Damage: 3. Darkness Part One



Gibbs sat there for a moment, just gazing at Tony. He had been pretty certain that the kid in the photo was Tony when he’d come here, but hearing Tony confirm it still hurt. He felt as if someone had ripped out his insides and stamped all over them. Tony was looking straight at him, his eyes a mirror of the scared eyes of the boy in the photograph – the boy he’d once been.

“Thank you, Tony,” Gibbs said softly. “I know that can’t have been easy.”

Tony glanced at the photo and then at a spot over Gibbs’s shoulder.

“I thought I could make it go away,” he said quietly. “If I played it right today. Thing is, when it all blew up I wasn’t expecting…” He trailed off, still glancing absently over Gibbs’s shoulder.

“There’s no way you could have known what we’d find on that laptop today, Tony,” Gibbs told him gently.

“At first, I thought it’d be okay – although I knew I wasn’t getting things right, but as the day went on, it got harder.”

“At what point did you think there might be photographs of you on Parrish’s laptop, Tony?”

Tony frowned and wrapped his arms around his body. “Uh…” He looked as if he was concentrating really hard just to stay in the moment and answer the question. “I’m not sure. The day just kept going from bad to worse, and I couldn’t keep things under control. In my head. It all kept slipping away from me.”

Gibbs gazed at him thoughtfully. The Tony sitting in front of him right now wasn’t the same Tony he had worked with every day for the past eight years. He looked as if he was having trouble concentrating, and he had lost his usual defence mechanism of making jokes and pulling faces. None of that disturbed Gibbs as much as what had happened in the parking lot earlier, when Tony had seemed to go into some kind of fugue state. He’d had to call his name several times before he’d come out of it.

“Go on,” Gibbs prompted. Tony nodded.

“When McGee first showed us the photographs of Justin, I felt sorry for the kid, but I also knew I had to protect myself, in case people started to suspect – about me. I tried to act the way people would expect me to act in that situation, but I know I screwed that up because I couldn’t get a feel for what was right. I hadn’t figured out that there might be photos of me on the laptop at that point – I just didn’t want to give away any clues that this was something that might mean something to me.”

“You didn’t want us to find out what happened to you?” Gibbs asked. Tony nodded.

“I didn’t want any of you to find out,” he replied, and then he frowned. “But I really didn’t want *you* to find out, Boss.”

“Tony, you were just a kid in these photos. It’s like I said to Justin earlier, none of this is your fault…” Gibbs began.

“When Shannon and Kelly died,” Tony interrupted, and then he paused, looking apprehensive. Gibbs felt his jaw tighten. Nobody *ever* talked to him about Shannon and Kelly – they knew it was off-limits – but right now he was asking Tony to talk about something just as personal, so what the hell right did he have to get angry with him?

“When they died,” Tony continued, when Gibbs made no move to stop him, “If someone had taken photos of them at that exact moment…if you had found out that they kept those photographs of your worst nightmare in their ‘favourites’ file…”

Gibbs clenched his hands into fists as he looked into Tony’s troubled green eyes.

“Would you want anyone to see those photos?” Tony finished. “Even your closest friends? Especially your closest friends. Would you?”

“No.” Gibbs shook his head, understanding Tony’s analogy all too well. “Tony, I can’t begin to imagine what kind of an ordeal today must have been for you.”

“It got worse after I took a look at the admiral’s photo – a good look,” Tony said. “You came back and saw me, and I made some crack about trying to see what someone is capable of by looking at them, but that wasn’t what I was doing.”

“You were trying to see if you recognised him,” Gibbs said quietly.

“Yes.” Tony nodded.

“How many men abused you, Tony?” Gibbs asked. Tony reached up and rubbed the back of his head again, staring into space. Gibbs saw his eyes glaze over. “Tony!” he rapped out sharply, and Tony’s look of concentration returned. “How many?”

“Three,” he replied.

That wasn’t unexpected after what they’d heard from Justin earlier, but Gibbs still felt like he’d been punched in the gut.

“Over what time period?” he asked.

“I think it was about a year.”

Gibbs paused, not wanting to know the answer to the next question but having to ask it anyway.

“How old were you when the abuse started, Tony?”

Tony looked uncomfortable. “You won’t like it,” he warned.

“Don’t worry about me,” Gibbs said firmly.

“You’ll get angry.”

“Maybe – but not with you. How old were you, Tony?”

“Twelve,” Tony said quietly.

Tony was right; he didn’t like it. It was all he could do not to react, but he didn’t want his anger – no, his stone-cold fury – to make Tony wary about confiding in him. There might be a 37 year old man sitting opposite him, but he was aware that on some level he was also talking to a twelve year old boy. He had to bear that in mind while questioning Tony.

“Was the admiral one of the men who abused you?” Gibbs prompted gently. Tony gazed at him for a long moment. Gibbs felt a ball of anger form in the pit of his stomach. “Tony? Did Admiral Parrish abuse you when you were a kid?” he pressed.

“Yes,” Tony said quietly.

That ball of anger exploded, and Gibbs had to work hard not to lash out, or yell, or leave and go over to the admiral’s house and bury his fist in the man’s face over and over again. He fought the feelings back down and nodded at Tony to continue.

“Once I figured that out, I knew I had to find out if there were any photographs of me in those files on his laptop,” Tony said. “I couldn’t risk coming face to face with him at that point because I wasn’t sure what I’d do. I thought maybe I wouldn’t do anything, because I couldn’t *feel* anything, but I didn’t know for sure because I can’t…I’m not…things are fuzzy for me right now.”

“I understand.” Gibbs nodded. “So you asked me if you could stay behind, instead of coming with me to search the admiral’s house and arrest him.”

“Yes. When you’d gone, I went down to Abby’s lab to see if I could find out just what I was dealing with. McGee showed me the admiral’s ‘favourites’ file…” Tony broke off again, a flicker of some unreadable expression on his face. “And how flattering is that?” he asked bitterly. He glanced at the photo still on display on the laptop. “I make it into some pervert’s porn top ten. Anyway, I saw some photos of me…but I was just a kid then, and the context was wrong, so McGee and Abby hadn’t recognised me. I knew I probably wouldn’t be so lucky if you ever got to see them though. I know how observant you are, Boss.”

Gibbs grunted. His brain hadn’t made the connection either, initially. It was only when McGee had mentioned the word ‘familiar’, and he’d taken a closer look, that something had snapped into place for him.

“I thought about deleting them. It would have been easy enough to create a diversion and get rid of Abby and McGee for long enough to do that on the computers in the lab, but I knew it would be harder to gain access to the admiral’s laptop in the evidence garage. Harder – but not impossible. Not for me anyway.” Tony gave a little grin. “I had to weigh up the risks of being caught doing that though – and therefore drawing attention to the very evidence I was trying to hide. So I thought, on balance, it was better to take my chance with the possibility that you might never take a good look at those particular photos.”

“It was just by chance that I did.”

“That just left Justin. You’re right; I boxed myself into a corner there. I thought I could spare him the ordeal of a court case and handle the admiral myself, privately. I wasn’t thinking straight. I wanted it to go away. I thought I could *make* it go away, Boss. I didn’t think anyone would find out. I didn’t want anyone to find out.”

“Why, Tony? Parrish hurt you when you were just a kid. Now is your chance to bring him to justice.”

“I like my life, Gibbs,” Tony told him quietly. “I like it how it is right now. This gets out and people will look at me differently. You’re already looking at me differently, Boss. And just think about how McGee will look at me…” He shuddered. “And Ziva, Abby – all of them. I want to be who I’ve chosen to be. I’m not a victim. I am not that kid in those photos. I’ve moved on, made a success of my life. I’ve…” He struggled for the words.

“Put those memories in a box and shut them away in some corner of your mind?” Gibbs asked. “Like you told Justin to do earlier?”

“Yes. I don’t think about it. If it comes into my mind, then I’ve found tricks to make it disappear again. I’m really good at that,” Tony grinned.

“There’s just one problem with that, Tony,” Gibbs said, leaning forward. Tony frowned.


“You *are* the kid in the photographs,” Gibbs told him. Tony’s eyes flickered. “And I think that today, faced with the all too clear evidence of that, your mind has been playing tricks back at ya,” Gibbs said softly. “Maybe those mechanisms for keeping it all locked away don’t work when it’s staring you right in the face. Maybe it wasn’t something that could ever work long-term. Maybe you need to face up to what happened to you.”

“I don’t want to,” Tony told him bluntly. “I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to *remember* it.”

“You want to leave Parrish and the others out there, walking around, free to abuse more kids?” Gibbs asked him. Tony glared at him. “Or do you want to help me make a case against him for what he did to you, and God knows how many other young boys?”

“You’re forgetting about the statute of limitations,” Tony said, folding his arms across his chest. “This all happened twenty-five years ago.”

Gibbs made a little motion with his head. “You and I both know that exceptions have been made in cases like this, especially where there are repressed memories.”

“My memory wasn’t repressed. It was just…contained.”

“Okay – but the abuse against Justin was recent. You were right about Justin not being a very good witness,” Gibbs said. “But if we could get him to testify, and if his testimony was backed up by a really reliable witness, like, say, a federal agent…”

“No!” Tony snapped. “No. Don’t do this to me, Gibbs. Don’t guilt-trip me into this.”

“Tony, anything you do will be your own decision,” Gibbs told him. “But it’s out now. You can’t put it away in that box again. *I* know, and I can’t forget it – I don’t have a convenient box in my brain where I can file those photos away.”

“No,” Tony repeated, in an agonised voice.

“Okay.” Gibbs nodded. “But we’re clearly dealing with a pedophile ring here from all you’ve said. Whether or not you testify, any information you can give us about these men might help us crack this ring.”

Tony was gazing at him, a look of mute pleading in his eyes. Gibbs paused. He didn’t have to do this. He could spare Tony this. He could protect this man sitting in front of him, a man he cared about more than he wanted to admit, and make all this go away for him. He could do that. Except that he knew he couldn’t. If Tony could give them information that would bring down a whole pedophile ring, then he had to pursue it. He hated himself for it, but he did it anyway.

“We have more work to do on those photographs,” Gibbs said quietly. “And at some point McGee or Abby might figure it out. Do you want to be walking around on eggshells waiting for that to happen? Or do you want to confront it? You said you didn’t want to be a victim, and you don’t have to be. You can take the initiative; you can sit in the driver’s seat and bring these men to justice.”

Tony’s hand shot out, and he closed the laptop with a hard crash.

“I said no!”

“I’ll be with you, every step of the way. I promise,” Gibbs told him, leaning forward, every single fibre of his being radiating his sincerity, needing Tony to believe him. “I mean it, Tony. I will walk this with you – every single moment of it. We can find these men, and we can make them pay for what they did to you, and to Justin, and to all those other kids. We can stop them hurting any other boys – we can bring them down, but you have to trust me, Tony. You have to believe in me. I promise you I will not let you down.”

Tony gazed at him from doubtful eyes.

“I think this is the only way that this will ever be resolved for you, Tony,” Gibbs told him softly. “I don’t think you’ll ever be able to stuff it back into that box of yours again – do you?”

“I don’t know,” Tony muttered. “It has been hard. Today. The things I used to do, the tricks I used to use in my head – they don’t seem to be working.”

“In the short term it’ll be tough. I can’t tell you that it won’t, and you wouldn’t believe me if I did. I know it won’t be easy for you to re-live any of it. But, in the long term, I think it’ll be easier for you to lay it to rest if you face up to it.”

“With all due respect, Boss, you’re not anyone’s idea of a shrink,” Tony said, with a ghost of a grin.

“Nope.” Gibbs grinned back at him. “Hell, you know my opinion of shrinks, but most of this stuff is common sense. What do you say, Tony? Will you do it?”

“When?” Tony asked.

“Right now. We could go back to NCIS, use an interrogation room, and conduct an interview. If we tape it, then you’ll only have to go through it once. Any information you give us will be very helpful, Tony.”

“Did you mean what you said about being with me…uh…only…I don’t know how I’ll be. I might lose it,” Tony confessed, and Gibbs noticed his hand shaking as he said that.

Gibbs looked into Tony’s eyes and saw an expression in them that he’d never seen before: sheer, stark terror. Gibbs felt chilled to the bone. What Tony had told him already was bad enough, but that was just the bare bones of it. The details would clearly be far worse. Gibbs didn’t want to put either of them through it, but he knew it had to be done.

“Tony – you be any way you have to be – you just let this out, and I promise you I will be there,” Gibbs told him firmly. He got to his feet. “Yes?” he asked, holding out his hand. Tony gazed at it.

“Someone will have to be in the observation room doing the taping,” Tony said, his hand still shaking. “I don’t want it to be McGee or Ziva.”

“You prefer it to be Mike?” Gibbs asked. Tony shook his head. “It has to be someone,” Gibbs pointed out reasonably. “And people are going to find out, Tony. This is a case – you’re a witness. You’re making a statement. We’ll need to gather more evidence. I’ll need to bring McGee and Ziva and probably Abby in on it at some point. They’re your friends, Tony.”

“I don’t want to do this,” Tony told him.

“I know.” Gibbs nodded, keeping his hand outstretched. “But you will.”

“How do you know that?”

“I know you.” Gibbs shrugged. “Tony, you threw yourself into the river last year to rescue me, and you’ve put yourself in the line of fire for every single member of the team at some point. I know I can always trust you have to my six. You – above everyone else.”

“So? This isn’t about that kind of stuff,” Tony said with a dismissive shrug.

“The point is that you’re *brave*, Tony,” Gibbs said forcefully. “Whatever else you are, however you view yourself and your own failings, and whatever doubts you have, that’s one thing that can’t be denied. You’re brave.”

“Maybe not this brave,” Tony told him doubtfully. Gibbs moved his head impatiently – he didn’t believe that for a second.

“Trust me?” he said, looking straight into Tony’s eyes, willing him to do just that. He moved his hand forward insistently. Tony looked at it and then slowly, very slowly, he reached out his own shaking hand towards it. Gibbs grasped it, firmly, holding on tight, and pulled Tony to his feet.

“Come on – let’s go,” he said softly.

“McGee,” Tony told him as they walked towards the door. Gibbs raised an eyebrow at him. “In the observation room – let it be McGee,” Tony said. “I can’t face the others just yet.”


McGee sat in bed, reading. It had been a long, gruelling day, and he was tired, but he wasn’t ready to go to sleep just yet. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw those damn photos. Maybe he’d just get so tired that he’d fall asleep by accident and hopefully have a dreamless night. He sure as hell didn’t want to re-live any of the day’s events in his sleep; they’d been disturbing enough as it was.

He was surprised when his cell phone rang. It was nearly ten-thirty, and nobody ever called him this late; well, nobody except…he looked at the caller display with a sense of dread: Gibbs.

“Hey, Boss,” he said, his heart sinking.

“McGee – I need you back at NCIS,” Gibbs said, as straight to the point as ever.

“Uh. Okay. I’ll get dressed and meet you there. Is there an emergency?”

“No – but I need you to tape an interview.”

McGee frowned. “Uh, Boss, the technician guys, Mike or Steve, they usually do that,” he pointed out.

“I know that, McGee, but I’m asking you to do it,” Gibbs snapped. McGee jumped at his tone of voice and held the phone away from his ear with a grimace.

“Okay. No problem, Boss,” he replied, wondering what the hell that was about.

“And, McGee – this interview is confidential. You don’t tell anyone about what’s discussed in that room tonight – okay?” Gibbs said. This was all getting more and more mysterious.

“Okay, Boss,” McGee replied, and then the phone went dead. Typical Gibbs; never a hello, never a goodbye. Just terse and direct.

He got dressed wearily and returned to NCIS. He could do without this tonight after the day he’d had, but then again, it wasn’t as if he’d been going to get to sleep anyway, so he might as well be working.

The squad room was in darkness when he walked in, so he turned on the light and went over to his desk to grab some chocolate from the drawer. This might be a long night, and he needed something to keep himself alert.

The elevator pinged open behind him, sounding unnaturally loud in the silence, and he turned to see Gibbs and Tony walk into the squad room. McGee was about to say something, but then he stopped. Gibbs had one hand on Tony’s shoulder, and Tony looked, well, as unlike Tony as he’d ever seen him. It took McGee a moment to place what was wrong, and then he realised what it was: fear. Tony was terrified, and he’d never seen that particular expression on his face before.

“Boss…who are we questioning?” McGee asked.

“Nobody. It’s an interview – we’re taking a statement,” Gibbs said.

“Okay. So…are we waiting for someone to come in and give the statement?” McGee asked, puzzled. He glanced at Tony, but the other agent didn’t even look at him. McGee had a bad feeling about this. Tony must have done something – something terrible judging by the look on Gibbs’s face.

“No. It’s just us,” Gibbs said quietly.

McGee realised with a jolt that it must be Tony giving the statement – so he *had* done something. Gibbs reached out, opened his desk drawer, and pulled out a badge. He took hold of Tony’s hand and pressed the badge into it.

“Here – I want you to have this back, Tony,” he said, and McGee didn’t think he’d ever heard Gibbs use that tone of voice with any of them before. It was firm but very gentle – almost soothing. “I’m not going to give you the gun back just yet, Tony. You understand why, don’t you?” Gibbs asked.

Tony nodded, and McGee watched, startled, wondering what the hell was going on. When had Gibbs taken Tony’s badge and gun off him in the first place, and why? And why was he now giving back the badge and not the gun?

“Okay. Then let’s go to the interrogation room,” Gibbs said, in that same calm but authoritative voice. “McGee – Tony asked specifically that you do this and nobody else, but it isn’t going to be an easy night for any of us. Do you understand that?”

McGee was wide-eyed as he nodded. “Yes, Boss,” he said quietly, shooting a furtive glance at Tony, who was gazing blankly into space, an absent look in his eyes, as if he was somewhere else entirely.

“Like I said on the phone, this interview is confidential. You don’t tell anyone what happens in that room unless I say you can,” Gibbs warned him again.

“Yes, Boss.” McGee was starting to feel really freaked out by this.

“Okay – then go set up.”

McGee scuttled off to the observation room and checked over the equipment, ensuring there was enough tape in the machines. Then he turned off the light, put on the headphones, and sat down. He opened up his bar of chocolate, snapped off a square, and put it in his mouth.

Tony and Gibbs entered the interrogation room a few seconds later, and Tony hesitated, glancing at the chairs, as if uncertain where to sit. Gibbs gestured with his head at the chair opposite the mirror. That was where the suspects usually sat, so McGee shifted uncomfortably. Gibbs had said this was an interview, not an interrogation, but just what crime was Tony going to admit to?

McGee set the tape running and glanced sideways into the room. Gibbs saw the light go on, signalling that recording had begun, and he started speaking.

“This is Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, talking to Anthony DiNozzo,” he said. McGee didn’t miss the fact that he hadn’t addressed Tony by his title, so he couldn’t be here on official NCIS business. That made him either a suspect or a witness.

“Shit, Tony, what the hell have you done?” McGee muttered under his breath. He broke off another piece of chocolate and stuck it in his mouth.

“Any time you want to start, just go ahead, Tony,” Gibbs said.

Tony glanced up and caught sight of himself in the mirror. His eyes flickered, and he reached up to smooth down the hair on the back of his head. Gibbs cleared his throat.

“Don’t do that right now, Tony,” he said. “I think it distracts you.”

“Right. Yes.” Tony nodded. “Where do you want me to start?” he asked.

“Wherever feels best for you. This is your show, Tony. Any time you want to take a break, just tell me. You’ve got water there, but if you need anything to eat or drink, we can get McGee to go get us something. Okay?”

“Yes.” Tony nodded again but still didn’t say anything. McGee wondered why Gibbs was spelling all this out – Tony knew the procedure. There was a long silence.

“Have you ever told anyone any of the things you spoke to me about earlier?” Gibbs asked eventually.

“Just once. A long time ago.”

“Who did you tell?”

“My dad.” Tony shrugged.

“Did he believe you?”

Tony looked straight at Gibbs. “No.”

“So I can understand why it would be hard to talk about it now. Last time you tried you weren’t believed, so you’ve had to shove it down and bottle it up ever since. But you know I’ll believe you, don’t you?”

“Yeah.” Tony nodded. “I guess.” He took a deep breath and seemed to visibly pull himself back into the moment. “Okay. My dad was a marine,” he said.

It seemed like an unexpected beginning. McGee glanced at Gibbs – or at least what he could see of the man from behind – and thought Gibbs looked a little startled by that information too.

“He fought in Vietnam,” Tony added.

McGee hadn’t known that about Tony’s father. He wondered if it had anything to do with the way Tony so obviously revered Gibbs, also a former marine.

“While he was in the Corps, he made friends with this guy – Roy Quinn. Roy was more than just his buddy though. It was how you talk sometimes, Boss, about being in the Corps, about how those people become like family to you.”

“You have to rely on them to have your six,” Gibbs agreed. “In a combat situation. Your life literally rests in their hands. That brings you really close.”

“Yeah. Well, that’s how it was with my dad and Roy. They fought together, side by side, and then one day my dad was wounded, and they got separated from their unit. It looked pretty bad for my dad, but Roy wouldn’t leave him. He could have run off and got himself to safety, but he didn’t. He stayed with my dad and gave him his water when Dad’s ran out. He dressed his wound as best he could, and he took care of him, and eventually Roy got them both back to safety.”

“So he saved your father’s life?”

“Yeah.” Tony nodded. “My dad left the Corps, came home, got married to my mom, had me, and started up his own business. He stayed friends with Uncle Roy though, and when Roy got out of the Corps, he came and asked Dad for a job. Dad was only too happy to give him one. They worked well together too – they built up the company from scratch. My dad was an entrepreneur – he had a great vision for the company, but he wasn’t so good at the small details. Roy, on the other hand, loved that kind of stuff. He took care of the backroom work, and my dad pushed the business forward. They’re a great team.”

Tony paused and took a sip of water from one of the two bottles on the table.

“Everyone loved Uncle Roy. I adored him. He was one of those people…he was just so nice, so much fun. I used to love it when he came around to visit. He wasn’t like other adults – he sure as hell wasn’t like my dad. He used to talk to me like I wasn’t just a kid, like he really cared what I thought. He showed me card tricks and stuff like that. Dad was kind of strict, and Roy was the opposite of that. I sometimes used to wish he was my dad.”

Tony broke off and gazed at himself in the mirror again, and then he started to hum. McGee frowned. He had no idea where this was heading, but Tony was behaving really strangely.

“Tony – you need to concentrate,” Gibbs said firmly. Tony stopped humming and nodded.

“Yeah. Where was I? Okay…my mom died when I was eleven, and my dad – he wasn’t good at expressing his emotions, but I guess he was pretty upset. He started drinking more – he’d always been a drinker, but it got worse. He threw himself into his work, and he was away a lot more, always going off on business trips. We had a live-in housekeeper, so it was easy enough for him to leave me – and Uncle Roy used to keep an eye on me.”

“Okay.” Gibbs nodded, and he sounded as if he could see where this was going although McGee remained mystified.

“So…Roy used to visit, and he’d take me out to a movie or a ball game when my dad was away. Or he’d just take me out for a burger. He was really nice. I could talk to him in a way I couldn’t talk to my dad. I always used to be able to talk to my mom but…I guess I’d been lonely since she died. I wanted to talk about her, but my dad wouldn’t – he got angry and upset if I even mentioned her. Roy would let me talk about her though.”

McGee thought he’d learned more about Tony’s past in ten minutes than in all of the previous six years they’d worked together.

“One day Roy came to the house, and we watched some TV together, and the housekeeper had gone to bed, and Roy…he uh…” Tony paused.

“What did Roy do, Tony?” Gibbs prompted gently. McGee stiffened, suddenly really not liking the way this was heading.

“He…well…he asked me if I loved him,” Tony said. “I said – sure I did, you know, the way a kid would. I mean, he had to be the coolest uncle anyone ever had, and he was always buying me stuff, and taking me places, and spending time with me, and my dad never did any of that shit.” He fell silent again.

“What happened next, Tony?” Gibbs asked, after several minutes had passed.

“I…how much do you need to know?” Tony looked up at Gibbs with troubled eyes.

“However much you’re comfortable telling.”

“Well…he said there was stuff people did when they loved each other, and…I’m not sure how exactly, but he made it seem like if I didn’t do it, it meant I didn’t love him, and he’d be really upset. That’s how it seemed to me at the time. I mean, looking back I can see that was all bullshit, but at the time I felt like I’d really hurt his feelings if I said I didn’t love him.”

“Did he touch you?” Gibbs asked.

“Yeah.” Tony shrugged. “At first, that’s all it was. He’d make me kiss him on the lips, which I hated as he smoked these really strong cigars. Then he’d make me sit on his lap, which I thought was weird because I wasn’t six, and he’d open my pants and…”

McGee gazed into the next door room, horrified. He noticed that one of Tony’s hands was shaking where it was resting on the table. Tony moved his other hand on top of it to keep it still.

“He’d play around,” Tony finished.

“How old were you?” Gibbs asked.

“Twelve,” Tony replied.

McGee felt the retch forming in the back of his throat and swallowed down the burning sensation, wishing he hadn’t eaten that chocolate now. It was hard to believe that Tony DiNozzo – Tony, who had been like a teasing, tormenting big brother to him for all these years – that *Tony*, of all people, was saying this stuff. He could almost believe it was a lie, an elaborate hoax set up for his benefit, if it wasn’t for the expression on Tony’s face and the fact that Gibbs was sitting there, coaxing this whole thing out of him. Even Tony wouldn’t joke about something like this – and there was no way on this earth that Gibbs would.

“My dad was away a lot at this point, and Roy was always buying me stuff and taking me places. Then, after a few months, he said that he was always doing things for me, and it was time for me to do something for him. So he took me to this hotel…”

Tony broke off again. Gibbs waited, patiently.

“What happened at the hotel, Tony?” he asked, after another pause of several minutes.

“That’s where he had sex with me the first time,” Tony said. Tim stared through the window in stunned silence.

“He raped you?” Gibbs asked.

“He was nice about it. I mean, he was gentle, and he kept stroking me and telling me he loved me and shit…” Tony said, in a confused tone.

“It was still rape, Tony,” Gibbs told him. “You were too young to give informed consent.”

“Yeah. I know,” Tony replied. “But I really liked him, Boss,” he said pathetically. “It was…kind of confusing. I loved him, but I didn’t like what he was doing to me. He said it was our special secret, and if I wanted him to keep taking me to the movies and ball games then I had to let him do this to me. I knew it felt wrong, but he got it all twisted up in my mind so I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t want him to stop loving me – my dad never paid me any attention, and I didn’t want Roy to stop doing that – but I did want him to stop fucking me.”

“Did you tell your father what Roy had done?” Gibbs asked. Tony shook his head.

“Not then. My dad – he’s not a very approachable man, and Roy was his best friend. I think he actually loves Roy more than he loves me. Roy saved his life, and Roy helped him build up his business. Roy was always everyone’s favourite person – when he came into the room it lit up, and everyone wanted to be his friend. I think maybe I even felt like I was special because Roy liked me so much.”

McGee tried to reconcile this Tony, talking in that room, with the man he sat next to at work every day. They seemed like two completely different people.

“There’s more,” Tony said, in a shaky voice, after another long pause.

“I know.” Gibbs nodded. “When you’re ready, Tony.”

“I don’t like this bit,” Tony said.

“Okay – take your time. Do you want some more water?” Gibbs gestured at the bottle on the table, and Tony took another sip. He put the bottle down and replaced the cap and then started again, quickly, as if he wasn’t sure he’d be able to do it if he waited.

“So, one day he took me to the hotel, as usual, and after we’d been there a few minutes this guy showed up at the door. Roy let him in and told me this was a friend of his. Some guy called Marco – maybe he was Italian although he didn’t speak with an accent, and I think even then I knew that wasn’t his real name. He was quite swarthy and really hairy. He had this tattoo on his arm of a knife dripping blood. Roy told me that Marco wanted to spend some time alone with me, and then he just left the room.”

McGee gazed through the window, transfixed. He felt like he was going to throw up at any moment. He’d had no idea, all these years, that Tony was hiding something like *this*.

“Marco was an animal,” Tony said bluntly. “He hardly said a word to me, but Christ, he was rough. It wasn’t like with Roy. When he fucked me, it hurt like hell. Roy came back after an hour or so, and I remember thinking that Roy would be really mad when he found out what Marco had done to me. I told Roy about it but…” Tony shrugged. “He told me that I had to grow up and stop being such a little whiner. He said it was good for me, and that I was lucky I had them to spend time with me when nobody else would. Then Marco said he wanted some pictures – so he’d remember our time together.” Tony gave an ironic grin. “Nice, huh? Like we’d shared some great romantic moment or something.”

McGee could see the tautness of every single muscle in Gibbs’s body through his shirt, and he wondered how the hell their boss was taking all this. Everyone knew Gibbs hated anyone hurting kids, and God knows he couldn’t tolerate anyone hurting a member of his team. This had to be killing him, but he remained calm throughout, his voice gentle but firm, keeping Tony on track.

“So he fucked me all over again while Roy took pictures,” Tony said, leaning back in his chair. “I was so shocked that Roy was letting this other guy do this to me when he’d said it was some special shit that he and I did together. I couldn’t believe Roy was letting it happen. I think that hurt more than what Marco was doing to me, and God knows that hurt even worse second time around. I was dying for it to be over, I was desperate for it to be over, and Roy had to see how much it was hurting me, how scared I was, and how much I was hating it. Anyone looking at those photos could see it.”

Tony motioned with his head to the bag that Gibbs had brought in with him. Gibbs picked it up and pulled out a laptop, and McGee recognised it as the one he’d been working on in the lab all day. Gibbs opened it, waited for it to power up, and then pointed at the screen.

“Was this one of the photographs taken on that day, Tony?” he asked. “Is the man in this photo Marco?”

Tony glanced at the picture and then nodded. “Yeah,” he replied. “That’s him. I recognise the dark skin and the hairy hands – and you can just see the tattoo – there.”

Realisation hit McGee. He’d *seen* that photograph. He’d looked at it several times today. He’d looked into that child’s scared eyes without realising it was Tony. Now he knew, he felt ill to the pit of his stomach. He reached for the waste basket and threw up into it, a spew of dark chocolate and bile.


Tony sat back in his chair. This was hard, but he thought he was handling it pretty well. If he let the trained federal agent take over, and kept the kid inside down, then he could view the whole thing with a degree of dispassion. Remembering the details was easier than remembering the feelings – but keeping it purely factual wasn’t always possible. Gibbs was helping though. His boss seemed to know the right things to say to keep him in the moment and stop him disappearing off into the memories. He felt like there was a minefield inside his own head, places he didn’t dare tread too heavily in case they blew up in his face; but tip-toeing over and around them wasn’t easy.

“Do you want to take a break?” Gibbs asked.

Tony shook his head. “If I leave this room now, I’ll never come back.”

“Okay.” Gibbs nodded. “Is Roy Quinn still alive, Tony?”

That was one of those mines he’d been trying really hard not to step on. He reached his hand up absently to touch his hair.

“Tony,” Gibbs interrupted him. He blinked.

“Yeah. He is.”

“Any idea where he lives?” Gibbs asked.

This was all going to get serious. He’d known that when he first agreed to do this, but knowing it and facing it were two different things.

“Yeah,” he said, after a long pause. “He still works with my dad. Why do you think I never go home?”

He saw Gibbs’s jaw tighten. He knew what every single nuance of Gibbs’s body language meant – hell, he’d been studying the man for years now and had a better handle on him than just about anyone else, except maybe Ducky. Gibbs didn’t give a lot away – you had to learn to read the really tiny shadows that sometimes crossed his eyes, or the way his shoulders got all stiff and knotted looking. Right now, he was in what Tony would usually classify as the “red zone”. That meant his temper was on a hair trigger and might explode at any moment. However, his body language was at odds with his tone of voice, which was calm, gentle even, keeping Tony anchored. Tony knew for certain that however angry Gibbs was, however angry Tony’s statement made him, he wouldn’t express it here, in this room.

“I think Roy felt bad about what happened with Marco,” Tony continued. “I don’t think he liked it – Marco was rough and that wasn’t Roy’s style. I think he was also annoyed – he’d spent a lot of time grooming me and Marco came along and tore me up – that made it harder for Roy to keep abusing me. After we left the hotel, Roy took me out for a big meal, and he bought me some cool new sneakers, and then we went to see a movie together. I think he was trying to make it up to me, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that he’d let Marco hurt me. When I got home…”

Tony broke off again. There was another one of those unexploded bombs underfoot, and he had to tread carefully.

Gibbs was gazing at him intently. Tony gazed back, needing to find some courage from somewhere. He could feel that noise buzzing in his head again and reached up to smooth his hair.

“When I got home I found I was bleeding. I was terrified – I thought it meant that I was going to die.” He could barely hear himself talk over all the buzzing. “I didn’t know what to do. That night, I curled up in bed and lay awake all night, waiting to die.”

Gibbs reached out a jerky hand for a bottle of water and unscrewed the cap with terse movements of his fingers. He threw his head back and swallowed down half the contents in one go. Then he put the bottle down, abruptly, and his eyes met Tony’s again. They were bright, sharp, and unreadable.

“Did you tell anyone?” he asked quietly.

“Yes. I told Roy. He looked kind of annoyed, but he said it would be okay – and that he’d tell Marco to be more careful next time.”

Tony gazed at himself blankly in the mirror.

“Next time,” he repeated. “There was gonna be a next time. I freaked out for a couple of weeks, wondering what to do, but my dad was back home, and I knew I was safe while he was there so that bought me some time. Then the time came for him to go away again. He was due to go at the weekend, so I plucked up my courage all week, and then, on the Friday night, I knocked on his study door.”

Tony reached for his bottle of water and tried unscrewing the cap, but his damn hand was shaking again. It irritated him. He could do without the melodrama. He just wanted to get this whole thing over with, so he could leave this room, get away from Gibbs’s laser-sharp gaze, go home, go to bed, and fall asleep. Then tomorrow he could shove all this back into its box and forget about it again.

Gibbs took the bottle out of his shaking hand, unscrewed the top, and handed it to him. Tony took a sip, trying to gather his thoughts, to find the facts without unleashing any of the emotions that went with them. This bit was harder than the rest. He wasn’t sure why that should be, but it was. It was harder even than talking about that first time with Roy or what happened with that bastard Marco.

“He’d been drinking – it was early, so not too much, but a little. My dad’s a big man, kind of formal, a bit distant. He’s a hard person to talk to. He’s a good man, but he’s very…definite. There are things he believes, and things he doesn’t, and that’s pretty much it. He could talk to my mom – everyone could talk to my mom – and he could talk to Roy, but not to me. He never could talk to me.”

Tony rubbed his cheek absently. His mind was a jumble. He could see a mahogany door and a big desk with a green lamp on it. His father was staring at him over the top of his glasses, looking annoyed at the interruption. There was a tumbler of amber liquid on the desk in front of him and a fire burning in the grate.

He could hear his own voice, reedy and a bit nasal. “Don’t go away this weekend, Dad.”

His father’s voice was deep and rumbling. There were lots of words like ‘work’, ‘business’, and ‘keeping a roof over your head’.

“Please don’t go away, Dad,” Tony said, and he couldn’t keep the begging tone out of his voice. “Stay here with me. Please.”

Then there was a glimmer of something in his father’s eyes; some kind of guilt mingled with fondness. Tony felt a little burst of hope; maybe his father wouldn’t go. Maybe it was all going to be okay after all. His father beckoned him over and patted his shoulder awkwardly.

“When I come back, we’ll do something,” he said vaguely, and Tony’s heart sank. That feeling of hope disappeared abruptly. “But Roy will take you out while I’m gone. I’ll give him some money and ask him to take you somewhere really nice,” his father told him.

Tony looked at his shoes and then over to the fire burning in the grate. “I don’t want Roy to take me out,” he whispered. “Roy does stuff I don’t like.”

“What – you mean he won’t buy you those stupid videos you keep going on about?” his father grinned.

“No. Sometimes he undresses me and touches me.”

The slap took him by surprise. He thought maybe it took his father by surprise as well. He put up a hand to his stinging cheek and looked at his father, shocked.

“That’s a wicked lie, Tony,” his father said, looking just as shocked. “Did you make up that lie to try and stop me going away? Do you have any idea how wicked that is? Roy saved my life, and he’s always been so good to you. I know you have a vivid imagination, but you’ve gone too far this time. You can’t go around saying things like that.”

Tony didn’t know what to say. He just kept rubbing his stinging cheek. His father looked upset.

“I’m sorry – I know you miss your mom, and I know I’m not around much…but you can’t tell lies to get your own way, Tony. We’ve talked about this!”

Tony continued to rub his cheek absently. He could still feel the sting, all these years later.

“Tony, you need to stop doing that now.”

A hand fastened gently around his wrist and pulled it away from his face. Looking up, into the mirror, he saw that he’d rubbed a red mark on his cheek. How long had he been rubbing before Gibbs had stopped him?

“See, thing is, I had been telling a lot of lies,” Tony said. “Ever since Mom died. Stupid lies, obvious lies. Dad had spoken to me about it a few times. So I can see why he’d think that was a lie too. And I didn’t have a way of saying it wasn’t. I didn’t have the words for it back then. Now, sitting here, it’s hard for me to figure out why I didn’t just keep going, convince him, make him believe me, but I didn’t. I just scuttled out of the room and went to bed.” He looked down at the table for awhile and then looked up to meet Gibbs’s gaze.

“We never mentioned it again. Next day, Roy took me back to the hotel and that’s when I first met Matthew Parrish.”



~ I love receiving friendly feedback! If you enjoyed this story, please leave a comment below. ~

Submit a Comment

6 Comments on Damage: 3. Darkness Part One


Buy Xanthe's original character BDSM slash novel, Ricochet now!

Paperback on Amazon

E-book on Amazon

Smashwords in various formats

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons