Damage: 5. Disintegration Part One



McGee got into the office early and had the report Gibbs had asked for ready and waiting on his desk by the time Ziva arrived. He felt uncomfortable being around her, working on this case and not being able to speak to her about it. He longed to talk to someone. Gibbs had ordered him not to say anything though, and he could understand why – this wasn’t his secret to tell. Tony would either tell people himself, or Gibbs would do it for him if he thought they needed to know.

It had been hard for McGee to get that image of Boy 43 out of his head all night, and he hadn’t slept much. Every time he closed his eyes he saw those photographs, and it was impossible for him to reconcile the scared child in those pictures with the man he’d been working alongside these past six years. Tony was so self-assured, so confident, and so…annoying. There was no getting around the fact that Tony could irritate them all when he was in one of his bored moods, but now McGee regretted every harsh word he’d ever said to him.

“Tony is late. Gibbs will not be happy,” Ziva commented, breaking into his train of thought. McGee doubted Gibbs would care in the circumstances. “Gibbs is also late,” Ziva added, with a frown. “Now that is much more unusual. Do you know what is going on, McGee?”

He glanced up, unwilling to tell an outright lie.

“Yes,” he said, and then he looked back at what he was working on, reviewing a list of missing persons dating back to the 1970s, checking through all the boys aged under eighteen.

“Well?” Ziva raised an eyebrow.

“I can’t say,” McGee told her. That was like a red rag to a bull. She got up, came over, and perched on the side of his desk, her eyes sparkling with mischief.

“A mystery? Hmmm – I like mysteries,” she said, twirling some of her dark hair between her fingers.

“It’s not that kind of mystery, Ziva,” he told her firmly, pushing her off his desk.

“What does that mean?” She looked surprised that her joking tone had been so comprehensively rebuffed.

“It means it’s not something to be ferreted out – it’s not funny, it’s not a practical joke, or something we can all laugh about. It’s serious, and it’s not…it’s not something I can talk about. Maybe Gibbs or Tony will tell you, but I can’t.”

“Very well. My apologies. I will not ask any more questions.” She went and sat back down at her desk.

“Ziva – I’m sorry,” McGee sighed. “But I really can’t talk about this.”

She looked up at him, her dark eyes understanding. “It is fine, McGee. I understand secrets. I have kept many myself.”

The elevator pinged, and McGee looked up in alarm, his heart beating a little too fast. He didn’t like himself for it, but he dreaded seeing Tony again. Hearing that testimony last night had changed his view of the other agent, and he didn’t know how to behave around him now.

He was relieved when Gibbs strode into the squad room.

“What do you have for me, McGee?” Gibbs demanded, sitting down at his desk. He looked as supremely focussed as ever – and just as tightly wound up as he had been last night. McGee doubted that was going to change any time soon.

“I’ve left that file you asked for on your desk,” McGee replied.

“Good.” Gibbs picked it up and began reading it.

“Uh, how’s Tony?” McGee asked. Gibbs raised his head slowly and gave him an indecipherable look.

“He’ll be in later,” he said tersely, which McGee was pretty sure hadn’t answered his question.

Gibbs was quiet for half an hour as he read. McGee peeked at him surreptitiously every so often, but Gibbs, as always, was giving nothing away. When he finished, he got up and handed the file to Ziva.

“I want a warrant for this man’s arrest, Ziva, and a search warrant for his house,” he ordered.

She began flicking through the file. “Roy Quinn. On what charge?”

“Possession of child pornography for starters,” Gibbs replied curtly. Her eyes widened.

“Do we have probable cause?”

“Oh yeah,” Gibbs growled. “We definitely have that.”

“Uh, Boss – there’s one problem,” McGee said, getting to his feet. “I did some digging, and Quinn is away on vacation right now – in Thailand – perhaps not an altogether surprising choice of holiday destination. He isn’t due back until next week.”

Gibbs gave him a glare that caused him to sit back down on his chair again.

“We could still go and check out his house,” McGee suggested tentatively.

“And run the risk of someone warning him, so he decides never to come back? I don’t think so, McGee. No way am I letting this bastard slip through my fingers!” Gibbs roared. “Okay – he’ll wait. Ziva – get the warrants ready anyway. In fact – get me a warrant to search his business premises too.”

She nodded and turned back to the file, then paused, and glanced up again.

“Gibbs – it says here that Roy Quinn is CEO of DQ Enterprises,” she said. “Is that not the name of the company Tony’s father owns?”

“Yes it is, Ziva,” Gibbs replied tersely. “Now get me those warrants.”

“Yes, Gibbs.” She nodded, her eyes wide.

“McGee – we clearly can’t move on Quinn for a few days, so let’s turn our attention back to Admiral Parrish. Did you check the surveillance logs for him this morning?”

“Yes, Boss, I did.” McGee was glad that he’d got in early and gone through everything he thought Gibbs might ask him. This case was like a powder keg – and that meant Gibbs was liable to explode if any of them made the slightest mistake. Even leaving aside his boss’s temperament, McGee wanted to do his best work in any case – for Tony’s sake.

“And?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow. McGee shook his head.

“Admiral Parrish didn’t call anyone – on his landline or cell phone – all night. He didn’t send any emails, either. He also didn’t leave the house. He’s still there.”

“He’s a slippery bastard,” Gibbs muttered. “I thought he’d be too smart to warn his fellow perverts that he’s under suspicion. What about the housekeeper?”

“No, Boss. She didn’t make any calls, either.”

“But has she left the house?” Gibbs demanded. “He could have asked her to mail some letters.”

“She’s still there, Boss. You gave orders that she was to be followed and apprehended if she tried to mail anything,” McGee reminded him. Gibbs slammed his fist down hard on his desk, making both McGee and Ziva jump.

“Damn it. I was hoping we’d get something.”

“We could leave it a little longer, Boss,” McGee suggested. “Give him a few days – he might contact them when he thinks we’re not watching any more.”

“And leave him out there with the potential to abuse another child?” Gibbs growled. “I don’t think so.”

Privately, McGee thought that unlikely given that they were following Parrish’s every move, but he understood Gibbs’s feelings on the subject.

“I want the other men in that ring, but I’m not prepared to risk a child’s safety to get them,” Gibbs said. “There are other ways in any case. Parrish is a slick bastard, but my gut tells me that Quinn will be easier to break.”

“If we can get our hands on him,” McGee murmured.

“Oh, we will, McGee,” Gibbs said, in a grimly determined tone of voice. McGee glanced up; Gibbs’s eyes were dark, and McGee felt a shiver go up his spine. “We will,” Gibbs repeated, and McGee knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that there was no place in the world where Quinn would be safe from his boss.

Dozens of children had been abused, including one of his own agents, and Gibbs wouldn’t allow these men to get away with that. McGee knew that his boss would do everything within the law to bring the abusers to justice. He also knew that if the only justice Gibbs could get was the rough kind then he’d take it, as a last resort.

McGee waited until Ziva had left the squad room, and then he got up and went over to Gibbs’s desk.

“Boss – I was wondering, supposing we can’t get Parrish, Quinn and Marco through the courts? Are they going to turn up in dumpsters with bullets through their heads one day?” he asked quietly.

Gibbs sat back in his chair and gazed at him speculatively.

“Would you have a problem with that, Tim?” he asked, just as quietly.

McGee shook his head. “No, Boss,” he said firmly. “I just want to be clear what the end game is here.”

“I won’t ask you to get involved,” Gibbs told him sharply. “If anything needs to be done, I’ll do it alone.”

“I understand,” McGee said thoughtfully. “But, Boss, I want you to know that if that’s what you end up having to do, then I’ll have your six.”

“It could get ugly,” Gibbs warned.

“It already got ugly – twenty-five years ago.”

Gibbs nodded. “Noted and understood, Tim.”

McGee nodded back at him, both of them understanding each other, and then he returned to his desk where he continued with his work as if nothing had happened.


Gibbs gave it a couple of hours, but when there was still no sign of Parrish contacting anyone, he gave the order for his agents to arrest the admiral again. McGee was right – he could leave it a few days, and keep Parrish under tight surveillance, but his gut felt uneasy about doing that. He suspected Parrish had a contingency plan for just this eventuality, and with his military training, he might have a well-designed escape route waiting for him.

In addition, Gibbs had no doubt that a successful man like Parrish had plenty of favours he could call in. Gibbs was sure the admiral’s friends wouldn’t help him if they knew what he’d done, but it was unlikely that they knew about the admiral’s dark side. They’d think they were helping a friend who had been falsely accused, and Parrish might end up getting away as a result.

The admiral was seething when Gibbs’s agents brought him into the squad room, hands cuffed behind his back.

“I thought I told you yesterday, Gibbs – I’m the wrong man to piss off.”

“And I thought I told you – so am I.”

Gibbs got up, went over to the admiral, and looked him in the eye. He remembered everything he’d heard about this man from Tony last night and felt his entire body stiffen in disgust. He knew he could take out his gun, shoot this bastard between the eyes while his hands were in cuffs, and not feel even a twinge of remorse about it.

“You couldn’t make this stick yesterday – what’s changed today? I told you Justin planted those pictures on my laptop himself!” Parrish protested.

“I know that’s what you told us,” Gibbs growled. “But we’ve had another complaint against you that backs up Justin’s story.”

“What?” Parrish narrowed his eyes. “You’re lying. I don’t believe you.”

“I’m not, and you should. I took a statement from another of your victims last night. Different boy,” Gibbs said, gazing at Parrish intently as he spoke, interested in the other man’s reaction.

He saw the briefest flicker of something in Parrish’s eyes as he took in that news. Was Parrish trying to figure out who it was? Was he going through a mental list of all the boys he’d abused and trying to figure out which one was the most likely to have reported him? Well, Gibbs doubted that Tony DiNozzo was on that list, so he still had the element of surprise on his side.

Parrish was probably already thinking on his feet and concocting some convincing story like the one he’d made up about Justin yesterday. Gibbs was almost looking forward to playing his trump card on the admiral – because there was no way Parrish could talk himself out of what he’d done to Tony.

“Take him to interrogation room one, McGee,” Gibbs ordered, with a flick of his head.

He decided to let Parrish sweat for awhile. He had told Tony he could sit in on the interrogation, but he regretted that promise now. It was all very well his senior agent being present during the questioning of a suspect, but Tony wouldn’t be there in that capacity, and Gibbs was pretty sure that it wasn’t a good idea to put Tony and his abuser in a room together. On the other hand, he had promised – and the shock factor of confronting Parrish with one of his victims might be enough to prompt a confession out of the man.

Gibbs felt uneasy all the same. Tony’s mental state was clearly fragile, judging by what had happened last night. Supposing Tony went into one of his fugues while in the interrogation room?

He turned the problem over in his head and had just decided to proceed alone when Tony arrived, with Ducky in attendance. Gibbs gave his agent a searching look; Tony wasn’t dressed in one of his usual sharp suits. Instead, he was dressed casually, in jeans and a loose green shirt, and, while paler than usual, he looked a hell of a lot better than he had last night. All the same, something about him seemed different. Gibbs wasn’t sure what it was – maybe the expression on his face, or the way he carried himself – or maybe it was the haunted look in his eyes.

“You are late,” Ziva said to Tony. “Very late.”

“Dentist,” he replied, throwing his bag down behind his desk. He patted his jaw as if he’d had some work done and then glanced at Ducky. “They gave me a sedative – man those things really knock you out.”

“The dentist…” Ziva mused. “You have not had to visit the dentist since…oh, I do not know, maybe it was when you were dating Jeanne,” she said meaningfully. Gibbs saw a flicker of a wince cross Tony’s face – saying he had a dental appointment had been Tony’s lie of choice during his undercover work with Jeanne.

“Well that was a couple of years ago, Zeeevah!” Tony replied with a grin, taking her comment entirely at face value. “Been awhile – so it’s hardly surprising I needed some work done today.”

Gibbs beckoned Ducky over to his desk. “He okay?” he asked quietly.

“He insists that he is,” Ducky replied. “But I’m not sure I’m convinced. He did at least sleep well – even if it was a highly medicated kind of sleep. Did *you* sleep well, Jethro?”

“Sure, Duck,” Gibbs shrugged. Ducky’s sharp blue eyes saw right through him.

“Ah, I suspect you are both lying to me,” he said ruefully.

Gibbs glanced at Tony, who was busy regaling Ziva with a long and frankly unlikely story about how he’d got the dental nurse’s phone number.

“He well enough to work, Ducky?” he asked.

Ducky gazed at Tony thoughtfully. “I think it would be cruel to refuse him the distraction that work affords,” he replied meaningfully.

“Think he’ll go into a fugue in the office?”

Ducky sighed. “Hopefully not – if you keep him busy enough, Jethro, and, knowing you, I’m sure that won’t be too much of a problem. But the human brain is a sensitive and complex thing, and there are no guarantees. Just keep a close eye on him.”

“Intended to, Duck,” Gibbs grunted.

Ducky nodded and patted his arm. “Well, I’ve delivered him into your capable hands, Jethro. I will be in Autopsy if you require my services any further.”

“Take Ziva with you,” Gibbs told him. “I want to talk to Tony.”

“Very well. She will have to know at some point though, Jethro,” Ducky pointed out. “As will Abigail – if they’re going to work on the case then you have to tell them.”

“Yeah, I know – but not right now. I have enough on my hands right now.”

Ducky nodded and stopped by Ziva’s desk to ask her to accompany him down to Autopsy on some pretext or other. Gibbs looked up to find Tony standing in front of his desk.

“So, I hear you have Parrish in interrogation room one,” he said quietly. “You weren’t going to start without me, were you, Boss?”

There was something hard-edged about him, Gibbs thought; something unlike the usual eager-to-please Tony. This Tony was more brittle.

“Are you sure you want to be in there?” Gibbs asked. “It might be tough.”

“You promised,” Tony said, in a hard tone of voice.

Gibbs gazed at him thoughtfully. Tony was right – he had promised, and the last thing he wanted to do was betray Tony’s trust right now. He had a feeling that would be a move he would live to regret.

“Okay,” he said with a curt nod. “But I do all the talking.”

“Boss…” Tony began, a hint of protest in his voice.

“I do *all* the talking,” Gibbs repeated. “Or you don’t get to sit in there. Take it or leave it, Tony.”

Tony nodded, grudgingly. “Okay.”

“You sit – that’s all you do. You just sit,” Gibbs said. “I’m hoping your presence will provoke a confession out of him, but if it doesn’t, then we just live with that. We have enough to charge him, and we’ll keep on digging – see if we can find some more.”

Gibbs stood up and looked his agent straight in the eye. “This might be harder than you think.”

“I have to do this,” Tony said. Then his gaze faltered, and he looked suddenly like a scared child. Gibbs felt his stomach flip – he had definitely *never* seen Tony look like this before. “He’s in my head, Boss,” Tony whispered. “If I can just face him – face him now as an adult, knowing he can’t hurt me any more, then maybe I can get him out.”

It made a kind of sense. Gibbs nodded. “I understand.”

“He used to scare the crap out of me,” Tony added. “I can still feel the fear, Gibbs. I need to…need to…”

“Pull out the monster’s teeth?” Gibbs suggested.

“Yeah,” Tony agreed. “That’s exactly what I need to do.”

Gibbs swept into interrogation room one a few minutes later with Tony behind him. He sat down opposite Parrish and gestured Tony to sit beside him. This was going to be harder than usual because he had to be aware of the reactions of two people instead of one, so Gibbs knew he had to keep his wits about him. He had installed McGee in the observation room to be another pair of eyes for him, so they could compare notes later.

“I see you’ve brought back-up this time,” Parrish said, gazing at Tony stonily across the table. “Why, Agent Gibbs? Do you think you can intimidate me into admitting to something I didn’t do?”

“No.” Gibbs shook his head. “I don’t think anyone could intimidate you, Parrish. I think it’s more likely that you do the intimidating.”

“I have no idea what that means,” Parrish replied. He linked his hands together and rested them on the table, looking calm and untroubled.

“This is Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo,” Gibbs said, with a nod in Tony’s direction. “You spoke to him on the phone yesterday.”

“I remember.” Parrish nodded.

“He remembers too,” Gibbs said. “Although he remembers you better as someone called Luke.”

Parrish went very still, and his gaze flickered searchingly over Tony’s face as if looking for clues. Gibbs watched him closely. He was glad they were taping this, so he could play it back later, because Parrish wasn’t giving much away.

“I don’t understand what that means,” Parrish said, clearing his throat. Gibbs noticed that he was still looking at Tony though.

“I can see that you’re not sure who he is,” Gibbs said. “So I’m going to refresh your memory.”

He opened up the laptop and brought up a picture of Boy 43.

“He knew you as Luke – you knew him as Tony. Circa 1984. Recognise this shot? You should – it’s in your favourites file.”

“Is this some kind of joke?” Parrish asked, but Gibbs noticed the flash of recognition in his eyes as he glanced at the photo. “I don’t know who the poor boy in this photograph is, Agent Gibbs, but you can’t possibly try and set me up using one of your own agents.”

“I’m not trying to set you up, Parrish,” Gibbs said with a shrug. “Agent DiNozzo is the boy in that photograph, and he says you raped him when he was twelve years old.”

Gibbs noticed Parrish glancing at Tony again, and Gibbs could almost see the cogs in his mind turning as he tried to figure out if Tony really was the boy in the picture. Gibbs turned to glance at Tony as well. Tony wasn’t saying anything, but his entire body was wound up tight and there was an anxious, vulnerable expression in his eyes that made him look exactly like the child in the picture. Even Parrish had to be able to see that they weren’t playing a trick on him, and Tony really was who Gibbs said he was.

“Do you know a man called Roy Quinn?” Gibbs asked Parrish suddenly. Parrish’s eyes flickered just a tiny amount at the unexpected question, and then he recovered.

“I once knew a marine by that name when I was serving in Vietnam,” he replied. Gibbs had to admire him for how coolly he was playing this – he was completely deadpan.

“He a friend of yours?” Gibbs asked.

“I knew him. I haven’t seen him in a long time.”

“Did you share boys with him?” Gibbs asked. “Did you and he groom underage boys for sex? Did you bully and coerce them to the point where they agreed to sex and then share them with each other?”

“No, and I resent the implication.”

“Wasn’t an implication, Parrish – it was an accusation.”

“Where’s your evidence?” Parrish demanded.

“Tony gave me a statement last night.”

“How old is Agent DiNozzo now?” Parrish asked, glancing at Tony dismissively. “In his mid-thirties? You say I knew him in 1984? Are you seriously saying this accusation against me is based on a child who was twelve at the time remembering someone he hasn’t seen in twenty-five years and making an accurate identification of him? I don’t think so, Agent Gibbs. If your agent really was sexually abused as a child then I’m very sorry for him, but he wasn’t abused by me. This is a case of mistaken identity.”

“Agent DiNozzo identified a scar on your inner thigh,” Gibbs told him.

“I was injured in Vietnam. It’s on my service record which you have access to. Of course I have a scar on my thigh! You wouldn’t have to see it to know it’s there – you don’t get hospitalised with a shrapnel wound and have it magically disappear!” Parrish shook his head. “This is pathetic, Gibbs. Do you seriously think any of this will stand up in court?”

“Yes, I do.” Gibbs nodded. “Tony’s a very reliable witness – he’s a federal agent.”

Parrish glanced at Tony speculatively, his eyes icy cold, like a snake considering its prey. His tongue protruded through his lips slightly, wetting them as he surveyed Tony. There was a streak of pure, cold-blooded evil in Parrish, and as Gibbs watched him watching Tony he had a sudden sense of what it must have been like for a twelve year old boy to be trapped in a hotel room with this man. No wonder Tony had been so scared of ‘Luke’.

Tony reached up and began stroking the back of his head. Gibbs moved his foot sideways and surreptitiously nudged Tony’s shoe with it under the table. Tony made a little sound in the back of his throat, but he nodded and moved his hand down to his lap. It was out of Parrish’s sight, but Gibbs could see that Tony’s hand was shaking. He wished he could give his agent more verbal reassurance – the point of bringing him in here was that he got to face down Parrish as an adult, but instead it looked as if being in Parrish’s presence was simply reawakening his childhood fears.

Parrish was still giving Tony that cold, deadly, speculative look. Then suddenly he looked straight at Gibbs and smiled – and Gibbs felt a cold shiver run down his spine.

“I’m sorry for Agent DiNozzo, Gibbs. It’s terrible for him if he really is the boy in this photograph.” Parrish nodded his head towards the laptop where the photo was still displayed. “He’s so young – barely more than a child. So young, so innocent.” He shook his head sadly.

Gibbs frowned, wondering what the hell kind of game Parrish was playing.

“Fresh and innocent, like a lamb,” Parrish murmured softly. “Or…” He glanced straight at Tony as he spoke, a malicious gleam in his eyes. “A little piglet.”

Tony’s reaction took Gibbs completely by surprise. One minute he was sitting silently in the chair beside him, holding his shaking hand in his lap, mutely watching the interrogation, and the next he went ballistic. He was like a different person, someone Gibbs had never seen before, as he exploded across the room. He was making a low, keening sound in the back of his throat as he grabbed Parrish and threw him bodily out of his chair, then jumped on top of him. He pinned Parrish to the floor, one hand wrapped around his neck, and then pounded his fist into the man’s face – once, twice, three times – before Gibbs managed to pull him off, and McGee burst into the room to help.

“Tony…what the hell…? DiNozzo – back off!” Gibbs yelled, holding Tony’s arms behind his back, using all his strength to contain his struggling agent. Tony was like a bomb, exploding all over the place, and even Gibbs, with all his experience and training, was finding it hard to hold him. Eventually he managed to shove him back against the wall, and then he stood in front of him, one arm pressed across Tony’s chest to keep him there, and looked into his eyes. A stranger looked back at him; a stranger whose gaze flickered over his shoulder and stared with a blind, blank hatred at the man lying on the floor.

“Tony!” Gibbs grabbed hold of Tony’s jaw and forced him to look at him. “Snap out of it! Now!”

Tony looked at him as if he didn’t even know who he was, and then, slowly, the stranger disappeared, and Tony was back again. Gibbs cautiously relaxed his hold but still kept his own body between Tony and Parrish.

“He assaulted me,” Parrish hissed. Gibbs glanced at him over his shoulder. McGee was helping him to his feet, and Parrish was wiping blood from the corner of his mouth. “He’s unstable – he went for me with no provocation. I didn’t say anything – *anything* – to provoke that, Agent Gibbs. You saw me. You heard me. You have the tape to prove it! He just went crazy. He’s out of his mind, Gibbs – and hardly what I’d call a reliable witness.”

Gibbs could have kicked himself; Parrish had laid a trap for him, and he’d just walked straight into it.

“Boss?” Tony said, in a shaky voice.

“It’s okay, Tony,” Gibbs told him softly. “Come with me – I’m going to get you out of here. You should never have been in here in the first place. McGee – take care of Parrish.”

He took hold of Tony’s arm and led him out of the door. Tony followed him blindly, like a child, looking completely out of it.

“What did I do?” Tony whispered as they got into the elevator. He crouched down on the floor, his back against the wall, covered his head with his arms, and began rocking. “What did I do, Boss? What did I just do?”

“It’s okay.” Gibbs flicked the emergency switch, stopping the elevator, and knelt down in front of him. “It’s okay. I should never have taken you in there.”

Tony just kept on rocking. Gibbs wasn’t sure what to do. He’d never seen Tony like this. He reached out a tentative hand to touch his hair, which was the only bit of his head visible right now. Tony relaxed a fraction, so Gibbs began to stroke with more confidence. That seemed to work – Tony uncurled and gazed at him from shocked eyes.

“This was my fault, not yours, Tony,” Gibbs said firmly, removing his hand. “Okay? It’s not your fault.”

“I did something bad,” Tony muttered.

“No – you did something understandable. Tony…what was the trigger? One minute you were fine, if a little shaky, and the next you just lost it.”

Tony flinched and reached up to stroke his hair. Gibbs grabbed his hand and stopped it before it got there. He kept hold of Tony’s hand to prevent him doing it again.

“Don’t go there, Tony. Stay with me,” he said. He grabbed Tony’s jaw with his free hand and made him look at him. “Don’t zone out on me. Talk to me instead – don’t go back into the memory alone – share it with me.”

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

“Can you do that, Tony?” Gibbs asked him insistently. “Can you talk it out instead of zoning out?”

“I don’t know. It’s in my head. I can see it. I can hear it. I can feel it. It seems pretty real.” His eyes started to glaze over; Gibbs tapped his jaw firmly, and his eyes came back into focus.

“Try,” Gibbs ordered.

Tony grimaced. “Squeal, little piglet, squeal,” he muttered.

Gibbs gazed at him blankly, and then the realisation hit him. “That’s what he used to say to you?”

Tony nodded. “He kept asking me if I was scared of him. He wanted me to be scared of him. He wanted me to squeal when he…he kept saying it…I used to curl into a ball…’Are you scared of me, Tony? You should be. Roy said you were a good boy, but you aren’t being good right now. I saw those pictures of you, you little slut, you can do better than this…open up for me…that’s better…Does it hurt when I stick it in you? You can cry if you like. Cry for me. Squeal. I like it when you squeal, Tony…you’re like a piglet, a juicy little piglet…so squeal like one, you little slut…”

The litany went on and on until Tony’s voice became hoarse, and eventually he stopped talking. He was shaking visibly, so Gibbs put his arms around Tony’s shoulders, pulled him against his chest, and held him tight. Tony rocked against him, and Gibbs didn’t know what to do except hold him. He didn’t have a clue how to deal with this, so he just worked on instinct. He stroked Tony’s hair soothingly, and gradually, slowly, Tony began to calm down.

Gibbs continued to hold him until the shaking stopped, and then he drew back. Tony was gazing at him from eyes that were embarrassed and scared at one and the same time. He looked like both a frightened child and a grown man, a mixture of emotions etched onto his face.

“Sorry, Boss,” he muttered with a wince. He was white with humiliation.

“It’s okay, Tony. I asked you to talk it out instead of zoning out, and that’s what you did. At least we managed to stop you going into a fugue.”

“Fuck it.” Tony got up, unsteadily, holding onto the rail in the elevator. Gibbs went with him, putting a hand under his elbow to steady him. “I feel like such an idiot. I know it was years ago, and Parrish can’t hurt me now, but still something inside me just snapped. I had to protect him, keep him safe.”

“Keep who safe?” Gibbs frowned.

“The kid…me…it’s hard to explain. He’s inside me, Gibbs, and I have to look out for him.”

“I can understand that,” Gibbs said. “Nobody else looked out for him – for you – back then. You had to do it all by yourself.”

“When I went away to boarding school, I told myself I could be someone different,” Tony explained. “Someone this didn’t happen to. The kind of person nobody hurt. Nobody knew me at boarding school – they didn’t know what I was like before, and I damn well wasn’t going to let them know, either. So I had to hide him away – nobody was ever supposed to see him, and nobody has until now.” A flicker of anger passed over Tony’s face. “I didn’t want you to see him, Boss,” he growled. “Not you, of all people. That’s why I’m so fucking embarrassed right now. I’m…kind of protective of him.”

“Ya think, DiNozzo?” Gibbs commented dryly, remembering how hard it had been to restrain Tony back in the interrogation room. “But it’s okay to let him out, Tony. I think you’re gonna have to let him out more often if you’re going to get better.”

“Fuck no. Never again. That was bad enough.” Tony ran a shaky hand through his hair.

“You can’t hide him any more. And he might surprise you. He might be stronger than you think.”

“He’s a basket case. And I don’t want you thinking of me like that. I’ll lose my job.”

“You won’t lose your damn job, Tony! I won’t let that happen.”

“I don’t want you, or anyone else, seeing me that way,” Tony hissed. “He’s weak, damaged. He’s not lo…” He broke off. “Likeable,” he finished, but that hadn’t been what he’d intended to say.

“You can’t divide yourself in two,” Gibbs told him sensibly. “You can’t split yourself up and reject the bits you don’t like. You have to find a way to accept them, or they’ll come back and bite you like they did today.”

“Yeah, well, that’s easier said than done. Did you ever see the movie ‘Deliverance’?”

Gibbs frowned. Much as he knew Tony liked his movie references, he couldn’t see how one could possibly be appropriate right now. He shook his head.

“Well, ‘Deliverance’ is a pretty famous movie from the 70’s, Boss. Parrish had clearly seen it when he fucked me as a kid. I didn’t know it at the time, but there’s a scene in the movie where this guy is raped and gets told to squeal like a pig. I’m guessing Parrish liked the way that sounded. I rented the movie when I was a freshman at college, not realising what was in it, and lost about three hours. Woke up to find I’d pissed myself and thrown up. Whole place was a mess. Christ that guy is sick.”

“I will make Parrish pay for what he did to you, Tony,” Gibbs vowed grimly. “I promise you that.”

“You don’t know who you’re dealing with,” Tony said. “He’s smart, Boss – and he still scares the shit out of me. I don’t mind admitting that.” Tony dropped his gaze to the floor like he wanted to sink into it. Gibbs lifted his chin with his fingers and made him meet his eyes.

“I made you a promise, and I’ll damn well keep it,” he hissed. “Parrish will go to jail for what he’s done. I’ll work night and day to make that happen. Hell, I have to, because if I fail I won’t be able to look you in the eye like this again, Tony. Understood?”

Tony seemed surprised by his intensity. He gazed at Gibbs searchingly, and then he nodded.

“Understood, Boss,” he said quietly. “If anyone can take that bastard down, it’s you.”

He straightened up his shirt, which had become torn in the fracas back in the interrogation room, and then he reached out and flicked the switch on the elevator again.

“And now we’re going to see Ducky I assume,” Tony sighed.

“Oh yeah,” Gibbs growled. “Now we are definitely going to see Ducky.”


It had been a busy day in Autopsy, so by the time he was able to take a break Ducky decided to treat himself to a nice cup of tea and one of the fine Scottish shortbread biscuits that his cousin had sent him for his birthday. He had to abandon any thought of putting his feet up for a quiet half hour though, when he saw a grim-faced Gibbs usher a frankly pallid Tony out of the elevator and into his domain. Ducky took in Tony’s torn shirt, and the pent-up fury in the way Gibbs was moving, and sighed.

“Mr. Palmer, would you be so kind as to go out and find some real Twinings English Breakfast tea for me,” he said. “I fear someone has substituted Liptons, and it just isn’t the same at all.” He put his cup down with a theatrical grimace.

“Of course, Dr. Mallard,” Jimmy said eagerly, always happy to run errands for him.

“Thank you – and do take your time, Mr. Palmer. No need to rush.” Jimmy took off out of the door, nearly knocking into Gibbs on his way in.

“There an emergency somewhere, Ducky?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

“I’m afraid Mr. Palmer will be gone some time.” Ducky shook his head sadly. “I sent him looking for tea.”

“Shouldn’t take him more than ten minutes.”

“Real English Breakfast Tea, Jethro,” Ducky told him with a chuckle. “That will take him a tad longer, I warrant. Now, what can I do for you two gentlemen? Tony – did you hurt your hand?” He glanced at Tony’s right fist, which was streaked with blood.

“The blood isn’t mine, Ducky,” Tony said.

“All the same – if you’d like to sit down.” Ducky gestured him onto one of his autopsy tables, and Tony sat on the side of it and held out his hand for Ducky to clean off the blood. He was right about it not being his – the knuckles underneath were reddened, but that was all. “You and Jethro are as bad as each other,” Ducky admonished. “I never see young Timothy in here with bruised fists, and dear Ziva’s methods of fighting are, I fear, too subtle to leave a mark. Yet with you and Jethro it’s always the same. You two are more alike than I think either of you realises.”

Tony grinned at him, looking delighted by that comment.

“Are you going to tell me which poor unfortunate was on the receiving end of your fists on this occasion, Anthony?” Ducky asked, and then wished he hadn’t as Tony’s grin faded, and he reached up with his free hand to smooth down the hair on the back of his head. Ducky frowned and glanced at Gibbs, who grasped his arm and led him away out of earshot.

“I need you to keep an eye on him for a couple of hours, Duck.”

“He’s not a parcel, Jethro. You can’t just pass him around,” Ducky remonstrated.

“I’m not passing him around. I just can’t leave him alone right now. You can see what kind of a state he’s in.” He nodded in Tony’s direction. Tony wasn’t in the fugue-like state he’d been in the previous night, but he was still smoothing his hair down with repetitive movements of his hand. “Why does he do that weird stroking thing, Duck?” Gibbs asked. “I thought it caused the fugue, but he’s still with us right now, so that can’t be it.”

“It’s a self-comforting mechanism, Jethro,” Ducky replied. “He’s trying to calm himself down and make himself feel better. And no, it doesn’t cause the fugues – it’s his attempt to head them off – one of them anyway. I’ve noticed he has several – the humming for example. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work, as we’ve seen.”

“He just had a total meltdown,” Gibbs grunted. “I’m not surprised he needs to comfort himself right now.”

“You know, this might all be more than we can deal with,” Ducky told him quietly. “He might need proper psychiatric help, Jethro.”

Gibbs shook his head. “You know Tony – there’s no way you’ll be able to talk him into seeing a shrink, Ducky.”

“Me? Oh, I wouldn’t even try,” Ducky replied with a wry chuckle. “You’re the only one he listens to, Jethro, as you well know.”

“I doubt he’d hear it, even from me. And I don’t think we’re there yet. This has all happened so suddenly – give him a few days, and he might settle down.”

“He might – with some help.” Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “*Your* help, Jethro,” Ducky clarified. “He’s dealing with something extraordinarily distressing right now. You can’t expect him to be the same Anthony DiNozzo you’ve worked with these past eight years – your capable, if sometimes wayward, second-in-command. You have to handle him differently.”

“Ducky – I just spent the past ten minutes holding him in the elevator while he shook like a scared kid in my arms,” Gibbs growled. “Trust me, that’s not the way I usually handle Tony.”

“But can you work the case and be there to give him what he needs as well, Jethro?”

“I’m not giving up the case, Ducky,” Gibbs snapped. “Not while those bastards are still out there.”

Ducky sighed. “I thought you’d say that.”

Gibbs ran a hand through his hair, looking more troubled than Ducky was used to seeing him.

“I’m not sure I’m getting this right, Duck,” he admitted. “I just made a big mistake – I allowed him to sit in on an interrogation with one of his abusers.”

Ducky gazed at him, horrified. “I’m presuming that was where the blood came from?”

“Yeah. The bastard said something deliberately to push Tony over the edge, and he lost it. He went ballistic. I’ve never seen him like that before, Ducky. You know Tony – if anything ever gets to him, he never lets it show. And he sure as hell never loses it like he did back there.”

“Well, he’s under extreme duress at the moment.”

“I know. Thing is, I wouldn’t usually have agreed to his request to be there – I knew it was a mistake. I just don’t know the best way to handle him right now, and I don’t want to say or do anything to make any of this worse for him than it already is.”

“Ah.” Ducky nodded. “You’re second-guessing yourself, my dear Jethro – and that isn’t like you at all.”

“It’s something he said yesterday about how Parrish had conditioned Justin to respond to older, male, authority figures. Made me wonder if that’s how he sees himself and me.”

Ducky glanced over at Tony, who was still sitting on the side of the autopsy table, stroking his hair absently. “You know, this reminds me of a book I’m very fond of. Have you ever read ‘The Little Prince’, Jethro?”

Gibbs looked at him as if he’d gone insane.

“No, well, I thought not. It’s an enchanting tale, but perhaps a little too whimsical for your tastes. It’s full of wise little insights into the human condition. I’ll spare you all the details, but at one point in the book the little prince of the title tames a fox, and the fox tells him that he is responsible forever for what he has tamed.”

Gibbs glared at him. “He isn’t a fox, Ducky, and I haven’t ‘tamed’ him.”

“Except that you have, Jethro, in your own way,” Ducky told him softly. “I know that boy’s history. He didn’t get on well at any of those places where he worked before you found him, did he? I was never exactly sure why, but you do, I think. You saw something in him, something he needed, and you picked him up, dusted him down, whipped him into shape, kicked him around a little, to be sure, but he needed that – and, most importantly, you gave him a place to belong. Everyone knows that boy worships the ground you walk on, Jethro, and now you’ve drawn all his darkest secrets out of him right when he’s at his most vulnerable. If that doesn’t make him your responsibility, then I don’t know what does.”

“I told him I’d be there for him through this, and I will,” Gibbs growled.

“Then you may have to give some thought as to what, exactly, that will entail,” Ducky said, patting his arm. “What exactly are you prepared to give, Jethro? Because…forgive me, you’re a good man, but you’re not someone who is comfortable in the emotional arena. I know why,” he added hurriedly, seeing a familiar dark look creep into Gibbs’s eyes. “And I sympathise, I really do. But that boy over there is just as damaged as you are – and, in fact, that actually makes you uniquely qualified to help him if you’re prepared to try. Are you, Jethro?”

Gibbs stared at him, and Ducky wondered if he’d gone too far. His friend *was* a good man, but Ducky wasn’t sure that he’d yet woken up to the scale of the task on his hands. He could see the conflicted look in Gibbs’s eyes.

“The damage inflicted on you both – you and him – for the most part isn’t visible,” Ducky said softly. “It’s in here.” He patted Gibbs’s chest. “You hide behind the walls you’ve built to keep yourself safe, and he’s done the same. But as his come crashing down, you might find that you need to venture out from behind yours if you are going to help him. Are you ready for that, Jethro?”

Gibbs glanced over at Tony and then back at Ducky. A muscle in his jaw twitched violently. “Just take care of him, Ducky,” he said in a terse voice. “I’ll be a couple of hours.” Then he turned on his heel and left. Ducky sighed, and glanced back at Tony.

“Well, I did my best, Anthony,” he said sadly.


Gibbs left Autopsy in a furious mood. He returned to interrogation room one and found McGee sitting in the chair opposite Parrish, neither of them speaking.

Parrish looked up as Gibbs entered the room.

“Ah, Agent Gibbs – I’m glad you’ve finally returned. I want you to know…” he began.

“Shut it,” Gibbs interrupted him savagely. “Listen up, Parrish, and listen well. I’m sure you’ve made plenty of mistakes in your life, but there are two that you will live to regret. The first is the day you laid a finger on a kid called Tony DiNozzo twenty-five years ago….”

“I never touched him, but leaving that aside – the second?” Parrish raised an eyebrow, his cold, grey eyes assessing Gibbs carefully.

“The second is what you said to him today,” Gibbs told him.

“I didn’t say anything to provoke such an extreme reaction,” the admiral protested, gesturing to his bruised face.

“Oh, we both know that you did,” Gibbs growled. “I’m not going to waste any more time on you, Parrish. I’ll see you in court.”

“Whatever flimsy case you have against me won’t stand up to any scrutiny, Gibbs.”

“You’d better hope for your sake that it does – because you’ll find prison a much safer place than anywhere else on this planet, believe me.”

“Another one of your threats, Agent Gibbs?” Parrish said derisively.

“Did you hear me threaten the admiral, Agent McGee?” Gibbs asked, turning to his agent. McGee shook his head.

“No, Boss. I didn’t hear any threats. Agent Gibbs doesn’t make threats, Admiral Parrish – he makes promises.”

“And I always keep my promises, Admiral,” Gibbs told him grimly. “So, like I said, you’d better hope you get sent somewhere safe, out of my way – because if you walk free, I will come after you. And trust me, when I catch up with you I’ll definitely make you squeal like…what was it, Parrish? A piglet?”

Parrish’s jaw settled into a tight line, and he quirked an eyebrow at Gibbs, a hint of malicious glee in his eyes. It was all Gibbs could do not to punch the man. Even after all these years he was still enjoying the control he had over Tony and taking a sick kind of pleasure in his ability to scare him.

“Do we understand each other, Parrish?” Gibbs asked quietly.

“Oh, we understand each other perfectly, Agent Gibbs,” Parrish replied smoothly.

“Good. Then I’ll see you in court.” Gibbs turned on his heel and left. He went straight to the squad room and made a phone call.

“Walt? It’s Gibbs. I need a favour.”

Forty-five minutes later, Gibbs walked into the NCIS gym to find Walter Silberman waiting for him. Walt was an old buddy going back to his marine days. He was six feet five of solid, packed muscle, as fit now as he’d been at boot camp all those years ago.

“Hey, Jethro,” Walt said, pulling on a pair of boxing gloves.

“Walt,” Gibbs replied shortly. He taped up the torn, bruised skin on his knuckles, aware that Walt was watching, and then pulled on his own pair of gloves.

“Not a day for talking, huh?” Walt muttered, stepping into the ring.

“No. Just fighting. Don’t go easy on me, Walt.”

“Wouldn’t dare, Jethro,” Walt replied with a chuckle.

Gibbs went at him with every single ounce of pent-up fury in his body, and Walt pummelled him back relentlessly, neither of them giving an inch.

This was what he needed – what he’d needed since this nightmare had first begun. Gibbs thought of Tony, huddled on the floor of the elevator with his hands over his head, re-living an experience so appalling that it made hot, bitter bile rise in the back of Gibbs’s throat. How could any man hurt a child like that? Gibbs lashed out, grunting as his fists connected with flesh, needing to feel the pain in his hands, the shockwaves in his wrists and shoulders, and the raw, panting urgency of his own fury.

Walt could take everything he threw at him – always had, always would. Gibbs was transported back seventeen years, to another time and a different kind of pain, and there was Walt, big and steady, taking his punches and handing out his own, never holding back, a rock in the storm.

Gibbs was aware that a little circle of NCIS staff was forming around the outside of the ring, watching silently as the two ex-marines gave a master-class in hand-to-hand combat, and still they fought on. His fury went slowly from being red hot to white cold as they fought; the heat gradually cooling as he threw himself around the ring, exhausting himself.

Walt caught him a glancing blow on the jaw, and Gibbs landed a punch to his old friend’s solar plexus. Walt grunted, barely seeming to notice it, and wrong-footed him, landing him on the floor. Gibbs rolled over and was back on his feet again in a second. Walt lumbered after him, slower now but still as unstoppable as a steamroller.

Gibbs fought until his arms ached, and his own sweat was blinding him. He fought until his breathing was a rasping sound in the back of his throat. He fought until he couldn’t see the scared face of a twelve year old boy every time he closed his eyes. He fought out his sense of impotence at not being able to help Tony. He fought out his anger at not being there twenty-five years ago when a boy was taken to a hotel room and raped repeatedly by a man he’d trusted and then handed around to others to do the same. It was the same anger he felt at not being there seventeen years ago when his family had been killed.

He fought out his inability to protect the people he loved – and then he fought even harder to try and come to terms with the fact that he classed Tony with Shannon and Kelly, in the category of people he loved. Even though he’d known that for some time, he’d never really faced the truth of it before. So he fought it out, all of it, until finally he was spent.

Then he stopped. Walt gazed at him.

“We done?” he asked.

“We’re done.”

“You heard him – beat it,” Walt growled at their audience, and they all scuttled off.

Gibbs got out of the ring, and Walt followed him into the locker room.

“Want to talk about it?” Walt asked.

Gibbs hesitated. Walt had seen him at his lowest point, after Shannon and Kelly had been killed, and he’d stuck with him through everything. He had never once been judgemental about any of the ways Gibbs had found to cope with their loss. He was one of his closest friends.

“I fucked up. I can’t fuck up again. Something big is going down. I have to get it right,” Gibbs told him.

“This work or personal?” Walt asked. Gibbs hesitated again.

“Both,” he said finally. Walt sighed.

“The work thing you’ll get right – you always do,” he said. “The personal thing – that’s the shit you’re lousy at, and I’m guessing that’s the real reason I’m here right now.” He ran a rueful hand over his solar plexus. “And feeling like I’ve gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson,” he added.

Gibbs glanced at him, saw how sweaty, battered, and exhausted he looked, and gave a little wince. “Thanks, Walt,” he said quietly.

“You’re welcome, Jethro,” Walt replied. “Did it help?”

Gibbs nodded as he unwrapped the tape from around his knuckles. “For now,” he said. Walt put a hand on his shoulder.

“You need me – you call me,” he said. Gibbs looked into his friend’s concerned brown eyes and nodded.

“I will.”

Gibbs headed for the showers and the welcome relief of the warm water pounding on his aching body. His two closest friends, Ducky and Walt, the people who knew him best, had both said the same thing: You get the work stuff right but the personal stuff – anything involving emotions – you’re crap at that, old friend.

Well, then he’d just have to figure out how to be better at it, because Tony was relying on him. Ducky was right – Tony needed his time and attention right now, and he had to find a way to give it to him. Parrish wasn’t going anywhere, and their next lead, Quinn, wasn’t due back in the country for a few days. That gave him some time to try and get into Tony’s head and turn him around. He had to get him ready to face the next big ordeal that was coming his way. Gibbs was sure the next few weeks would be one ordeal after another for Tony, and it was his job to get him through them.

His team were good – he’d let McGee run lead agent during any absences he took while he put Tony back together again. He’d been impressed with that conversation they’d had earlier, and his handling of Parrish. McGee had been turning from a boy into a man over the past year, and he was ready for this.

Gibbs exited the shower feeling better than he had all day. The fighting had cleared his mind, the way it always did; now he could see the simple truths shining through the complexity of the situation.

He would stop second-guessing himself. He’d be no use to Tony if he let his sympathy for him over-ride his own gut instincts. Tony needed him to be *Gibbs*, the man he knew and trusted, and not some stranger tip-toeing around him on eggshells.

Gibbs got dressed, grabbed his bag, and left the gym.

Tony was his priority right now, and he’d be damned if he let him down.


Tony looked up in relief when Gibbs strode through the door.

“Oh thank God! Ducky’s been making me rummage around in internal organs, Boss.”

“Not your own, I hope, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said.

Tony studied him – Gibbs’s hair was damp, and he smelled freshly showered. He also had a number of bruises on his jaw that hadn’t been there earlier and a small cut above his left eye.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your agents learning about basic anatomy, Jethro,” Ducky said, glancing up. His eyes darkened as he took in Gibbs’s battered appearance, but he didn’t draw attention to it. “It appals me how little the average member of the human race seems to know about their own body. Take Anthony here – he seems to think that the spleen is located in the pelvic region.”

“In my defence, I didn’t actually think that *was* a spleen when I first stuck my hand into it,” Tony muttered. “All dead squishy things feel the same, Boss.”

“Well you’re done here,” Gibbs told him.

“Hallelujah,” Tony muttered in a heart-felt tone. “Uh, no offence, Ducky.”

“None taken, my dear boy.” Ducky beamed at him. “It’s been a pleasure to have your company. I don’t think Mr. Palmer needs to worry about you replacing him though. You don’t really have a rapport with the dead, Anthony.”

“You know – I think I’ll take that as a compliment, Ducky,” Tony grinned. “Where are we going, Boss?” he asked, as Gibbs gestured with his head that he follow him out of Autopsy.

“Home,” Gibbs replied.

Tony hesitated. It hadn’t been a great day, but he didn’t want to go home and be alone with his thoughts right now.

“You know – I think I’d prefer to stay with the dead bodies,” he muttered, pausing in the elevator doorway. Gibbs made an impatient gesture with his head. Tony got into the elevator reluctantly.

“We’ll go to your apartment first,” Gibbs said. “So you can get what you need. Then back to my place. You’re staying with me.”

“Don’t I get a say in this?” Tony asked.

Gibbs gazed at him, his expression as unreadable as ever. “No,” he replied.

That felt oddly comforting. “Okay then,” Tony said with a nod. “Just as long as we’re clear.”

He had been wondering, in light of Gibbs’s absence all afternoon, whether his boss was tired of dealing with him. He had screwed up in interrogation and then completely lost it in the elevator, and Gibbs didn’t like his agents screwing up. His boss seemed to read his thoughts.

“I told you I’d see you through this, and I meant it, Tony,” he said firmly. “But if you want to keep out of the clutches of a shrink, then you have to let me in. Any time you feel yourself going off into a fugue then you talk to me about it, like you did in the elevator.”

“Yes, Boss,” Tony lied. He had no intention of losing it in front of Gibbs again. It was bad enough that it had happened once. He needed to keep a much tighter grip on himself. He wasn’t sure why he was struggling with this so much. He’d kept these thoughts and feelings under control for the past twenty-five years, so why the hell were they causing him so much hassle now? What was wrong with him?

He was grateful at least that he’d managed to evade most of the rest of the team all day. Abby had come to Autopsy once while he’d been there, but she didn’t seem to think it was strange that he was assisting Ducky. Then again, Abby was Abby – she slept in a coffin for God’s sake! Who knew what her definition of ‘strange’ was? He hadn’t seen either McGee or Ziva though, and he was thankful for that.

Gibbs drove them to his apartment in silence, and Tony packed some things. He wasn’t sure how long he’d be staying with his boss, and he wished the invitation had been made under different circumstances. He wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about the thought of sleeping under Gibbs’s roof. The last thing he wanted was for the man to take him in because he felt sorry for him, but it did mean that he got to spend time alone with Gibbs, and that was something he always relished.

They returned to Gibbs’s house, and Tony dumped his clothes in the spare room. Then he went downstairs and hooked up the TV and DVD player he’d insisted on bringing with him.

“No offence, Boss, but I’m not going down to that drafty basement every time I want to watch something,” Tony had told Gibbs. “Also – that TV you’ve got down there is ancient. I don’t think you even *can* hook a DVD player up to it.”

His boss had just grunted, and Tony had taken that as permission to bring them both along. How Gibbs got by with just one tiny TV and no DVD player was beyond Tony, but he knew he couldn’t. His distractions came in many forms, and this was an important one.

Being with Gibbs was another one – and a good one. Tony threw everything into making Gibbs forget about his meltdown in the elevator earlier. It felt good to be back on familiar ground, assuming his identity as Tony DiNozzo, over-active frat-boy, talking too much, clowning around, and generally getting in Gibbs’s way as his boss fixed them something to eat.

Tony launched into a long-winded lecture on the history of film from its invention to the modern era, barely pausing for breath as he covered various different styles and gave potted filmographies of all the major directors. Gibbs sat opposite him as they ate, hardly saying a word, that sharp gaze of his fixed on Tony in a way that made him uneasy.

Tony started speaking twice as fast to prevent Gibbs interrupting him. He didn’t want his boss to draw attention to the massive elephant that was currently sitting quietly in the corner of the room. Tony was done talking about what had happened to him as a kid. He’d spilled his guts out last night, and he wasn’t going there again. He’d given Gibbs the information he wanted and now it was over. Done. Time to move on.

They finished eating, and Tony leaned against the glass kitchen door, still talking as Gibbs put their plates in the dishwasher. It wasn’t a conversation as such – Gibbs just moved around the kitchen while Tony talked. He hoped he was being lively, entertaining and amusing – but even to his own ears his voice had a hint of desperation to it.

“Why don’t you show me?” Gibbs asked. It was the first thing he’d said in about half an hour. Tony blinked. He had been talking so fast that he wasn’t actually sure what he’d been saying. “One of these movies you’re talking about. Show me,” Gibbs prompted.

Tony felt a rush of relief. This was good! He was on familiar ground here. They went into the living room, and he chose a classic war movie that he thought Gibbs would like.

Gibbs sat down on the couch, and Tony sat down beside him. It was an old, saggy couch, and they both sank down towards the centre of it, thighs and upper arms touching. Tony wished he could let go, and sink into Gibbs the way he was sinking into the couch. He wanted to give it all up and let Gibbs take over. If he did that, maybe Gibbs could make it all go away.

Tony needed his distractions: movies, music, sex, joking around, working too hard, talking too much…and Gibbs. It took a lot of energy to keep moving from one to the other, but he had to because the effects of each one always waned eventually. Then the only option was to move onto the next. Sometimes he got so tired of it. He wished he had a safe haven for when it all got too much, and he couldn’t shut out the memories any more. He wished he could take Gibbs up on his offer to share them with him, but he hated the thought of his boss seeing him like that again.

Tony talked through the movie, although now he was just gabbling, and he wasn’t sure he was saying anything that made any sense. Every so often Gibbs would turn and look at him, a quizzical expression on his face, and Tony knew that Gibbs knew exactly what he was doing. That made him talk even faster; distraction…he needed a distraction, so that he didn’t have to stare into a pair of cold grey eyes, or feel a pair of cold hands on his body; cruel, demanding, and invasive.

“Are you scared of me, Boy?”

“Hmm?” Tony stopped in mid-sentence and turned to Gibbs.

“I didn’t say anything,” Gibbs told him with a wry grunt, as if he’d be lucky to get a word in edgeways.

“Oh, right. Anyway, the thing about all the movies from this era is…”

“I’ve killed men with my bare hands. It’s one of the first things they taught us in training. It’s much easier to kill a child of course – the neck is smaller. I could snap it easily with just one hand – like a matchstick.” One cold hand slid around his neck to illustrate the point. He felt his breathing hitch in panic.

“Tony? You okay? You’re stroking your hair,” Gibbs told him. Tony blinked. He realised his hand was on the back of his head and moved it, quickly, down to his side.

“I’m just tired. I think I’ll go to bed now, Boss.”

He leaned forward to get up and a hand reached out and touched his arm. He flinched and went very still. That had been stupid of him. He knew he wasn’t allowed to leave. He was locked in here. He had to stay still. If he didn’t, Luke would snap his neck the way he’d been taught in training. He had to do what Luke said because it was easy to kill a child and even easier to get rid of the body.

“It’s safe to remember it, Tony,” Gibbs said. Tony blinked. Gibbs’s fingers were warm. They were curled around Tony’s wrist, drawing him back to the present.

“A child’s neck is small,” Tony told him. Gibbs nodded, as if what he’d said made total sense. “I wasn’t big at twelve. I shot up around fourteen, but at twelve I was small.” He reached up and touched his own neck. “Hands are cold,” he muttered. “Big and cold. A child’s neck breaks easily. Like a matchstick.” He made a hard clicking sound with his thumb and fingers. Gibbs didn’t move.

Tony placed his hand loosely around Gibbs’s throat. Still Gibbs didn’t move. Blue eyes gazed at him, radiating trust. Gibbs’s neck was warm, the skin stubbly beneath his fingertips.

“I want you to do exactly what I say…” Tony’s hand tightened around Gibbs’s neck. “Did you know that you can put a child’s body in a suitcase and carry it out of a hotel? Nobody thinks anything of people carrying suitcases in and out of hotels. Then, later, you can throw it in a dumpster or set fire to it in your yard. Nobody ever finds out.”

He stroked his thumb over Gibbs’s adam’s apple, and up and down his throat.

“It’s quick. No time to scream,” he said. Gibbs’s gaze never faltered. Tony put his head on one side. “You don’t scream though, do you? You squeal, Tony. Like a piglet. I like that sound. Are you scared of me right now? You should be.”

He tightened his grasp and leaned in close.

“Go and kneel on the bed for me, you little slut,” he said coldly, straight into Gibbs’s ear.

He blinked. Gibbs was unmoving, his eyes appalled.

“Tell him no,” Gibbs growled.

Tony swallowed hard, angry with himself. He’d told himself he wouldn’t do this in front of Gibbs again, but he had. Christ, what the hell must Gibbs think of him right now?

“Tony?” Gibbs said quietly. “Did you hear me?”


“Next time – tell the bastard no.”

“But that’s not what happened!” Tony snapped.

“I know that, Tony. Look, you can’t change the reality of what he said to you and what he did to you, but you can change the power the memory has over you. Tell him to fuck off. Tell him that you’re in control now, and he can’t hurt you any more. Hell, tell him that I’m here if it’ll help. Tell him that if he touches you, I’ll kick his sorry ass. Just make it stop.”

“It didn’t stop though,” Tony said helplessly.

“I know – but you can stop the power these memories have over you if you take control of them. It’s worth a try.”

Tony nodded. “Okay then, I’ll try. Next time.”

“Good,” Gibbs said firmly.

Tony gazed at the floor, berating himself for his own weakness. Gibbs must think he was so pathetic, allowing this to get to him after all this time. He was angry with himself. He’d been twelve, not six – why hadn’t he fought back? Why had he believed Parrish? Why hadn’t he seen that he was playing him? He’d been an idiot – a stupid, weak idiot.

“He’s still in my head,” Tony explained. “When I saw him today, I thought it was my chance to get him out, but he still scares me. I don’t know why. I’m too big for him to hurt any more. I can take care of myself, and I know I could beat him in a fight. So, why is he still in my head, Boss?”

“Because he’s an evil bastard who played mind games on you when you were too young to fight back,” Gibbs told him. “But you do now. You’re safe here – next time he’s in your head, stand up to him. Tell him where to go. I’ll be here with you. He won’t be able to hurt you.”

Tony nodded. He wasn’t convinced, but if Gibbs thought it was worth a try, then he’d do it. Then, feeling that he’d made enough of an idiot of himself for one evening, he got up.

“I’m tired,” he said. “I’m going to bed.”

“You need anything, or if you start remembering any of this again – you wake me,” Gibbs ordered. Tony nodded.

No way, he thought to himself as he walked wearily up the stairs to the spare bedroom. No fucking way.



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