Damage: 8. Demons Part Two



McGee looked up as the elevator pinged. He was the only one in the squad room, and while he relished the peace and quiet, it did feel pretty eerie. Usually this place was full of life, bustle, and energy, and it felt strange to be here alone. There were other people around – the Director was in his office, and there were a couple of support technicians in MTAC, but for the most part, the building was deserted.

Gibbs strode into the squad room a few seconds later and sat down at his desk. He didn’t seem surprised to see McGee here on a Sunday morning.

“What have you got for me, McGee?” he asked.

McGee got up and took a thick file over to him. “This is the file you asked for,” he said, with just a flicker of distaste as he handed it over. “Every single photo on Parrish’s laptop, catalogued and numbered.” He wasn’t surprised that Gibbs didn’t flick it open. The contents of that file would be a challenge to the strongest stomach. Gibbs just nodded.

“What happened at the prison?”

“I spoke to Xavier Ramirez. He was reluctant to talk at first. Ziva had to…” He hesitated, looking for the right word.

“Sweet talk him?” Gibbs raised an ironic eyebrow.

“Something like that,” McGee agreed with a little grimace. “He’s a streetwise little punk – very brash, but not as hard as he likes to make out. He admitted eventually that Parrish did start abusing him when he was fourteen, but he refuses to testify against him. He’s absolutely terrified of Parrish, Boss – just like Justin and…” He hesitated and bit his lip.

Gibbs gazed at him stonily. “What else did he say?”

“I don’t think Ramirez is the brightest button in the box, Boss, and Parrish – he really is a bastard.”

“I already know that, McGee.”

“Reading between the lines, it seems that after Ramirez got too old to be of interest to Parrish, he tried to blackmail him – said he’d go to the police if Parrish didn’t give him money.”

Gibbs clicked his jaw in annoyance.

“Yeah. That was a bad move,” McGee agreed. “One night Ramirez and his brother were leaving a bar, and they ran into a gang of what they claim were Navy personnel, although they weren’t in uniform. They were both beaten up pretty bad – Ramirez’s brother lost an eye. Parrish visited Ramirez in hospital and told him that he’d been lucky. He didn’t actually admit that he’d sent the men to beat them up, but Ramirez says it was definitely him.”

McGee handed Gibbs another file. “This is my full report. There’s also an e-copy in your inbox, Boss.”

“And the other kid? Parkes?” Gibbs demanded.

“Refused point blank to speak to us,” McGee sighed. “So Tony’s is still the only statement we have unless we can get Justin to make one.”

“Is there a reason why you didn’t pull the rest of your team in today, McGee?” Gibbs asked.

“Uh, yes,” McGee nodded. “We worked all day yesterday and well into the night. Abby finished up with the photos, and me and Ziva wrote up our reports on the prison visit and got everything requisitioned and in place for tomorrow. I knew I could finish up everything else myself today, and next week will be busy, and…well, probably pretty stressful. They’ve done a good job and deserved a day off. Owing to the nature of the case, and, uh, who is involved, these past few days have been difficult and distressing for all of us.”

Gibbs sat back in his chair, gazing at him steadily, and then nodded, and McGee thought he saw the faintest hint of approval in his boss’s eyes. “You’re sounding like a real team leader, McGee. Good work,” he said softly. “So, everything is ready for tomorrow?”

McGee hesitated.

“McGee!” Gibbs snapped. “I thought you just said…”

“Oh it is, Boss. I mean, I’ve done everything I can to get all the teams and vans assembled, and all the transport arrangements made, and warrants issued, and so on, but…”

“Well?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

“Director Vance won’t sign off on it, Boss. He says he wants to see you in his office.”

“He’s in today?” Gibbs glanced up at the stairs, in the general direction of Vance’s office.

McGee nodded. Gibbs’s jaw tightened, and he got to his feet and grabbed the big file of photos that McGee had given him.

“Uh, Boss?” Gibbs paused. “Is Tony doing okay?” McGee asked quietly. “Abby is really worried about him.” And so am I, he thought, but he didn’t like to say that. Gibbs’s expression was completely unreadable.

“He’s hanging on in there, Tim,” Gibbs replied. “That’s about it. I don’t think there’s much more we can ask of him right now.”

“The way he was when he attacked Parrish…and then he hurt his hand…” McGee winced. “And he barely said a word all day on Friday while he was working those cold case files. He just doesn’t seem like Tony at the moment.”

“This is really tough for him, Tim,” Gibbs said quietly. “He’s getting there, but he’s struggling right now, and he needs our help to see him through it.”

“I understand.” McGee nodded.

“Good – because I’m relying on you, McGee.” Gibbs put a hand on his shoulder. McGee looked at the hand and then looked up, startled. “When it all kicks off next week – and trust me, it *is* going to kick off – there will be times when I’m not around. I don’t want Tony left on his own at any point, or for any reason – understood?”

McGee nodded.

“I need you to be sure that you always know where he is, and who he’s with – I want you, Ducky, Abby, or Ziva with him at all times. That thing with his hand…” A flicker of a grimace crossed Gibbs’s face. “Well, let’s just say I don’t want a repeat of that.”

“Okay, Boss.” McGee had no idea what had happened to Tony’s hand, but he could guess it hadn’t been the straightforward accident Tony had made it out to be. “Where is he now?” he asked.

“With Ziva. Telling her.”

“Thank God. That was becoming really awkward,” McGee sighed, relieved that Ziva would now be in the loop.

“He’s my priority, so you’re on your own for the rest of the day, Tim. I’ll get the Director to sign off on this, and then I’ll leave the rest of the details to you.” Gibbs began walking towards the stairs, and then paused and turned. “I know you’ll do a good job, Agent McGee.”


Leon Vance glanced at his watch, and then glanced at the photograph of his wife and children on his desk, and winced. Jackie generally tolerated him working long hours, but she did not approve of him working on a Sunday. He didn’t like it much himself, but he had a potential headache on his hands, courtesy, as usual, of Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Vance gazed at the massive file of paperwork McGee had given to him. It seemed that Gibbs wanted to requisition just about every resource NCIS had to work on his current case, and frankly, Vance was getting sick of the high-handed way Gibbs conducted himself.

Vance ran this agency, but you wouldn’t think so judging by the way everyone behaved around Gibbs. The entire agency was either in awe of the man, or terrified of him, or both, and Vance had a suspicion that if they had to choose between obeying him or obeying Gibbs they’d choose Gibbs. That pissed him off no end.

For all that he said he had no interest in the top job, Gibbs acted as if he was the de facto boss of NCIS. Sometimes, Vance felt he existed merely to rubber-stamp anything Gibbs put in front of him; it was time to take a stand. Gibbs had to learn that he couldn’t have everything his own way. It was time that he learned exactly who was in charge.

At that moment, the man in question burst through the door, without knocking.

“You wanted to see me, Leon?” he growled, all high-handed arrogance and tight-lipped intensity as usual.

“Yes, I did, Agent Gibbs,” Vance growled back.

Gibbs came to stand in front of his desk. Usually when people stood there they had the grace to look like subordinates, but somehow Gibbs managed to make it feel like Vance was answering to him.

“Do you see the name on that door, Agent Gibbs?” Vance snapped. Gibbs’s eyes didn’t even flicker towards the door. They stayed fixed on him.

“I do. It says Director Leon Vance,” Gibbs replied.

“That’s right. *Director* Leon Vance.”

Vance sat back in his chair and slid a toothpick into his mouth. He gazed at Gibbs as he chewed on the stick. Usually this was a technique that worked – he’d cowed many a subordinate by just sitting back and staring at them in silence, subjecting them to his unrelenting glare. Gibbs didn’t even shift on his feet; he just glared back.

“What, Leon?” he growled, and it annoyed Vance that Gibbs felt so free to call him by his first name. “You chose today to have a pissing contest with me? Trust me, now is not good timing.”

“When the hell ever is? Bad enough that you treat NCIS like your own personal fiefdom, Gibbs, as if the chain of command doesn’t damn well apply to you, but now you get Agent Flunky McGee to hand me this?” He pointed to the massive file on his desk. “You want to requisition half the agency’s resources, and you expect me to just sign off on that,” he growled. “Without details?”

“There are details in the file,” Gibbs replied.

“Not many,” Vance snapped back. “I know we’re holding an admiral for possession of child pornography, and now you want to go chasing after some ex-marine for the same thing.”

“Oh, it’s bigger than that, Leon,” Gibbs told him. “This isn’t just a case of possession of child porn – these men have been raping children for decades, and we have a chance to bring them down.”

Vance frowned at him. “You’re saying that you’ve stumbled upon some kind of pedophile ring?”

Gibbs nodded.

“Then why the hell isn’t that in the report?” Vance demanded.

“Because I thought you trusted me, Leon!” Gibbs snapped. “I thought you trusted me enough to know I wasn’t just asking for all these resources for the hell of it. I thought you knew me well enough to know that I have a damn good reason for it!”

“And why the hell couldn’t you have trusted *me* enough to put all the details in your report?” Vance snapped back.

Gibbs got control of his temper, visibly. “Because I haven’t had time,” he said quietly.

“I don’t care if you have to stay up all night on it – make the damn time,” Vance ordered. Gibbs’s eyes suddenly turned very cold.

“I can’t do that, Leon. I have other priorities right now,” he said icily. “I know the job has always come first with me, but not this time. This time I’m juggling priorities, and I expect you to trust me enough to understand that.”

There was something about the intensity of his voice and body language that alerted Vance. He spat out his toothpick and leaned forward.

“Explain it to me, Jethro,” he said quietly. “I’m listening.”

Gibbs threw a file on his desk. “This is what we’re investigating,” he said. “Go on, Leon, take a look, and then you can have the same sleepless nights as the rest of us.”

Vance flicked open the file and grimaced as he saw the pictures.

“There are 51 boys in that file. 51 boys who were abused between, we think, some time in the 1970s and now. Parrish could well be the tip of a very large iceberg, Leon, and I will not stop until I’ve found out just how far this goes.”

Vance winced as he turned the pages in the folder. All of them were neatly catalogued and labelled, and all of the pictures were equally explicit and disturbing.

“Some of these boys are just children,” he murmured, looking at a picture of a boy who didn’t appear to be much older than his own son.

“Yeah.” Gibbs nodded.

“And you have an admiral and an ex-marine on your list of possible perpetrators – so you’re wondering…” Vance paused.

“Yeah, I’m wondering, Leon, if this is part of a wider pedophile ring currently operating in the military. If there are other marines or serving Naval officers involved, then it’s my opinion that NCIS should throw every damn resource we have at it. Or maybe you disagree?”

Vance glared at him. “It would have killed you to fill me in on this before now?”

Gibbs’s eyes flickered in annoyance. “I wanted to bring you enough to make a case, Leon,” he said quietly. “And I’ve been busy.”

“That boy you arrested – Justin Merrells? Is he one of the boys in these photos?” Vance asked.

“Yes.” Gibbs nodded. He flicked open the file and pointed at a blond kid on the first page. “He’s Boy One.”

“He going to testify against Parrish?”

Gibbs hesitated. “At the moment he’s too scared. Parrish is a Svengali figure. All the boys he abused are terrified of him, even years later.”

“Have we made IDs on any of these other boys? Are we going to be able to get any of them to testify against Parrish?” Vance asked.

“I haven’t given up on persuading Justin to testify,” Gibbs told him. “We’ve identified a handful of the other boys. One of them has given us a statement that might help us bring this ring down.”

“Who is this Roy Quinn you’re going to arrest, and how is he linked to Parrish?” Vance asked, pulling the folder of paperwork towards him and opening it. There was silence. Vance glanced up. “Gibbs?”

“Our witness says that Quinn and Parrish worked together. They would groom a boy for sexual abuse and then pass him on to other men – or at least that’s what happened to him,” Gibbs growled. “Parrish is ruthless and smart. We’ve found nothing at all except those photos on his laptop, and they were heavily encrypted so we almost didn’t find them. He won’t give us any other names, addresses, details – nothing. We might get more out of Quinn than we got out of Parrish. If there are other men in this ring – and I have reason to believe there are – then I want to find them. All of them.”

“Okay.” Vance nodded, glancing through the file. “You’re right, Gibbs – NCIS needs to throw everything we have at this. You can have all the resources I can give you.”

“Thank you, Leon,” Gibbs said, in a tight little voice. Vance reached for his pen and began signing his name on all the requisition requests.

“I have children, Gibbs,” he said quietly. “I have a son. If I’d known all the details…” He shook his head. “Then I’d have signed these straight away. You know that.”

Gibbs nodded. “Yeah, I know that, Leon,” he sighed. “And if I’d had time to brief you before now then trust me, I would have. I wasn’t deliberately trying to keep you in the dark.”

Vance gave him a tight little smile. He signed his way through the file and then handed it back.

“The kid who has given us all this information – who is he?” he asked.

Gibbs’s knuckles went white as he clenched his hand around the file. “He isn’t a kid,” he replied. “He’s a grown man now. The abuse happened in 1984.”

“Statute of limitations,” Vance pointed out.

“I know – we can’t get Parrish for abusing him, but the information he’s given us has helped blow this thing wide open. Worst case scenario is that we just get Parrish for possession of child porn.”

“Best case scenario?” Vance raised an eyebrow.

“Hell, I don’t just want to bust Parrish for possession! I want to get him for the actual abuse!” Gibbs said angrily. “If that means persuading Justin to testify then that’s what I’ll damn well do – his case is recent enough that the statute of limitations doesn’t apply.”

“Okay. Who is this witness who has been such a big help to us? How did we find him? I don’t see any paperwork here about him. Where’s his statement?” Vance demanded. Gibbs’s eyes flickered irritably. “We need to make this watertight, Gibbs!” Vance snapped. “The media will be all over a case like this. We need to make sure the agency comes out of this smelling of roses, or heads will roll.”

“Oh, I’ll make sure that the agency comes out of this just fine,” Gibbs growled. “If that’s what you’re worried about, *Director*.”

All this time Vance had been wanting Gibbs to call him by his title and now, suddenly, he wished he hadn’t.

“Gibbs – I just meant…”

“I know what you meant,” Gibbs snapped, walking towards the door.

“Gibbs – you didn’t answer me. Who is the witness?” Vance asked, icily, trying to regain at least some of the upper ground in this confrontation. He didn’t like the way Gibbs was making him feel, as if he was some petty bureaucrat who didn’t give a damn about people. That wasn’t who he was, and he wanted Gibbs to know that. Gibbs paused by the door, his hand on the handle, his back rigid and tense. He stood there for a moment, looking like he was struggling to make a decision, and then he turned, his jaw twitching in annoyance.

“It’s DiNozzo,” he said.

Vance stared at him, not understanding. “DiNozzo what?” he asked.

Anthony DiNozzo was probably his least favourite agent, after Gibbs himself. DiNozzo shared some of Gibbs’s more irritating character traits. He was the kind of agent who thought nothing of picking locks and entering premises without a search warrant, he had some highly unorthodox methods of conducting investigations and interrogations, and he didn’t seem to feel the need to include all the facts in his reports. Like Gibbs, he had little understanding of modern technology and was forever disappearing off to pursue his own lines of enquiry. He was also, like Gibbs, someone Vance found hard to read, although in a completely different way. Whereas Gibbs never gave a thing away, intimidating with his body language and sheer force of will, DiNozzo gave every appearance of being a total idiot – except for the fact that he clearly wasn’t. It was hard to take him seriously, and yet you under-estimated him at your peril.

“Gibbs?” Vance pressed. “What has DiNozzo got to do with this?”

“He’s our witness,” Gibbs replied. Vance frowned.

“I don’t understand…”

“Take a look in the damn file, Leon! Boy 43,” Gibbs growled. “Tony is our witness, he’s prepared to testify if need be, and yes, before you ask, of course I’ve pulled him off the case. Now, I have somewhere I need to be, and it sure as hell isn’t here. You have a nice day, Leon.”

He stalked out of the office, slamming the door shut behind him. Vance sat back in his chair, staggered by the turn of events. He glanced at the file Gibbs had brought in and then flicked through the neatly labelled photographs until he came to Boy 43. He felt sure that he’d misunderstood this – or Gibbs had.

The page fell open on a kid – one of the younger ones in the file. His hair was dark blond, and he was gazing straight at the camera with a look of fear and pleading in his eyes. Vance gazed at the photograph, taking in the position of the child and his probable size in relation to the large adult hands that were visible on his hips. The child looked desperate, terrified, and…familiar. It took a moment for Vance to see it, but when he did it was as clear as day: He was looking into DiNozzo’s scared eyes, gazing at DiNozzo’s anguished face, and staring at a photo so obscene it made him feel ill.

Vance snapped the file shut with a crash of his hand. He felt dirty just having looked at it.

He got up and tucked the file under his arm. Then he strode out of his office and went down into the squad room. Gibbs was long gone, but McGee looked up when he saw him.

“Agent McGee – I believe that Agent Gibbs has left you in charge of this case in his absence?”

“Uh…yes, sir,” McGee nodded.

“Good. You keep me in the loop on this one, McGee, and if there’s anything – *anything* – you need, you come straight to me, and I will expedite it immediately. We’re all working this one together – we will find these men, we will crack this ring, and we will bring all those involved to justice.”

“Yes, sir.” McGee straightened up in his seat.

“DiNozzo is one of our own,” Vance said quietly. “Let’s nail these bastards.” He threw the file down onto McGee’s desk and then turned and left.

He didn’t even collect his coat and briefcase. He just went straight down to the parking garage, called for his driver, and got into his car. He had seen many things over his years working at NCIS, but few that had affected him so much. He couldn’t get that photograph of that child – of DiNozzo – out of his head. He had an overwhelming urge to get home so that he could put his arms around his son, hold him tight, and keep him safe.


Tony was relieved when Gibbs picked him up from Starbucks. He was glad he’d finally managed to tell Ziva, but he didn’t really like being away from Gibbs right now. Partly, that was because he was scared of going into a fugue – only Gibbs really knew how to handle him when that happened. Partly, also, being with Gibbs helped relax him, and Tony knew that if he needed to fall apart for any reason, then he could; he didn’t have to be vigilant around Gibbs. Then, also, there was simply the fact that Gibbs was Gibbs, and Tony loved him.

They spent another quiet day together. Tony was grateful for the respite, even though he knew it was just the calm before the storm. After dinner, Tony grabbed a bowl of popcorn and a couple of bottles of beer and sat down on the couch expectantly, a stack of DVDs piled up on the coffee table in front of him. Gibbs raised an eyebrow as he entered the living room with a cup of coffee.

“I thought we could, you know, do a repeat of last night,” Tony said, flushing slightly. No way was he going to admit how much he’d enjoyed all that kissing.

“Uh-huh.” Gibbs said, an unreadable expression in his eyes.

“Because last night was great. I mean, uh, watching a movie together. I know you’re not really into movies the way I am, but you’re gonna love this one.” Tony pointed the remote at the TV and clicked to start the movie playing.

“Uh-huh,” Gibbs said again, sitting down beside him. He grabbed a handful of popcorn and settled back in the couch as if he was actually going to watch the damn movie and not spend the night kissing him. Tony gave a little sigh of disappointment, and Gibbs’s hand snaked along the couch and stroked the back of his head. “Something on your mind?” Gibbs asked.

Tony glanced at him sideways. “Just…uh, about the kissing thing…”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow, giving nothing away. “What about it?”

Tony sighed. “I’ve never spent an entire evening just doing that before.”

“I know.”

“Without it, you know, leading to sex,” Tony clarified.

“I know.” Gibbs’s fingers continued stroking the back of his head.

“But we’re not having sex.”

“Nope,” Gibbs agreed.

Which was weird of and by itself, because Tony *wanted* to have sex with Gibbs. However, he felt reassured by knowing that it would only happen when his body was ready for it and that Gibbs didn’t seem to have a problem waiting. In fact, knowing that Gibbs enjoyed his company, and could be intimate with him without sex, was a revelation to him.

Tony grabbed a handful of popcorn, stuffed it into his mouth, and watched the movie intently. Gibbs didn’t say a word. There was silence for several minutes. Finally, Tony gave in.

“Damn it, Jethro – could we do the kissing thing again?” he asked. Gibbs grinned.

“Any time you want, Tony. I was just waiting for you to ask.”

He opened his legs, and Tony settled eagerly between them. He was becoming accustomed to how it felt allowing someone to hold him. He’d never really liked snuggling before, but this felt completely different. He liked the feel of Gibbs’s hard body against him, and the reassuring strength of his arms around him. He liked the way Gibbs would lazily stroke under his shirt with the tips of his fingers, and, most of all, he liked being kissed.

They were long, slow, effortless kisses, going nowhere, and that was partly why Tony liked them so much. There was something almost mesmerising about spending an evening doing this. Tony would never have imagined how incredibly relaxing it could be. Gibbs tasted of coffee and popcorn, and his lips were warm and soft. Every so often they paused to glance at the TV, or snack on the popcorn, but then they’d settle down again for more kissing. It was so gently intimate, and it soothed Tony like nothing else.

By the time they retired to bed a few hours later, Tony felt like he was walking on air. He got into bed beside Gibbs and felt Gibbs settle down behind him and place his hand on his stomach, the way he always did.

Tony closed his eyes, fell fast asleep, and slept through the entire night for the first time since this began.


McGee met Gibbs and Tony at the airport early the following morning to catch the shuttle to New York. Ziva had gone ahead on an earlier shuttle to rendezvous with the agents and vans already waiting for them there. Gibbs wanted this whole operation to go off with military precision, and McGee hoped that he’d done his bit to ensure that happened. He’d been at NCIS until late last night going through all the details with a fine toothcomb.

“Did you get the confirmation we were waiting for, McGee?” Gibbs asked, as they queued up to buy their tickets. McGee nodded.

“Quinn’s flight took off at 19:30 last night,” he said. “And according to the passenger manifest and passport control he was definitely on it. It’s a seventeen hour flight so he’ll be arriving at JFK at 12:30. I’ve made all the arrangements for you and Agent O’Brien to arrest him and fly back to DC with him when he arrives.”

McGee cast a surreptitious glance at Tony. He looked much better than he had on Friday. He wasn’t as pale or drained, and he was completely ignoring their conversation as he laughed and joked with a pretty young woman standing behind them in queue. In fact, apart from the bandage on his hand, he looked just like the old Tony.

McGee wondered what the hell Gibbs had done to keep Tony occupied all weekend and how he’d managed to get him looking human again. The idea of staying a whole weekend at Gibbs’s house, holed up with their taciturn boss, was McGee’s worst nightmare. Tony had always had a weird kind of obsession with Gibbs though, and McGee knew he’d stayed with their boss a couple of times before when there had been various problems at his apartment, so maybe it wasn’t such an ordeal for Tony.

McGee wondered what on earth they did and what they talked about. Gibbs was hardly a chatty person. If this had happened to him, McGee didn’t think Gibbs was the person he’d want to scoop him up and look after him. In fact, he shuddered at the thought of it. If he was falling apart, then he thought he’d rather do it in the presence of someone kind and avuncular like Ducky, not Gibbs. He was sure that Gibbs *did* have a softer side – he just didn’t think he’d ever seen it.

Tony flirted outrageously with the girl at the check-in desk, churning out a series of stupid jokes that made McGee roll his eyes. Gibbs barely seemed to take any notice, but when Tony’s antics became over the top, even for him, McGee saw Gibbs put a hand on Tony’s shoulder and squeeze, firmly, and Tony calmed down after that.

They boarded the shuttle, and Tony proceeded to tell a long, implausible story about how he’d once sat next to a hot woman on a shuttle flight and managed to sweet talk her into an assignation in the plane toilet within the 45 minute duration of the flight. McGee found this frankly unbelievable, even for Tony.

“Are you sure it was a hot woman, Tony?” he asked. “Just…it sounds more like something a couple of gay guys would do to me.”

Tony flushed, and McGee felt a wave of intense embarrassment. Oh shit – he’d said the wrong thing. Given the nature of this case, the last thing he should do was make any kind of crack about Tony’s sexuality. It was the kind of thing he’d usually say in an attempt to hold his own with his teasing co-worker, but on this occasion he could see that it was wildly inappropriate.

McGee took his seat behind Tony and Gibbs, still wincing over his comment. He didn’t know how to behave around Tony any more. Tony had told him that he was one of his closest friends, but they hadn’t really talked since that night Tony had given his statement. McGee didn’t know what to say, and he longed for the easy intimacy they’d once shared. He had enjoyed the way they goofed around and played stupid jokes on each other, even if Tony’s jokes usually went too far.

Gibbs said nothing as Tony launched into another monologue, talking too fast, pausing every now and then to smooth down the hair on the back of his head. None of them had said a word about why they were here and where they were going. McGee couldn’t begin to understand how Tony must be feeling right now as they travelled to the hotel room where he’d been repeatedly abused as a child.

Tony’s speech got even faster as the flight progressed, like he was on some kind of drug. He was now rubbing his head repeatedly, and whatever it was he was saying had long since stopped making much sense. Then, suddenly, Gibbs reached up, took firm hold of Tony’s wrist, and replaced his hand by his side. Tony stopped talking in mid-sentence. Gibbs rested his own hand over Tony’s where it was lying on the armrest between them, and McGee was surprised to see Gibbs’s thumb gently stroke over the back of Tony’s hand.

Tony deflated like a balloon. One minute he’d been all high-octane energy, spewing verbal diarrhoea, moving restlessly and stroking his head obsessively, and the next he seemed to slump, visibly, into his chair. McGee was startled when Gibbs moved his arm, wrapped it around Tony’s shoulders, and pulled him towards him. Tony rested his head on Gibbs’s shoulder, and Gibbs whispered something in his ear. Then both men fell silent. McGee had no idea what that was all about, but at least Gibbs seemed to know a way of calming Tony down, however unexpected the method.

Tony remained silent for the rest of the flight, and when they landed and got to their feet, McGee saw how pale and strained he looked compared to how he’d been earlier. Now McGee knew just how much this trip was costing Tony, and, judging by the tight set of Gibbs’s jaw and his taut shoulders, he knew it too.

An NCIS agent met them at the airport and drove them to the hotel. Gibbs had been adamant that the only people going into that hotel room would be himself, Tony and McGee, presumably to keep Tony’s ordeal as contained as possible.

McGee wished that he was anywhere but here, doing this. He had spoken to the hotel manager, who was expecting them and had ensured that Room 204 would be free and available to them, but there was nothing else he could do to make sure that this ran smoothly. He’d done all he could.

The NCIS agent parked the car and there was a moment of silence. Then Gibbs turned to Tony.

“Okay, Tony. We’re here. I’ve said this before, but are you sure about this? You don’t have to go in there. You can stay here with Agent O’Brien – me and McGee can go and get the evidence we need.”

“No.” Tony shook his head, and McGee thought he looked as scared as he had a few nights ago when he’d stood in the squad room psyching himself up to give his statement to Gibbs. “I have to do this.”


Tony remembered the hotel’s driveway and parking lot as vividly as if Roy had brought him here yesterday. The sign above the hotel door had changed, but in many respects the hotel itself looked exactly the same.

He found himself experiencing that sinking sensation he always used to feel when Roy drove him here. He’d sit in the front seat of Roy’s car on the journey, his stomach full of dread, his fingers twisting away morosely on the Rubik’s Cube Roy always kept in the glove compartment.

“Never did like that stupid thing,” Tony muttered as they got out of the car.

“What stupid thing?” McGee asked.

“Rubik’s Cube,” Tony replied. McGee and Gibbs exchanged a puzzled glance over his shoulder.

“I was pretty good at it actually,” McGee said. “My best time was six minutes seventeen seconds. What was your best time, Tony?”

“Oh please.” Tony pulled a face. “Like I ever solved the stupid thing. I wasn’t a little McGeek like you, Probie. I was…”

He stopped abruptly. What the hell had he been like? Usually, he told stories that made it sound like he was noisy, mischievous, and adventurous, the way he was now, but that was who he had become after he went to boarding school. Before that, he hadn’t been any of those things. He’d been quiet, serious and shy.

“I was the kind of kid who got taken to a hotel room and fucked,” he finished bitterly, ignoring the shocked look on McGee’s face.

He was grateful for the warm, firm hand Gibbs put on his shoulder, and the way he steered him towards the hotel entrance.

“Any time you need a breather, you tell me,” Gibbs said in a low voice into his ear. Tony nodded. “And you talk to me, Tony. You tell me what’s going on. This gets too much, we’ll bail out.”

The foyer was different to how he remembered it. They’d moved the reception and created a lounge area with easy chairs. He stood beside Gibbs as his boss talked to the manager and felt himself shrinking. He stood shoulder high to Roy, who was leaning on the reception desk waiting for his room key, a cigar in his mouth.

“Another fishing trip, Mr. Quayle?” the receptionist asked.

“That’s right. My boy loves it! Gives me a chance to spend some time with him and gets us out of his mom’s hair,” Roy laughed, patting Tony’s shoulder. “Isn’t that right, son?” Tony nodded and gazed blindly at his feet.

“This way,” the manager said, but Tony knew the way. He could walk this journey in his sleep, every single hated step of it. He remembered the way his stomach always coiled up anxiously as they walked, and how he would become quieter and slower the further they went, every step feeling like a mile. Roy, by contrast, became more upbeat and vivacious the closer they got to Room 204.

Tony felt his stomach churn again all these years later. He found himself counting each step, the way he always used to as a child, for something to do so he wouldn’t have to think about what would happen next. If he was lucky it would just be him and Roy, but if not, then it might be Luke or Marco.

The manager stopped outside a door.

“This can’t be right,” Tony said. Gibbs looked at him questioningly. “That was only 317 steps. It should be 345,” Tony said.

“You’re taller now, Tony. You have longer strides,” Gibbs pointed out quietly. Tony felt like an idiot. Yeah, of course, that was so obvious. He saw McGee and Gibbs exchange a little glance and wanted to kick himself.

The manager opened the door, and Gibbs walked inside. Tony hesitated and then saw McGee looking at him with those big, tragic eyes, full of a sympathy Tony didn’t want. He walked swiftly into the room, more to get away from the look McGee was giving him than anything else.

He wasn’t prepared for the feeling of déjà vu that hit him the minute he stepped inside. The room’s furnishings had changed, but everything else was the same. Even the bed was in the same place. The brown swirly carpet had been replaced with something more contemporary in a dull green colour, and the walls were a neutral, inoffensive cream. The bathroom door was straight ahead, and there was a window to his left, opposite the double bed.

“You okay?” Gibbs asked him quietly. Tony nodded.

“Sure. It’s just a room,” he said, with a nonchalant shrug.

Gibbs gave him a look that showed he didn’t buy that bullshit for even a second. “We’re going to get to work. You talk to me if anything happens. Understand?”

Gibbs’s eyes were intense and full of meaning. Tony nodded and turned to look around the room again.

McGee opened up his bag and got out his camera. Gibbs had a file with him. Tony didn’t know what was in that file, but he had a pretty good idea.

“I want the angles to match as exactly as possible, McGee,” Gibbs said in an undertone, pointing at something in the file, something he kept turned away from Tony so that he wouldn’t see it.

“Tonio – come here, my beautiful boy.”

Tony sat down on the armchair in the corner of the room and closed his eyes wearily. He watched as Roy locked the door behind them and sat down on the side of the bed. A kid walked reluctantly over to him. He had dark blond hair, cut into thick bangs across his forehead, and a sulky mouth.

“Don’t be like that, Tonio,” Roy chided him. He smoothed Tony’s long bangs away from his eyes. “Such beautiful eyes! My lovely boy!” He tipped Tony’s chin up and kissed his mouth. He stank of cigars. Tony hated the stench, but he just stood there, allowing Roy to slide his tongue between his lips.

“I’ve had an idea,” Roy told him, as he began slowly unbuttoning Tony’s shirt.

“What kind of idea?” Tony asked sulkily.

“An idea for something that will make things easier for you,” Roy said, his eyes twinkling. “Here – drink this.”

He handed Tony a bottle of chocolate milkshake, Tony’s favourite. Tony was surprised – Roy didn’t normally give him a drink when they got in here. Usually he was too eager to undress him. Tony wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth though, so he opened the bottle and drank it down while Roy smiled at him encouragingly. Tony tried to make it last, but eventually it was all gone, and then Roy took the bottle away from him and pulled him close. Tony felt his former sulkiness return, and he went stiffly and reluctantly into Roy’s embrace.

“Come on, Tonio, don’t you want to be nice to your Uncle Roy? If you’re nice to me, then I’ll buy you something special later.”

“What kind of something?” Tony asked, brightening a little.

“Anything you want!” Roy laughed. “But you have to be nice to me first,” he warned.

Tony nodded. He knew what being “nice” meant. He unlaced his boots and toed them off, then took off his socks. Roy liked him to be completely naked. He liked tickling the soles of his feet and kissing every inch of his body.

Roy watched him get undressed, his eyes gleaming approvingly. When he was done, Roy guided him onto the bed and told him to wait there for him. Tony closed his eyes, listening to the sounds of Roy getting undressed. Roy had skinny legs and a little pot belly. Tony didn’t like looking at him when he was naked. Then he felt Roy climb onto the bed beside him. Roy spent a long time stroking something wet and slippery inside him – he didn’t always take so long doing this, but this time he stretched Tony for ages. Then he did what he always did, crooning into Tony’s neck and kissing his hair the whole time.

Tony didn’t like how it felt. He never did. There was a game he played that sometimes helped. If he tried really hard he could believe that he wasn’t really here, inside his own body. He was like a guest in his own mind, watching from a distance, as if none of this was really happening to him. He couldn’t always do it – sometimes he couldn’t get his mind to take him to that place, but when he could it made it easier.

The room was warm, and Tony began to feel very drowsy. All his muscles were relaxed, and he felt spaced out.

He heard Roy’s breathing coming faster, panting warm breath into his hair, and then he felt that little shuddering movement Roy always made.

“That’s it. Good boy,” Roy said, kissing the back of his neck again. Roy got up, abruptly, and began dressing. Tony lay there, feeling floppy. He was puzzled. Usually, Roy didn’t get dressed so soon afterwards. Usually he cuddled him and kissed him, sometimes for ages.

Tony managed to turn himself, with a great effort of will. Roy bent over him.

“That’s it. You just lie there and relax,” he said. There was a knock on the door, but it sounded so far away. Even despite the fog in his head, Tony felt his insides clench in fear.

“Who is it, Uncle Roy?” he asked. Roy smoothed the hair away from his head.

“It’s Marco, my love,” he said softly. Tony tried to get up, his head spinning.

“No, please, no…” he begged. Last time, Marco had hurt him, and he’d bled. He was terrified of the pain and the blood, and he didn’t want it to happen again. He tried to crawl his way off the bed, but Roy caught him and put him back.

“Now, now, Tonio, you mustn’t be naughty,” he chided anxiously.

“He’ll make me bleed…I’ll die…please…it hurt so much…” Tony whimpered.

“You won’t bleed this time,” Roy told him. “I’ve given you a little drink to help relax you. This time it’ll be fine. You’ll like it, Tonio. Be good for Marco, please. For me?”

There was another knock at the door, more imperative this time.

“No!” Tony wailed. “Please! NO!”

“Yes.” Roy’s expression hardened. “Enough of this nonsense, Tony. I don’t buy you all those things for nothing. This is how you earn them. This is how you show your love for me. You do love me, don’t you?”

Tony gazed at him, confused. Roy’s eyes darkened.

“You’re an ungrateful boy. Is this what I get in return for taking such good care of you? Who else would love you if I didn’t, Tonio? Hmm?”

“I’m sorry!” Tony said anxiously. “I do love you, Roy.”

He was relieved when Roy’s eyes shone with approval once more.

“Good boy.”

Roy went to open the door. Marco walked in, and the door was shut and locked behind him.

“I see you got him ready for me,” Marco said with a grin, glancing over to the bed. He wasn’t a tall man, but he was muscular and wiry. He had a tattoo on his forearm of a dagger dripping drops of blood.

“He’ll be good this time, I promise. Don’t be so rough. I can’t risk taking him to a doctor,” Roy hissed.

“Little brat tensed up last time.”

“Well, I’ve stretched him myself, so he’ll be fine today,” Roy snapped. “Just don’t leave any marks and don’t tear him. It’s my ass on the line here.”

“This time,” Marco growled. “Fair’s fair, Quinn. Other times you’ve had a share of what I got for us, remember.”

“Yes, I know. And that’s why I’m letting you have Tony again. I’m just saying – be careful.”

Tony gazed at them stupidly, trying to follow what they were saying. His head felt cloudy, and his body didn’t seem to belong to him. It was floppy and heavy.

Roy walked towards the door, and he whimpered. “Don’t go, Uncle Roy,” he begged.

“I must, darling. You’ll be fine,” Roy told him, and then he was gone. Marco locked the door behind him and then turned back to the bed with a vicious smile. Tony tried to get to his feet. If he could just push himself up he could get off the bed, run into the bathroom, and lock the door. But he couldn’t. He felt like he was moving in slow motion, every action taking forever.

He watched Marco get undressed and lay there, hating himself for not being able to get away. Marco saw him watching and grinned. He came over to the bed, got onto it, and grabbed Tony roughly.

“Roy sent me those photographs he took last time,” Marco said in a cheerful voice, pushing him onto his front. “I liked them. You’re a good little fuck, Tony.”

Tony tried to move away, but it was too much effort. He turned his head and gazed, blankly, at the wall. He felt Marco behind him. It didn’t hurt this time. He couldn’t really feel anything. He was too zoned out.

The wall was moving. No – he was moving, not the wall. He was moving back and forth, back and forth, a few inches along the bed each time, the side of his face sliding along the white sheet. He couldn’t move, couldn’t scream, couldn’t do anything but lie here. Marco was heavy, like a lead weight on top of him. He tried to angle his head so he could catch his breath, but he couldn’t seem to get enough air into his lungs. Marco put a hand on his shoulder and…

“Tony, are you okay?”

Tony jumped up, grabbed the hand on his shoulder, and pushed his assailant violently against the wall. He slid his hand around the man’s throat and squeezed as hard as he could.

“Don’t fucking touch me!” he growled hoarsely. A pair of horrified eyes gazed at him, and he heard a choking sound.

“Tony.” Another voice, in his ear, low and deep, one he knew he had to obey without question. “Let him go.”

He released his grip instantly. The man he had attacked put his hand up to his throat, panting for breath.

“Get out of here, McGee,” that deep voice behind him said. McGee hesitated.

“But, Boss, what if he tries to hurt you…”

“He won’t hurt me, McGee. Now go!”

McGee reluctantly left the room.

Tony stood there, still panting, unmoving, waiting for instructions. Shit, he’d fucked up. If he just stayed very still, and did as he was told, maybe it would be okay.

“Tony, I want you to listen to me please…”

“Tony, get down on your hands and knees…”

He was shaking as he obeyed, terrified of what Luke would do to him. Luke didn’t like it if he was slow, or disobedient, and he knew that he’d just done something bad. He felt confused. A minute ago Marco had been here, but now Luke had taken his place. He didn’t remember that happening, but he wasn’t thinking clearly at the moment. There had been something in that milkshake Roy had given him.

He curled up into a little ball on the floor, head on his knees, and waited. Luke usually just came up behind him and fucked him. He wasn’t like Roy – he didn’t like stroking him or petting him.

He shivered as he waited. Luke liked to pinch him, to take hold of his skin and twist it until Tony squealed. The man crouched down beside him, and Tony felt his entire body start to shake. An arm came towards him, and he flinched.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…I’ll do whatever you want,” he whispered, shaking violently. A hand touched his head, and Tony whimpered. The hand rested there, stroking his hair gently. It felt warm and reassuring. Tony uncurled a little.

“Tony…where are you?” the man asked.

Tony blinked. Where was he? He was here, among the ghosts. Those ghosts were all around him. He could see them moving across the room, settling on the bed, picking him up, stroking him, bending him over, fucking him, and making him open his mouth or his legs. They were walking naked into the bathroom, or pulling him onto their laps and fondling him. They were sitting on the bed, and on the armchair, sometimes naked, sometimes clothed. They were everywhere in this room.

Over there was the bed, and beyond that was the bathroom, and over there was the window, and the radiator, and above the bed was the ceiling fan. He knew every inch of this room by heart.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “Please…I’m sorry. Don’t hurt me…please don’t hurt me…”

There was movement, and Tony tensed, waiting for the cruelly pinching fingers or the cold hands on his ass. Instead, strong hands lifted him up, and someone pulled him close and held him. He felt a warm chest under his cheek and heard the reassuring sound of a heartbeat.

“It’s okay. You’re safe with me. I’ve got you,” that firm, deep voice said.

Tony felt the anger radiating from the man’s body like a vivid white flame, scorching hot, and he flinched. “I’m sorry,” he whimpered again.

“Ssh, it’s okay. I’m not angry with you,” the man said, and Tony clung onto him helplessly, relieved beyond belief.

The man moved, so that he was sitting with his back to the wall. He pulled Tony with him and then wrapped his arms tightly around him again, holding him close. Tony felt safe in the man’s arms. He could still see the ghosts moving around the room, but he knew they couldn’t touch him. This man wouldn’t let them touch him.

He felt his body start to relax, and he lay with his cheek resting on the man’s chest, and his body curled up against him. The man’s strong arms were warm and comforting around his body, and the man was kissing his hair and saying, “I’m sorry”, over and over again. That was all wrong, because Tony knew this man never usually said those words.

Tony watched from the safety of the man’s arms as a child moved silently among the ghosts. He had floppy dark blond hair and solemn green eyes. He never smiled. He just did as he was told; dressing, undressing, sitting, standing, bending, kneeling…and all the time he looked so sad.

Tony felt angry with the kid. Why was he so passive? Why the hell did he stay and allow these things to be done to him? He could just stand up and leave. Then the anger faded. He couldn’t believe how young the child looked, or how small he was. He was just a kid. He didn’t know how to stand up to three grown men. His father had always taught him to respect his elders. He didn’t know he could say no. He was lost, confused, and helpless – and he wanted so much to be loved.

Tony couldn’t hate him any more. He just felt sorry for him. He wished he could stride in there, among the ghosts, pick that child up, and take him away. The child slid off the bed and looked straight at him, as if he’d seen him. Tony looked back at him. He flinched from what he saw in those solemn green eyes.

“I did try and protect you,” he muttered guiltily. The child nodded. “I’m sorry I hated you so much,” Tony said softly. “I know you did your best. I know it wasn’t your fault.”

The child nodded again. He began walking slowly across the room. He stopped a few feet away and looked at Tony uncertainly. Tony sat up and held out his arms. The child ran into them, and Tony hugged him tight. He felt strong, adult arms around him, hugging him in return, warm and comforting.

Tony buried his face in the child’s neck and held him close. He couldn’t hate this kid. He had been through so much. He couldn’t deny he existed, either. He did. He always had, no matter how hard Tony had tried to forget him. He was real, and he’d suffered, and he deserved to be acknowledged. He couldn’t be stuffed into a box and forgotten about. Why would anyone do that to him? Hadn’t he been through enough?

Tony stroked the child’s hair and felt his own hair being stroked. He hugged the child tight and felt him become insubstantial, dissolving in his arms, merging with him.

“I love you, Tonio,” Tony whispered. He felt a warm, pulsing glow in reply, and then the child disappeared completely into him. The endlessly moving ghosts in the room blinked out, one by one, and suddenly the room was silent and empty.

Tony found that he was sitting on the floor near the wall, across from the bed. The armchair was overturned on the floor beside him. Gibbs was sitting on the floor with him, his back against the wall and his arms wrapped around Tony.

Tony glanced up with a grimace. “I think I hurt McGee, Boss,” he said.

“He’ll be fine. Are you okay, Tony?” Gibbs asked, gazing at him searchingly. “Are you back with us?”

Tony nodded. He leaned back against Gibbs’s chest and listened for the reassuring sound of his heartbeat again. Gibbs’s chest was hard and warm against his cheek. He liked how it felt.

“I screwed up. I shouldn’t have let you come here…” Gibbs began.

“No. It was the right thing,” Tony interrupted him.

He was exhausted, but somehow he felt at peace. He had let something go, or accepted it, or come to terms with it. He wasn’t sure he understood it – he just knew it had happened. His body ached, his hand throbbed, and he felt drained beyond belief, but he didn’t hurt inside the same way any more.

“I had to stop avoiding him, Gibbs. I had to stop hating him. I didn’t realise how small he was – and how young. I’ve been judging him pretty harshly.”

“Yeah, you have.” Gibbs kissed Tony’s hair.

“I thought I could forget him, but he didn’t want to be forgotten.”

“No. The poor kid just wanted someone to listen to him. Nobody ever did. Not his dad. Not even you.”

“You did,” Tony said quietly. He glanced up at Gibbs. “You were right. Roy didn’t love me. He was just using me. The second time he gave me to Marco he was afraid I’d bleed again and need to see a doctor, so he gave me some kind of drug to relax me. It didn’t hurt, but I felt so damn helpless. I couldn’t breathe properly, or move, or get away. I just lay there and took it, but I was screaming inside.”

Gibbs didn’t say anything, but Tony felt that searing anger course through his body again. Tony sat up and turned to face him.

“Go and arrest Quinn, Boss,” he said quietly. “Go and get that bastard. I can handle everything that happens. I didn’t know the difference before. I do now.”

“What difference?” Gibbs smoothed Tony’s hair where it had become all mussed up.

“I’ve never been loved before, Gibbs. Didn’t know how the real thing felt until just now.”

Tony leaned forward and kissed Gibbs on the mouth. He had spent the previous two evenings being kissed, and held, and loved by this man. Nothing had been asked of him and that love hadn’t come at a price.

Gibbs had been with him through every single one of his meltdowns; holding him, taking care of him, and seeing him through them. He had never once let him down or walked away from him. He had been with him every step of the way, as he had promised he would.

“Couldn’t learn to love Tonio until you loved me,” Tony said. “Didn’t know how. Nobody ever showed me.”


End of Demons


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