Hiding In Plain Sight: 2. Chapter 2



Tim McGee was relieved to remove his work clothes and take a long, hot shower. Then he pulled on a pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt and padded out to sit on the balcony overlooking the ocean. He was lucky – only he, Abby and Ziva had balconies leading directly off their bedrooms. He glanced over at Ziva’s room but it was in darkness, so he guessed she’d turned in already.

It had been an exhausting day – he didn’t think he’d sat down once the entire time. Gibbs had had them running all over the place; the questioning alone had taken several hours and they still weren’t done. There were so many people to talk to, and in addition he had been trying to get his head around some of the fantastic technology these people had.

With life-sign detectors and city-wide sensors and god knew what else, Tim couldn’t help but think it should have been easy to catch this killer – but it wasn’t. He’d followed Rodney Sheppard for a few hours, watching Rodney’s hands slide effortlessly over various control panels, and had listened to the scientist explain to him how they all worked, something he did at the speed of light so it was all Tim could do to follow the explanations, but still there were no answers.

The only alternative was good old-fashioned detective work, and once Tony had set up a couple of interrogation rooms the team had taken it in turns to question people, sifting through alibis and at least trying to rule people out. It was unusual to be dealing with such a closed community as this – on Earth there was the possibility of someone outside the Navy being involved in a crime, but here – the population of the base was sizeable but finite, and there weren’t many places for a killer to hide. It was hard to escape the conclusion that the murderer was among them, hiding somewhere in plain sight, and he could see that idea didn’t sit well with General Sheppard.

Tim gazed out at the rippling ocean below – and then turned his head up to see the two moons shining down overhead. He felt a tingle of excitement run up his spine. No matter how dangerous this situation, he still found it hard to wrap his head around the fact that he was sitting on a completely different planet, in a galaxy as far away from the Milky Way as could be. He gazed up at the stars, and wondered in what direction home lay. This was all so incredibly mind-blowing – and even more so knowing that the government was keeping it all secret. He knew NCIS had only got clearance because Woolsey had insisted that they be brought in; otherwise he still wouldn’t know about all this. He thought maybe Gibbs had known – and possibly even Ducky because the doctor certainly seemed to know a good deal about Atlantis, and not all of it had been included in the briefing pack they’d been given.

Yet somehow, despite the fact this was all so completely crazy he had adjusted relatively quickly. The eighteen day journey getting here on the Daedalus had helped – Colonel Beckett had given them a crash course on all they’d need to know and Tim had read through several of the mission reports Gibbs had given them so they would know what to expect.

Reading those reports had been like reading a sci-fi novel.

“Just my damn luck,” Tim murmured to himself. All those ideas for plots and he’d signed a secrecy agreement so he couldn’t use any of them.

He reached for the notepad in his bag, put his feet up on the balcony rail, and started to jot down some notes. He always did this, every evening, and even on an alien planet it was a discipline he wanted to continue. It wasn’t much – just some ideas, some thoughts, anything that might help later in constructing a plot for one of his novels. He liked to write these notes long-hand to give his brain time to come up with ideas.

He could guess what Tony would say if he knew this was what he did every night but Tim preferred to stay home writing than go out and try and attract the attention of a top. He’d never been very successful at that but he was good at writing, as his two published novels proved. They didn’t bring in a fortune but he had a solid readership and it was a nice supplementary extra to his income.

Tim paused, and chewed on the end of his pen. Sometimes he wished he had Tony’s easy way of attracting tops but Tim’s experience of tops during his adolescence had been so humiliating that he’d never acquired any confidence in his ability with the opposite half of the dynamic, and now he didn’t even try. If he was honest he was scared of dominants, and did his best to keep as far away from them as possible.

That was what made it so ironic, he supposed, that he’d ended up wearing Gibbs’s collar, because Leroy Jethro Gibbs was about the scariest dominant out there.

“Maybe that’s the point,” Tim murmured to himself. “What better way to keep the other scary tops at bay than taking the collar of the one top nobody would ever challenge?”

He scribbled that down, as possible fodder for his next novel. He was happy enough being one of Gibbs’s subs. He liked working in a team, and being part of something. Gibbs was firm but fair – Tim could still recall, with painful accuracy, the only spanking he’d received from his top for deliberately trying to hide evidence that looked incriminating for his sister. Tim didn’t count the occasional swats Gibbs delivered in passing; once he’d experienced a real spanking from his top those swats seemed like barely more than love taps.

He’d nearly passed out from sheer fear on that one occasion when Gibbs had punished him. He wished he could say that the punishment itself hadn’t been nearly as bad as the thought of it but it had – in fact it had been worse. Far worse.

He remembered walking back into the squad room after the case involving his sister had been resolved, head down, knowing that the time had come for him to face the music. He was sure that Gibbs would remove his collar and send him on his way – he didn’t see that his boss had any other option. He could still see the sympathetic look in Ziva’s dark eyes, still hear Tony’s muttered, “Chin up, probie, it’s gonna be bad but nothing you can’t handle.”

He sat down, wondering what would happen next, unable to concentrate on his work, just wondering when the axe would fall. Then Gibbs returned from a long meeting in the Director’s office, and he stiffened, waiting to hear his fate.

“McGee, you’re with me,” Gibbs said, without even stopping or looking at his disgraced sub.

Tim got up and followed him to the elevator. He thought maybe that they were going to the punishment room in the basement, on the Director’s orders. He’d never been there, and the thought of being punished in such a strict, formal environment with people watching, made him go cold with fear. He’d never even been over a top’s knees before, let alone been in such major trouble. He thought he’d faint if he was made to present himself for a formal punishment, with witnesses gloating over his misfortune.

However, the fact that he was collared meant that Gibbs, as his top, was the person who would perform the punishment – although Tim couldn’t remember a time when Gibbs had ever punished one of his subs in the punishment room. Everyone knew that he spanked Tony every day, but the couple of times Tony had warranted a formal workplace disciplinary punishment it hadn’t happened. Tim was pretty sure that Tony was punished on both those occasions – and pretty severely – just not in the discipline room, in front of witnesses. Maybe that was what Gibbs’s long meeting with the Director had been about. Tim had never really thought about it before, but now it suddenly struck him that the collar he wore around his neck protected him in more ways than he had realised.

Gibbs exited the elevator straight into the parking garage and Tim followed on behind, trotting a little to keep up with Gibbs’s fast strides. Gibbs didn’t say a word to him – just got in his car, waited until Tim got in beside him, and then drove off – fast.

Tim clung onto the side of the car, as much to shrink away from his scary top as out of fear of Gibbs’s driving. After fifteen minutes of that terrible, silent car ride, they pulled up at Gibbs’s house. Tim hadn’t been here very often but he recognised it. Gibbs got out, again without saying a word, and Tim followed on helplessly, his sense of fear growing. This had to be bad if Gibbs was bringing him back here.

By the time he had followed Gibbs down some stairs and into his basement, Tim was on the verge of hyperventilating. He wasn’t sure what he expected to find in the basement but a large, half-built boat really wasn’t it. Perhaps he’d thought the basement would contain a massive, well-equipped dungeon or playroom but no, just a big wooden boat.

He followed Gibbs over to the far wall and by now he was completely certain that Gibbs was going to remove his collar and he knew he deserved that. He’d kept evidence from Gibbs, and had interfered in an investigation. Yes, he’d been trying to protect his innocent sister, but even so…

Unable to stand the silence any more, he blurted out.

“I’m sorry! I know what I did was wrong and stupid. I know you’re going to take my collar away from me and I deserve that. I’m so sorry I let you down.”

“Over here.” Gibbs ignored his babbling, putting a hand on his shoulder and pushing him towards a workbench and a grubby old chair. Gibbs sat down on the chair, opened a drawer in the workbench, and pulled out a wooden paddle. It was smooth but completely plain and without any kind of manufacturing mark on it. Tim had no doubt his top had made it himself and his stomach did a flip of fear; a hard paddle like that would really hurt.

“The paddle or my hand?” Gibbs asked.

Tim opened his mouth like a goldfish, and then shut it again. So, he *was* going to be spanked. That wasn’t entirely unexpected but it still scared him shitless.

“Tim?” Gibbs queried, and Tim was just barely aware that Gibbs was using his first name, which he rarely did.

“Your hand,” he said quickly, because he might be a very inexperienced sub but everyone knew that a hand hurt less than a paddle. He caught just a hint of the wry expression in Gibbs’s eyes as he made that choice, and he soon found out why; Gibbs’s hand was no less a dangerous weapon than the paddle – there was no way the paddle could have hurt more. He wondered how many other subs had made that particular mistake.

“Pants down,” Gibbs ordered, and Tim fumbled with his belt and pants and then pushed them down to his ankles, along with his boxers. Before he even had a chance to adjust to what was happening, Gibbs had taken hold of his wrist and he found himself flying across his top’s lap.

Tim had rarely been punished in his life to date – he was always too good, and any punishments he had received as a kid had been short and mild. He had a feeling this wasn’t going to be anything like those. He felt like an idiot – he wasn’t practised in being over a top’s knee, and his body felt cumbersome and awkward. He even felt embarrassed about his top seeing his naked ass. The whole thing was horrible and frightening.

It soon got worse. Gibbs tugged him into the position he wanted him in, and then wrapped an arm around his waist to keep him in place. There was a pause, and then an almighty ‘smack’ sound that made Tim jump, before he was aware of the warm pain spreading out from the centre of his ass. There had been no warm up, and no lecture; just the choice of implement and then this. Tony had always told him that Gibbs’s spankings were master-classes in expertly applied discipline and now he understood why.

He held on for as long as he could but the shame of what he’d done combined with the increasing level of pain in his backside were too much for him, and he started crying far sooner than he felt he should.

Gibbs’s hand didn’t slow down and the spanking continued, despite his tears. Tim fought down a wave of helplessness. Nothing was going to stop this until Gibbs wanted it to stop – and Tim had a feeling that wouldn’t be for some time. This, Tim supposed, was what it was like to be truly submissive to the will of your top – and that wasn’t a lesson he’d ever had to learn before. He wondered if it was something Tony was aware of, every single time he was spanked, and then he wondered how Tony could bear to endure *this* on a daily basis, and he felt a new respect for the other agent.

He couldn’t stop crying, but they were low, steady sobs now, and it actually felt kind of good. He stopped worrying about what he looked like, or just how mad Gibbs was with him, or what could have happened to his sister, or to himself and his career, and he just let it all go.

Then it was over. Gibbs held him in place for a few minutes longer while his body was still shaking, and stroked warm circles on his back to calm him down, and then he flipped him onto his – wobbly – feet.

He turned away, and Tim shakily pulled up his pants and fastened them, glad it was over but dimly aware that his ass hurt like hell, waves of pain radiating out warmly from the epicentre, making his entire butt feel like it was on fire.

When he looked up again Gibbs was back, and he pressed a glass of water into Tim’s hand. Tim took it gratefully, his hand shaking a little, drank it all down in one go and then handed the glass back to Gibbs.

“Are you going to take my collar away?” Tim asked, and he was surprised by the raspiness of his own voice.

“After giving you a hiding like that?” Gibbs shook his head. “I don’t discipline subs if I’m not going to keep them. Now, I punished you for one reason and one reason only – can you tell me what that is?”

Tim thought about it – just *one* reason? He’d held back evidence, lied to protect his sister, and placed his own career in jeopardy in the process. Which of those would Gibbs think was the most serious?

“The evidence,” he said, feeling sure that was it. Gibbs was always very emphatic about the proper treatment and bagging of evidence. “Sarah’s blood-stained sweater – I should have submitted that straight away. I shouldn’t have tested it for human blood myself and held it back.”

“No you shouldn’t, but that’s not it,” Gibbs said. He turned the chair around so it was back to front, and sat down on it again, legs on either side, elbows resting on the back, then gazed at Tim searchingly. “Try again.”

“I shouldn’t have tried to investigate myself?” Tim ventured. “I should have called the police.” His face felt all red and splotchy from where he had been crying but inside he didn’t feel anywhere near as bad as he had before the spanking.

“Yes, you should, but again, wrong answer,” Gibbs said, and that searching, blue-eyed gaze never let up.

Tim thought about it some more. “I told you I couldn’t come to work because I was ill but that wasn’t true. I lied.”

“Yes you did,” Gibbs nodded. “But it’s not that either. Tim, what you did wrong was that you didn’t trust me. The first thing you should have done was come to me and told me what was going on.”

It seemed so obvious now that Tim wondered why he hadn’t. He’d been so busy trying to protect his sister that he’d cast everyone as enemies in his head. He hadn’t trusted that Gibbs would help him, even though he wore the man’s collar, and now he thought about it that seemed like the most appalling betrayal of trust. He gave a choking sob, which he tried to bite back, but it came out anyway.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“I know.” Gibbs nodded. “Will you trust me in future?”

“Yes.” Tim nodded fervently. “I promise.”

“Good boy. Right – now I’m going to do some work on my boat. You are going to stay here and help. This matter is now closed.”

Tim wasn’t sure why Gibbs didn’t just send him away – he wasn’t sure how his top could bear to have him around when he’d done something so incredibly disrespectful. The more he thought about it, the more ashamed he felt.

He spent the next few hours handing Gibbs various implements. Gibbs showed him how to smooth the wood, his hands covering Tim’s as they worked on it together. It was the most physical contact Tim had ever had with a top and it was nice. He wished he could have something like this all the time but he didn’t have a clue how to find it.

When they finished, Gibbs handed him a cloth to rub his hands with and Tim couldn’t stand it any more.

“Why didn’t you take my collar away? I let you down,” he said, feeling his face burn with his own unhappiness.

“I decide who wears my collars,” Gibbs told him firmly. “And you did let me down, but I’ve punished you for that now, and I told you it’s over.”

Tim just gazed at him miserably.

“You were protecting your little sister,” Gibbs said, more gently. “It’s not an excuse but it is something I can understand. Now, *you* need to understand that for as long as you wear that collar you’re mine, and my decisions are always final. And I choose to keep you, so that’s it.” He reached out and tousled Tim’s hair and Tim felt a warm sense of reassurance settle in the pit of his belly.

“Go home, Tim. Get some rest this evening because I expect to see you in the office first thing tomorrow morning, standing at your desk working – because you sure as hell won’t be sitting down for a few days.” Gibbs pulled him forward, kissed him gently on the forehead, and then turned him around and pointed him in the direction of the door.

Tim could still very definitely remember how sore his ass had been for several days after that spanking, and how much his entire body had ached when he woke up the following morning – but, most of all, what he remembered was those few hours spent with Gibbs working on the boat, and that gentle kiss.

Sometimes Tim wished he could talk to Gibbs and tell him how he felt about himself, about his total uselessness as a sub and his fear of tops, but then he’d catch an expression in Gibbs’s eyes when he was looking at him, and realise that Gibbs already knew. He thought, maybe, that was why Gibbs had collared him – to keep him safe from predatory tops, and to give him the time and space to build up his confidence because Tim knew he was a hundred times more confident now than he’d been when he’d first accepted Gibbs’s collar.

It had been slow going but he had learned not to be terrified of his top every second of the day, which was how it had been in the first few weeks after his collaring. He was still scared of Gibbs, but then he thought that was normal – most people were. And he’d learned how to take a spanking without humiliating himself completely by bursting into hysterical tears or fainting. Okay, so he *had* cried, but he thought maybe that was what was Gibbs had intended to happen – after all, he’d kept going until Tim had completely broken down over his knee. Gibbs certainly hadn’t seemed phased by his tears – in fact he’d held him gently for a few minutes – he’d even tousled his hair.

Tim didn’t think he could cope with a full-on relationship with a top like Gibbs, but he was gradually learning to relax a little, and he was starting to see how much pleasure there could be in giving yourself to a top. If only he could learn how to trust one enough to do that. Always presuming one would be interested, and few enough had been in his life so far. Of course his body language didn’t help – he knew it screamed ‘don’t touch me!’ but he didn’t seem to be able to do anything about that.

If it wasn’t enough having Gibbs as his top, he had also had to learn to cope with having Ziva around. She was so beautiful and so completely and utterly out of his league. He had never had a top as a friend before, and at first it blew his mind that he could talk and laugh with this completely amazing top without embarrassing himself – well, not too much anyway. At some point he’d let his guard down though, and now he sometimes caught himself fantasising about what it would be like to kneel at her feet, or to be walking on the end of her leash.

Sometimes, as had happened the previous evening, Gibbs would hand his subs’ leashes over to Tony for a brief period, when he had to do something or go somewhere, and Tim always resented that a little. He knew that Tony was the senior agent, and that in Gibbs’s absence they answered to DiNozzo, but he longed to know what it might feel like to have Ziva’s hand on his leash. If Gibbs was scary, so was Ziva, although in a different way.

When she relaxed and they were having fun, teasing each other, then it was so easy…but sometimes she got a dark expression in her eyes and he knew she’d gone someplace inside her own head, somewhere that scared him. He wished then that he could help her, and if his devotion alone could do that then he’d kneel at her feet in an instant…but he knew she didn’t want that. He was just a friend, not a prospective partner, and maybe it was easier that way. It was certainly safer.

A knock on his door startled him out of this train of thought, and he got up to open it. Ziva was standing outside. She was pale, the dark red scratch on her cheek standing out livid on her flesh.

“I saw your light. Can I come in?” she asked.

“Well, yes…of course…” He stood to one side, awkwardly. “I’m sorry – was the light disturbing you? I didn’t mean to keep you up.”

She shook her head. “You are always too nice,” she told him. He wasn’t sure what that meant.

“I…well…it was the way I was brought up,” he mumbled.

“No – I think it is just you,” she said. “I met your sister once, remember. I did not think she was very nice and she had the same upbringing.”

“Well, those were difficult circumstances,” he sighed. “You didn’t see her at her best. And…I’d really rather not talk about it.” He flushed, remembering how it had felt to lie over Gibbs’s knees and take his punishment for not trusting his top. His ass still stung at the thought of it.

“Poor McGee,” Ziva said. “Gibbs punished you hard for that one, didn’t he? I do not blame him – if you had been mine I would have done the same. You could have ruined your career or faced a judicial bullwhip. I think he understood though – he knew you were just trying to protect your sister. And he likes you – that is why he did not take your collar from you and kick you off the team. I have learned so much from him about being a good top – and yet somehow I cannot be like him, even though I want to.” She walked over to the bed, and sat down. “I am tired, but I cannot sleep. How about you?” she said. “I saw you making notes in your little book.”

“Me? Well…I was just writing down ideas…I do it every night.”

“For your novels?” She raised a teasing eyebrow.

“Yes,” he said warily. He was always being teased about his writing although he didn’t mind it too much. This wasn’t like the teasing he’d had at high school, where his lack of confidence had manifested in a high degree of clumsiness and a complete inability to get out a sentence without stuttering. A particularly nasty bunch of tops had taken to picking on him on a regular basis, and it wasn’t like in the books or the movies – no nice, strong, decent top had stood up to them, or been prepared to fight for him and then take him under their wing. No, he’d just struggled on, enduring each and every humiliation until at last he’d been able to leave and go to college where things had at least improved a little. The scars were still there though, just under the surface. Maybe that was why he’d never been able to give himself to a top.

“I like your novels. I think they are very good,” Ziva said. “I especially like the way you describe that one agent in them – the one who you keep telling us is not based on me at all!” She grinned at him, and he sighed.

“She’s not *completely* you,” he said.

“I don’t mind,” she shrugged. “It is flattering. I wish I was more like her – I like her better than me.”

She looked kind of sad, so he sat down on the bed beside her. “Ziva…tell me where to go if you don’t want me to ask this…but, are you okay?”

She stared at him, her dark eyes full of some deep, heavy emotion that he couldn’t begin to understand.

“No, I do not think so,” she replied. “But I would like to be.”

He reached out and touched the scratch on her cheek, gently, and she shivered.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly.

“Don’t be,” she said roughly. “I do not deserve your pity – and besides, it was what I wanted at the time.”

He drew back, biting unhappily on his lip. “I…it’s not something I understand,” he told her. Her body stiffened defensively.

“What don’t you understand, McGee? Power-play? Dynamic? Raw domination and submission? Rough sex?”

He flinched, and was about to make all his usual responses but then he shook his head. He was always pretending and he was tired of it.

“All of those,” he told her. “I don’t understand any of them. I’ve had no experience of them.”

She sat up, shaken out of her own defensiveness by what he’d said. “McGee…are you…?” she paused and gazed at him, her expression half-teasing, half-surprised.

“A virgin?” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Yes, Ziva, since you ask. I am.”

He steeled himself for the inevitable pity and ridicule he’d see in her eyes, but, when he looked at her, she just seemed…intrigued? There was a kind of puzzled, sympathetic curiosity in her eyes. She touched his shoulder and he froze for a moment, and then relaxed, enjoying her touch.

“How come?” she asked. “You’re a nice-looking sub…you have such beautiful eyes. And you are kind, and good, and fun to be around. Oh…did a top once hurt you?” Her fingers tightened on his shoulder, digging in a little, and he could sense the anger in her.

“No! It’d be easier if there was some big story, wouldn’t it? An abusive top, or parent, or some kind of early experience that scarred me for life. But the truth is nobody has really been interested, and of course I don’t go looking for them. I don’t…I don’t think I’d be very good at it. I long to worship someone, Ziva, to really give myself to them and be theirs, but I know I’d let them down. I wouldn’t know what to do or where to start.”

“A lot of tops would find that a turn-on,” she told him, in a gentle tone of voice. “You know – someone they could train, completely from scratch; someone who needs to be coaxed and gentled.” Her fingers relaxed and she stroked his shoulder tenderly.

“You don’t understand – I don’t know anything about myself – *anything*,” he hissed. “I hear Abby going on about wanting to be pierced and I think – would I like that? – but I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m the kind of sub who wants to be tied, or spanked, or even whipped. I don’t know what my dynamic is, Ziva. I don’t know if I want to serve, or be made to submit, or be taken down – or if I just want to be fondled and indulged and treated like a pet. I just…I just don’t know. I do know I couldn’t do any of the things you read about in books, or see in magazines, or in movies. I couldn’t hold an erection for my top’s pleasure, or melt into their caresses. I’m more likely to stub my toe than kneel in the right position and I’ve never been very comfortable being touched, let alone give my body over to someone else for their pleasure.”

Ziva smiled.

“You’re laughing at me now,” he accused.

“Only a little – and only because you were funny with the toe comment,” she told him.

Tim shook his head. It was already too late. He’d already told her too much and he could see she was thinking he was a total idiot, yet somehow, now he’d brought it out into the open, he couldn’t seem to stop himself.

“I see Tony and he’s so confident – last night at that Festival he could have had a dozen tops if he’d wanted them, and I know he’d have shown them a good time. You can just see that he’s good at sex. He drives me insane but sometimes I want to be him, to have it be so damn effortless.”

“It is not so easy being Tony,” she told him. He knew she had a good rapport with Tony, even if the other sub did tease her mercilessly. They liked each other – there, see, Tony found it easy talking to Ziva, who was a top, and a damned attractive one at that, whereas Tim got tongue-tied, or else babbled like a complete moron, just like he was doing right now. “He has his problems. Besides, if you were Tony you’d have to take a spanking from Gibbs every day,” she teased, and that at least coaxed a smile from him.

“There is that,” he murmured. “Why does he do that, Ziva? I’ve often wondered. He so rarely punishes the rest of us, and I bet he’s never punished Ducky.”

“He gives each of us what we need, Tim, you know that,” she replied. “And I guess he thinks Tony needs a daily spanking.”

“Maybe he does,” Tim sighed. “But there, see – how does Gibbs know what *I* need when I don’t even know myself?”

“Well, Gibbs is not like any top I have ever known – he does just seem to understand things about you, even when you do not tell him,” Ziva replied, with a tense little shrug.

That brought Tim up short. His gaze flickered over the scratch on her cheek again. “Did he speak to you about last night?” he asked, unsure whether this was something he should mention, in case she didn’t want to talk about it. He was surprised she was still here – surely he’d said enough to scare her off by now?

“Yes he did. He called me into his room after he sent the rest of you to bed,” she told him. Tim grimaced.

“I bet that wasn’t fun.”

“No…he made it clear that sometime soon he expects me to choose who I am and what kind of a top I want to be. It was not an easy conversation. He expects so much more of me than I think I can give him.”

“Well, I suppose the best tops always want to coax you into being the best you can be,” Tim replied. “That’s what he does with us when we work cases. I never knew I could be this good at what I do – and, to be honest, I think being half-scared of disappointing him every second of the day is what has made me so good at my job. I think it’s the same for all of us, isn’t it? Even Ducky?”

“Yeah.” She nodded, a little smile playing on her lips. He liked it when she smiled. She had this whole dark side that scared him, and then she smiled and that was when he could see the top he loved, hopelessly, and without any expectation that his devotion would ever be returned. “You would make someone a very lovely submissive,” she told him softly. “If you would ever trust yourself – and them – enough to try.”

“And you…you always play on the dark side but that’s not really the kind of top you are,” he told her in return. “You should have a sub who loves and worships you, not someone who scratches your face off. You deserve so much more.”

“As do you.” They sat and gazed at each other for a long while. “It is late,” she said at last. “And I am tired but I do not want to sleep alone. Would you let me sleep here, with you? Just sleep – that is all. I…I would like very much to be held.”

It was a huge admission on her part – he could see that, and he felt honoured that she’d chosen him to shelter her right now. Maybe it hadn’t been such a bad thing that he’d bared his soul to her after all. Maybe, on the contrary, it had allowed her to lower her guard and confide in him the way he had confided in her.

“And I’d like to hold you,” he whispered, and something flared inside him as he said it. Maybe this was the kind of sub he was; gently protective of his top, ever-solicitous of them, wanting only to be a willing, devoted friend and servant to them. And what did he want in return? He wasn’t sure. Someone he could trust not to ridicule, hurt, embarrass or humiliate him for sure. And someone he could trust.

He went over to the balcony door and closed it, and when he returned she had undressed to a cotton camisole and panties. He gazed, shocked, at the myriad of bruises and scratches on her body, and felt a surge of protectiveness towards her – which was weird, because she was the kind of top who could take care of herself. Except, right now, she didn’t seem to be managing that so well.

He took off his sweatpants and got into the bed beside her in his shorts, and then slid his arms around her. She felt small and vulnerable like this, and he knew she was usually neither of those things so he was honoured that she had let him see this side of her.

Her long, dark hair was spread out over her shoulders and he loved the smell of it so close by.

“Sleep,” he whispered to her. “I’ll keep you safe. I promise.”

“Thank you, Tim,” she replied, and her body unfurled in his arms, relaxing against him. He relaxed too. This felt so good; him with his arms around her, taking care of her, and her allowing it, allowing him close, allowing him to serve her.

He heard her breathing change, and soon she was fast asleep in his arms while he lay there, wide awake, protecting her from whatever demons haunted her.

“I love you,” he whispered into her dark hair.


Tony lay in his bed, staring morosely at the ceiling. He’d spent the past three hours tossing and turning, and had no expectation of ever getting to sleep. He’d masturbated twice but that hadn’t helped either.

It actually physically *hurt* knowing that Gibbs was lying in bed in the room next to his, so close at hand and yet perpetually out of reach. He had spent the past two nights tormenting himself with fantasies of Gibbs creeping into his room and putting a rough hand over his mouth, then pinning him to the bed and fucking him senseless until morning. In another fantasy, he saw himself tied to Gibbs’s massive bed, while his boss teased him with a variety of clamps and floggers. He had fantasies where he was on his knees, arms tied behind his back, taking Gibbs’s cock slowly into his mouth; or where he was bent over the balcony railing outside, being slowly fucked by Gibbs from behind as the sea breeze caressed them both. Or there was the one where Gibbs just held him down and kissed him, slowly, sweetly, his hands keeping Tony’s wrists held behind his back while he plundered his mouth lovingly with his tongue.

There were other fantasies too – and those were the ones that weren’t satisfied by masturbation, and which prevented him sleeping. He could see himself walking at Gibbs’s side, his trusted lieutenant and life-partner, and that was never a fantasy he’d had about any top before. He longed for the easy intimacy that went beyond sex and was about companionship and love. He wanted Gibbs to talk to him and confide in him; but mainly, he just wanted to be close to the man.

He had fantasies about sitting on his top’s couch in the evening and watching a movie with him; about taking a walk along a beach with him, hand in hand; or living in his house and working on that stupid damn boat with him, sharing a beer and making Gibbs laugh. God how he loved the sound of Gibbs’s laugh – and it was such a rare sound that he tried to provoke it out of Gibbs as often as he could. Gibbs was too serious, and had the air of a man who had loved and lost too much in his life. Tony wanted to ease that pain away and make Gibbs see how good it could be to have a sub he loved in his life and in his bed again.

The fantasies were endless, and having the object of them lying in the next door room was too much for Tony. At least back at home they were separated by a ten minute car ride. Here…well, here he got to see Gibbs in his bathrobe first thing in the morning, and he had to sleep in the room next to him, knowing that Gibbs was lying naked just a few feet away – so close and yet still so untouchable – and that was almost more than he could stand.

He had thought, when he first took Gibbs’s collar, that he could handle it. He had even thought that maybe this was a test of his abilities as a sub – to wait, to worship from afar, to devote himself to someone who might never even so much as kiss him on the lips – although he lived in hope.

He hadn’t been in another top’s bed since Gibbs had fastened his collar around his neck, and the truth was that hadn’t been such a hardship. Sure, he missed sex, but he’d had one hell of a lot of sex before he met Gibbs. There was no point even pretending with another top though – Tony knew that nobody would live up to Gibbs.

How long could he endure being so close to the man though, without being more to him than just one amongst his many subs? He honestly wasn’t sure he could take much more of this. He got up, body bathed with sweat, and went to take a shower.

When he got out, he rubbed his damp hair with a towel while peering at himself in the mirror. He looked like crap. He hadn’t slept a wink last night, and he hadn’t managed to get any sleep tonight, either, and in a few hours time they had to get up and work on this case again. There were dark shadows under Tony’s eyes and he was aware of a dull ache in the base of his skull. He knew he needed to sleep but it just wasn’t happening so there was no point lying in bed waiting for it.

He dried himself slowly, examining his butt in the mirror. Yesterday, for the first time ever, Gibbs had forgotten to give him his daily spanking. Hell, when they were at home Gibbs would even call him over at the weekend to administer it. He’d missed it a couple of times when he was in the hospital, or working a case away from Gibbs, but Gibbs made sure to mention it to him every day even if it wasn’t possible for him to deliver it. Yesterday had been so hectic, from beginning to end, that it seemed to have slipped Gibbs’s mind completely, and Tony wasn’t happy about that. The marks from the brief strapping he’d received a couple of days ago had now gone, and Tony felt depressed as he surveyed his completely white butt – it was the first time in nearly five years that his ass hadn’t had Gibbs’s mark on it, and he didn’t like the way it looked. The daily spankings might not be much but they were all he had and he treasured them for that reason alone.

He knew what everyone thought of him, and to be fair, the image of himself he projected was one that had once been true. He had been a commitment-phobe, hopping from one top’s bed to another, barely able to keep them straight in his mind there were so many of them. He was also an inveterate flirt, and being collared hadn’t tempered that inclination in the slightest. He had lost count of the number of times he’d propositioned Gibbs, both privately and in public, and been firmly rebuffed. People expected that of him. They all knew he wanted to bed Gibbs, and were probably equally sure that was ALL he wanted – a fuck buddy, someone he could roll in and out of bed with, no strings attached, no emotions involved. They had no idea of the truth beneath that, and he had no intention that any of them should ever find out – least of all Gibbs.

Tony got dressed and opened up the file of notes he’d made during all the questioning they’d done the previous day. There was only one way he could serve Gibbs right now, and that was to solve this case for him – and if that was the only way he could offer Gibbs his service, then that was what he’d do.

He was ready and waiting three hours later when Gibbs emerged from his room, fully dressed, hair still wet from his shower. Tony handed him a coffee, and waved his notes at him.

“Boss, I want to call Kate Heightmeyer, Rodney Sheppard and Carson Beckett back in for questioning,” he said. “I’ve been going over the notes and I’m still not clear on the timeline. I’m going to pencil in Steven Beckett, and John Sheppard as well – something’s niggling me about this and I can’t fit it together.”

“Okay.” Gibbs took the file, and glanced through it as he sipped his coffee. “You sleep okay, DiNozzo?”

“Like a baby, boss,” Tony lied. “You?”

“Fine,” Gibbs grunted. “Okay – as this is your idea, Tony, and as you’re the one with the niggle – you take the questioning. I’ll watch.”

Tony nodded. He liked it when he and Gibbs worked a case together like this. They bounced off each other, and he loved the way Gibbs’s mind worked. The man was a consummate professional and Tony found that exhilarating. Gibbs brought out the best in him, plain and simple.

He decided to call in Kate Heightmeyer first. She was an attractive blonde top, and a respected psychologist.

“Sorry to have to call you in again,” he said, smiling his finest boyish smile, with just a hint of subby fawning. Tops always responded to it – well, most tops. Gibbs never had. It had the desired effect on Heightmeyer though; she gave him a fond smile in return.

“That’s fine, Agent DiNozzo. I understand that you have a job to do,” she told him, looking supremely comfortable.

“And forgive me if I go over some of the ground we covered yesterday – I just want to be clear on some things that I’ve got kinda muddled about,” he said, with another silly smile, as if he was a dopey sub who couldn’t get something right unless a top showed him how. That seemed to bring out the dominant in her and she smiled at him like he was a beautiful, much loved, but slightly stupid pet.

“Okay,” he said. “You say you didn’t see Dr Keller on the night she was murdered?”

“No, I didn’t. I was on the mainland and Jenny had to work,” she replied.

“But you and Dr Keller were in a relationship weren’t you? You were lovers – but Jennifer wanted more commitment from you, didn’t she? She was a young sub, quite smitten by a good-looking, older, confident top such as yourself. She even wanted to wear your collar, didn’t she?”

“Uh…” Heightmeyer looked as if she’d had the wind completely taken out of her sails by his turn of questioning. Tops were so easy to play. Tony liked the feeling – first lull them into a false sense of security by flirting as subbily as possible, then flip everything on its head and go in for the kill. “Well, it wasn’t quite like that. It wasn’t a relationship really. We had played together a few times, and I liked her, but I wasn’t ready to collar her.”

“But she wanted that, didn’t she?” Tony asked.

“I don’t know.” The blonde woman shook her head.

“But you said yesterday that you thought she did,” Tony pressed, making a show of checking his notes.

“Well, she had mentioned it, but I didn’t take it seriously. Like you said, she was a young sub, a long way from home – I felt she just wanted some security.”

“Was that your professional opinion?” Gibbs butted in, from his vantage place by the door. “Or just a personal one?”

“Where does one end and the other begin?” Heightmeyer replied. “Look, she was a nice girl, and I liked playing with her, but there was nothing more to it than that. We weren’t in love and I didn’t mind her playing with other tops.”

“You sure?” Tony asked.

“What are you trying to say? I found her playing with another top and then killed her in a jealous rage?” Heightmeyer asked. “That’s absurd. Apart from anything else, Jenny didn’t sleep around – and she would have told me if she’d been playing with anyone else.”

“Maybe she did tell you,” Tony said. “And maybe you didn’t like that.”

“That’s not what happened, Agent DiNozzo,” she told him quietly. “And I think you know that. Clutching at straws won’t solve your case for you, and Jenny was a lovely woman – she deserves justice.”

Gibbs cleared his throat and Tony nodded. “Okay, Dr Heightmeyer. Thank you. We’ll call you in again if we need you. You’ve been a great help. We really appreciate it.”

He smiled his best subby smile again but she wasn’t about to be fooled a second time, and she gave him a sharp look in return. Tony didn’t miss the little chuckle Gibbs gave at that as Heightmeyer left the room.

“She’s got you figured out, DiNozzo,” he told him. “And she didn’t kill Jennifer Keller.”

“I know,” Tony sighed. “But I just wanted to be sure. Jealous lovers are always the number one suspects.”

“As a matter of interest,” Gibbs said, a rare grin tugging at the corners of his lips. “Does that little subby trick you just pulled ever work on any of the tops you meet?”

“Oh yeah,” Tony grinned. “Every time.”

“*Every* time?” Gibbs asked, with a raised eyebrow.

“Well, not with you, boss, but with most tops. But then I learned how to play tops at my mom’s knee and you’d be surprised just how predictable you all are.”

“At your mom’s knee?” Gibbs looked startled. “Just how old were you when you discovered your orientation, DiNozzo?”

“I didn’t ever not know, boss. I was born knowing,” Tony shrugged.

Gibbs looked even more surprised by that. Tony wasn’t sure why. He knew it was unusual – most people only figured out their orientation at puberty – but it didn’t seem like that big a deal to Tony.

“I could even figure out which of the other kids at school were most likely to end up as dominants or submissives,” Tony said with a shrug. “Got in a lot of early experience playing up to them. I think I peaked too young,” he said with a grin. “Too much, too soon – I had it all figured out while all the other kids were still playing ‘spank-chase’ in the schoolyard. Got into a lot of trouble with my dad, sneaking out to meet much older tops when I was still a kid. I looked older than I was as well which didn’t help.”

“I don’t think any father would be happy with his underage son sneaking out to meet tops he hadn’t been introduced to,” Gibbs commented, and it was reasonable enough but it irritated Tony all the same.

“Oh he wasn’t concerned for my safety,” Tony shrugged. “He just didn’t like me bringing shame on the family name with his business buddies.” His childhood hadn’t been the happiest of times. Gibbs knew that – Tony had never made any secret of it over the years he’d been working with Gibbs.

His parents had been wealthy but self-absorbed; his mother was a beautiful, trophy submissive, who frequently hit the pages of the style magazines, and his father a high-powered businessman. It had been a passionate relationship, full of drunken rows and overblown romantic rapprochements. They had alternately neglected Tony and then showered him with devotion and he’d worshipped and been confused by them in equal measure. Their family life came to a horrible end, overnight, when his mom died in a car accident with her secret lover when he was ten years’ old.

His father’s drinking, always a problem, had spiralled out of control into full-blown alcoholism. He was full of a savage, bitter kind of grief that not only had he lost the beautiful wife he loved, but that she’d been cheating on him when she died. Tony, looking just like her, with the same provocative nature and submissive identification brought out dual emotions of love and anger in him. When he was sober he found it hard to look at his son, and when he was drunk he alternated between clumsy affection and violence.

“I learned a long time ago that dominants are easy to manipulate – it’s the subs who are the smart ones in any dynamic,” Tony said.

“Is that so?” Gibbs’s raised eyebrow looked almost like a challenge, and Tony felt that familiar zinging sensation in his belly. This man, right here, was a top he couldn’t manipulate, the kind of top who’d be strong enough to take him and who’d see through anything less than his total honesty and submission. Tony longed to have a top who’d take him that far down into his own sub-space. He wanted to find out just what his limits were, in the hands of a truly skilful top – the kind who would know if he was bullshitting or feigning charm for his own manipulative purposes.

“Yeah,” Tony said, raising his chin, meeting Gibbs’s challenge with one of his own.

They stared at each other, and the atmosphere in the room seemed suddenly highly charged, almost electric. Tony had the sensation that Gibbs was teetering on the brink, and that in a blink of an eye he might find himself flat on his back on the table, with Gibbs’s hands on his body, claiming him. Then the moment passed; Gibbs looked away, and Tony felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. He turned back to his notes as if nothing had happened and willed himself to get his weary brain working again but he was so tired, and his head was pounding.

Next up, he called in Steven Beckett. The man was a tall and physically imposing submissive and Tony already knew him well from the eighteen days they’d spent on his ship on their way to Atlantis.

“Take a seat, Colonel,” he said, brisk and businesslike – no point wasting the subby tricks on another sub. ”The fire onboard the Daedalus – do you know what caused that yet?”

“No, we’re still figuring it out,” Steven replied. “Why? You think it’s related to Dr Keller’s murder?”

“I don’t know. It just seems like a big coincidence for it to happen on the night she was killed, and, well, I don’t believe in co-incidences.” He shot a look in Gibbs’s direction. “What time did it start?”

“It was found at around 3.30 a.m.”

“But you didn’t find out about it until 6 a.m. when a marine came to your quarters?” Tony furrowed up his brow.

Steven looked annoyed. “Yes,” he replied tersely.

“Why did it take them so long to inform you?”

“My radio was switched off.” He looked uncomfortable about that but didn’t elaborate.

“Why didn’t they send someone to wake you earlier?”

“They could have but Major McClusky was in charge – she’s my second-in-command – and she took a view that she could take care of it. They sent someone for me as soon as they got the situation under control.”

“What’s the security like onboard the Daedalus, Colonel?” Tony asked, sitting back in his chair and surveying the other man intently. Steven shifted, looking annoyed.

“To be honest with you, Agent DiNozzo, I don’t think security was all it should have been the night before last,” he admitted. “It was our first night back on Atlantis, everyone was excited, and there was only a skeleton detail onboard as so many people were on the mainland attending the festival. I shouldn’t have authorised it but my people have been working hard for weeks and…” He spread his hands and sighed.

“You had no reason to believe the Daedalus would be targeted – if, indeed, that’s what happened,” Gibbs commented, from his vantage point behind Tony’s shoulder.

“I know.” Steven made a little ticking sound of annoyance in the back of his throat. “But…my preliminary findings suggest that the skeleton staff weren’t following protocol as closely as they should have been. Security was lax – no doubt about it.”

“So, it’s entirely possible that someone could have got onboard and started the fire?” Tony asked.

“Yes. It is.” Steven nodded. “Rodney’s looking into it but the damage is extensive so it might take awhile to be sure. It might not have been deliberate – it *could* have been an accident – Daedalus is overdue a full maintenance check and she’s been on continuous runs for the past few months. Flying between galaxies can place serious strain on a ship – it’s possible she had a problem we hadn’t detected.”

“Okay. Well – let us know when you have some answers,” Tony said.

Steven nodded, and unfurled his tall body to leave. “I’m sorry,” he said, and the comment was directed more at Gibbs than him, Tony thought. “I screwed up on this one.”

Tony supposed that there wasn’t a sub in the world who wouldn’t look to Gibbs for some kind of reassurance in a situation like this but Colonel Beckett got the same kind of cold Gibbsian comfort all the rest of them got.

“Yes you did,” Gibbs said firmly. “I don’t have a problem with you giving your people the night off, but security protocols should have been followed to the letter.”

The colonel gave a little grimace, but Tony guessed that Gibbs hadn’t said anything to him that he didn’t already know.

General John Sheppard was up next. Tony had liked the general since the moment he first laid eyes on him. He reminded him a bit of Gibbs, only a hell of a lot more laid back. Tony gave him the patented Tony DiNozzo subby smile of supreme flirt as he came in but Sheppard didn’t respond. Tony thought he heard Gibbs give a little grunt of amusement at that.

“We estimate the murder took place at around 4.15 a.m., General,” he said, launching straight in. “Where were you at that time?”

“I’d just gone to check on Rodney in the lab,” Sheppard replied. “He’d heard something and I was worried.”

“It’s kind of late to be up isn’t it?” Tony asked. “Shouldn’t both you and your sub have been tucked up in bed at that time?”

His tone was just faintly suggestive – it was intended to be. He had the feeling that this top hid a fierce, dark streak behind that cool exterior and he wanted to needle him out of his comfort zone. Sure enough, Sheppard’s eyes flashed at that comment.

“Rodney often works through the night if he’s preoccupied with a project – sometimes it’s easier to give him his head and let him get it out of his system then take him down later when he needs to rest,” Sheppard replied.

Tony felt a jolt of envy that Rodney had a top who understood him so well and knew how to take such good care of him. Then he realised he had that too – but what he didn’t have was a top who was in love with him, and John Sheppard was clearly as head over heels in love with his husband as it was possible to be.

“As for me…I just had a bad feeling all through that night,” Sheppard said. “Can’t explain it but I was sure something bad was going to happen. Felt it in my gut, as Special Agent Gibbs knows.” Sheppard glanced over Tony’s shoulder at Gibbs.

“So you didn’t go to bed at all?” Gibbs asked.

“No.” Sheppard shook his head. “And I still didn’t catch the bastard doing this. I just wasn’t expecting there to be trouble in the infirmary. I was patrolling the marine quarters and keeping an eye on the people coming back and forth from the mainland. All the previous murders took place in marine quarters.” Sheppard ran his hand through his unruly dark hair. “I should have gone around the entire base. Poor Jenny – she was just a silly kid. I liked her – once I put her straight on the crush she had on me when she first arrived we got on well. She was like my kid sister or something. Damn it – if only I’d stopped by the infirmary after checking on Rodney!”

“Easy, General,” Gibbs murmured. “You couldn’t have known.”

“What time did you call Rodney?” Tony asked.

“Around 4 a.m. I’d told him to lock the door in his lab when I was there earlier and he had – I saw him do it. When I called him he said he’d heard a noise. I was spooked, so I ran down there…but he was fine.”

“How long did you stay?”

“About five minutes – then I went back to the jumper bay.”

“Okay – thank you, General.”

Tony tried the subby grin again, glancing sideways at the general through his eyelashes, and this time Sheppard’s eyes glimmered in recognition. He looked amused for a moment, and then shook his head.

“Don’t let Rodney catch you doing that, DiNozzo,” he warned. “He has the power of granting you hot or cold water for your shower in the morning and you really don’t want to get on the wrong side of him. I did once and ended up running through the hallways in my towel.”

“A fine mental image to leave me with, General – thank you for that,” Tony said, with an appreciative wink. Gibbs snorted, and Sheppard gave a wry grin and glanced at Gibbs over Tony’s shoulder.

“Looks like you have your hands full with that one, Agent Gibbs,” he commented. “He must give your strap a few workouts.”

“You have no idea,” Tony muttered ruefully, as Gibbs gave another amused snort.

Sheppard left, and Tony was about to call in the next person when Gibbs clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“Time to eat,” he said.

Was it? Tony didn’t feel very hungry but he saw from a glance at his watch that it was already early afternoon and he hadn’t had any breakfast.

They walked down to the canteen and Tony felt his headache recede a little as he enjoyed the alone time with Gibbs, just the two of them, with him on the end of Gibbs’s leash. He imagined what it would be like to do this all the time – to walk into the cafeteria and pile up just one plate, bring it back to the table and have Gibbs feed him with his own fork. Then he shook himself. Sharing–a-plate fantasies were the lowest of the low – only really dumb subs or the subs in the worst kind of romantic movies ever spent their time dreaming of sharing a plate with a top. It wasn’t something he’d ever wanted for himself, either, before he met Gibbs.

They saw Abby, sitting at one of the tables, talking excitedly to Rodney Sheppard, while Colonel Lorne sat opposite, gazing at them with a bemused if goofy smile on his face. Carson was sitting next to Lorne, trying, unsuccessfully, to engage him in conversation and John Sheppard was sitting opposite Rodney, not saying a great deal but feeding his sub from their shared plate whenever Rodney shut up for long enough to eat. Tony felt another of those stabs of envy at seeing Rodney and John Sheppard sharing a plate. He wondered what the hell a powerful top like Sheppard saw in Rodney. The scientist was attractive in his own way, sure, and he certainly had very wide, very blue eyes, but he also had an irascible edge to him that Sheppard seemed to allow to go unchecked.

Tony wondered how Gibbs would handle a sub as obviously volatile, frenetic and brilliant as Rodney Sheppard and decided that Rodney would wilt within seconds – very few subs were brave enough to withstand Gibbs’s sharp eyed gaze for long. On the other hand…General Sheppard didn’t look like the kind of top who put up with much bullshit either, so maybe Rodney was made of stronger stuff than he seemed.

Abby saw them and waved them over so they took their trays and went to sit with her and her new friends.

“Gibbs – I found out that Carson can sign too!” she said, signing with her hands as she spoke. “Isn’t that cool?”

Carson grinned, and signed something at Abby, who signed back.

“My little brother was deaf,” Carson explained. “Nobody was sure why – we made lots of trips to the hospital when I was a kid – I think that’s when I first became interested in medicine. Anyway, the whole family learned to sign – and there were seven of us kids plus mum and dad so sometimes we’d have these great big silent conversations around the dinner table.”

“You know…I’ve always wondered how you know how to sign, Gibbs,” Tony said. “I mean, Abby has a deaf mom and Carson has a deaf brother. How about you?”

Gibbs glanced at him sideways, his expression as inscrutable as ever, and then he signed something at Abby and Carson who both laughed. Tony rolled his eyes – there were many things about Gibbs that he found fascinating and this was one of them, but his boss never gave away anything personal. It was frustrating.

Tony switched off while Abby chattered away excitedly. His head felt as if it was full of lead, and he was sure he was missing something obvious about the case. He rubbed the base of his skull, absently, wishing he could shift the knots he felt there, wanting to get his fingers right in and rub the sore spots away.

He vaguely heard Abby and Rodney talking – most of it made no sense so he could see why Lorne was looking so bemused. Sheppard just sat there with a fond smile on his face as if he was used to this.

“You know…sometimes I get all excited about this stuff Rodney is showing me and then I remember that that poor girl was killed and I feel bad about it,” Abby said.

“Jenny Keller was a nice woman,” General Sheppard said softly. Rodney glanced up sharply.

“She had a thing for John,” he said. “Like half the subs on the base.” He didn’t seem happy about that but General Sheppard just rolled his eyes and placed another forkful of food in Rodney’s mouth.

“Aren’t you upset she’s dead?” Abby asked him.

“Mmm, the thing is…” Rodney said, with his mouth full of food, “I’ve found a way of handling it when people die – and they seem to die a lot out here, what with the Wraith and the dangerous missions and everything. So…you remember I told you about that other universe John and I were sucked into a few months ago? The one where nobody knew their dynamic and they had all those weird taboo issues about same gender relationships?”

Abby nodded, and Tony wondered what the hell they were talking about.

“Well…when I first arrived out here a few years ago there was a scientist on my team called Zelenka. He was good – not as brilliant as me of course but then who is? Anyway, he and I…well, I suppose we’d kind of been friends but then he went and got himself killed at the end of our first year out here and I was pretty cut up about it.” Rodney glanced at his husband, who nodded in agreement.

“But the thing is, Abby – when we got sucked over to that other universe Zelenka wasn’t dead over there. He was still alive! And I got to see him again, and talk to him and work with him.” Rodney’s face looked animated as he spoke about this Zelenka person, and Tony found himself interested, despite himself. “So now, when something happens like it did with Jenny Keller – I just think that in that other universe, with the other John and Rodney and Carson and so on – well, Jenny’s probably still alive in that universe, living her life, being happy.” He shrugged and accepted another forkful of food from his husband.

“Oh that is so cool!” Abby exclaimed. “It’s like nobody ever really dies!”

“‘xactly!” Rodney said, around his mouthful of food.

Tony couldn’t even begin to process that. His head hurt too much. He pushed his food around his plate, until he noticed Abby watching him, a worried look in her green eyes.

He pulled himself together and sat up – the last thing he wanted was for Gibbs to notice he wasn’t eating.

“They should make a movie about that universe,” he said with a grin. “Although from the sound of it nobody’d believe it. I can just see the casting – Tom Cruise could play the general here, and Nic Cage could play Dr Sheppard.”

“Ooh – could I be in it?” Abby said, clapping her hands. “Who could play me? And who could play you, Tony?”

Tony grinned at her. “Nobody’s cute and crazy enough to play you, Abs. And of course nobody’s cool enough to play me – or scary enough to play the boss.”

A second later felt a familiar smack on the back of his head. “Hey – do you suppose in that universe Dr Sheppard’s talking about the boss here doesn’t slap his team around the head whenever he’s pissed with them?” he asked, gazing warily at Gibbs in case another one was coming his way.

“He wouldn’t – not in that universe,” Rodney said, with a firm shake of his head. “Trust me. I met those people and they definitely didn’t do anything like that.”

“Hear that, boss,” Tony said. “They sound quite enlightened over in this other universe of Dr Sheppard’s.”

Gibbs shook his head. “Tony, I bet there isn’t a universe out there where a Gibbs doesn’t feel the need to slap a DiNozzo upside the head,” he said and there was something kind of fond about the way he said it that made Tony glow a bit inside.

He grinned, and made a series of jokes about movies that got people laughing and, hopefully, distracted everybody from the fact that he hadn’t eaten anything.

He was relieved when they could return to the interrogation room and resume their questioning. He felt as if he was looking at a jigsaw puzzle and one very obvious piece was missing; if they could just find it, it would make sense of the whole picture.

He called in the nurse, Ellie Marsh, next but it was clear the poor woman wasn’t going to be much help. She’d found Keller’s body at around 6 a.m. when she’d reported for duty at the infirmary and she’d tried to call Dr Beckett on his radio. When there was no response she had fled to Beckett’s room to get him.

Next he called in Rodney Sheppard. He was aware that he was developing something of a dislike for the other sub but he wasn’t sure why. He was too tired to know whether it was a genuine gut instinct, or just sheer envy for the obvious love that John Sheppard had for his husband. Rodney didn’t have to hide his love for his top the way Tony did – it was reciprocated, fully and without reservation.

“What I don’t understand is why we didn’t manage to get visuals on any of the murders,” Tony said to Rodney. “I mean, this place is full of equipment – you’d think one of the cameras you have around the place would have picked something up.”

“They’re not cameras, they’re sensory devices,” Rodney told him snappily. “And it’s not that simple. I admit, I’m surprised that we didn’t find anything on the infirmary sensors. Although of course the Daedalus sensors were partially destroyed in the fire so they’ve told us nothing.”

“It is possible the cameras – oh, I’m sorry – sensory devices,” Tony stressed the two words with a slightly unnecessary sneer, and watched Rodney start to coil up like a tightly wound spring, “were tampered with?”

“Possible but unlikely. I mean, you’d need a level of knowledge of the base to start with,” Rodney frowned.

“And who exactly has that knowledge?” Gibbs asked.

“Apart from you,” Tony added, pointedly. Rodney clearly didn’t catch the inference.

“Well, anyone working in my department I suppose,” he said. “But none of them…I mean, I don’t think any of them is a killer. In fact I’m sure of it!”

“Name them,” Tony said. Rodney’s blue eyes widened.

“What? Why?”

“Just name the people in your department – it can’t be hard,” Tony said, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms, watching Rodney closely.

“Well…there’s me, and uh, well, there was Zelenka but he’s gone and Miko – yes, there’s Miko – short, Japanese, seems very meek and mild but has three subs and rules them with a rod of iron. And Hargreaves – small sub, always getting in the way. And Mortimer…or is it Morton? Well, there’s him – tall, dark-haired, always flirting with any sub who’ll give him the time of day which isn’t many because he’s kind of slimy. And um, the short lady with the grey hair and that switch…what’s his name? Um…” He stopped, visibly floundering.

“How many people work in your department, Dr Sheppard?” Tony asked quietly.

“Twelve,” Rodney replied promptly.

“And you can only name three of them?” Tony raised an eyebrow. “I thought you were supposed to be a brilliant scientist.”

“I am!” Rodney protested. “I’m just not great with names.”

“So, how do you know nobody in your department was involved when you don’t even know their names?” Tony pressed. Rodney shook his head desperately.

“You don’t understand – I know them, of course I know them but as people – not as names!”

“Okay.” Tony nodded, and gave Rodney a look made of pure steel, one sub to another, because Rodney might get away with that kind of shit with some idiot top but it didn’t wash with him. Rodney’s blue eyes widened even further and, for just a second, Tony thought he understood what a man like General Sheppard might see in this sub. There was something vulnerable about Rodney, although you had to dig deep to find it. “That’s all we have for now, Dr Sheppard,” he said, with a dismissive nod towards the door.

Rodney left, looking slightly dazed.

Tony felt something bugging him and just wished his head was clear enough to identify it. He needed this – he needed it to show Gibbs just how good he was at his job, to prove it to him, over and over again, so that maybe one day Gibbs would finally see he was worthy of him. If only he could concentrate, and shake off this headache.

He called in Carson Beckett, and the doctor came in, looking nervous.

“Dr Beckett…” He gave the doctor his best subby smile and Carson relaxed, visibly. Tony had an instinctive feel, honed from many sexual encounters over many years, for what kind of a top a person was, and he knew immediately that Carson was one of those kind-hearted tops who took pity on subs and wanted to take care of them. He also sensed that the good doctor was made of a certain kind of steel beneath that, and might not be as easily manipulated as he seemed at first sight. “Can you think of any reason why anyone would want to murder Jenny Keller?”

“No.” Carson shook his head emphatically. “She was a dear, sweet girl. We all loved her. She was excellent at her job as well.”

“Okay. Now…I want to go over something in the statement you made yesterday. You say that you woke up around 3.45 on the night Jenny was murdered, and you thought you heard and smelled something?”

“Well…I’m not sure,” Carson replied, looking troubled. “I did wake up, yes, but maybe I was imagining things. I don’t know.”

“What kind of smell, Dr Beckett?” Gibbs asked.

“I don’t know…look, I’m not even sure I smelled anything!” Carson protested loudly.

Tony winced, the raised tones aggravating his pounding headache. He rubbed his eyes to try and clear them; they felt like they were filled with grit.

“Are you okay, son?” Carson asked softly, and Tony looked up, surprised. “You look terrible if you don’t mind me saying. Maybe you should take a wee trip along to my infirmary when you’re done here.”

“We *are* done here,” Gibbs said, suddenly and unexpectedly. “Thank you for your help, Dr Beckett.”

He nodded and Carson left, looking relieved to be allowed to go so soon.

“Gibbs!” Tony protested. “We only just called him in! I had more questions to ask him. He was one of the first on the scene when the body was found and…”

“It can wait,” Gibbs said tersely, his sharp blue eyes gazing at Tony like two intense lasers, so bright they almost hurt. Tony shut his eyes to relieve the pressure and when he opened them again Gibbs had snapped his leash on his collar and was leading him towards the door.

“Where are we going?” Tony asked.

“Back to our quarters,” Gibbs replied. “We’re done for the day.”

“But it’s only the middle of the afternoon!” Tony protested. Gibbs gave him one of those silent glares that shut him up immediately and he followed on behind, wondering what the hell was going to happen.

Their quarters were empty when they got there which wasn’t surprising. Tony knew Ziva and McGee were helping to investigate the Daedalus fire, Abby was busy in her lab with Rodney, and Ducky was taking another look at the corpses.

“My room. Now.” Gibbs gestured with his head in the direction of his bedroom, unleashing Tony as he did so.

Tony sighed, and tried to crack his neck from side to side to release the tension. “I thought we were onto something before you pulled me out of there, boss. Do you think I went too far? Is that why you called me out? If I could just clear my head I’m sure I could figure out what’s bugging me,” he said, making no effort to walk towards the bedroom. Gibbs put a hand on his shoulder and propelled him there, shutting the door behind them.

Tony took one look at the bed and suppressed a yawn. God he felt tired. In other circumstances, he and Gibbs alone in a room with a big bed would have been a cue for him to make a suggestive comment but he was too tired to bother.

“When did you last get any sleep, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked.

“Last night,” Tony said, warily.

Gibbs’s hand was so fast that Tony didn’t even have an inkling it was coming his way until it connected resoundingly with the back of his head.

“Ow!” he complained.

“I’ll ask again. Don’t lie to me twice,” Gibbs said. “When did you last get any sleep? You were up when I got up this morning, and you were up when I got up yesterday morning. Did you sleep either of those nights?”

Tony did actually consider lying again because this didn’t look good whichever way you looked at it, and he had no intention of telling Gibbs he’d spent two nights – and plenty more before that, on the Daedalus – struggling with the strength of his feelings for his boss.

“No,” he admitted finally.

“Why?” Gibbs came to stand in front of him, and there was just no getting away from that steely gaze.

“I don’t know, boss – I’m just finding it hard to switch off,” Tony muttered, hoping that the half-lie at least would pass muster with his top. He wasn’t sure he had totally convinced Gibbs, but he seemed prepared to let that pass.

“I know a way to switch you off, Tony,” Gibbs said, and Tony glanced up.

“Me too, but it’s never on offer, boss,” he replied. That earned him another light slap on the back of the head although he didn’t miss the amused glint in Gibbs’s eyes either.

“I was too busy to spank you yesterday,” Gibbs told him and Tony groaned out loud. “My mistake. Events ran away from us. I should have taken care of it this morning but you seemed to be on a roll with the case and I didn’t want to interrupt you. Again – my mistake – and not one I’ll make again. Strip. You know the drill.”

Tony sighed. “You really don’t have to do this for me, boss,” he said as he unzipped his pants and toed off his shoes.

“Yes, I do, Tony. I really do,” Gibbs said, sounding amused.

Tony shucked off his pants, leaving them in an untidy heap and then stood there, awaiting further orders.

“I said strip, Tony,” Gibbs ordered, and in the dull recesses of his aching brain Tony finally registered that. Gibbs did occasionally order him to strip completely, but only when he was due one hell of a spanking.

“Oh boss,” he groaned. “Does it have to be that bad?”

“Depends on your definition of ‘bad’, Tony,” Gibbs said. He went over to his night stand, opened the top drawer, and pulled out the strap that Tony loathed so much. “But if you miss a spanking you know you’re due a big one next time. That’s just the way it works.”

“Well, it’s the way you say it works,” Tony muttered. “It doesn’t *have* to work that way. You could change the rules.”

“Can’t do that, Tony,” Gibbs said, with a wry shake of his head. “You depend on ‘em.”

Tony really didn’t think that was the case but he finished undressing and walked stiffly over to the armchair to take his position.

“Not so fast. I’m going to give you a choice,” Gibbs said. Tony stood up, intrigued. This was new; Gibbs never usually gave him a choice. “Ten with the strap, or you take your chances with my hand – no promises for how many you’ll get there though,” Gibbs said.

Tony swallowed. He hated the strap and he’d longed to take a spanking from Gibbs’s hand since he’d first been collared. He wasn’t sure why that was on offer now when it hadn’t been before but he wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity. Besides – Gibbs’s hand, even if he took dozens of swats from it, couldn’t hurt anywhere near as much as the damn strap.

“Your hand. Please, boss,” he said, giving Gibbs his patented DiNozzo subby look through his eyelashes.

“Doesn’t work with me remember, Tony,” Gibbs snorted. “Okay, my hand.” He put the strap down on the nightstand and Tony thought he caught a strange glimmer of amusement in Gibbs’s eye at his choice of implement. What the hell was *that* about? Gibbs sat down on the bed and pulled a pillow over his knees. “Come here.”

Despite his tiredness, his pounding headache, and the knowledge that he was about to be soundly spanked, Tony went over to his top eagerly. He’d fantasised often enough about being over Gibbs’s knees and now he was going to experience it first hand.

He threw himself over Gibbs’s lap with the practised air of a sub who had been in this position many, many times. He knew he looked good, body stretched out, ass positioned right in the centre of the pillow, legs and arms comfortably positioned and supported by the mattress on either side. He relaxed; this was one of his favourite positions and he had no objection to spending a lot of time this way.

He felt Gibbs’s arm go around his waist, and he knew immediately there wasn’t going to be a slow warm-up. He didn’t know why he had expected anything different – when Gibbs spanked he spanked. He didn’t screw around with warm-ups and stroking and all that shit – which happened to be shit that Tony was pretty fond of as it usually presaged a nice, expert play spanking which ended with him getting sexual release. This was NOT going to be one of those spankings.

He didn’t even have time for that realisation to sink in before there was a whistle of air and a sharp smacking sound – and then a blaze of pain ripped across his right buttock.

“Ow! You said you weren’t going to use the strap!” Tony protested, turning his head to glower at his top.

“I’m not,” Gibbs said, nodding in the direction of the nightstand, where, sure enough, the strap was still lying where Gibbs had left it.

“That is never your hand…oh shit…that IS your hand,” Tony said as Gibbs landed another sharp smack to his ass. “Man, you’re evil. When you gave me that choice you *knew*…oh shit…” he didn’t have time to finish his train of thought before Gibbs was spanking him in earnest.

Gibbs’s hand felt like it was made of warm, living iron as it rained down hard blows on Tony’s upturned ass. It hurt more than Tony thought a top’s hand could *ever* hurt but there was something intimate about it all the same. He loved the feel of Gibbs’s warm body so close against his own, and the tight hug of Gibbs’s arm around his waist, keeping him close and keeping him in place. He liked being able to hear Gibbs breathe as he spanked him, and the scent of the man.

The ache in his bottom grew more intense as Gibbs continued spanking him, sparing him nothing as he spanked with his usual degree of deep concentration, and now Tony knew that the ten with the strap would have been a breeze compared to this. His backside felt aglow, and he knew it had to be shining brightly. It throbbed, and that throb spread out into the rest of his body, warming him.

He closed his eyes, feeling the pounding in his head recede a little with every spank. He didn’t resist the pain, but instead welcomed it in, slowing his breathing down to meet each wave of burning sensation as they radiated out from his ass.

He couldn’t do anything but submit – he was Gibbs’s submissive, he wore Gibbs’s collar, and if Gibbs wanted to hold him here and spank him until his ass was burning hot and too sore to sit on for days then he’d just have to accept that – he didn’t have a choice in the matter. He gave himself up to it, utterly and completely, and really, with a top like Gibbs that was easy.

Something deep inside him felt settled by the spanking, hard and intense though it was. This was where he was meant to be, lying over this man’s knees and taking whatever he wanted to hand out. He trusted Gibbs to know when he’d had enough, and not to take him further than he could go – all that was left was to simply surrender to it.

The pace slowed, and then stopped, and Tony shifted and gazed up at his top blearily.

“You done, boss?” he whispered, feeling shattered, as if someone had reached into his soul and pulled him apart.

“Yeah,” Gibbs said softly. He gave Tony the strangest look, and then reached out and smoothed his hair away from his face. “You need to get some sleep now, Tony,” he said quietly.

“Mmm…I’ll just roll over this way and go next door to my room…” Tony muttered, sliding sideways to get off the bed, his body a mass of fiery sensation as he moved. He felt as if his limbs were made of jello and seriously considered crawling into the next door room as he wasn’t at all sure he could walk there.

“Not next door. Here. Where I can keep an eye on you,” Gibbs said, getting off the bed and holding up the covers for Tony to crawl under. Tony was too tired to say anything – he just did as he was told, sliding beneath the covers and settling himself there on his front.

Gibbs pulled the blanket up to Tony’s neck, and then got up and went over to the desk in the corner, found a file, and returned to the bed. Tony watched dozily as Gibbs toed off his shoes and sat down next to him on the bed, then opened the file and started reading.

“Close your eyes, Tony – I’ve got you and I’m not going anywhere,” Gibbs said, and Tony had no idea how his boss knew that his eyes were open because Gibbs wasn’t even looking at him. Still reading the file, Gibbs reached down and gently stroked Tony’s head with his hand. Tony sighed, loving the feel of Gibbs’s fingers smoothing his hair, and, within seconds, he was fast asleep.


Gibbs sat on the bed for a long time, reading Evan Lorne’s service record file, which John Sheppard had provided for him. Every now and then he stroked Tony’s hair idly with his free hand, revelling in the post-spanking protectiveness he was feeling. It had been a long time since he’d been able to give full reign to his more toppy instincts and they had taken him by surprise today. No – that wasn’t right – *Tony* had taken him by surprise today. Gibbs had spanked a good many submissives in his life, and it was something he often enjoyed, in the right circumstances, but even so, today had been a revelation.

He’d long ago made it a rule to spank Tony every day, because he instinctively knew it was what Tony needed, to ground him, help him perform well at his job, and, in some freaky DiNozzo way, to keep him happy. Tony was a sub through to his bones, and he responded best to consistent caring discipline and a firm hand on his leash.

It was different with his other subs – he had rarely ever needed to spank them, and when he did he always went with what felt right, trusting his own innate instincts as a top. Gibbs felt that his gut feelings as a top had rarely ever let him down, any more than his gut feelings in his working life had let him down. He made his rare spankings of the rest of his team memorable enough to leave a lasting impression – in his view, discipline was useless unless it served a purpose and made the point – his subs might not like it, but he knew the discipline he handed out *always* made a point.

Tony was different. The occasional hard spanking was wasted on him – he’d been there, done that too often, and it had had little effect on him in the past. No, he needed something much more regular in his life. Tony needed Gibbs’s attention – and Gibbs knew if he didn’t give it to him by spanking him daily, even if it was just a couple of swats, Tony would find some other way to get it – and Tony’s ways of getting attention had always got him into a whole heap of trouble in the past.

Gibbs mostly kept the spankings light, occasionally delivering a big one when he felt Tony needed it most, and always keeping Tony on his toes so he never knew when it was coming, or how hard it would be. Mostly Gibbs only left marks that would fade within a day – but sometimes, when he felt Tony needed it, he made sure to leave a couple of harder strap marks that would last a bit longer – Tony had a real need for that kind of grounding.

When Gibbs had first looked at Tony’s resume, he’d almost not bothered interviewing him for the job, but something about the pattern of misdemeanours and eventual expulsions from various law enforcement agencies and police departments had caught his eye. He’d agreed to interview Tony as much out of curiosity as anything else, but as soon as he met him he knew, instantly, that this was a sub he had to have on his team. Tony had turned up looking rumpled, with couldn’t-care-less body language but hungry-to-impress eyes, and something very old in Gibbs’s blood had responded to this sub’s obvious need for a firm hand. Tony, in return, had responded to Gibbs’s discipline, smartened himself up almost overnight, and turned out to be the best damn agent Gibbs had ever had. Playing Tony right, to get the best out of him and stop him messing up, was like playing a finely tuned musical instrument. Gibbs wasn’t a man of much patience but he did like a challenge – and Tony was definitely that. He’d ended up collaring his new agent within three weeks of putting him on his team which was a record for him – but an un-collared Tony was too dangerous to have around and Gibbs knew he couldn’t protect the young agent’s ass unless he owned it. Damn it, Ducky was right – he DID have a rescue complex.

Today, seeing Tony tired and clearly troubled about something, although he wasn’t saying what, Gibbs had felt strongly that his most difficult and exasperating sub needed more than an impersonal strapping over the back of a chair. He’d never seen Tony like this – he seemed distracted and was clearly running on empty. Gibbs had let that pass for most of the day because Tony was a like a cat with a mouse when he got on the trail of something, and Gibbs assumed that whatever was bothering Tony was related to the case. Now he wasn’t so sure. It was only when Dr Beckett had expressed his concern about Tony’s health that Gibbs had finally decided to step in – Tony wasn’t likely to get any breakthroughs in the case if he wasn’t well.

So he had offered Tony a choice of spanking – which wasn’t his usual style with Tony – and he hadn’t been surprised when Tony went for the over-the-knee option with his hand. Most subs assumed that was the easier option – they were wrong.

But he had been wrong too, in not realising how profound an experience it would be. He knew Tony was an experienced sub, and while it was always a pleasure to have a good-looking, naked, collared submissive over his knee, Gibbs was skilled enough to put that to one side in order to get the job done and bring Tony down to where he needed to be.

That was all it should have been about but then Tony had done that *thing*. Not one of those subby tricks he’d been putting out there all day – the smiles, and the eyelashes, and the ‘I’m not worthy to kneel at your feet, oh strong top’ shit that Gibbs had found so amusing. No – this had been the real deal. Tony had given himself up to Gibbs, completely and totally. He’d submitted on a deep level – and that wasn’t a place many subs could go to without a lot of help and direction on his part. For Tony it had seemed almost effortless, and Gibbs had responded to the sense of absolute trust Tony placed in him.

Tony’s body had been relaxed over his knees – and Gibbs hadn’t held back on the spanking, as Tony’s glowing bottom showed. Most subs in that situation would hold themselves tight and tense and sob their hearts out while resisting all the way, until finally they had no choice but to let go. It took a skilled top to get them to where they needed to be, and Gibbs *was* a skilled top, a master of his subject, instinctively able to judge the dips and peaks in a sub’s responses, and alter his approach accordingly.

But he hadn’t needed that level of skill today because Tony had just stretched out and offered himself up, giving himself to Gibbs without holding back. It had been beautiful – like a choreographed dance between top and sub, each of them knowing the precise moves to make without saying a word to each other – and Gibbs hadn’t experienced anything like that in a very long time. Not since…Shannon.

Gibbs got up, quietly, so as not to wake his sleeping sub. He went over to his luggage, still largely unpacked, and found the box he’d been looking at the previous night. He opened it, and touched the gold links of Shannon’s collar. He’d had it made especially for her, wanting the moment of her collaring to be one they both remembered for the rest of their lives, and it had been a beautiful moment too. She had had that same sense of trust in him that Tony had just displayed, and that none of his other wives ever had – but then perhaps that had been his fault. Perhaps Ducky was right, and he’d always held back with them, never loving them for who they were but only for the ways in which they reminded him of Shannon. Tony though – Tony was nothing at all like Shannon.

Gibbs glanced at Tony, lying naked and dishevelled in his bed, his collar just visible above the sheets. It had been a long time since Gibbs had had a sub in his bed, and, even though they weren’t sleeping together, somehow it felt easy and natural that Tony was there – as if it was where he belonged.

Tony was trouble though – Gibbs had known that when he collared him. He was bright, street-smart and brave; but he was also promiscuous, immature, and mischievous. He really was nothing like Shannon at all, and yet…they shared some quality that was hard to define – something about how they, as subs, responded to Gibbs, as a top.

Gibbs shut the box and replaced the collar in his bag. He wasn’t ready to let go of Shannon just yet; in fact, he didn’t think he’d *ever* be ready to let Shannon go.


Tony smiled, and muttered something as he slowly dozed towards wakefulness. He was in bed, and he was warm and endorphins were whizzing through his body, making him feel so good. There was a burning ache in his bottom which implied he’d been spanked, and spanked well, and Tony loved the post-spanking haze. He felt completely relaxed and safe, enveloped in the reassuring scent of his top, whose bed he was in… Tony woke up fully with a start. He was lying naked in Gibbs’s bed – something he’d wanted for the past five years, and, okay, so no actual *sex* had taken place, but that spanking had been almost as intimate. He and Gibbs had shared something during that spanking – he wasn’t sure what, but it had felt damn good.

He opened his eyes and saw Gibbs gazing at him from where he was sitting at his desk in the corner of the room.

“Hey, sleepyhead. About time too,” Gibbs said, with a grin. He looked softer and more relaxed than usual, although those blue eyes were still sharp.

“How long have I been asleep?” Tony asked, yawning.

“About five hours. The others just got back so I was about to wake you,” Gibbs told him.

“Five hours?” Tony sat up fast, surprised, and then yelped as his sore butt protested. “I slept for five hours?” he said, in disbelief. Gibbs rolled his eyes.

“Get up and get over here, Tony,” he said. “I’m not done with you yet.”

Tony groaned as he had to leave behind the warmth of the bed, with its intoxicating scent of Gibbs. His body felt loose and relaxed as he walked, naked and unself-conscious, over to Gibbs. Gibbs might be his boss but he was also his top, and as such Tony’s body belonged to him. Gibbs had made it perfectly clear when he first collared him that there were certain rights he wouldn’t be claiming, but he still had them, even if chose not to exercise them. Seeing Tony naked was certainly one of them – and besides, Tony enjoyed it. He knew he looked good and if all Gibbs wanted to do was look, well, that was something.

“Turn around,” Gibbs said, when he got close, and Tony did so, presenting his ass to his top for inspection. Gibbs ran his hands gently over the still sore flesh and Tony bit down on his lip and tried to think of really un-erotic things so that his cock wouldn’t immediately spring into life. Gibbs had seen him with an erection before but it was always embarrassing. “Okay – looks fine,” Gibbs said.

“Might look fine but it feels like it’s on fire, boss,” Tony told him with a grimace.

Gibbs just gave a wry shake of his head. “Regardless, like I said, I’m not done with you yet, Tony. Kneel down next to me, facing the desk, hands behind your back.”

Tony sighed – Gibbs clearly hadn’t been kidding earlier when he said he was going to make him switch off. He knew Gibbs liked to spend time with his subs after a serious punishment but he’d never spent *this* long with him following a spanking before.

Tony hoped that Gibbs wasn’t going to follow up his half-lie from earlier because he was feeling vulnerable right now, glowing ass exposed as he knelt beside Gibbs’s knee, facing his desk. He wasn’t sure how long he could hold out if Gibbs seriously went after the truth, but it also wasn’t a truth he thought he could bear telling.

The last thing he wanted to see was the look of pity in Gibbs’s eyes when he admitted he was in love with him – lust was one thing; they could all laugh and ignore that, but love? Tony had always been the untouchable one in relationships, the commitment-phobe, the one with all the power to break hearts. Now he was in love and he wasn’t going to dump those unwanted feelings on this man. They were his problem and his alone – no reason why Gibbs should be troubled by them. Gibbs had made it perfectly clear he wasn’t interested, and Tony would cope. He always had. He’d felt alone inside for his entire life and he had grown accustomed to it. He’d be fine…but only if Gibbs didn’t find out the truth.

“When did you last eat anything, Tony?” Gibbs asked, unexpectedly.

Tony shrugged. He’d messed up with the not-sleeping thing but he was sure he could get this over with as soon as possible and get Gibbs off his back so he wouldn’t get near the truth.

“Lunch-time, boss. At the cafeteria. You saw me – we were there together.”

“Uh-huh.” Gibbs got up, went over to the night-stand, and picked up his strap.

Tony turned his head, following his top’s every move. His stomach did a little flip of fear; his butt was in no shape to take more right now. Gibbs returned to the desk and put the strap on it, right in front of Tony’s nose. “What I saw at lunchtime was you pushing your food around your plate, while making a lot of noise to cover up the fact you weren’t eating,” he said quietly. “Now, let me ask you again; when did you last eat anything? And *think* before you reply, Tony.” He let his hand rest on the strap. Tony glared at it, but he wasn’t about to give in. He wasn’t going to let Gibbs get to the truth.

“This morning – before you guys got up. I ate some of those cakes Ducky left in the kitchen,” he said. Gibbs picked up the strap and Tony bit on his lip. How the hell did Gibbs always *know* when he was lying? It was uncanny.

“You sure about that, Tony?” Gibbs asked dangerously, slapping the strap against the hard, flat palm of his hand.

Tony sighed. “No. Look – I haven’t eaten anything in awhile. I don’t know when – maybe sometime yesterday, or even the day before. I honestly don’t remember. Things are different out here – kind of exciting. We’re in a whole different galaxy in case you hadn’t noticed. Maybe I let it get to me a bit too much and forgot to eat, which yes, I know is not like me, but go figure. I’m sorry – I know it’s unprofessional and you’ve had to take time out to deal with it but it won’t happen again. I promise.”

“Last time you stopped eating you were sick, Tony,” Gibbs said, still holding the strap.

“I know, but that was extreme, boss. I had the plague,” Tony replied, remembering how *that* had felt all too well, but most of all remembering that Gibbs had come to his hospital room and told him he didn’t have permission to die – so, like the good little sub he was, he hadn’t.

“Do I need to get Ducky to take a look at you?” Gibbs asked. “No telling what diseases they might have out here.”

“No,” Tony said firmly, because Ducky had a knack of seeing right through him that was second only to Gibbs’s talent in that area. “I’m fine and I’m sorry. I screwed up but I won’t let it happen again.”

He had to stop thinking about Gibbs and get more control. It was just so hard managing it 24/7. He’d had eighteen days at close quarters on the Daedalus and now he was sleeping in the room next to Gibbs – no wonder he was struggling. At least at home he got some time out from the situation.

“Okay,” Gibbs sighed. He put the strap down, much to Tony’s relief, and then turned in his chair, took hold of Tony’s face between his hands, and gazed at him searchingly. “If you say it’s not a problem I’ll believe you. If it turns out you’ve lied to me, I won’t be so kind – understand?” Gibbs said. “This is your last chance to tell me if anything is going on with you, Tony.”

Tony swallowed, gazing into those sharp eyes. It would be so easy to confess his feelings, right here, right now, and let Gibbs handle the situation, but he had too much pride for that. He wanted this man’s love, not his pity.

“Nothing is going on,” he said firmly, crossing his fingers behind his back as he spoke. Gibbs nodded, looking disappointed that Tony was holding out on him but accepting his answer all the same.

“Okay then,” he said, and then he dropped an unexpected kiss on Tony’s forehead. “You allowed this situation to get out of control, DiNozzo,” he said when he released Tony, and his tone was brisk and businesslike now. “So you can just kneel there and think about your sore ass until I’m ready to let you go.”

Tony nodded, and relaxed into the submissive posture. There were worse ways to spend time. At least Gibbs was with him, and he could pretend this was more than it was. He felt himself go down into his own sub-space, and it was so easy when he was with Gibbs. He wished he could rest his chin on Gibbs’s knee like a puppy but he hadn’t been given permission for that and he knew it would be denied in any case. So he closed his eyes and leaned slightly against Gibbs’s thigh where he was sitting at the desk – that much at least he might get away with.

They were silent for awhile, as Gibbs went through his notes and Tony zoned out beside him. The silence was so intimate, and he was so far inside his own sub-space, that Tony jumped when there was a knock on the door.

“Easy.” Gibbs ruffled a hand through his hair, soothing him, but still didn’t give him permission to get up so he stayed where he was. The door opened, and Evan Lorne stepped into the room.

“Sorry to disturb you, sir,” he said, standing to attention in front of Gibbs. Tony made a small sound in the back of his throat. He really didn’t like being naked and red-assed in front of another top but he was Gibbs’s sub, and Gibbs didn’t seem to have a problem with it. Lorne wasn’t phased by it, either – it was common enough for a top to have a sub-in-discipline beside him. Gibbs rested his hand on Tony’s shoulder and let it stay there, where it fulfilled the dual role of being both reassuring and making it clear to Lorne who Tony belonged to – if he’d been in any doubt on that score.

“I know the timing isn’t ideal, sir,” Lorne said, “but yesterday was so crazy I didn’t dare approach you then. I know you’re in the middle of a case but I don’t know how long you and the rest of your team will be out here and I really wanted to ask you again about Abby. You said to present myself to you?”

Gibbs leaned back in his chair, his hand still resting on Tony’s naked shoulder. Tony risked looking up and saw that Lorne looked as if he was due on the parade ground. He was wearing Air Force dress blues, and his shoes were sparkling, as were the buttons on his uniform which was crisp and freshly pressed. There wasn’t a hair out of place on him. Tony was intrigued by the process whereby Gibbs interviewed prospective tops for Abby, and he shifted slightly, wondering what would happen next.

What happened was that Gibbs put his hand on his head and directed it downward.

“Head down, Tony. You’re in deep submission,” Gibbs told him firmly, and Tony swallowed down a sigh and did as he was told, gazing at the floor. Then Gibbs turned his attention back to Lorne. “I’ve been reading through your personnel file, Colonel,” he said.

“Yes sir. General Sheppard told me you’d requested it, sir,” Lorne replied.

“You have an excellent service record,” Gibbs commented. “Everyone speaks very highly of you. You’re also a painter, I see?” Tony saw him, out of his peripheral vision, flicking through the file on his desk.

“Yes, sir! It’s a hobby of mine,” Lorne said.

“That’s an unusual hobby for a military top,” Gibbs commented. Lorne’s shiny boots shifted a fraction.

“I’m not a usual kind of military top, sir,” he said, softly. “That’s why I like Abby – she’s different, and she’s fun. She’s not like the subs I’ve met in the military. I would treat her with the utmost respect, sir, if you gave me permission to date her.”

“Okay.” Gibbs sat back in his chair. “You can date her, Colonel, but there are some rules.”

“Of course, sir,” Lorne replied, his eyes flashing happily.

“First – I need to know where she is. If she’s with you, that’s fine. But if she’s with you she’s with you – you don’t leave her anywhere, or drop her off somewhere thinking she’ll be safe. When she’s with you, she’s your responsibility and if anything happens to her on your watch I promise you that I will hold you accountable. Understood?”

Lorne took a deep breath. “Yes, sir.”

“Okay.” Gibbs nodded. “Secondly – you let me know when she’s back with me – you bring her back in person and you see me – even if just to say goodnight and that Abby is safe.”

“No problem, sir.” Lorne nodded.

“And thirdly – if you decide to play you play safe and you play the way Abby wants to play. You ignore her safe word, or coerce her into doing something she doesn’t want to do, and you’ll wish you’d never been born.”

“Yes, sir,” Lorne said, and Tony detected just a little hint of a quaver in his voice. Gibbs sure as hell could be scary.

“Finally – you don’t hurt her,” Gibbs said. “It might not work out between you and that’s fine, I won’t blame you for that. But if you’re the kind of top who likes to pick up subs and deliberately break their hearts then think again; because I will come after you.”

“Me too,” Tony said, in a deadly serious tone, looking up, unaware he’d even spoken until it was too late. He bit his lip, waiting for Gibbs to smack his head because he was supposed to be in deep submission but Gibbs just gave a little grunt and his hand came up to rest on Tony’s naked shoulder again, stroking softly.

“I promise you – both of you,” Lorne said, glancing from Tony to Gibbs. “Abby won’t come to any harm with me.”

“Very well – then you have my permission to date her,” Gibbs said.

“Thank you.” Lorne pulled himself up and gave Gibbs a crisp salute. “And if you don’t mind me saying so, I haven’t felt like this since I was at high school and had to ask permission to date a sub from their parents,” he said, with a little grin. “Only this was much, much worse. Abby sure as hell must be special if she has you two looking out for her.”

“She is,” Tony said, and Gibbs said it too, at the same time. Gibbs grinned at him, and stroked the back of Tony’s neck with his finger. Lorne gave a little snort and then turned smartly on his heel and left the room.

They were only alone for a second or two when there was another knock on the door and Ducky entered. Tony gave a resigned sigh – as a sub, he was used to being naked at his top’s discretion, no matter who else was around, and it was only Ducky after all. The fact that he was a doctor and had seen Tony naked on many previous occasions made it feel a bit better at least.

“I was just wondering if you intended to join us for dinner,” Ducky began. “Ah…I see Anthony has been in trouble again,” he said, shooting an affable grin in Tony’s direction. “Nothing serious I hope?”

“Nope – he just needed settling,” Gibbs replied. “He’s not been eating or sleeping for a couple of days and needed taking down.”

“My dear boy, not eating, not sleeping – anyone would think you’re in love,” Ducky said, with a little laugh. Tony stiffened, and Gibbs’s hand tightened on his neck.

“Is that it, Tony?” Gibbs asked. “Has some top out here taken your interest?”

“No, boss,” Tony answered, firmly and honestly. He glanced over Gibbs’s shoulder and saw that Ducky had seen right through him, even if Gibbs hadn’t.

“Here, let me see the damage,” Ducky said, and Tony could see he was trying hard to cover up his mistake in drawing attention to Tony’s emotional state.

Ducky stepped forward, and Gibbs nodded and allowed Tony to get up and have his ass examined.

“I see it’s your usual exemplary handiwork, Jethro,” Ducky murmured as he surveyed Tony’s buttocks. “No bruising or wrap marks – if indeed an implement was used. I’ll get the special ointment to take the sting away, Tony, if Jethro is in agreement.”

Gibbs nodded. “And while you’re doing that I’m going to go and get us some food,” he said. “I don’t want us eating in the cafeteria tonight – I want to go through the results of everyone’s day and see where we’re at with this case. I also want to make sure you eat, Tony. Let Ducky do his thing and then get dressed and meet us in the living room.”

Both of them left the room and Tony got up, feeling relieved. That had been close. Ducky returned a moment later and came towards him, brandishing his tube of ointment. He never told any of them what was in it but he’d rubbed it into Tony’s ass enough times for Tony to know it really did work.

Right now though, he had other things on his mind than relieving the sting in his ass. He caught Ducky’s wrist, and gazed at him intently. Ducky’s eyes widened in surprise behind his spectacles; Tony rarely let the mask slip for long enough for anyone to see the real him, but right now it was imperative.

“You must never tell him,” Tony said, in a low, urgent tone, completely different to his usual joking demeanour. Ducky’s eyes widened even further at that.

“Of course not – you have my word,” Ducky replied. “Although – you might want to tell him yourself, my dear boy.”

“No,” Tony said firmly, squeezing tight. Ducky winced and Tony released his wrist with an apologetic smile.

“It might not be as bad as you think,” Ducky said.

“No,” Tony repeated. “I knew the deal when he put his collar on me. He told me this was all I was getting and I told him I could handle that. I’m not pressuring him for more. I have my pride, Ducky – and he’s made it abundantly clear he isn’t even interested in taking me to his bed, let alone into that damn cold heart of his.”

“It’s not as cold in there as you think,” Ducky murmured. “How long?” he asked, unscrewing the cap on the tube of ointment.

“Five years,” Tony replied.

Ducky sighed. “Since he collared you? You’ve been in love with him for *that* long?”

Tony nodded, and turned to allow Ducky to spread the ointment on his ass. It was always freezing when it was applied but Ducky was gentle and it didn’t hurt. His ass would be sore for a few hours, especially when he sat down, and it might glow for a day or so, but that was the extent of the damage. Even when Gibbs left marks, as he sometimes did, Tony suspected it was more for his benefit than anything else. It was as if Gibbs *knew* how much Tony liked looking at those marks in the mirror after. Ducky finished, and then he turned Tony around to face him.

“We all knew you wanted him of course, you’ve made no secret of that. In fact you’ve turned it into quite the joke, haven’t you, Tony?” Ducky shook his head sadly. “I should have known all along that you were too smart to be acting so much the fool without good reason. It’s a good disguise, Tony – pretending to just be interested in jumping the man’s bones to hide the fact that you’re in love with him.”

“Hiding in plain sight, Ducky,” Tony answered quietly. “That’s always the best disguise.”

“And none of us knew it went this deep – not even him. Everyone just wrote off the lingering looks as pure lust on your part – which, given your history, is hardly surprising. You’re really in love with him, Tony? You’re sure?”

“Yes, Ducky.” Tony dropped all pretence now. There was no point to it with Ducky any more. “I’m in love with Gibbs and have been since the day I met him and it just gets worse. Being with him constantly these past few weeks is driving me insane. I need to get a handle on myself or I’m going to screw things up badly.”

“I wish I could bang your heads together, the pair of you,” Ducky said. “But this is for you two to sort out between you. I just hope you DO sort it out.”

“Nothing to sort out, Ducky,” Tony said, with a curt shake of his head. “I just need to find a way to shove it back down again so I can get it under control and it doesn’t screw with my work.”

“Oh Tony,” Ducky sighed. “I’m so sorry, my dear boy. I remember the agonies and ecstasies of the affairs of the heart all too well.”

“But you have him,” Tony pointed out. “You’ve had him for a long time – and he’s different with you. I mean, I get the feeling that you and he…”

Ducky cleared his throat. “Don’t enquire, Anthony. It’s private,” he said.

Tony nodded, flushing slightly, but feeling envious all the same. Ducky and Gibbs went way back, and they had an easy closeness. Ducky was also the only person that Gibbs ever confided in. Tony often wondered exactly what was between them and how they’d got together but neither of them was ever forthcoming on that subject. He knew Gibbs had married three times since taking Ducky as his sub, but he’d never married Ducky, and while the two men clearly loved each other, Tony didn’t get the impression that they were *in* love. So what they had was something else – something almost as important, to both of them, but not the same. It was certainly a deep friendship, and Gibbs was as protective towards Ducky as he was towards his other subs, but Tony had never known Ducky to have any other relationships and sometimes he wondered why.

“Are you even a sub, Ducky?” he asked suddenly, and he realised that this was something that that had been bugging him for some time. Sometimes he got a very subby vibe off Ducky, but others…not so much. He was certainly the only one of Gibbs’s collared team who could get away with occasionally giving the boss orders – and, more surprisingly perhaps, Gibbs would usually follow them.

“What an extraordinary question, Anthony!” Ducky said, with a surprised smile. “I wear Gibbs’s collar, don’t I?”

“So does Ziva,” Tony pointed out. “And she’s definitely a top.”

“Ah well…we all have our own stories, Tony, don’t we, those of us who wear Gibbs’s collars?”

“Hmm, that’s enigmatic. He ever spanked you, Ducky?” Tony was intrigued now – Gibbs’s relationship with Ducky was a mystery to him and he often wondered what had brought these two together and kept them so close for all these years.

Ducky grinned. “You’re fishing, Anthony,” he said.

“Yeah.” Tony grinned back at him. “So – has he?”

“Once or twice,” Ducky conceded. Tony laughed out loud, taking a perverse pleasure in learning that Ducky had to submit to Gibbs’s discipline the same as the rest of them. Ducky leaned towards him, conspiratorially. “But only when I asked him nicely,” he added. Tony stopped laughing and pulled a face.

“You suppose he’d *stop* spanking me if I asked him nicely?” he said, easing his pants on over his ass and wincing as he did so because while Ducky’s special ointment was good, Gibbs’s hand was even better.

“You could always try,” Ducky mused. “But you might want to wait a day or two until the sting in your nether regions has died down a little, Anthony, before embarking on such an inherently risky strategy.”

“Yeah. Ha, ha,” Tony said sourly. Ducky patted him on the arm and then left the room, chuckling away to himself as he went.

Tony pulled on the rest of his clothes and then followed the doctor out into the living room, to find that Gibbs, Ziva and McGee had returned from the cafeteria with several trays of food. He was surprised to find that it smelled good and that for the first time in days he was hungry; Gibbs’s method of taking him down had clearly worked.

He perched uneasily on the side of the couch, wincing slightly as he eased himself down. He caught the jolt of realisation in McGee’s eyes as the probie realised he’d just had a tough spanking, and then McGee glanced at Gibbs, with that rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights gaze of his. Tony bit back a laugh, wondering whether McGee would always be scared of tops. Then, to his surprise, McGee’s gaze flickered uncertainly towards Ziva, and it wasn’t that usual look of love-cum-terror that McGee had whenever he looked at her. It was tender, and almost speculative. Tony filed that away for future reference.

“So…what did you find out today?” Gibbs asked, pushing a tray of food Tony’s way with a look that told him if he didn’t eat he’d spend the night hanging by his ankles from the ceiling in Gibbs’s bedroom. Which wasn’t *such* a bad thought but it was bad enough to make Tony pick up his tray in a hurry. Not that he needed urging – he really was starving. He began shovelling food down, while listening to the team each say their piece.

Ducky didn’t have a whole lot to add, although he spent about fifteen minutes adding it all the same, with all kinds of Ducky-like embellishments. Tony loved the way the doctor talked so he sat back cautiously on his sore ass and let the sound wash over him.

Then Abby gave her report and Tony was thoroughly zoned out in a post-spanking haze now but he allowed the words to drift into his subconscious because sometimes he got great flashes of insight this way. There was certainly something out there that tied all the puzzling aspects of this case together – he just wasn’t sure what.

Next up was Ziva, giving her report in her usual clipped tones, with McGee butting in occasionally.

“The fire on the Daedalus was definitely started deliberately,” Ziva said. “We found evidence of a small incendiary device. The device itself was not all that powerful – but it was placed where it would cause the maximum amount of damage. It was located near an oxygen tank which was why it took them so long to get it under control.”

“So we’re talking about someone who had access not only to explosive materials but who also knew the schematics of the Daedalus inside out?” Gibbs asked.

“That’s right.” McGee nodded.

“How does that tie in with Dr Keller’s murder though?” Abby asked.

“Diversion,” Tony said, without even thinking about it. “Someone wanted someone else out of the way. Question is – who and why?”

“Carson Beckett is the obvious choice,” Gibbs mused. “Jenny Keller was killed in the infirmary – maybe Carson was supposed to be out of the way helping casualties on the Daedalus.”

“But Carson Beckett *was* out of the way,” Tony pointed out. “He wasn’t on duty and his radio was switched off all night.”

“But the killer couldn’t have known that. It was a failsafe,” Gibbs replied.

“There’s something else we found out…” McGee said, glancing anxiously at Gibbs. “Or, at least…I found out…I’m not sure if it’s important. I mean, it’s not directly related to the case but…”

“Just spit it out, probie,” Tony said, rolling his eyes. Gibbs was too far away to slap the back of his head but he gave him a glare anyway, before turning his attention to McGee, raising an eyebrow to get him to continue.

“Well…it’s we were told we couldn’t gate through from Earth a few weeks ago because the Atlantis gate was experiencing some kind of a temporary problem with intergalactic transfers,” McGee said, stuttering slightly, as he always did when he had the full force of Gibbs’s stern gaze on him.

Gibbs cleared his throat to hurry the explanation on a bit and McGee stumbled to get the rest of his words out.

“Well, I found that isn’t the case, boss. I’m not an expert on this tech, but the gate seems to be working just fine. I checked back on the logs, and there was some routine maintenance run on it back when before we set off from Earth on the Daedalus, but it was working okay.”

“Who would benefit from lying about that?” Gibbs asked. “Who wouldn’t want us here?”

Tony felt everything slot into place. “Dr Rodney Sheppard,” he said firmly. “Think about it – he had access to explosives, he knows the Daedalus schematics backwards, and he would have been the person who lied to Woolsey about the gate glitch.”

“But why? You think he’s our murderer, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked, frowning. “What’s the motive?”

“Well, I always say you should look for a jealous lover first,” Tony replied, on a roll now. “Look at the facts, boss! We KNOW that Jenny Keller had a crush on John Sheppard – Sheppard told us so himself. He also told us that Rodney is a jealous kind of sub – remember what he said about the hot water in the showers? Rodney confirmed his jealousy himself, over lunch – remember what he said about half of Atlantis having a crush on General Sheppard and how he didn’t look too happy about that?”

“No way!” Abby said vehemently. “Tony, you’re wrong. There is no way Rodney did this! I’ve spent more time with him than anyone these past few days and he’s just…he couldn’t do this. He couldn’t hurt anyone. He’s not like that.”

“Hold on, Abs,” Gibbs said, holding up his hand. “Go on, DiNozzo.”

“Think about it, though,” Tony continued, warming to his theme. “The first three victims were all marines – and subs of pretty easy virtue, or so we’ve been told. And there’s General Sheppard – a good looking, charismatic top and their superior officer – what’s the betting they all made a move on him? And Rodney’s jealous – so he starts picking them off, one by one. The message is clear – lay off my husband or else.”

“But John is totally in love with Rodney!” Abby protested. “He wouldn’t have slept with them, even if they did make a move on him!”

“How many tops do you know who can turn down a willing sub when they throw themselves at them?” Tony asked. “Tops are easily manipulated – all it takes is a few compliments and some subby eyelash fluttering.”

“You have a very low opinion of tops, Tony,” Ziva said, her dark eyebrows furrowed.

“Yeah…well…I’ve known a lot of tops,” Tony replied, with a shrug. “I don’t care how much General Sheppard seems to be in love with his husband – he could have taken the bait.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Gibbs murmured. “Leaving aside your jaundiced view of – what was it you called us yesterday? ‘The weaker half of the dynamic’?” He shot a glare in Tony’s direction. “I don’t think General Sheppard is the type to play around. But it doesn’t matter whether he did or not – all that matters is whether Rodney thought he did – or even whether Rodney was so jealous that he couldn’t stand to have people flirting with his husband. He certainly has the motive and opportunity to have committed the murders.”

“Exactly!” Tony grinned. “He set the fire on the Daedalus to make sure Carson wouldn’t be in the infirmary, and to cause a general diversion, and he went and took care of Dr Keller – one less person to try and charm their way into his top’s pants.”

“We know that Rodney was in his lab at 4 a.m.,” Gibbs said, flicking through the notes. “Because the general was there with him.”

“Yeah – but he only stayed five minutes. And Rodney had plenty of time to set the fire on the Daedalus beforehand, and to go murder Jenny Keller after. In fact, he might even have called the general to his lab on a false alarm to provide an alibi for himself.”

“Is it enough?” Ziva asked Gibbs.

“It’s enough for me to want to question Rodney again,” Gibbs said, throwing his plate down and getting to his feet.

“No – please – Gibbs, you’re wrong!” Abby wailed. “Rodney didn’t do this. You don’t know him.”

“We know he’s anti-social and rude,” Tony told her, getting up to follow Gibbs. Abby grabbed his arm.

“Yes…but…not underneath – underneath he’s just a bit insecure, and he’s really kind. He hates it when anyone gets hurt, let alone dies.”

“He didn’t seem that cut up about Jenny Keller,” Tony pointed out. “He told us that ludicrous story over lunch about how he thought she might be alive in another universe to hide the fact that he doesn’t give a damn about the fact she’s dead – and why would he if he’d killed her himself?”

“No, you’re wrong – he meant that!” Abby said. “That really is how he deals with things.”

Gibbs reached out, and put an arm around Abby, then pulled her in and kissed her cheek. “Abby, this is what we have to do,” he said firmly. “If Rodney is innocent then we’ll find out – but right now, he’s our main suspect and that means we have to question him some more. DiNozzo, McGee, David – you’re with me.”

He strode towards the door, and Tony was right behind him. They walked fast down to Rodney’s lab and Tony felt exhilarated. This all made sense! Well – almost; there was something that didn’t but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was. He just *knew* that he hadn’t liked Rodney Sheppard from the moment he first met the guy, and it seemed his gut was right after all.

Gibbs threw open the lab door, and Tony was first inside. Rodney Sheppard was working in there on his own, and he stood up, startled, his mouth opening and closing in surprise at the sudden intrusion.

“Dr Rodney Sheppard,” Tony said, walking forward. “We’d like to question you again, about the murders of Dr Keller, Sergeant Maloney, Corporal Evenden, and Lieutenant Sarkovsky.”

Rodney’s eyes widened in shock. “What? Why? Oh my god – you don’t think I killed them, do you?”

“Did you?” Gibbs asked.

Rodney looked as if he was about to keel over. “Of course not! You can’t be serious. Me? I mean…me? Why would I want to kill them? Oh my god…you can’t mean me…”

“Will you accompany us to the interrogation room?” Tony asked.

“No!” Rodney looked panicked. “I didn’t do anything!”

“Then you won’t mind being questioned.” Tony stepped forward, and put a hand out to gesture him out of the room. Rodney squirmed away from him.

“No, no, no!” he protested. “You can’t do this. Don’t *touch* me. John won’t like it.”

Tony was sure he wouldn’t but a top’s sensibilities didn’t over-ride the necessities of a federal investigation.

“And you don’t like anyone touching him, either, do you?” Tony asked.

“What do you mean?” Rodney looked very confused, and Tony wondered, for the briefest moment, whether they had this all wrong.

He reached out to push Rodney towards the door, and then hesitated, because it was never good form to touch a top’s collared sub without permission. However, Gibbs had drummed into him often enough over the years that he didn’t give a damn about such niceties where law enforcement was concerned, so he over-rode that automatic instinct and reached for Rodney’s arm again. Rodney shoved him away. Tony stepped forward and there was a minor skirmish as he tried to get Rodney under control. The scientist tripped and went down, banging his head against the desk as he went. Tony cursed.

Gibbs stepped in and hauled Rodney to his feet. There was a small cut on Rodney’s forehead, oozing blood. Tony sighed – it never looked good when a suspect got hurt in custody. Gibbs didn’t look happy about it either – he took a second to peer at it and make sure it wasn’t serious, but it was just a small cut.

“Dr Sheppard,” Gibbs said, briskly, in the kind of tone subs always took notice of. Rodney went still at the sound of his voice, and stopped struggling. “We’re going to take you to the interrogation room for questioning – that’s all. It’s in your best interests to come with us and co-operate fully. If you *are* innocent, then I’m sure you’ll be able to prove it. For your own safety we’re going to handcuff you.”

“You don’t know what you’re doing,” Rodney whispered. “Seriously – you have no idea. This is all totally wrong.”

“Okay…we’ll see,” Gibbs said, nodding at Tony.

Tony cuffed Rodney’s hands behind his back, took hold of Rodney’s shoulder, and pushed him towards the door. At first he’d been exhilarated by the thought that he might have solved these murders – anything that would make Gibbs think highly of him. But now…an uneasy feeling was settling in the pit of his stomach. Had his dislike for Rodney and his jealousy over his relationship with the general influenced him too much? Sure, the evidence did kind of point to Rodney’s guilt…but was this man really capable of murder?







~ I love receiving friendly feedback! If you enjoyed this story, please leave a comment below. ~
6 Comments on Hiding In Plain Sight: 2. Chapter Two


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

Paperback on Amazon

E-book on Amazon

Smashwords in various formats

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons