Two Masters: 7. Part Seven


Tony opened his eyes and immediately wished he hadn’t. His head was pounding and the daylight seeping in around the edge of the drapes felt bright and jarring. He moved onto his side, wondering why the bed felt so hard beneath him. Then he remembered a jumbled up, chaotic version of what had happened the previous night, and he broke out into a sweat.


Shit, he’d screwed this one up. No matter how often Gibbs told him it was never a choice between kicking him out and punishing him hard, Tony couldn’t quite get his head around the fact that there might be any other options. He was pretty damn sure there wasn’t this time.


He glanced over at the bed, but it was empty – it didn’t even look like it had been occupied all night, but then Gibbs was notorious for making his bed the minute he left it in the morning so that didn’t necessarily mean anything.


Tony got up, slowly, and made his way gingerly into the bathroom. He looked at himself in the bathroom mirror and winced. He looked like exactly what he was – someone with a bad hangover who’d fucked up so much these past few days that there wasn’t much hope of any kind of redemption.


He took a shower, shaved, and cleaned his teeth, which at least got rid of the disgusting morning-after feel in his mouth.


He pulled on a pair of sweat pants and tugged a plain black tee shirt over his head. Then, finally, he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and set off slowly down the stairs to face what he was pretty sure would be the most unpleasant conversation of his life.


He found Gibbs sitting in the kitchen, wearing the same soft sweats he had been wearing the previous evening, holding a mug of coffee and reading through the Sunday papers.


“Hey.” Tony stood in the doorway, unsure what to do.


Gibbs glanced up. “Hey,” he said, in a voice that gave nothing away. He moved his foot and kicked the chair opposite him away from the table. “Sit,” he ordered, gesturing towards it.


Tony edged forwards and sat down cautiously in the chair. Gibbs nudged a glass of water and a couple of headache pills across the table towards him.


“How did you guess?” Tony asked with a self-deprecating grin, swallowing the tablets gratefully.


“Considering how drunk you were last night, wasn’t hard,” Gibbs grunted.


Tony nodded. “So…first off, I’m sorry,” he said, needing to get that out of the way before this all got too heavy. “I was a shit last night, and you didn’t deserve that.”


“What are you referring to specifically?” Gibbs asked, leaning back in his chair, one hand wrapped around his mug of coffee. “The fact you lied to me about where you were going, the fact you didn’t tell me about some guy who has been threatening you for the past few weeks, or the fact that you were so drunk you thought you could taunt me into taking a swing at you?”


“All of it,” Tony said firmly. “I’m sorry for all of it.”


“Yeah, I think you are.” Gibbs nodded. “And I think you’d do it all again tomorrow if you were in the same kind of headspace again.”


Tony thought about summoning up his most abject Tony DiNozzo mask and wearing it so convincingly that Gibbs would be sure to believe in his sincerity, but his dom seemed to see right through him.


“Don’t do it, Tony,” Gibbs said softly. “Don’t. Just don’t.”


“Okay,” Tony sighed. “I won’t. You’re right – I’d do it all again tomorrow, Gibbs. And I’d regret it, just like I regret it today, but I can’t promise you I won’t do it anyway.”


“Yeah. I know.” Gibbs put down his coffee and leaned back in his chair.


“So where do we go from here?” Tony wasn’t used to being this exposed in front of anyone. He was always able to deflect and hide – he was a master at it. Only he couldn’t do that right now. Gibbs wouldn’t let him, and he didn’t have the heart for it in any case.


Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “Well, usually round about now you ask me if I’m gonna throw you out or beat up on your ass. Those are the only two options you can ever see.”


Tony nodded. “Do you have any others?”


“Yeah. First off – I’m not giving up on you that easy, Tony. I took you as my sub knowing full well what you’re like, and I have every intention of keeping you.”


Tony felt an enormous and unexpected sense of relief. “Thank you,” he said. “I don’t think I deserve that, but thank you.”


“Secondly – I’m gonna ask you some questions, and I want your honest answers.”


“Right.” Tony shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Kind of like an interrogation?”


“If you like.” Gibbs shrugged.


Tony bit on his lip. Gibbs was a master of interrogations – Tony would have to be at the top of his game if he was going to hold his own against his dom. He wished his head wasn’t pounding so much. The meds were starting to work, but he needed his wits about him if he was going to go head to head with Gibbs and stand any chance of winning.


“Okay then.” Tony sat back in his chair and waited.


“Your dad ever spank you, Tony?” Gibbs asked unexpectedly.


“Yes.” Tony nodded. “A few times – I was kind of a naughty kid, Boss, as you can imagine. Can’t say, looking back, that I didn’t deserve it. All my friends got spanked too. I’m guessing your dad put you over his knee a few times as well.”


“Yeah. He did.” Gibbs nodded, gazing at Tony thoughtfully. “Your dad ever punch you, or kick you around, Tony?”


“No,” Tony replied firmly. “No, Gibbs. He used to fall down drunk sometimes, but he wasn’t like that. He’s a good man. Okay, so we’re not close, but he’s a good man in his own way. He didn’t spank me any more or any harder than any of my friends’ dads did, and he didn’t beat up on me.”


“What about your mom?” Gibbs asked. “She ever hit you?”


Tony felt his body tense up. “No,” he said quietly. “She was like me – you know, the fun-loving type. She left the discipline to my dad – it wasn’t her thing at all. She used to take me out shopping and dress me up in crazy-ass clothes just for the fun of it. We’d laugh our heads off in the store changing rooms. She’d dress me up and show me off to her friends. She was good fun. She wasn’t like most people’s moms. She’d take me off on adventures. We’d drive off in her car, and she’d get lost, and we’d end up in the middle of nowhere. Some kind of crazy shit always happened with her. She was that kind of person.”


He realised he might have said too much, and he shut up. Gibbs was still gazing at him intently, the way he did with suspects in the interrogation room.


“You ever get into any trouble at boarding school, Tony?”


“Plenty.” Tony nodded. “Like I said, I was a naughty kid. My mom taught me how to have fun and so…I always chased the fun in any situation.”


“Did the principal ever use corporal punishment on you?”


“Yeah. I got paddled a few times.” Tony shrugged. “It was never hot back then the way it is when you do it though, Boss.” He gave Gibbs a cheeky grin which Gibbs completely ignored.


“Anyone at school ever kick you around?” Gibbs asked. “Bully you? Beat up on you?”


“No,” Tony said, with a shake of his head. “Look, what the hell is this about, Gibbs?”


“Just trying to judge how you view physical punishment.”




“To decide whether to go ahead and give you what you want. One last question…”


Gibbs leaned forward. Tony braced himself. He knew that this one was the important one, regardless of what had gone before, and how he answered it would be crucial to whatever his dom had in store for him. When the question came though, it wasn’t at all what he expected.


“Did you lie to me in any of the answers you just gave?” Gibbs asked.


Tony gazed at him steadily, his heart beating a little too fast in his chest. Gibbs’s piercing gaze was unrelenting, and Tony found he couldn’t look away.


“Yes,” he replied honestly.


Gibbs sat back in his chair with a gruff little shake of his head. “Believe it or not, that’s actually progress,” he grunted. “Thank you, Tony.”


“Just once,” Tony clarified. “That’s all. I only lied once.”


“Can you tell me which question you lied about?”


Tony shook his head. “No.”


There was a long silence.


“I could make you,” Gibbs said at last.


“I know,” Tony replied.


“I won’t.”


“I know that too,” Tony said softly.


“I can’t trust you, Tony, because you won’t open up to me.”


“I know. I’m sorry.” Tony gazed at him despairingly. “If I could, I would, I promise. And if I could with anyone, it’d be with you. But…it’s all locked up inside. I don’t know how to explain it, but…I can barely tolerate having it in my head – I can’t drag it out into the daylight and have it exposed.”


“Why not?”


“Because, Gibbs, I can’t even look at it myself – I never do. I *can’t*. It’s not the fact of anyone else hearing it or knowing it – it’s me. It’ll tear me apart. I can’t…I just can’t.”


“If you don’t handle it, it’ll always be there.”


“Yeah. I know. You think I don’t know that!” Tony growled. “I can’t do it, Gibbs.”


Gibbs leaned forward. “One day, I might make you, Tony.”


Tony felt his heart flip. “Not yet. Please. Give me more time,” he requested softly.


Gibbs sat back in his chair again. He began tapping the fingers of his right hand on the table, playing out a little rhythm. Tony just sat there, looking at him, awaiting his fate.


“Okay,” Gibbs said finally. “Here’s what I can give you, and here’s what I want from you. I will punish you, Tony, if that’s what you want. I’ll punish you for what happened to Abby.”


“How?” Tony asked eagerly.


“Well, I won’t damn well punch you or kick you around, so if that’s what you want then forget it. I won’t lose my temper with you, and I sure as hell won’t lose control,” Gibbs growled. “I will give you the choice of how it’s done. I won’t tie you, and you’ll choose the implement and how many you take. It’ll all be in your control. I’ll do it for you, but that’s it.”


Tony bit on his lip again. “And what do you want from me?”


“Your honesty,” Gibbs said firmly. “I know that’s not your strong suit, but I need you to tell me when to stop. That’s all. Can you do that?”


Tony nodded. “Yes. That’s a bargain I can accept. Thank you, Boss.” He sat up straight in his chair. “When?” he asked. “Now? Today?”


“No,” Gibbs said sharply. “You’re in no shape to take anything like that right now. You were in a car accident a couple of days ago. Also, I want to give you time to change your mind. So you have until Friday. If you still want to go ahead on Friday night, then I’ll do it. That’ll give you the weekend to recover before going back to work, because I’m guessing this’ll be a hard one.”


He was right about that. Tony wasn’t looking forward to this, but if it helped quell that aching sensation in the pit of his stomach, if it got those damn images out of his mind, and if he felt he’d *paid* for his screw up, the way he deserved, then it would be worth it.


“If you decide you don’t need it on Friday, then that’s fine by me,” Gibbs told him firmly. “This is all totally your choice and in your control. Clear?”


“Clear.” Tony nodded. He glanced around the room. “I’m starving – are there any bagels, Boss?”


“Tony.” Gibbs’s tone was hard. Tony turned back to him. “I mean it – you fuck this up, and I *will* make you face whatever it is you’re hiding. Do you understand?”


Tony’s heart flipped again. “Yes, Gibbs,” he said quietly. “I understand.”






It was a long week. Gibbs allowed Tony back into his bed, and they resumed making love on a regular basis, but Gibbs didn’t feel like continuing Tony’s training while Friday was hanging over them.


They caught a big case at work which meant they didn’t have much free time anyway, and Gibbs spent most of Monday yelling at Abby’s useless temporary replacement who didn’t seem to have a clue what was required of him. Gibbs became so exasperated that Tony stepped in and took over the task, keeping the new guy out of Gibbs’s firing line.


Tony didn’t put a foot wrong at work all week. He was back to his old self, joking around, pulling pranks, and nosing into Ziva and McGee’s personal lives, while at the same time doing his job with a quiet competence that most people missed. Gibbs didn’t miss it – but then he never had.


They didn’t talk about what had happened again. They were both so tired when they got home late each evening that all they did was order take out and slump on the sofa while they ate it, watching the news or one of Tony’s DVDs.


When they were done eating, Tony edged up against Gibbs, and Gibbs allowed him to lie down next to him and put his head on his lap. He wordlessly stroked Tony’s hair, wondering all the time what the hell went on in Tony’s head. Tony seemed to require the comfort of being close to Gibbs, without being able to ask for it, and for that entire week, every night, that’s what Gibbs gave him.


They managed to wrap up the case by Friday afternoon, so Gibbs sent the rest of the team home. Then he turned to his sub.


“Go home too, Tony. You have some thinking to do.”


“What will you do?” Tony asked, shoving some papers into a file and slinging it into his desk drawer.


“I’ll finish up here, and then I’ll come home. Be there,” Gibbs warned.


“I will.”


“And know what you want,” Gibbs added sharply.


Tony grabbed his backpack and left the office without saying another word. When he’d gone, Gibbs turned back to filing his report. He wasn’t looking forward to this. It was one thing to spank Tony for their mutual pleasure, as part of their sex roles, but another to deliver this kind of hard punishment. He could do it, sure, but that didn’t mean he had to like it. Although it was what Tony seemed to think he wanted, Gibbs wasn’t convinced, in his gut, that it was what he *needed*. Without knowing what was behind Tony’s underlying sense of guilt, he couldn’t be sure that he was doing the right thing – and that bothered him.


He finished off shortly before seven and left the office. With any luck, Tony would have decided he didn’t need this, and then perhaps they could put the whole sorry business behind them and move on.


Gibbs found Tony sitting on the couch in the dark waiting for him when he got home. Gibbs snapped on the light, took off his jacket, and threw it over the back of a nearby chair. Then he turned to his waiting sub.


“So – what’s it going to be?”


Tony’s face was grimly determined. He stood up, and Gibbs noticed that he’d changed into a pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt.


“I want to do this,” he said quietly.


“Yeah, I thought you’d say that.” Gibbs gave a terse jerk of his head. “Okay then, Tony. Follow me. Let’s get this over with.”






Tony followed his dom out of the living room – and then, much to his surprise, Gibbs began walking up the stairs.


“We’re not going to the basement?” Tony asked.




Gibbs took them along to the second spare bedroom, and Tony hesitated in the doorway. This room had always been a storage area, mainly holding spare supplies of wood and other carpentry equipment. Now it seemed to have been cleared. He wasn’t sure when Gibbs had done this, but now the room contained the spanking bench that had previously been in the basement. Beside it was a hand-made wooden rack, containing all the disciplinary implements that had previously been stored in the toy box.


“Okay.” Gibbs closed the door behind him. “This is your show now, Tony. You tell me how it should go down.”


Tony looked around, uncertain now that the moment had arrived. It was much easier leaving it all up to Gibbs. He wasn’t used to having input, let alone having to stage-manage the whole event.


“Uhhh…” He had spent the past couple of hours thinking about this, but now it was actually happening, he wasn’t sure. He didn’t like having this kind of responsibility. It felt wrong, the way it felt wrong on the rare occasions Gibbs had allowed him to run a case they were working. Gibbs was so much the boss, both at work and at home, that it was hard to accept that he’d created an environment, in this room, where that responsibility fell to Tony.


Gibbs just stood there, his face completely blank, waiting for instruction. Tony went over to the wooden rack and examined the implements on display. His stomach began churning with anxiety.


“I’m not sure…” he began helplessly.


“I told you, Tony – this is your show. I’ll do what you ask, but you have to tell me what you want.”


“I know that!” Tony snapped irritably. “Sorry…” He turned to face Gibbs, immediately apologetic. “I’m just…this is new to me, Boss.”


“This is neutral territory, Tony. It isn’t a room we’ve played in before. This, here, is where you can be whoever you need to be.”


Now Tony understood the significance of the space Gibbs had cleared – he just wasn’t sure he could handle all that it meant. He gave a helpless shrug.


“Come here.” Gibbs beckoned, and Tony went over to him. Gibbs grasped his chin in his hand, making him look into his eyes. “You screwed up, and you want to be punished for that – yes?”


“Yes,” Tony agreed.


“Okay. I agree that you screwed up, but I don’t think you need to be punished, Tony. I think you’ve punished yourself enough. But I promised I’d do this, and I will. What I won’t do is take it out of your hands. It’s yours – not mine. I’m just helping you out. I’m not going to make this easy for you by taking the responsibility away. You want this – you make it happen.”


Tony nodded grimly. “Fine. I understand.”


He pulled away from Gibbs and returned to the rack of implements. He ran his hand over them, touching each of them in turn. He paused when he got to the cane. This hurt the most – he hated how it felt. That was a good reason to choose it, but he hesitated because he wasn’t sure how much he could endure of this particular implement – and he needed this to last long enough to work. He moved on, and in the end it came down to a choice between the strap and the paddle.


He was aware of Gibbs behind him, leaning against the wall, taking no part in the proceedings. That, of and by itself, felt weird. Gibbs always called the shots where punishment was concerned, and it felt almost sacrilegious to be touching these implements so freely in his dom’s presence.


The paddle hurt, but the strap…the strap was more flexible. He thought he’d be able to take more from the strap, so he picked that up, and went back over to his dom.


“This,” he said, handing it to Gibbs. Gibbs looked at it for a moment, and then he took it out of Tony’s hand. Tony stood there. Gibbs raised an eyebrow.


“Well? Where d’you want to be? Over the bench? Against the wall? Over my knee? What?”


“The bench,” Tony said firmly. The bench was sturdy, well made, and comfortable. He didn’t want to be distracted by having to hold himself in place, or by any discomfort in his leg muscles. There would be enough discomfort, of a different kind, and that was what he wanted to feel.


Gibbs put the strap down on the window ledge and began unbuttoning his shirt sleeves. Tony stood there, watching him. Usually, he got a thrill from seeing Gibbs slowly turn back his sleeves to the elbow, but not this time. This occasion felt flat and serious.


Gibbs finished and picked up the strap again. Then he turned back to Tony.


“What next?” he asked. “You gonna stay dressed, or get naked, or what?”


Tony stripped his tee shirt off and then toed off his sneakers and shucked off his pants. He stood there, naked, screwing up his courage to see this through. He wanted this. He could feel the aching need for it in his belly, but it was so damn hard.


“It’s easier when you tell me what to do,” he said to Gibbs.


“Well, yeah, Tony, I guess it is. This time you know you’re doing it to yourself,” Gibbs grunted. “But you’ve been doing it to yourself in your head for a long time now. Maybe it’s better this way – get it out, take the punishment, and then move on.”


“Yeah.” Tony nodded.


“If you can move on. Think you can, Tony?” Gibbs looked at him searchingly.


Tony hesitated. “Yes,” he replied eventually, but he was by no means certain.


“Unless you’ve changed your mind?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow.


“No,” Tony said sharply. “I haven’t.”


He went over to the spanking bench and got himself into position. Gibbs didn’t touch him. He didn’t help him get his knees in place, and he didn’t stroke him or pet him, the way he usually did. He just remained where he was, watching.


When Tony was finally settled, Gibbs walked over to the bench.


“How many, Tony?” he asked.


“I’ll let you know when I’m done,” Tony replied, glancing over his shoulder at his dom.


“Then I need to know how you’ll tell me that. Will you use your safe word?”




“What is it?” Gibbs asked.


Tony sighed inwardly. “Magnum,” he replied. God knows, Gibbs asked him what the damn word was often enough.


“When you say that word, I’ll stop. Yes?” Gibbs clarified.


“Yes – for God’s sake! It’s not rocket science, Gibbs!” Tony exploded. Then he bit on his lip. “Sorry. Again,” he sighed. “I’m jumpy, Gibbs. I don’t know how this’ll pan out. I’m not sure…I’ve never done anything like this before.”


“You’ve done something else though, to handle the guilt, haven’t you?” Gibbs asked.


“What do you mean?” Tony glanced up at him.


“You’ve let someone kick you around, beat up on you – yes?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “The only part I can’t figure out is whether you let them do it for your sake or theirs; maybe it was a bit of both.”


Tony didn’t reply. He put his head back down and held on tight. “Do it,” he ordered.




“What?” Tony growled.


“Where d’you want me to deliver the strokes? Your back? Your butt? Your thighs?”


“Anywhere between my shoulders and the backs of my knees.”


“Remember your side of the bargain,” Gibbs told him. “You use your safe word when it’s time to stop. You let me know when you feel you’ve been punished enough.”


“Yes. I’ll use my safe word when I want you to stop,” Tony told him through gritted teeth. He put his head down again and waited.


A second later, the first stroke fell on his ass. It wasn’t a warm-up stroke. This wasn’t an erotic spanking, designed to stoke up the endorphins and make him fly. It was flat, hard and painful. It was, he realised, exactly what he’d asked for – a punishment.


He closed his eyes and let the image of Abby lying unconscious in the wreckage of the car seep into his mind. He could see the blood soaking her dark hair, could smell the gas all around them.


He backtracked to them leaving the courthouse. He saw her dumping her shoes in the trash and tucking her hand through his arm. He saw them both getting in the car together. He remembered thinking he should tell her to sit in the back, but the danger was over, wasn’t it? He stayed there, in that moment, and took the punishment for his stupid damn mistake that had almost cost her her life and left her permanently scarred.


The strokes came down steadily. Gibbs didn’t say a word. He didn’t help him through it, the way he usually did. He didn’t stroke him, or praise him, or tell him he had no choice but to take it. He didn’t *make* him take it – Tony was left in no doubt that the only person making him take this was himself.


He could feel his flesh heating up with each new stroke. His shoulders ached under the onslaught, and now Gibbs moved lower, avoiding his lower back and the sensitive kidney area, and moving onto his butt. Tony gasped as the blows rained down on his buttocks. He panted with the effort of taking them, and then screamed as they continued, each one stinging and burning him.


He buried his head in his arms, screaming down into the surface of the spanking bench, using every single ounce of his own determination not to say his safe word. It was so hard to stay in position and suffer this, knowing that nobody was making him do it. He didn’t have the comfort and reassurance of Gibbs’s usual implacable commands. He wasn’t tied. There was just him and the leather strap beating down on his skin.


He moved beyond Abby and saw Jenny, her dead hazel eyes staring up at him. He was supposed to be protecting her, but he’d screwed that up.


“Idiot,” he berated himself. “Stupid damn idiot.”


Why the fuck had he followed her orders? Why had he cared more about renting that stupid car and hanging out in LA than doing his job? He seemed to make the same mistakes over and over again.


He could hear himself screaming in the distance, and it felt comforting. His thighs were flaring with pain, and he welcomed it. He floated back to a different kind of pain, a very long time ago, but just as well-deserved.


Then, all of a sudden, he’d gone back even further, and he was lying on his side on the road, gazing at his misshapen, broken arm, and the blood that was spewing out everywhere, mixing with the shards of glass on the ground. And beside him…beside him…


He sobbed helplessly into his own arms. It hurt. God it hurt. And it *should* hurt. Yet no matter painful it was, it couldn’t match the hurt inside.


Tony bit down hard on his own arm. There was no way he could ever say his safe word and end this – because no amount of punishment could ever be enough.


The sound of leather on skin stopped. It took him a little while to even notice. Then he felt a gentle hand stroking his hair.


“Tony, can you hear me?” a voice asked.


He didn’t reply. A pair of firm hands pulled him to his feet. God, how he ached! He felt as if his body was on fire. He felt one of his arms being slung over a set of sturdy shoulders, and he was walked out of the room, along the hallway, and into the main bedroom. He was gently guided onto the bed, face down.


He felt some kind of cool gel being soothed into his burning skin, and he shivered.


“Ssh. You’re okay. It’s okay.” A sheet was pulled over his body. He looked up and saw Gibbs, looking down at him.


“Fuck it. I screwed it up, didn’t I?” he muttered.


“Yeah.” Gibbs sat down on the bed beside him. “Did you ever intend to say your safe word, Tony?”


“Yes…at the beginning, going into it, I thought I would…but when it came to it…”


“You couldn’t?”


“No. I couldn’t. I’m sorry.”


Gibbs leaned over and kissed his face. “Ssh. Don’t worry about it now. We’ll handle it. I’ll handle it.”


“How?” Tony asked helplessly. Everything seemed so incredibly fucked up. He didn’t have a clue how the situation could be salvaged.


“Leave it to me. It’s out of your hands now. Get some sleep,” Gibbs ordered. Tony whimpered as his dom got up off the mattress. “It’s okay. I’m just taking off my shoes.” Gibbs did that and then sat back down on the bed, beside his sub. “I’ll stay here until you’re asleep,” he promised.


Tony nudged himself over, every single tiny movement sending flares of pain through his body. He rested his head on Gibbs’s lap, and Gibbs began combing his fingers through his hair. It felt so good, the way it always did. He knew he shouldn’t need this, and God knows he didn’t deserve it. He was surprised Gibbs kept letting him do it, but he couldn’t stop himself.


He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, with Gibbs’s hand still gently stroking his hair.






Gibbs waited until his sub was asleep, and then he moved Tony’s head aside, placed it gently on the pillow, and got up. His sub was covered in strap marks, from the top of his shoulders to the back of his knees.


It had been a tough call, but the realisation had slowly dawned on Gibbs that Tony wasn’t going to honour his side of the bargain. Gibbs had been very sure going into this that he wouldn’t step outside his comfort zone. Tony had taken a hard strapping, but Gibbs hadn’t crossed his own self-imposed line. He’d gone right up to that line, giving Tony every chance to say his word, but nothing would have induced him to cross it.


Maybe he should feel angry and betrayed right now, but he didn’t. Tony was so obviously struggling with something pretty big – it was impossible not to feel sorry for him, and to want to help him in some way.


Gibbs walked down the stairs and opened the basement door. He went slowly down the basement stairs and over to the workbench. He took out the brown envelope from the drawer and pulled out the file inside.


This time he didn’t hesitate, as he’d done so often before. This time he opened the file.


He sat down on the workbench, turned on the lamp, and began to read. He read for an hour. When he’d finished, he threw the folder onto the worktop with a sigh.


“Yeah, that pretty much explains it,” he muttered to himself. There were gaps, sure, but he could fill them in for himself. He put the file away, turned off the lamp, and walked back upstairs. Tomorrow, he’d make a few calls and check a few details – and then he had to decide what to do next.


He returned to the bedroom, got undressed, crawled into the bed beside his sleeping sub, and pulled Tony into his arms. He held him gently against his own body, mindful of his sore skin, and Tony muttered something in his sleep and nestled in as if by instinct. Gibbs buried his face in his sub’s hair, enjoying the familiar scent of him, needing to hold him close and keep him safe after what he’d just read.


“I’m not giving up on you, Tony,” he said softly. “We’ll figure this out, somehow.”






Tony awoke the next day to find himself lying wrapped up in his dom’s arms. Usually he was in bondage, facing away from Gibbs, but today he was chest to chest with him, his chin resting on Gibbs’s shoulder, their bodies pressed closely together, and Gibbs’s hand was wrapped loosely around his waist.


He knew without moving that he hurt. He couldn’t blame anyone but himself for that, and a part of him even welcomed the pain. He’d asked for it, and he’d deserved it. He knew that he’d made a bad mistake in not calling an end to it though. Gibbs had displayed a hell of a lot of patience in dealing with him these past couple of weeks, but that had to be wearing thin right now.


Tony knew that he was running out of time. There was no way a man like Gibbs would allow this to just go away. There were hard questions to be answered and hard truths to be faced.


A part of him wanted to just roll out of this bed and leave, but another part, that weak, needy part that he despised, couldn’t face the thought of disentangling himself from the warmth and security of his dom’s arms. Gibbs got him, the way nobody else ever had, his entire life. He couldn’t leave. He belonged here. Gibbs might kick him out one day, but he couldn’t imagine ever leaving of his own free will.


He was suddenly aware of a pair of blue eyes looking at him, and he made a face.


“Hey, Boss…didn’t realise you were awake,” he muttered sheepishly.


“Clearly. It’s interesting – watching you when you don’t know you’re being watched. Nice to see you without the mask, Tony.”


There was something different about his dom. Gibbs wasn’t angry – he didn’t even seem disappointed by what had happened last night. There was a kind of weary sadness to him, but under that was the usual Gibbs steel. He looked like a man who had come to some kind of decision.


“How ya feeling?” Gibbs asked.


Tony made a face. “Like everything hurts,” he replied honestly.


“I’d be surprised if it didn’t. Did you get any kind of catharsis from that last night, Tony?”


Tony thought about it. “Not really,” he admitted at last.


“Yeah, that’s what I thought. So from now on, we go back to doing it my way. I’m in charge of your punishments again because frankly, you’re really crap at it.”


Tony grinned, aware of a warm glow of relief in his belly. He preferred things this way.


“Yes, Boss!”


Gibbs leaned in and kissed his lips. “I’m back in control now, Tony,” he said firmly.


“So what happens next?” Tony’s stomach flipped as he voiced the question. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to know the answer.


“That’s not up to you. Today, you’re just gonna do what you’re damn well told.”


“Yes, Boss,” Tony replied quietly, feeling a surge of relief at that news.


They took a shower together, and Gibbs washed Tony gently – which was a good thing, because Tony could barely lift his arms above his shoulders, let alone wash his own hair. Afterwards, Gibbs patted him dry and then applied that soothing gel that Tony had become so familiar with. He dressed Tony in a pair of light, loose sweatpants and a tee shirt and then took him downstairs.


It was a quiet day. Tony lay on the couch, on his stomach, watching one DVD after another, trying not to move too much, while Gibbs sat at the table, working on some files he’d brought home.


Every so often, Gibbs left the room. Tony could hear him on the phone out in the hallway, making calls, but he couldn’t decipher what they were about.


Gibbs made him lunch and brought him coffee throughout the day. He didn’t say much, and he didn’t encourage Tony to talk, either. Tony was glad about that. There was really only one thing for them to talk about, and it wasn’t anything he wanted to discuss right now.


Gibbs fed him frequent painkillers and rubbed that gel into his back, buttocks and thighs every few hours. Tony slept intermittently, zonked out on the painkillers.


They went to bed early, and Gibbs slipped in beside Tony and pressed dozens of light kisses over every inch of his body before gently, oh so gently, making love to his sub. Afterwards, Tony rolled over and rested his chin on his dom’s shoulder again. Gibbs wrapped his hands loosely around his body, holding him close. Neither of them said a word.


It was the calm before the storm. Something was going to happen – Tony knew that.


He just wasn’t sure what.






After breakfast the following day, Gibbs beckoned Tony over. His sub came eagerly. He was still moving slowly, but he looked a hell of a lot better than he had the previous day. Gibbs would have preferred another day or two before doing this, but they were back at work tomorrow so that wasn’t an option.


Tony glanced at the collar and cuffs lying on the kitchen table, and Gibbs saw the gleam of anticipation in his eyes.


“You want me to get undressed, Boss?” he asked, gesturing to his sweatpants and tee shirt.


Gibbs shook his head. “Nope.” He buckled the collar around Tony’s neck. “Hands,” he ordered. Tony held out his hands, and Gibbs fastened the cuffs on his wrists. “With me.” Gibbs walked down into the basement, his sub at his heels. “Here.” Gibbs pointed at the beanbag on the floor, against the wall. Tony raised a questioning eyebrow. “You can sit down, crouch, or stand if your ass isn’t up to that. Up to you,” Gibbs said with a shrug.


Tony gave him a perplexed look, but he crouched down and gingerly settled himself on the beanbag.


Gibbs attached a chain to his sub’s collar and then fastened it to the wall. He likewise chained his sub’s cuffs to the wall too. He made sure the chains were tight – he deliberately fastened them so that Tony couldn’t move around much. He wanted it to be restrictive.


Then Gibbs padlocked the chains into place. He was aware of Tony’s puzzled eyes following his every move; Gibbs rarely locked him into bondage like this, and if he did, he usually insisted that his sub was naked beforehand.


“What’s going on, Boss?” Tony asked.


“Nothing. I’m gonna work on the boat. You’re gonna watch,” Gibbs told him, making sure that Tony saw him putting the key to the padlock in the pocket of his jeans.


Satisfied that Tony was secured in place and couldn’t escape, he turned and went over to his workbench. He opened up a fresh container of wood and drew out a plank. He examined it carefully, and then he took it over to the boat and rested it against the side. He climbed up onto the curved prow and began measuring, taking his time, making sure he got it right.


An hour passed. Over by the wall, Tony began whistling under his breath.


“Bored, DiNozzo?” Gibbs glanced over to him.


“Well, yeah, kind of. I figured that was the point.” Tony shrugged, a little wince passing across his face as the movement hurt his shoulders.


“Want me to tell you a story?” Gibbs asked.


Tony grinned. “You gonna read to me again, Boss?”


“Nope.” Gibbs shook his head. “Different kind of story. Up to you.” He shrugged, returning to his measuring.


Tony sighed. “Okay, Boss, tell me a story.” He said it in a pained tone, like he was indulging his dom.


“Right.” Gibbs jumped down from the boat, retrieved the wood, and then climbed back up again, holding it. “It’s a story about two kids,” he said.


“Brothers?” Tony asked.


“Nope.” Gibbs shook his head. “They don’t know each other – not yet, not when the story starts. They lead very different lives, but maybe in some ways they aren’t so different. I don’t know. I’ll leave you to be the judge of that. So, this first kid, he comes from a pretty poor family. There isn’t much, but there’s always just about enough.”


He held the plank of wood in place and examined it critically to make sure it was straight.


“The kid is happy – but his folks aren’t. They aren’t getting along, and after a long time trying to patch things up, they separate. The kid goes to live with his mom, but back then not many folks got divorced, so he was the only one in his class at school with parents who didn’t live together. He felt pretty angry about that. He was particularly angry with his dad, who he blamed the most for his parents’ marriage breaking down.”


“Why? His dad sleeping around?” Tony asked, looking intrigued.


Gibbs sighed, and ran a hand over his chin. “He certainly had an eye for the ladies so maybe. I don’t know. He did start seeing another woman soon after he separated from the kid’s mom so…well, who knows when that started?” He shrugged. “When the kid found out, he got even angrier – he’d thought there was a chance his mom and dad could get back together, and they could all be happy again.”


“How old was this kid?”


“Eleven. Still young enough to believe in happy endings.” Gibbs grinned. “But it didn’t happen. Soon after that, his mom started getting thinner and thinner, and she was coughing a lot, and after a short illness, she died.”


Tony’s head shot up. “She died?”


“Yeah. Cancer. She’d always been a heavy smoker,” Gibbs replied, with a little shake of his head. He fixed the plank in place then picked up his sander and began smoothing it.


“What happened to the kid?” Tony was gazing at him intently.


“He went to live with his dad – but he was angrier than ever now. He was angry with his mom for dying, and angry with his dad because on some level he blamed him and not the cigarettes for his mom’s death. But mainly he was just an angry little kid, and he stayed that way for a long time.”


“Sounds kind of unforgiving,” Tony muttered.


“Yeah.” Gibbs gave a little laugh. “Yeah, he sure as hell can be.”


“What happened to him?”


“He grew up and went looking for his own happy ending. He found it…and then he lost it.” Gibbs shrugged. “So he went looking for it again, and again, and again – but always in the wrong places. He gave up on it for a long time. Then, one day, it crept up on him unexpectedly – long after he’d stopped looking – and took him by surprise.”


He put down the sander, scrambled off the boat, and went over to his workbench. He picked up his hammer and some sturdy wooden pegs and went back over to the boat again.


“Meanwhile, the other kid is growing up someplace else, leading a very different kind of life.”


Gibbs banged a couple of the pegs into place.


“His folks are wealthy – they live in a big house, and this kid’s mom showers him with love. She takes him everywhere – he’s her only child, and she likes showing him off to all her friends. He’s a cute kid, kinda pretty for a boy, and he adores his mom. The kid’s bright and precocious, and he and his mom are close. Maybe too close – the kid’s dad thinks that his son is becoming too much of a momma’s boy, and that he needs to be toughened up. Maybe he’s even a bit jealous of the close bond between the kid and his mom.”


Tony was quiet. Gibbs glanced over to find him sitting there, very still, green eyes fixed on him as he worked.


“Anyway, the kid’s dad is distant with the kid, kind of formal, keeping him at arm’s length. The kid wants his father’s attention, so he does something pretty naughty to get it. His dad is furious and decides it’s time to send him away to boarding school. The kid’s ten – kinda young to be sent away from home – but his dad thinks it’ll toughen him up. It’ll get him away from his mom and give him a chance to grow up. Maybe it’ll stop him goofing around and being such a pain in the ass.”


Gibbs picked up a couple more wooden pegs and began hammering them into place.


“So, the kid doesn’t like being sent away, but he’s a sociable boy, and he makes friends easily. He even kind of likes boarding school. He misses his mom though – and at first she writes all the time, and he can call her every Friday night. But she’s busy – her husband’s business is going through a rocky patch, and she has to do a lot of socialising and entertaining to help him bring in work. And the kid is a long way from home, wondering why the presents and letters have dried up, wondering if his folks remember him, and wondering what the hell he did that was so damn wrong that he got sent away in the first place.”


Tony moved his hand, and the chain fastening his cuffs to the wall clinked. Tony tugged on it, as if testing it, his movements jerky. Then he dropped his hand in frustration as he realised he was well and truly locked into place and wasn’t going anywhere.


“You don’t like the story, Tony?” Gibbs asked.


“I know how it ends,” Tony told him sullenly.


Gibbs nodded thoughtfully. He reached for his sander again and began smoothing down the wood, working slowly, calmly.


“So, this kid…he hates being ignored. He can stand just about anything but being ignored. And when this kid wants attention – well, he knows one sure fire way of getting it. It’s a way that’s always worked in the past; he does something that will get him noticed. So, one day, he steals the principal’s car and takes it for a joyride.”


Gibbs paused and wiped a hand across his forehead, rubbing a combination of sweat and sawdust away. He gave a little laugh.


“Gotta admire this kid – he’s got guts, and he’s not afraid of being punished if it gets him what he wants – which is attention from the people he loves. So, he takes this car out, and inevitably he drives it into a ditch. He’s fine, but he gets dragged back up to the school by the police. And the principal, unsurprisingly, decides to expel him.”


Gibbs glanced over at Tony again, to see that his sub’s jaw was set in a tight line.


“You can stop now,” Tony told him. “I know the rest – and it looks as if you do too.”


“I do,” Gibbs confirmed.


“How long have you known?”


“Only since Friday night – after you broke that promise you made to me.”


“Christ – how did you find out so quickly? Do you have a file on me or something?” Tony looked more furious than Gibbs had ever seen him.


“A dossier. Ziva gave it to me when she first joined the team, but I didn’t open it until Friday night,” Gibbs told him. “I wanted to see if you’d tell me first, but when you blew it on Friday you left me no other choice, Tony.”


“Fuck it!” Tony roared, pulling against his chains angrily. “Ziva knows? She knows too?”


“I told her to forget whatever she’d read in that file, but yeah, she knows.” Gibbs shrugged. “I made a few calls yesterday to check the facts, but they’re pretty much what Mossad uncovered.”


“Unlock these damn chains,” Tony hissed. “Let me out of here.”


Gibbs shook his head. “I’m not done yet. So…the principal calls the kid’s folks and asks them to come and collect him from the school. The kid’s mom arrives the following day, and she’s really upset. She’s angry and disappointed in the kid. It’s a difficult time for the family – the kid’s dad recently lost a lot of money in a lawsuit, the business isn’t doing so well, and the last thing she needs is the kid acting up like this.”


“You can give the kid a name,” Tony said tightly. “We know who he is. We know the first kid was you, and we know the second kid is me.”


“Yeah. We do. So, Tony’s mom picks him up from the school, and he’s so happy to see her that he doesn’t give a damn if she’s upset with him. Hell, it’s a price worth paying. He figures she’ll calm down in a few days and then things can go back to the way they used to be between them. His dad – well, he might be tougher to win around, but even if they send him to another boarding school that’ll take a while to arrange, so he has some time with his mom. Tony thinks that maybe they can do some of the stuff they used to do – hang out together, go shopping, have lunch with her friends, go on road trips – have fun. He doesn’t know that things are kinda bad at home and that the family is under stress, because they haven’t told him any of that. He doesn’t even know that his mom is drinking too much – she and his dad have always been drinkers, same way my mom was a smoker.”


“She wasn’t drunk when she got in the car,” Tony said hotly. “I know that. She wasn’t drunk then.”


“No. She wasn’t. She was angry though, wasn’t she? She was angry with you for pulling a stunt like that precisely when she didn’t have the time to deal with you.”


Tony didn’t reply. His shoulders were hunched, and he looked as if he was going to throw up.


“I don’t know exactly what happened – only you know that – but I read the police report and the statement you gave at the time,” Gibbs continued. “You and your mom got into an argument. You were petulant – you didn’t mind your dad being angry with you but not your mom. You and she had always been partners in crime. She never got angry with you – never had before. Not like this. Suddenly, your plan to get yourself expelled doesn’t seem like such a good one. You hadn’t anticipated that she’d be this mad with you, and you’re hurt that she isn’t pleased to see you. You say some pretty mean things to her. You get into a big fight, both of you yelling at each other in the car…and she gets distracted and loses control. The car goes off the road – nobody else is involved, and the conditions on the road were good that day – but she loses concentration because you’re fighting so hard, and the car skids off the road, bangs into a tree, rolls over a few times, and crashes back onto the road again.”


Tony’s eyes were closed, and he was breathing heavily. Gibbs waited for a moment, and then he continued.


“You’re thrown clear, but you’ve been banged up pretty bad. Your left arm is broken in several places. You’re bleeding, and you’re crying because you’re in so much pain. You’re just a kid, and you hurt, and you want your mom. You can see her, lying in the road alongside you. She’s not moving, but her eyes are open. At first you think she can see you, so you call out to her, try to tell her that you’re okay, but then you realise that…”




Gibbs stopped. It was the word he’d been waiting for all these weeks, but there was no victory in finally hearing it. Tony looked pale, and he was tugging repeatedly on the chains securing him to the wall.


Gibbs jumped off the boat, took the key out of his pocket, and went over to his sub. He crouched down in front of him.


“It wasn’t your fault, Tony. It was an accident,” he said softly. “I lost my mom too at the same age. I know how it feels – that’s why I told you my story first.”


“I said the damn word,” Tony snapped. “I fucking said it, Gibbs. Magnum – now get me the hell out of these chains.”


Gibbs quickly removed the padlock, and Tony pulled himself free and lurched to his feet. Gibbs reached out a hand to steady him, but Tony shook it off and ran towards the stairs, looking like he was going to be sick.


Gibbs sighed. He hadn’t been sure how this would pan out, but he’d suspected it wouldn’t go well. Clearly he’d been right. He’d spoken to Tony’s old school principal the previous day and had managed to get in touch with his mom’s sister, who had been very helpful in filling in the details of Tony’s mental state – all the little things that weren’t included in the more factual Mossad report. He had been able to fill in the rest of the gaps himself – and judging by Tony’s reaction he’d been pretty spot on.


Gibbs climbed the stairs after his sub and got to the top just in time to hear the front door slamming. Then he heard the sound of a car screeching away. He thumped his fist against the wall in annoyance. He didn’t want to follow Tony, in case he inadvertently caused another accident. He didn’t want Tony feeling like he was cornered right now.


He noticed something lying on the floor by the front door and went over to it. His heart sank as he crouched down and picked it up.


It was Tony’s collar.






His apartment was cold, and it smelled strange, which was hardly surprising as he hadn’t been back here in weeks. It was a relief to be here now though, in its comforting emptiness. He had always liked being alone – he had spent more time alone here than his co-workers would ever have imagined when he was playing the part of footloose bachelor with a steady stream of girlfriends. What nobody knew was that he never allowed those girlfriends to stay over, if he could help it. When the sex was finished, so were they.


Tony turned on the heating, selected one of his favourite jazz albums, and allowed the familiar lazy, haunting tunes to soothe him.


The light was flashing on his answering machine. He hit the button, more out of habit than anything else. There were only a handful of messages. One was from his cleaning lady, wondering if he wanted her to continue cleaning for him as there was so little to do these days.


The next one was from his dry cleaner, asking if he was ever going to come in and pick up his grey Armani suit. He’d almost forgotten about that suit – he’d got blood on it a couple of months ago. His dry cleaner was always joking with him about the amount of wear and tear his suits took. “Wouldn’t it make more sense not to wear fancy suits in your line of work?” she would mutter darkly as she surveyed yet another wrecked suit. He had once dressed more casually at work, back in the old days, when things had been simpler. God knows, it wasn’t as if Gibbs set any standards for sartorial elegance in the office.


But since coming back from the Seahawk, he’d needed a new layer of protection. The suits worked well for that. The suits had become another layer in the Tony DiNozzo mask that he’d been carefully building up over the years. They were expensive, tailored and smart. People were so dazzled by the exterior that there was no need for them to look beneath the shiny surface. He didn’t want them to have to work too hard to think they’d figured out Tony DiNozzo. He gave them exactly what they expected, and only a couple of people had ever questioned that. Fox Mulder had been one, and Gibbs was the other. Gibbs had always seen through him to a certain extent – he’d just never called him on it. Until now.


The next message was from his aunt. She said she was calling to catch up, but there was a worried tone in her voice. He checked the timestamp – her message had been left yesterday.


There was one final message, terse and to the point.


“Tony. Call me.”


Gibbs. He’d left it just a few minutes ago.


“Fuck you, Gibbs.” Tony erased all the messages with a sharp jab of his finger. “And fuck rule number one,” he told the answering machine. It felt wrong to disobey that terse injunction all the same. How many weeks had he been jumping to it every time Gibbs threw an order at him?


“Hell, not just weeks, Anthony. Years. Eight years as Gibbs’s unofficial sub, and you can’t even make it to eight weeks as the real thing – and even that still makes it one of your longest relationships,” he muttered to himself ruefully as he walked into the kitchen. “You always knew it’d fall apart. They always do. No surprises there.”


It didn’t usually hurt though. Usually he just felt relieved.


There was nothing in the fridge – not even a few beers. He considered calling for take out, but he wasn’t hungry. And he hurt – inside and out. He ached.


He returned to the living room, opened up his wet bar, and located the bottle of fine, smooth whisky that would blaze a fiery trail down his throat and take him happily to oblivion. He didn’t need a glass; the bottle would do just fine.


He took a mouthful of the liquor and then eased himself down on the couch. He lay there, face down, allowing the silence, the drink, and the music to soothe him. Christ, he was tired.


His first few weeks as Gibbs’s sub had been so sublimely wonderful that it had lulled him into a false sense of security. He should have known that nothing that good could last for long. And sure enough, the past couple of weeks had been a train wreck as he’d lurched from one crisis to another, fucking everything up as he went along.


Being with Gibbs 24/7 meant that he had no access to his usual coping mechanisms. He hadn’t been able to come back here, lie low, lick his wounds for a few days, and then emerge with his happy, shiny Tony mask firmly back in place.


He could do that now. Might take a while to polish up the mask, but he could do it. He’d had plenty of experience after all.






Gibbs spent the day on his boat. He wished he could lose himself in the familiar grain of the wood, but his gut was taut with anxiety for his missing sub. He kept his cell phone out, but nobody called.


Tony hadn’t taken his cell phone. Hell, Tony hadn’t taken anything except the clothes on his back and his keys. Gibbs wasn’t sure where Tony had gone, but without money or clothes, Gibbs suspected he’d end up back at his old apartment. There weren’t a whole lot of options open to him.


Gibbs left one message for Tony on his home answering machine – he didn’t see the point in leaving any more. If Tony didn’t want to be contacted, then it was best to leave him be – for now anyway. If he wasn’t at work tomorrow, Gibbs would have his ass, but he’d give him tonight. Tony just needed some time and space to figure this out.


Gibbs kept glancing at the basement door as he worked, hoping for his sub’s return. He wasn’t sure what they’d say to each other exactly, but at least it’d be a start.


Tony didn’t show though. Finally, at 1 a.m., Gibbs threw down his sander and accepted the inevitable; his sub had gone and wasn’t coming back – not tonight at least.


He’d been left before, many times, and he’d let them all leave because he didn’t care enough to convince them to stay.


This was different. Tony was his – and there was no damn way Gibbs was giving up on him.






Tony got into work early the next day. The last thing he wanted was to give Gibbs an excuse to interact with him any more than was strictly necessary.


“See, this is why Rule Number Twelve is such a good idea,” he muttered to himself as he walked into the empty squad room. “Because if you date a co-worker you have to *see* them every day at work, even when you don’t want to.”


He could have gone awol. He’d considered it, but he knew Gibbs would track him down wherever he went. The man was like a bloodhound. It was better to just come into work, act like everything was fine, and keep his dom at arm’s length until he’d figured out a way to handle this. He’d been so tired yesterday that it had been easy to spend the day dozing, drinking, and not thinking about what happened next. It’d be harder today, but he could do it.


“Hey, I’m the great Tony DiNozzo. Avoiding reality is one of my special gifts,” he told himself, sitting down cautiously at his desk and turning on his computer. His body still ached, but it was a less severe ache now. He only had himself to blame. He’d wanted that punishment so much, but it hadn’t done what he’d thought it’d do. It hadn’t been enough. What could ever be enough?


Ziva arrived a few minutes later. She looked happy. Glowing. Tony was pretty sure she had a new boyfriend – but he wasn’t asking, and she wasn’t telling. He felt a stab of envy in his gut.


McGee arrived next, hurrying, falling over his own feet in his haste to get to his desk. It was an unofficial rule in the department that if you arrived after Gibbs then you were late. This was tricky, as nobody knew exactly when Gibbs would arrive. Tony had flouted this unofficial rule a few times since becoming Gibbs’s sub but not today. Today that would have been suicidal.


“Busy weekend, Probie?” Tony raised an eyebrow. “Been up all hours defeating hordes of rampaging orps again?”


“They’re orcs, Tony,” McGee told him in an irritated tone of voice. “As you well know.”


“Whatever.” Tony grinned at him.


Ah yes, this was good. This was what he needed – the soothing tones of mindless banter with his co-workers. No need to think or remember anything. No need to consider just how fucked up his relationship with Gibbs was right now. No need to think about what had happened in the basement yesterday. There was just the easy back and forth of a long-standing working relationship. He could play the role of irritating co-worker in his sleep – it was familiar, easy, and just what he wanted right now.


He heard the elevator ping, and his stomach flipped queasily. He looked down at his work, pretending to be studiously occupied. A second later, a shadow fell over his desk.


“DiNozzo – didn’t you get my message?”


He looked up. Slowly. Gibbs was standing there, blue eyes boring into him. Damn the man for being able to see into his soul like this. Tony didn’t like it.


“Oh, hey, Boss. What message was that?” Tony gave his easy Tony smile, bright, shiny and utterly insincere.


“The one I left on your answering machine yesterday. Telling you to call me.”


“Ah. Right. No. Didn’t get it,” Tony lied.


Gibbs gazed at him inscrutably, the lie standing between them, as clear as day.


“Something important?” Tony raised an eyebrow, challenging his dom to continue with this line of questioning.


Gibbs settled back on his heels, a distinctly un-amused grin distorting the corners of his mouth. “This really the way you want to play this?” his eyes asked.


Tony kept on smiling at him, his happy, beaming face making his reply clear: “Oh yeah. This *really* is the way I want to play this.”


Gibbs gave a little grunt of acknowledgement. “Yeah – you left your cell phone lying around. I wanted to give it back to you.”


He took the phone out of his pocket, grabbed Tony’s hand, placed the phone in his palm, and folded Tony’s fingers around it. Gibbs’s hand felt warm on his skin, his touch electric and familiar.


“You shouldn’t be so careless with your belongings,” Gibbs said, his eyes fixed meaningfully on Tony’s neck, where his collar had once been.


“You’re right,” Tony said softly. “Not like you, huh, Boss? ‘Cause you’re always really careful with what belongs to you.”


Gibbs’s fingers tightened on his hand, and he looked as if he was going to explode. Tony continued smiling up at him, seemingly innocent. Nobody listening to them would have guessed the tension that lay between them. Then Gibbs relaxed.


“Yeah. I am, Tony,” he replied. “I take good care of what’s mine. I think you know that though.”


Tony’s heart skipped a beat. He gazed up at Gibbs helplessly. Gibbs gazed back at him, his eyes radiating the sincerity of his words. There was a depth of compassion in that blue-eyed gaze that Tony couldn’t bear to see. He was acutely aware of the way Gibbs’s fingers were lingering on his hand, stroking softly, and he couldn’t handle it. He yanked his hand away, muttering something about needing to check on Abby’s useless replacement in the lab. Then he made a run for the elevator, threw himself inside, and slammed his hand on the emergency switch the minute it started moving.


Damn Gibbs for not yelling at him. Damn him for looking at him like that, with concern, understanding and affection. Damn him for not tearing Tony a new one for running out on him, leaving his collar behind, and not returning his call. Tony didn’t want his sympathy or concern. He didn’t want to be understood, and he didn’t want anyone’s pity.


He slammed his hand against the elevator wall a few times until he started feeling a little better. Then he composed himself, pasted his happy, shiny Tony face back on, and flipped the elevator switch again.


Luckily, Mondays were always busy for Gibbs, so Tony managed to avoid him quite successfully for most of the day as his dom went in and out of various meetings with Vance.
He was aware of Gibbs’s gaze falling on him every so often, when his boss was leaning on the rail outside MTAC, or passing by his desk on his way to the elevator or the head. Gibbs didn’t speak to him though, or try to get him on his own.


Tony managed to slip out of the office later that evening without being alone with Gibbs all day. He wondered if Gibbs would drop by his apartment and was fully prepared to not answer the door, but his dom didn’t show. It looked as if Gibbs was giving him some breathing space, for which Tony was profoundly grateful.


There was only so much avoidance they could do though. Most of his clothes were at Gibbs’s place, and he worked with the man every day. Tony didn’t want to handle this, but he felt like throwing up at the thought of addressing it. He couldn’t bring himself to even think about what had happened in the basement.


He was pretty pleased with himself when he managed to avoid being alone with Gibbs for nearly three days. Tony began to wonder whether he could sneak into Gibbs’s house and steal back his clothes. Then they could pretend that the past few weeks hadn’t happened.


He got into the elevator, mulling over the issue of how to retrieve his possessions from Gibbs’s place without actually talking to the man. A second later, he heard an almost silent footfall behind him, and someone got into the elevator just before the door closed. Tony turned, cursing under his breath, knowing exactly who it was. Gibbs was staring at him, one eyebrow raised, as the elevator began to glide downwards.


“What? You hadn’t figured out that I was *allowing* you to avoid me these past few days?” Gibbs asked. He flicked the emergency stop button and the elevator came to a grinding halt.


Tony sighed. “I thought I was just doing a good job of staying out of your way.”


“I was giving you some space.” Gibbs edged closer, moving silently, a deadly predator cornering his prey.


Tony took a step back, and then another, until his back hit the mirrored elevator wall. “”Yeah. Right. Space. I can see that,” he said sarcastically.


He could feel the heat of Gibbs’s body, sense the tautness of his dom’s muscles, and smell his familiar, enticing scent.


“So, I was thinking of dropping by for my clothes,” Tony said, trying hard to stay in control of the situation. That wasn’t easy when he was backed up against the wall by a man whose sexual dominance had mesmerised him for years.


Gibbs shook his head. “No,” he said firmly.


“No?” Tony raised an eyebrow. “It’s over, Gibbs.”


“No, it isn’t. I’ve just been allowing you a long leash.” Gibbs shrugged. “But not for much longer, Tony. You have until the end of the week – then I’ll rope you back in, whether you like it or not.”


“I told you it’s over,” Tony repeated in a hard tone.


Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “Because you’d rather keep running and hiding than turn around and face it?”


Tony’s jaw tightened. “You don’t know shit.”


“I know there’s more,” Gibbs snapped in reply. “You’re kind of like an onion, Tony. You peel off one layer, and there’s another one beneath. Then, just when you think you’re done peeling, you realise you’ve barely even started. How many people ever see even a fraction of what you are? How many people catch even a glimpse of what’s under the pretty surface, huh?” He flicked at Tony’s newly cleaned, grey Armani suit.


Tony gazed at him stonily. “Drop it, Gibbs.”


“No.” Gibbs moved his hand and gently caressed Tony’s cheek. Tony tried to turn away, but he didn’t have the strength. “I told you once that if I fucked you, and if I collared you, that you’d be mine, and I don’t give up on what’s mine, Tony. And I don’t think you want me to. Not really.”


He held Tony’s jaw lightly in his hand and then moved in and dropped a gentle little kiss on Tony’s mouth. Tony balled his hands into fists in an effort not to respond, but he couldn’t bring himself to push Gibbs away. He liked the feel of those soft, insistent lips too much. Gibbs drew back.


“If I come back…” Tony began. Gibbs raised an eyebrow, making it clear that the ‘if’ was redundant. “We could put this behind us, right?” Tony suggested. “Never talk about it again?”


Gibbs gave a little grunt of a laugh, shaking his head. “Yeah. Right.”


“I mean it,” Tony said firmly. “I don’t want to talk about it.”


“You can’t have it both ways, Tony. You can belong to me, or to the past – but not both. You can’t serve two masters.”


“It’s two different things,” Tony snapped.


“No. It isn’t. Can’t have a repeat of the past couple of weeks, Tony,” Gibbs told him flatly. “I need to understand every single bit of how my sub ticks if I’m gonna handle you properly.”


“I’m not a fucking horse,” Tony growled. “I don’t need ‘handling’.”


Gibbs grinned. “Yeah, you do.”


“You already know everything there is to know about me – thanks to Ms. Mossad out there.” Tony flicked his head derisively. “There’s nothing more to know; nothing more to say; nothing more to talk about. That’s it. That’s all there is.”


Gibbs snorted. “Yeah. Right. Tell me, Tony, what was it I did in the past eight years that made you think I’m a total idiot?”


Tony glared at him. Gibbs leaned in close again, and Tony felt his entire body react to his dom’s proximity. He broke out into a sweat, his cock hardened, and he had to fight hard to control his overwhelming impulse to go down on his knees in front of Gibbs, where he belonged. And Gibbs – the bastard – knew the effect he was having.


“I’m taking you down, Tony,” Gibbs promised. “You belong to me, and I’ll fight for you. Even if it’s your own demons I have to fight. And you know me – I fight to win.” He reached out and flicked the switch and the elevator lurched into motion. “You have until Friday on the long leash, Tony – after that, the short leash is back.”


The doors opened, and Gibbs left the elevator without looking back. Tony watched him go. He didn’t know if he felt relieved or cornered – or both.


He was Tony DiNozzo – deflection, deception, and avoidance were his finely honed
weapons of choice. And now he was pitting them against a master – a man who had never yet been beaten in a fight. Tony didn’t rate his own chances very highly. However good he was, Gibbs was better.


And Tony, who had always been so adept at concealment, was now running out of places to hide.






Gibbs watched Tony for the next couple of days, but gave him his space, as he’d promised. He hoped that Tony would make the first move, but if he didn’t, Gibbs had no qualms about reeling him in. He was engaged in a battle for possession of his sub’s soul, and it wasn’t a battle he intended to lose. Tony belonged to him, pure and simple, and Gibbs would do whatever it took.


Tony was uncharacteristically silent for most of the day on Friday. He kept shooting surreptitious glances at Gibbs as he worked, but for the most part he said nothing. Even McGee and Ziva noticed, and they kept exchanging surprised looks as a multitude of teasing opportunities went by unexploited by their usually mocking co-worker.


Gibbs sent them all home on time for once, leaving just him and Tony alone in the office, gazing at each other warily across the room.


Gibbs got up. “I’m going to spend the evening at Murray’s Bar,” he said quietly. “Neutral territory. You have until eleven to show up.”


“And if I don’t?” Tony raised a challenging eyebrow.


“Then I’ll come and get you.”






Gibbs got to Murray’s bar at eight and ordered a coke. He didn’t want to get drunk tonight. He glanced at his watch, wondering when Tony would show up. He had no doubt at all that his errant sub *would* show up – but, knowing Tony, he’d leave it until 10:58.


His cell phone rang, and he glanced at the display, feeling a surge of annoyance when he saw it wasn’t Tony. He didn’t recognise the number, but he picked up anyway.


“Gibbs,” he snapped, glancing up at the stairs to see if Tony had put in an appearance.




He frowned. That was an old, familiar voice – but one he hadn’t heard in a long time. “Stan? That you?”


“Yes, it’s me. I really need to see you. You busy?”


“Right now?” Gibbs grimaced, glancing up at the stairs again. “Can’t it wait?”


There was a moment’s hesitation. “No, I don’t think so,” Stan replied. “See, it’s about Tony DiNozzo.”






Tony looked at the clock ticking away on his computer: 20:37. He ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up in messy points. He didn’t want to do this. He didn’t want to have this particular conversation with his dom, his boss, his lover – hell, whatever it was Gibbs was to him these days. Mulder had been right, he realised ruefully, that day back in the playroom at Crystal City. Mulder had told him he wouldn’t be able to hide from Gibbs.


“Should’a listened,” Tony muttered.




How long could he leave it? He knew that Gibbs would be true to his word, and if he didn’t show up his dom wouldn’t hesitate to track him down. If Tony pushed him into that then he was pretty damn sure that Gibbs would be pissed off – and nobody liked a pissed off Gibbs.


He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. He was immediately a child again, lying on the road, screaming in pain, gazing into his mother’s dead green eyes. Gibbs would want to know everything. There was no way he’d settle for hearing half the story. Once he’d opened Tony up a tiny bit, he’d want him opened up all the way. He’d gut him like a fish, leaving Tony gasping and exposed. He’d want to know what had happened after…


Tony opened his eyes and slammed his hand onto his computer keyboard.


“You’re gonna have a long wait, Gibbs.”






Gibbs watched as Stan made his way down the stairs and into the main seating area of Murray’s bar. His old sub was looking good; he was lean and tanned, and he attracted a few lingering looks as he jogged down the stairs.


Stan paused at the bottom, saw Gibbs, and his face broke into an anxious kind of half-smile. Gibbs frowned; whatever it was that Stan had to tell him, he had a feeling he wasn’t going to like it.


He stood up as Stan drew close and pulled his old sub into a hug. He didn’t usually do hugs, but his time with Tony had given him a vague sense of guilt about how it had ended between him and Stan. Tony had been so easy to love, but he’d never been able to give Stan even a tiny piece of his heart. Gibbs drew back and nodded his head at the bottle of beer on the table.


“See you haven’t forgotten what I like to drink,” Stan said, with a little grin, sitting down opposite him.


“Nope. You’re looking well, Stan,” Gibbs said gruffly.


“You too.” Stan gave a strained little grin.


Gibbs sighed inwardly. Stan had always been a fantastic sub and a willing, hard-working subordinate at NCIS. What was lacking – what had always been lacking, he now realised – was his ability to take Gibbs. He was like McGee – he was happy to roll over and show Gibbs his belly, but he lived in perpetual anxiety of him too, and that was wearying. Tony wasn’t like that. Gibbs was surprised to realise that Tony had been right, all those weeks ago, when he’d said he could handle him. He could. He was tough inside, however much he liked to fool the world with the shiny idiot persona. And he *got* Gibbs, like nobody else ever had -except Shannon.


“Surprised to see you in a place like this,” Stan commented, glancing around. “You never liked the scene much when we were…” He left the sentence hanging.


“Still don’t. I was waiting for someone,” Gibbs replied.


Stan’s eyes widened as he took in the implications of that. “Oh. Right…okay. Because this is a members’ only kind of place, so I was wondering.”


“I figured it was the kind of place you’d be a member of,” Gibbs grunted.


Stan grinned. “I am – just surprised you are.”


“I’m not. I know a friend of the owner. He’s…accommodating.”


“Right,” Stan said slowly.


“Let’s not waste time on the small talk, Stan,” Gibbs said abruptly, taking a sip of his coke. “You said you wanted to see me about DiNozzo?”


“Yeah…” Stan took a deep gulp of his beer. “Look…I wasn’t sure what to do about this, but…I thought it was something you should know. I like DiNozzo – only met him once, but I liked him. Thought he had the hots for you though, Boss.”


He grinned at Gibbs. Gibbs grunted. He saw no reason to let Stan know how close to the mark he was there. Stan swallowed hard, clearly sensing Gibbs’s tension.


“Okay…look, you know I took over as agent afloat from Tony on the Seahawk?”


Gibbs shook his head, surprised. “No. I didn’t know that, Stan.”


“We docked this morning, so I’m on leave now. I kept my old apartment and it feels good to be back in DC, but I’m surprised I haven’t missed it more. I guess I just like being an agent afloat.” Stan gave that gentle, easy smile of his. “It’s a hell of a lot less stress than working with you, Boss.”


Gibbs grinned. “Tony called it being the only cop in a city of 5,000. That’s not a low-stress environment, Stan.”


“Compared to working for you, Boss, it’s like a spa retreat.” Stan grinned back. “Anyway, Tony…he had kind of a unique style as agent afloat.”


Gibbs raised an eyebrow.


“He didn’t take any shit, Boss. He didn’t turn a blind eye for an easy life like some agents afloat I’ve known. You trained him well.”


“Yeah. I know.” Gibbs took another sip of his coke. “Trained you well too, Stan.”


“Yeah, but Tony’s got a cop’s nose, and he never lets anything lie – not the important stuff anyway. Made him a lot of enemies.”


Gibbs stared at Stan, eyes narrowing. “You referring to one flight deck chief in particular?”


Stan leaned forward. “You know about Grasso?” he asked eagerly, looking relieved.


“No.” Gibbs shook his head. “All I know is that Tony had some kind of a problem with him, and now the guy calls him when he’s drunk and talks shit at him.”


“Grasso calls him?” Stan looked troubled by that news.


Now it was Gibbs’s turn to lean forward. “Tell me what’s been happening, Stan. All of it. Don’t leave anything out.”






Tony rubbed his forehead morosely. He had a pounding headache, partly from the pressure of deciding what to do next, and partly because the cleaner had entered the squad room fifteen minutes ago and was now vacuuming the place noisily.


He glanced at his computer screen again. 22:03. Gibbs had given him until 23:00, which meant that he was running out of time. What was it Gibbs had said? He could belong to him or to the past, but he couldn’t serve two masters?


Tony gazed across the room at Gibbs’s empty desk. Damn it, he was so tired of running from this. Gibbs had been in his life for eight years, and he’d loved the man for pretty much all that time. Now they were lovers, and Gibbs seemed to satisfy some aching need inside him that he hadn’t even realised was there. The sex was pretty damn good too.


He wanted to be Gibbs’s sub. Hell, he loved being Gibbs’s sub. He ran a finger over the empty expanse of his neck. He missed wearing Gibbs’s collar. He missed sleeping in bondage, with Gibbs’s arm wrapped around him. He missed lying in Gibbs’s bed and feeling warm and safe because Gibbs was pressed up close behind him. He missed waking up to the feel of Gibbs’s hard cock sliding into him. He missed the bite marks, the spankings, and all the exquisite sexual tortures that aroused him more than he’d ever have thought possible.


Most of all though, he missed lying on Gibbs’s couch, with his head on Gibbs’s lap, and the feel of his dom’s fingers as they gently stroked through his hair. He missed that so much it made him ache. He had come this far – wasn’t it time to take the final step, and give Gibbs his total trust? Hadn’t he been holding out on the man for long enough?


The cleaner finished vacuuming, and Tony sat back in his chair with a grateful sigh. Maybe now he’d be able to think more clearly.


His cell phone rang, and he picked up eagerly, thinking it was probably Gibbs calling to ask him when he was going to show. He was therefore taken by surprise when a familiar voice spoke in his ear.


“Hey, motherfucker. I’m home! Miss me?”


“Fuck off, Grasso,” Tony snapped.


“Aw – I think you missed me. I think you missed the Friday nights we used to spend together.”


“Yeah – ’cause it was so much fucking fun.”


“You showed up every week – I think you liked it.”


“You know why I showed up – and it had nothing the hell to do with liking it.”


“C’mon – we both know there’s something sick inside you, DiNozzo – something sick and fucked up and useless. That part of you liked it.”


“What do you want, Grasso?” Tony growled.


“You. It’s Friday night, and I’m at this gym where my little bro works. It’s late, and the place is shut. Little bro’s given me the keys, and I’ve got the place all to myself. I’ll text you the address.”


“Don’t fucking bother, Grasso. I won’t be coming.”


“You sure about that?” Grasso chuckled. “‘Cause you left without saying goodbye. Seems to me like we have some unfinished business, DiNozzo.”


“I was glad to get the hell away from that ship – and from you.”


“Well, now you get the chance to show me just how much you hate my guts. No ship, no rules, nobody to interfere…just you and me. You got the balls for that, DiNozzo?”


The phone clicked, and Tony snapped it shut angrily. He shoved it into his pocket and grabbed his bag. He wasn’t going back to that. That fucked up deal with Grasso was in his past. There was only one person in his future – and he was waiting for him in a bar. They’d find a way to work this through somehow. It might be painful, and he knew he wouldn’t like it, but if Gibbs hadn’t given up on him then he wasn’t ready to give up on himself.


He glanced at his watch. If he hurried, he might just get there in time.






Stan sat back in his seat. He looked nervous – Gibbs wondered what the hell was coming next.


“I’m not trying to get Tony into trouble,” Stan told him.


“Oh, Tony doesn’t need any help getting himself into trouble,” Gibbs muttered darkly.


“I wasn’t sure I should even tell you this, but then I figured you ought to know. Tony left a lot of notes for his successor. He didn’t know it’d be me, but I was grateful to him for the intel. There was one person in particular that he wanted me to keep a close eye on – Chief Petty Officer Dale Grasso.”


“He told me he thought the guy was bullying his men – that he’d raised it with the skipper but been knocked back.”


Stan nodded. “Last week, Petty Officer Lewin came to see me. Lewin is on Grasso’s crew. They’re good lads – they work hard, and Grasso makes sure they are the best, fittest and fastest crew on the flight deck.”


“You think Grasso crossed a line in how he handled them? Tony did.” Gibbs gazed at Stan searchingly.


“Crossed a line? Hell yes! Lewin told me that Grasso makes his crew do a fitness regime every day. He oversees it, and whoever performs the worst during the week gets the honour of sparring with Grasso on Friday night in a gym on the lower decks.”


“Sparring?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow.


“He calls it that, but in reality he makes them take a good, old-fashioned beating. It was Lewin’s turn last week, and he was terrified. Grasso is a bastard – he fights mean and his crew aren’t supposed to learn anything from the experience. There are never any witnesses – people know to steer clear of that particular gym at that particular time. He’s careful – he never leaves any marks on the face – but he gives them a damn good kicking.”


“How the hell was this able to go on?” Gibbs growled angrily. “Why didn’t anyone stop it?”


“Tony tried to – but, like I said, the skipper didn’t want that boat rocked – literally – and Grasso is smart. Nobody ever caught him in the act. And I’m sure that if they did, he’d just say it was a bit of friendly sparring and bruises were inevitable – but trust me, this was a systematic campaign of bullying against his men.”


Gibbs felt his jaw tighten. He nodded at Stan to continue.


“I questioned Petty Officer Lewin, and he said that Grasso stopped beating up on his men for a period of time during Tony’s tenure as agent afloat. Once Tony left, the beatings started again. Lewin couldn’t handle it any more – that’s why he came to me last week to tell me the whole story.”


“Tony told me that he’d warned Grasso off. Threatened to break the bastard’s legs if he continued bullying his men,” Gibbs said, finishing his coke. “I’m guessing that once Tony left, Grasso felt free to go back to his old ways.”


“Oh, it’s worse than that,” Stan said softly. “Grasso’s Friday night sessions never stopped, Boss.”






Gary, the doorman, let him into the bar, even without a member’s card. Tony figured Walter must have had a word with the management, or else Gibbs had told Gary to expect him. He walked down the stairs and paused for a moment on the landing, looking for his dom.


The place was busy, and it took him a moment to locate Gibbs. Then his gaze honed in on Gibbs’s familiar taut shoulders and silver hair. He was about to run down the stairs when he realised that his dom wasn’t alone. There was a man sitting opposite him, and he and Gibbs were engaged in an intense conversation. Their heads were so close together that they were almost touching, and there was an air of easy intimacy about them. Who the hell was this guy? Tony’s stomach did a jealous flip as he recognised the blond hair and chiselled jaw of Gibbs’s companion: Stan.


“What the fuck…?” Tony felt liked he’d been punched in the gut. Gibbs had told him to meet him here because it was ‘neutral territory’, but had somehow forgotten to mention that he’d be inviting his old boyfriend to the reunion. Stan the golden boy. Stan the perfect ex-sub who never fucked up. Stan who sure as hell never said his safe word and then walked out on his dom, leaving his collar behind on the door mat.


“Fuck you, Gibbs,” Tony growled under his breath. It had taken him all his courage to come here tonight – and for what? To find this?


He turned and walked shakily back up the steps, out of the bar, and onto the street.


“FUCK!” he yelled, banging his fist against the brick exterior wall. “Fuck you, Gibbs. Christ, I should never have fucking believed in you.”


He slammed his fist into the wall again then leaned against it, panting. He was dimly aware of the sound of his cell phone ringing. If it was Gibbs… He reached into his pocket and looked at the caller ID. Not Gibbs. He answered the call.


“You chickening out on me, DiNozzo?” Grasso asked. “Figures. You’re the same weak sack of shit you always were.”


Tony stared at the wall sullenly. Then he gave a bitter little laugh. Really, where else was he going to go? At least this way he got to slam his fist into something other than a brick wall.


“Screw you, asshole,” he snapped into the phone. “I’m on my way.”






Gibbs frowned. “I don’t understand. You just said that the beatings stopped while Tony was agent afloat.”


“No, I said that Grasso stopped beating his *men*. But he needed someone to beat up on.”


Gibbs stared at him. “What are you saying, Stan?”


“Tony felt like he’d let Grasso’s men down. Petty Officer Lewin was too scared to make a formal complaint against Grasso back then, but he begged Tony for help. And Tony said he’d take care of it.”


“Shit.” Gibbs had a feeling he knew where this was going now.


Stan leaned forward. “Tony did some kind of deal with Grasso, Boss. From then on he was Grasso’s Friday night sparring partner. It seemed to keep Grasso happy – I’m guessing Tony was a more challenging opponent than his terrified men. Still, I’ve no doubt Tony took a few beatings in the process – Grasso likes to win.”


Gibbs felt a surge of protective anger. He wanted to believe it wasn’t true, but it sounded all too likely. He remembered the many times Tony had taken the brunt of his own bad temper. Ziva and McGee would sometimes disappear when Gibbs was on the warpath over a case, leaving just Tony, with his wide grin and inane chatter, deflecting Gibbs for all that he was worth, taking the heat off the rest of them. And hadn’t it been Tony who had taken over the handling of Abby’s useless replacement when Gibbs had felt like throttling the guy?


He thought of the many times Tony had placed himself in danger to save one of his team, from taking the full force of a bomb blast for Kate and McGee, to rescuing Gibbs himself when he’d been trapped in a car at the bottom of a river.


“Damn it! Damn Tony and his endless fucking need to take one for the team!” he growled, banging his fist down on the table. “Christ, I’m gonna kill him when I get my hands on him.”






The gym was a small dive in a rough part of town. Tony pulled up in the parking lot and slammed the car door shut behind him. This was stupid. He knew that, but he also didn’t seem to care right now.


Grasso was right about the place being empty – they wouldn’t be interrupted. Not that they ever had been before, back on the ship. One of Grasso’s men had always stood watch outside the door, and the crew, by and large, knew to avoid the place. Grasso had a reputation for throwing his weight around, and nobody liked to mess with the man.


Tony paused outside the gym door. He remembered the first time he’d done this. He’d been upset and angry about being sent away from Gibbs and his team. He had also been lonely. He’d needed to bond with someone – and the boys on Grasso’s flight crew had become his new team. They needed him – and nobody else had needed him on that hellhole of a ship.


Tony couldn’t stand by and let those boys be bullied by Grasso. At least he was a veteran of close combat training with Gibbs. He knew how to fight hard and mean – he stood a chance with Grasso. His plan had been to whip Grasso’s ass so hard that the bastard wouldn’t touch his crew again.


“Yeah, and that plan was one total, giant failure, DiNozzo,” he muttered to himself.


He’d fought hard, but Grasso had the edge on him. He’d gone down fighting though – he thought Gibbs would have been proud of him. Grasso seemed to find him more fun to kick around than his own men, and he’d challenged Tony to come back the following week and take some more – if he had the balls.


After that, it had become a regular weekly occurrence. Sometimes Tony showed up drunk – it dulled the pain and made the whole thing pass in a haze. There was something about Tony’s willingness to offer himself up repeatedly for their version of fight club that seemed to fascinate Grasso. Tony had been feeling so guilty about Jenny’s death back then, and Grasso had sensed that in him – and exploited it ruthlessly. He seemed to know how to reach straight into Tony’s guilt and twist it to his own needs. In the end, the whole thing had become so fucked up that Tony wasn’t sure why he was doing it any more.


The gym door was unlocked. Tony pulled it open and stepped inside.


Grasso was waiting for him. He was a big man, taller than Tony, standing at around six feet five, and he was built like the side of a barn. He was busy working on a punching bag when Tony entered the room, but he looked up, a smile creasing his features at the prospect of a more interesting opponent.


“Hey, motherfucker! I knew you’d come. You’re a sick fuck, DiNozzo – I think you actually like getting your ass kicked.”


“Dale.” Tony inclined his head sardonically. He knew Grasso hated being called by his first name. “You missed me then, judging by all the pathetic emails and phone calls.”


“I missed kicking you around until you whine like a beaten dog.”


“Your men not filling that need for you?” Tony raised an eyebrow.


“They’re a bunch of pussies. They fold too easily. Besides, none of them cries like you do, DiNozzo. I always liked that sound.”


Tony took off his jacket and threw it down to one side. He tore off his tie and dropped that on top. Then he unbuttoned his shirt and threw that onto the pile of clothing.


“Before we start…” Grasso got out a bottle of whisky and put it on top of Tony’s discarded clothes. “Thought you might be thirsty.”


“You mean you want an easy fight.” Tony raised an eyebrow.


“I don’t need you to be drunk to take you down, motherfucker,” Grasso growled. “I just like the way the liquor makes you cry for your mommy.”


Tony felt his jaw tighten.


“Go ahead. Take a sip. You know you will before we’re done. Everyone knew you’re a drunk,” Grasso grinned. “You used to drink yourself to sleep in your bunk, didn’t you, DiNozzo? Homesick were you? Poor little momma’s boy.”


Tony stepped forward and took a swing at him, but Grasso was ready for him and blocked. He elbowed Tony in the ribs and then kneed him in the groin. Tony rolled sideways and got to his feet, fighting for breath. There were no rules in this fight. Grasso would fight dirty – and so would Tony.


“Nice to see you’re still the same fucking loser you always were, DiNozzo,” Grasso taunted.


“Nice to see you’re still the same knuckle-headed bozo you always were, Chief Petty Officer Asshole,” Tony replied. “Do you know that’s what your men call you behind your back? Grasso – asshole. Kind of fitting, don’t you think?”


He grinned pleasantly and deflected a pounding blow Grasso aimed at his ribs. A follow-up punch to his jaw sent him reeling sideways, and he went down onto the floor. He looked up at Grasso in shock; Grasso winked at him.


“We’re not on the Seahawk now, DiNozzo – that changes things,” he said, with an ugly grin. “Your face isn’t off-limits now. You have no idea how much I’ve wanted to pound my fist into that pretty-boy face of yours, DiNozzo. After tonight you won’t be so pretty.”


Tony reached up a hand to touch his split lip and felt the blood dripping down his chin. He got to his feet, feeling a surge of anger as the pain kicked in. He threw himself at Grasso and landed several hard, brutal punches. This felt better than pounding his fist into a brick wall. This felt much better.


Grasso would win eventually. He always did. And Tony would take the beating because on some level, he knew he deserved it. But first…first he got to fight out his anger and pain. He thought of Gibbs’s betrayal, thought of him leaning across the table in the bar, talking to Stan in that intense, intimate way. Those thoughts drove him crazy, and he redoubled his attack, burying his fists into Grasso’s midriff over and over again.


Grasso laughed out loud and blocked him, then cuffed him sideways, sending him flying. Tony lay on his back on the floor, blinking blearily as Grasso came towards him.


“You’re feisty tonight, DiNozzo. I like it. It’ll make it all the sweeter when you finally beg for mercy.”


“In your dreams, asshole. I never beg,” Tony said, in a tone of derision.


Grasso gave him a macabre grin. “Nah – but you do scream.”






“Did you say Grasso has been calling Tony?” Stan asked.


Gibbs frowned. “Yeah. Think I should be worried?”


Stan pulled on his lower lip thoughtfully. “Maybe. That guy’s got one hell of a mean streak. He’s a bully – and he’s got some kind of weird obsession with Tony. I don’t think anyone’s ever stood up to him before, the way Tony did. And nobody ever went into a fight with him willingly – and kept on coming back for more. He talks about Tony all the time – nothing complimentary, but he can’t stop going on about him. It’s kind of creepy. And if he’s been calling him, then yeah, I think you should be worried.”


Gibbs reached for his cell phone. “I’ll call Tony and warn him.”


He glanced at his watch. It was past eleven now, and Tony still hadn’t showed. He had been so sure that Tony wouldn’t let him down. Things might have been strained between them this last week, but he’d seen something in Tony’s eyes that told him not to give up hope. Had he been wrong?


Tony’s number rang a few times, but it wasn’t picked up. Eventually it went to voicemail. Gibbs snapped his phone shut with a growl.


“Idiot. He knew I’d want to talk to him.”


“Did he know you were meeting me here tonight then?” Stan asked with a puzzled frown.


“No – Tony was who I was waiting for when you called.”


“Here? In a fetish bar?” Stan looked startled. Then realisation set in. “Oh…you and Tony?” A little spark of sadness flared in his eyes but was soon muted. “Kind of makes sense,” he sighed. “Is it good between you, Boss?”


“Yeah. It is.” Gibbs gave Stan an almost apologetic smile. “I finally figured out what I wanted, Stan.”


“Well, I always knew it wasn’t me. That’s why I left.”


“Yeah.” Gibbs made a little gesture of acknowledgement with his head. “Tony gets me, Stan. And he can handle me.”


“Then he deserves you, Boss. Nobody else could handle you.” Stan grinned. “I know I never managed it. So – where is he? You said you were meeting him here?”


“I told him to be here by eleven. We had something pretty big to discuss. I was sure he’d show.” Gibbs frowned. “Oh shit…” He glanced towards the stairs. “Maybe he did.”




“When you and me were talking.” Gibbs got up.


Stan got up too. “So why didn’t he come over?” he asked, looking puzzled.


“Because you were here. He kind of has a thing about you, Stan.”


“About me? Why?”


“Just…one of Tony’s many insecurities.” Gibbs made for the stairs at a run. He had a bad feeling about this. “Gary – have you seen Tony this evening?” he asked the doorman when he reached the upper landing.


“Yes, Mr. Gibbs. He came in about half an hour ago. Didn’t stay long – left straight away looking kind of pissed off.”


Gibbs cursed under his breath. “Did you see where he went?”


“No, sir.” Gary shook his head nervously. He and Stan exchanged the kind of anxious looks that irritated Gibbs. They were both so apprehensive of his anger. That made him even more desperate to find Tony. Tony was strong; he would stand up to Gibbs if he needed it, or joke him out of a bad mood. Tony wasn’t afraid to get in his face and risk his displeasure like these two subs here. He needed Tony. Christ, he *loved* Tony, and he wanted to get hold of him, right now, and figure out all that had gone wrong between them.


Where the hell would he have gone? To his apartment? Maybe…but Gibbs’s gut discounted that idea. It seemed to think that Tony would have gone somewhere much more dangerous. But where?






Tony laughed out loud as Grasso thudded a hard punch into his solar plexus.


“D’you want a drink, loser?” Grasso stood over him, offering him the bottle. It was tempting. Tony gazed at it blearily, blood running down his face.


“Just like old times, huh?” He squinted up at Grasso from his half-closed eye.


“Almost.” Grasso waved the bottle impatiently in front of his face. “Sometimes you showed up drunk.”


“Yeah.” Tony reached out and took the bottle. “Sometimes I did.”


Tony wondered why Grasso wanted him to get drunk. He’d never brought along liquor before. Was it just because he liked kicking him and calling him names when Tony crawled around in a drunken stupor on the floor? Or was there another reason?


Tony threw the bottle back onto his pile of clothes and got slowly to his feet again. He didn’t want to get drunk. He wasn’t done yet.


There was a rage roaring inside him that was nowhere near being quenched. When he’d done this before, it had been for many different, complex, and often contradictory reasons. Tonight was different – tonight was about something else. He wasn’t even sure what, as he launched himself at Grasso. He just knew that he hurt and wanted to be hurt in equal measure, and Grasso was the means by which to make it happen.






Gibbs went through the options in his head. Tony would have been feeling mad, jealous, insecure, pissed off as all hell. Where would he go when he was feeling like that? Gibbs turned to see Stan looking at him anxiously, and that was when the thought hit him.


“Damn it – he wouldn’t…”


Yeah. He would.


Gibbs grabbed his cell phone again and called McGee. “I need a location for the GPS in Tony’s cell phone,” he snapped. “And fast!”


Stan was staring at him, looking confused.


“Do you have any idea where Grasso might be right now?” Gibbs asked, pacing anxiously. He just hoped that Tony had his cell phone switched on. He hadn’t picked up earlier, but he could have just been ignoring the call – or not in a position to answer it.


“I think he stays with his brother here in DC when he’s on leave. Why? You think he’s gone after Tony?”


“No.” Gibbs shook his head. “I think he’s thrown down a challenge that Tony might just be stupid enough to accept.”






“I’ve been thinking,” Grasso said, as they circled each other warily.


“Must be a new experience for you.” Tony threw a punch – but Grasso ducked out of the way.


“I bet nobody knows you’re here,” Grasso said, landing a glancing blow to Tony’s jaw.


Tony felt himself go cold. Was this Grasso trying to put him off his game? Or was something more sinister going on? The guy was a psycho – who the hell knew what he’d do?


“I had a good thing going until you screwed it up, DiNozzo,” Grasso told him. “The new agent afloat has been on my case for months because of you – I can’t fucking piss without him watching me. And he’s trying to persuade that snivelling little shit Lewin to make a formal complaint against me.”


“Aw, I’m sorry I made it harder for you to be such a fucking bully,” Tony snapped.


Grasso’s expression turned murderous. “Fuck you, DiNozzo,” he snarled, and then he came at Tony, swinging punch after punch.


Tony suddenly realised that this was serious. Grasso had a grudge against him, and with no witnesses, and no prospect of any kind of interruption, the bastard was fighting harder and meaner than ever before.


It was now chillingly apparent to Tony that if he lost this fight he wouldn’t just be crawling home on his hands and knees with a bloody nose.


The stakes had suddenly become much higher.






“I’ll find Grasso’s address,” Stan said, pulling out his cell phone.


How long would that take? Gibbs just hoped that Tony’s cell phone was switched on, and McGee would be able to get him the answer he needed. Otherwise, he had a horrible feeling that they’d be too late.


Gibbs’s cell phone rang, and he picked up, impatiently.


“McGee? What you got for me?”






Tony fought hard. He’d trained with Gibbs – he knew how to fight with the best of them. All he could hear was the sound of his own laboured breathing as he moved, darted, punched and parried. He was starting to feel tired. His arms ached, and he could feel the blood running down his face from a cut above his left eye, which was bleeding copiously. He could barely see a thing out of that eye, and he could feel how swollen it was.


Then he made a mistake. He moved too fast and tripped – and Grasso got a leg behind his knees and sent him reeling over backwards. Tony landed on his ass on the floor and before he had a chance to get back up again, Grasso had grabbed a handful of his hair.


Grasso pulled him up bodily by the hair and then raised his fist. There was a twisted grin on his face.


“Would anyone even miss a whiny-assed loser like you?” Grasso taunted. “You never had any friends on the Seahawk, and I figure you don’t have any on dry land, either. Does anyone give a damn if you live or die, DiNozzo?”


Tony blinked the sweat out of his one good eye, trying to see. So this was it. Christ, he’d really fucked up this time.


At that moment, he heard a bellow of sheer rage from over by the door. There was a blur of motion, and then Grasso was yanked backwards, away from him, causing Tony to fall to the ground. He heard the sound of fist meeting flesh, over and over again, and Grasso’s grunts of surprised pain. Then the punching sound stopped.


“*I* give a damn,” a familiar voice said.






Gibbs looked down on Grasso – the man was doubled up, stumbling around and clutching his belly where Gibbs had landed several hard blows. Gibbs wasn’t done with him yet though.


“This is for your men,” he snapped, delivering a savage uppercut to Grasso’s jaw. Grasso almost went over backwards but somehow managed to stay upright, shaking his head blearily.


“And this is for touching what’s mine.” Gibbs drew back his fist and then delivered a brutal punch that sent Grasso reeling. He was a big man, and he hit the floor with a gratifying thud. Satisfied that his opponent wouldn’t be getting up again any time soon, Gibbs left him in Stan’s custody and went over to his sub.


Tony was battered and bloody. Gibbs crouched down beside him and looked him over intently. He had a bleeding cut over one eye; the area around the eye was swollen and puffy, and the eye itself almost closed. He also had a split lip and several bruises on his face and torso.


“Were you having fun, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked sourly.


“Not really, Boss,” Tony croaked, looking up at him, panting heavily, one hand clutching his ribs.


“Yeah. That’s what I thought.” Gibbs reached out a gentle hand to touch Tony’s bruised face. Tony caught the hand in his own, stopping him.


“Why are you here?” he rasped belligerently.


“Told you I’d reel you in – and not a moment too soon by the look of it.” He sat back on his heels and surveyed his sub’s injuries with a meaningful shake of his head.


“How did you know where to find me?”


“When you didn’t show up at the bar I got McGee to trace the GPS in your cell phone. I figured something was wrong because Stan told me…”


“What the hell does *he* know about anything?” Tony interrupted.


“He took over from you as agent afloat on the Seahawk, and he thought I should know about your fight nights with Grasso. That’s what we were talking about when you saw us in the bar this evening.”


“Oh.” Tony looked nonplussed. “So…you weren’t…uh…”


“Interviewing him as a replacement for you in my bed? Yeah. Right,” Gibbs snorted. “You’re an idiot, DiNozzo.”


“I know.” Tony stared at him moodily. “So, you know about Grasso?”


“I know you tried to protect his men by letting him beat up on you every week for a couple of months,” Gibbs snapped. “I can just about understand that. What I don’t understand is why the hell you let him beat up on you tonight.”


“I was angry. And…” Tony shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea at the time. So…I guess I’m in trouble for this?” He tried to get to his feet and gave a gasp of pain. Gibbs put a hand under his arm to steady him and then pulled him the rest of the way up.


“Hell yes!” he retorted. “You’re in big trouble, boy.”


“Don’t remember it being in the rules,” Tony said petulantly. “What is it? Some new rule? Rule number eight – don’t get into fights you can’t win?”


“No. It’s an existing rule.” He took hold of Tony’s arm and slung it over his shoulder.


Tony gave him an uncertain look. “Can’t place it.”


“Damn it, it’s rule number five, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said in an exasperated tone. “Nobody touches you but me.”


“Oh come on! That wasn’t touching! Well, not that kind of touching anyway…”


Gibbs silenced him with a glare, and Tony bit down on his already split lip. He glanced over at Grasso, who was lying dazed on the floor with Stan’s cuffs on his wrists.


“Still never been beaten in a fight, huh, Boss?” Tony managed a faint grin as Gibbs deposited him on a chair in the corner of the gym. “Thought Grasso might have given you more trouble, but I guess not.”


“You wore him out before I got to him. Also, I was kinda pissed.” Gibbs picked up Tony’s shirt from the pile on the floor and started to help him into it. “Really not happy about you being half naked in front of anyone, DiNozzo.”


“For Chrissakes! It was a fight thing, not a sex thing,” Tony said irritably.


“You don’t get it.” Gibbs grabbed his head and made him look at him. “Nobody gets to look at you half naked, Tony, and nobody *ever* gets to hurt you. Nobody gets to lay a goddamn finger on you! I thought I’d made all this clear.”


Tony looked startled by his vehemence. “Didn’t get my head around the not hurting me bit,” he muttered. “Besides…I wasn’t sure where we stood any more.”


“That’s no goddamn excuse! I told you where we stood, Tony. You’re mine – that’s it.”


He finished helping Tony back into his shirt and began buttoning it up for him.


“You’re on punishment detail until further notice,” he said as he worked. Tony glared at him mutinously. “Got a problem with that, DiNozzo? Want to argue with me about it?” Gibbs asked dangerously.


“All I want to damn well argue about is what you were doing in that bar with Stan,” Tony snapped.


“I *told* you. He called me this evening while I was waiting for you. He’d figured out what had gone down between you and Grasso, and he thought I should know. That’s it.”


“You sure? ‘Cause the two of you looked pretty damn cosy. You sure you don’t wanna take up with the golden boy again?” Tony demanded.


Gibbs reached out and slapped the back of his head. Tony had the grace to look a little abashed. He lowered his head and looked up at Gibbs through the eyelashes of his good eye.


“Okay. Fine,” he muttered. “Whatever. Just, I see you getting up close with the sub who got away – what the hell am I supposed to think?”


“You are sailing really close to the wind right now, DiNozzo,” Gibbs growled. “Snap out of it.”


Tony swiped away the trickle of blood running down his jaw with the back of his hand. Then he looked up again, and finally Gibbs saw a hint of contrition in his eyes.


“Sorry, Boss. So…back on the short leash again, huh?” Tony asked with a little sigh.


“So short you’ll be asking my permission to damn well piss,” Gibbs told him tersely. “Like I said, you’re on punishment detail until further notice. I’ll tell you what that entails tomorrow. For now – let’s get you home.”


He helped Tony into his jacket and then went over to Stan.


“See that bastard is busted for what he did to his men,” he said, shooting Grasso a derisory glance. “Find some way of nailing him – get Lewin to testify – but don’t drag Tony into this. I’ll take care of him,” Gibbs said grimly.


Stan’s gaze flickered over to where Tony was sitting. “Poor guy. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes right now.”


Gibbs gave a wry grin and patted Stan’s shoulder. “Yeah, but you’d never put yourself in his position, Stan.”


“He make you happy, Boss?” Stan asked softly.


Gibbs glanced back at Tony. “Yeah, Stan. He really does. When he’s not pissing me off.” Then he grinned again. “And sometimes even then,” he added with a wry shrug.


Stan smiled. “I’m pleased for you. Okay if I have a few words with him, Boss?”


“Sure.” Gibbs nodded, and Stan went over to where Tony was sitting.


“Wanted to say thanks, DiNozzo,” he said, crouching down in front of Tony.


“For what?” Tony growled, stiffening. Gibbs rolled his eyes; Stan really was Tony’s bete noir.


“Leaving me all those notes. Best handover files I ever had coming onboard a new ship as agent afloat,” Stan told him serenely, ignoring Tony’s attitude. “Also – for taming him.” Stan gave a little grin and a backward nod in Gibbs’s direction. “You did something I never could, Tony. Hell, I don’t suppose there are many subs in the world who could handle the boss. You must be something pretty special.”


Tony gazed at him with a look of stupefaction on his face. Gibbs couldn’t stop himself grinning at the sight.


“Not really. I screw up all the time,” Tony muttered. “Like tonight for example.”


“Yeah, well, I’m sure the boss will punish you for that, and frankly I think you deserve it. But I wanted to thank you also on behalf of those guys on Grasso’s flight crew. What you did for them took guts, Tony, and I know they appreciate it. Lewin hero-worships you like nothing I’ve ever seen.” He glanced at Tony and then back at Gibbs. “Well, almost like nothing I’ve ever seen.” He grinned. “The way you look at the boss comes close.”


“You telling me you don’t look at him the same way?” Tony asked grouchily.


“No.” Stan shook his head. “I left him, Tony, not the other way around. And for awhile I regretted it, I’ll admit that. Maybe I even still regretted it – until tonight.”


“What changed tonight?”


“Saw him with you. Could never compete with that.” Stan patted Tony’s arm. “So long, Tony. And don’t worry about Grasso – I’ll make sure that bastard gets what’s coming to him.”


He got up, returned to his prisoner, hauled Grasso to his feet, and pushed him towards the door.


“So long, Boss. Tony.” He waved his hand at them and then left.


Tony watched him go. “Nice guy,” he said to Gibbs. “Always liked him.” He gave his dom a wide, self-deprecating grin.


Gibbs gave a snort of amusement at the obvious lie and went back over to where Tony was sitting. “Come on. We’re going home.”


“You sure? I mean, d’you still want me now I’m not pretty any more, Boss?” Tony asked, as Gibbs helped him to his feet.


Gibbs laughed out loud. “Who the hell ever told you that you were pretty, DiNozzo?”


Tony gave a little chuckle, clutching his ribs painfully. “Don’t make me laugh, Boss,” he implored, as Gibbs put an arm around his waist to help him walk.


“Oh, you won’t be laughing when I get you home, Tony. Trust me.”


Tony leaned in close, and Gibbs held onto him tightly.


“I’m learning how to do that, Boss,” Tony said quietly. “I’m kind of a slow study on this one. It’s hard for me.”


They swayed there for a moment, alone in the room. Gibbs kissed Tony’s forehead gently.


“Yeah. I know,” he said softly, holding his sub close. “But you’re getting there, Tony. You’re getting there.”






Gibbs didn’t say a word the entire journey home, and Tony was too exhausted to say anything. He stared out of the window wondering what ‘punishment detail’ would entail exactly. Gibbs had told him about it several weeks ago, but he couldn’t remember all the details. He did know he hadn’t liked the sound of it. He had a feeling the next few days were going to be anything but pleasant.


First they had to deal with the reasons behind their temporary break-up and then there was the issue of him breaking rule number five. Gibbs seemed really pissed off about that for some reason. Tony wasn’t sure why – it wasn’t as if he’d run off and had sex with another dom. Tony didn’t think he agreed with Gibbs’s interpretation of rule number five.


They pulled up at the house, and Gibbs helped him out of the car and into the living room, where he deposited him on the couch. Tony watched him punch a speed dial number on his cell phone.


“Kinda late to be calling someone, Boss,” he ventured.


Gibbs glared at him. Tony bit down on his lip and tasted blood.


“Ducky – it’s me,” Gibbs said into the phone. “I need a consult. Yeah, I know it’s late, but it’s DiNozzo.”


Tony winced. Gibbs finished up the conversation and snapped his phone shut. Then he sat down on the coffee table opposite Tony and put a firm hand on his jaw, turning his face so that he could examine his injured eye in more detail.


“Can you see anything out of that?” he asked. Tony shook his head. “Thought not. It’s swollen shut, although hopefully the eye itself isn’t damaged. It’s bad, but I’ve seen worse.”


“Really? When?” Tony asked, glad that Gibbs was talking to him again.


“Iraq,” Gibbs replied tersely, and that ended that conversation effectively.


Ducky arrived, all bustling good humour and brisk efficiency even while he complained about being dragged out of bed this late on a Friday night.


“Saturday morning now!” he exclaimed, glancing at his watch as Gibbs ushered him into the living room. He took one look at Tony and gave a cheerful smile. “My word, Anthony, you have been in the wars! What on earth happened?”


“He’s been an idiot,” Gibbs replied, before Tony could reply.


“Ah – a fight over a young lady’s attentions no doubt!” Ducky said, opening up his battered brown medical bag. “Well, not to worry, Tony, we’ll have you right as rain in no time.” He set about prodding Tony uncomfortably for the next twenty minutes.


Tony watched as Gibbs went over to the window and twitched aside the drapes. He stood there, looking glacial, while Ducky went about his business. When he was done, Ducky sat back and surveyed Tony with a sympathetic smile. “You’ll live!” he pronounced happily.


“I’m not so sure about that, Ducky,” Tony hissed, nodding his head in Gibbs’s direction. “Have you seen the expression on his face?”


“Ah, my dear boy, I simply meant that you’d survive your injuries,” Ducky said ruefully. “Whether you’ll survive his displeasure, I couldn’t say. He doesn’t look best pleased. What in heaven’s name did you do, Anthony?”


“I kind of screwed up.” Tony made a face. “Again,” he added.


Ducky patted his arm reassuringly. “Ah well, we all do that occasionally, Tony. And it’s not as if Jethro hasn’t made his share of screw-ups,” he said in a louder voice. Gibbs turned to look at them, the death-glare on his face.


“Not helping, Ducky!” Tony said in a strangled tone.


“Jethro – I’m a tad concerned about possible concussion, and also about the state of that eye,” Ducky said, brisk and businesslike. “Tony really needs to be under constant supervision for the next 48 hours. I know that might be awkward, and I’m happy to volunteer for the daytime shifts, but…”


“He’ll be staying here, Duck. With me,” Gibbs said impatiently. “I’ll keep him under supervision, trust me. He won’t be going anywhere.”


Tony grimaced, and Ducky shot him a sympathetic smile.


“I really do think that’s for the best, Tony,” he said. “Just in case any complications develop. I’m sure you’ll be fine, but it’s best to be on the safe side. Jethro – you’ll need to wake him every two hours to ask him some basic questions and be sure he’s compos mentis.”


“Every two hours. Understood.” Gibbs nodded curtly, and Tony wished the ground would open up and swallow him. Not only had he caused all this mayhem, but now his condition meant that Gibbs had get up every two hours in the night to check on him. He had a feeling that his punishment detail had just got exponentially worse.


“Tony’s being very stoic about it, but he’s in a fair bit of pain, so I’m leaving some heavy duty pain killers.” Ducky waved them in the air and then put them on the coffee table. Gibbs looked at them expressionlessly, and then at Tony, and Tony thought the pain he was in right now was the least of his problems.


“He’ll need rest for a few days,” Ducky added.


“Oh, he’ll get it,” Gibbs said grimly. “I’ll make damn sure of that.”


“Here’s some topical cream for the cuts and bruises.” Ducky left that on the table too. “Call me if you notice anything unusual, or if he deteriorates in any way.”


Ducky got up and began gathering his things. Tony gazed at him mournfully, wishing he could stay. He was dreading being left alone with his dom right now. Ducky seemed to sense his mood because he patted him reassuringly on the shoulder.


“You’ll be fine, Tony,” he said, with a benign smile. “I have no doubt that Jethro will make an eminently efficient nurse – if a little lacking in the bedside manner department.”


Gibbs escorted the amiable doctor to the door, while Tony waited in trepidation for his dom’s return. When Gibbs came back, he got a glass of water and handed it wordlessly to Tony, along with a couple of painkillers.


“Painkillers make me really woozy, Boss, and the pain really isn’t that bad…” Tony began. Gibbs fixed him with his death glare again. Tony swallowed the pills obediently. “We gonna talk about what happened?” Tony asked. “Because okay, I accept the punishment detail because we both know I screwed up. I just don’t see how it’s breaking rule number five. I wouldn’t cheat on you, Boss. You know that, right?”


“You really don’t get it, do you?” Gibbs gave his sub a look of intense exasperation.


“No,” Tony said petulantly. “Look, I get that I took my shirt off – I get that much, and I get why you’re pissed about that – but it wasn’t so that he could ogle my body. Trust me, Grasso really wasn’t interested in me in that way.”


“You let him touch you, Tony.”


“I let him hit me,” Tony frowned. “That’s something else.”


“You treated this body – my property – like it wasn’t worth anything to me. And it is,” Gibbs told him, touching a finger to his chest. “And so is the person inside. Isn’t that the point of rule number five, Tony?”


Tony gazed at his dom helplessly. “I guess…when you put it that way…” Maybe Gibbs did have a point after all. He blinked, trying to clear his head.


“Bed,” Gibbs ordered. He helped Tony to his feet, slung his arm over his shoulder, and they walked slowly and wearily up the stairs to the bedroom. Gibbs dropped Tony’s arm when they got inside, and Tony glanced around.


“Shall I just…” He pointed at the floor. Gibbs turned to give him a questioning stare. “Just…you said before that when I was on punishment detail I didn’t get a mattress, pillow or blanket,” Tony recalled, with a wince. He wasn’t happy about the prospect of long nights spent on the hard floor, but he wanted to show Gibbs that he knew he’d screwed up. He was willing to take whatever his dom handed out.


“Yeah – that’s the default setting each morning,” Gibbs said. “But if you stick to all the rules, and if I think you’ve made progress during the course of each day, then you can earn back the mattress, blanket, and pillow by bedtime. That starts tomorrow though. Tonight, I have to wake up every two hours to check on you – so you’ll sleep in the bed where I can keep an eye on you. That’s for my convenience, not yours. Understood?”


He stood in front of Tony, gazing at him from steely eyes.


“Yes, Boss,” Tony said quietly. He started to hobble, slowly, in the direction of the bathroom.


“Where the hell are you going?” Gibbs demanded.


“Uh – to piss, clean my teeth…” Tony paused, confused. “That not allowed?”


“Tony – when I said earlier that you needed my permission to piss, I meant it. You’re not just on a short leash, DiNozzo – you’re on punishment detail. That means you ask for everything – for food, water, to use the bathroom. Everything.”


Tony nodded, slowly, recognising that this was less about causing him embarrassment and discomfort than Gibbs re-asserting his authority over him. It actually felt kind of restful. It was a relief to know that he wasn’t going to be allowed to make any decisions for himself in the foreseeable future. It wasn’t as if he’d been doing that great a job of it recently anyway.


“Yes, Boss,” he said obediently. “So…uh…can I?” He gestured with his head in the direction of the bathroom, and Gibbs nodded curtly.


When he returned to the bedroom, Gibbs helped him undress and then pointed to the side of the bed.




Tony did as ordered, and Gibbs reached for something on the nightstand. Tony’s stomach did a sudden flip; it was his collar. Gibbs held it up.


“You want to wear this again, Tony?”


Tony swallowed hard. “If you’ll let me, yes.”


“Once it’s on, only *I* get to say when it comes off,” Gibbs told him meaningfully.


Tony nodded. “I can live with that, Boss.”


“Can you?” Gibbs rocked back on his heels and looked at his sub thoughtfully. “See, thing is, you can’t be my 24/7 sub just when you choose to be, DiNozzo. If the going gets tough again, like it did last Sunday, then I have to know that you’ll commit to staying and figuring it out.”


Tony gazed at the collar mutely. That was one hell of a big commitment. Could he do it? He longed to feel the leather around his neck again, but Gibbs was asking a lot from him.


“If you’d stayed last weekend, instead of taking off your collar and running out on me, then tonight wouldn’t have happened.” Gibbs ran a gentle finger over his bruised face.


“I know.”


“The collar saves you from yourself. That’s why I need to know, before I put it back on ya.”
Gibbs’s gaze was searching. “Not asking you to be perfect, Tony. Just to stick with it, even when it’s tough.”


Tony looked up at his dom from his one good eye. “I want to wear the collar so much, Boss.”


“Comes with obligations, Tony.” Gibbs held it up. “Need a commitment from you this time. I know that doesn’t come easy for ya, but it’s the only way.”


Tony gazed at the collar helplessly, wanting it, needing it, but knowing he wouldn’t lie to get it. Gibbs would never trust him again if he did.


“If you wear it, you’ll commit to being my 24/7 sub, and to answering all my questions honestly, without holding back. You don’t get to hide from me any more, Tony. Not ever again. If you accept the collar, you have to agree to that.”


“That’s not easy, Jethro,” Tony said quietly.


“Nothin’ good ever is, Tony.”


“I’ve kept myself safe this way for a long time. It’s worked for me.”


Gibbs looked at his bruised face with a meaningfully arched eyebrow. “This is the third crisis you’ve had in as many weeks, Tony, and the third weekend I’ll spend nursing you. You’re not exactly doing a great job with the keeping yourself safe thing.”


“That’s because I didn’t have my normal defences, Gibbs!” Tony protested. “You stripped them away. I needed to go to ground and be alone, so I could find a way to block it out. You made me face myself instead.”


“Had to happen one day, Tony. Could be a hell of a lot better for you, going forward, if you’ll accept the collar and the conditions that come with it. Less lonely. Less painful too, in the long term. Hard in the short term though. I accept that, and I’ll help you through it, but it’ll be tough. No doubt about it.”


“Will I still get a safe word?” Tony asked.


“Will you use it?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow.




“Then you can have a safe word. Got some trust to rebuild here though, Tony.”


“I know.” Tony bit on his lip again, tasting the familiar, salty tang of his own blood.


“Why did you do that tonight, Tony?” Gibbs demanded. “Why did you go to that gym? You knew Grasso would kick your ass in a fight – you knew that from experience.”


“Yeah.” Tony nodded. “I knew.”


“The other times I could understand. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still pissed about it. We’ll talk about your insatiable need to take one for the team some other time. But that wasn’t why you went there tonight. What were you looking for tonight, Tony?”


“I don’t know. I wasn’t exactly thinking straight. I saw you with Stan, and I got mad.” Tony shrugged.


“With me? With Stan? Who did you get mad at, Tony?”


Tony gazed at him blankly. He’d never thought about who he was angry with. He’d just assumed…


“With myself,” he said quietly, realisation kicking in. “For screwing it up with you so much that you’d go back to Stan. You were the only good thing I ever really had – and I fucked it up.”


“So you wanted to punish yourself again?” Gibbs sighed.


“Yeah. I guess. I never saw it that clearly before.”


“If you wear the collar, you’ll have to agree, once and for all, to let me decide what punishments you’re due. It’s a hell of a lot safer in my hands,” Gibbs said wryly.


“Yeah,” Tony agreed, with a little wince. “I think you’re right there, Boss.” He felt like all the fight had gone out of him as he finally accepted that one basic fact. He’d always struggled with it before – it had been one of the hardest aspects of his submission. “Been punishing myself for years though, Boss. Hard habit to break.”


“Yeah – but if you accept this collar, then you agree to give me the responsibility for your punishments. That means you won’t get to punish yourself any more, Tony,” Gibbs told him firmly. Tony stared at him helplessly. “You can ask me if you feel you need to be punished for something. You can explain it to me, so I can understand, but you have to accept my decision. If I say no, then that’s it. My word is final.”


Tony shook his head. “I don’t know if I can do that. That’s really hard, Boss.”


“Yeah, it is. But d’you know what else is hard? Finding some bastard beating up on your sub – now that’s damn hard. Do you know how that felt, Tony?” Gibbs demanded. “And knowing that you’d gone there willingly, knowing what he’d do to you? Do you know how that made me feel?”


Tony blinked his good eye, feeling a wave of deep and unexpected sadness.


“Sorry, Boss,” he whispered throatily. He was exhausted and drained beyond belief, and he realised that he’d reached rock bottom. All this struggling had got him nowhere, and he was so tired of it. He looked up at Gibbs again. “Collar me, Jethro,” he requested softly. “I accept your terms. Just…collar me again. Please?”


Gibbs looked at him from steely eyes, their blue depths piercing him to his core. Tony sat there meekly, taking the full force of that stare, gazing up at his dom in abject submission. He wasn’t hiding any more. He was completely spent.


Gibbs didn’t say a word. He seemed to see the truth in Tony’s eyes and accepted it without question.


He stepped forward and fastened the collar around Tony’s neck, caressing Tony’s throat as he buckled the strip of leather in place. Tony closed his eyes, gratefully accepting the collar and all the obligations that came with it. It felt warm, snug and familiar around his neck, and he gave a shuddering sigh of relief to feel it there again.


“Sleep,” Gibbs said gruffly. “No bondage tonight – not while you’re on pain meds. Wouldn’t be safe.”


He helped Tony to lie down, and then he got into the bed beside him. Gibbs turned off the light and reached out and took his sub in his arms. Tony went easily into his embrace, coming to rest against Gibbs’s solidly muscled body. He rested his chin on Gibbs’s shoulder and relaxed as Gibbs placed his hand on his butt and stroked it firmly. It wasn’t sexual – it was just calmly reassuring.


Tony closed his eyes. God how he’d missed the gentle comfort of sleeping in this bed, next to this man. He’d missed wearing this collar, and being held by these firm, capable hands. He was so damn glad that he was back here, in Gibbs’s bed, where he belonged.





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