally as well as physically, why the hell isn’t he trying to escape?”
“I don’t know. I mean, they’ve beaten him – you can see the marks on his back – but…” Tony trails off, gazing over to where Gibbs is striding towards a punching bag, a hungry, intense look in his eyes.
“They haven’t broken him, Tony,” Hurrell tells him. “Trust me – I’ve seen men they’ve broken, and they’re useless. Gibbs isn’t like that. There’s something kind of feral and untamed about him – there’s no way these bastards have broken him.”
“Any idea what’s going on with him then?”
Hurrell gives a little sigh. “Maybe – it’s just a hunch – I don’t know the guy as well as you. But sometimes I worry that he’s got sucked into this whole thing, that he’s forgotten that it’s not about winning the fights – it’s about finding a way out of here. I wonder if, as much as he hates it, maybe he also enjoys it too. He seems to come alive in the pit, like it’s where he feels most at home and can express some truth about himself that he has to keep locked up the rest of the time.”
Tony sits back. In all his concerns over Gibbs’s mental state, that’s something he hadn’t considered. Gibbs going native – is that possible? If you’d asked him that about the man he knew a few months ago, he’d have said not only “no”, but a resounding “hell no!” But this man – the one with the prowling, wolfish intensity in his every move – the man who took several minutes to even recognize him in the pit last night? Tony is not so sure.
“Have you spoken to him about any of this?” he asks quietly.
“Yeah…but he just gets that dark, angry look, and shoots me those glares of his; the ones that are supposed to make me shut up.”
“But you don’t?”
“No. I’ve been getting in his face, calling him on it whenever I can, getting angry with him, trying to force him into facing up to it.”
“Ah.” Tony winces.
“That’s not how you handle Gibbs, Sam. Trust me, I should know. I’ve worked with the guy for ten years.”
Hurrell gives a little grin. “Ten years – and you’re still alive? Hell, Tony, are you some kind of masochist?”
Tony laughs. “Maybe, Sam, maybe I am – where Gibbs is concerned, anyway. I think in all that time I got angry with him about…three times?” He counts in his head. “Yeah…three. It doesn’t work very well.”
“Then what does?”
“He’s an intense guy – and he’s got one hell of a temper on him. You can’t meet that anger with more anger, because trust me, no matter how angry you get he can get ten times angrier. He can do angry like nobody else I’ve ever known.”
“Yeah, I had noticed.”
“And he’s always more angry with himself than he is with anyone else. It’s no use telling him when he’s fucked up – he always knows that, and he’ll be beating himself up far worse than you ever could. So you douse the flames, you don’t fan them. You bring him out of it.”
Tony grins. “You make him laugh. You joke around, you goof off, and you tease him, and that way you remind him that he’s human and that he needs people, no matter how much he hates that fact. He’s lost more in his life than most of us could lose and stay halfway sane or sober. Sometimes that gets to him, and he becomes lost in a dark kind of headspace – and that’s when you have to pull him out of it with a stupid joke, or a prank, or anything to distract him and make him smile.”
“He smiles? I’ve never seen it,” Hurrell says with a wry shake of his head.
“Oh yeah, he smiles! Not often, but when he does, you know you’ve done something right. You can get in his face and call him on his shit – he needs that sometimes – but don’t do it with anger. Stay calm and give him something to laugh at too.”
Tony watches as Gibbs buries a fist deep in the punching bag. “Yeah, he can be a bastard, but he’s also a guy who’ll risk his life for you, without question. He’s a guy who looks out for all kids like they’re all his own flesh and blood, who needs to see justice done like he needs to breathe, and who would never, ever leave a man behind. So you just have to remind him of that occasionally.”
Tony shrugs, never taking his eyes off Gibbs. “You help him remember that he’s not just a guy who can kill with his bare hands, but also a guy who can build these beautiful boats that actually sail on water.”
“He builds boats?” Hurrell raises a disbelieving eyebrow.
“Beautiful boats – and with his own hands. He won’t use power tools.”
“Sounds like you know him really well.”
“Yeah.” Tony looks thoughtfully across the room, to where Gibbs is pounding away at the punching bag like it’s his worst enemy. “Yeah, I do, Sam. And one thing I know is that you don’t reach Leroy Jethro Gibbs by getting angry with him and telling him what he’s not. You do it by sticking with him and reminding him what he is.”
Gibbs isn’t a runner; running bores the hell out of him, and there’s something so soulless about just pounding away on a treadmill without getting anywhere. He prefers sparring in the ring, or punching, or lifting weights, but it isn’t his choice. Frank, the chief trainer, has punched his workout into the treadmill, and Gibbs knows he won’t be allowed to eat, rest, or piss until he’s completed it.
He watches out of the corner of his eye as Tony does what Tony does best: nosing out information. Tony is busy making friends, charming everyone in the room – guards, trainers and fighters alike. Tony has various strategies at his disposal, and Gibbs is familiar with every single one of them.
There is stupid Tony – he’s deliberately idiotic, mangling movie quotes, tripping over his own toes and generally acting the idiot. That Tony is the one he starts off being, lulling his audience into a false sense of security by presenting himself as a harmless idiot.
Then there is the empathetic Tony. Gibbs watches as Tony identifies a target – one of the guards standing by the door, looking bored – and goes over to him. He makes a joke, and the guard grunts. Tony leans in, talking softly, and the guard starts to engage, nodding, talking back, holding a conversation, then smiling, and looking at Tony with genuine interest. Tony is making them see him as a real person, not just another fighter. Gibbs tried the same tactic when he first arrived too, for all the good it did him.
Finally, there is smart Tony. Gibbs speeds up on the treadmill as Tony misdirects the guard with some extravagant hand gestures, maybe doing one of his Jack Nicholson impressions. Gibbs is vaguely aware that the fighter on the treadmill next to him is breathing heavily, his face bright red, sweat flying off him, but nothing can distract him from watching what Tony is doing. He sees Tony knocking the guard’s arm and then apologising extravagantly, patting him down as he does so… and Gibbs sees one of Tony's hands slip into the man’s pocket.
Damn it! He told Tony not to go looking for a cell phone! Gibbs runs as fast as he can, keeping one eye on Tony the entire time in case his attempt at pickpocketing has been noticed. Tony is still talking manically, still waving his arms around. Gibbs can feel the sweat pouring off his body – if he can just get to the end of the session the trainer will let him take a break, and then he can go and speak to Tony
The treadmill slows and comes to a stop, and Frank comes over. He takes one look at the time and distance covered and gives a low whistle.
“That’s your best time ever, Leroy. Well done. Take ten.”
Gibbs grabs a towel and wipes the sweat off his forehead and is about to stride over to Tony when a sound behind him grabs his attention. The fighter who was on the next treadmill is standing there, head down, his chest heaving, and Frank is yelling at him.
“You’re too fucking slow, Stuart! I’ve warned you before – if you don’t cover the distance in thirty minutes, you pay for it.’
Frank waves his hand, and the guard who was talking to Tony comes striding over. Tony jogs along behind him, stopping when he reaches Gibbs’s side.
“What’s happening?” he whispers.
Gibbs gives him a hard sideways glare. “You’ll see.”
“Please…no…I’m just tired. I fought in the pit last night, and I won! Please, please…don’t…” Stuart begs pathetically. Gibbs puts a hand on Tony’s shoulder, feeling the muscles tense under his fingers.
The guard shoves Stuart to the floor and pulls the whip out of his belt. It all happens so quickly – the rise and fall of the whip, the welts rising, red and angry, on Stuart’s back, and the crescendo of Stuart’s sobs and screams as he places his arms over his head to protect himself, grovelling on the floor at the guard’s feet.
It’s not a hard whipping – Gibbs has had far worse – but it is shocking in its swift brutality. He can feel Tony pulling forward, his instinct to help the poor bastard taking the beating, and Gibbs tightens his grip and forces him to stay still. He had the same instinct himself once, back when he was new, but he learned the hard way that it helps nobody and costs you dearly.
Then it’s over. Stuart is a quivering wreck on the floor, sobbing and shaking, the red whip marks standing out in livid intensity on his white skin.
Gibbs digs his fingers into Tony’s shoulder and propels him towards the table in the corner of the room where the drinks are lined up. He shoves Tony against the wall.
“See, you stupid, dumb idiot. It’s not a game, Tony. It’s real. Do not fuck with these people.
Tony is staring at him from wide, shocked eyes. “I know…shit…that poor bastard…but I know, Gibbs…I…”
“I saw you!” Gibbs hisses. “I saw you searching the guard for a cell phone, Tony. I ordered you not to go looking for trouble, because if you do, trust me, you’ll find it.”
“I just spoke to that guy…the guard who just…he was nice…we talked about football…”
“Yeah, and if you screw up he’ll throw you down and whip you like he whipped Stuart, without hesitating. He’s not your friend, Tony, and he’s never going to be your damn friend, no matter how many of your stupid Jack Nicholson impressions you do!”
Gibbs finally releases Tony’s shoulder and grabs a bottle of water from the table. He drinks it all down, swallowing furiously, glancing around the gym. Everyone has gone back to their training regimes as if the ugly interlude with Stuart never happened. Stuart is still lying on the floor shaking. Gibbs watches as Frank goes over to him.
“Get back on the treadmill and do it again, and this time do it faster,” Frank orders, nudging Stuart with his boot. Stuart is still sobbing as he slowly gets up and walks back to the treadmill, his head down.
Gibbs hears Tony coming up behind him.
“My Jack Nicholson impressions aren’t that bad, are they?” Tony whispers in his ear.
Gibbs can’t stop the grunt of laughter that escapes from his lips; only Tony could make him laugh at a time like this.
“Worse than bad,” he growls, getting himself under control.
“Damn it. I’ll have to work on them some more,” Tony says. He puts one hand on Gibbs’s shoulder and squeezes, and then he moves away.
Gibbs stands there, breathing heavily, and not from the exertion on the treadmill. Somehow Tony just turned everything around, pulled the rug out from under him, and reminded Gibbs that now he’s here and everything has changed. He made him laugh, for God’s sake!
Gibbs watches as Tony walks over to where Sam Hurrell is standing, and he finds himself fixating on Tony’s ass as he walks. He’s been living with hairy, sweaty, naked men for months now and has never found any of them remotely attractive, but now he finds himself appreciating the sweet curve of Tony’s ass where it meets the top of his long legs. He closes his eyes, remembering the feel of Tony’s skilful fingers stroking his hard cock in the middle of the night, and the heat of his breath on the back of his neck.
Why did Tony do that, especially after he fucked him in the pit? How can Tony not hate him, at least on some level, right now? Gibbs knows how he’d feel if their roles were reversed. The pain and humiliation would rankle, even if his logical mind knew that the alternative was so much worse. Tony seems to have taken being fucked up the ass in his stride, and Gibbs can’t comprehend that. He didn’t deserve Tony’s gentle touch in the night, or the compassionate words whispered in his ear. They both know he took some pleasure in that fucking in the pit. Tony saw it in his eyes, and it shames him. It makes him feel exposed, weak and guilty, and he hates those emotions.
He watches as Tony shares a joke with Sam Hurrell and another emotion rears its ugly head, one he’s completely unprepared for: jealousy.
It’s just one more thing to feed to the dark wolf. Gibbs strides over to where Frank is waiting and channels his anger into a vigorous session with the punching bag.
“You are on fire today, Leroy,” Frank says approvingly some time later, as Gibbs wipes the sweat from his body with a towel. “Best workout I’ve ever seen from you. What’s the reason?”
Gibbs glances over to where Tony is still talking to Hurrell. “No reason,” he lies.
He puts in his best day ever in training – which is unusual after Fight Night as he’s usually too tired to do any personal bests.
He’s relieved when the day is over, and it’s time for dinner. He gets his tray of food as usual, sits down, and glances up as Tony sits down opposite him, a look of disgust on his face.
“This is food?” Tony asks dubiously, pushing a piece of carrot around the plate with his plastic knife like it’s some kind of alien life form. They’re eating the usual healthy dinner of chicken, brown rice, and a multitude of grilled vegetables. It’s fairly tasteless, but Gibbs is so hungry he doesn’t care.
“Yeah, Tony. It’s food.”
“Even this?” Tony holds up a piece of broccoli on his fork, gazing at it quizzically, and Gibbs bites back another grunt of laughter.
“It’s broccoli, Tony. Just eat it. It’s okay.”
Tony takes a mouthful and then makes an extravagantly repulsed face. “You and I have different definitions of ‘okay’, clearly,” he mutters reaching for his cup of water and gulping it down. “So tell, me, Gibbs – when’s pizza night?”
“No pizza. No popcorn, chocolate, or Chinese. No noodles, no hamburgers, and no coffee.” Gibbs sighs as he says that last item.
“Apart from all the other reasons this place sucks, this place really sucks,” Tony says mournfully.
Gibbs glances around. Usually he eats alone, his demeanour making it very clear that he doesn’t appreciate anyone sitting at his table, let alone talking to him. But tonight, a whole clutch of the other fighters have sat down around him – no, not around him – around Tony, and Tony just happens to be sitting with him.
Normally, his body language tells them to stay away, but Tony’s body language is clearly inviting them to join them. Gibbs remembers the many conversations Tony had with the other fighters during the course of the day, all the clowning around, the jokes, and the movie impressions. Back in the office, when they’re trying to get work done, Tony’s more idiotic characteristics were irritating to his co-workers, but here, where there is no entertainment, Tony is like TV.
Gibbs has a sudden impression of what Tony must have been like in the closed, confined quarters of boarding school. Tony is used to communal living, bad food, and the exclusive company of the male gender, and he knows how to handle it. Being in the Marines has equipped Gibbs to handle it too – and Hurrell – but some fighters, without that kind of background, struggle more here. Tony’s innate charisma shines very brightly in this environment, and Gibbs can see why the other fighters are drawn to him.
“So…pizza! It has to be pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese for me – you?” Tony glances sideways at Hurrell, who is sitting next to him.
“Ham and mushroom – no question.” Hurrell grins, shovelling a forkful of rice in his mouth.
Around the table the fighters start shouting out their favourite pizza toppings, and soon Tony has got everyone talking to everyone else, instead of the usual muted dinner conversations Gibbs is more familiar with.
“Gibbs?” Tony asks, and Gibbs can sense the entire table tensing. They aren’t aware that Tony already knows him, and newbies don’t usually dare to initiate casual conversations with him. They aren’t sure how he’ll respond.
Tony leans back, a grin on his face. “Let me guess…” he murmurs thoughtfully. Gibbs glares at him some more, and Tony’s grin widens. “Pepperoni, ham, beef, pork sausage, Italian sausage, and bacon. Some would say they don’t go together, but I bet you like your pizzas as carnivorous as possible.”
Gibbs rolls his eyes. Tony knows his pizza order all too well from various late nights at the office working cases over the years. “Lucky guess,” he says, deadpan, and Tony bursts out laughing.
The rest of the table seems to view it as a good omen that Gibbs hasn’t sunk his fist into Tony’s face for his audacity, and everyone relaxes and the conversation starts flowing again. Now that Tony has shown them that he’s not the ogre of pit legend, people even include him in their conversations, and he finds himself being drawn in, despite himself.
It feels strange to be talking to people he’s seen around for weeks but never had more than a cursory exchange of words with before. He finds himself relaxing, and he’s aware of Hurrell’s surprised gaze falling upon him several times during the course of the meal. Then Hurrell looks at Tony and gives him an impressed little nod, and Gibbs wonders what the hell that was all about.
After dinner, they’re herded back to their stalls to sleep.
“They’re nice guys,” Tony says, as he shakes out his blanket.
“Yeah, and next time you meet them they could be slamming their fists into your face in the pit and then after that…” Gibbs stops, fighting down the anger. “There are ways of getting by in here, Tony.”
“I know.” Tony nods. “And yours are different to mine.”
Gibbs thinks back to how he was when he first arrived and wonders whether Tony will still view it the same way in five months’ time. That thought makes him angry again; he doesn’t want Tony to be here in five months’ time. He doesn’t damn well want Tony to be here now – and yet he doesn’t want to be here without him, either.
He bends down to grab his own blanket and can feel Tony watching him. Heat rises to his face as he remembers what happened between them the previous night.
“How did you get the scars on your back?” Tony asks unexpectedly.
“I was whipped,” Gibbs replies, turning to give him the death glare.
“Well, duh – I figured that out, Boss. Why were you whipped?”
“You know why, Tony. “ Gibbs lies down on his mattress, pulls the blanket over himself, and turns his back on Tony.
There’s silence for a bit.
“That’s cryptic, Boss, even by your standards,” Tony says eventually.
“Tony, you know me, and you’ve seen how this place works. You’re a bright boy, no matter how hard you work at trying to make people think you’re not, so you figure it out.”
There’s another silence. Then he hears Tony turning too, and a hand comes to rest casually on his hip. He thinks about it for a moment, but the truth is it’s been a tiring day, he’s exhausted, and Tony’s hand isn’t doing any harm, so he doesn’t shove it off.
The truth is also that it’s warm and comforting, and he likes it – and inside the light wolf gets thrown a little scrap of food.
He wakes up in the middle of the night and is immediately aware he has an erection. He often does – day or night. He long ago stopped being embarrassed by it, or even taking much notice of it. It’s the same for most of the fighters – it’s impossible to stop the body’s physical reactions to the drugs they keep pumping into them.
Having Tony here made it humiliating all over again at first, just like it was in the early days, but Tony’s surprising gesture last night somehow removed his shame. Tony understands. He gets it. He might not be being fed any drugs himself – yet – but he made it seem like something normal that Gibbs didn’t have to worry about or hide.
All the same, Gibbs hesitates. Beside him, he hears Tony move his head on his pillow.
“You awake?” Tony asks softly.
“Yeah. I…I’m gonna jerk off.”
“Need a hand?”
He hesitates again. It felt so much better to have Tony’s hand on his hard cock after the long nights taking care of it alone, but he doesn’t want to give in to that kind of weakness.
“No,” he says firmly.
It helps not to have to hide the tell-tale grunts and thrusts as he wraps his hand around his cock and begins to rub it. He finds his mind wandering back to earlier in the day, watching the sweet curve of Tony’s ass as he walked across the gym. He knows how it feels to be deep inside that ass, and it makes him moan softly. It feels somehow wrong to be jerking off, thinking about Tony, while Tony is lying right beside him, and he takes the pressure off, his erection wilting slightly in response.
Tony turns over and puts his hand on his hip again. Gibbs closes his eyes, fighting it, but the light wolf inside him seems determined to be fed. It wants the sense of intimacy from last night that he has been trying to deny it.
He can’t deny it anymore. He grabs Tony’s hand where it’s lying on his hip and slowly guides it down towards his cock. Tony doesn’t say a word. He just moves in close, rests his chin on Gibbs’s shoulder, and takes his cock firmly in his hand.
Gibbs arches his back. It feels so damn good. He’s hungry for human touch and companionship, and he trusts Tony. He couldn’t let his guard down in this way with anyone else. He’d punch Hurrell, or McGee, or anyone else who tried to touch him like this, but somehow with Tony it’s okay. It’s more than okay.
Tony’s hand is skilled and expert on his cock, but that isn’t what makes it so pleasurable. It’s the way Tony murmurs little words of encouragement into his ear and the warmth of his breath on the back of his neck. It’s knowing that he can relax, and that Tony will take care of it. It’s the feeling that he can let go, for just a little while; he doesn’t have to hold it in or handle it alone.
He comes with a low growl of pleasure and is immediately overwhelmed by a sensation of wellbeing. He feels warm, relaxed, and sated. There is so little kindness to be found in this place, and now he understands why Sam Hurrell has always gone looking for this kind of comfort. They are all trapped in this big, terrifying nightmare. They endure privations and ordeals on a daily basis. It feels good to take some respite wherever you can find it.
He turns over and looks at Tony’s familiar features in the dark. He won’t say thanks – not in so many words at least – that isn’t his style.
“When I first got here, I pissed them off,” he says. Not over stupid things, because he’s a pragmatist and always has been, but he asked questions and intervened when he was supposed to look the other way. “I knew how you would react to Stuart being punished earlier because that was my reaction too. That’s why I held you back.”
Tony places his good hand on Gibbs’s back, and Gibbs can feel his fingers locating one of the long scars that stretches from his shoulder to his hip. Tony traces the scar all the way down with slow, gentle sweeps of his fingertips.
“There was this kid – Brian – reminded me of Jimmy Palmer. You know the type. He didn’t belong here – nobody does, but he didn’t have a fighting bone in his body. Failed every single workout, got beaten all the time.”
“And you got these scars trying to protect him,” Tony says quietly.
“They kept beating up on him. He was going under.”
In the first couple of weeks he’d irritated the hell out of the guards. He asked awkward questions, challenged them, and made them feel uneasy. They didn’t know he was going to amount to anything in the pit, but somehow they sensed that he was a threat. Maybe because back then he didn’t know how to keep the dark wolf down and only bring it out in the pit, and it snarled at them once too often.
He took several beatings during the early days, but it was the beating over Brian that caused the scars. The guards, especially Ellis, enjoyed bullying Brian – he had victim written all over him, and they made his life a misery. When Brian failed yet another workout, Gibbs stepped in to take the heat off him, and Ellis decided he’d pissed them off once too often. They strung him up like an animal and whipped him long and hard until his back was red raw, the blood flowing freely. It was supposed to teach him a lesson. He thinks maybe it did; just not the one they expected him to learn.
There’s nothing else to say. Gibbs rests his head on Tony’s shoulder, and Tony continues tracing those languid fingers up and down his scarred back until they both fall asleep again.
Tony is slowly learning that any intimacy he shares with Gibbs in the night is gone by the morning. The next day everything is back to normal, with Gibbs growling and glaring, and Tony goofing off to try and provoke even the slightest hint that Gibbs is human and not the fighting automaton this place wants him to be.
Even two days into this ordeal, Tony is wondering if the only way to cope is to shut down and turn in on yourself, the way Gibbs has done. The unrelenting routine of every single day must get to you after a while. First the showers, then the dining room, and the food that’s healthy but always the same, day in, day out; then into the gym all day, with brief rest periods for water and lunch, and finally dinner, another shower, and then bed. There is nothing to look forward to, no change to the routine, and no end ever in sight. It’s soul-destroying.
Occasionally, a fighter gets called to the infirmary for a check-up, or someone gets punished for not completing his training regime fast enough. The combination of drugs and bored, helpless, frustrated men doesn’t make for a peaceful environment and fights break out regularly. Tony is never sure what sets them off, but suddenly raised voices will turn into snarling, the men sounding like dogs, followed by the brutal crunching sound of fists slamming into flesh and bone, before the guards break it up.
Fight Night looms for all of them at the end of the week, an ordeal they all hate and fear. The fighters are worked hard in the gym all week, herded and confined into stalls and denied any entertainment during their down time, and then at the end of the week they’re forced out into the pit, where they might die or be raped. It’s hardly surprising they fight among themselves.
Tony has an appreciation for Gibbs’s self-control. The man strides through it all like the colossus of pit legend that he is. He never initiates a fight, gets involved, or breaks them up. If the guards yell at him, he treats them to his death glare and slowly does as he’s told as if it’s by his own choice. He gives them no excuse to punish him, but he doesn’t talk or laugh with them, or try to make friends with them, either. Tony is sure that some of them are scared of Gibbs; only their whips, guns and tazers keep them brave around him.
How much does it cost him though, Tony wonders, as he watches Gibbs put in another good time on the treadmill. The trainers still haven’t taken any notice of Tony. His arrival this late in the season, and his broken fingers, make him completely useless to them. There is nothing for him to do but hang around and observe, the way Gibbs taught him to observe. It’s what he does best. It’s his job.
Tony notices which guards are on duty and how often they’re rotated. He talks to each of them, trying to get a sense of their strengths and weaknesses. Some chat to him quite easily, talking about their families, sports, movies, sex…and others just grunt and look away. Maybe they’re ashamed of what they’re doing, or maybe they know he’s trying to get them to see him as a real person, not just another prisoner to be herded and hit.
The other fighters like to talk to him too, during their breaks. He’s someone new, someone to break up the tedium, and he tries to keep them entertained. He’s always loved playing the clown, and this audience is more appreciative than his usual duo of a disdainful Ziva and an eye-rolling McGee.
There’s something incredibly un-erotic about being surrounded by so many naked men. Tony has enjoyed plenty of gay porn in his time, but a gym full of fit, naked guys is a hell of a lot more alluring on celluloid than it is when you’re living it and your life is at stake.
Being around a permanently naked Gibbs is definitely distracting though. Tony tries not to ogle him, but he can’t help but notice how long Gibbs’s legs are and the tight curve of his ass when he walks. His body is hard all over, toned to perfection by the gruelling fitness regime.
After lunch, Frank nods Gibbs over to a rowing machine, and Tony leans against the wall, turning over the problems in his mind. Hurrell is right; Gibbs is the key to escaping. He commands the respect of all the other fighters and is the only one who would be able to get them to work together in order to make a bid for freedom. Tony needs to get him onside to make any escape attempt work. But Gibbs won’t even talk to him about it. He shuts down every conversation on the subject and goes ballistic every time Tony mentions getting his hands on a cell phone.
Tony is so lost in thought as he mulls this over that he doesn’t notice the two fighters coming up to him.
“Hey, Tony,” Greg says, leaning against the wall in front of him. Greg’s a good-looking guy, tall, with dark curly hair and big brown eyes. He’s one of the better fighters in Scott’s stable, just behind Hurrell and Gibbs himself. Matt is Greg’s stall-mate; he’s slighter in build, with short blond hair, and he takes up position behind Tony, standing close. Too close. They’re both in his space, and it’s clearly deliberate. “So…is the wolfman fucking you?” Greg asks, jerking his head in Gibbs’s direction.
Glancing down, Tony notices that Greg has an erection. He’s becoming used to the sheer amount of erections he’s seen since he arrived here. His own cock has remained resolutely soft; this environment is freaking him out too much, and although he could allow himself to get turned on at night, when he’s alone with Gibbs, that’s a complication they could both do without. Gibbs at least can blame his sexual arousal on the drugs; Tony has no such excuse.
“Aw, c’mon, guys.” Tony shoots one of his disarming grins over his shoulder at Matt.
“Matt and I share the big stall at the end of the hallway. If you’re bored with the old man, you could bunk with us,” Greg suggests. He moves his hand down to caress his hard cock, grinning at Tony.
“I don’t think the ‘old man’ would like that,” Tony replies, glancing over at Gibbs. Gibbs seems to sense his gaze on him and looks up…and his expression darkens.
“So he is fucking you? I knew it! I always wondered when he’d break and start fucking one of us!” Matt exclaims.
Tony is still looking at Gibbs, who is going so fast on the rowing machine it looks like he’ll break it.
“What’s it like?” Greg asks softly, and Tony almost laughs out loud at the wistful look in Greg’s eyes. “He fucked me in the pit a few weeks ago, but I wondered how it’d be if he, well, if he actually liked you?” Greg’s cheeks are flushing.
“Ah, the legend that is Leroy Jethro Gibbs.” Tony gives one of his infuriating grins and taps the side of his nose. “Sorry, Greg – I’m just not a kiss and tell kind of guy.”
Greg laughs. “Okay, but if he’s not doing it for you, you’re welcome to bunk with us.”
“Yeah – it’s not so boring with you around,” Matt adds.
Gibbs finishes his assigned workout and jumps off the rowing machine. He has that look he gets when he finds someone screwing with his crime scene, or he’s in a pissing match with Metro over jurisdiction. Tony is familiar with it from long experience.
Gibbs prowls rather than walks over to them, every muscle in his body taut and angry. Matt makes a speedy exit, sprinting towards the drinks table, but Greg is trapped; he can’t go anywhere without running straight into Gibbs. He backs up against the wall as Gibbs closes in on them.
Gibbs doesn’t say a word. He just moves in close, getting into Greg’s space. His hands are bunched into fists by his side, and the death glare is set at full blast.
“Hey, it’s okay, I didn’t mean anything,” Greg mutters. “I was just talking to Tony.”
“Talking to Tony with your dick?” Gibbs growls, glancing down at Greg’s now rapidly wilting erection.
“No harm in talking,” Greg says faintly. “Hey, c’mon, Wolfman! That’s all it was. Just talk!”
Gibbs’s glare doesn’t fade even a fraction. “You talk to him that way again, and I’ll make it so you can’t ever ‘talk’ again.” He glances contemptuously at Greg’s cock, making his meaning clear. “Got that?”
“Got it, Wolfman,” Greg replies faintly, his erection completely disappearing; Tony doesn’t blame it.
Greg finally dares to creep away to the drinks table after Matt; Gibbs all but snarls at his retreating heels.
Tony folds his arms over his chest, unsure if he’s amused, freaked out, or turned on by that none too subtle display of dominance; maybe all three.
“Did you want to piss on me too?” he asks, as Gibbs turns back towards him. “You know, mark your territory more clearly?”
Something dark and savage flares in Gibbs’s eyes and his fist comes flying towards Tony – and lands on the wall just a fraction of an inch beside his head. Tony doesn’t react. He doesn’t flinch or move. He just stands there, holding his ground, gazing steadily at Gibbs, staring into those dark eyes. Slowly, the savage expression fades, Gibbs’s eyes clear, and someone Tony recognizes is back again.
“I wasn’t going to hit you,” Gibbs says, which is as close to an apology as Tony knows he’s going to get.
“I know. I’m used to you cock-blocking me,” he replies in a hard tone of voice.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“You figure it out. You’ve been doing it for ten years now, only usually with more subtlety.”
Gibbs looks completely mystified.
“EJ, Paula…any pretty girl I meet working on a case.” Tony shrugs.
Gibbs blinks, an expression of confused surprise on his face. He doesn’t have a chance to respond though, because at that moment Frank interrupts them.
“Leroy – that was another PB. You’re really stepping it up. Good work!”
Frank places a hand on Gibbs’s shoulder and guides him away. Tony watches him go; he can almost see the cogs turning in Gibbs’s mind, and he wishes he hadn’t just said that.
Gibbs spends the rest of the training session beating a punching bag into submission. He’s too angry to focus on anything beyond how good it feels to pound his fist into something as hard as he can.
“You’re in the best shape you’ve ever been in, Leroy,” Frank says, holding the punching bag in place. “I gotta tell you, when you first arrived I never pegged you for the winner you’ve turned out to be.”
The anger is coursing through his veins, and Gibbs likes the way it feels. He unleashes it on the punching bag, landing punch after punch.
“We’re so close. Just a few more fights, and we’ll win the entire season,” Frank adds.
“I’ll win the entire season,” Gibbs corrects him, throwing his fist into the punching bag again. “I’ll win it for you, Frank.”
Frank shrugs. “Means we got your training right, your meds right…it’s a team effort, Leroy.”
“Is that so?” Gibbs raises an eyebrow. “Does that mean that you, or Scott, or Tanner are going to walk out into that pit next Fight Night instead of me then?”
Frank laughs. “Always love your fighting spirit, Leroy. It’s what sets you apart ‘cause it ain’t that you’re younger, fitter, or stronger than the other fighters I’ve trained. What makes you a winner is what’s inside. I’ve never met a fighter stronger than you are mentally, and that’s where it counts. You’re brutal, Leroy; a real killer.”
Gibbs buries his fist in the punching bag, but he can’t keep his gaze from wandering over to where Tony is standing. At least he’s alone, but what the hell did Tony mean by throwing that cock-blocking comment at him like that? It’s hard enough being in this place without having Tony to protect, and the idiot has no idea what the other fighters would like to do to him, given a chance. Tony hasn’t been here long enough to know. He doesn’t understand what the drugs and desperation do to you and how sex is on your mind all the time.
An image flashes into his head of Greg pounding his cock into Tony’s ass. Suddenly, he finds that he’s taken Greg’s place, and is looking down as he fucks Tony into the mattress. Tony looks back over his shoulder, wetting his lips with his tongue as Gibbs thrusts into him, burying himself balls deep in all that tight heat.
A wave of sexual frustration so strong it hurts makes him go at the punching bag in a frenzy. He hits it so fast and hard that Frank has to step back out of the way. It feels satisfying; the dark wolf likes to be fed.
Later that night, when they’re alone in their stall again, there is an awkward, strained silence between them. Gibbs watches as Tony moves around the stall, rearranging his mattress and blanket. Gibbs’s mood is resentful and brooding. He wants something; he’s not sure what, but he can feel the dark wolf rising inside.
He could have Tony. Scott has told him that he can have any of the fighters he wants – he’s just never wanted any of them before. But he wants Tony. And nobody would stop him, not even Tony. He knows that. He could give in to the dark thoughts inside his head, take what he wants by force, hold Tony down and…
He remembers Tony’s face looking up at him in the pit a few days ago. “Don’t make this rape…”
And he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. His dark mood breaks like a wave crashing against a rock. He comes to and finds his body shining with sweat. Tony has got under his blanket and is looking at him thoughtfully. Neither of them has spoken a word to each other since their altercation in the gym earlier.
“I don’t know how to keep you safe,” Gibbs says quietly, breaking the silence. He leans against the wall, crossing his arms over his body, hugging himself.
“I’m 39 years old. I’ve been in law enforcement most of my adult life. You taught me how to fight, and you’ve seen me fight – and win – against some really bad-assed guys. Why do you think I need protecting?” Tony asks.
Gibbs can’t find the answer amid the confusion of his own emotions. He knows Tony can handle himself, even here. He knows that if Tony can disarm a bad situation with an easy smile and a joke then he will, but if that doesn’t work he can handle himself in a fight better than most. Gibbs never had any qualms about allowing Tony to handle plenty of tense situations back at NCIS, so why here?
Because these guys are naked and hopped up on drugs that make them so horny they would literally fuck anything. Because those tense situations back at NCIS weren’t usually about sex, and when they were…Damn it, Tony’s right. When they were, Gibbs hated it. He hated Paula, and he hated EJ, and he hated them because they were pert and pretty, and Tony was sleeping with them. He did everything he could to step between them and Tony. He stepped in front of anyone who might take Tony away from him. Cock-blocked, just like Tony said. But why? What the hell is wrong with him? Why did he behave that way all those years?
Because Tony belongs to me.
The realization is new, but somehow it isn’t a surprise. He’s been fighting to keep Tony by his side, loyal only to him, since the minute he first met him. It’s taken this nightmare situation to force his tactics out into the open and make Tony finally call him on it.
He goes quietly over to his bedding and lies down beside Tony.
“You figure it out?” Tony asks softly.
“Wanna talk about it?”
What he wants is to hold Tony down and explore his body with his fingers, his mouth, and his hard cock, but he won’t do that. It’s bad enough that he’s screwed up Tony’s life all these years without realizing it. It’s even worse that he enjoyed fucking his very heterosexual senior field agent in the pit a few days ago. And worse still is the fact that he wants to do it again. He wants to do it so much that the desire is burning him up inside.
It’s just another thing he has to control. He can do that. He just has to feed it to the dark wolf and then, when he gets out in the pit on Fight Night, let it all out there. It’s the only way he knows how to handle it.
When Tony puts his hand on his hard cock in the night, Gibbs thrusts into those skilful fingers, keeping his eyes tightly closed, and tries not to think about how much more he wants.
Their usual routine of Gibbs putting in personal bests in his workouts, while Tony watches or spots him on the weights, is disrupted a couple of days later when Ellis comes over to Tony in the gym.
“You – DiNardo!” He shoves the butt of his gun against Tony’s shoulder and forces him towards the door. Tony glances back and sees Gibbs watching, his expression tense, but there’s nothing either of them can do about it.
Tony is pushed out of the gym and back to the hallway where their sleeping quarters are located. Ellis takes him to a small washroom at the end of the hallway.
“Clean up,” Ellis orders, pointing his gun at a bucket and mop. “You’ve got a few broken fingers – doesn’t damn well stop you working,” he adds, in answer to Tony’s questioning look.
Tony fills the bucket and takes it along to the first stall. The place smells as stale as the stall he shares with Gibbs, but it doesn’t take long to mop down the floors. Cleaning the toilet isn’t exactly a job he relishes, but he makes the best of it, trying to engage a monosyllabic Ellis in conversation as he works.
He knows from the little Gibbs has said that Ellis is the guard he is the most wary of, so he keeps his approach light. He told Gibbs he can handle himself, and he can, but that’s with the other fighters – not the guards. He’s acutely aware that Ellis has a gun. If the man wanted to hurt him, or rape him, there’s not much Tony can do about it. He has prepared himself mentally for the possibility of being raped at some point in this place – he won’t like it, but he thinks he can endure it.
He’s more worried about what Gibbs’s reaction would be if he was raped. Gibbs is teetering on a knife-edge right now, and Tony isn’t sure which way he’ll go. There’s something feral and ferocious always lurking just beneath the surface. Tony thinks maybe that’s always been the case; the difference is that Gibbs always used to be able to control it, but now the drugs, imprisonment and abuse have worn that control down.
Tony is afraid of losing Gibbs altogether to the dark stranger within. Right now, it seems that Gibbs only allows that dark stranger out in the pit, but supposing something tipped him over the edge? If Gibbs lost control with the guards then they might shoot him, and Tony would lose him forever. Tony’s not going to let that happen. If Ellis or anyone else rapes him, he won’t tell Gibbs about it. He’ll just handle it.
Some of the stalls are disgusting, the blankets covered in shit, urine, semen, or a combination of the three. He throws them out into the hallway as instructed; presumably they’ll be washed and new bedding supplied.
When he gets to one of the stalls he’s surprised to find it has an occupant. A young man, probably no more than twenty years old, is lying on his back, his face badly bruised. His skin is sallow and his breathing laboured. Tony vaguely remembers him being thrown into the truck after Fight Night, although he didn’t look so bad then. The young man moves his head feebly when Tony walks in.
“Uh…sorry…I didn’t know anyone was here,” Tony says uncertainly.
He isn’t even sure the man has heard him because he just closes his eyes and turns his face away, and Tony works around him.
“Who is that guy?” Tony asks Ellis when he leaves the stall.
“New fighter. Hurrell won him in the pit last Fight Night.”
“He looks in a bad way,” Tony glances back at the stall. “Shouldn’t he be in the infirmary?”
“Tanner’s examined him. If he lives, he lives. Otherwise.” Ellis shrugs. “He’s no use if he can’t fight. We’ll give him a week or two.”
“Then, if he’s no better, we’ll shoot him,” Ellis says, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.
Tony feels a cold shiver run down his spine. Gibbs has told him repeatedly how brutal these people are, and he’s seen it with his own eyes too, but all the same, each new piece of evidence shocks him. Do you ever get used to it? Has Gibbs got used to it? The Gibbs he knows is a justice hound; he hunts down bad guys not just because it’s his job, but because on some level it’s who he is. For Tony, it’s about fighting crime and upholding the law, but for Gibbs it’s always been personal. Living here must be soul-destroying for him in so many ways.
After he’s finished clearing out the stalls, he’s given new bedding to distribute. Then he’s shoved down a different hallway, back towards the massive room he hasn’t been in since he arrived.
There’s a truck waiting there. The back doors are open, and a man is carrying a crate out of it.
“Supplies. You can help unload,” Ellis grunts, pushing him towards it.
Tony doesn’t recognize the man unloading the truck. He isn’t dressed like the guards, and he isn’t carrying a whip or a gun. He looks at Tony nervously, as if he’s unsure how to behave around him.
“Hey, I’m Tony.” Tony holds out his hand as if they’re being introduced at a party, not in this weird setup, with him naked, and the other guy fully clothed.
“Uh…Pete,” the truck driver says nervously, giving his hand a quick shake and then dropping it.
“Pete huh? My cousin’s called Pete. Well, we call him Petey, but only because it annoys the shit out of him.” Tony grins.
Pete casts an anxious glance at Ellis, but the guard is sitting with his feet up by the door, listening to the bashed up little radio he carries around with him. Tony blocks Ellis out with his body, forcing Pete to look at him.
“So, do you bring all this stuff in, Pete?”
“Yeah…uh, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk to you.”
“Sure you are. If Ellis doesn’t like it, he’ll let us know,” Tony says with an easy, reassuring grin.
It takes them a long time to unload all the crates, and Tony does his best to draw Pete out as they work. He finds the guy is married, has seven kids, and is badly in debt. Scott is clearly paying him well to bring supplies into the stable, and he’s not about to jeopardise that by telling anyone what’s going on here.
Tony accidentally drops one of the crates, causing some mild confusion that enables him to slip his hands into Pete’s pockets…to find that he isn’t carrying a cell phone. Damn it, maybe Gibbs is right, and nobody ever brings a phone into this place.
He isn’t about to give up though. He glances over to see that Ellis has his eyes closed and is humming along to a song, and he takes advantage of the moment to go around the front of the truck and climb up into the open driver’s door.
He quickly goes through the glove compartment but there’s nothing there except the usual crap people carry around. Then he sees a little box under the passenger seat. He pulls it out, and there he finds a wallet, some keys, a smart card, and…a cell phone.
“Gotcha!” He scoops it out of the box; if he goes fast, he can punch in that number and then put it back where he found it and leave McGee to do the rest.
“Hey!” Pete appears at the door. Tony glances over to see Ellis opening his eyes at the sound. Damn it! There’s no time to dial the number. “What are you doing?” Pete asks angrily, reaching for the phone.
“S’okay, Pete.” Tony shoves the cell phone back into the box and pushes it under the seat. “Just looking for some chocolate, buddy! They don’t give us any here, and I miss it!”
Pete looks uncertain, but Ellis is coming over so Tony slides out of the truck and grabs the nearest crate of supplies. He winks at Pete, giving him a pleading look, hoping that the past couple of hours spent bonding with the guy and listening to all his whining about how his wife won’t give him enough sex means Pete won’t say anything to Ellis.
“What’s happening?” Ellis demands as Tony hoists the crate away, pretending to work.
“I was just saying to Pete that I wish there was chocolate in these crates!” Tony announces cheerfully.
Pete still looks uncertain, and Tony has an anxious moment waiting to see what he’ll do. If he tells Ellis where he found him and what he found him with, then he’s not sure what will happen. A beating? Worse? He remembers that guy back in the stalls that Ellis had no compunction about killing. With his broken fingers, he doesn’t have much stock around here, either. How much would Ellis care about putting a bullet through his head?
“There’s no chocolate,” Pete says finally, going along with his lie, much to Tony’s relief.
Ellis grunts, seemingly accepting the situation. “You done here?” he asks. Pete nods. “Good. Then fuck off.”
Ellis pokes his gun warningly into Tony’s back, and Tony watches as Pete retrieves the smart card from the box in the truck and then goes over to the hangar-sized doors and slips the card into the lock. The doors open slowly, and Pete returns to the truck, gets in, and backs out of the stable.
Tony catches a brief glimpse of the outside world before the doors swing shut again. It might be mid-afternoon in here but it’s night out there, and all he can see in the darkness is the outline of some trees in the distance.
Tony turns back towards Ellis just in time to see the butt of his gun coming his way. It slams into his jaw and sends him falling to the floor.
“Don’t fucking ask for chocolate again,” Ellis growls.
It’s not anywhere near as bad as it could have been, so Tony just rubs the ache out of his jaw. It was worth it. He’s disappointed that he didn’t get the chance to make the call – but at least now he knows where to find a cell phone.
Gibbs glances anxiously towards the door. He hasn’t seen Tony for most of the day, and he’s getting more and more worried.
At first, he assumed they were taking Tony to the infirmary for a check-up, but then, when he didn’t come back, he started getting anxious.
He doesn’t like that it was Ellis who took Tony out. Of all the guards, Ellis is the one Gibbs dislikes the most. He has a mean, sadistic streak, and if he’s got it into his head to make Tony his newest victim, then Tony’s life won’t be worth living.
Gibbs slows down on the treadmill. He can’t stay focused on his time; he’s too worried about Tony. Frank set him a long run, and usually he’d stay in the moment, forcing himself to concentrate so he completes on time and avoids punishment. Now his focus is shot to pieces; his concern about Tony is overriding everything else.
The worry gnaws away at him. He looks up every time the door opens and closes. There aren’t any clocks in the room, but he can see from the various timers on the gym equipment that several hours have now passed.
Where the hell is Tony? And what are they doing to him? He feels his powerful protective streak rearing up. Maybe he should just get the hell off the treadmill and go looking for him…but his survival instinct wars with the protective instinct, telling him what a bad idea that is. He wouldn’t get to the door before the guards tazered him, and then what the hell use would he be to Tony? He’s no use to him here, either though. Just running on the spot while God knows what is happening to Tony.
Supposing Tony needs him? Should he at least try to get out there and help him, even if it does mean taking on several armed guards? Supposing Tony’s in trouble? Supposing….
The treadmill comes to a stop, making a loud pinging sound, and Frank strides over.
“What the hell, Leroy?” He glances at the display showing the details of the workout. “This is the slowest time you’ve ever done. What the hell is the matter with you?” His expression changes, becoming anxious. “Are you ill?”
Gibbs knows just how much Scott’s entire operation has riding on him; he can see it in Frank’s eyes. The wizened little trainer looks genuinely concerned that he might be ill. If Gibbs goes down, then Scott is out of contention to win the tournament, and the money dries up. It’s possible that Frank, Tanner, and all the rest are out of jobs if that happens. Maybe Scott would sell his stable of fighters rather than keep them all over the down season. Maybe he can’t afford to keep them over the down season unless Gibbs wins.
“Leroy?” Frank’s tone has become belligerent. “Christ, even Stuart ran faster than you today. You’re nowhere near the time I set for you. What the hell is wrong with you?”
The door opens, and Gibbs’s heart skips a beat as Tony walks into the room. There’s a dark new bruise on his jaw amid all the fading yellow ones, and he seems more subdued than usual, but apart from that he looks fine.
“Leroy!” Frank snaps, slapping his cheek to get his attention. “You’ve never failed a workout before. Do I need to call Ellis over?”
Gibbs knows that means a beating for sure, but Frank has never yet had him beaten, and he thinks the old man has a certain amount of respect for him. Frank also won’t want to weaken him before the next fight; they used to beat him all the time when he was new, and they didn’t think he’d win, but now he’s their champion they won’t want to handicap him this close to the next Fight Night.
“Leroy – you’d better fucking answer me, or I will call Ellis over. What the hell is going on? The past few days you’ve put in your best ever workouts, and now you just did your worst? What’s happening? What’s causing it?”
“Tony,” Gibbs answers honestly. He forces himself to tear his gaze way from Tony and look at Frank instead. “You want me to do well, Frank? Then you make sure Tony is in the room where I can see him at all times.”
“What the fuck?” Frank looks at him, and then over at Tony, and then back at him again. “You gotta be kidding me, Leroy.”
“You ever known me kid you, Frank? You can have Ellis beat me if you like, but it won’t make a damn bit of difference. You asked me why I scored so high before and why I just scored so low, and that’s your answer. When Tony’s in the room, I score high. When he’s not, I score low. You want me to do well, then just make sure Tony’s here, and I will.”
Frank looks like he’s not sure whether to laugh or punch Gibbs in the face. In the end, he goes for the former, giving a growling laugh of disbelief, accompanied by a shake of his head.
“Well, I’ll be damned. Never took you for a sentimental man, Leroy. You in love with that kid or something?”
“Call it what the hell you like. Just do it,” Gibbs says stonily.
Frank gives him an assessing look and then shrugs. “Look, I don’t give a fuck about your love-life. Scott’s paying me to make sure you deliver in the pit. If having the kid in the room helps you do that, then it’s no skin off my nose.”
“Then tell Ellis and all the other guards. Make sure they know.”
He can see Tony walking towards him, and he wants to go over there, examine that bruise, and find out what’s been done to Tony in the time he’s been missing. That protective instinct rises up again, so strongly that he wants to growl and lash out at someone.
“Go and tell them now,” he tells Frank insistently. “When you’re done, I’ll be ready to beat the crap out of the punching bag.”
Frank looks startled by his tone, and he glances over at Tony and clearly sees his bruised jaw for the first time. He looks back at Gibbs and his eyes widen as he sees something in his expression that Gibbs knows he won’t ever have seen there before. “I’ll go tell them,” he says quietly.
He strides over to Ellis, giving Tony a quizzical look as he passes him. Gibbs stands there, forcing himself to wait and let Tony come to him. The last thing he wants is for Tony to freak out at him for being overbearing the way he did the other day.
“You okay?” he asks softly when Tony reaches him.
Tony gives him one of his big, shiny smiles. “Me? I’m fine.”
“No, you’re damn well not.” Gibbs puts a gentle finger on Tony’s bruised jaw, and Tony winces. “Who did it and why?” Gibbs works hard at keeping the white hot rage down, channelling the anger away until he can release it safely in the pit on Fight Night.
“Ellis. Because I asked for some chocolate.” Tony gives an evasive shrug, and Gibbs knows that’s not the whole story.
The dark wolf inside of him rises, and he turns to glare at Ellis, wanting to go over there and tear off his head with his bare hands.
“Gibbs.” Tony’s fingers fasten around his wrist, gripping tightly.
The dark wolf is hungry, wanting Ellis’s blood. He can almost taste how good it would feel to rip into Ellis’s flesh with his fists and teeth. The growl rises in his throat, low and guttural. He starts to move, feeling his body shift into a predatory prowl, the way it always does in the pit.
Tony yanks on his wrist, forcing him to stop. Gibbs stands there, his body quivering, wanting to be let loose to have his vengeance.
Tony leans in close. “Jethro,” he says, directly into Gibbs’s ear. Nobody calls him that here, but that’s not what brings him back; it’s the way Tony says his name that does that. There’s an intimacy in his voice that reminds Gibbs immediately of the warmth of Tony’s breath on the back of his neck in the night, and the little whispered words of encouragement he croons in his ear as he’s jerking him off.
The dark wolf disappears, and he finds himself smiling at Tony. It’s a tight, strained kind of smile, especially when he sees that bruise again, but it’s a smile all the same. Tony returns it, a look of relief flooding into those green eyes.
“Yeah, I’m here,” Gibbs says quietly.
“Good – and you’re not going to go over there and do anything stupid to Ellis, are you?” Tony grins, making a joke of it, but Gibbs can see a shadow of doubt in his eyes all the same.
“Not today,” he grunts. “See that punching bag?” Gibbs jerks his head at it, and Tony nods. “For the next half an hour, that’s Ellis,” Gibbs tells him.
He strides over to meet Frank by the punching bag, leaving Tony behind.
“Is it done?” he demands.
Frank nods. “It’s done. Tony will be in the room whenever you train from now on.”
Frank takes off his jacket and slings it over a nearby chair. “Come on then, Leroy. I wanna see the difference it makes when Tony’s in the room!”
Gibbs doesn’t say a word. He just goes over to the punching bag, imagines Ellis’s face, and then smashes punch after punch into it. It hurts his knuckles, and it hurts his wrists, and soon the sweat is pouring off him, but he needs to release the anger.
The thoughts from the other night repeat over and over again in his mind as he punches: “Because Tony belongs to me…because Tony belongs to me…”
And Ellis touched him. Gibbs will make him pay for that, one day, just as he’ll make them all pay. Just as he made Hernandez pay for what he did to Shannon and Kelly, and how he’s made countless scumbags pay over the years, during the course of his job. Justice, Gibbs-style, demands nothing less. But for now, the punching bag will have to do.
It’s a long time before he’s anywhere near spent, but when he looks up some time later, he sees Tony standing by the chair where Frank slung his jacket. He watches as Tony glances around to check that nobody is looking and then slips his fingers into the jacket pockets.
Gibbs fights down a wave of fury and forces himself to strike up a conversation with Frank in order to cover for Tony, his temper at boiling point again. Damn it! It’s hard enough trying to keep Tony safe as it is, and Tony sure as hell isn’t helping.
The day’s training session is soon over and after wolfing down his dinner he prowls angrily back to their stall, still fuming.
As soon as the door is slammed shut behind them, he turns on Tony.
“What the hell did you think you were playing at, you damn idiot?” he roars. “I saw you back there, fishing around in Frank’s pockets! I’ve told you, you won’t find a cell phone. None of them brings a cell phone in here – not Frank, not the guards, and not Tanner. When the hell are you going to start listening to me?
“I listen.” Tony shrugs.
“But you don’t believe me – is that it? You’ve been here a few days, and you think you know better than me how it works around here?”
“No. What I think is that you’ve given up, and I don’t blame you for that, but I’m not going to give up. I still want to be rescued.”
“And you think I don’t?”
Tony gazes at him thoughtfully. “I’ve watched you training, Gibbs, and I’ve seen you in the pit. It’s like you’ve found your spiritual home here.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“How much do you really want to escape, Gibbs?” Tony asks, one eyebrow raised. “Oh, sure, you don’t like it here. You don’t like them telling you what to do, ordering you around, deciding what you eat and when you can piss…”
“Damn straight I…”
“But you like the fighting.”
Gibbs rocks back on his heels. “That so, Tony?”
Tony nods, slowly. “Yes, I think it is. When Hurrell told me you’d gone native, I didn’t believe him, but now I’m not so sure. See, there’s a hunger inside you, Gibbs. It was there at NCIS too, only you didn’t have the opportunity feed it so much.”
“You’re saying I’d choose this life?” Gibbs asks incredulously.
“No, I don’t think you’d choose this life,” Tony says musingly. “I think you’d accept your freedom if it was offered to you, but maybe you won’t go after it very hard because there’s some part of you that gets fed out there in the pit every week. Some part of you enjoys it, is consumed by it, and wants to taste what the pit has to offer.”
“A place to lose control and give in to all that anger you’ve got inside,” Tony replies, his eyes hard and serious. “You’re an angry man, Gibbs. You’ve been angry since the day I first met you, and in the pit you get a chance to let that anger out, to really let rip, and to do it in a way nobody can blame you for because you have no choice.”
Gibbs crosses his arms across his chest and gazes at Tony stonily. “You done, DiNozzo?”
“No.” Tony gives a swift, apologetic smile. Only Tony could hammer away at him this hard while still smiling; it’s classic DiNozzo. “You want to win, Gibbs. You want to win every fight, and you want to win this entire tournament and be crowned their champion. You want to go up against Mac in the final – you’re itching for that. You want to crush the hardest opponent they can throw at you. You want to feel invincible, to experience the rush and the adrenaline surge of being out there, pounding your fist into someone’s flesh. It makes you feel alive, Gibbs.”
Gibbs fights down the rising tide of his own temper. “Oh, you’re definitely done now, DiNozzo.”
“No, I’m not. See, I understand – the drugs, the relentless routine of this place, the whippings, the training, the constant supervision – they’ve worn you out, and you’ve had to shut down parts of yourself to survive. I get it.” Tony leans forward, his eyes shining with intensity. “But the Gibbs I knew wouldn’t sit back and wait the season out on the off-chance that he’ll get moved somewhere nice afterwards! Were you hoping for a pool and some servants maybe, Gibbs? Do you think that’s what Scott’s gonna give you if you win?”
“You don’t know shit, Tony,” Gibbs says stiffly.
“Maybe not, but how do you see this ending? Because after this season, assuming you win, there’ll be another one, and another one, until one day you lose – and then they’ll they take you out back and put you down, like a dog that’s served its master well but is no longer fit for purpose.”
Gibbs leans back against the wall, the anger fading into something cold and hard inside. “That really what you think of me, Tony?”
“No! That’s the whole damn point! The Gibbs I know is still in there somewhere – I’m sure of it. I just want find him and bring him back.”
“Well, the DiNozzo I know is sure as hell the one standing in front of me right now; the one with the half-assed plan to get in here and no damn plan for getting out again. You thought you’d just come in here and wing it as usual, didn’t ya, Tony? Flash the smile around, steal a cell phone, and hey presto! We’re free!”
A flush rises to Tony’s face and a guilty look creeps into his eyes, and Gibbs knows he’s hit a nerve.
“Then when all this is over, and you’ve played the hero and milked it for all it’s worth, then you can go back out to your nice, easy life, screwing whatever piece of skirt catches your eye because you can’t commit to anyone or anything,” he adds savagely.
“I committed to you,” Tony says quietly.
“I’ve been working for you at NCIS for ten years now. Never worked any place longer than two before you came along. And let me tell you, you’re a damn difficult bastard to work for, but I stuck it out all this time. I even turned down the chance to lead my own team because I thought, idiot that I am, that you might actually need me.”
“Then why the hell did you stay?” Gibbs growls. “If it was so damn tough, and you could have done so damn well without me, sunning yourself in Rota, looking at all the pretty girls in bikinis on the beach; why the hell stay in DC with this ‘damn difficult bastard’?”
“Why the hell do you think?”
“I don’t know!” Gibbs yells, exasperated. “You seem to feel I’ve fucked up your life and ruined your career, but you could have left whenever you wanted. I never damn well made you stay!”
They’re silent for a moment, glaring at each other resentfully across the stall, chests heaving.
“Look,” Tony says eventually, spreading his arms wide in a gesture of peace-making. “If we can just find a cell phone…”
“A cell phone, DiNozzo? Really? That’s your answer to this? You had five damn months and a cell phone is the best you could come up with? Couldn’t Abby inject you with a GPS tracking device, or McGee cook up some gizmo, or couldn’t you at least have come up with some plan better than a cell phone?” His voice drips sarcasm.
Tony’s face is pinched and miserable. “We tried,” he says wearily. “We tried, Gibbs. We experimented with everything we could lay our hands on; every piece of high-tech equipment I could beg, borrow, requisition or just plain steal from the military. But it’s all detectable. If Abby put a tracker under my skin, they’d easily be able to pick it up. You can’t make something that McGee can trace hundreds of miles away, but is invisible to the guys with guns standing next to you. It just doesn’t exist yet. Not that I could find anyway.”
Gibbs shakes his head in disbelief. “Even if you got your hands on a cell phone, then what, Tony? You have to dial the number, put the phone back, and hope nobody saw you. If whoever you stole it from figures out what you’ve done, then Scott just picks this place up and moves us all somewhere else. He’s done it before. He can have the fighters out of here in five minutes flat, and the rest packs up and follows on later. You don’t know where we are, or how long it would take McGee to get here. It’s a lousy fucking plan, DiNozzo!”
“I know that! I knew that when I came in here, damn it!”
“Then why the hell…?”
“Because I had to find you! Even if I couldn’t get you out, I needed you to know that we hadn’t forgotten you. That I hadn’t forgotten you! I needed you to know that we were on it, Boss; that we were looking for you and had been all these months, and that nobody had given up on you.”
Gibbs bites back the cutting retort that’s on his lips. There’s something desperate about the way Tony is looking at him right now, and, as his words sink in, Gibbs feels himself calming down.
“Okay, Tony. I get it,” he says wearily. And he’s glad Tony’s here; he hopes Tony knows that because he’s sure as hell not going to tell him.
“And I have to find a cell phone because I came here to get you out,” Tony adds fiercely. “And I intend to do that, Gibbs. I came here to rescue you, not rot in here with you. I will find a cell phone, and I will get you out of here.”
“I already told you, none of the guards…”
“And I believe you, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t another cell phone in this place! Listen, Gibbs, they made me unload supplies from the truck this afternoon, and I got talking to the guy who drives it, and…”
“His name’s Peter Papadakis, but his friends call him Pete,” Gibbs interrupts. “He’s Greek; his dad’s called Jimmy; he’s got seven kids, and he’s always whining that his wife won’t give him enough sex, although maybe with all those kids they should have less.”
Tony is looking at him, an astonished expression on his face.
“What? You think I haven’t scoped this place out? You think I don’t know it inside out, DiNozzo?”
“But you don’t know the best bit!” Tony says excitedly. “See, he’s got this little tin he keeps under the passenger seat of his truck and inside…”
“He keeps his wallet, a set of keys, the smart card that opens the main doors, and his cell phone. Yes, Tony, I know,” Gibbs says wearily.
Tony looks like a puppy that’s had its favourite toy taken away. “You know?”
“Yeah. I know.” Gibbs shrugs. “Like I said, you’ve been here a few days, but I’ve been here five months. You seriously think I haven’t found out every single thing about this place?”
“Then why won’t you try to escape?”
“Because there IS no escape. That’s what you need to understand, Tony. There is no way out. Believe me, I know – I’ve been looking for it for long enough.”
Tony sighs and slumps back against the opposite wall. “Of course you have. I should have known that. And I should have known you knew all this already. I’ve been an idiot.”
“Wouldn’t want you any other way.” Gibbs flashes him a grin. “So, no more fishing around for cell phones in people’s pockets – yes?”
“Oh, I wasn’t looking for a cell phone in Frank’s jacket!” It’s Tony’s turn to grin now.
“I was looking for this!” Tony turns his hand palm up to reveal a small bottle of the oil Frank carries around to rub into his fighters’ muscles when they get tight.
“Why the hell did you want that?”
“Because I only ever see Frank pounding away at you, digging in, or doing that weird Swedish choppy stuff.” Tony makes sawing motions with his hands. “And I wanted to do something different.” He opens the top of the bottle and takes a cautious smell, wrinkling up his nose. “Okay, so it’s not exactly the nicest scent in the world, but it’s oily, and that’s the main thing.”
Gibbs raises an eyebrow.
“They treat you like a piece of meat,” Tony explains. “Prime steak admittedly in your case, but still like something to hammer into shape for the pit. To them you’re just the wolfman, their prize pit asset, but never Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a real person. They view you as someone who lines their pockets – an object to be shaped, and trained, and kicked around to do what they want. They don’t see you.”
Gibbs stares at him, speechless. Tony bites on his lip anxiously.
“Okay, so maybe I am an idiot, but I wanted to give you a massage, Gibbs!”
“A massage?” Gibbs repeats blankly.
“Yes!” Tony says defiantly. “Not like the ones Frank gives you. Not a sports massage – something nicer. Nobody’s ever nice to you in here, Gibbs! I look at you and think about what you’ve been through, and I figure that after five months of being kicked repeatedly it’d feel good to be stroked for a change instead.”
Gibbs stands there, staring at him, completely astonished. His throat hurts a little, and he isn’t sure why. He turns away, so Tony won’t see him blinking the wetness out of his eyes.
“Gibbs?” Tony says softly behind him.
“Yeah, Tony.” Gibbs clears his throat, getting himself under control, and then turns back again.
“Is it okay? Will you let me?”
“You’ve only got one hand,” Gibbs points out.
Tony grins. “So? There’s a lot I can do with one hand.” He waggles his eyebrows. “Trust me! My one hand is very talented!”
Gibbs gives a little grunt of laughter. “Okay, Tony. Let’s see what you and your very talented hand can do.”
He lies face down on his mattress and watches warily as Tony pours a small amount of the oil into his good hand and then rubs it against the palm of his other hand, just beneath the bandage.
“Where the hell were you hiding that stuff anyway?” Gibbs asks. Tony might be a pretty good pick-pocket, but without clothes there’s no place to conceal his ill-gotten gains.
Tony waggles his eyebrows again. “You don’t wanna know! Now be quiet and let the maestro work!”
Tony kneels astride Gibbs’s back and gently places his oiled hands on Gibbs’s shoulders. The fingers of his broken hand are covered in a now grubby bandage, but he can use the palm of the hand well enough.
The oil smells of something herbal – and not a particularly nice herb, either – but it’s all he’s got to work with, so he’s going to make the best of it.
Gibbs’s shoulders are as hard as iron. The muscles have been over-worked for months, and that, combined with the stress of the place, has created a solid knot across Gibbs’s back.
Tony gently soothes his fingers across the surface of the skin, gliding back and forth.
At first, Gibbs is stiff and resistant, but Tony expected that. He knows it will take him some time to just give in and go with it. Tony suspects that Gibbs isn’t the kind of man who has ever received a massage for the simple pleasure of it, and he wants to give him that. He wants to take Gibbs out of this nightmare world, even if only for a short time, and make him float.
Tony loves trailing his fingers over Gibbs’s skin, sinking in more firmly wherever he finds a knot, and gently easing it out. There’s something incredibly satisfying about making a man as intense and focused as Gibbs zone out.
It takes a little while, but Gibbs slowly starts to relax. Tony notices that if he presses too hard then Gibbs’s muscles remain rigid, but if he’s patient, persistent, and gentle, they gradually start to soften.
Tony finds one persistent knot and rubs away at it gently for a long time until Gibbs gives a little grunt, and Tony feels something pop and release.
“You got any qualifications for this, DiNozzo?” Gibbs demands lazily.
Tony laughs. “Only dozens of satisfied customers in the bedroom, Boss,” he replies flippantly. Gibbs’s shoulders tense immediately, and Tony can actually feel the rage boiling up inside him. What the hell is that about?
It takes him several minutes to soothe Gibbs’s muscles back to the relaxed state they were in before, but Tony wasn’t lying about his lovers. One of the things he’s always enjoyed most about sex is the sensuality of the act.
He learned how to give good massages in college, with a fuck buddy who was team quarterback and always had muscles that felt like solid brick. Then there was the girlfriend in Peoria, who just loved having gently heated oil trailed over her back and buttocks and rubbed in. Tony learned to massage out of the sheer sensual joy of touch, and he’s damn good at it, one handed or not.
Tony moves up to Gibbs’s scalp and concentrates his attention on that, easing away the tension with firm sweeps of his fingertips. Gibbs’s hair has been cropped close to his head, only silver-grey stubble covering the smooth, bare skin, and Tony loves the sensation of that closely cropped hair under his hands. He massages Gibbs’s scalp for several long minutes, before moving further down.
Gibbs’s body is marked with a network of scars, old and new, telling the story of a long life, lived hard. Tony finds the top of a recent long whip scar and gently maps it from shoulder to hip. When he finishes with that one, he finds another and traces it back up again, with a feather light touch.
Beneath him, Gibbs relaxes even more, his body sinking into the mattress. Tony circles a dark, crescent-shaped scar on Gibbs’s shoulder. It’s recent; maybe an injury he got in the pit.
“Bite. Third Fight Night,” Gibbs mumbles into his pillow, as if reading his mind. “Bastard sank his teeth right in.”
Tony gently soothes his fingers into the scar, acknowledging it, and then moves on.
He finds an old, white, scar on Gibbs’s side, just beneath his ribs. He lingers there for a few seconds, examining the jagged edges.
“Stabbed. On a case. Russia,” Gibbs mutters. “Stupid. Shoulda seen it coming.”
Tony glides his fingers up a little way and dips them into an old bullet wound on Gibbs’s shoulder. He knows how this one happened.
“Ari,” Gibbs growls, stiffening.
“Yeah, I know. I was there.”
Tony trails his fingers over it, soothing it, and Gibbs slowly relaxes again. Tony isn’t sure if Gibbs will be comfortable with his ass being caressed, so he skips that and goes lower. He finds a tiny, puckered scar on Gibbs’s thigh and recognizes it as another bullet wound.
“Colombia. Black ops,” Gibbs says quietly. “Got a fever with that one. Nearly died.”
Tony slides down Gibbs’s legs and finds a twisted scar on the back of his knee that twines all the way around to the front. This one is old. Very old. He kneads it gently with his fingers, and this time Gibbs says nothing, but his muscles tighten. This scar still clearly hurts; not physically – it’s too old for that – but it marks a wound that goes far deeper than flesh.
Tony spends awhile easing away at it, knowing that Gibbs still gets stiffness in the knee. Gibbs has always walked with a slight limp, and now he’s up close Tony can see why. It’s a nasty scar; this must have been a terrible injury once, a long time ago.
He doesn’t ask for an explanation; he just works at it with careful swirls of his fingertips, taking his time, soothing the slightly twisted muscle under the skin.
He’s so lost in the task that he’s almost taken by surprise when Gibbs suddenly gives a deep, exhausted sigh, and his body relaxes almost visibly beneath him. It’s as if something inside him has surrendered, making his body completely loose and pliant.
Tony feels as if he’s been given permission, and now, as his fingers trail upwards again, he’s more daring. He places his hands gently on Gibbs’s taut buttocks and leaves them there for a second, motionless, to see if Gibbs objects. When no objection is forthcoming, he moves his hands across the globes of flesh, circling gently. Gibbs’s ass is perfectly round, the skin pale and firm beneath his fingertips. Tony works it for several minutes, allowing his fingers to soothe and caress, but nothing more.
Gibbs now looks as relaxed as Tony’s ever seen him. His face is angled to one side, his mouth is slightly open, and his breathing is deep and even.
Tony has a sudden vivid mental image of Gibbs as an old grey wolf, strong, wily, and powerful, muscles rippling under the surface of his fur. Right now, Tony has the wolf eating out of his hand, dozing lazily under his fingertips, but he doesn’t think for a second that the wolf has been tamed. It’s still there, just beneath the surface, biding its time.
Tony smiles and continues trailing his fingers over Gibbs’s now thoroughly oiled skin, pouring a decade’s unspoken devotion into the task. Years of unrequited love are in his fingertips as he gives himself up to it completely.
Gibbs might be a difficult, ornery bastard, but he’s always been the only man Tony ever loved, and he wants to offer all that love to him now, without asking for anything in return. He imbues every caress with a loving tenderness, but there is nothing sexual about his devotions. He wants only to give, not take. He works hard for a very long time, smoothing, gentling and swirling, losing himself completely in his task.
He isn’t sure how much time has passed when his aching fingers finally come to a halt of their own accord. Gibbs looks boneless and completely at rest beneath him. Relaxation has softened his features, making him look more like a cub than a grizzled old wolf.
Tony lies down beside him and pulls Gibbs into his arms. Gibbs comes without a murmur, and Tony holds him close, enjoying the warmth of his oiled skin seeping into him.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” he whispers in the dark.
Gibbs moves his head. “Mmm, whassat?” he mutters, clearly half asleep.
Tony smiles and holds him tight. “Never mind. I think I just did.”
Gibbs wakes up the following morning feeling well-rested for the first time in five months. He’s never slept through the entire night before. This place is too noisy, with the sounds of the fighters in other stalls fucking or arguing, and the sound of the guard in the hallway patrolling up and down, or, sometimes, the sound of Ellis’s radio blaring out all night long.
None of that seemed to matter last night, and he slept the night through without waking once.
“You missed your calling, DiNozzo,” he says, rolling his shoulders experimentally and finding them loose and relaxed. “Should have been a massage therapist instead of an NCIS agent.”
Tony gazes at him for a long moment from narrowed eyes – and then he grins. “You’re welcome, Boss. And next time a simple ‘thank you’ will do.”
Gibbs gives a grunt of laughter, but mainly he’s just pleased that there’s going to be a next time.
It’s the day before the fight, and, as usual, tensions are running high. Gibbs puts in his best performance of the week in training, and Frank is happy with him.
“You’re the best you’ve ever been,” Frank says approvingly as he tapes his knuckles for a practice fight in the ring. “Like a sleek fighting machine. My pit bull terrier. I’m proud of ya, Leroy. You’re the best fighter I’ve ever trained, and I’ll retire a happy man when you bring home the title.”
“There’s a title?” Gibbs raises an eyebrow.
“Figure of speech.” Frank shrugs. “But you’ve made me a hell of a lot of money, Leroy. I did good with you.”
“You ever feel bad about that?” Gibbs asks. “I’m not here by choice, Frank.”
Frank laughs. “Oh, Leroy, nobody could fight like you do in the pit and not want to be there. It’s your home, lad.” He pats Gibbs’s arm, still chuckling away to himself, and Gibbs remembers how Tony said something very similar to him last night.
“The competition only gets tougher from here on in,” Frank tells him. “But I think you’ll relish that, Leroy. You won’t lose. It’s not in you to lose. I’ve trained a few fighters in my time, but you’re the only one I’ve met who really gets it. You understand what it means to let go in the pit, to fight with your head, and your heart, and your entire soul, and to give it everything you have.”
Gibbs thinks about how it feels when he’s standing in the holding pen on the edge of the pit just before a fight, the scent of sawdust in his nostrils and the anger rising up inside, ready to be unleashed. He can feel the sense of exhilaration and anticipation, and he knows that Tony and Frank are both right; a part of him does love it out there.
“What will happen to Tony?” he asks. “He’s not fighting tomorrow.”
“Then he’ll stay behind.” Frank shrugs. “That’s what usually happens with the injured lads. You’ve been here long enough to know that, Leroy.”
Gibbs doesn’t like the idea of Tony being out of his sight. Who knows what might happen when he’s not here? It’s not as if he can protect Tony even when they are together, but at least he doesn’t have to fret about what’s happening to him. Frank doesn’t have the power to bring Tony along with them to the fight. That’s down to Scott, and Gibbs doubts he’ll even see his owner before the fight, let alone get a chance to ask him for a favour.
“Someone stole something from me yesterday, Leroy,” Frank says, giving him a searching look.
“Yeah, someone stole that little bottle of my special oil, right out of my pocket. Who d’you think did that?”
“No idea.” Gibbs gazes at him blankly.
Frank leans in close and sniffs his skin. “I think that boy of yours is looking out for you, Leroy, same as you’re looking out for him.”
Gibbs shrugs, keeping his face deliberately expressionless.
Frank gives a little grunt. “I could call Ellis over, have your stall searched – stealing earns an automatic whipping, Leroy.”
“I know. But like you said, Frank, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been, and you get to take all the credit for that.” Gibbs gives him a conspiratorial little grin.
Frank’s beady dark eyes gleam with amusement. “Just as long as the cold-hearted killer in you doesn’t go all soft and mushy over that boy, because we need our wolfman hard and hungry in the pit.”
“Soft and mushy? Me?” Gibbs raises an eyebrow.
Frank laughs out loud. “Oh – and tell Tony he doesn’t have to steal oil to make things go nice and easy when you fuck him. Tanner will hand out lube if you ask nicely.”
Gibbs doesn’t get a chance to correct Frank’s misunderstanding of why Tony’s stole the oil because at that moment a scuffle breaks out on the other side of the room. Greg and Matt, usually the best of friends, are snarling at each other and trading blows.
Ellis strides over there, pulling his whip out of his belt as he walks. His usual tactic for breaking up a brawl is to whip all the fighters involved until they stop. It’s brutal but effective. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, Tony jumps between the fighting men. Gibbs pulls away from where Frank is taping his knuckles and runs over there, Frank hard on his heels.
Tony is trying to get between the two men and break up the fight, but Gibbs can see he’s just going to get caught in the crossfire when Ellis starts throwing that whip around. He grabs Frank’s arm.
“If Tony gets whipped, I won’t be happy,” he growls.
Frank makes a sucking sound through his teeth, giving Gibbs an angry look, but he steps up all the same. He goes over to Ellis and grabs his wrist just as he’s about to bring the whip down on the fighting men.
It buys them a little time. Gibbs manages to haul Matt off Greg, while Tony wrestles Greg away to one side, and the scuffle is over. Looking back over his shoulder, Gibbs sees Ellis shooting Tony a vicious glare, and he’s suddenly aware that in his efforts to keep Tony safe he might just have painted a very big target on his back.
Tony wraps an arm around Greg’s shoulder and forces him away into one corner.
“What the hell was that about, buddy?” he asks, crouching in front of the angrily trembling man. “You and Matt are friends – you share a stall.” And they’re fuck-buddies too – everyone knows that. Tony’s heard them, night after night – Greg isn’t exactly quiet during sex.
“He’s a fucking bastard! I want to fucking kill him!” Greg growls, wrapping his arms around his body and rocking to and fro.
“No you don’t, buddy,” Tony says quietly.
Greg begins to calm down, taking several deep breaths. He looks up and meets Tony’s eye, still rocking slightly. “It’s Fight Night tomorrow, and everyone knows Matt is one of the weaker fighters. I was just trying to get him to train harder, so he’ll be stronger, but he’s a lazy shit, and the trainers don’t care because he’s never gonna win them any money.”
“Well, that’s Matt’s look out,” Tony tells him. “You can’t make him train harder if he doesn’t want to.”
“But I want him to.” Greg’s mood breaks, and he slumps down pathetically. “Supposing he loses, Tony? Supposing he doesn’t come back? What the hell will I do then?”
Tony understands that in this hothouse environment these men come to rely on the friendships they’ve made with each other. They might have been pushed together by circumstances, but they’ll cling to anyone who can help them get through this nightmare. Only Gibbs seems immune and has chosen to navigate these dark waters alone. But then only Gibbs is strong enough mentally to do that. Everyone else is more…human.
“You can’t think like that, Greg,” Tony tells him. “It’s out of your hands. If it happens it happens. You’ve got to concentrate on winning your own fight. That’s the only thing that IS in your hands.”
He talks to Greg for a long time, telling him jokes, discussing movies, and gradually Greg’s dark mood subsides. Eventually he gets up. “Thanks, Tony. I’m…gonna just…” He walks off in Matt’s direction, and a few minutes later Tony seems them hugging each other, foreheads pressed together. He has no idea how these men handle the stress of the sudden, enforced separations that losing a fight inflicts on them, but he hopes these two don’t have to, and that they both win their fights.
Sam Hurrell comes over to him. “Shit, this place messes with your head,” Tony says to him with a sigh, still watching Matt and Greg.
“It’s Fight Night tomorrow. It always gets tense the day before.” Hurrell sits down beside him. “How’s it going with Gibbs? You getting anywhere?”
Tony shrugs. “One step forward, two steps back, but I’m getting there. I think.”
“Is he going to help with an escape?” Hurrell wraps his arms around his knees.
“No.” Tony shakes his head. “I don’t think so, Sam. It’s like he’s given up.”
“Or he enjoys the pit too much to try.”
Tony looks over at where Gibbs is sparring with Frank. “Maybe. I don’t know. I think maybe there’s something else going on too.”
“But he won’t tell you?”
“Not yet, no. It’s been five months, Sam. He trusts me, but he’s always been close-mouthed at the best of times, and these are definitely not the best of times. He’s struggling with something – I know that much.”
“I feel that too,” Hurrell says. “It’s like there’s something big going on inside him, and he doesn’t know which way it’ll end up going. I call it his two wolves.”
“Two wolves?” Tony raises an eyebrow.
“There’s a good one and a bad one, a light one and a dark one, both fighting inside him. Question is, which one’ll win?”
“The light wolf,” Tony says, without hesitation.
“You have that much faith in him?”
“I’ve known him a long time, and I know that dark wolf well. I’ve seen it, and in all honesty it gives him his edge and it’s what makes him so good at his job. He’s always been able to control it though – the light wolf always makes sure of that.”
“Even here? With all the drugs, and the training, and the beatings, and the pit? Seems to me this place just feeds the dark wolf constantly, and the light one doesn’t even get scraps.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” Tony smiles at him, remembering the previous night. “The light wolf is the underdog in this fight, yes, but it’s getting fed. I’m seeing to that.”
Hasn’t that always been his job where Gibbs is concerned? Back at NCIS, he always saw his job role as relieving the tension and teasing a smile out of Gibbs to keep the team’s mood from getting too intense. This particular battle has been playing out for a very long time, and Tony thinks Gibbs needs both wolves in equal measure. He’s seen the light wolf too, as well as the dark. He’s seen Gibbs rescue those in need, look after small children with infinite care and patience, and get justice even when it costs him dear. The light wolf is equally as strong as the dark one; Tony just needs to remind him of that.
“Look, Tony, I wanted to talk to you…about Jan,” Hurrell says, a flush rising to his cheeks. “See, if I lose tomorrow then I won’t be coming back here, and I won’t have a chance to ask you again.”
“You won’t lose tomorrow, Sam,” Tony says firmly.
“I might. I did a terrible thing last week, Tony. I…I lost it. After Steve was killed, I went a bit crazy, and I beat up on that guy in the pit so bad that I don’t think he survived. He came back in the truck with us, but I never saw him again after that. I think he was too badly hurt, and they shot him.”
“They didn’t shoot him, Sam. I saw him yesterday; he’s in one of the stalls.” Tony hesitates, but he figures Hurrell would rather know the truth than be lied to, however kind the lie. “He’s not doing too good, but he’s still alive.”
“Shit.” Hurrell buries his face in his hands. “I’ve never lost it like that in the pit before. I can’t channel it and control it like Gibbs. I’ve never given into it like that. That poor bastard; none of this was his fault. He just got caught in the fallout.”
“It’s not your fault either, Sam.”
“Yes, it is.” Hurrell looks him full on, squaring his shoulders. “It is, Tony. I let myself down out there. And…I guess…this is my own struggle and my own two wolves.” He gives a wry little smile. “I love Jan, Tony, but I’ve always known I’m weaker than her. She’s one hell of a strong woman – to be honest, I’ve always wondered what she saw in me.”
“She loves you, Sam,” Tony says gently.
“I know. But even back when we were first married, I wondered what this amazing woman was doing with me. I know myself, Tony. I know my own weaknesses. Jan’s like Gibbs – I recognized that in him the minute I first met him, and that’s why he pisses me off so much, I think. They both have this sense of themselves, this certainty. Whatever happens to them, no matter how much they go through, they never lose that. And I’m not like that.”
He rests his chin on his hands and looks across the gym sadly.
“Most of us aren’t, Sam.” Tony sighs. “Jan and Gibbs – they’re the special ones. There aren’t many like that out there. I saw it in her too. She never gave up on you; she’s been fighting tooth and nail to find you.”
“And meanwhile, I’m sleeping with random guys because I can’t face being alone at night. I want to be held, Tony, even if it’s only for a short time, and by some guy I barely know, because it makes me feel a bit less lonely.”
“Look, I’m hardly anyone’s idea of a relationship counsellor with my fucked up track record, but Jan loves you for who you are, Sam. She knows you’re doing whatever you can just to get by, so you can go home to her. She’d be glad you’re doing that because it means that one day she’ll get you back.”
“Maybe.” Hurrell sounds unconvinced.
“No maybe about it.” Tony gives Hurrell’s shoulder a firm pat. “Jan’s a pragmatist – like Gibbs. If sleeping with the guys in here keeps you sane and helps you survive, then she won’t judge you for it.”
Hurrell gives a slow, thoughtful nod. “We tried for kids for years,” he says quietly, staring off into space. “She miscarried so many times, but it never broke her. I think it broke me a little, but it never broke her, despite all she went through. We gave up a couple of years ago – it was just too painful – but Jan being Jan, she made the best of it and went out and bought some puppies. Those dogs are like her kids now.”
He turns to look at Tony. “Tell me about her, Tony. Tell me everything. How she looked, what she was wearing. How is she holding up? What did she say about me? And how are the dogs? I want to hear it all, even if it hurts. I don’t want to go out into that pit tomorrow knowing I didn’t ask you because I was too much of a coward.”
Tony puts a hand on his shoulder and squeezes, and then he tells Hurrell every single thing he can remember about his wife.
Later that night he leans in close, rests his chin on Gibbs’s shoulder, and reaches down towards his cock without asking, for the first time. Gibbs isn’t even hard, but his cock springs to life under Tony’s fingers. He takes his time with it, giving the best damn hand job he can, and soon Gibbs is panting, his skin damp with sweat as he thrusts into Tony’s hand.
“What the hell was that about?” Gibbs asks when he’s done.
“Fight Night,” Tony replies. “You’re going into the pit tomorrow, Gibbs. Who knows what’ll happen?”
“I do.” Gibbs turns over to look at him, his eyes gleaming fiercely. “I’ll fight someone, win, and come back again. That’s what’ll happen, Tony. That’s what always happens.”
“Are you sure you’ll win?”
“Yes.” It’s said in a firm, flat tone. “I’ll win.”
“Because you refuse to lose?”
“Is it really that simple?”
“No, it’s damn well hard, but it is what will happen.”
Tony’s known Gibbs for ten years now, and he has no reason to doubt that Gibbs is right. He’d definitely never bet against him.
All the same, the tension in the air around them is electric. Along the hallway he can hear Greg and Matt fucking like there’s no tomorrow. And someone else is sobbing into his pillow in another stall; he thinks it might be Sam, but maybe it’s Stuart. It’s hard to tell. How does anyone stand this kind of tension, week in, week out? It’s a living hell, and only the strongest survive.
Tony puts his hand on Gibbs’s hip and nestles in, wanting to be as close to the man as possible, because who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Fight Night. They call it that because it’s always dark when they’re made to fight out there in the pit, even though in the artificial environment of the stable, it’s day to them.
Gibbs wakes up with the usual pre-fight jitters in his belly. He can handle them. He’s fought in wars and taken down suspects in his job. He’s used to handling his own adrenaline. Most of the other fighters don’t have that kind of experience and it affects them much more.
It’s the usual jittery atmosphere as they are herded along to the showers. Tony is talking to him, cracking jokes, and Gibbs tries to tune him out. He needs to get into his fighting headspace, but it’s harder than usual. He feels more relaxed, his shoulders loose and open, and, thanks to Tony, he’s got to know these guys in the showers with him. He knows their names and the jobs they used to do. He’s seen a glimpse of their hopes and fears, and Christ, he even knows their favourite pizza toppings. It’s hard not to care about their fate in the pit today. It’s hard to block out their anxiety and their nerves and get into the headspace he needs to be in for fighting.
He’s also worried about Tony. Which guard will stay behind to keep an eye on Tony and the other fighter – the injured one Tony saw yesterday? If it’s McGuire, it’ll be okay. But if it’s Ellis…Gibbs doesn’t trust Ellis. The man has a vicious, bullying streak, and there’s no love lost between him and Gibbs.
Gibbs can still remember how it felt to be chained up while Ellis whipped him until he bled – and enjoyed it. Ellis doesn’t like him because of his slow, insolent responses to every order they give him, and he’s frustrated because he doesn’t get to whip him anymore, either, now that he’s so successful in the pit. Ellis wouldn’t last five minutes in the pit with him, and he knows it. That’s why he wants to assert his superiority over Gibbs all the time, to prove that he’s the better, stronger, harder man, even though they both know it isn’t true.
After breakfast, they’re herded into the big, hangar-sized room where the truck is waiting for them.
“Good luck,” Tony whispers in his ear as McGuire attaches the travelling chains to his wrists and ankles. Then he’s shoved into the truck and chained in place. He can see Tony standing out there, through the open back door of the truck, while the other fighters are chained up around him.
Then only Tony is left. The guards who are accompanying them to Fight Night jump into the back of the truck…and Ellis isn’t among them. Gibbs cranes his head, and his heart sinks as he sees Ellis standing beside Tony with a scowl on his face, clearly annoyed to be missing the excitement of Fight Night.
The door is swung shut, and the last Gibbs sees of Tony is him winking and making a thumbs up sign at him with his good hand while Ellis shoves him away with the butt of his gun.
Gibbs closes his eyes and tries to block out his anxiety. He will come back. There is absolutely no question about that. He just hopes that while he’s gone Ellis doesn’t do anything to hurt Tony because he doesn’t know what he’ll do if that happens.
The drive to the venue isn’t as long this week. They get there early, in time to see some of Walid’s workmen as they finish setting up the bleachers, temporary toilets, vending areas, and all the other paraphernalia that goes with Fight Night.
It’s raining, but that’s not important; Fight Night has never been cancelled, no matter what the weather.
They’re herded into the usual holding pen, and Gibbs puts his head back and catches the rainwater in his mouth like a child. It’s the only time he gets to be outside, to breathe fresh air and feel the wind on his face, and he relishes it, even if it is pouring with rain.
The crowd starts to arrive. Some come in chauffeured limousines while others show up on the backs of Harleys. Gibbs wonders how Walid found these people and what kind of an underground communication network must exist to spread the word of where the fights will be held each week. They are often at different venues, but always on a big patch of open ground. He suspects the grounds are private – belonging to Walid and some of the other wealthy players who own stables and field fighters. Maybe they take it in turns to be the host for the night’s entertainment.
One thing Gibbs does know is that the fights are popular; the bleachers are always packed. These people love this cruel sport and show up week after week to enjoy the obscene spectacle of kidnapped men fighting for their lives out in the pit.
Gibbs tries to get into his pre-fight headspace, but every time he closes his eyes he finds himself wondering what’s happening to Tony back at the stable. He’s never known Ellis to show any interest in the fighters sexually, but the man does love his whip, and he has Tony’s life in his hands right now.
“Damn it!” Gibbs opens his eyes, unable to concentrate.
“Problem?” Hurrell asks, coming over to sit beside him.
“Tony. You think he’s okay?”
Hurrell looks surprised by the question. “He’s an NCIS agent. I’m a Marine. You’re a Marine *and* an NCIS agent. He’s as okay as you or me.”
“So not very,” Gibbs grunts.
“None of us is safe. You know that. We all live on a knife’s edge. This time last week Steve was alive, and I never saw his death coming.”
“Not helping,” Gibbs grinds out.
“Sorry. Tony will be fine. He looks like the kind of man who has nine lives.”
“Yeah.” Gibbs nods, remembering dozens of dangerous situations that Tony somehow emerged from unscathed. “Hell, he once had the plague, and there was just a fifteen per cent chance of survival, but he made it.”
“There you go then. And if anyone can talk his way out of a difficult situation, it’s him.” Hurrell grins. “Bet it’s been fun having him around at NCIS all these years.”
Gibbs has a sudden flash of a dozen different memories at once, all jumbled up and out of sequence; Tony laughing, pouting, and dancing around in the squad room; Tony lying on a hospital bed, covered in sweat, coughing up his guts; Tony making that little squeaking sound he likes to make when Gibbs slaps the back of his head; Tony standing on his desk, addressing the entire room, being an idiot; Tony with a beaten up face, still making jokes despite that; Tony slapping a pair of handcuffs on him when they first met; Tony behind bars; Tony bringing him his favourite USMC sweatshirt after Mike died; Tony hugging him after his return from Mexico; Tony doing movie star impressions at various crime scenes; Tony eating steak off a combat knife in front of the fire in his living room….
“Yeah,” he says, smiling softly. “I guess it has.”
His belly tightens again. He doesn’t like this. He’s never gone through a Fight Night with anyone but himself to worry about before.
A massive limousine draws up nearby, and a man in an expensively tailored suit gets out. He’s wearing sunglasses, even though it’s the middle of the night, and Gibbs realises that it’s Prince Walid.
Walid walks over to the holding pens, a lackey accompanying him to hold an umbrella over his head. He stops by their pen and peers inside; his gaze falls on Gibbs, and he smiles.
“Get him out. I want to talk to him,” he says to McGuire.
McGuire hesitates because he’s one of Scott’s guards, and these are Scott’s fighters, but everyone knows Walid runs this whole operation, so he’s clearly not sure what to do.
Walid gives him a politely threatening smile, and McGuire gives in and opens the holding pen. Gibbs is hauled out and shoved over to stand in front of Walid. It’s the closest they’ve ever been to each other, and Walid gives Gibbs a slow, searching look, up and down. Gibbs copies him insolently, studying Walid as openly as he’s being studied.
Walid is every inch the bastard that Tony described to him. Every single thing about him is expensive, from his exquisitely tailored suit, to his watch, and his white shoes with black laces. He’s got some black and white theme going on, with a black shirt and a white tie, and his hair looks freshly blow-dried, not one single strand out of place.
“Wolfman – we meet at last,” Walid says smoothly. “I must congratulate your trainer. You’re looking in excellent condition.”
“So are you. Who do I need to congratulate for that?” Gibbs flips back.
Walid gives a little laugh that doesn’t sound in the least amused. “Ah, I heard you were a man of few words, but it appears that you have a sense of humour. How interesting.”
Walid reaches into his jacket pocket, pulls out a gold-plated whisky flask, and hands it to him. “Would you like a drink, Wolfman?”
McGuire shifts nervously, and Walid waves a hand in the air. “Oh, please! As if I’d stoop to drugging the fighter of a rival competitor – even if this particular fighter is the main threat to my own champion winning the tournament.”
He smiles at Gibbs, and Gibbs’s gut rings out all kinds of warning bells. This man is as dangerous as a deadly snake, but Gibbs is sure that he hasn’t put poison in the flask. Walid takes this competition extremely seriously, and he would never be caught cheating in such an obvious way. The flask is safe.
Gibbs takes it and swills back a mouthful of the finest, smoothest bourbon. He glances at the flask in surprise.
“Ah, yes, I know your tastes. I have taken the trouble to find out everything there is to know about you, Jethro.”
Gibbs stiffens; Scott has never called him that. Like everyone else, he assumed Gibbs went by his first name, not his second. It would appear that Walid *has* done his research.
“I should thank you. Last Fight Night was our most exciting to date. People have been talking about it all week.” Walid inclines his head. “I am expecting a particularly big turnout this evening as a result. You’ve become the star attraction, Wolfman!”
Out of the corner of his eye, Gibbs can see Scott’s gleaming white limo pulling up some distance away.
“And that’s good for business,” Walid continues. “It doesn’t matter whose stable you belong to, as long as you entertain us in the pit – and you do, Wolfman.”
“Yeah, it’s my main aim, every time I step out there. Entertaining you.” Gibbs injects as much withering sarcasm as he can into every single word.
Walid laughs. “Ah, now I understand what Tony sees in you! I did wonder. Such a stern-faced, angry-looking man…I asked myself – why would Tony DiNozzo risk everything for his boss the way he did?”
“And I asked myself – why would you let Tony DiNozzo end up in Scott’s stable with me, knowing that we’re both federal agents? Surely having us together and outside your control makes us dangerous?”
Walid shrugs. “That’s the game. It’s how it’s played. The loser goes to the winner’s stable. I made those rules, so I cannot be seen to break them.”
“You made me fight twice last week – that isn’t in the rules, either,” Gibbs points out.
Walid shakes his head. “Actually, there is nothing in the rules about that. Sometimes fighters have been required to fight more than once – in our early years, when we did not have as many fighters as we do now, it was common for a fighter to go into the pit two or three times a night. As long as the fighter’s owner is in agreement, then it is acceptable. There are little areas where we may be flexible – such as allowing you to watch Mac fighting last week – but in the fundamentals of how the game is played, then no. We must all stick to the rules. You beat Tony in the pit, so he became Scott’s property.”
“Hell of a risk.”
Walid shrugs. “I like taking risks. It was a gamble, yes, but one I relished!”
That doesn’t surprise Gibbs; most of the people involved in this tournament seem to have a gambling problem.
“I didn’t know what would happen when I put Tony in the pit with you; that’s what made it so exciting.” Walid smiles. “It could have thrown you – or you could have decided to lose the fight, rather than subject him to rape. But you didn’t. You’re a tougher opponent than I expected, Jethro, and that pleases me. I get easily bored. It made the game more interesting to me.”
Gibbs glaces over to see Scott getting out of his car, wearing his usual crumpled cream suit and black lariat tie. He straightens up, looks over, and frowns when he sees Walid talking to Gibbs. He starts striding towards them.
“Having established that you are a worthy opponent, I have been wondering what your next move will be,” Walid says.
“My move?” Gibbs glares at him. What the hell kind of move can he make when these people control his entire life?
“Oh yes. I’m sure you have one. Maybe Tony has inspired you. As you said, you are both federal agents. You’ve been his boss at NCIS for ten years; maybe you’ve cooked up some plan together.”
Gibbs gives a quick, furtive look to see if Scott is close enough to have heard that, but he’s still some distance away.
Walid laughs. “My, you are looking anxious, Jethro! Is that because you’ve deceived your owner? Is it possible that poor Mr Scott doesn’t know who Tony really is? Does he believe that his name is Tony DiNardo and not DiNozzo, and that you never met him before last Fight Night?” Walid asks, a cruel smile playing on his lips. “I have my spies everywhere, you see, Jethro.”
He removes his sunglasses, and Gibbs finds himself looking into a pair of cold, dark eyes. Walid leans in close and speaks directly into his ear.
“I expect you thought that if he knew the truth, Mr Scott might keep you and Tony apart, or keep a special eye on you both,” Walid murmurs accurately. “You’re probably right. I always make sure I know every single thing about the fighters in my stable, but Mr Scott’s research is not nearly as thorough as my own. He has no idea who Tony really is, does he?”
Walid draws back, his cold eyes gleaming with amusement.
“You should consider your next move, Jethro, because I know what mine will be,” he says softly. Then, in a louder voice: “Enjoy yourself in the pit, Wolfman; I look forward to watching you entertain us all again tonight!” He turns, replacing his sunglasses as he goes, and greets Scott. “James! My dear friend! I was looking for you.”
“Looks like you found Leroy instead,” Scott says, looking confused.
“I was just wishing him well in the pit. He’s such a fantastic competitor, a great ambassador for our little tournament. Now, I’ve been thinking, James.” He puts an arm around Scott’s shoulders. “Why don’t you come and sit with me tonight, hmm? Now you’re a major player, and the owner of one of the main contenders, I think you should have the recognition you deserve.”
Scott beams, his entire body quivering with pride.
“I would be delighted, your Highness. Oh, really, this is wonderful, such an honour…goodness me…!”
“Not at all, not at all.” Walid glances back over his shoulder at Gibbs. “It will give us time for a little chat, my dear James. You see, there is something very particular that I want to tell you.”
Gibbs watches them go, his stomach twisting into knots. He has no doubt that Walid will tell Scott that they lied to him. What he doesn’t know is how Scott will respond to that knowledge.
Tony is on his own and vulnerable back at the stable. Ellis might not have a cell phone, but Gibbs is sure Scott has a way of getting a message to the stable. All it would take is for Scott to give the order, and when Gibbs gets back he could find Tony lying in his stall with a bullet hole in his head.