Damage: 4. Darkness Part Two


Gibbs watched Tony intently. Sometimes Tony talked lucidly, without any hesitation, even while recounting events that Gibbs found hard to stomach, and other times Tony drifted, and did that weird stroking thing, and his eyes went blank. Gibbs couldn’t get a handle on what would set him off, or what aspect of his account upset him most.

Sometimes he sounded just like *Tony*, and Gibbs would catch a glimmer of Tony humour in his eyes, but other times it was like he was someone else – someone Gibbs had never met or even knew existed. His body language and his speech patterns changed, and his face twisted into expressions Gibbs had never seen on it before. It was like being with a total stranger.

Gibbs had known this wouldn’t be easy to hear, but he hadn’t realised it would be this hard, either. The federal agent in him wanted to get to the details, so he could pursue these men and get justice for Tony, and for Justin, and for all those kids in the photographs. But there was another part of him that wanted to go out and pound the shit out of anyone who so much as crossed his path, and allow the rage coursing through him to have expression. Then there was the part of him that just wanted to wrap Tony up and hold him, to keep him safe and protect him for the rest of his life. He wasn’t sure about that part, or what motivated it – although he had a suspicion – but he couldn’t deny it existed.

“You mentioned Admiral Parrish earlier,” Gibbs said, when Tony had been quiet for a few minutes. “You said you spent a long time looking at his photograph in the squad room this afternoon.”


“You’re sure it was him?” Gibbs asked. Tony looked up at him, his eyes flashing. “I’m not saying I don’t believe you,” Gibbs told him quickly. “I’m just asking if you’re sure it was him and not some other guy.”

“It was him,” Tony said firmly.

“Can you tell me why you’re so sure?”

“Well, he wasn’t introduced to me as Matthew, of course, but as Luke.” Tony gave a half-shrug, and his mouth twisted into a bitter grin. “Roy wasn’t exactly big on imagination – that’s why he ran the office while my father did the entrepreneur stuff. Luke had this air of authority about him, even back then. You could see he liked being obeyed. He wasn’t rough like Marco, and he wasn’t everyone’s best friend like Roy. He was military – I could sense that about him, even though he wasn’t wearing a uniform when I met him.”

“Did he know Quinn from the military do you think?” Gibbs asked, making a note on the file in front of him to check up on that later. “I know Quinn was a Marine, and Parrish is Navy, but they both served in Vietnam – do you think they met there?”

“It’s possible.” Tony shrugged. “They seemed to be friends – more so than Roy was with Marco. I think Roy might even have been a bit scared of Marco, but he and Luke were tight. There was a lot of hugging and slapping each other on the back, and then they ordered up some room service, and we sat there, the three of us, in that room, like it was the most normal thing in the world. Luke had brought me a present.” Tony hunched his shoulders and made a face.

“What was it?” Gibbs asked.

“One of those viewfinder things they had back then. Man, I haven’t seen one of those in a long time. I don’t think they exist any more. Any kid today would laugh if he got one as a present, but back then it seemed really cool. It was this red plastic thing, and when you put a disk in it, and held it up to your eyes, you saw scenes from a movie. You clicked, and the disk rolled around so you could see another scene. The disk that came with this one was “The Sword in the Stone” – the Disney movie about the kid who pulled the sword out of the stone and became King Arthur. I didn’t eat anything. I spent the entire time just looking through that thing and clicking – must have gone through the whole story about a dozen times. Roy and Luke talked – I can’t remember what they talked about. I had this knot in my stomach because I knew what was coming, and I was worried that Luke would be like Marco. The movie helped – I think that was when I figured out that distraction really worked. I just lost myself in that stupid story and was able to forget the stuff I didn’t want to think about.”

Gibbs thought it was a good defence mechanism for a twelve year old boy to get him through a terrifying ordeal, but he wasn’t sure it was something that could work long-term.

He remembered Tony coming back to work early after contracting the plague; he’d said he was going crazy at home, and Gibbs had sensed a kind of panic about him. Tony didn’t like too much time alone – he needed constant mental stimulation. Then there had been his time as an agent afloat – it was obvious how challenging he’d found that, and how pathetically desperate he’d been to be recalled. Hell, even these past few weeks, when things had been slow, Gibbs had ordered extra close combat training just to help Tony burn off some steam and keep him from driving the rest of his team insane. Tony needed distraction – whether it was investigating a case, thinking up elaborate practical jokes to play on McGee, or nosing into Ziva’s personal life – and now Gibbs knew the reason why.

“After lunch, Roy left. I asked him not to go, but he told me Luke would take good care of me. When we were alone, Luke told me he’d seen the photos of me with Marco, and he had really been looking forward to meeting me. He said if I did everything he told me to then we’d get along just fine. He was menacing but in a quiet kind of way. He was one of those people who can turn in a second. He’d seem really nice and then, without warning, he’d get this mean look in his eyes that would make your blood run cold. He told me he’d been in combat and had killed men, and that it was much easier to kill a kid. He didn’t say it like it was a threat, but I knew it was all the same.”

Gibbs had met many brave men in the military, men who had given their lives for their country and men who had suffered appalling injuries in the line of duty, and he hated hearing how one man had twisted that to suit his own evil ends. He remembered that fleeting moment he’d experienced earlier, when he’d got a real sense of the kind of man Matthew Parrish was. It had just been a flash, but he’d known, instinctively, that the man had a mean, ruthless streak.

“So you asked how I know it was Parrish. It was a long time ago, and he’s obviously a lot older now and looks different, but I just had this feeling when I saw the picture on his service record that he was Luke. There was one thing I knew would clinch it though – Luke had this long, jagged scar on his inner thigh. He told me some bullshit story about being on a black ops mission and taking out a bunch of Viet Cong single-handedly, but even back then I don’t think I bought that. So today, while you were out searching his house, I looked in Admiral Parrish’s file.”

“He was injured in Vietnam – shrapnel wound to his thigh when his patrol boat was ambushed,” Gibbs said. Tony looked up at him, surprised. “I know that bastard’s file backwards,” Gibbs told him. “I must have read it a dozen times today, looking for something, because I knew there *was* something. I had a really bad feeling about that guy in my gut. I knew he was guilty of abusing Justin – had no idea how far back it went though. Christ, how do men like him get away with stuff like this for so long?”

“Ruthless. Smart.” Tony shrugged. “Well organised. Lucky.” He hesitated. “And good,” he muttered. Gibbs looked at him sharply. “Well they are. Roy played me like a maestro, and Parrish had Justin eating out of his hand. They were good at fucking with our minds, Boss, making us too scared or too in love with them to tell – or a mixture of both.”

“No wonder you didn’t want to be in the room when I questioned Parrish,” Gibbs commented. “I thought it wasn’t like you to have your cell phone turned off.”

“I couldn’t face him,” Tony replied. “I wasn’t sure how I’d react. Also – I think there’s a part of me that’s still scared of him, Boss. Marco was an animal who took what he wanted – he was rough, but he hardly spoke a word to me. Parrish was different – he said a lot, most of it designed to scare me. I think he got off on that.”

“Oh, he did,” Gibbs said grimly, remembering that file of Parrish’s ‘favourites’, and what they all had in common.

“I stood in the observation room, watching when you questioned him. I wanted to be sure it was him,” Tony said. “I already knew I intended to go around to his house and beat the crap out of him. I just had to be sure – and I was.”

“We’ll get him, Tony, but another way,” Gibbs told him firmly.

“Next time you question him, I’d like to be in the room.”

Gibbs hesitated. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Tony.”

Tony’s eyes narrowed. “Gibbs, I have done everything you asked of me tonight, and you know how hard it’s been. This is the only damn thing I’m asking of you in return – you’ll be here, with me, so what the hell can happen? I just want to look into that bastard’s eyes when you question him. I want him to be scared, the way I was scared back then. I want to *see* that on his face.”

Gibbs nodded. “Okay. Tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll bring him in tomorrow for more questioning.”

“Good.” Tony nodded firmly.

“Was it just the once, or were there other times?” Gibbs asked. Tony frowned.

“There were several times with Luke, but only a couple more with Marco, thank God. Mainly it was Roy.”

“There were no other men? Just those three?”

Tony shook his head. “Just those three,” he confirmed.

“How did it end?” Gibbs asked.

Tony was looking and sounding better as he reached the conclusion of his statement, as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He sounded more like Tony now and hadn’t had any lapses in concentration for some time. Gibbs thought maybe it had been a relief for him to finally be able to let all this out, and tell someone, after all this time.

“I became quiet and withdrawn,” Tony said.

“That’s quite a personality change – your dad must have noticed,” Gibbs said. Tony frowned.

“Well…I might not have been the kind of kid you’d expect,” he muttered. Gibbs glanced at him, with a raised eyebrow. Tony shrugged and didn’t elucidate. Gibbs filed the comment away to think about later.

“I’d been reading all these books about boarding schools. They sounded fantastic, so I scoped some out. I thought it’d be a good way of getting out of Roy’s clutches – I couldn’t face speaking to my dad about the abuse again. Me and Dad didn’t really talk much about anything anyway. So, one day I went to his study, and I told him that I wanted to go away to boarding school. He was surprised – maybe even a little hurt – but I had to get away, and I couldn’t tell him why. I think maybe he was relieved as well – he never did really connect with me. I know he loved me, but we just couldn’t seem to communicate. He agreed that maybe it was a good idea and so that was it. I went away.”

“What about vacation time? Did Roy ever try to abuse you again?” Gibbs asked.

“No. I didn’t go back very often. I made a lot of friends at boarding school and always tried to get invited back to stay with them during vacations. Dad and I grew more and more apart, and I don’t think he really understands why.”

Gibbs nodded. He had inferred a long time ago that relations between Tony and his father weren’t great, although it wasn’t always easy sifting out the truth behind the many exaggerated stories Tony told. One thing he was sure about was that Tony hadn’t exaggerated anything tonight. If anything, he’d glossed over and underplayed.

“That’s pretty much it.” Tony leaned back in his chair. “Do you believe me, Boss?”

Gibbs was startled. “What the hell kind of question is that? Of course I damn well believe you, Tony!”

“I still tell lies, Boss,” Tony said quietly. “I tell lies all the time – the same kind I told to my Dad. Stupid lies – pointless lies. Stuff about my childhood, or my girlfriends, or my social life that I’ve made up. Dates I’ve changed, half-truths I’ve embellished. You know that. You can always see right through me. I catch you looking at me sometimes when I’m making something up, and I can tell you know I’m lying.”

“Well, I never exactly viewed them as lies – more like entertaining stories. I thought you were just trying to amuse us, but now I see you were building a fantasy to deflect us from the truth, and you did a damn good job. None of us got a glimpse of what you were hiding.”

“So how do you know I’m not lying now?” Tony asked.

“Like you said, I always know when you’re lying.”

Tony leaned forward in his chair. “So, you really do believe me?”

Gibbs gazed at him, puzzled, and then he saw the look in Tony’s eyes and understood. Tony had carried this secret around for twenty-five years, and the only person he’d told had comprehensively rejected his version of events. Logically, as an adult, he expected Gibbs to believe him, but there was an anxious twelve year old boy inside him who had no such expectations, and Gibbs was looking at him right now.

Gibbs leaned forward, so that they were face to face, gazed straight into those apprehensive eyes, and spoke emphatically, so there could be no room for doubt.

“Tony – I believe every single word you’ve said here tonight.”

Tony swallowed hard, and Gibbs saw just how important it had been for him to hear that.

“Thank you,” he said quietly.

“Was there anything else you wanted to add?” Gibbs asked. He thought they had more than enough to take a crowbar to this case and lever it wide open, but he also suspected Tony might be able to supply more details if he needed them at a later date. It was late now though, and they’d all had a rough day.

“No.” Tony shook his head. “Was that okay?” he asked anxiously a second later. “Did I…was there anything else you wanted to know?”

“Not right now, Tony,” Gibbs reassured him. “We might need to come back to some of it, but right now I think we’re done.”

Tony nodded, looking relieved and strangely euphoric, his green eyes glowing.

“Thank God for that.”

“Look – I need to make a couple of phone calls, and then I’ll take you home.” Gibbs paused. “Are you okay to be on your own tonight?” he asked, looking at Tony searchingly. Tony was looking more like his old self than he had all evening, but Gibbs remembered that moment in the parking lot earlier and felt uneasy.

“I’m fine, Boss. You were right, I needed to get this out – I’m feeling a hell of a lot better now,” Tony said brightly. Gibbs gazed at him, unconvinced. Tony grinned and spread his arms. “C’mon – I’m thirty-seven, not twelve. I’m a big boy – I can take care of myself.”

Gibbs winced inwardly at Tony’s reference to the younger age – he wondered if Tony even knew he’d said it. It seemed to him that Tony had been taking care of himself even back when he was just a kid of twelve.

“Okay,” he nodded.

He could hardly insist on taking Tony back to his place or on staying over at Tony’s. Right now, he was wary about insisting on anything where Tony was concerned. He was mindful of what Tony had said earlier about him bullying and manipulating Justin, and he had a sense that any abuse victim might need to feel in control, so he didn’t want to railroad Tony or order him around too much. It felt wrong though. Gibbs was used to trusting his gut and giving orders to his team, and Tony had always responded well to that in the past. Gibbs was aware he was holding back right now and treading carefully. Instinctively, his gut told he shouldn’t just drop Tony home and say goodnight, but he couldn’t see a way around it.

“Wait here – I’ll come back and get you in a few minutes,” he said. Tony grinned at him brightly, and Gibbs got up, taking his pad full of notes with him.

His first stop was the observation room next door. McGee looked up when he came in, and Gibbs winced. The probie was as white as a sheet, and he looked horrified. There was clear evidence of vomit in the waste basket next to him.

“You okay, McGee?” Gibbs asked quietly, closing the door behind him. He glanced into the next door room to make sure Tony was okay, but he was just sitting at the table, tapping on it impatiently with his fingers, looking every inch the Tony DiNozzo they all knew so well.

“No,” McGee answered honestly. “Boss, I had no idea. I mean, if you’d asked me who, out of all of us, had something like this in their past, Tony would be at the very bottom of my list.”

“I know.” Gibbs nodded. “But he’s made a conscious decision not to be a victim, and he’s constructed a lot of ways to make sure people never view him as one. He’s the person you’d least suspect precisely because he’s been working hard to make sure nobody ever does.”

“But to hide something like that for all these years…” McGee shook his head. “He must be one hell of a good actor.”

Gibbs glanced into the next door room, where Tony was now drumming out a little dysphonic rhythm on the table with the palms of his hands.

“Yeah. I think he is,” he said. “But this is who he’s chosen to be, and he doesn’t want any of us looking at him differently, so we have to respect that.”

“Uh…how?” McGee asked, gazing up at him with puzzled eyes. “I mean, how can I look at Tony and not see that kid from the photograph and not remember all the stuff he said in there tonight?”

“Hell, McGee – if you find a way, you be sure to tell me,” Gibbs snapped. “In the meantime, let’s just try and handle this – and him – the best way we can. Now, I need to go make a couple of calls. I want you to go in there and sit with him while I do that.”

“Do I have to?” McGee asked. “I don’t know what to say to him.”

“Well get over it – I don’t want him out of sight until I drop him off safely at his apartment,” Gibbs told him, walking over to the door. “I also don’t want him left on his own in the NCIS offices at any point during this investigation in case he prejudices something – we can’t be sure what his emotional state is right now. He made some questionable choices earlier today – understandable given the circumstances – but he could have screwed up our chances of a conviction, and I don’t want a repeat of that.”

He opened the door and then glanced back. “And McGee – first thing tomorrow I want a file with everything we have on Roy Quinn on my desk.”

“Yes, Boss.” McGee nodded. “Uh, Boss?” Gibbs glanced back. “What do I tell the others? Ziva? Abby? Ducky?”


“But, Boss…!” McGee protested.

“Nothing!” Gibbs snapped. “Nothing until I’ve spoken to Tony about how we handle that. We’ll have to bring them in at some point if we’re going to investigate this properly, but he’s been through enough tonight. It was hard enough for him to choose you to do the taping – I don’t want him fretting about how we tell the rest of the team. I’ll deal with that in the morning.”

“Yes, Boss,” McGee sighed.

“Good.” Gibbs turned on his heel and left.

He went straight to the restroom, leaned over the sink, turned on the faucet, filled his hands with water, and splashed his face with it. He glanced up into the mirror, caught sight of himself, and then went ballistic. He slammed his fist into the wall repeatedly, cursing the entire time, shouting it out, roaring out his rage at what he’d heard tonight.

This case was so personal, so close to home, and the details so horrific that he wasn’t sure he could contain his revulsion. He shouted, and roared, and crashed his fist against the wall, riding the wave of his own fury and impotence until the pain kicked in.

Then he leaned his arms against the wall, rested his forehead on his bloody knuckles, and panted for several minutes, calming himself down. Tony couldn’t see him like this. Hell, none of his team could see him like this, but he had to let it out somehow. He had remained calm and focussed through every single detail of that sickening story, while every nerve in his body was straining to scream out his fury.

He didn’t want to think about a twelve year old boy being repeatedly raped by a man he trusted. He didn’t want to think about him being passed around to other bastards for them to rape. He didn’t want to think about that kid being ripped up so badly that he bled and was terrified that he might die. He didn’t want to think about that child screwing up every last ounce of his courage to tell his father what was happening, only to be knocked back, disbelieved, and *hit* for God’s sake. He didn’t want to think about that. He didn’t want to think about the abuse continuing, and a lonely child becoming more and more withdrawn until he was forced to manufacture his own escape because no adult came to help him. He didn’t want to think about any of that happening to any child in the whole damn world.

But, most of all, he didn’t want to think about it happening to Tony.


McGee squared his shoulders and opened the door to the interrogation room. Tony glanced up and gave him a bright grin.

“Hey, Probie. Sorry if I screwed up your evening. I expect you had a hot date – no, wait, what I am I saying?” Tony laughed. “This is the probie I’m talking to! Your last hot date was last century.”

In other circumstances, McGee would have thrown back a retort at him – possibly even thrown Jeanne at him, just to score a hit and keep Tony off his back, but not right now.

He sat down in the seat Gibbs had vacated. “Tony, I don’t know what to say,” he murmured.

“Then don’t say anything, Probie,” Tony told him sharply.

McGee shook his head. “I at least have to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you went through that, Tony. I can’t imagine what that must have been like.”

Tony shrugged, looking completely unconcerned. If McGee hadn’t seen him stumbling through his statement these past couple of hours, he could almost believe it hadn’t happened.

“It was a long time ago, Probie. I haven’t thought about it in years, and I wouldn’t have started thinking about it today if it hadn’t been for those photos showing up.”

“Did you tell Gibbs?”

“Hell no! He figured it out.”

“How?” McGee frowned. He’d looked at the photos of Boy 43 – of Tony – several times during the course of the day, and he hadn’t figured it out.

“How do I know?” Tony shrugged. “He’s *Gibbs*, Probie. I do know that if I’d had my way I wouldn’t have told a damn person, but he showed up at my apartment and made me spill. One thing led to another, and that’s why you and me both ended up here tonight.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” McGee said.

“I know,” Tony replied. He looked straight at McGee, his eyes suddenly deadly serious. “You’re pretty much my best friend, Tim. Why else do you think I asked Gibbs to call you instead of one of the others? Talking of Gibbs…” He glanced at the door. “He’s been gone some time. Are you sure he’s okay?”

“What do you mean?” McGee frowned anxiously. Tony sat back and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Just that you know how much he hates this kind of stuff. Are you sure he didn’t go off after Parrish, or isn’t pounding some innocent passer-by into a pulp right now?”

“Uh…” McGee looked at the door uncertainly.

“I think you should go and check on him, McGee.”

“He asked me to stay with you,” McGee said, unsure what to do.

“I’m fine. Look at me, Probie – I’m fine,” Tony grinned, opening his arms wide and looking just as fine as he said he was. “Go check on him. I’ll wait here.”

“You promise?” McGee asked, getting up and going to the door and then hesitating, agonised. Gibbs had told him to stay here with Tony, but Tony seemed okay, and Gibbs did have an almighty temper when it was roused.

“Cross my heart, hope to die,” Tony said, motioning his hand across his chest.

Reassured, McGee opened the door and left.


Gibbs spent a few minutes pulling himself back together, and then he took out his cell phone and dialled. He checked in with the security detail he had posted to trail Admiral Parrish when he left NCIS custody, but they advised him that the admiral hadn’t contacted anyone all evening and was still in the house. Gibbs then called the agents he’d posted to keep an eye on Justin in case Parrish tried to threaten him. They reported that he also hadn’t left his house.

Satisfied that he had those two situations under control, Gibbs knew he had to turn his attention back to Tony. He was about to leave the restroom when McGee poked his head around the door.

“Uh…oh, you’re in here. Good,” McGee said, and then his eyes widened as he saw Gibbs’s bloody knuckles. Gibbs glared at him.

“What the hell are you doing here, McGee? I told you to watch Tony!” he roared.

“I did – I mean, I was, but then he said I should go look for you in case…” McGee trailed off.

“He played you, McGee!” Gibbs growled, leaving the restroom and sweeping past McGee on his way back to Interrogation.

“Oh shit,” McGee muttered, following along on his heels like a puppy.

Gibbs sprinted along the hallway to interrogation room one, pushed open the door, and burst inside.

The room was empty.


Tony took the elevator down to Autopsy, humming to himself. He didn’t bother turning on the light – he just went over to Ducky’s desk and began rifling through the drawers. Hell, he needed a drink – a real drink – not more damn water.

He pulled out a bottle and opened it.

“Ah, finest Scottish malt – thanks, Duck,” he said, taking a swig – only to find that all he got was a tiny sip. “Aw, hell, Ducky – you shouldn’t let this happen!” he sighed, holding up the bottle and finding it completely empty. He frowned as he saw the little note attached to the side. He squinted at it in the faint light from the outside hallway.

“Anthony/Jethro – buy your own!” it said.

“Damn it – busted,” Tony muttered, replacing the bottle in the desk.

He moved over to the cupboard where Palmer stowed his stuff, felt around beneath the spare lab coat, and pulled out the little packet he was looking for. He poked his nose cautiously inside and then grinned.

“Ah, Jimmy, you have yet to become old and cynical like the Duckster,” he said, pulling out a cigarette from the packet. He found a box of matches in the same place, lit the cigarette, and took a long draw on it. He glanced around Autopsy and gave a shiver. “Man this place is creepy at night.”

He went over to one of the steel tables, put his head on one side, and looked at it for a moment, exhaling a plume of smoke as he did so. He took another drag on the cigarette and then coughed and made a face; man he hated smoking. Then, with a grin, he climbed onto the table, stuck the cigarette between his lips, put his hands under his head, and gazed up at the ceiling.

“So this is what it’s like to be dead,” he muttered, gazing up, imagining Ducky looming over him wearing his protective goggles and wielding a scalpel. “Wonder what he’d say to my corpse? Bitch about the state of my plague-scarred lungs and lament my lack of good sense in getting myself killed probably.”

“If he didn’t, I would,” a dry voice said from over by the door. Tony didn’t even look around. He just took another drag on the cigarette and blew out the smoke from around the side of it.

“Hey, Boss,” he muttered.

“You gave McGee the slip.” Gibbs walked over to stand beside him.

“Yeah. Couldn’t stand the way he was looking at me.” Tony gave another little cough as the smoke irritated the lining of his lungs, which had never exactly been robust since that bout with the plague a few years back. Gibbs plucked the cigarette out from between his lips, threw it on the floor, and trod on it.

“You don’t smoke,” he said. Tony glared at him and sat up.

“I know. I was just, you know…”

“Ducky left the empty bottle again, didn’t he?” Gibbs grinned.

“Yeah – with a note on it for us both, telling us to get our own. How did he even know it was us?”

“Because it was?” Gibbs perched on the side of the table next to him, his arm touching Tony’s arm. It felt warm. Nice.

“Yeah. Didn’t know you snuck down here to take a swig too though, Boss.”

“Not often. Just sometimes, when I’m working late.” Gibbs shrugged.

“Yeah.” Tony shrugged too. “Has McGee gone? I can’t face seeing him again tonight.”

“I figured that was it. I sent him home. You okay?”

“Me? Sure. You were right – just needed to tell someone, get it all out, and now I can forget about it again.”

“You think it’s that easy?” Gibbs glanced at him sideways.

“Well it will be if McGee doesn’t pull those big, tragic eyes on me every time he looks at me,” Tony growled. “You going to arrest Quinn, Boss?”

“What do you think?” Gibbs asked, his blue eyes glittering dangerously in the dark room. “God knows how many kids he’s abused since you, Tony. He could be out there right now, doing to some other kid what he did to you. He could have been one of the men who abused Justin.”

“Yeah. I know. You think I should have done something about this earlier.” Tony looked at his shoes. All these years he could have done something but hadn’t. “I’m sorry. I screwed up there, Boss.”

“The hell you did,” Gibbs snapped. “You protected yourself, Tony, the best way you knew how, when nobody else would, when you were just a kid and shouldn’t have had to. You’ve been protecting yourself ever since. I don’t blame you for that. Nobody would.”

“This is all going to come out.” Tony hunched his shoulders and wished he had that cigarette back. “My dad is going to find out.”

“Maybe it’s time he knew, Tony.”

“It’ll hurt him. I don’t want to hurt him.”

“You can’t keep protecting him – and he sure as hell didn’t protect you.”

Gibbs’s voice was taut and angry, and Tony turned his head sharply to look at him. Gibbs had some firm ideas about fatherhood, so Tony wasn’t entirely surprised by his tone of voice, but he hadn’t expected him to sound quite so furious.

Then Tony saw the torn skin on Gibbs’s knuckles, and he suddenly sensed the tightly leashed fury in Gibbs’s body. He knew Gibbs’s dark side; had seen it, feared it, and also admired it in a way, ever since he’d first met the man. Gibbs knew how to channel his rage, keeping it tightly reined until he could unleash it, with full force and deadly accuracy, straight at the intended target. That side of Gibbs had always scared and thrilled him in equal measure.

Now Tony realised that his boss’s legendary protective instincts were roused in his defence, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He had always wanted proof that Gibbs cared about him; he just wished it hadn’t had to happen like this. He’d never wanted the man’s pity – he’d always wanted something else entirely.

“What happens next?” Tony asked, pushing that thought away and filing it back in the ‘unobtainable fantasies’ section of his brain. “You gave me back my badge, but you and I both know I can’t be an investigator and a possible witness on the same case.”

“No, you can’t,” Gibbs agreed.

“Boss, don’t make me stay at home.” Tony tried to keep the desperation out of his voice, but he wasn’t sure he succeeded. The thought of having all that time on his hands and nothing to do but think… “I have to stay busy.”

“I know.” Gibbs nodded. “I’ve been meaning to have someone go through that cold case backlog for years now and…”

“Aw hell,” Tony groaned. “Not the goddamn cold case backlog. I hate working those files.”

“I know – better than staying home though,” Gibbs pointed out with a grin.

“I suppose,” Tony agreed reluctantly. “What about Abby, Ziva and Ducky? You’re going to tell them, aren’t you?”

Gibbs hesitated. “At some point they’ll have to know. I can tell them, or you can.”

“Whatever.” Tony hunched up again. “But if they look at me like McGee looked at me, or if they start treating me differently, then I’m going to have to take up smoking for real.”

“The hell you will,” Gibbs growled, slapping the back of his head.

“Ow!” Tony reached up to rub the sore spot.

“Well, you said you didn’t want anyone treating you any differently.”

Gibbs grinned at him, and Tony grinned back, feeling absurdly happy. With that one gesture Gibbs had managed to allay at least one of his fears.

“Where the hell did you find those cigarettes anyway?” Gibbs asked. “Ducky doesn’t smoke.”

“Nah – but Jimmy does. He has to hide them in case Ducky finds them – or else suffer one of Ducky’s three hour lectures on the effects of smoking on your lungs, complete with pictures of all the lungs Ducky’s ever plucked out of the bodies of the long-term smokers he’s had on his table.”

“Sounds like Ducky!” Gibbs slid off the table and began walking towards the door. “Come on, Tony. Let’s get you home.”


Gibbs drove Tony home in silence. Every so often he glanced sideways at the man sitting next to him, but Tony’s eyes were closed, and he seemed to be asleep, so Gibbs didn’t say anything. He felt better after their chat in Autopsy – Tony had seemed more like himself and there hadn’t been any of that weird hair-stroking behaviour or zoning out. All the same, he still couldn’t shake off his concern that Tony shouldn’t be left alone right now.

They reached Tony’s apartment building, and Gibbs pulled up in the parking lot and got out of the car. Tony got out the other side and raised an eyebrow at him.

“Just want to see you actually go into your apartment,” Gibbs said, with a shrug. He felt a surge of protectiveness towards Tony. Usually his senior field agent didn’t need any protecting – he was more than capable of protecting himself – only right now Gibbs wasn’t so sure. He didn’t know if Tony’s methods of protecting himself were still working; he had a nagging worry that they might be starting to break down.

“Aw, like a date or something,” Tony grinned, making a joke of it – typical DiNozzo. Gibbs followed him into the building and up the stairs to his apartment. Tony opened the door, and Gibbs stepped in after him.

“Tony – you’ve been through a lot today,” he said. “Are you sure you’re okay to be alone?”

“Sure? I can’t damn well wait,” Tony griped. “I *want* some time alone, Boss. I’m gonna watch some TV in bed and then get some sleep.”

Gibbs stood there, uncertainly. He had no reason to stay, and he couldn’t foist his company on Tony, so why did he feel so uneasy about this?

“Okay – but if you need anything, you call me – right?” he insisted.

“Well, I’m down to my last can of beer,” Tony said. “How pissed off would you be if I called and asked you to bring over a new six pack?”

Gibbs slapped the back of his head. “Very,” he growled.

“I thought so.” Tony grinned at him stupidly. “Seriously, Boss, I’m fine. Go home.”

“Okay.” Gibbs gave him a curt nod. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

He left the apartment and returned to his car. He sat there for a few minutes, until he saw the light go on in Tony’s bedroom window and then off again a few minutes later, plunging the apartment into darkness, and only then, finally, did he drive away.


Tony threw himself onto his bed, fully clothed, then turned off the light and sat there in the dark. He didn’t feel like sleeping – he wasn’t sure he’d be able to sleep. He felt an odd sense of euphoria. It was over; twenty-five years of keeping this secret was behind him, and now he could move on, once and for all.

He grabbed the remote, pointed it at the TV, and then lay there, slumped, flicking through the channels aimlessly, waiting for something to grab his attention.

“Tonio,” a voice whispered, and he shivered and glanced at the door. He began humming, and he flicked through the TV channels more urgently, skipping from one to another, searching desperately for something to drown out the sound of that voice. It was no use; there was a box stowed away in a corner of his mind, and a chorus of whispers called to him from it, insistently, demanding his attention.

“Tonio, be a good boy for Marco, the way you are for me. Hmm?”

“Where are you going?”

“I’ll be back soon. Marco will take good care of you. Ssh, Tonio – everything’s fine.”

A gentle hand cupped his cheek, and Roy kissed him on the forehead and then turned and left. Tony looked up at the wiry, swarthy stranger he had been left alone with. Marco reached for him; his breathing was fast and excited as he undressed him.

“Stop…please…Roy won’t like it,” Tony protested. He tried to wriggle away as Marco held him up, and pushed him forwards, bending him over. “Please…stop…”

“Shut up.”

A rough hand slid over his mouth. Marco’s other hand was pressing onto his stomach, pulling him back onto him. It hurt, but, worse that that, he couldn’t breathe, and he thought he might suffocate. He struggled frantically. Marco removed his hand from his mouth, but only so he could grab his hip instead and keep him steady.

He could smell Marco’s sweat, and hear his breathing, loud and guttural behind him.

It hurt so much. He felt like he was being ripped in two. It never hurt like this with Roy. Where was Roy? When he came back he’d be mad at Marco for doing this. This was just something he did with Roy. Roy had said it was special, just between them, their secret – their beautiful little secret.

Tony blinked. He glanced at his watch – it was late, 2 a.m. Damn it, he had to stop losing time like this.

He stroked his hair anxiously. What he needed was a distraction – a better distraction than watching old movies on TV, and Tony knew from experience that there was one distraction that worked better than the TV, better than alcohol, better than anything else.

He got up, grabbed his keys, and ran out of his apartment. He got in his car and drove towards the only bars that would be open at this time of night and offering him a chance of finding a warm, willing body for a few hours of pleasurable distraction. He paused when he got near, trying to decide which way to go.

“Left for girls, right for guys,” he mused. He decided it didn’t matter. He just wanted to lose himself – it didn’t matter what he lost himself in.

“In that case – right,” he said out loud, making the turn. He parked the car across the street from a gay bar. Guys were easier to lure into bed for a one night stand than women. Women wanted you to buy them a drink and flirt with them first. Guys just looked you up and down, and if you were fit enough they’d go home with you. That was another thing Tony knew from experience – years of it.


Terry Dyer looked up from his drink to see the tall, good-looking guy walk into the bar. There were only a handful of people here so late, and he’d more or less given up on the hope of picking anyone up tonight – until now.

The guy glanced around the nearly empty room, looking disappointed. Terry smiled at him, and the guy’s handsome face split into a wide grin, and he walked over. He was a big guy, broad-shouldered, and dressed all in black. Terry was surprised he’d come over – he’d seen this guy around before, and he only ever picked up straight-acting, older men – tough guys. Terry was none of those things, so he was pretty sure he wasn’t this man’s type.

“Well hello, man in black,” Terry said when the guy got close. The stranger grinned – he knew a cheesy pick-up line when he heard it – Terry had a suspicion he’d probably handed out a few in his time.

“Hey. I’m Tony.” The guy didn’t sit down. He just leaned against the table, looking at Terry like he wanted to eat him.

“And I’m Terry. That’s a sexy look you’re working there, Tony. I like it.”

Tony’s grin widened. “If you like me dressed, you’ll like me even better undressed,” he said.

Cheesy – but to the point. Terry laughed. “I’m sure I would. That a proposition?”

“Yeah. It’s late. I don’t have the time or energy to sweet talk you into bed. I just want sex and my place is nearby. You up for that?”

Terry looked him up and down, taking in the long legs, the toned chest, and the beautiful green eyes.

“Soon will be, handsome,” he joked, finishing his drink in one gulp and getting to his feet. “I knew if I waited around here long enough my prince would come,” he flirted.

It was an old line, and he had a feeling this guy didn’t really respond to twinky little queens like himself, but what the hell. Tony laughed and slung an arm around his shoulder, making him feel like a dwarf beside him.

“Oh, your prince definitely wants to come,” he whispered loudly into Terry’s ear as they left the bar.

Tony didn’t say a word as he drove them back to his place; he just kept humming to himself. Terry didn’t mind. He was a slender five foot eight; bright, witty and cute. He knew he wasn’t anything special to look at, but he also knew he had a big heart and a lot to give to the right guy – and that wasn’t the man sitting next to him.

Terry was under no illusions that this was the start of something beautiful – it was just sex, and as far as Terry was concerned there was nothing wrong with that. Tony was way out of his league for a start, and in any case guys like him always turned out to be heartbreakers. Terry had had his heart broken enough times not to want to give it away to the wrong kind of guy again – and Tony was definitely the wrong kind of guy. He was the kind of guy your mom warned you about.

He glanced at Tony as they drove. He seemed so big and sure of himself. There was a confidence to him, a kind of swagger. Tony was a player – Terry had seen him work a bar before, so he knew exactly what kind of guy he was going to be getting into bed with. All the same, there was something about Tony that he hadn’t expected; a kind of vulnerability and loneliness.

They reached Tony’s apartment and went inside. Tony didn’t waste a second. The minute they got through the door he grabbed Terry, pushed him against the wall, and kissed him.

He tasted of cigarette smoke, but his lips were soft and agile. Terry slid his arms around Tony’s big body and cupped his ass. Tony kissed him like he was drowning, putting everything into it, urgent and needy. Terry drew back.

“This is great, Tony, but I need to breathe, honey,” he said. “And you’re a big guy.”

“Sorry.” Tony pulled back, an apologetic grin on his face. “Bedroom’s this way.”

He grabbed Terry’s wrist and led him towards a room at the back of the apartment. Terry wondered for a moment if he should be worried – he didn’t know this guy, and Tony seemed kind of zoned out and weird. Yet, even so, Terry didn’t get a bad vibe off him. He knew, instinctively, that Tony wasn’t the kind of guy who would hurt him. If anything, Tony seemed like something of a lost soul. They went into the bedroom and Terry surveyed the black satin sheets and red velvet blanket on the bed with a roll of his eyes; Tony was *such* a player.

Tony began undressing him the minute they got into the bedroom. Terry was flattered by Tony’s urgency but troubled by the look in Tony’s eyes. It was as if he wasn’t really there – his eyes were completely blank, and he kept humming. It was starting to freak him out.

Tony got him naked and then pushed him onto the bed and began undressing himself. That was when Terry forgot his misgivings – this guy was fucking hot! Tony stripped off his sweater to reveal acres of taut, toned, golden flesh, covered in a nice amount of chest hair, and then shucked off his pants and underwear to reveal a smooth, curving cock – nice size, cut…and disappointingly flaccid.

“I guess I’m not your usual type,” Terry murmured, glancing pointedly at Tony’s cock. His own was hard and aching just from looking at Tony’s beautiful body.

“Hmmm?” Tony joined him on the bed, took him in his arms, and began kissing him all over.

Terry gasped – Tony sure as hell knew his stuff. He was passionate, urgent, and commanding, covering every inch of Terry’s body with gentle caresses that made him sigh and moan. He didn’t seem to want much back in return – in fact he wouldn’t let Terry do much to him at all. He seemed to prefer to be in control, so Terry gave up trying and just allowed Tony to kiss, and suck, and stroke him all over.

“I need you in me, Tony,” Terry whispered after awhile, opening his legs wide.

Tony grinned down at him, those perfect white teeth gleaming in the darkness. He reached over, opened his nightstand drawer, and pulled out a condom and some lube. Terry lay back and abandoned himself to the pleasure of having Tony’s fingers slide in and out of him. Then he grew impatient for more – he wasn’t some tight little virgin who needed a whole lot of stretching. He reached down and pulled Tony’s hand away.

“Come on, handsome. Let’s feel you inside me,” he crooned, rubbing up against Tony. “Hey…what’s the problem here, big guy?” he asked, surprised to find Tony still soft. “Am I not doing it for you? Is there something you’d like me to do differently? I give great head.”

“No…I…” Tony looked down, puzzled, at his flaccid cock. “This has never happened to me before,” he said lamely. Terry laughed out loud.

“Oh honey! That’s what they all say!”

“I mean it. Uh…let’s just…keep going.” Tony ground his hips against Terry’s groin. He looked adorably confused. “Won’t be long,” Tony promised.

Terry grabbed Tony’s head and looked into those strangely glowing green eyes.

“You know, honey, I’m not sure that this is what you need tonight. It’s late, and you’re probably tired. Why don’t we just lie here and…”

“No!” Tony said forcefully, and he returned to caressing Terry’s body with renewed gusto, kissing, and sucking, and biting…God it was good, but still Tony’s cock remained resolutely soft, and Terry was starting to feel more and more uncomfortable. This was all wrong.

“Look, I just don’t think it’s going to happen tonight, Tony,” he said eventually, pushing Tony away. “It’s okay – there’s nothing wrong with that. It happens to us all at some point.” He rolled his eyes. “Look at me – I drink too much and nothing happens in that department at all.”

“I haven’t been drinking,” Tony told him, getting up and pulling on his boxer shorts. He sat down on the side of the bed, forlornly, looking like a kid who’d lost his favourite toy.

“Well, you’re tired, like I said.”

Tony reached up a hand and rubbed the back of his head, absently.

“You okay?” Terry knelt down behind him, and started massaging his shoulders as best he could while Tony kept rubbing his head like that. “Boy, you’re tense, Tony!”

Tony didn’t reply – he just kept on rubbing.

“Tony?” Terry asked.

When there was no response, Terry got up off the bed and went to kneel down in front of him.

“Tony?” he said again, softly.

Tony’s eyes were blank, glazed over and unfocussed.

“Oh, Tony,” Terry said sadly. “You really are a little lost boy aren’t you?” He kissed Tony gently on the lips. “Hey, handsome prince – wake up,” he teased. There was still no reply, and he was starting to get really freaked out now. “TONY!” he yelled, slapping Tony’s face gently, trying to shock him. Still nothing.

Terry took a step back. “Come on, snap out of it!” he ordered. Tony just continued to stare absently into space, humming under his breath.

“Oh fuck…this is just…why the hell do these things have to happen to me?” Terry hissed.

He grabbed his clothes, pulled them on quickly, and ran out of the bedroom. He got as far as the front door of the apartment and then paused and looked back with a sigh.

“Oh shit…fuck you and your big damn bleeding heart, Terry,” he sighed.

He returned slowly to the bedroom, to find Tony where he’d left him, still sitting on the side of the bed in his boxer shorts, still rubbing the back of his head.

“Do I call 911? What do I tell them? Are you an epileptic, Tony? Do you have any medicine around here?” He glanced around and then shook his head. “What the hell difference would it make? I wouldn’t know how to give it to you. Okay…you must have some friends, Tony…let me think…”

He caught sight of Tony’s black leather jacket, abandoned on a nearby chair.

“Look, if you wake up and find me doing this, it’s not because I’m stealing from you – okay?” Terry said, picking up the jacket and searching through the pockets.

He found Tony’s wallet, and then his keys, and then he pulled out some kind of badge. He turned it over in his hand, examining it.

“NCIS? I have no idea what that is, but are you some kind of cop, Tony? Figures. All that swagger and confidence, and that hint of danger, although you’re not very dangerous now, are you, big guy?”

Terry dipped his fingers back into Tony’s jacket pocket again and finally found what he was looking for – a cell phone. He turned it on with shaking fingers.

“Okay – who do I call? Speed dial number one, yes? That has to be the person to call. Yes, Tony?” he asked.

Tony didn’t even look around. He just continued to stare, and stroke, and hum. Terry shivered – this was beyond creepy.

“Okay…okay…here goes…” Terry pressed the speed dial and then waited, shivering anxiously. A few seconds later a man’s voice answered; deep, curt, and kind of grumpy.

“Gibbs,” the man said.


Gibbs dropped Tony home and then went straight to his basement and spent a couple of hours working on his boat. He knew it was pointless going to bed – he was too angry and hyped up to sleep in any case, and he needed to bring himself down. There was no way he’d be in any shape to interrogate Admiral Parrish tomorrow if he didn’t get a grip on himself first, and when he did question that bastard, he had to do it *right* – for Tony’s sake.

Working on the boat was the only way he knew of calming himself. The smell of the sawdust and the rhythm of moving back and forwards as he sanded down the wood helped. He bored some holes into the boat and then slammed in some wooden pegs, allowing his pent-up rage to flow into the motion.

He was just about to call it a night when his cell phone rang. He reached for it quickly and felt a little spike of anxiety as he saw the name on the caller display: DiNozzo.

“Gibbs,” he answered. “You okay, Tony?”

“Uh…this is Terry Dyer,” an unfamiliar, slightly squeaky voice replied. “Um…are you a friend of Tony’s?”

Gibbs threw down his hammer and began walking towards the stairs – fast. “Who the hell is this?” he demanded, running up the stairs and out of the door. He grabbed his keys from the hall table and reached for his jacket. He had a bad feeling about this.

“It’s Terry – like I said. Look, I’m at Tony’s place, and he’s…well he’s gone kind of weird on me. It’s like he’s zoned out or something. I don’t think he can even hear me.”

“I’m on my way. I’ll be there in ten. Stay there. Do not leave him,” Gibbs ordered tersely, hanging up.

He probably broke every speed limit in the book, but he pulled up at Tony’s apartment building nine minutes later, ran up the stairs, and knocked impatiently on the door. It was opened, and he found himself looking at a diminutive guy with wide, almond-shaped brown eyes and a scared expression on his face.

Gibbs looked the man up and down. He was about twenty-five, with peroxide blond hair, wearing a tight tee shirt, impossibly tight jeans and…Gibbs thought he detected a hint of eyeliner. This must be Terry Dyer – but who the hell was he, and what was he doing in Tony’s apartment?

“Are you Gibbs?” Terry asked, in a drawly, camp tone of voice. “And do you have a first name, honey?”

“Where’s Tony?” Gibbs asked brusquely, brushing past him.

“Oh yeah, you’re Gibbs,” Terry muttered. “He’s in the bedroom. I’ll show you…”

“I know where the damn bedroom is,” Gibbs growled, heading towards it.

He strode through the bedroom door and then stopped dead in his tracks. Tony was sitting on the side of the bed, dressed only in a pair of boxer shorts, and he was staring into space. There was a vacant expression on his face, and he was humming to himself and stroking his hair absently, the way Gibbs had noticed him doing a few times earlier this evening.

“Hey, Tony,” he said softly, crouching down in front of his agent. “You okay?”

Tony made no reply. He just continued staring into space, his eyes blank and empty. Gibbs waved his hand in front of Tony’s face, but there was no reaction.

“How long has he been like this?” Gibbs asked, glancing up at Terry who had followed him into the bedroom.

“About half an hour,” Terry replied. “I didn’t know what to do. I was going to leave but that’s not me, you know? I wouldn’t leave someone in trouble. Besides, he’s a nice guy – and I wasn’t sure what would happen to him if I just left. Is he an epileptic?”

“No,” Gibbs answered shortly. He got up and glared at the diminutive man standing in the doorway. “Now, explain to me – who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?”


Terry took a step back. While he’d sensed that Tony was dangerous in his own way, this guy here took danger to a new level. Also, what was it with these guys being so tall? He knew he was short, but this man in front of him was almost as tall as Tony. He felt like he’d stumbled into a land of giants. There was one sexy, little-boy-lost giant sitting on the bed, and one grim-faced giant, just as sexy but scary as all hell, looming over him and looking at him like he was a criminal.

Terry wondered if he’d done the right thing calling this stranger. He was so curt and terse. Would Tony thank him for it, he wondered? On the other hand, who the hell did this guy think he was, coming in here and treating Terry like *he’d* done something wrong when all he’d been trying to do was help?

“I told you on the phone, I’m Terry Dyer, I’m a friend of Tony’s and…oh, okay, ‘friend’ might be overstating the case as we only just met tonight but…oh shit, you’re not Tony’s boyfriend, are you?”

Terry knew he was babbling, but he always talked too much when he got nervous, and he was definitely nervous right now. Gibbs gave him a glare so baleful he took a step backwards in alarm.

“No, I’m not Tony’s…boyfriend,” Gibbs growled. Terry relaxed slightly.

“Oh thank GOD,” he said, mock-fanning himself in relief. “Only you’re exactly his type, and I thought if you were his boyfriend, and you found me and him in here together, then you might go crazy. And you’re tall, and, if you don’t mind me saying, pretty damn scary. And I just noticed that you have bruised knuckles, so I’m guessing you’re the kind of guy who likes to solve disputes with his fists, and I’m really…not. That kind of guy. So if you were going to hit me I’d just go straight down. No resistance! So, uh, don’t hit me,” he added, with a nervous laugh.

“His type?” Gibbs interrupted, his forehead wrinkled up into a frown.

“Yeah – you’re the kind of guy he usually picks up in bars; you know – straight-acting tough guys. Older guys. I was surprised when he went for me, but it was late and there weren’t many other guys around, so I guess…well, I’m not selling myself short here, because I happen to think I’m pretty cute, but I guess he had to settle for what he could get at that time of night.”

“Bars?” Gibbs growled. “Gay bars?”

“Well, duh.” Terry rolled his eyes.

“Tony isn’t gay,” Gibbs said blankly. Terry laughed out loud.

“Oh honey!” he giggled, and then he caught the expression in Gibbs’s eyes and the laughter died in his throat. “Well, maybe he isn’t,” he said hurriedly, “But I’ve seen him trawl the bars often enough to know he isn’t 100% straight either. Maybe he’s bi?”

Gibbs turned back to Tony, a puzzled expression on his face. Terry watched as he reached out and gently touched Tony’s shoulder.

“Tony – it’s Gibbs,” he said. “Wake up.”

There was still no response. Tony just kept on staring, and stroking, and humming.

“DiNozzo!” Gibbs rapped out, in a harder tone of voice, making Terry jump. Tony’s eyes remained blank. Gibbs rested his hand on Tony’s bare shoulder and then frowned.

“Tony, you’re cold. I’m going to put a blanket around you.”

He grabbed the red velvet blanket from the bed and drew it towards him, and, as he did so, the tube of lubricant and the condom Tony had got out of his night-stand fell onto the floor. Terry winced, and swooped down to pick them up. He flushed, feeling embarrassed, because Gibbs had seen them. Terry doubted there was anything Gibbs didn’t see; the man had eyes like a hawk.

Gibbs wrapped the blanket carefully around Tony’s shoulders – he was much gentler than Terry would have expected of such a terse, grim-faced man. That eased his mind a little about phoning him – whoever this guy was, he obviously genuinely cared about Tony.

“Do you know what’s wrong with him?” Terry asked quietly, replacing the condom and lube on the nightstand with an apologetic smile.

“Yes,” Gibbs replied, and then he frowned slightly. “Well, kind of,” he added grimly.

“Does this happen to him often?”

“No.” Gibbs grabbed Tony’s ceaselessly stroking hand. “Tony, I want you to stop doing that now,” he ordered, in a firm tone of voice. Tony’s hand stopped immediately, in midair.

“Wow – he really responds to you,” Terry said. “I tried doing that, and he just kept on stroking.”

Gibbs took hold of Tony’s arm and moved it down to his side. Tony started rocking gently, back and forth.

“Well, I guess that’s a little better,” Gibbs sighed. He turned back to Terry. “Tell me exactly what happened,” he ordered. “What were you doing right before Tony zoned out?”

“Uh…” Terry flushed. “Well…we were…obviously having sex. Or at least, trying to have sex.”

“Trying?” Gibbs loomed over him, looking angry. “In my experience sex is something you’re either having, or you’re not. Which is it?”

“Not. Tony uh…he couldn’t…” Terry muttered, wondering if he looked as embarrassed as he felt. There was something about this tall, terrifying man that made him feel like he was a stupid, insignificant kid, and he didn’t like that feeling or the kind of men who made him feel this way. He was worth more than this. Gibbs raised an eyebrow at him.

“Had he been drinking?” he asked. Terry shook his head.

“He said he hadn’t. He was upset – he said this had never happened to him before, and I know that’s something guys say, but I believe him. He looked pretty freaked out about it – l mean, he looked really desperate rather than just a bit pissed off. I told him it was okay, and that he was probably just tired, but then he just zoned out on me. He’s been like this ever since.”

“Had he taken any drugs?” Gibbs asked, glancing around the room.

“Not with me!” Terry bristled angrily. “I don’t do that kind of shit. And I didn’t get the vibe that he did, either. I mean, his eyes were kind of glowing, but I didn’t think at any point that he was high. If he was, they were really crap drugs. What’s with all the questions anyway? Are you a cop?”

“I’m a federal agent,” Gibbs replied.

“Oh shit,” Terry hissed, glancing over to the nightstand where he’d emptied out the contents of Tony’s jacket pockets. “You’re not just one of Tony’s friends, are you?” he sighed, catching sight of the NCIS badge he’d found.

“No,” Gibbs agreed. “I’m also his boss.”

“Oh Tony, honey, I’m sorry,” Terry said miserably, kneeling down in front of Tony and gazing at him. “I didn’t know. I mean, who the hell has their *boss* as number one on their speed dial? I don’t even know my boss’s cell phone number, let alone have her on speed dial.”

“You did the right thing,” Gibbs said curtly from behind him.

“I wonder if Tony will think so when he wakes up.”

“I need your name and contact details, and then you can go.”

Terry leaned forward and deposited a tender kiss on Tony’s forehead. He heard Gibbs make a weird little sound in the back of his throat, and got the distinct impression that he didn’t like him touching Tony.

“Good night, handsome prince,” he said softly to Tony. “I hope you’ll be okay. Maybe a kiss from your own Prince Charming will wake you, huh?”

He glanced up at Gibbs who was looking at him like he was a rattlesnake he wanted to shoot. Terry got up, pulled out his wallet, plucked out one of the little personal cards he’d had made to give to guys in bars who asked him for his number, and handed it to Gibbs.

“That’s me,” he said, pointing at the card. “Terry Dyer.”

Gibbs gave it a peremptory look and then pocketed it. “Thank you, Mr. Dyer. I’ll call you if I have any more questions about this case.”

“Tony isn’t a case – he’s a person,” Terry snapped, feeling angry. He’d had a shit night, he was tired, and this guy was really starting to piss him off. “I don’t know what the hell you see in him, Tony honey,” he said, in a flash of anger, glancing at Tony – who continued to gaze off creepily into the distance, taking no notice of him whatsoever.

Gibbs did though – he took a step towards Terry, eyebrows raised in disbelief, looking at him as if he’d gone insane.

“Oh what?” Terry said, with a defiant toss of his head. “Like there’s any way those guys he picks up in bars aren’t all you in his head.”

“Good night, Mr. Dyer,” Gibbs growled. He took hold of Terry’s arm and pushed him unceremoniously towards the door. Terry shook him off, irritably.

“I’d like to say it’s been a pleasure meeting you, but that’d be a lie. You’re not exactly a people person are you, Mr. Gibbs?” Terry snapped.

Gibbs turned towards him, his entire body stiff and intimidating, and shot him a glare that would have had many a grown man quaking in his boots. It cut no ice with Terry. He wasn’t going to be pushed around by anyone. Terry drew himself up to his full height – which admittedly wasn’t very tall – and shot him a glare of his own in response.

“Thank you, Terry,” Terry said. “Thank you for not running out on Tony, thank you for calling me, thank you for staying with Tony until I got here and explaining what happened to him. Sorry you had such a shit night and the hot sex with the very hot guy didn’t happen, but hey, you did the right thing. So thanks.”

Gibbs stared at him for a moment and then those stony blue eyes of his suddenly softened, his body relaxed, and his mouth quirked up into a little grin – and that was when Terry saw it.

“Oh…now I get it,” he said softly. “Now I get what he sees in you.”

Gibbs held out his hand. “Thank you, Terry,” he said, quietly and sincerely. “Thank you for helping Tony.”

Terry took the hand – it was warm, extremely hard, and slightly calloused. Gibbs shook his hand firmly, gazing at Terry from those beautiful blue eyes, and Terry felt himself going ever-so-slightly weak at the knees.

“You’re welcome,” he muttered. “Take good care of Tony – he really is a nice guy. Personally I don’t think you’re good enough for him but…”

A finger was placed over his mouth. “Let’s both quit while we’re ahead shall we?” Gibbs said pleasantly, grasping his shoulder and ushering him firmly but courteously out of the door.


Gibbs shut the door behind the feisty little guy who had seemed to want to pick a fight with him, reached for his cell phone, and dialled.

He had to wait for several rings and then, finally, a flustered voice answered.

“You do know what time it is, Jethro, don’t you? I thought we’d established that you’d only call me at this time of night in the case of a genuine emergency.”

“It is. I need you, Ducky. Tony’s apartment. Now,” Gibbs said, and then he disconnected.

He returned to the bedroom but there was no change in Tony’s condition. He just sat there, staring blankly into space. At least he wasn’t stroking his hair again – but he was rocking back and forth and humming to himself. Gibbs knelt down in front of him again, rested his hands on Tony’s knees, and gazed into his eyes, looking for something – anything – that would reassure him that Tony was still in there.

“Where are you, Tony?” he asked, waving his hand in front of Tony’s eyes. Tony gave no reaction. “You are full of surprises, DiNozzo. Christ, what a day.”

He hesitated, and then gently stroked Tony’s cheek with the back of his hand.

“First, finding out what you’ve been hiding all these years, and then finding out what you like to do in your spare time – or at least who you like to do it with. I always had you down as straight, Tony – but I guess that was just another thing you wanted us all to believe. Damn it – so much of your time and energy has gone into all this hiding and lying. Aren’t you tired of it?”

There was no reply. He got up and saw the lubricant and condom on the nightstand where Terry had left them. He picked them up and stowed them away in a drawer.

“I’m going to have to tell Ducky about what happened to you when you were a kid, Tony,” he said. “But I’m not going to give away all your secrets.”

He sat down on the side of the bed beside Tony. Then, awkwardly, he put his arm around Tony’s shoulders and squeezed.

“I will get you through this, DiNozzo,” he said. “Just don’t go under – because I don’t know how to reach you wherever you are right now. I can’t follow you there, and I don’t know how to bring you back.”


Roy was smiling at him, gently petting him all over. Tony lay there unmoving, feeling angry and resentful.

“Do we have to do this now?” he asked petulantly. “You said you were going to take me to the movies.”

“And I will, later. Tonio…do this for me and after I take you to the movies, I’ll buy you those roller skates you wanted – hmm?”

Tony sighed and moved his legs, so Roy could do what he wanted. “You mean it about the skates?” he asked.

“Yes, Tonio…of course…my beautiful boy. Just be good for me, and you can have whatever you like.”

Roy beamed at him and then leaned forward and kissed his mouth. Tony hated the taste of cigars, the feel of rough stubble on his chin, and the way Roy’s tongue darted between his lips. It made him want to wipe his hand over his mouth, but he knew Roy didn’t like it when he did that.

He closed his eyes and thought about what colour roller skates he’d get Roy to buy him afterwards.


Ducky looked dishevelled and more than a little peeved when Gibbs opened the door to him half an hour later.

“Well, what is it, Jethro?” he demanded, walking in, carrying his medical bag with him. “You said it was an emergency?”

“It is, Duck.”

Gibbs led the ME into Tony’s bedroom, and Ducky paused, glancing at Tony with a quizzical expression on his face.

“Anthony?” he enquired. “Tony?” There was no response. Ducky raised an eyebrow at Gibbs.

“It’s a long story, Ducky,” Gibbs sighed. “I didn’t know if there was something we should be doing for him right now, or if he needs to go to the hospital.”

“How long has he been like this?”

“At least an hour,” Gibbs replied. “It’s happened before but just for a few minutes at a time – I’ve never seen it last this long.”

“My God – are you saying this isn’t the first time…?” Ducky broke off, shaking his head in disbelief. He undid his coat and threw it onto a nearby chair, along with his hat. Then he bustled around, doing various little tests – pulling up Tony’s eyelids, taking his pulse, and all the time muttering under his breath.

Finally, he turned back to Gibbs. “I don’t see there’s any point sending him to the hospital at this stage. He could come around at any minute, and he’s not in any physical danger. But I do think we should make him more comfortable. The boy will end up with a stiff back if he stays like that for much longer. Well don’t just stand there! Help me, Jethro.”

He beckoned Gibbs over, and between them they managed to get Tony into the recovery position, lying on his side on the bed. He went easily enough – he wasn’t stiff or unresponsive. His body uncurled into the position they put it in, and he lay there, still humming and rocking. It was eerie.

Ducky pulled the blanket over him and tucked it in under his chin. “Oh, my poor dear boy,” he sighed. “What on earth has happened to you?” He glanced up at Gibbs. “I think it’s time you told me everything,” he said firmly. “And then we can decide what to do next.”

Gibbs gestured with his head for Ducky to sit in the armchair next to the bed while he sat down on the side of the bed, next to Tony. Then he spent the next fifteen minutes telling Ducky exactly what had happened to Tony – everything he knew, starting with the existence of those photographs, and the entire story of how he’d been sexually abused when he was twelve.

Ducky remained uncharacteristically silent throughout – but his face grew paler and his eyes more watery behind their spectacles as Gibbs continued. When Gibbs finished, Ducky took off his glasses, wiped his eyes, put the glasses back on again, and then gave Gibbs his finest glare.

“You will find these men who hurt Anthony, and when you do you will not be gentle with them, Jethro,” he instructed.

“Oh trust me, Ducky, I have no intention of it,” Gibbs growled. He put his hand on the blanket covering Tony’s shoulder. “Damn it, I shouldn’t have left him on his own tonight. I knew it was a mistake.”

“How did you find him?”

Gibbs hesitated. “He went out after I dropped him off. Picked up someone called Terry in a bar. Terry called me and told me he’d zoned out.”

“Bless Terri,” Ducky said, with a little smile. “That restores my faith in human nature somewhat at least. There are good people out there as well as bad.”

“What’s wrong with him, Ducky?” Gibbs asked.

“I can only make a guess,” Ducky said, glancing over at Tony’s humming, rocking body. “But you said that Tony put these memories into a box in his head and refused to acknowledge them for all these years?”

“That’s what he said to Justin, yes,” Gibbs nodded. “He said he’d found ways of distracting himself.”

“Ah yes…” Ducky gave a sad nod. “Our Anthony is very good at providing distractions, isn’t he? I always did think it strange that such a fun-loving young man spent almost as much time at the office as yourself, Jethro. And then there was all the mischief, and the movies, and the generally frenetic level of activity involved in just being Anthony DiNozzo. And of course, sexual intercourse clearly helped distract him, strange though it may seem given the nature of the abuse, but that’s not uncommon in such cases. And, I would suppose, given how stressful today was for him, it was almost inevitable that he’d go out looking for a young lady to spend the night with tonight.”

Gibbs nodded. He saw no reason to disabuse Ducky of the conclusion he’d jumped to about Terry’s gender.

“But what happens when the distractions don’t work any more?” Ducky mused. “Knowing how determined our Anthony is, I would imagine that he’d redouble his efforts – try harder. Yet, today must have been such a shock for him. It’s one thing to suppress memories for all this time, but quite another to confront photographic evidence of the very memories you’ve been keeping under lock and key. His mind has probably been struggling to cope with the intolerable strain all day.”

“He knew the abuse happened, Duck,” Gibbs said. “He was able to recount it in a fair amount of detail, quite lucidly. It clearly wasn’t easy for him, but he did it. So it’s not like he’s blocked it out.”

“No. I think it’s all rather more subtle and complex than that,” Ducky sighed. “Tony most definitely does know it happened. After all, it’s likely that his whole psyche is constructed on the basis of keeping himself from ever being that boy again – someone who could be hurt, abused, and taken advantage of. You say nobody ever found out about the abuse?”

“No. He tried to tell his father, but he wouldn’t listen. I’m only the second person he’s ever told,” Gibbs said, feeling his jaw tighten as he spoke.

“So it’s been his secret all this time, and he’s been protecting that twelve year old boy inside the best way he knows how. It might not be perfect, but it’s worked for him all these years. It does require him to keep busy – which explains a lot – I think we all know how wearying a bored Anthony DiNozzo can be,” Ducky said wryly. “But those are his coping mechanisms. Then, today, those mechanisms broke down – spectacularly. Firstly he had to talk about the abuse, which meant remembering some of the details he’s been trying to avoid, and then his various means of distraction – such as sex – stopped working for him.”

Gibbs winced, recalling what Terry had said about Tony’s failure in the bedroom and how distraught he’d been about it.

“I don’t understand what this is all about though,” Gibbs said, his hand still resting on Tony’s gently rocking shoulder. “Where is he right now? Is he conscious? Can he hear us? He’s definitely not asleep.”

“No, he isn’t,” Ducky sighed. “Oh, Jethro – haven’t you figured it out?”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

“By suppressing those memories, Tony has given them enormous power,” Ducky said. “If I may use an analogy…”

“You usually do,” Gibbs muttered. Ducky shot him a wry gin.

“Imagine, if you will, that you are on a diet…”

“I’ve never been on a diet, Duck,” Gibbs interrupted irritably. Ducky glared at him. “Okay…I’ll imagine it,” Gibbs grunted.

“If I ask you, right now, NOT to think about chocolate cake…tell me, what is the first thing that you think about?”

“Chocolate cake,” Gibbs retorted immediately.

“It’s a well known psychology experiment,” Ducky said, with a wave of his hands. “Ask someone not to think about something, and usually that’s *all* they can think about. Tony’s coping mechanisms have broken down, his distractions aren’t working because of the shock of today’s events, and those memories have come back with a vengeance. And, because of the enormous power they hold for him – the power he has invested them with – and all the no doubt turbulent emotions he has associated with them, they are stronger and more overwhelming than any normal memory. Strong enough to disconnect him from the present and plunge him back into the past.”

“Ducky…” Gibbs gazed at the ME, horrified. “Are you telling me that’s what’s happening to Tony right now? That he’s re-living those memories?”

Ducky glanced at Tony sadly. “Well, I can’t say for certain, Jethro, but yes, I’m very much afraid that he is.”


Tony wasn’t sure if he hated Luke or Marco more. Marco hurt him, but Luke scared him.

Luke undressed him while he stood there, sullenly, eyes down. Then Luke pulled him, naked, onto his lap and caressed him firmly, hands sweeping over his body. He talked as he touched him, whispering straight into his ear.

“So Tony – I enjoyed our last little meeting. Do you know what I liked most? I liked it when I stuck it in you, and you squealed like a little piglet. A juicy little piglet. You can squeal again this time if you like. Are you afraid of me, Tony? You should be.”

He *was* afraid. Luke was a tall, broad-shouldered man, with thick, dark hair, and steely grey eyes. His hands were always cold but not as cold as his eyes. Luke placed him onto the bed, on his hands and knees. Tony moaned, and curled up into a tight ball. He hated this. At least Roy stroked him, and told him that he loved him, and that he was a good boy.

Cold hands descended on him, roaming over him, demanding and clinical. He heard the mattress give as Luke knelt on the bed behind him.

“Roy told me you were a good boy, but I’m not seeing much evidence of that right now, Tony. Open up for me…that’s right… Come on – I saw those photos of you, you little slut – I know you can do better than this. That’s it…squeal, little piglet, squeal.”


“Christ, Ducky.” Gibbs got up and paced around the room. “We have to do something to wake him up.”

“Jethro, you said he’s been in these fugue-like states before and always came out of them by himself.”

“Yeah, but he’s never been out of it for this long before. I don’t pretend to understand how this works, but you didn’t hear his statement earlier, Ducky. Those men raped him repeatedly – one of them raped him so viciously he bled and was scared that he was going to die. It’s bad enough he went through that once, but to re-live it over and over again? While we damn well stand by and watch?” Gibbs slammed his fist against the wall, barely noticing the flash of pain as the movement hurt the self-inflicted wounds of a few hours ago.

Ducky got up, came over to him, and grabbed his right hand. “Do I even want to know how this happened?” he asked, glancing at the torn, bloody flesh and the bruising across the knuckles. Gibbs pulled his hand away. Ducky blinked at him owlishly from behind his glasses. “Jethro, I remember that case with Kyle Boone many years ago; the one that cost you your second marriage. Your fists looked like this a lot then, too,” he said softly. “You always do this when a case gets to you, and of course Tony is so much more to you than just a case.”

“Ducky, it’s not important. I’m fine. I’m more worried about Tony, and how we get him to wake up. Supposing he’s lost inside his own mind and can’t find a way out?”

“I think you should have more faith in the boy, Jethro,” Duck told him gently, glancing over at Tony. “He’s very determined. He might be struggling right now, but I don’t think there’s any way our Anthony will give in without a fight, do you?”

“It shouldn’t be a battle he has to fight alone,” Gibbs growled. “Bad enough that he didn’t have anyone to help him when he was twelve, but I’ll be damned if he has to do it by himself now.”

He went over to the bed and sat down beside Tony. He hesitated for a moment and then reached out and stroked Tony’s hair.

“Tony, it’s Gibbs. Listen to me – you’ve been out for long enough. You need to find a way back to us now.”

There was no reaction.

“I mean it, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said in a firmer tone of voice. “Get your ass back here.”

He glanced up at Ducky who was giving him a sad look, as if he thought this approach was very unlikely to work, but Gibbs wasn’t about to give up yet. He remembered a few years ago, when Tony had been fighting for his life with the plague, and how he’d ordered him not to die. Even leaving aside the night’s revelations, and the dubious character insights provided by Terry Dyer, he had always known that Tony worshipped the ground he walked on and would do his best to obey any order he threw at him.

“Tony!” he rapped out. “Come back now. It’s safe here – just me and Ducky.”

He stroked Tony’s hair again and then remembered something else about that time with the plague. He leaned forward and spoke directly into Tony’s ear.

“Tony, wherever you are right now, you will *not* stay there. Understand me? Come back. Now!” He combined the firm crack of that last word with a sharp tap to the back of Tony’s head.

Tony blinked.


Tony glanced around, disoriented. Last thing he remembered, he’d been sitting on the side of the bed, and now he was lying down and Gibbs was here. Where had his boss come from and what the hell was he doing here?

“Boss?” he muttered, sitting up. He groaned, his back and shoulders aching. He felt stiff. Then he saw Ducky standing by the wall. “Ducky? What the hell is going on?”

“You had another one of your episodes, my dear boy.”

“Episodes?” Tony frowned.

“You were out of it, DiNozzo. Like you were in the parking lot earlier,” Gibbs told him. “And like you were a couple of times during your statement, although just for a few seconds. This time it was longer.”

“How long?” Tony asked quietly.

“A couple of hours,” Gibbs replied. Tony bit on his lip. “You want to tell us what’s going on?”

“Not really.” Tony swung his legs over the side of the bed and then looked down, flushing. He was at least wearing a pair of boxer shorts, but apart from that he was naked.

“You do know…?” Ducky began.

“That I’ve been losing time? Yes, Ducky. I know,” Tony said curtly. “It hasn’t happened in a long while. I thought it was just a temporary blip, and it’d go away again.”

“I don’t think the human brain works quite like that, Anthony,” Ducky murmured. Tony glanced at him sharply, and then at Gibbs for confirmation.

“He knows,” Gibbs said.

Tony knew it had to happen sooner or later, but even so, he felt a wave of impotent fury at the news.

“I’m most terribly sorry, my dear boy,” Ducky said quietly. “I’m also very concerned about your mental state right now.”

“I’ll be fine,” Tony snapped. “I just need some time and space…and I’d really like to be left alone for just a goddamn minute.”

“Out of the question,” Gibbs told him tersely. Tony glared at him.

“What Jethro means is that you were lucky tonight, Anthony,” Ducky said, in a placating tone. “Your lady friend, Terri, had the good sense to call Jethro. Another time you might zone out while taking a bath, or while driving, or in some other potentially hazardous situation.”

“Terry? Oh shit.” Tony buried his head in his hands, remembering. He glanced up at Gibbs who was gazing at him steadily from those steely eyes of his, giving nothing away – as usual. Tony cleared his throat. “What happened to Terry?”

“Gone,” Gibbs replied. “Nice person though,” he added. “Thought the world of you. Didn’t like me for some reason. Told me I wasn’t a ‘people person’.”

“Yeah, I don’t know how to break this to you, Boss, but you don’t always make a great first impression.”

“Tony…” Gibbs gazed at him thoughtfully. “Do you know where you go when you ‘lose time’ as you put it?”

Tony gazed back at him blankly. “I need a drink.”

“I’ll go and get you some water,” Ducky said, disappearing out of the door.

“Lady friend?” Tony queried when he’d gone, raising an eyebrow. Gibbs shrugged.

“I just told him the name – and from there Ducky jumped to his own conclusion.”

“Fuck it!” Tony roared, slamming his hand against the night stand. “Can’t I have any kind of a fucking private life? Does everyone have to know every last damn thing about me?”

“I won’t tell anyone,” Gibbs said. “None of my business.”

“It’s not what you think,” Tony muttered, embarrassed by his outburst. That wasn’t like him – usually he managed to keep everything buttoned up and under control. He sure as hell never lost it with Gibbs of all people. “Well, it’s not exactly what you think anyway,” he said quietly. “I’m not lying about the women – there have been plenty of them. I’ve just never mentioned the men – there have been plenty of them too.”

“Okay.” Gibbs shrugged again. “You don’t need to explain anything to me, Tony.”

“I need the sex,” Tony said quietly. “And to be honest it’s never really mattered who it’s with – men or women.”

“Distraction,” Gibbs said. “I understand.”

Ducky returned with a glass of water and Tony took it, his hand shaking slightly as he reached out.

“You didn’t answer my question, Tony,” Gibbs said to him. “Do you know where you go when you lose time?”

Tony swallowed down the entire glass of water in one gulp.

“Yes,” he said, in a tight, pinched voice. “I know exactly where I go.”


Ducky looked from Tony to Gibbs and back again. Gibbs looked both furious and appalled at one and the same time, and Tony – well Tony looked scared and oddly defensive. Ducky’s heart went out to them both, and he decided it was time that he took charge of the situation.

“Look, it’s practically dawn, and you look terrible – both of you,” he admonished. “Anthony – you need some sleep. I’d really prefer you not to fugue again, so I’d like to administer a sedative if that’s alright with you, my boy? It would give your poor brain a rest and allow you to recover.”

“Oblivion sounds just great to me right now, Ducky,” Tony muttered, still gazing wretchedly at Gibbs.

“And you, Jethro,” Ducky said firmly. “I know you like to pretend you don’t need any sleep, and yes, I also know that you can keep going for days on end with just the occasional catnap. Now, I’m sure that’s a very special and vital sniper skill and so forth, but everyone needs sleep. Therefore, I suggest that you go home and catch a couple of hours’ rest, while I stay here and watch over Anthony.”

Gibbs didn’t look happy about that, but Ducky managed to quell any incipient rebellion with a glare.

“I really don’t intend to take no for an answer,” he said. “From either of you.” He turned to glare at Tony as well – he didn’t seem too happy to hear that he’d have company while he slept. “I will be staying,” Ducky said in a tone that brooked no argument. “You won’t hear a peep out of me. I’ll sit on the chair over there.” He gestured to the armchair next to the bed.

Gibbs grunted and then got up. “Get some sleep,” he said to Tony. He grasped Ducky’s arm and led him out into the hallway. “Do not leave him,” he said. “At any point. For any reason.”

“I can assure you, Jethro, I’m quite capable…” Ducky began. Gibbs cut him off.

“He ditched McGee earlier. He might be looking all pale and pathetic right now, but he’s still *Tony*, which means…”

“That he has an inventive mind and the ability to dissemble rather well. I know, dear boy, I know. I have known our dear Anthony for quite as long as you, and I know all his admirable and also less than admirable little traits and foibles. Don’t worry about us, Jethro. I will ensure that Anthony gets some sleep – I simply ask that you go home and do the same.”

“I will.” Gibbs glanced back at the bedroom door again and then left. Ducky went to get another glass of water from the kitchen, and then he returned to the bedroom.

He opened up his medical bag, got out the sedatives, and handed them to Tony.

“I always come prepared,” he said, giving Tony the glass of water. “Whenever Jethro calls me in the middle of the night, it’s either because he’s found a dead body or there’s someone requiring medical assistance. I’ve therefore learned to come prepared for the dead or the living.”

“Or someone who’s a bit of both,” Tony muttered wryly, throwing the pills into his mouth and gulping down the water.

Ducky gazed at him sadly. “Ah, my dear boy, I very much want to keep you in the land of the living,” he said softly. He watched as Tony slid back into the bed and pulled a sheet and blanket over himself. “I’ll be here, Anthony,” he said, turning off the light. He sat down in the armchair beside the bed.

“Seems kind of weird – someone watching me sleep, Duck,” Tony muttered.

“It won’t bother you for long, my dear boy,” Ducky replied softly. “Those are very good sedatives. Before long you will be…”

He broke off as he heard Tony’s breathing change, and a gentle snore emerged from under the blanket.

“I really am most terribly sorry about all this, Anthony,” Ducky said softly, knowing his patient was asleep. “I fear that I may have misjudged you. Of course that was precisely what you wanted, I’m sure. Far better that we all saw a clown than that we caught a glimpse of that vulnerable young boy you must still be underneath. And yet I do blame myself – you see, I often *did* see glimpses and chose to ignore them, like pieces of a puzzle that I discarded because they didn’t fit the preconceived image of it that I held in my head.”

He clasped his hands together in his lap and gazed at Tony’s sleeping form.

“I’ve always been aware of your somewhat complex personality, my dear boy,” he continued. “I’m afraid I completely misdiagnosed you when I told Jethro that you were a narcissist not so long ago, and I feel I absolutely must apologise to you for that. In fact, I suspect you might be the complete opposite. What you are, what you *really* are, far from being so obviously on display for all to see and judge, is actually very well hidden.”

Ducky reached into his pocket and pulled out a packet of mints. He popped one into his mouth. “I suppose we all present a face to the world,” he mused, as he sucked quietly on the mint. “We all wear a mask that we want the world to see to a certain extent, but I doubt that many people’s masks are as carefully constructed as yours, my dear Anthony. Yours is really a work of art – a thing of quite considerable beauty in its own way. I do not mean to imply that you have been deliberately deceiving us all this time. I doubt that is the case at all.” He shook his head in the darkness, one ear listening for the deep rise and fall of Tony’s chest as he slumbered.

“You were simply forming a defence, lest anyone get too close. You see, I really do believe that adult Tony is doing his best to protect that child who was so cruelly used, and if he has to spin a rather elaborate web of subterfuge to do so then that is simply what he *has* to do. There are some things one cannot hide of course. Your sense of empathy has always been well known to me, and your courage and loyalty cannot be faulted. These features shine through. For the rest? I suspect we barely know you – the real you – at all. And for that, Anthony, I truly am very sorry.


End of Darkness


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