Two Wolves: 5. Big, Bad Wolf


He dreams about the same two wolves from before, but this time they are lying in a forest on a table of stone. It’s night-time, but there is a full moon overhead, illuminating them. One has fur as white as snow, while the other’s fur is as black as the night sky. Tony steps back behind a tree and watches them.


Their paws are bound together with chains, and they are growling at each other furiously, unable to attack because of their bonds. All they can do is snap and growl, trying to bite each other.


A movement from the trees catches Tony’s eye, and he watches as Gibbs emerges and walks slowly towards the stone table.


The snarling of the wolves doesn’t seem to bother him. He stands over them and places a hand over each of their muzzles, squeezing hard. The wolves shake their heads, trying to dislodge him, snarling and yelping, but Gibbs just stands there, immovable. He looks powerful and commanding and exerts total control over the wolves, forcing them into submission by sheer strength of will.


Eventually they are subdued, becoming quiet under his stern touch, and only then does he release his grasp on their muzzles. The wolves are now silent and obedient, looking up at him adoringly, like tame dogs. Gibbs waves a hand and their chains fall away. They jump off the table and take their place next to him, one on each side, looking completely at home there, as if it is where they have always belonged.


Suddenly, Gibbs looks up, straight at him, and Tony takes a startled intake of breath. Gibbs looks completely different now. His hair is no longer shorn; it reaches down almost as far as his shoulders, shining silver grey in the moonlight. His eyes are a lupine shade of yellow, and his body is sleek and powerful. He looks as if he is at the height of his powers; dark and light combined, strong and compelling. He throws back his head and howls at the full moon overhead, revealing his sharp, white fangs.


Tony wakes up, the gasp of surprise dying in his throat, to find the pain is just as bad as it was when he fell asleep. He also needs to piss, so he has to find a way to brave the pain and get up. He slowly draws his hand away from Gibbs’s embrace, missing the comforting contact immediately. Then, just as slowly, he manages to lever himself up onto his hands and knees, growling as the movement sends shock waves of pain through his body. He glances down to see if he’s woken Gibbs and finds him gazing back at him, eyes wide open, looking completely alert and awake.


“Did you sleep at all?” Tony asks.


“No.” Gibbs sits up and rolls his shoulders back, stretching, and Tony senses immediately that there is something different about him. Something has changed during the night, while he was sleeping.


Gibbs gets up off the floor with the lethal, prowling grace that Tony remembers from the pit.


“Gibbs…what’s going on?”


Gibbs turns his head suddenly, and it must be the pain making him hallucinate, or the lingering after-effects of his dream, because Tony has a vivid mental image of a wild grey wolf, yellow eyes blazing, teeth bared. He takes a startled intake of breath.


“Tony, come here.” Gibbs beckons him over, and Tony slowly crawls towards him, his body protesting every single movement, and comes to rest at Gibbs’s feet. Gibbs crouches down in front of him and cups his head between his chained hands.


“I need you to trust me,” Gibbs tells him.


“I will. I mean…I do. I always have.”


“Good…because it might get worse before it gets any better. They might hurt you some more. They probably will hurt you some more. Can you handle that?”


“Yes.” Tony says it quickly and without hesitation. “You’ve got a plan, Boss?” He feels himself falling almost immediately into second in command mode in response to the strong sense of leadership he’s getting off Gibbs.


Gibbs stands up again. “Yes. We’re not just playing to survive, or escape anymore, Tony. That’s what we were both doing before, and it didn’t work for either of us. We’re playing to win now.”


“Okay,” Tony says slowly, wondering what the hell Gibbs has in mind.


“I don’t just want to survive. I don’t even just want to escape. I want *justice*, Tony. I want to bring these bastards down – all of them.”


Tony feels the shiver start at the base of his spine and creep all the way up to his head, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. “Oh yeah. You’re back. Now *that* sounds like the Leroy Jethro Gibbs I used to know.”


“He was always here. I just forgot who he was until you reminded me.”


Tony can feel his grin stretching from ear to ear. It’s the smuggest, most irritating grin in his entire repertoire of smug, irritating grins.


Gibbs taps the back of his head lightly, in place of a head-slap. “This isn’t going to be easy, Tony.”


“I don’t care. Just tell me what you want me to do.”






Tony’s eyes are too bright and even in the darkness of the stall Gibbs can tell he’s feverish. He’s been drifting in and out of delirium all night long judging by the mutterings in his sleep, and Gibbs knows he can’t tell him the whole plan in case he blurts it out by mistake. So he decides to tell him just a little piece of it.


“I need you to take whatever Ellis does to you next. It won’t be nice, but trust me, it won’t last long.”


“Okay.” Tony smiles up at him like a happy puppy, and Gibbs wonders if there is anything he can do that will make Tony lose faith in him.


“Then I’ll be leaving for awhile, but I’ll be back. You have to trust me on that too.”




“I’ll tell you more later. Can you trust that I’ll do that?”


“You’re the boss, Boss.”


At that moment the klaxon sounds and the lights are brightened in the hallway outside, flooding the room with light through the window in the door. Gibbs crouches down beside Tony again to take a good look at him. Tony’s face and the front of his torso are covered in mud and there are still a few leaves and twigs in his hair from his brief escape attempt. Gibbs scrapes a bit of caked mud from Tony’s cheek with his fingernail.


“I’m fine, Boss,” Tony tells him, trying to push him away.


“Yeah. Right. Now shut up and hold still.” Gibbs takes a firm hold of his head and turns him around so he can get a better look.


Tony’s shoulders and back are streaked with lacerations and covered in blood, and it’s clear he needs urgent medical treatment. The dirt must have got into the open wounds, causing an infection. There are beads of sweat on his forehead, and Gibbs can see all too clearly that he’s running a high fever.


“It’s not so bad. I’ve had worse,” Tony tells him. He’s shivering, even though Gibbs can feel the heat radiating from his torn skin.


“When?” Gibbs asks incredulously.


“Okay, not worse maybe, but nearly dying from the plague sucked big time, and this is about the same as that.”


Gibbs is sure Tony is digging in deep right now just to stay in the moment, and he wishes he could spare him what comes next. “You’ll do fine, Tony. I’m gonna make sure of that.” Gibbs presses a kiss to Tony’s forehead. It’s burning up, and he knows the fever is a bad one.


Tony crawls over to the toilet to piss, hanging onto the wall, barely able to stand long enough to finish. Gibbs wishes he could at least help hold him up, but he’s chained too far away to be any use. He can only watch as Tony staggers back to the mattress and falls down on it.


A few seconds later, Ellis comes into the stall with the same ugly grin on his face that he had the night before. Ellis picks up the hook Gibbs pulled away from the wall the previous night and holds it up angrily.


“It was getting in the way.” Gibbs shrugs.


Ellis delivers an entirely predictable backhander across his jaw, making him fall sideways.


Gibbs grunts and pulls himself upright again. “I want to see Scott,” he says firmly, spitting out some blood from his split lip.


“Aw, does poor little Leroy wanna go running to the big boss and complain about how we were mean to his pussy boy yesterday?” Ellis makes a face at him. “Not gonna happen, Leroy. You have zero stock with Scott right now. He’s not gonna care that we whipped Tony. He knows Tony will be leaving soon; you’re lucky he even bothers feeding him.”


He glances down at Tony, where he’s lying on the mattress on the floor.


“How you feeling, DiNardo? Oh, wait, it isn’t DiNardo – it’s DiNozzo, isn’t it? Lying little shit.” He prods his foot contemptuously into Tony’s side, making Tony grunt.


Gibbs gets between them immediately. “Bring Scott here. Tell him I won’t fight in the pit again unless I see him today.”


Ellis actually laughs in his face. Gibbs holds his ground, fixing him with the kind of hard glare that’s shut up better men than Ellis in the past. The smile finally fades from Ellis’s face. “Aw, you mean it! You actually think you have some bargaining chips around here!”


“I do.” Gibbs holds the glare.


“Nah, you don’t. All we have to do is rough up this pussy boy here, and you’ll agree to anything we say.”


Ellis takes hold of Tony’s hair and pulls his head back. Tony gazes at him from those bright, feverish eyes, a grin on his face. “Go on…do it,” he urges.


Ellis slaps him hard across the face, holding him in place by his hair, first one way and then the next. Tony just giggles in response, and Ellis hesitates, confused. Then his face darkens, and he draws his fist back to strike…and that’s when Gibbs leans in to growl into his ear.


“Touch him one more time, and I won’t fight again. Kill him, and you have no hold over me at all. I’ll throw the fight on Fight Night. There’s a lot of money riding on me, Ellis. You wanna have to explain to Scott why his champion threw the fight?”


Ellis hesitates, his fist still raised.


“Think about it,” Gibbs says darkly.


He can see the cogs working in Ellis’s mind. Much as he loves beating up on Tony, he doesn’t want to risk Gibbs making good on his threat.


“You can take a wolf to water, but you can’t make him drink,” Gibbs adds. “You can throw me into that pit, but you can’t make me fight.”


Ellis releases Tony’s hair, and Tony drops to the floor with a thud. Ellis glares at Gibbs and then turns and stalks out of the room.


“So far, so good.” Tony smiles up at him. “Like the way you played that, Boss.”


Gibbs crouches down beside him and gently smooths down his hair where Ellis yanked on it. “We have a long way to go yet, Tony.”


He gets up again and a few minutes later Frank enters the stall. “What the hell is this about, Leroy?” he asks, planting all five feet nothing of himself in front of Gibbs and glaring up at him. “You know this won’t get you anywhere!”


“You know my terms.” Gibbs shrugs. “Get Scott down here, or I don’t fight.”


Frank laughs at him. “You’ll fight, Leroy. You’re a natural born fighter. You can’t help yourself. We put you in that pit, you’ll fight.”


It’s Gibbs’s turn to laugh now. He shakes his head, chuckling softly to himself. “Oh Frank, you know fighting, but you don’t know much else, and you sure as hell don’t know me. Get Scott down here, or I’m not going to train, and I’m sure as hell not going to fight again.”


“Don’t be an idiot!” Frank hisses, glancing at Tony. “They’ll kill Tony if they have to, Leroy, to make you fight.”


“If they kill Tony, I definitely won’t fight,” Gibbs replies firmly. “Because I won’t have anything to fight for, Frank.”


Frank rocks back on his heels, a thoughtful look on his face.


“I know you’ve got a lot riding on me to win,” Gibbs tells him. “Not just next Fight Night, but in the grand finale of this shitty tournament, and we both know that’s close now. You’ve staked pretty much your entire life savings on me winning, haven’t you, Frank? You’re all a bunch of gamblers – that’s how you ended up in this freak-fest.”


Frank looks angry, but Gibbs can see that comment hit home.


“Go get Scott, Frank. That’s all I’m asking. It won’t do anyone any harm, and that way nobody has to get hurt.”


“We could shoot some of the other fighters – the weaker ones. He’ll cave soon enough,” Ellis says from the doorway.


“You think I care about any of them?” Gibbs asks. “You ever see me talk to them, or take an interest in any of ‘em?” He has been talking to them since Tony arrived, but he doubts Ellis has noticed that. His reputation for aloofness is well established.


“You liked that kid Brian…”


“And you made me shoot him. So now I don’t get close, which means I won’t give a damn if you kill the whole damn stable. But I’m betting Scott won’t be happy if you do that. He’s proud of how big his stable is now because I’ve been winning fighters for him all season. All those fighters are worth money, even those who can’t fight for crap. The pit always needs fodder, doesn’t it? And people will gamble on anything, even if it’s just who’s the weakest fighter on the circuit. I bet Scott plans to sell some of his weaker fighters during the off-season – there will always be some idiot out there who wants in on this game who’ll buy them. But Scott can’t do that if you kill them.”


Frank glances at Ellis, and Gibbs can see that’s another point that’s hit home. Frank sighs. “Let’s just get Scott down here. Let him talk some sense into Leroy.”


“Unchain me first,” Gibbs orders as Frank starts walking to the door.


Frank nods at Ellis who gives him an angry look but comes over to him and unchains him anyway. Then they both disappear, locking the door behind them, and the waiting game begins.


Gibbs goes and pisses first, desperate to relieve his aching bladder. Then he drinks several scoops of water from the basin to refresh himself. He’s hungry – they both missed dinner last night and now they’ve missed breakfast too – but he feels alert and alive, the same way he does before going into the pit every Fight Night. This is going to be the fight of his life, and he has to play it every bit as well as he always does in the pit.


He wets one of the blankets in the basin and then goes over to Tony. First he wipes some of the mud from Tony’s face, while Tony just sits there, looking up at him, letting him do it. Then Gibbs turns him around. “Lie face down,” he orders.


Tony does as he’s told, and Gibbs straddles his back and begins gently washing it. Tony is shivering in earnest now, and Gibbs knows that fever has a real hold on him.


When the blood is washed away, he finally gets a good look at the damage. It isn’t pretty; if Tony survives he’ll be scarred for life, but if he gets antibiotics to treat the fever he’ll bounce back quickly enough. Gibbs has learned never to underestimate Tony’s indomitable spirit and sheer zest for life.


“How is it?” Tony asks, glancing up at him.


“Looks worse than it is. You’ll be fine.” Gibbs flashes him a grin.


Tony gazes at him hazily, and Gibbs knows he’s fading again. “Like it when you smile, Boss. Always did.”


“That’s good, Tony. I’ll give us both something to smile about real soon. Now go to sleep.”


He throws the dry blanket over Tony’s shoulders, sits down beside him, and gently pulls Tony’s head onto his lap. He strokes Tony’s hair soothingly, combing out some dried mud with his fingers. Tony gives a little sigh and closes his eyes, relaxing against him. Gibbs doesn’t like the sheen of sweat building up on his forehead, but he can’t do anything about it. He can only sit there, gently stroking him, while Tony falls asleep.


What feels like a few hours pass, and Tony sleeps through it, his rest punctuated by fever-dreams judging by the way he murmurs and cries out, thrashing about under the blanket. Gibbs holds him and whispers to him, calming him when he gets particularly agitated. He’s rambling on, muttering something about wolves and snakes and stone tables, and he frequently cries out some kind of warning to him.


“Gibbs – over there! Gun! Jethro!”


“Hey, it’s okay. I’m here. I’m fine.” Gibbs hopes Scott will hurry the hell up, because Tony’s condition is deteriorating, and he needs that medical treatment soon.


If his plan doesn’t work, then Tony will very likely die… No. He won’t let himself think that way. He has to be like he is in the pit, never oiling his asshole because he won’t allow for even the possibility that he’ll lose. He won’t lose against Scott. He’s known the man for months now; he’s studied his strengths and weaknesses and knows exactly what makes him tick.


He hears footsteps in the hallway outside, and he carefully lifts Tony’s head and places it on the pillow, then gets up. Tony moans softly and mutters something in his sleep.


“Ssh…sleep. It’s okay, Tony. I’ll be back soon.” Gibbs soothes his hand through his hair one last time. Then he remembers something. He leans down and speaks into Tony’s ear. “You will not die. Hear me, Tony?” He pats Tony’s head gently, and Tony opens his eyes and looks straight at him.




“Good. You will not die,” Gibbs repeats firmly. Then he presses a gentle kiss to Tony’s forehead and stands up to face the coming fight.


He’s taken to a room he’s never been in before. It seems to be some kind of office. Scott is waiting for him, standing beside a desk, looking sweaty and flustered.


“What the hell is this all about, Leroy?” he demands as Gibbs enters the room. “I thought you and I had an understanding!”


“What kind of understanding would that be?” Gibbs quirks an eyebrow. “I win for you in the pit, and in return you beat up on the people I care about?”


“I told you; you win for me, and I’ll see you spend the off season in luxury!” Scott takes a handkerchief out of his pocket and presses it against his forehead. “I’m not happy about you making demands, Leroy. I’ve treated you well.”


Gibbs snorts. “Get real, Scott. You haven’t treated me well. You’ve just been along for the ride. Walid’s men kidnapped me, and you bought me because I was cheap, and you wanted in on this game. You had no idea I’d turn out to be so damn good at fighting out there in the pit. You got lucky, that’s all, and you can get unlucky again whenever I choose.”


“That most certainly isn’t the case!” Scott says indignantly. “I’ve been playing a very smart game; Prince Walid said so himself!”


Gibbs gives a derisive laugh. “Walid is playing you, Scott. You’re an idiot if you can’t see that.”


Scott goes red in the face. “How dare you! Prince Walid and I are friends! He said I’m worthy to join the elite, to be welcomed into his inner circle, reserved only for those he trusts completely.”


Gibbs snorts. “Well, he would. You own the one fighter who stands between him and the kudos of winning this entire thing.”


Scott stares at him, open-mouthed.


“Come on, Scott! Use your brain! Walid wants to win, and you’re the one person who can stop that happening. Why else do you think he suggested that you put Tony in the pit against Mac and make me watch? He’s hoping it’ll screw with me so much that I’ll lose my fight.”


“Walid is an honourable man. He wouldn’t…” Scott hesitates.


Gibbs rolls his eyes. “Of course he would, man! Wake up! This is more than just a game to him – you’ve seen that. He wants to win!”


“The winner does take home a sizeable purse and a percentage of the takings. Then there is the gambling take,” Scott says uncertainly.


“I don’t think Walid gives a damn about that; he has money coming out of his ears. For him, it’s about the winning.”


Scott dabs his handkerchief against his forehead again, wiping away the sweat dripping down his face. “Even assuming you’re right, Leroy – what should I do about it?”


“Don’t let him play you! Because you’re a winner too, Scott! You want to win, don’t you?”


Scott gives a slow nod. “Unlike Prince Walid, I must admit the purse on offer would make a difference to me. I have sold some of the fighters you won for me, Leroy, and they made a very nice sum, but do you have any idea how expensive it is running a stable?”


It’s all Gibbs can do not to roll his eyes again. “Yeah. I bet. And I bet also that you’ve staked a lot of money on me winning. I know Frank has. You’ve gambled a hell of a lot on me taking Mac down in the final, haven’t you? More money than you can afford to lose.”


Scott purses his lips but doesn’t answer that.


“Thing is, Scott, do you want me to win or not?” Gibbs demands. “It’s that simple.”


Scott turns to him, and there’s a greedy look in his eyes. One thing Gibbs has always known about the man is his greed. He saw it the first time he met him.


“Of course I want you to win! I’ve invested a lot in this stable. I’ve become a major player. I deserve to win.” He puffs out his large chest.


“Yeah, you do,” Gibbs says softly. “And I can win for you, but I have some terms.”


“You have terms?” Scott looks indignant again. “You’re mine, Leroy. You’ll do what I tell you.”


“You’d think, huh? But no.” Gibbs prowls forward, and Scott takes a step back, and then another, until he’s flush against the desk.


The guard by the door moves forward, but Scott waves him away. “Look, Leroy, I know you; you want to win as much as I do,” he says, a cunning look creeping into his piggy brown eyes. “I don’t believe you’re even capable of throwing a fight. Do you really want to get fucked, and jeered at, and pissed on, and dragged off to some other stable where nobody gives a damn who you are? Trust me, you would be treated far worse than you are here. You’d have to start at the bottom and work your way up again, and you wouldn’t like that.”


“No. I wouldn’t.” Gibbs gives a soft little smile – and then wipes it instantly from his face. “But I’ll damn well do it if you don’t give me what I want!” he roars into Scott’s face.


Scott edges away from him and plops himself down onto a chair. “And what is it that you want, Leroy?” he asks quietly. “Not your freedom – I won’t give you that – or Tony’s freedom, either. It’s against the rules of the game to set a player free, and, well, not exactly in our best interests.”


“Oh, I know that.” Gibbs gives an impatient jerk of his head. “Here’s what I want, Scott. I want you to order your men to leave Tony alone. He suffers so much as a scratch, and I’ll throw the next fight.”


“Ah…Tony DiNozzo…he’s your Achilles heel,” Scott says knowingly. “He’ll be your downfall one day, Leroy. You see, you care about him. Maybe you even love him?” He raises an eyebrow, looking at Gibbs searchingly. Gibbs just gazes back at him stonily. “And that makes you weak,” Scott says.


“No – that makes me strong,” Gibbs replies. “Took me a while to see it, but it’s Tony who makes me strong, and bastards like you who try to make me weak. You got me all wrong, Scott. Remember how you whispered all that crap in my ear – about how my anger over my mom, and my wife and daughter were what made me such a good fighter? You were half right – I am angry, but I’m only that angry because I loved them so much. Now think about Tony – they’re dead, but he’s still alive. If I get that angry about dead people, think what I’m like about the living.”


“Hmmm…interesting.” Scott considers this for a moment. “But then surely, by your own admission, all I have to do is threaten Tony’s life, and you’ll do whatever I say.”


Gibbs laughs. “And if you kill him, you have no hold over me at all.”


“But if we hurt him, we can ensure your continued co-operation.”


“You’ve already hurt him. Am I co-operating?” Gibbs raises an eyebrow.


“I see. So we have something of an impasse. What are the rest of your terms, Leroy? I’m sure that isn’t all.”


“You’re right. You won’t put Tony into the pit. Not next Fight Night, not ever.”


“Then he becomes useless to me. Why would I keep him?” Scott spreads his arms.


“To keep your star fighter happy,” Gibbs snaps. “And you want me happy, Scott, because only by keeping me happy will I win for you.”


“Go on.” Scott leans forward and places both hands on his knees. Gibbs isn’t fooled by the man. Scott is no Walid, but he has a kind of low cunning; he’ll have some terms of his own.


“I want a visual on Tony at all times, including in the pit. So he sits up in the bleachers with you.”


“Really?” Scott nods his head musingly. “And?”


“He wears clothes on Fight Nights.” Gibbs shrugs. “I don’t want anyone gawping at him.”


“My, my, you are a possessive lover – for I assume you are fucking him?” Scott raises an eyebrow. “I understand you better now. You’re trying to protect a lover. That makes sense to me. Tell me, Leroy. Were you fucking him before, back at NCIS, when you both worked together as federal agents? Isn’t it frowned upon for a boss to be fucking a subordinate?”


He gives a nasty little smile, and Gibbs feels his hands closing into fists. Channel the anger, focus it, and use it against your opponent.


“Or did it start in here?” Scott asks with a leering smile. “If it did, then it’s likely the drugs are the reason behind your current little infatuation, nothing more. Without them, you’d feel nothing for this boy, although he is pretty, I’ll grant you that. But can you honestly say that if you weren’t locked up in here you’d give him a second thought? That you’d pass on the chance of a woman with firm tits and a nice, juicy cunt?”


He makes an obscene motion with his finger, but Gibbs refuses to rise to the bait.


“Wouldn’t it be stupid to throw all that away, to allow yourself to be beaten to a pulp in the ring and fucked up the ass just because you mistook a passing infatuation for love?” Scott demands.


“Tony also needs urgent medical treatment,” Gibbs continues, his face like granite. “He gets it immediately our conversation is over. He gets whatever medical treatment he needs going forward, and you stop drugging him.”


“Anything else?” Scott raises a facetious eyebrow.


“Yeah. Pizza. He wants pizza – pepperoni, sausage, extra cheese.” Gibbs leans back against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest.


“Oh, it must be love.” Scott smirks. “These are very interesting demands, Leroy.” He steeples his fingertips together thoughtfully. “To be honest, it’s no skin off my nose to agree to them if it will keep you happy. As you have pointed out, you are my star fighter.”


Gibbs grunts, waiting for Scott’s conditions.


“And I have no objection to giving you a carrot, to ensure that you keep winning in the pit. However…” He leans forward again, a sly look on his face. “I am also a great believer in the stick as well as the carrot, Leroy. You have told me what motivates you, and I think I can ensure that you will be as motivated as possible when you enter the pit.”


He glances up, a smile creasing his plump cheeks.


“You’re a soldier, aren’t you, Leroy? A Marine? See, I read somewhere that soldiers fighting for their homeland and loved ones fight much harder than those who are simply paid to do battle, because it’s more personal to them. They have more to lose.”


Gibbs nods. He knows the truth of that, and he’s seen it first-hand. He can guess what’s coming next.


“So, here are my terms, Leroy. You can have your medical treatment for Tony, and your clothes for him, and your pizza.” He gives a little snort at that, waving his hand dismissively in the air. “And I’ll happily have him beside me when you fight in the pit, so you can see that he is safe and well. But I think it is important that you fight for something out there. So, to ensure you are properly incentivized, understand this: if you lose, I will drag Tony down into the pit and invite anyone who wants him to rape him while you watch. When they’re done, I will take great pleasure in putting a bullet in the back of his head myself. That is what will happen if you lose, Leroy; that is the solemn promise I make to you.” He puts his hand on his heart and raises his eyes up to the heavens.


Gibbs grunts. It’s obscene but nothing less than he expected.


“So, do we have a deal?” Scott asks.


“We have a deal.” Gibbs nods. “How many fights do I have to win?” he asks. “How many more fights until the end of season finale?”


“Just two more, my boy. Next Fight Night is our penultimate one, and then we have the finale, where, if you and he both win your next fight, you will face the fireman.”


“I’ll win,” Gibbs says grimly.


Scott’s eyes narrow. “Oh, for Tony’s sake, I do hope so.”






Tony stirs blearily as the door opens. He has a hazy impression of Gibbs standing over him and then he’s lifted up. He thinks it can’t be possible that Gibbs is lifting him up in his arms like a child and carrying him out of the door and along the hallway, because he knows he’s pretty heavy. Then he remembers all the training Gibbs has been doing, and he thinks maybe it is possible, but he’s too tired to open his eyes and look.


He still hurts but it’s a hazy kind of hurt now, like he’s not really inside his body anymore. He rests his head against a neck, which has to be Gibbs’s neck because it smells like Gibbs and the hard body he’s pressed against feels like Gibbs.


He’s placed gently on a soft bed and a glass of water is pressed to his lips. He drinks it down, and he thinks an IV is shoved into his arm, but he’s not sure because he falls asleep before he can find out.


He dreams he’s in the forest again, but it’s the middle of the day this time, and the sun is overhead, beating down on him. He’s lying on the stone table, under the full force of the sun. He’s naked, and it’s so hot he feels like he’s burning up. He tries to get off the table but it hurts when he moves, so he gives up and just lies there, feeling the sweat dripping down his face.


Something blocks out the sun, giving him some blessed relief from its scorching rays. He looks up and sees a big, grey wolf standing over him, and he thinks he should probably be scared but somehow he isn’t. He just smiles and reaches up to pet the wolf’s fur. The wolf growls at him and nudges the back of his head with its snout, but he still isn’t scared; he just keeps running his fingers through all that soft grey fur.


The wolf leans in close and opens his mouth, his white fangs gleaming. Unafraid, Tony bares his neck, happily surrendering to the wolf’s bite. But instead of biting him, the wolf gently fastens his jaws around Tony’s neck and drags him from the table. The movement hurts, and he whimpers like a cub and clings on tight. The wolf lopes away from the table, carrying him gently in his mouth, dangling from his jaws. He takes Tony away from the sunlight and deposits him under a bush. Then he sets about cleaning him with firm, wet licks of his tongue.


When Tony wakes up, his head is clear. He still hurts like hell, but he no longer feels like he’s burning up. He blinks and looks around. He’s in a room somewhere; it’s small but not as small as their stall, and he’s lying on an actual bed, not a mattress on the floor.


He looks down to see that his entire torso has been bandaged, and then he looks up to see Gibbs standing beside the bed, looking down on him.


“You back with us?” Gibbs asks.


“Yeah. Think so.” Tony reaches out a hand, and Gibbs hauls him upright. “Where are we?”


“Room off the infirmary.” Gibbs jerks his head at the door. “Tanner’s been pumping antibiotics into you via the IV for the past couple of days. He said the fever had gone and took out the IV a couple of hours ago, while you were sleeping. How are you feeling?”


“Much better,” Tony says firmly. “So…how did it go?”


He takes the plastic cup of water Gibbs gives to him and drinks it down thirstily, loving the sensation of the cool wetness on his parched throat.


“Good.” Gibbs nods. He takes the empty cup from Tony’s hand and puts it back on the basin. Then he gazes at Tony searchingly. “Look, Tony, Tanner gave me a couple of painkillers to give you, if you want them.” He holds up the white pills. “But, thing is, we both know you go loopy on painkillers, and I can’t risk telling you the plan if you take them.”


“I don’t need the painkillers,” Tony says firmly. “I want to hear the plan, Boss.”


Gibbs flashes him a smile, like he never doubted his reply for a second.


“Is the room safe?” Tony asks anxiously, glancing around.


“It’s safe. I checked. There’s the usual guard outside the door, but there are no bugs or cameras in here.”


It’s pretty much an empty room save for the bed, basin and toilet, so there aren’t exactly many places to hide any recording devices. Tony nods at Gibbs to continue.


“I got Scott to agree to medical treatment for you. That’s why you’re here. He also agreed that nobody will lay a finger on you going forward. And you don’t have to fight in the pit next Fight Night. You don’t have to fight in the pit ever again.”


“Really? Wow.” Tony gives a low whistle. “Can you walk on water too, Boss?”


Gibbs rolls his eyes at him. “You are never to be out of my sight at any time, so I can see you’re okay, and when I fight in the pit you’ll sit next to Scott, watching, so I can see you then too. You also get to wear clothes on FIght Nights.”


“Clothes?” Tony can feel his eyes lighting up. “Damn it, Boss, what did you have to promise Scott in return for all this?”


Gibbs shrugs. “I have to win. That’s all.”


Tony knows Gibbs too well. “Or?” he asks quietly.


Gibbs folds his arms across his chest. “Or they rape you, and when they’re done raping you Scott shoots you in the head,” he says bluntly.


Tony frowns. “You know, Boss, your definition of ‘good’ and mine must be entirely different.”


Gibbs leans in close. “Scott takes a cell phone to Fight Nights, Tony. I saw it,” he murmurs into Tony’s ear. “He’ll also be distracted by what’s going on in the pit. And I didn’t just ask for you to wear clothes because I can’t stand the thought of all those people staring at ya – although that was part of it.” He gives a wry grin, and Tony rolls his eyes. “Clothes will also give you a chance to hide the cell phone.”


“You want me to steal a cell phone? After all this time telling me not to do just that?” Tony glares at him.


“This is part of a wider plan. You steal the phone, go to the restroom, and make the call. Those temporary toilets are too small for a guard to go in with you, so they’ll stay outside. After you’ve made the call, you delete it from the phone’s memory so Scott doesn’t find out. Then you go back up to the bleachers and return it to Scott’s jacket, so he never knows it’s gone.”


“You have enormous faith in my talents as a thief,” Tony says musingly.


“I do, Tony, yes.” Gibbs gazes at him steadily.


Tony gives him a big grin. “So you should! I’m an excellent thief. Did I ever tell you about the time I stole my housemaster’s stash of porn from the locked filing cabinet in his study? That stuff was good! I sold half of it and made enough to keep me in Oreos and Hershey bars for the rest of the term. Although I kept the best half, obviously. Of course they did find out it was me eventually, possibly because I bragged about it so much.” He grimaces. “Man, the housemaster had a mean right arm. I didn’t sit down for weeks after that, and…” He comes to a halt as Gibbs taps him lightly on the back of the head.


“Yes, Boss. Sorry, Boss. Your own right arm is pretty mean too,” he adds, smoothing down the hair on the back of his head ruefully. “So, what happens next?”


“Next we have to keep them all there for as long as possible to give McGee a chance to get to us. So you need to steal the phone as early in the evening as you can. But we can’t just rely on that. Regardless of whether we get rescued or not, we’re going to screw up Walid’s evening. That’s where Sam Hurrell comes in.”




“Yeah. You have to be my go-between, Tony. I can’t train the fighters myself because they watch me too closely, but Sam can. He’s a Marine, and he knows how to organize men. He’s also going to be out in the truck after his fight, while I’m in the pit.”


“Hang on…how do you know that? How do you know which of you will fight first?”


“Because we’re going to do this on finale night, and any finale I’ve ever been to they save the headline act until last. So, I’ll be in the pit, fighting Mac, and Sam will be in the truck. My guess is there won’t be many guards out there – everyone is going to want to watch the big fight. So Sam is going to have to find a way to overpower the guard, get the key off him, and release all the fighters.”


“If anyone can do it, it’s Sam,” Tony says firmly.


Gibbs nods. “That’s what I figured. I’ll draw out the fight with Mac as long as possible, but while everyone is watching us fight, Sam has got to free and arm as many of the fighters as he can.”


“Then what?” Tony asks.


Gibbs shrugs. “Then we hope the cavalry shows up in time to stop the whole thing becoming a bloodbath. But I’m not coming back here after that fight, Tony, and I’m not going to any other stable, either. I either die out there, or I go home. Those are the only choices I’m giving myself.”


Tony shivers, and Gibbs puts a hand on his shoulder. “You okay?”


“Fine…just…those poor suckers think they know the wolfman, but they don’t, not really. They’ve never really seen him in action before, but I have. They won’t know what’s hit them.”


Gibbs gives a little grunt at that, but Tony thinks he looks pretty pleased all the same.


“It’s dangerous. I’m asking everyone to put their lives on the line,” Gibbs says quietly. “Do you think they’ll do that for me?”


Tony gives an incredulous laugh. “Shit, Gibbs, they’re just waiting for you to ask!” He hears footsteps outside the door and stiffens anxiously. “There anything else I need to know?” he asks quickly, as the handle on the door turns and the door opens.


“Yeah…are you hungry?” Gibbs goes over to the door, grabs a box from the guard’s hands, and closes the door again. He turns, and Tony gets a whiff of baked cheese so strong his salivary glands go into overdrive.


“Oh man…please tell me that’s pizza! I’ve been jonesing for pizza for weeks!”


“Oh yeah! It’s pizza.” Gibbs has a shit-eating grin on his face. “Pepperoni, sausage, extra cheese do for ya?”


He opens the box and slings it on the bed, and Tony shoves his nose into it and inhales the scent dreamily.


“I love you, Boss,” he murmurs as he tears away a slice of the hot pizza and crams it into his mouth. “Oh God, this is good…oh shit…” He’s aware that he’s making positively orgasmic noises as he eats. He glances up to see Gibbs smiling at him. “Christ, Jethro, you got me medical treatment, clothes, a free pass out of the pit, and pizza,” he says between mouthfuls. “Didn’t you ask for anything for yourself?”


“Don’t be an idiot, DiNozzo,” Gibbs growls, still smiling at him. ”Everything I asked for was for me.”






“Don’t you want some?” Tony waves a slice of the pizza in the air. It actually makes Gibbs’s stomach roil; maybe all these months of eating plain, healthy food has changed his taste buds.


“Nah. Tanner already brought me some food while you were asleep. Besides, I’m in training.” Gibbs shrugs. “Can’t afford to lose now, Tony. Not with what’s at stake.”


Tony flashes him a look that tells him he’s well aware of what’s at stake, and then, in typical Tony fashion, ignores that particularly unpleasant subject and stuffs another slice of pizza into his mouth, chewing greedily. “Man, I’m starving. One more thing,” he says between mouthfuls. “When is finale night? When is all this going down?”


“Fight Night after next. So we have just over a week to plan this thing.”


“Had much less for missions before.” Tony shrugs.


“We’ll use the coming Fight Night to do recon and figure out how it’ll work on finale night.”


“Me and Sam will have to get the other fighters on board. That means telling them at least some of the plan. It’s a risk,” Tony points out.


“A calculated one. You know them better than me – any of them you think we can’t trust?”


Tony thinks about it for a moment and then shakes his head. “No. They’re all good men, and they all want to get out of here as much as we do. What does your gut say?”


Gibbs grunts. “My gut says we have no choice. We have to trust ‘em.”


He leans back, watching as Tony finishes the pizza and then begins sucking the grease off his fingers in a way that’s positively obscene. He feels his cock harden and winces. It’s embarrassing being naked and unable to hide any sign of arousal, and the drugs don’t help.


Tony finishes sucking and then looks at his erection and grins.


“No,” Gibbs says firmly. “We have no lube for a start, and you’re too badly hurt.”


“My mouth isn’t hurt, and my mouth would very much like to say thank you both for what it just received and what it’s about to receive!” Tony gives a lascivious grin. He slowly levers himself off the bed and then staggers as his feet touch the ground, wincing in pain as the movement clearly jostles his injuries. Gibbs reaches out a hand to steady him.


“Tony, don’t be an idiot…” he begins, but Tony just grabs his arms to give him support, sinks slowly down to his knees, and then swallows his cock with one smooth glide of his lips.


Gibbs shouts out loud, shocked by how good that feels on his erect cock. Tony looks up at him, his lips stretched taut around Gibbs’s cock, and gives a cheery wink. Gibbs puts a hand in Tony’s hair and strokes as Tony sets about giving him the best blowjob he’s ever had in his entire life. He thought Tony’s hand jobs were good, but this is even better.


Tony has clearly had plenty of practice, and his lips slide up and down Gibbs’s cock with expert precision. He draws back a little way and teases the slit with his tongue, while at the same time cupping Gibbs’s balls with his hand, juggling them skilfully, and Gibbs leans back against the wall, gasping with pleasure.


Then, without warning, Tony deep throats him with one swift movement of his head, and Gibbs feels himself coming. He tries to draw back, but Tony isn’t having it. He holds Gibbs in place and swallows down his come until Gibbs is completely spent. Then he draws back, smacking his lips together happily.


“Aw, you even provided me with dessert.” Tony winks. “You are truly a God among men, Gibbs.”


All Gibbs can do is snort. “You’ll be the death of me, DiNozzo.”


“Yup – they’ll put it on your tombstone: ‘Leroy Jethro Gibbs – sucked to death by Tony DiNozzo, aged 102. He died a happy death!’” Tony’s face becomes suddenly serious. “That’s how it’s going to be, Jethro. You and me, out there, living a life together until we grow old and die. It doesn’t end here.”


Gibbs gives a little grunt. He can’t think beyond getting out of here; he has no idea what their lives will be after that. He can’t afford to be distracted.


He helps Tony to his feet, and Tony glances at the bed and back at him.


“There’s only one bed, Jethro. Wanna share?”


Tanner told him they only had the room for the rest of the night, as it’s clear Tony is well on the road to recovery; tomorrow night they’ll be back in their stall as usual. Gibbs thinks it’ll be nice to sleep in a real bed again, even if only for a few hours.


The bed isn’t big, but it’s bigger than the thin mattress he’s been sleeping on for the past few months. He helps Tony crawl back onto it and then slides in beside him. It’s so small that they’re jammed up close to each other, but Gibbs doesn’t mind; he likes the closeness.


They’re face to face, and Tony kisses him softly on the lips. Gibbs rests his hand on Tony’s hip and kisses him back, and they fall asleep like that, both of them aware that they’re facing the fight of their lives.


The next day Gibbs is put back into training. He works out with a vengeance, knowing that more is at stake than ever before. Tony sits in the corner of the gym watching him, looking tired but on the mend. Scott has been true to his word, and Tanner has changed Tony’s bandages and checked his injuries, giving him proper medical care.


Sam Hurrell finishes on the treadmill and grabs a drink from the table, then walks over to where Tony is sitting. He crouches down beside him, clearly asking him how he is.


Tony begins talking, softly, dipping his head to whisper into Hurrell’s ear. At one point Hurrell stiffens, and then he looks up, straight at Gibbs. Gibbs gives him a barely perceptible nod, and Hurrell’s face breaks into a big grin.


Later, in the showers, Hurrell clearly engineers it so he gets to stand next to Gibbs. The guard is leaning against the wall by the door, looking bored, clearly not listening, and the noise of the showers means the sound of their voices doesn’t carry that far in any case.


“Tony told me your plan,” Hurrell murmurs.


“You in?” Gibbs asks.


“Of course I’m in. I just hope I can do what you ask.”


“Of course you damn well can, Sam. You’re a Marine.”


Hurrell straightens at that, but Gibbs understands the lack of confidence; Hurrell has been here for over six months, and a man can forget a lot about himself and who he is in that time. Hurrell hasn’t been lucky enough to have a Tony come along and remind him, so Gibbs must do it for him.


“Once the off-season starts, some of the fighters will be sold off. I don’t know what they’ll do with the rest, but we might be split up, or transported someplace else. We have to act before that happens.”


“Yeah, but finale night?” Hurrell raises an eyebrow. “Never took you for the dramatic type, Gibbs.”


Gibbs shrugs. “Think about it, Sam. Finale night is when they’ll all be there. Not just Walid and Scott, but all the owners and all the sick bastards who come and watch. I don’t just want to escape. I don’t want to go running back to my old life, leaving this whole operation still going strong. Sure, I could spend the rest of my life tracking them down, but there’s no guarantee I’d get them all. No. I want to bring them all down, catch them in the act, and make them all pay.”


Hurrell is staring at him.


“What?” Gibbs asks impatiently.


“Never seen you this way before, that’s all. Feels like I’m seeing the man Tony told me about. I wasn’t sure he was even in there.”


“He’s here,” Gibbs growls. “Question is, will these men follow me? Matt, Greg…all the others. Will they risk their lives for my plan?”


“I’ve already spoken to them, and the answer is yes,” Hurrell tells him. “They look up to you, Gibbs. You’re a legend around here. But they’re scared; they’re only agreeing to it because it’s your plan, and they think you’re invincible. Don’t let them down.”


“I won’t,” Gibbs says firmly. “But this is no time for weakness. This plan only works if I play my part, Tony plays his, you play yours, and they all play theirs. We have to work together.”


“‘For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack’” Hurrell quotes at him.


Gibbs quirks an eyebrow. “What’s with all the wolf quotes? Did you swallow some kind of wolf reference book or something?”


Hurrell laughs out loud. “That was Rudyard Kipling, and, uh, I guess things like that tend to stick in my brain.”


“Yeah, you’re a regular inspirational quotes factory.”


Hurrell has gone a shade of bright red that has nothing to do with the hot shower water. He dips his head, looking supremely embarrassed. “I told you I attended leadership classes, Gibbs. That was one of the things they suggested. Learn inspirational quotes to inspire your men. I also know the entire St Crispen’s Day battle speech from ‘Henry Vth’ off by heart.”


“Well, don’t damn well quote that at me too,” Gibbs says, rolling his eyes. Then he looks at Hurrell’s earnest face and sighs. “Look, Sam, you’re trying too hard. Here.” He throws the bar of soap he’s holding onto the shower floor. “Try to pick that up.”


Hurrell looks at him, a confused expression in his eyes. He bends down, picks up the soap, and hands it back to Gibbs uncertainly.


“I told you to *try* to pick it up.” Gibbs throws the soap back at him. “The point is, you don’t ‘try’ and do something, Sam. You just do it.”


“Oh, I know this one.” Hurrell grins. “‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ That’s Yoda…uh, ‘Star Wars’?” he finishes with a squeak as Gibbs gives him a glare.


Gibbs puts a hand on his shoulder and looks into his eyes. “You’re already a leader, Sam. I never met a more honourable man. You’ve been telling me a whole lot of things I should have listened to a hell of a lot sooner, and you never gave up. You don’t need to try to be a leader; you already are one. There’s no room for doubt. Just go out there on finale night and lead these men to victory.”


Hurrell’s face relaxes and something inside him seems to give. He jumps to attention and snaps off a smart salute to Gibbs. “Yes, Gunny!”






Tony wakes with a stomach full of butterflies on the morning of the penultimate Fight Night. Everyone knows they’re doing recon, and the men all know they have to win their fights to be guaranteed a place in the escape attempt the following week.


It’s still early, and the klaxon hasn’t sounded yet. His back is healing, but it’s itchy now that it’s scabbing over. He rolls his shoulders and rubs a particularly itchy part of his shoulder blade against the mattress. It only relieves the irritation a little, so he reaches back and tries to scratch at the scab. He’s done this before and it makes them bleed, but he prefers the soreness to the perpetual itching.


He’s just found the sore spot and started to dig in when his hand is grabbed and his wrist held in a vice-like grip.


“Do I have to borrow a set of chains from McGuire and tie you up to stop you doing that?” Gibbs hisses in his ear.


“Ooh…kinky.” Tony glances over his shoulder with a grin.


Gibbs rolls his eyes. “You’re jittery this morning.”


“How do you…? Oh, never mind.” Tony sighs. Gibbs always knows everything.


“You’ve been awake a long time, and it’s early.”


“Well, today might be the last day of my life so…” Tony shrugs.


Gibbs tightens his grasp on Tony’s wrist, and Tony can feel him pressing his entire body weight against him. “I will not lose out there, Tony.”


“Supposing you finally come up against someone who is better than you? I mean, this is their semi-final; this guy is probably good.”


“You’re not listening. I will not lose out there, Tony,” Gibbs repeats into his ear.


Tony can feel Gibbs’s erection digging into his buttocks, and he opens his legs and goes up on all fours. “Fuck me, Jethro. Fuck me like it’s the last time you’ll ever fuck me. Make me feel it,” he urges.


Gibbs needs no further invitation. He grabs the oil from under the pillow, and then Tony feels him sinking his fingers inside him. Before long, they’re replaced by the familiar burning press of his big, hard cock. Tony loves the sensation of being stretched, and he particularly loves the tingling fizz he feels every time Gibbs’s cock brushes his prostate.


Gibbs does exactly what Tony asked him to do and fucks him hard. It’s the first time he’s taken him from behind – before Tony’s always been on his back, but it’s too sore for them to have sex that way right now.


Tony likes how vulnerable it feels, kneeling there with his ass in the air as Gibbs pounds into him from behind. He likes being able to see Gibbs when they’re fucking, but there’s something raw and thrilling about doing it this way too.


Gibbs is like a piston, thrusting into him good and hard for a very long time. Choosing to have sex with Gibbs is one of the few things Tony has any control over in this place, and it makes him feel alive, as if he has at least some say in his own destiny. Gibbs’s cock hammering in and out of his hole makes him feel filled and complete.


Gibbs comes with a deep, pleasure-filled moan, and Tony grins, delighted that he can wring that kind of sound from his usually taciturn lover. He finishes jerking himself off, Gibbs’s cock still lodged inside him, and comes with a happy moan of his own.


Then he pulls forward and turns around, an unpleasant thought occurring to him. “What will you think about when you’re fucking that other guy in the pit later? Will you be thinking about me?”


Gibbs raises an eyebrow. “Jealous, Tony?”


“No!” Tony laughs and then makes a face. “Yeah. A little. I’m going to be watching, remember. I’m going to have sit up there and watch you stick it to some other guy.”


“I won’t enjoy it, Tony. It’s not something I do by choice.”


“I know. Still doesn’t mean I have to like it. You’re mine, and I’ve never been good at sharing.”


“So, you’re the possessive type, huh?”


“Aren’t you?” Tony shoots back. “Imagine if it was me out there; how would you feel?”


“I’d want to tear the world apart to make it stop,” Gibbs replies, his eyes darkening. He grabs Tony’s head and looks intently into his eyes. “It’s nothing at all like what we do together, Tony. It’s nothing like this.” He pulls Tony’s head towards him and gives him a fierce kiss.


Tony wonders whether they could ever have got this intimate under any other circumstances. Now the real Gibbs has been unleashed, he’s a passionate, focused lover, and he knows what he wants, treating Tony’s body like he has dominion over it. He’s a generous lover, never failing to give Tony pleasure, but he’s also extremely forceful and demanding – which doesn’t surprise Tony at all.


Tony is glad he’s no shy virgin, because being locked up with this particular wolf is a challenge, no matter how attractive he finds the man. Gibbs isn’t holding anything back; he’s giving Tony everything he’s got, and Tony loves it. He doubts many people would be able to handle it though, and he wonders how Shannon managed it. No wonder there are so many ex Mrs Gibbses out there.


The klaxon sounds, and they’re herded through their morning routine and then taken to the truck. Despite the entirely welcome fucking, Tony is still jittery. He believes in Gibbs, and he believes Gibbs will win, but they all have a lot riding on the man right now. Can he deliver – or will he buckle under all the pressure? It’s a lot for one man to handle.


Ellis comes over to him, a sour look on his face, carrying a pile of clothes in his arms. “These are for you,” he says, holding up the clothes, but when Tony reaches out to take them he drops them deliberately on the floor and walks away.


Tony bends down and picks them up. “Aw…they shop at Sears, Boss, just like you,” he says, holding up a pair of black jeans and a red and black plaid shirt. Gibbs slaps the back of his head without missing a beat, and Tony squeaks in response, grinning wildly at the same time. “No underwear, no socks, no boots. I guess this is it,” Tony says with a sigh as he examines the clothes. “Kind of minimalist.”


“But not as minimalist as your current outfit,” Gibbs points out, glancing at his naked body.


“True.” Tony pulls the jeans on and zips them up. It feels strange to be clothed after so long naked, and the fabric feels rough against his skin. He pulls the shirt on and buttons it up and then smooths it down with energetic sweeps of his fingers. “How do I look?” He turns to Gibbs with a beaming smile.


“Like a lumberjack,” Gibbs grunts. Tony makes a face at him. “Rule number one or three – never date a lumberjack,” Gibbs adds.


“Uh, that’s not rule number one, Boss,” Tony says, confused. “Or three actually.”


“Someone else’s rules.” Gibbs gives a rueful little smile. He puts his hands on Tony’s shoulders and looks him up and down, and then he leans in and whispers in his ear. “You look great. I won’t lose. And I’ll definitely be thinking about you.”


He puts a hand on Tony’s jeans-clad ass, cups one buttock, and squeezes. Tony grins, suddenly feeling a lot less anxious.


They’re herded into the truck, chained as usual, driven for a couple of hours to their destination, and then hauled out the other end and shoved into the holding pen – except for Tony.


Scott appears, all beaming smiles and devious, piggy little eyes. He slaps a hand on Tony’s shoulder, making him wince as it lands on his whipped flesh.


“You’re with me, Tony!” he announces loudly. “Fight well, Leroy,” he says, with a glance at Gibbs. “I’ll keep this boy nice and safe beside me. You can have him back when you win.” That comment sends shivers up Tony’s spine, knowing the bargain Gibbs and Scott have struck between them.


He’s taken in chains up to Scott’s little camp on the bleachers. Several familiar faces are there; Frank, Tanner, McGuire, Ellis, and many of the other guards. Even Pete the truck driver is there, but he refuses to meet Tony’s eyes. Tony wonders if he’s angry that he stole his cell phone or guilty about what happened to him as a result.


He’s seated next to Scott, which is good. Although his hands are attached to his ankles by a chain, it’s a loose chain, and he has plenty of freedom of movement. He decides he can use the chains to his advantage when the time comes, if Gibbs is right, and Scott does have a cell phone.


Mac comes on to fight first. Tony had forgotten what a big bastard he is. He looks more like a man mountain than ever as he lumbers into the pit. The crowd goes wild for him, chanting his name, and he waves and makes obscene gestures with his arms – which just sends them into even more of a frenzy.


“He’s quite the showman, isn’t he, Tony?” Scott murmurs, leaning forward and watching intently.


“You could call it that. I’d call him a great, big ham actor personally, but whatever.” Tony shrugs.


Tony sees Frank leaning forward too, and he knows the trainer will be assessing every single aspect of Mac’s performance to see if there are any weaknesses.


Mac’s opponent is also a big guy, and the commentator obligingly refers to it as a fight between two giants. They lumber around the pit for a while, bodies gleaming, yelling insults at each other. Then Mac strikes, and he’s faster than Tony expected for such a massive guy; maybe Walid’s trainer has been working with him on that, knowing that speed and agility are Gibbs’s strengths.


Before long, Mac is pummelling his victim into the ground, after which he does a victory lap around the pit, before returning to piss on the losing fighter.


“Aw, that’s gross.” Tony turns his head away. He knew it was Mac’s signature move, but knowing it and seeing it are two different things. He’s all the more grateful that Gibbs struck that bargain with Scott and spared him fighting Mac in the pit, or he would be experiencing a very different kind of evening right now.


Tony pulls on his lower lip glumly. Quite frankly, Mac is streets ahead of all the other fighters he’s seen. He’s bigger, stronger, and meaner. He also goes into that pit like he loves it and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. The other fighters, even the good ones, look like what they are; men who have been kidnapped and thrown into this nightmare against their will, doing their best to survive. Some of them try and play to the crowd to psych themselves up, but none of them look as at ease out there as Mac does.


Gibbs is good, and he’s bulked up a lot since his capture, but Mac is still a hell of a lot bigger than him. Does Gibbs seriously stand any chance against this guy next week? Supposing their plan doesn’t work, and the cavalry doesn’t turn up in time? Supposing Mac beats Gibbs to a pulp, and then rapes and pisses on him? Tony doesn’t think he could bear that.


Beside him, he can see Scott and Frank exchanging worried glances. They can see how invincible Mac is too, and they are clearly shitting themselves wondering if Gibbs can possibly beat him.


There’s a brief interlude while more sawdust is thrown down, and then Hurrell comes into the pit. Tony finds his hands curling into fists. They need Hurrell to win; if he loses he’ll go to another stable, and they need him for the escape attempt next week.


Hurrell is good, but so is his opponent. They fight a long, hard fight, before Hurrell takes him down. Scott, Ellis, Frank and all the members of Scott’s camp rise to their feet as one, and Tony finds himself rising with them, clapping his hands together and yelling in relief. He exchanges a happy glance with Frank and then feels complicit in this whole thing.


He can suddenly see how easy it is to get sucked in and how addictive it is. After awhile you barely care about the brutality, or the raping. It’s just part of the game. You get swept up in the emotions and forget these are real people who have been kidnapped and forced to fight and rape at gunpoint. He sits down quietly.


Scott is delighted. He shakes hands with Frank, and Tony guesses that Gibbs isn’t the only fighter they have money on. Then Scott reaches into his pocket…and pulls out a cell phone. Tony heaves a sigh of relief, noting which pocket Scott kept it in and what kind of a phone it is.


Scott punches in a number. “Did you see that?” he crows down the phone. “Now can you see Hurrell is worth more than the measly 50k you offered me for him? He’s a potential winner – next year, with the right training, he could win the entire season.”


Tony realises that he and Gibbs and the other fighters only see a tiny glimpse of this whole operation. They only see the inside of the stable, and the truck, and the holding pens and the pit. Sitting up here on the bleachers, you get a different perspective. There is clearly a whole other world going on up here, with stable owners doing deals with each other to buy and sell the best fighters, and money changing hands in the betting. It’s a big business – the sums being thrown around prove that – and Scott doesn’t just have his eye on winning this season. He’s already thinking about the next.


“We’ll see, my friend. We’ll see!” Scott says gloatingly into the phone. He waves his hand at someone sitting over the far side of the bleachers, presumably another stable owner. Then he finishes the call and replaces the cell phone in his pocket.


Tony lets his gaze wander a little further along the crowd…and it comes to rest on Walid.


Walid is sitting on his throne, dressed as immaculately as ever. He’s wearing his sunglasses, and one of his legs is tilted neatly over the other. He looks as cold, withdrawn, and detached as always. There’s an aura of power around him. This is his domain. Here he is emperor and everyone else is a minion.


There’s a sneer on his polite mask of a face as he looks down on the crowd, and Tony sees that Walid despises his people even as he provides for their entertainment. Watching him, Tony gets a sense of the man’s huge ego. This is Walid’s tournament. It’s his baby. He created this entire world; he funds it, and he organizes all the fights.


The idea that a puffed up idiot like Scott could walk into his world, get lucky, and steal victory from him is obscene to him. He would lose, gracefully, if he thought his opponent was a worthy one who had outplayed him, but lose to an idiot like Scott? That prospect must be eating him up inside. No wonder he’s tried so hard to get into Gibbs’s head and cause him to lose.


Walid suddenly inclines his head in Tony’s direction, and Tony realizes he’s been seen. Damn – it’s always so hard knowing where Walid is looking behind the sunglasses. Tony decides, possibly unwisely, to screw with him, so he gives him a big grin and puts both his thumbs in the air.


“Take that, fucker,” he mutters under his breath, knowing just how angry Walid must be right now that he’s evaded that fight against Mac that Walid had scheduled for him.


Walid runs his hand over his goatee, looking supremely unconcerned, and Tony shifts uncomfortably. Unlike Scott, Walid is a formidable opponent and should not be under-estimated.


Tony asks to use the restroom, and is escorted there by McGuire. Gibbs is right; the toilets are too small for a guard to enter, and McGuire stays outside, guarding the door. Afterwards, as they leave the restrooms, Tony glances over to the holding pens. They’re visible from the toilets, and Gibbs sees him and jerks his head in his direction. That’s good too; next week, Tony will give them a signal to let them know if he made the call or not. The men will make their move either way, but their game plan will be different depending on whether rescue is potentially on its way, or if they’re on their own.


Tony returns to the bleachers and sits through the rest of the fights. It’s a fantastic evening for Scott, with most of his fighters winning. Tony knows why – they’ve all got the added incentive of knowing that they’ll get a chance to escape next week. Their numbers will be swelled by the new fighters they’ll take home, but Tony doubts Gibbs will trust the new men enough to tell them his plan. However, when Hurrell makes his move next week, Tony bets most, if not all, will decide to join in.


Gibbs is on last. It makes sense; Mac opened the evening’s ‘entertainment’, and Gibbs, his main rival, will close it. Mac won his fight, and the winner of Gibbs’s fight will face him in the finale.


Tony watches intently as Gibbs prowls into the pit. He moves so differently from Mac, with slow, controlled movements and a deadly kind of grace.


Gibbs glances up, looking directly at him, and Tony stands and waves both his hands in the air. He knows Gibbs doesn’t need any reminding what’s at stake here, but he wants him to know he’s fine and that Gibbs should concentrate on the fight and not on him.


Ellis yanks him back down to his seat, and then Gibbs’s opponent is released into the pit.


Tony watches, open-mouthed, as Gibbs delivers a master-class in fighting. Even the crowd gasps as Gibbs powers through, outwitting, outsmarting, and outfighting his opponent at every turn. Gibbs’s opponent is a semi-finalist, a man who, according to the commentator, has only lost one fight all season, but it’s like watching a master against a complete beginner. Gibbs has never looked more like a hungry wolf as he paces around the pit, stalking his prey and then bringing him down with his sharp teeth.


It’s all over in a matter of minutes, the fastest fight of the night, and the crowd is stunned.


Scott’s camp are all on their feet, cheering wildly. Tony sees Scott and Frank exchange a different look this time. They are hopeful; they think if anyone can beat Mac, it’s Gibbs, and having seen him in action this evening, Tony can see why.


The crowd hushes, and Tony wants to look away, not wanting to see what comes next. Then he steels himself. Gibbs has to actually do this; the least he can do is be there with him, every step of the way, just like Gibbs was there for him during that whipping.


So he stands there, unmoving, looking down on the pit as Gibbs approaches the man he just beat. And, as he watches, Gibbs looks up, straight at him, and nods. Tony nods back, remembering their conversation that morning. Neither of them smiles. Neither of them wants this. It just has to be done. Tony feels sorry for the poor bastard Gibbs will fuck and feels sorry for Gibbs having no choice but to fuck him, but none of them have any choice in the matter, and the alternative is much worse.


Tony holds Gibbs’s gaze as he fucks his opponent, sharing the unpleasantness of the moment with him. Gibbs is at least merciful with his victims. He doesn’t draw it out, or, as one of the fighters did earlier, withdraw when he’s on the brink and come on his opponent’s body. He just does what he has to, and then draws back and, with one last look at Tony, he stalks out of the pit.


“It would seem,” Scott says, leaning towards Tony. “That Leroy was right. Our little agreement does seem to have properly incentivized him. I’ve never seen him more on fire. I think Mac had better watch out next week.”


He claps a happy hand on Tony’s shoulder, making him wince again, and then shoves him towards the stairs. They go back down to the truck, where Gibbs is already being chained up, ready for transport. Scott is all beaming smiles, congratulations, and pumping handshakes, as if he really believes Gibbs is his friend, and not a man he is coercing and blackmailing to victory. “Well done, Leroy! Excellent fight! The best of the evening!”


“I must concur,” a silky voice says from behind them. Tony turns to see Walid standing there with his entourage of bodyguards. “That really was a most impressive victory, Jethro.”


Gibbs stiffens at the use of his real name, and Scott just looks confused. Walid ignores Scott completely, clearly considering him to be a complete nonentity, and leans in close to Gibbs. He removes his sunglasses, and Tony gets a flash of those cold, dark eyes.


“I must congratulate you, Jethro. I expected to see Tony fight Mac in the pit tonight but it would appear you outplayed me.” He pauses for a moment, considering that. “A most novel experience.” He inclines his head graciously. “Enjoy your moment while you can, Jethro, because this is your last week in Scott’s stable. After next Fight Night, you will belong to me.”


He replaces his sunglasses and then, with a dismissive look at Tony, he moves silently away, his entourage following.


“Oh no, you sick freak. After next Fight Night, you will belong to me,” Gibbs growls under his breath, so quietly that only Tony hears him.


Tony glances at Walid’s retreating back, and is reminded of a cobra, sleek, silent, cold, and deadly. Then he glances at Gibbs and sees the snarling wolf, hackles raised, teeth bared, ready to do battle with the snake. One thing is certain; they are heading for a showdown far more epic than anything that will take place in the pit. It is Walid and Gibbs who will do battle next Fight Night, and only one of them can win.


But which one will it be: the cobra or the wolf?






Gibbs spends the next week surreptitiously training his men. He watches their training fights when he can, offering them little bits and pieces of encouragement and advice, and is gratified when they visibly blossom. It seems Hurrell was right about their high regard for him. He doesn’t approach the new men; like Tony, he’s of the opinion they’ll all join in on the night, but he doesn’t trust them with the plan beforehand in case they tell one of the guards. Only he, Tony, and Hurrell know the entire plan. Greg, Matt and the others know there will be an escape attempt but not what form it will take. Hurrell has just told them to be ready when the time comes. He’s a good Marine, and Gibbs can see the men responding to his leadership.


The last Fight Night of the season is upon them all too quickly. After months of gruelling days and boring nights, suddenly the time flashes by, and all too soon it’s the night before the big fight. The door is locked behind them in their stall for the final time, and Gibbs finds himself looking at Tony, and Tony looking back.


“So this is it,” Tony says quietly.




“Look, Jethro, whatever happens tomorrow…”


“Don’t, Tony. Just…don’t.” Gibbs shakes his head.


There are so many ways tomorrow could go. His plan could work, and all this could end. Or his plan could fail, Tony could be raped and murdered, and he could end up in a truck on his way back to Walid’s stable for the off-season. Or they could both die out there. Mac might kill him in the pit, or Walid might decide to kill him, just because he can. Or Hurrell might get the men free and arm them, and there could be a shoot-out where they all die.


“Come here,” Tony says quietly, holding out his hand.


Gibbs takes it, and Tony pulls him in close. It’s such a comfort to feel all that warm, solid flesh against his body. Tony wraps his arms around him and moves him in a silent dance around the stall.


“But I do know one and one is two,” Tony sings into his ear. “And if this one could be with you, what a wonderful world this could be.”


Gibbs thinks of Rajul, Steve, Ben, Brian and all the others. He thinks of what he’s been made to do every time he stepped out into the pit. He thinks of the way they whipped Tony until the blood ran down his back. And he thinks of the long nights alone, facing himself and his own weaknesses in this tiny stall before Tony arrived.


“Doesn’t seem like such a wonderful world to me,” he mutters into Tony’s shoulder.


Tony laughs. “Sure it is. You’re just looking at this the wrong way.”


Gibbs thinks about the dark days before Tony got here. Then Tony arrived, turning night into day with his smile, and charisma, and sheer zest for life. He thinks about how Tony brought with him a towering, unshakeable belief in Leroy Jethro Gibbs that made him believe in himself again, when he’d nearly forgotten who he was.


He thinks of the slow, inching progress they made towards admitting a truth they’d been denying for ten, long years. He thinks of Tony’s hands on his body in the night, giving him company and comfort and asking for nothing in return.


He thinks of Tony stealing oil to massage into his skin and pressing little kisses onto his scars. He thinks of long conversations in the night, talking about his life in a way he’s never done with anyone else. He thinks about how that wasn’t easy, and yet somehow it was easier than it should have been, because it was Tony he was confiding in. He thinks of Tony’s lips on his, and the feel of Tony’s body under his fingers, and his mouth, and around his cock.


“But I do know that I love you, and I know that if you loved me too, what a wonderful world this could be,” Tony half-whispers, half-sings into his ear.


Maybe he’s right. Gibbs takes hold of Tony’s head and kisses him on the lips, gently pushing his tongue into Tony’s mouth, and they dance to the sound of music only they can hear, kissing as they go.


Later, they sink down onto the mattresses on the floor, and Gibbs finds the oil and buries himself deep inside Tony’s body. They might not have tomorrow but they have tonight, and if it’s their last night together Gibbs wants to savour every second of it.


He isn’t sure how many times they make love. He doesn’t know how many times they kiss, or how many times he comes deep inside Tony’s body. He doesn’t know how many times Tony arches up against him and comes in his mouth, or on his fingers.


All he is aware of is the smoothness of Tony’s skin under his lips, the softness of his hair under his fingers, the warmth of his lips against his own, and the soft mewling sound of his cries of pleasure. They don’t speak, they just make love, their bodies rising and falling against each other in a rhythmic dance that neither of them wants to end.


They perform what might be their final dance together until finally they can dance no more. Then they just lie there, looking at each other, tired fingers tracing gentle circles on each other’s bodies. When they finally fall asleep, it’s with their arms wrapped around each other, and their bodies entwined.


In the morning, after he’s showered, Gibbs gazes at himself in the mirror, looking at his shorn head where Frank shaved him the previous day. He is the wolf, the hunter, but he doesn’t need anger to help him fight anymore; he has something much better to fight for now.


There is a different atmosphere in the truck as they drive to the venue. Hurrell, Greg, Matt and the others are all hyped up; he can see it in their eyes and the way their legs bob nervously up and down. Their eyes are on him for the entire journey, and he can feel the burden of their expectation upon him, weighing him down. Then Tony puts a hand on his shoulder and squeezes, and he remembers that he isn’t alone.


Hurrell leans forward. “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,” he says softly, gazing at Gibbs.


Gibbs nods and straightens. “And the strength of the Wolf is the Pack,” he replies, glancing around the entire truck as he speaks. He sees the fighters straighten too, nodding at him, understanding.


Hurrell grins, and Gibbs grins back at him, thinking that maybe the inspirational quote school of leadership doesn’t suck as much as he thought it did.


The truck comes to a halt, and the doors are opened. Gibbs feels a cool wind on his face, and he looks up to see a bright, full moon in the sky.


“It’s a good omen,” Tony whispers in his ear. “Wolves like a full moon.”






Tony is taken up onto the bleachers, just the same as last time. Scott is so nervous there’s a sheen of sweat on his forehead that he keeps dabbing away, despite the coolness of the night air. There’s a wind rustling around them, the clouds scurrying fast overhead, and Tony can sense an impending storm.


He hopes that won’t interfere with the cell phone reception. There’s no way of knowing if this is the same venue as last week; the venues change fairly frequently, but from up in the bleachers, with the floodlights beaming down onto the pit, it always looks the same.


There is a carnival atmosphere here tonight. People have clearly started drinking early, and there is an abundance of costumes. Tony counts dozens of wolves and just as many firemen costumes. It would be ludicrous if the situation were less horrific. As it is, it just lends the occasion a sense of the macabre. There is singing, and chanting, and people banging on drums, and Tony feels like he’s in the middle of some ghoulish festival of evil.


The commentator starts cranking the crowd up even more, telling them what they have in store for them, and the crowd cheers and catcalls in response. There is a feeling of menace about the place, a certain kind of tension, and a thought occurs to Tony.


He leans across to speak to Scott, who is sipping on his flask of whisky, the nerves clearly getting to him. “Is this going to be the same as the other Fight Nights?” Tony asks.


“Not exactly, no.” Scott wipes some more sweat from his forehead. “You see, during the week Prince Walid decided that our normal finale isn’t exciting enough.”


Tony feels his stomach doing a nervous flip.


“He decided we need more of a climax. Now, after the losing fighter has…uh…well…”


“Been raped?” Tony suggests.


Scott shrugs that off. “After the usual end of fight climax…” He says that without any hint of irony at all about the play on words, and Tony almost admires him for that. “Then Prince Walid intends to dispatch the losing fighter himself.”


“And by ‘dispatch’ you mean ‘kill’?”


Scott shrugs. “His Royal Highness felt the audience deserved something more on finale night. He felt they should have the promise of knowing that blood will be spilled, not just the possibility of it. He also wanted to feel more personally involved in the proceedings. He’s tired of just watching.”


“He could always go out there and fight himself if he really wanted to feel it,” Tony offers facetiously.


“Well, in any case, he felt this was the kind of grand climax the audience deserves. After all, they’ve been loyal followers of our little tournament for several months now, and he wants them to leave the pit talking about what a wonderful night it’s been so that they come back next year.”


“Hang on, these fighters are worth a lot of money. It’s all very well him killing his own property – but supposing he has to kill yours? If Gibbs wins, Mac belongs to you,” Tony points out.


“Well, yes.” Scott looks pained. “He did promise me appropriate recompense though, and he’s a man of his word.”


“Oh yeah. Whatever else you might say about Walid, he’s definitely that.” Tony glances over at where Walid is making his grand entrance. The crowd goes wild, chanting his name over and over again. “Looks like Walid knows his audience well,” Tony mutters. The promise of an actual death at the end of the contest seems to have electrified them.


“I should remind you,” Scott says peevishly. “That my bargain with Leroy still stands. If he loses, then before Walid shoots him, I will take you down to the pit, invite anyone who wants you to fuck you, and then shoot you myself.”


“Sounds like a real party.” Tony gives his brightest, shiniest grin because he’s not letting this bastard think he’s scared. “Can’t wait.”


So that’s it. If Gibbs loses then both he and Tony will die out here tonight. So if the plan doesn’t work, if Sam doesn’t manage to overcome the guard and free the fighters, and if McGee and the cavalry don’t show up in time, then this is it.


Scott dabs his forehead with his handkerchief again and then raises his flask of whisky to his mouth.


“So, I was wondering…” Tony raises his hands into the air and one of his chains catches on Scott’s arm, jolting it and causing him to spill the whisky. In the ensuing confusion and spluttering, Tony slips his hand into Scott’s nearest jacket pocket, hoping against hope that the cell phone isn’t in the other one. He’s in luck and his hand closes around the hard edge of the phone.


He removes it stealthily and slips it up his sleeve, while simultaneously mopping Scott’s trademark cream-coloured suit with his other hand, making a big fuss over the large brown stain on the lapel.


“Get off me, you idiot!” Scott roars, pushing him away.


“Sorry…so sorry…” Tony makes a face. “Damn it, all that talk of being raped and murdered later has made me want to piss.”


“Now?” Scott asks irritably. “The fighting is just about to start!”


“Sorry.” Tony bites on his lip and shrugs helplessly. “Should I do it in my pants maybe?”


“You really are the most infuriating man I’ve ever met! I have no idea what Leroy sees in you!”


“Really? But you’ve seen how cute my ass is, right?” Tony grins. “That’s what Leroy sees in me.”


“Oh, just go!”


This time it’s Ellis who escorts him down to the toilets. He keeps one hand on Tony’s shoulder as they walk down the stairs, and he shoves him irritably into a toilet when they get there. Tony starts to close the door, but Ellis puts his foot in it, keeping it open.


“I want to keep an eye on you.”


“Ah, that might be a problem. See…I can never pee when anyone’s watching,” Tony says apologetically, thinking on his feet.


“Get the fuck on with it.” Ellis remains there, foot jammed in the door.


Tony makes a big show of standing over the toilet, whistling to himself. “Nope…it’s not working. We could stay here all night looking at my dick hoping it’ll spring a leak, but you’ll miss the fighting. Why don’t you just let me shut the door and get on with it?” he suggests. “It’s not as if I can go anywhere.”


Ellis glares at him but finally he removes his foot, and Tony closes the door. He rests his back against it, heaving a sigh of relief. Then, with shaking fingers, he removes the cell phone from his sleeve.


“Please let there be service…please,” he whispers under his breath. There was last week, but that could have been at a different venue, or a different part of the grounds.


The phone lights up as he presses a button and…yes! Service! Five strong, healthy bars, indicating there shouldn’t be any problems connecting.


He looks at his still shaking fingers, takes a deep breath, and calms himself down.


“You are not going to fuck it up this time, like you did last time,” he tells himself sternly. His fingers stop shaking, and he begins pressing in the number. He finishes, jams his finger on the green telephone on the display screen, and the phone starts to ring.


It’s answered immediately although there’s nobody there – Tony knows it’s automated. He watches the seconds counting up on the phone’s display.


“Eighteen, nineteen…come on…come on…twenty…twenty-one…”


“Hurry the fuck up! The fighting’s about to start!” Ellis bangs impatiently on the toilet door, making Tony jump, and he drops the phone.


“No!” He scrambles after it and picks it up, hoping the connection hasn’t been lost. “Twenty-six…twenty-seven…twenty-eight…Yes!”


He gives it another few seconds, just to be safe, and then he disconnects. He takes a quick moment to delete all trace of the call, and then, taking a risk, he goes to the text function and sends a quick text to McGee’s cell. Just one word: “Hurry.”


He deletes that too and slides the phone back up his sleeve again, just as Ellis bangs on the door a second time.


Tony opens it, smiling. “Sorry…nerves,” he says apologetically.


Ellis grabs him by the collar of his shirt and begins hauling him back to the stands. Over in the distance, Tony can see Gibbs and Hurrell and the others in the holding pen, watching him. He shoots off a quick salute – that’s the signal that all is going to plan. He sees Gibbs straighten up, and then he gives him a salute back in return. Message received and understood.


Ellis drags him back up the stairs. He can hear from the sounds in the pit behind him that they’ve missed the beginning of the first fight.


He shuffles apologetically along the row of seats back to where Scott is sitting and, upon reaching the man, opens his arms and envelops him in a big bear hug. “Scott! I missed you!”


Scott shoves him off irritably, but not before Tony has slipped the phone back into his pocket.


“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Scott demands.


“Nothing…being nervous always makes me a bit loopy.” Tony grins. “Ask Leroy. Oh, well, you can’t, because he’s down there, and I’m up here, but he’d tell you…”


Ellis delivers such a forceful backhander across his mouth that he falls sideways. “Shut the fuck up and watch the fighting, pussy boy. You might learn something,” Ellis growls.


Tony nurses his split lip, a satisfied smile on his face. Phase one of the mission accomplished. Now it’s down to Hurrell and the other fighters.


And Gibbs.


And McGee.


And Fornell.


There are so many pieces to fall into place; Tony wonders if this plan stands a hope in hell of working. He has no idea where the venue is, or how far McGee will have to travel. He also has no idea if Fornell will make good on his promise to get the FBI involved. Otherwise McGee is likely to turn up with just Ziva, Abby, Ducky, and Jimmy in his NCIS truck, and frankly, Tony doesn’t think that’s going to do them much good against all the people here, however welcome it would be to see their faces.


Tony licks away at his bloody lip, feeling more anxious than ever. He hasn’t even told Gibbs that the cavalry McGee will be bringing with him is the FBI and not NCIS. He knows Gibbs doesn’t like or trust the FBI, even if he does have some kind of weird, odd couple friendship going on with Fornell.


They’re probably all going to hell tonight, but maybe there’s just a glimmer of hope that somehow it’ll all work out.


Tony crosses his fingers and waits.






The wind is blowing harder now and there are spots of rain in the air. Some nearby trees are thrashing around as the storm starts to pick up pace.


Gibbs hunkers down beside Hurrell in the holding pen, out of earshot of the guard. “Go through it with me one more time,” he says.


“After my fight, when the guard takes me back to the truck, I overpower him and steal the keys to the chains and his gun.”


“Make sure you kill him or knock him out,” Gibbs says grimly. “So he can’t sound the alarm. Chain him in the back of the truck and gag him if need be. Killing’s a last resort, but do it if you have to.”


Hurrell nods. “I take his clothes, pretend to be him, and free the rest of our fighters. Then we take out the guards around the other holding pens and trucks, but quietly, so nobody hears. We free all the fighters we can.”


“Don’t fire the guns, just use them to knock the guards out; we can’t afford for the guards in the pit to hear them being fired and come out and investigate,” Gibbs instructs.


“I’ll do my best, but if all goes well then by this time I’ll have freed a hell of a lot of fighters from different stables, and they might not want to take orders from me.”


“Make them.”


Hurrell gazes at him uncertainly and then his eyes clear, and he nods again. “Yes, Gunny.”


“Then what?” Gibbs asks.


“Then we surround the outside of the pit, overpowering any guards we find there.”


Gibbs nods. “I’ll do my bit. I’ll hold out against Mac for as long as I can to give you time to overpower the guard and get the fighters free.”


That’s important. Hurrell can’t start his escape attempt until Gibbs goes into the pit to fight Mac because that’s when there will be the fewest guards around out back. Gibbs is counting on them all wanting to watch the big fight, leaving a skeleton guard detail on the pens and the trucks. This plan wouldn’t work on a normal Fight Night, when the holding pens are heavily guarded.


“And Tony did his bit – he got the phone call taken care of early, so we have a few hours,” Gibbs adds.


It might not be enough. He knows that. McGee has to track them down, organize a rescue mission, and get out here – and all before the grand finale comes to a close. It’s a tall order. If NCIS doesn’t turn up, then Sam, Gibbs, Tony and the other men will just have to fight it out with the rest of the guards, the crowd, and all Walid’s bodyguards themselves – and Gibbs has a feeling that’ll turn into a bloodbath.


“Organise your men. Lead them with confidence. Make them obey you,” Gibbs tells Hurrell.


“They’re not exactly my men…”


“A good leader can lead anyone,” Gibbs says firmly. He’s not entirely sure that’s true, but he wants Hurrell to believe it. The man’s biggest obstacle is his own lack of confidence.


“Yes.” Hurrell gazes at him with the same look of total belief Tony always gives him. “We really are going to do this, aren’t we, Gibbs?”


“Yeah, Sam.” Gibbs squeezes his shoulder. “We really are.”






The night wears on, and the audience becomes more and more excited leading up to the big finish. Tony’s legs jog up and down anxiously as he wonders where the hell McGee is.


“C’mon…c’mon…c’mon…” he mutters under his breath. The wind is cold, and he’s glad he’s at least wearing a shirt. The fighters in the holdings pens out back will be feeling it.


The penultimate fight arrives – and it’s Hurrell. That works out well for their plan. All the fighters will now be chained back in the truck. Hurrell will make his move when they take him back out there, before they put the chains on him. It gives him more of a chance. But first he has to win…


Hurrell enters the pit confidently and fights the best Tony has ever seen him fight. He easily beats his opponent and before long he’s striding out of the pit.


“And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve all been waiting for! The big one, the finale, the clash of the Titans!” The commentator pauses for dramatic effect. “It’s the showdown between the wolfman and the fireman!”


The crowd goes berserk and it takes several minutes for them to calm down again. There’s whistling, and screaming, and someone’s banging on those damn drums again. A loud chanting starts up as fans of the wolfman scream at fans of the fireman, and the tension on the bleachers mounts.


Tony takes a deep breath and offers up a prayer to the heavens.






Gibbs stands in the holding pen on the edge of the pit, waiting his turn. He can see Mac, over at the opposite end of the pit, glaring through the bars of his pen, looking straight at him.


Mac makes an ‘L’ sign with his hands. “Loser!” he screams. “I’m coming for you, Wolfman!”


His pen is opened, and Mac bounds out into the pit. “Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?” he screams to the crowd. “Not me! I’m gonna yank on his tail so hard he cries like a baby!” He makes an obscene gesture with his hand on his cock as he says that.


The crowd goes wild, standing up and chanting “Fire-man, Fire-man, Fire-man!” over and over again.


Gibbs thinks about what he’s going to do out there. This isn’t like a normal fight in the pit. He’s not going out there to win, but to buy time for Hurrell to free the fighters. Unfortunately for him, he knows that the longer the fight continues the more disadvantaged he is, because of his age. Mac is a good twenty years younger than him and both taller and heavier. Everything is stacked against Gibbs.


For the first time, Gibbs knows there is a real possibility of defeat. With defeat comes Tony’s death, and that’s not something he can contemplate. But if he wins time for Hurrell to free the fighters, then maybe they’ll storm the pit before it comes to that. Or maybe McGee will show up.


Maybe, maybe, maybe…there are too many maybes in this plan. He doesn’t like it.


Mac is still screaming at the crowd, working them up into a frenzy, and then Gibbs’s pen is opened, and he prowls out into the pit.


He doesn’t work the crowd. He never has. He’s always ignored them. He glances up at where Tony is sitting, his gaze going immediately to him. Tony stands up and looks down on him, and Gibbs feels himself almost tangibly drawing strength from him.


“So, it’s the wolfman versus the fireman. Neither of them has lost a fight all season, and they’d both make worthy champions. But which one will it be? The fireman’s bigger and stronger, but the wolfman is harder and meaner – I know he scares the bejesus out of me! Who will win this epic fight?” the commentator screams, whipping up the crowd into an even bigger frenzy.


Mac comes lumbering towards him, arms outstretched. He’s a massive man, and Gibbs can see why other opponents would be intimidated, but he isn’t. Gibbs easily side-steps him, and manages to kick Mac on the ass on his way past.


Mac hollers and turns, an angry look in his eyes. “Fuck you, loser,” Mac growls as he starts stalking back towards Gibbs. “I’m gonna beat you so bad that you won’t wake up again until I stick my fat dick up your ass and screw you ‘til you scream like a little girl.”


Gibbs does a sudden, unexpected jump, kicks Mac in the balls, and lands a punch on his jaw at the same time. “You talk too much.”


Mac screams in angry pain. He lumbers back towards Gibbs, lashing out wildly with his meaty fists. Gibbs hops out of reach and goes back to jam his elbow into Mac’s kidneys. Then he manages to jump on his back, scratching at his eyes, and Mac scrabbles around blindly, trying to dislodge him.


Gibbs jumps off and in the same quick move throws himself at Mac’s ankles, bringing him down. He has a real chance now. He has a split second to launch himself onto Mac and punch him into submission…but it’s too soon. If he wins this early, Hurrell won’t have enough time to free the fighters.


If he wins then it’s over, and within fifteen minutes the trucks will be driving home. If McGee is on his way, then he’ll show up to find the place deserted.


Yet if he doesn’t defeat Mac, then Scott will kill Tony. What is most important? The needs of the one, or the needs of the many? The needs of justice, or the needs of his own heart? In the end, he hesitates for too long and the decision is taken out of his hands as Mac twists away and gets to his feet with surprising agility for such a big man.


Hesitation is not part of Gibbs’s fighting repertoire. He’s always taken any opportunity that presented itself before and gone in for the win. That has always been the killer instinct that gave him his edge. Without it, he doesn’t stand a chance.


Damn it. He’s fighting on two levels here. He’s fighting Mac in the pit, and he’s fighting Walid outside it. It might not be possible for him to win both fights; he might have to make a choice. But which one should he choose?


Mac charges at him, faster than Gibbs was expecting, and lands a cracking punch to his jaw that sends him flying. He manages to get up before Mac can throw himself on top of him, but it’s close.


Gibbs dances out of reach, and somewhere in the distance he can hear the crowd chanting:
“Wolf-man, Wolf-man, Wolf-man…”


Gibbs makes his choice. He will keep this fight going as long as possible, to give Hurrell time to storm the pit, and McGee time to show up, and if he loses then he loses. He remembers that mental vow he made, never to be raped out here in the pit, and he tears it up inside his own mind.


This isn’t about him or Tony anymore. It’s about freedom and justice for all the fighters. God knows, nobody has been on their side throughout all this, but they are his people, and he will be their champion.


He will fight for them even if it costs him his life. He will die for them if need be. That is the man Tony fell in love with, and that is the man Tony came here to save.


It’s who he is.






Tony watches helplessly as Gibbs goes down – and then gets up again, just in time. He knows what Gibbs is doing. He knows he’s trying to draw this out for as long as he can. He also knows that Gibbs could win this if he wasn’t trying to save them all.


He’s often wondered if Gibbs could defeat Mac in a straight fight, but watching them in the pit the answer to that question is clear, beyond any shadow of a doubt. Gibbs looks like a sleek, dangerous predator, whereas Mac looks like a lumbering rhino by comparison. He bellows and roars as he storms around the pit, but he doesn’t have a good fighting brain. He’s all brute force and no finesse. Gibbs is a fighter down to his bones. He’s been fighting all his life, and nobody has ever defeated him yet.


The crowd is on its feet, screaming and whistling as Mac takes Gibbs down again. Tony stands up, his heart in his mouth, but Gibbs scrambles free, and the crowd goes wild. It’s the longest, most exciting fight they’ve ever seen, with everything hanging on the victory, and they’re loving it.






He’s tired. He’s taken several punishing punches, and he’s been thrown a few times. Gibbs shakes his head, trying to clear it, feeling the blood running down the side of his face.


It’s raining hard now, washing the oil from his body. If Mac catches hold of him, he might not be oily enough to wriggle free another time.


Where is Hurrell? Maybe he failed. Maybe he couldn’t free the fighters. Maybe he’s lying dead out back by the trucks at this very moment.


Where is McGee? Maybe Tony’s call failed, and he’s not even on his way here.


Or maybe the failure is his own. Maybe Leroy Jethro Gibbs has failed, and Tony will pay the ultimate price for that failure.


Lightning flashes across the sky, blinding him for a moment, and Mac makes another lunge. Gibbs manages to twist away, but his feet are slowing down. This is the longest fight the pit has seen, but even so, it might not be long enough to save them.


He turns…and Mac is upon him. Gibbs throws punch after punch but nothing seems to dent the man’s huge bulk. Mac grins at him, and the rainwater mingles with the blood streaking down his face and runs into his teeth, giving him a macabre look.


“Night, night, Wolfman. Time you went down and stayed down.” Mac swings a massive fist, and Gibbs’s feet are too heavy, and he can’t quite get out of the way in time. He hears a sharp cracking sound, feels his head snap back as a blow connects with his jaw…and then he’s falling.






“Shit!” Tony jumps to his feet as Gibbs lands on his back in the sawdust, and Mac throws himself on top of him. “Get up…get up!” he urges, but Mac is too big, and anyone can see that’s not going to happen. Damn it, where’s Hurrell?


“He’s going to lose! The stupid bastard’s gonna lose!” Ellis screams.


Scott has gone pale, gripping the sides of his seat so hard that his knuckles are white. Frank is nibbling ferociously on his nails, a look of anxiety on his wizened old face.


Tony looks away as Gibbs takes punch after punch. He’s lost now, for sure. Nobody can take that kind of beating and get up again.


The referee runs up to Mac and drags him off, and the crowd erupts into raucous cheering. The entire arena seems to explode as they are presented with their winner.


“I don’t understand!” Frank is yelling. “He had him. He had him…right at the beginning. Why didn’t he finish him off then?”


Tony knows why, but he’s not saying. Scott looks like a broken man sitting there, head down, muttering to himself.


“Ladies and gentlemen, behold your winner! He’s big, he’s mean, he’s a fighting machine! He’s…the fireman!” the commentator yells.


Mac does his usual victory lap around the pit, screaming at the crowd, and they scream back at him, loving it.


The commentator lets him have his moment, before hushing the crowd again. “Before the fireman finishes the fight in his usual entertaining way, our generous host, Prince Walid, would like to say a few words to you all,” he announces.






He can’t see. One of his eyes is swollen shut, and there’s blood and rain in the other one, blinding him. He’s lying on his back, looking up, barely conscious. His ears are ringing, and he feels like he’s been hit by a truck.


He blinks his good eye and his vision clears. He sees Walid walking out into the pit, and in his confused state he notices stupid things, like the way the sawdust clings to the hem of Walid’s expensive pants. One of Walid’s lackeys is holding a black umbrella over his head, and to Gibbs’s barely conscious mind it gives Walid the look of a cobra poised to strike.


Walid takes the microphone from the commentator.


“Thank you, everyone, for making this season the most entertaining to date,” he says, inclining his head at the crowd. “Now, I promised you blood, and I always deliver on my promises.” Walid gives a tight, deadly smile. “First, we will allow Mac the pleasure of his victory; he’s earned it, as I’m sure you will agree.” The crowd laughs, and Walid gives a knowing little smirk. “Later, I will put this sorry specimen out of his misery in the way he deserves.” He nudges Gibbs with his toe. “I’m sure you’ll also agree that the loser deserves to pay the ultimate price for his loss.”


The crowd erupts in a fit of excited cheers, and Gibbs realizes that the same fate awaits him as awaits Tony: rape, followed by a bullet to the brain.


They’ve lost.






Scott gets up and grabs hold of Tony’s shirt.


“He’ll pay, and you’ll pay – both of you will pay with your lives!” he screams. “I’m ruined because of him…because of you both.”


Tony snorts. “If you’re ruined, it’s because of your own damn greed.”


Scott slaps him hard across the face. “I’m going to take you down there, so you can watch Leroy being fucked and pissed on by Mac, and then I’m going to take you out into the pit, so Leroy can watch you being fucked by anyone who wants you. If you’re still breathing after the audience is done with you, I’ll take great pleasure in putting a bullet through your head just before Prince Walid does the same to Leroy.”


“Is that so?” Tony raises an eyebrow, grinning as he looks over Scott’s shoulder.


“Yes, it is. You’re dead, DiNozzo.”


“Oh, I don’t think so,” Tony says, and at that moment Sam Hurrell pokes the barrel of a gun into the back of Scott’s neck.






Gibbs looks up blearily as a large, black umbrella blocks out the harsh glare of the floodlights.


“Poor Jethro. He lost,” Walid says, removing his sunglasses and gazing down on Gibbs. “I must say, you’ve been a worthy adversary, Wolfman. You’ve made this season the most exciting one I can remember. I was becoming so bored with it all, but then you came along and made it all so much more interesting.”


“Fuck you.”


“No, my dear Wolfman, you are going to be fucked by Mac here, and then I’m going to take great pleasure in shooting you.” Walid holds out a gloved hand, and his henchman places a sleek black gun in it.


“Really?” Gibbs gazes up into the night sky.


“Oh yes. You see, the big bad wolf turned out not to be quite so big or so bad after all.” Walid gives a slow, vicious smile.


“But he still managed to blow your house down, Walid,” Gibbs tells him, looking up at the helicopters flying in towards them, with FBI emblazoned all over them in big, white lettering.


“What?” Walid whirls around as he hears the helicopters, and at that moment chaos breaks out all around them.


Suddenly there are fighters swarming through the bleachers with guns, and overhead the helicopters are flying in low, and on the ground Gibbs can see, through the bars of the pit-side holding pens, that there are trucks pulling up with NCIS and FBI written all over the side. He watches as agents scramble out of them by the dozen and run across the ground towards the pit, and, in the middle of it all, Walid is just standing there, as the whole damn freak show falls down around his ears.


Gibbs scrambles to his feet. He’s naked, he’s covered in blood mingled with oil and rainwater, and he’s barely able to stand, but still he manages to stagger over to where Walid is standing and yank the gun out of his hand. Walid doesn’t even put up a fight; he just stands there, looking shocked.


Gibbs staggers away from him and then stops in the middle of the pit, unable to take another step. The gun slips from his nerveless fingers, and he throws up his arms to the skies, to the whirling helicopters swooping in like angry birds, and to the scurrying storm clouds above. At that moment the clouds part, revealing the bright full moon hanging in the dark night sky.


This is his moment. He’s beaten the most formidable opponent he’s ever faced and been triumphant here tonight. He’s won.


Gibbs sinks to his knees, flings back his head, and howls out his victory to the moon.






Hurrell’s freed fighters are storming through the pit, targeting all the stable owners, each group making for the one who owned them.


The FBI helicopters are overhead, the noise of their whirring blades combining with the wind and the rain to create a confusing chaos of sound.


And there are agents running into the bleachers in Kevlar jackets with NCIS and FBI emblazoned on them.


Tony doesn’t care about any of that. He only cares about Gibbs, alone down there in the pit with Walid. He’s taken too many blows to the head this evening; who knows if he’s still conscious, or even alive. It’s impossible to see what’s going on in all the confusion. He has to go to him and make sure he’s okay.


“Get me out of these chains!” he yells to Hurrell. He’s freed quickly from his chains, and he looks around, trying to figure out the best way down to the pit.


He sees Ellis trying to flee down the side stairs, and he runs after him. He jumps over seats and down rows, clumsily pursuing Ellis as fast as he can. He manages to get to the bottom first and crouches down behind a row of seats, waiting for him.


Ellis comes shoving his way through the crowd, and Tony leaps up and slams his fist slap bang into the middle of Ellis’s face. Ellis goes down with a thud, looking completely surprised. Tony snatches the gun out of his hand and tucks it into the pocket of his jeans. Then he grabs Ellis’s shirt and pulls him up, so he can see who took him down.


“Going somewhere, Ellis?” he asks, a smug grin on his face.


“Fuck you!” Ellis kicks him viciously, struggling to get free, but Tony punches him once, twice, three times, taking great pleasure in the crunching sound he hears as his fist connects with Ellis’s nose.


He stops when Ellis goes limp, blood spraying from his nose. Then he lets him fall to the floor. He draws the gun and points it at Ellis’s head, seeing the man’s eyes widen in fear.


Tony leans in close, pressing the gun right into Ellis’s forehead. He sees Ellis flinch, expecting the final shot, but instead Tony just laughs and says: “Give me your clothes.”


“What?” Ellis’s mouth opens and shuts like a fish.


“Now!” Tony orders, waving the gun around impatiently. “Or I shoot your head off and take them from your corpse.”


Ellis strips fast, and Tony grabs the jeans and shirt from him. “You can keep the underwear,” he says, wrinkling up his nose in distaste. He turns away, and then, in one smooth move, turns back and delivers a cracking punch to Ellis’s jaw, sending the man back down again. Ellis groans, clutching his jaw, and Tony suspects he’s broken that as well as his nose.


“Aw, did that hurt, pussy boy?” he says mockingly, and then he runs down to the pit, grinning from ear to ear.






Walid’s entourage has fled, and Mac is nowhere to be seen, either. There is just the two of them, alone out here in the pit, waiting for the final curtain. Walid is standing there, arms folded over his chest, watching him musingly.


“It’s such a shame that it had to end this way,” Walid says. “It was such good fun while it lasted. Still…” he shrugs. “I was defeated by a worthy opponent; I give you that, Jethro.”


“It’s Gibbs to you, Walid.”


“You want us to be so formal after what we’ve been through together? That makes me sad.” Walid sighs. “Did you not find me a fascinating adversary, Jethro? Did it not take all your ingenuity to bring this to pass?” He waves at the helicopters above. “I must say, I am most impressed. I knew you were good, but I had no idea you’d prove to be this good. I wonder where I made a mistake,” Walid says thoughtfully. “I thought I was playing such a good game.”


“Oh, I can tell you your mistake,” Gibbs growls. “And it’s one that’s brought down better men than you, Walid. Your mistake – your giant, mother-fucking mistake – was Tony.”


“Tony?” Walid raises an intrigued eyebrow.


“Yeah, you mistook him for an idiot, the way everyone always does – and that’s what he wants, Walid. And then you gave him to me. You gave him…to me.” Gibbs pauses, his chest heaving, his throat hurting. “He’s the joker, the wild card, the single most important card in this whole fucked-up game, and you didn’t realise it, so you went and gave him to me.” Gibbs shakes his head incredulously.


“Tony,” Walid repeats, looking dumbstruck. “You’re right, Jethro. I had no idea he was so important.”


“You thought you could use him to fuck with my head, but all that did was make me grow stronger. Tony reminded me who I am, and once I remembered that, you didn’t stand a fucking chance,” Gibbs says scornfully. “You thought I was just a wolf to be brought down. You forgot a wolf is at his most dangerous when he has a mate to protect.”


“Really? How very touching,” Walid sneers.


“You wouldn’t know because you’ve never cared – really cared – about anyone except yourself in your entire life. You don’t know how it feels to have a big, brave, loyal heart like Tony. You can’t even begin to understand just how powerful that makes him. That was your mistake.”


Walid shrugs. “All very interesting. Now, I expect your people will have some questions for me, but after that I must get on a flight back home. Did I mention that I have diplomatic immunity? They won’t be detaining me for long.”


He inclines his head at Gibbs and starts to walk towards the edge of the pit. Gibbs feels a surge of white hot fury and goes after him with a roar of rage. He throws himself on Walid, brings him down, and straddles him. It’s like every other fight out here; this is how they always end, with him banging his fist into someone’s face over and over again.


First, he does what he’s wanted to do for a long time; he tears those sunglasses off Walid’s head, snaps them with his fingers, and tosses them away. Walid looks up at him and his dark eyes are surprised, and, for the first time, filled with genuine fear.


Gibbs is pleased; he likes the way it feels to have this man in his power at last, after so many months of dancing to his tune and playing the game by his rules. He raises his fist and punches hard, connecting with Walid’s jaw. Walid screams and tries to turn his head away.


“What’s the matter, Walid? Not a fighter?” Gibbs grins down on him. “You’re not though, are you? You prefer to make others do your fighting for you.”


Walid twists and struggles beneath him, but he’s no match for Gibbs who is battle-hardened from fighting out here, week after week, for six long months. Gibbs shows no mercy. He sinks his fist into Walid’s face over and over again, thinking of Steve, Rajul, Brian, Ben, and all the people this man’s evil has destroyed.


He doesn’t ever want to stop. He wants to keep punching until Walid suffers the same fate they all did. He wants him obliterated, smashed into the ground, and removed from the face of the Earth. His anger rises up, and this time he can’t control it. It’s too much and it consumes him, overwhelming him completely.


“Jethro,” a voice says.


He almost doesn’t hear it at first, and he keeps on punching.


“Jethro,” that voice says again, quietly insistent, demanding his attention.


He pauses, looking down on Walid’s bloody face.




He looks up and sees Tony walking towards him, the glare of the floodlights giving him in a hazy halo.


Gibbs looks down on Walid again and raises his fist.


“Jethro.” Tony stops in front of him, making no movement. “Don’t do it. It’s not who you are.”


It is though. He looks up at Tony, remembering Hernandez. He put a bullet in that bastard’s head and has never regretted it for a moment. He won’t regret killing Walid, either.


He clenches his fist, wanting to strike.


“Every time they sent you out into the pit you didn’t have a choice; you had to fight. Now you don’t,” Tony says quietly. “This time it’s your choice.”


The anger rises up inside him again, making him shake. He wants this; he wants it so bad.


“Control the anger or it will destroy you,” Tony says, quoting his own words back at him. “I think it already has a bit, hasn’t it?”


He thinks of his mother, and the rage he felt at her death that has never gone away. That rage ruined his relationship with his father for a long time. Then there’s his family, and the rage that he turned in on himself. He locked himself up in a life of loneliness for twenty years, keeping everyone out. He even kept Tony out for ten of those years – ten years when they could have been together. And now there is this. He has so much anger; it feels like a bottomless pit.


“Where does it end, Jethro?” Tony asks, crouching down in front of him. “I’ve often wondered. Do you go to jail? Do you end up with a bullet through your head from taking on one fight too many? When will it ever be enough? Will you ever be able to get all the anger out? And why keep doing it? Does it make you feel alive?”




He has never felt more alive than when fighting in the pit, allowing the fury to course through him.


He remembers walking home with his mom, and how she used to draw him out, encouraging him to laugh and talk with her, despite his shyness. He felt alive then. He remembers making love to Shannon, her white skin so soft against his; he felt alive then. And he remembers swinging Kelly around and around, until she was giggling and giddy; he felt alive then too.


Then he remembers dancing with Tony, locked up in a stall at night, taking comfort in each other. He remembers kissing him and making love to him. He definitely felt alive then.


The rage seems to collapse in on itself and then it’s gone. He looks down on Walid and feels nothing. He’s completely numb. It’s over.


Tony holds out his hand, and slowly, aching all over, Gibbs takes it. Tony’s hand is warm and strong and it will never let him fall. Tony helps him up, pulls him away from Walid, and takes him into a corner of the pit, away from harsh glare of the floodlights. All around them is chaos, noise and confusion, but here, with Tony, it seems almost quiet.


“Here. Clothes.” Tony hands him a plain black shirt. Gibbs stares at it. It’s been so long since he wore clothes that he’s almost forgotten how. “I think you should put it on.” Tony grins. “Unless you want Fornell to see you naked. Hmm, actually, I think you should put it on because I don’t want Fornell seeing you naked. You’re mine, and I don’t want him ogling you.”


“Fornell…” Gibbs finds his voice at last.


“Ah…right…yes…I forgot to tell you about that. Um…with Vance being so unhelpful, I wasn’t sure we could rely on NCIS to provide much by way of backup. So I went to see Fornell. Gave him a cell phone and told him to keep it on him night and day and be ready, when he got the call from McGee, to send in every single resource he could lay his hands on, at a moment’s notice.”


Gibbs looks around them, at the FBI agents swarming all over the pit, and the FBI helicopters overhead. “Looks like he delivered.”


“He said he would.” Tony shrugs. “I like him a bit more now. But not much. I’m still kinda jealous of him.” He makes a little face.


“NCIS is here too. I saw the trucks.”


“I know. Looks like McGee worked a little miracle of his own.” Tony gives a proud little smile. “That’s my probie!”


McGee. NCIS. Fornell. Probie. They’re like words from another lifetime. They should have some meaning for him, but somehow they don’t. What the hell is wrong with him? He’s free. After six months of a living hell, he’s finally free.


So why can’t he feel anything right now?






Gibbs is badly beaten up. He’s covered in blood and bruises, and Tony thinks it’s very likely he has a concussion from the repeated blows he took from Mac.


“C’mon – we need to get you dressed,” Tony says firmly.


He holds out the pants, and Gibbs steps into them. Tony pulls them up around his waist and fastens them for him. They’re too big on his flat, washboard stomach, but they’ll do. Then Tony shakes out the shirt and guides Gibbs’s arms into the sleeves. He stands in front of him and does up the shirt for him as if Gibbs is a child. Right now he seems as helpless as one.


He’s just finished when something comes hurtling towards them, screaming loudly, a creature seemingly constructed of whirling black pigtails and big, black leather boots.


Abby launches herself into his arms. “TONY! I was so worried! Oh, Tony!” She hangs around his neck, hugging him so tight he can hardly breathe.


He finally manages to disengage himself enough to look at her. “Hey, Abs! Good to see you. And that is the understatement of the year, trust me.” He grins at her.


“Where’s Gibbs? Is he okay? Please tell me he’s okay! Where is he, Tony?” she asks, looking around, not even seeing the man standing right beside them. Tony doesn’t blame her; Gibbs has a shaved head, a badly bruised and bloodied face, one of his eyes is closed, and he’s wearing clothes he wouldn’t be seen dead in at home. He’s also got that same lost, confused expression in his eyes that he’s had ever since Tony pulled him off Walid.


“He’s right here, Abs,” Tony says, taking her hand and guiding it gently to rest on Gibbs’s chest.


He sees the look of shock in her eyes, closely followed by a sadness so profound it makes a lump rise in the back of his throat.


“Gibbs…oh Gibbs.” Abby doesn’t launch herself at Gibbs as she did with Tony. She simply puts her arms gently around him, like he’s made of china, pulls him close, and holds him there.


At that moment McGee comes hurrying over, accompanied by Fornell, and, much to Tony’s surprise, Vance.


“Tony! Thank God you’re okay! We’ve been looking all over for you. Is Gibbs here? Is he okay?” McGee asks breathlessly.


Tony jerks a thumb over his shoulder at where Abby is still gently holding Gibbs, rocking him against her, talking softly into his ear. He sees the shock on all their faces at how Gibbs looks, and while he doesn’t blame them, it makes him angry all the same. Gibbs has been through hell and all they can do is look at him as if he’s a stranger. They have no idea what he’s been through, but in the coming few days they’re going to find out.


“He’s right here,” he replies, stepping in front of Gibbs and Abby to give them some privacy. “I’m surprised you are though,” he says to Vance.


Vance looks both angry and contrite at the same time – which Tony thinks is quite a feat to pull off.


“Agent McGee presented me with compelling evidence to show that SecNav was dirty. I called in Agent Fornell to conduct an investigation,” he says tightly.


“Way to go, McWhistleblower!” Tony says, with an admiring glance at McGee.


McGee flushes and rolls his eyes. “You left me a good place to start. I just did a lot more digging and found what we were looking for.”


“NCIS and the FBI joined forces to conduct a top level investigation into Walid’s little setup,” Fornell butts in. “We had a task force assembled to deploy immediately we got your call. We were closing in on them in any case, but it looks like you’ve delivered them all up to us on a plate.”


Tony glances over his shoulder again to see that Abby has released Gibbs, and he’s standing there, swaying gently in the wind.


“I’ve got a lot of questions for you,” Fornell says. “We’re going to need your help unravelling this mess, figuring out who the key players are, what the criminal charges are…”


Tony doesn’t hear the rest of that. He runs to Gibbs just in time to catch him as he falls.


“Get me a paramedic! I need the damn paramedics over here now!” he screams, and McGee goes running off to call an ambulance over.


Tony sweeps Gibbs up into his arms, ignoring the way his muscles protest at the weight. Gibbs carried him when he was hurt, and he’s damn well going to return the favour. Gibbs is unconscious, and his face is a worrying grey colour.


A paramedic team comes rushing over with a gurney, and they try to take Gibbs from him.


“Careful!” Tony shoves them away so he can gently place Gibbs on the gurney himself. He goes with the gurney back to the ambulance, holding Gibbs’s hand. “You give him the best treatment in the whole damn world,” Tony tells the paramedics fiercely as they bustle around Gibbs. “Because he’s the bravest bastard in the whole damn world, and he just saved us all.”



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