The First Collar: 6. Part Six


Tony gazed at himself in the mirror and dabbed at his hair with his hand, the way he always did when he was anxious. He wished Gibbs would just get it the hell over with and punish him. He deserved it, and Gibbs knew he deserved it. He’d disobeyed a direct order and ruined a massive undercover operation as a result.


“Could you be any more of an idiot, DiNozzo?” he asked himself.


He glanced around the room. Just two weeks ago he’d sat in here in his clubbing clothes, stinking of liquor and sex, with dried come on the back of his thighs, and somehow Gibbs had seen something in him worth hiring. Well, the boss had to be regretting that decision now – big time.


Maybe Gibbs was deciding whether to punish him or fire him. That would make sense. Tony’s gut clenched anxiously. He loved it here. It was the only job he’d ever had where he felt that he fit in. This felt like home, and it had been a long time since he’d had a home. He’d rather take dozens of hard licks on his bare ass than be sent away.


Maybe Gibbs was going to go to the director to ask if he could take care of the punishment privately, rather than in the discipline room. Technically, anyone could witness a workplace punishment, unless the director ordered otherwise. Mostly, only the official witness from HR attended, but sometimes he’d taken his licks in front of a room full of people. He annoyed enough of his co-workers that some of them wanted to enjoy seeing him receive his comeuppance. He never gave them the satisfaction of hearing him express so much as a whimper of pain though. He’d only give his top that pleasure; in public he remained silent, even when it nearly killed him.


The worst he’d ever had was at Peoria, when he’d pissed off the Captain and taken twenty with the strap in front of a jeering crowd. He’d left soon after. It was hard to come back from that and the pain and humiliation of the event still lingered.


This would be even worse than that though. A screw-up this big meant either dismissal, or maybe as many as thirty with the strap. If it was the strap then he’d take it. He’d bear it somehow. He hoped Gibbs would do it. He didn’t want that nice lady, Maureen, from HR handing it out. Maybe she wasn’t in charge of discipline though. Maybe someone else in HR had that responsibility.


“I hope it’s Gibbs and not HR,” he said out loud, staring at himself glumly in the mirror. “Don’t care how many licks I have to take as long as it’s him who hands them out and not anyone else.”






Gibbs gave a little grunt at Tony’s words. They didn’t help him make up his mind – he already knew what he was going to do – but they did confirm that he’d made the right decision.


He put Tony’s cell phone back in his pocket and was about to walk towards to the door when it opened, and Cynthia, Morrow’s secretary, glanced inside.


“Oh, there you are, Agent Gibbs. Director Morrow is looking for you.”


Gibbs had been expecting that, but he felt his gut clenching uncomfortably anyway. He didn’t like what he was about to do to Tom Morrow, but he knew that wasn’t going to stop him doing it.


“I’m not surprised,” he said. “Director of the FBI been on the phone?”


“Oh, boy yes!” Cynthia made a face. “I could hear the bellowing in the next door office. I take it something bad has happened?”


“Yeah.” Gibbs glanced at Tony again and then nodded. He’d made the right decision; he was sure of it.


Gibbs followed Cynthia out of the observation room and up to the director’s office.


Morrow was sitting in his chair, fingers steepled together, looking royally pissed off. Morrow wasn’t the kind of man who ranted and raved; he was calm, reflective, and made of pure steel beneath the genteel exterior.


He glanced up as Gibbs came into the room. Cynthia shut the door behind them, leaving them alone together.


“You’ve heard what happened, Jethro?” Morrow asked quietly.


Gibbs nodded. “Yeah. Spoke to Fornell about it.”


“The director of the FBI is baying for blood, and I’m more than happy to give it to him. I want DiNozzo punished; thirty with the strap. I’ve already spoken to HR. Maureen will bring up the forms to be signed and then you can haul his ass down to the discipline room and take care of it.”


“Can’t do that, Director.” Gibbs shrugged.


Morrow looked at him, a question in his eyes. “I know you’ve made it one of your rules that nobody on your team takes discipline room punishment, but this is one rule you’ll have to break, Jethro. DiNozzo will take his licks in the discipline room, same as anyone else. I’m not letting you handle this privately if that’s what you’re going to ask.”


“I’m not.” Gibbs shook his head. “I can’t do it because it wasn’t his fault.”


Morrow’s eyes narrowed. “Then who the hell’s fault was it?”


“Mine,” Gibbs replied.


There was a long silence. Morrow stared at him. Gibbs stared back.


“Yours?” Morrow sounded frankly unbelieving. “How?” He sat back in his chair, his index finger idly tapping against his cheek.


“Forgot,” Gibbs said tightly. “When DiNozzo called me out of MTAC, I still had my head in the meeting with SecNav. He said he’d had a message from Dispatch about a possible break-in at Admiral Hansen’s house, so I told him to go pull a couple of agents out of the pool and check it out. I didn’t register Hansen’s name.”


“You didn’t register Hansen’s name?” Morrow repeated in a dangerous tone.


“Nope. I sent DiNozzo there. Wasn’t his fault. He didn’t know.”


Morrow stared at him for a long time. “Why are you doing this, Jethro?” he asked at last.


“Doing what, Director?”


“Lying to me.”


Morrow was one of those perceptive leaders who could read everyone in his employ like a book. He knew how to motivate people and how to get the best out of them – and he definitely knew when they were lying. Gibbs was sorry to have to do this to him. The man had his utmost respect but more than that he was a friend, and he didn’t deserve this. Gibbs had made his choice though, and he was sticking to it. Protecting Tony was more important than his friendship with Morrow right now. He didn’t know why, he just knew that was the case – he felt it in his gut.


“Not lying, sir.”


“We both know you are.”


They stared at each other some more; a powerful top and a powerful sub, both of them at the top of their game. Gibbs knew he’d win in the end; he always did.


“Where is DiNozzo?” Morrow asked.


Gibbs shrugged. “Don’t know, sir.”


“You don’t know?”


Gibbs shook his head. He couldn’t allow Morrow to call Tony up here. There was no way Tony would lie to save his own ass – on the contrary, he’d no doubt be all too eager to offer it up.


Morrow sat back in his chair. “You’re playing a dangerous game, Jethro,”


“Not playing at all, sir,” Gibbs replied. “I screwed up. I sent DiNozzo out for a couple of hours to get him out of the firing line – I knew he’d be blamed, and it wasn’t his fault.”


“And you’re sticking to that, are you?”


“Yup.” Gibbs nodded.


“The FBI wants my assurance that the matter has been dealt with,” Morrow said slowly.


“Yes, sir. I’ll bet they do.”


“Which means someone has to be punished.”


Gibbs gave a wry grin. “Yes, sir. I know.”


“Do you really want to make me do this, Jethro?” Morrow asked.


Gibbs shook his head ruefully. “Honestly, Tom? No. I really don’t, but I don’t see you have a choice.”


“You mean you’ve boxed me very effectively into a corner.”


Gibbs felt a pang of sympathy for the man’s dilemma, but he wasn’t going to give in. He knew he was doing the right thing.


“That’s just the way it is, Tom,” he said quietly.


Morrow glared at him. “You really are a bastard.”


Gibbs gave a twisted little smile. “Yeah. I know.”


There was a long silence.


Then, eventually, Morrow cleared his throat. “All right – but not in public. The entire Navy Yard will grind to a halt if people know the legendary Leroy Jethro Gibbs is taking licks downstairs. We’ll do it here, in private. Just the one witness.”


He slammed his hand down on his intercom. “Cynthia – get Maureen from HR up here – and tell her to make a detour to the discipline room on her way and bring the strap with her.”


He cut off Cynthia’s startled response and got up.


“I won’t forget this, Jethro,” he said, taking off his jacket. “I don’t like having my hand forced, and I definitely do not like being lied to and played by someone I count as a friend.”


“If it’s any consolation, you are gonna get a chance to take it out on my ass, Tom,” Gibbs pointed out.


“It’s not. I don’t like operating this way.” Morrow removed his cuff links and placed them carefully on the table. “Well, maybe it’s some consolation, you ornery bastard.”


Gibbs grinned. “See, that’s the spirit.”


He watched as Morrow rolled up his shirt sleeves, as meticulous as always, taking his time. Damn it, this was going to hurt. He hoped DiNozzo was worth it – but he knew, instinctively, that he was.


Maureen arrived a few seconds later, and Morrow gestured that she place the strap on the conference table in the centre of the room. She did so and then placed the paperwork on Morrow’s desk before turning to go.


“Stay,” Morrow ordered. “We need a witness.”


She looked startled and glanced from Morrow to Gibbs and back again before realization showed on her face.


“You’re disciplining Agent Gibbs?” she asked incredulously, as if her worldview didn’t allow for such a thing.


“He’s giving me no choice,” Morrow replied tightly.


“But…I thought the strap was for Agent DiNozzo. Rumours have been flying around the building for the past hour. I knew he’d be trouble, but Agent Gibbs insisted on hiring him and…” She trailed off. “It’s not for Agent DiNozzo?”


Morrow shook his head.


“It was my screw-up, Maureen,” Gibbs told her gently.


“But…the director can’t punish *you*,” she said, her mouth opening and closing in shock.


Gibbs shrugged. “I’m subject to the same rules as everyone else here.”


“The FBI is baying for retribution,” Morrow said tersely. “And Gibbs has volunteered his ass to take it.”


“But if it’s not his fault then you can’t let him take it!” Maureen protested.


Gibbs was flattered that she saw him as so much the top that he could do no wrong in her eyes and sorry that she was going to have to witness this. That realization suddenly clearly occurred to her too, and she paled.


“I can’t do this!”


“Someone has to do it,” Gibbs said implacably. “I’d prefer it to be you, Maureen.” He gave her his most encouraging smile and saw her resolve strengthen. Poor woman -– none of this was her fault. Gibbs turned back to Morrow. “Where do you want me, sir?”


“Don’t try and take charge, Gibbs,” Morrow growled at him. “This is my show, even if you do seem to have effectively stage-managed the whole event for me.”


He filled in the paperwork with several sharp, stabbing flourishes of his pen and then slammed it down on the desk in front of Gibbs. “Sign,” he ordered.


Gibbs did as he was told. Morrow had written in the number of licks he’d be getting – thirty with the strap. He hadn’t taken that many since he was a teenager, but he could handle it. It had been a long time since he’d taken discipline, but Mike Franks had been a hard taskmaster, and he’d handed out a couple of punishments to Gibbs when he was a probie. Well deserved punishments too, looking back. Both he and Franks were old-school tops and that meant they occasionally locked horns. Gibbs was used to the chain of command though; he’d had it drummed into him very effectively at boot camp back in his Marine Corps days and it wasn’t a lesson he’d ever forgotten.


He didn’t forget it now, either. He might not like this, but it was necessary. He stood there obediently, waiting for Morrow’s orders.


Morrow picked up the strap and gestured to the table. “Over there,” he said grimly.


Gibbs moved his hand to his belt. He didn’t need to be told the punishment would take place on bare skin. As a society, they didn’t have a great taboo about nudity. Some tops displayed their subs in a permanently nude state, and Gibbs was used to casual nudity on the streets, and in bars and cafes, as well as at private dinner parties.


His own partial nudity didn’t bother him, either. He was a Marine. It might not be easy to go ass up in front of two submissives, but his own pride wasn’t the issue here.




He pushed his pants and underwear down and leaned over the conference table. He deliberately didn’t look at Maureen’s stricken face. This wasn’t about her – she was just caught in the crossfire. He’d find a way to mend his relationship with Morrow though; he owed the man that.


He felt Morrow’s hand on the small of his back, pressing him down further. He fought down the toppy pride that hated being made to submit. This was his choice; he had to bear everything that came with it and bear it willingly.


He knew Morrow was forcing him to submit fully to his discipline, reminding him exactly who was in charge here. He’d do the same if it were him. Morrow kept pushing him until his torso was flat against the table. Gibbs angled his head to one side, grasped the edges of the table in his hands, and found the acceptance he needed to comply with Morrow’s demands. He was offering himself up to this freely and of his own volition. He had to find the strength to make the sacrifice and not resent it. There was no point doing this if he took it out on Morrow or DiNozzo later.




No pain would ever be enough to atone for not being there when Shannon and Kelly had needed him most, but he thought of the three ex-wives whose lives he’d screwed up. He remembered the sad look in Stephanie’s eyes when she’d handed him back his collar. She had been a good woman – she’d deserved better. He hadn’t been a very good husband to her or to the two other Shannon look-alikes who’d come before her.


Then he thought of Joanne and her never-ending pain. He wasn’t responsible for that, but he hadn’t always been very patient with her; he’d only learned that in the last few years and it wasn’t something that came easy to him.


He felt the cool leather strap resting on his skin and braced himself for what was coming next.


He thought of Tony, returning to the squad room after someone had broken into his apartment and violated it. He thought of Tony standing downstairs while he yelled at him, being too resentful, or afraid, or too full of distrust to tell him what had happened.


Something was going on with Tony. He’d known that the minute he met him, and the top in him wanted to reach out to the sub in Tony and help him. He’d felt the exact same way about Ducky, and then Stan and Abby too before he’d collared them.


Was that what he was intending to do? Collar Tony? Was that why he was doing this? No. He wouldn’t buy Tony’s neck with this. He would give it to Tony as a gift, without strings attached.


Morrow was making him wait a long time for the first stroke. Gibbs had no doubt at all that his boss was doing it on purpose, and he forced himself to accept that he had no control over this. He was in Morrow’s hands now. He could only submit and endure.


He heard Morrow’s arm move and then there was a whistling sound, a rush of air, and the first stroke landed. It hurt like hell, and Gibbs could feel all of Morrow’s pent-up anger in it. Morrow was furious with him for making him do this, and he was going to make every single stroke count. Gibbs hadn’t expected anything less. There was an agonising wait for the next lash but when it fell it was as painful as the first.


Morrow’s strokes were slow, measured and forceful; typical of the man handing them out. Gibbs kept his eyes open throughout, gazing sightlessly at the wooden surface area of the desk under his nose and the wall to one side. He didn’t make a sound – not so much as a grunt from the force of the blows. He wouldn’t make this harder on either Maureen or Morrow than it had to be, and besides, he had his toppy pride to consider.


Thirty strokes with a thick, hard, workplace strap was a lot. It wasn’t a punishment he’d hand out to any of his own subs lightly – probably not at all. Yet he didn’t regret his decision. Apart from anything else, he thought tops should know what it felt like occasionally. They shouldn’t hand it out unless they could also take it, and they should always be aware of the process of undergoing punishment, in order to gauge what was appropriate for their own subs. A little reminder of the reality of taking a hard punishment would do him no harm and would only hone his own instincts as a top even more.


He welcomed that knowledge as Morrow strapped him ferociously. He could feel the marks being placed on his skin and the heat and pain building up in his ass. Morrow was taking a methodical approach and laying on the strokes in a pattern, one under the other, before returning to the top again.


Gibbs tried to analyse the effect this had, so he’d remember when using it on a sub. It was less intense than taking a stroke on the same place, over and over again, but it spread the pain out until the entire surface area of his ass felt like it was burning up.


Fifteen. He was only halfway through. He’d taken bullets and blows, but offering yourself up for punishment was its own kind of discipline. There was the constant struggle not to move away, or stand up, or avoid the strokes in some way.


Twenty. Ten more to go. Morrow was now laying down stripes on areas that had already had two before, and Gibbs was acutely aware of how much more that hurt. The pain had built in such a way that there was no respite even between strokes. Gibbs dug deep, determined to neither express nor show how much it hurt. He suspected Morrow would have liked that, because he knew from handing out punishments himself how cathartic it felt, but the top in him refused to give his boss that.




He felt a little wave of euphoria that he didn’t think was anything to do with the endorphins flooding through his body. By offering himself up in Tony’s place, he had found some little part of the top inside who had been lost to him since Shannon’s death. He knew it would be a slow process and that he couldn’t hope to put all the pieces of himself back to together in one go, but he was aware that by taking this punishment for Tony he’d made some progress.




The relentless sound of leather on skin stopped but the fiery pain remained, radiating out in agonising waves from his ass.


“Get up,” Morrow ordered. He sounded grim, but Gibbs didn’t blame him for that.


Gibbs got up slowly, with great control, and rearranged his clothing. Maureen was standing with one hand on the door, looking like a frightened rabbit. He managed to shoot her what he hoped was a reassuring smile.


“Here.” Morrow crossed the room and handed Maureen the strap and the paper Gibbs had sighed. “See that’s faxed to the Director of the FBI immediately,” Morrow ordered. Maureen nodded. Gibbs saw that her hand was shaking where she was holding the piece of paper. “You can go,” Morrow told her shortly, and she ran out of the door the second the words left his mouth.


Gibbs did up his belt and turned to see Morrow rolling down his shirt sleeves.


“You can go too,” Morrow told him curtly.


Gibbs nodded and walked towards the door. He had his fingers on the handle when Morrow spoke quietly behind him.


“Was it worth it?”


Gibbs paused and then turned back. “Yes.”


“What is DiNozzo to you? A sub in distress? I know you can’t resist those.”


Gibbs laughed out loud. “Oh, I’m not that easily played.”


Morrow gazed at him steadily and then sighed. “No. No you’re not, Jethro. But what makes you so sure DiNozzo was worth the price you just paid.”


“My gut,” Gibbs replied.


“Ah, the famous Gibbs gut. And is it always right?”


“When I listen to it, yes. When I don’t let ego get in the way.” Gibbs gave a tight little smile.


“And what does your gut say about what you just did to me and our friendship?” Morrow asked quietly.


Gibbs saw the dejected look in the other man’s eyes. He felt betrayed – and with good reason. He walked back over to where Morrow was standing and took a deep breath.


“Tom – I’m sorry,” he said softly, putting every ounce of sincerity he possessed into the word he so rarely ever spoke.


Morrow’s eyes flickered in acknowledgement. “Careful, Jethro – that’s a sign of weakness.”


“Not between friends,” Gibbs replied.


Morrow stared at him for a long time – and then he broke. “Come here, you bastard.” He wrapped an arm around Gibbs’s shoulder and pulled him in for a brief hug. “You ever do anything like that to me again, and I’ll fire your ass, not tan it,” Morrow growled into his ear. Gibbs grinned and patted his friend’s back, glad they weren’t going to part on bad terms. Morrow released him. “Seriously, what is it with DiNozzo? What do you see in him that makes you feel this strongly about protecting him?”


Gibbs shrugged. “Something in his eyes.”


Morrow snorted. “Oh, and you can always tell what’s going on in a sub’s head by what’s in their eyes, can you? No wait – you’re the great Leroy Jethro Gibbs – of course you can.”


Gibbs laughed out loud. “I can tell what’s going on in yours right now, Tom.”


“Really?” Morrow raised a challenging eyebrow.


“Yeah – you’re thinking I’m so damn annoying you’d like to throw me back over that table and give me another thirty.”


It was Morrow turn to laugh out loud. “Don’t tempt me, Jethro. Go – go on! Get out of here before I do just that.”


Gibbs didn’t need telling twice. He walked out of the room, head held high, after one of the most painful and humiliating experiences of his life. Every single step sent waves of fiery pain radiating out from his punished ass but nobody watching would have known.


He was Leroy Jethro Gibbs. He was a Marine. He was a top. He had his pride. And he’d be damned if he let anyone know just how much he was hurting right now.






As the minutes ticked by, Tony became more and more apprehensive. He wanted to get up, yank open the door, and walk out, and several times he stood up and tried to do just that – but something always stopped him.


He wondered where the hell Gibbs was and what fate was being decided for him. Finally, after a long, excruciating wait, the door opened, and Gibbs walked into the room. Tony stood up.


“Have you been to see the director?” he asked anxiously.


Gibbs glared at him. He seemed a little red in the face and there were little droplets of sweat beading his hairline. “Where the hell else do you think I’ve been all this time, DiNozzo?”


“I thought so. Is he mad? What did he say? Is he firing me?”


Gibbs ignored him. He grabbed hold of Tony’s hand and placed his cell phone in it. Tony shoved the phone into his pocket.


“You are firing me, aren’t you? Do you want my badge and gun?”


“No, I’m not firing you, DiNozzo, but let’s get one thing straight.” Gibbs leaned in, so close that Tony could feel the heat radiating off him. “You ever – and I mean *ever* disobey me again, then you’ll be outta here before you draw another breath. Got it?”


“Yes, Boss,” Tony said, relief flooding through him at the news he wasn’t going to be fired. “Sorry, Boss,” he added contritely.


“Never apologise,” Gibbs told him.


“Sign of weakness. I know.” Tony sighed. “But I screwed up, Boss, and I *am* sorry.”


Gibbs gave a little grunt. “Good. You should be. And yes, you did screw up, DiNozzo, and boy, when you screw up, do you *ever* screw up. That’s over now though. You won’t screw up like that again.”


“How do you know that?” Tony asked. “I mean, I’m me – it’s bound to happen again.”


Gibbs gave him a glare so intense that Tony took a step back in alarm.


“Oh, I know you’ll make mistakes, and I’ll kick your ass for every single one, believe me, but you won’t ever screw up like that again.”


He said it with such total and utter confidence that Tony almost believed it could be true.


“I won’t?” he asked uncertainly.


Gibbs shook his head firmly. “No. You won’t.”


“Because you say so?” Tony raised an eyebrow.


Gibbs nodded curtly. “Now you’re starting to get it, DiNozzo.”


“It’s that simple?”


“Yes. It’s that simple. You screwed up but you learned from this. You learned that you’re part of my team, and I stand by my team even when they screw up. And you learned that I’m your goddamn boss and your ass is mine. So from now on, you don’t so much as piss without my say so.”


“Yes, Boss,” Tony said quietly. He felt a glow of warmth at the knowledge that Gibbs must have argued his case with the director. Gibbs must see something in him if he was prepared to fight for him.


“Good. Now come with me.”


Tony trailed along behind Gibbs. He was aware of people scuttling away from them and casting worried glances in their direction. It looked like word of what he’d done had got around. It always happened, wherever he went. He made some monumental screw-up and got a bad reputation. He was always the bad boy – had been at school, at college, and in every place he’d ever worked. He wouldn’t mind if he enjoyed the role more, but he honestly didn’t.


They got back to the squad room, and Gibbs grabbed a box of files from behind his desk and dumped it on Tony’s. “Background checks. Get to work on them.”


Tony stared at him. “I don’t understand.” Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “Uh…I mean, I’ll get on them, Boss, but aren’t you punishing me at all? I mean, I thought we’d be going back to the discipline room for sure.”


“I thought I told you, DiNozzo – nobody on my team ends up in the discipline room.”


“Yes, Boss. But…”


Gibbs silenced him with a glare. “It’s finished, DiNozzo. The matter is closed. You screwed up, but you won’t disobey my orders again. Let’s move on.”


“Like that? No punishment?” Tony couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He was never this lucky, and this had been one monumental screw-up on his part. Hell, even he thought he deserved to be punished for it.


“No punishment,” Gibbs confirmed. “‘Cept this.” He reached out and slapped the back of Tony’s head – hard. Tony gave a little squeak of surprise and then his belly flooded with the warm feeling he always got whenever Gibbs head-slapped him. “Now, I gave you some work to do – so do it.”


“Yes, Boss.” Tony sat down, feeling bewildered but relieved. He had no idea what had just happened, but he wasn’t going to turn down the free pass he’d somehow been given.


He watched Gibbs out of the corner of his eye as his boss worked for the rest of the day. Gibbs seemed tired, and he was slower than usual, but he didn’t sit down once. He also didn’t let up on him – he kept Tony at it until late and only allowed him to leave when he’d completed all the work in the box.


Tony dreaded going home, so he was almost sorry when Gibbs finally dismissed him. He let himself into his apartment building with a sinking heart, knowing the mess that awaited him in his apartment.


He stopped to collect his mail and began sorting through it as he walked up the stairs. Most of it looked like bills…but there was one official-looking white envelope. He opened it and stopped to read the letter as he stood on the stairs.


Dear Mr. DiNozzo,


You are hereby called to present yourself before the inquiry panel investigating various irregularities within Baltimore PD. Please ensure…


He skimmed through the rest, his heart beating fast. No wonder Dana had chosen today to steal the tapes from him. Things were moving far faster than he had anticipated. He was being called to testify in five days time; he had less than a week.


The letter warned that he might be required to attend more than one session of the inquiry. He knew there was no way Gibbs would give him the time off unless he told his boss what was going on. And if he told Gibbs what was going on then there was no way Gibbs would want to keep him on his team, so he was doomed either way.


He stuffed the letter into his pocket and went back down the stairs. He drove back to the Navy Yard, sat down at his desk, and typed up his letter of resignation. It was ironic that it should come to this, so soon after his relief at not being fired, but it wasn’t an irony he was in the mood to appreciate right now.


He’d leave on his own terms though. Maybe he’d go on the run. That seemed to be all that was left to him now. His apartment was trashed and his career was in tatters. All that was facing him was Dana Morley’s final coup de grace, and he was damned if he’d give her the satisfaction of delivering it. Better to go renegade now and see how far away he could get before they eventually caught up with him.


He stuffed the letter in an envelope and went downstairs to HR to deliver it.


He had thought that everyone would have gone home, but the door was ajar and a light was on in the HR office. Tony knocked on the door and poked his head around it. Maureen was sitting at her desk, tapping away on her keyboard. She glanced up, and her lips thinned in distaste when she saw him. He didn’t know why she disliked him so much, but he was used to people not getting him, so he ignored it.


“Uh…didn’t realize anyone would still be here. I came to deliver this.” He put the letter on her desk. She glanced at it coolly. “It’s my letter of resignation,” he told her. Her eyes widened in an expression of disbelief, and she looked like she was about to explode. “What? I thought you’d be pleased!” he protested. “You’ve hated me since the minute Gibbs hired me and now I’m going, so you can stop acting like I’m a nasty smell you’ve got caught up your nose.”


“You really are an ungrateful little shit,” she snapped.


He stared at her, aghast. What the hell had he done to deserve *that*? “I’m many things, but ungrateful? I don’t think so. I’m damn grateful for the opportunity Gibbs gave me here, but I’m only going to cause trouble for him so it’s best I move on before I drag him or anyone else into my problems.”


“Fine.” She grabbed the letter and threw it into her in-tray. “Go. Run out like you always do. I’ve seen your resume remember, DiNozzo. What’s the longest you’ve ever stayed anywhere? Two years?”


He gave a little grunt, feeling winded. “About that,” he agreed.


“So the two weeks you’ve spent here will be the shortest,” she snapped. “You must be proud of yourself.”


“What the hell does it matter to you? It’s my life,” he snapped back. “And you don’t have a clue what –”


“No, *you* don’t have a clue,” she interrupted angrily. “When I think of what Gibbs did for you today, and you have the cheek to stand here and…” She trailed off, looking annoyed with herself.


“What Gibbs did for me? What did Gibbs do for me today, Maureen?” Tony asked, surprised.


“Nothing. It doesn’t matter. Go home, DiNozzo. I’ll make sure your resignation is processed tomorrow. I presume you aren’t working out your notice? I mean, that’s why you’ve crept down here tonight, isn’t it? So you don’t have to face Gibbs tomorrow and explain yourself to him. Were you even planning on telling him? Or were you just going to run out?”


Tony shook his head. “You don’t know the full story, Maureen. It’s better this way, believe me.”


It was. It was better for all of them if he left without saying goodbye. He couldn’t face Abby’s tears, or Ducky’s disappointment – and most of all he couldn’t face Gibbs’s disgust.


“I told Gibbs he shouldn’t hire me, and I was right. You were there; you heard me.”


“Yes, I was there, and I told him he shouldn’t have hired you, either, but he did. Now go, DiNozzo. It’s fine. I’ll take care of it; I’ll tell Gibbs tomorrow as you’re not sub enough to face him.”


That stung! Tony glanced at his letter of resignation in her in-tray, where she’d thrown it, and he caught sight of a document underneath. It was a standard punishment form – he knew them well enough as he’d signed plenty of them. What caught his eye was the name on it.


Leroy Jethro Gibbs.


His chest felt suddenly tight. “What did you mean, Maureen?” he asked quietly. “What did you mean when you said Gibbs did something for me?”


She pursed her lips tightly together. “I can’t tell you. It’s confidential.”


Tony remembered the little beads of sweat on Gibbs’s forehead earlier, and how he hadn’t sat down for the rest of the day. He’d been moving more slowly than usual too; he was usually such an energetic guy.


“What happened in the director’s office?” he pressed. “What did Gibbs do?”


She shook her head mutely, and he did the only thing he could in the circumstances; he reached into her in-tray and pulled out the punishment form.


“You can’t read that – it’s confidential!” she protested, but he ignored her as he scanned the document quickly.


Thirty? Gibbs had taken thirty strokes of the strap for him? But why? It made no sense. He’d given Gibbs no explanation for his disobedience and provided him with no reason to protect him in this way. Gibbs hadn’t even tried to use this as leverage against him; he hadn’t come back down after and told Tony what he’d done. He hadn’t held it over his head and tried to make Tony feel guilty and obligated. He hadn’t even mentioned it. What the hell was going on?


Tony scanned the punishment form again – maybe he’d got this wrong, maybe it wasn’t Gibbs who’d taken the strapping…but no: Gibbs’s details were at the top of the form – Gibbs’s name in full, his job title, and his home address. And there was Gibbs’s familiar scrawled signature at the bottom of the form, confirming that he accepted the punishment.


Tony felt dazed. He put the form back in Maureen’s in-tray and took his letter of resignation out.


“I might need to reconsider this,” he told her, slipping it into his pocket.


“You do that,” she said tightly.


“I didn’t know.” He shook his head. “And I don’t understand. Why did he do it, Maureen?”


She shrugged. “He’s Gibbs.”


She said it like that explained everything, but he still didn’t understand. So Gibbs was a good investigator, a powerful top, and scary as all hell, but that didn’t explain why he’d lie to protect Tony’s ass, take a whipping for it, and not want anything in return. Tops always wanted something in return, even if it was just sex, and Gibbs had never shown the slightest interest in claiming sexual favours from him.


He left the room without saying another word. He got into his car and drove off, trying to figure out what this was about, but it just went around and around in circles in his head. It didn’t add up. It made no sense.


He drove around for a little while, trying to avoid the obvious, but in the end, he knew there was only one way to find the answer.


He turned his car around and headed for Gibbs’s house.






Gibbs went upstairs when he got home and changed out of his work clothes. He went into the bathroom and glanced over his shoulder to take a look at the damage in the mirror. It was bad. The skin was purple and bruised, and he could see the outline of several strap marks, raised at the edges in a darker shade of purple. Sitting would be extremely painful for the next couple of days and to be avoided whenever possible.


Gibbs never liked leaving marks on his submissives unless he thought they needed it; some subs enjoyed having the marks to look at, like they were a badge of honour. Shannon had always enjoyed that, but then he’d mostly only given her pleasure spankings. There had rarely been any need for punishment, and it wasn’t really a part of their dynamic. He could only remember it happening on a couple of occasions, and it had been tough on both of them. Other subs needed marks simply to focus their minds on the punishment for a few hours after – or even a couple of days; his 2nd ex-wife had been like that.


Gibbs liked seeing his marks on his subs, but he preferred bite marks to strap marks. He did like seeing the imprint of his hand for a few hours after a spanking, but a strap mark never did much for him. He knew how to mark his subs in ways most designed to achieve what he wanted for them, but he rarely ever left marks that lasted more than a day or so, unless a sub really needed grounding or had behaved spectacularly badly.


His own ass would be marked for days; he could see that. But then this had been a formal punishment, in the workplace, not a private matter between top and sub. When he punished his subs he could use his own discretion; Tom Morrow had been constrained by legalities and the necessity of making this a punishment that would satisfy even the FBI. Gibbs gave a wry grunt; he was pretty sure the FBI would be satisfied to hear that Leroy Jethro Gibbs of all people had taken the rap for today’s failure.


Gossip like this would spread like wildfire and had no doubt gone all around NCIS, the FBI, and all the other federal agencies by now. Gibbs didn’t give a damn about that. He’d made the decision and stood by it, and if anyone at the FBI or anywhere else wanted to make something of it, he wouldn’t have any trouble making them regret it.


Gibbs found some cream he’d used on his subs in the past and applied it to his own ass. It hurt like crazy, but he was Marine enough to suck it up and do what had to be done.


He changed into some loose sweats and went down to his basement to work on his boat. He needed the rhythm of spending time on the boat tonight. It had been one hell of a day, and he needed to touch base with himself, calm himself, and lose himself in the grain of the wood.


He clambered onto the prow of the boat and began sanding her down. He was in too much pain to manage anything more complicated than sanding tonight, but there were always areas that benefited from some sanding, and he’d been neglecting it of late.


He got into a smooth, steady rhythm, and felt the pressures of the day start to lift. He was worried about DiNozzo. The kid was clearly struggling with something, but Gibbs knew instinctively that the newest sub in his life was half-feral. It was as if he’d been tame once, but had been kicked so often and so hard that he didn’t trust anyone anymore. He’d rub up against your legs and charm you with his good looks and bright eyes. He’d even roll over, show you his belly, and invite you to give it a rub – but woe betide you if you took him up on the invitation, because Gibbs had no doubt that you’d feel his teeth sinking into your hand the minute you did.


He didn’t know why Tony had such a big issue with trusting tops, but instinctively he knew the best way to deal with it was to be consistent, to show Tony he could handle him, and not to pressure him into anything. If Tony felt he’d been cornered then he was likely to claw his way out and run away into the night, never to be seen again – and that thought made Gibbs’s gut clench. He didn’t want that to happen to Tony. There was something in the kid; something brilliant and beautiful, something kind and loyal and brave, but Tony tried so hard to hide it. Gibbs had no idea why, but he hoped to find out, one day.


He wouldn’t force it though. He would be patient and allow Tony to come to him.






Tony pulled up outside Gibbs’s house and sat there for a moment, looking at the front door. Then, finally, he shook himself. There was no point sitting out here; he had to go in there, face this, and find out why Gibbs had done what he’d done.


“If he thinks he can buy me,” he muttered resentfully to himself. “If he thinks he can use this to manipulate me and put a collar around my neck…”


His stomach flipped at that thought, and he had no idea why. He pushed the feeling down. If Gibbs had wanted to manipulate him, he could easily have done so by now. There was no reason to wait but instead he’d remained mute on the subject. Also, Maureen had looked genuinely mortified about betraying the confidence of her job and allowing him to find out that Gibbs had taken that strapping for him.


Tony stood outside the front door, hesitating. He’d never been here before. Finally, he knocked and then waited. There was no movement inside the house. The hall light was on, but he couldn’t hear anyone inside. He knocked again, but again there was no reply. Tony put his hand on the door handle, and, much to his surprise, it turned and the door opened.


Tony paused; this was weird. Did Gibbs know that he’d left the place unlocked? He drew his gun and edged cautiously into the house; maybe his boss was in trouble.


He hesitated in the hallway, trying to get his bearings, and heard a faint noise coming from below; must be a basement. He edged along the hallway to a door at the far end and placed his hand silently on it.


“It’s open!” a voice called out before he had a chance to turn the handle; Gibbs’s voice.


Tony put his gun back in its holster, took a deep breath, and then pushed the door open, wondering what on earth he’d find behind it.


He stood there for a moment, gazing down into the main body of the basement. A flight of stairs was in front of him and…of all the things he might have expected Gibbs to keep in his basement, a half-built boat really wasn’t one of them.


Gibbs looked up. “See you let yourself in, DiNozzo.”


“Sorry…door was open.”


“Always is,” Gibbs replied with a shrug.


He was wearing a pair of loose grey sweats which was sensible in the circumstances; Tony often did the same after a hard punishment. He looked at the man intently, but Gibbs showed absolutely no sign of having taken thirty hard licks from the strap earlier in the day. He was clambering over the prow of the boat, sanding it deftly, looking completely comfortable. Damn it, the man wasn’t even wincing!


Tony knew from his own experience how much a formal punishment from a workplace strap hurt. He’d taken a few licks in his time and spent the evening after lying face down on his couch with an ice-pack on his ass. He envied Gibbs his sheer willpower in not giving in to the pain.


“You comin’ down, or are you gonna stand up there all night?” Gibbs asked, not even looking up from his work.


Tony walked slowly down the stairs and then stopped a few steps from the bottom and sat down, unsure where to begin. He’d been thinking about how to handle this, but now he was here all he could do was blurt it out.


“I know,” he said.


Gibbs glanced up, one eyebrow raised. “You know what, DiNozzo?”


“I know, Gibbs!” Tony said angrily, not in a mood to be jerked around tonight. “I know what you did today. I went back to the office…I saw…I found out…” He paused; he didn’t want to get Maureen into trouble. “I saw the punishment form with your name on it,” he said quietly.


“Uh-huh.” Gibbs went back to his sanding as if nothing had happened.


“That’s it? That’s all you have to say? Christ, Gibbs – you took thirty strokes of the strap for me. You lied for me! You covered for me! And then you didn’t say a damn word to me, so I didn’t even know you’d done it. It makes no sense. Why would you do that? Why?”


Gibbs put down his sander and slowly clambered off the boat. He walked over to where Tony was sitting and stood in front of him.


“Why?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow.


“Yes, damn it! Why?”


Gibbs gazed at him thoughtfully. “Seems to me that you’ve been punished a lot in your life, Tony, and not always for things that were your fault. You said so in your job interview.”


“What the hell does that matter? This *was* my fault. You know it, and I know it. I deserved those thirty licks today.”


Gibbs made an impatient motion with his head. “Sometimes you’ve taken punishments you didn’t deserve because you’re trying to fit in and make friends. Maybe it’s a trick you picked up at school. I saw on your resume that you moved around a lot and went to several different boarding schools; must have been hard to keep picking yourself up and making new friends.”


“It was fine. I was used to it,” Tony muttered. “It has absolutely nothing to do with what we’re talking about.”


Gibbs grinned at him. “Okay. Then you took a few undeserved punishments in various jobs too – you took the blame for things that weren’t always your fault, hoping it’d get people to like you, show them that you were a team player.”


Tony glared at him. “I *am* a team player. I always have been.”


“I know.” Gibbs shrugged. “And as you said at your job interview, sometimes – and far too often I suspect – you take one for the team.”


“So?” Tony asked, still feeling confused.


Gibbs leaned towards him, so that he was suddenly very close indeed. “So I thought that maybe it was time the team took one for you, DiNozzo,” he said softly.


Tony stared at him. Gibbs seemed a little blurry, like he was looking at him through water. Tony brushed his hand across his eyes and was surprised when it came away wet. He swallowed hard and looked down at his feet, blinking rapidly.


He heard Gibbs move away and go back over to his boat and then a gentle rasping sound as he resumed sanding again. Tony leaned his head against the banister, closed his eyes, and allowed the sound to wash over him. There was something so rhythmically soothing about it. He stayed that way for a long time, not speaking.


Finally, after about half an hour, he opened his eyes, stood up, and reached into his pocket for the letter from Internal Affairs that he’d received in the mail earlier.


He went over to where Gibbs was working on the boat and silently handed him the letter.


End Part Six


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