xanthefic: (ncis gibbs tony slave collar)
[personal profile] xanthefic


The First Collar
By Xanthe
Part Eight


Tony was silent on the drive home. He sat back in his seat, still reeling from what had happened – but it wasn't Dana Morley's ugly little scene with Billy that he was replaying over and over again in his mind. No, what he couldn't stop thinking about was the feel of Gibbs's body pressed up against his own, the sensation of Gibbs's fingers wrapped tightly around his wrist, and the press of his hand over his mouth.

Back there, in that dressing room, his body had done something it had never done before; it had submitted willingly to a top, of its own volition, without him having to pretend. He remembered the heady sensation of surrender and how it had gone straight to his cock. His stomach fluttered as he re-lived that particular moment. It had been thrilling – he had never experienced true submission before and had always envied subs who had. He'd only ever played at it, never trusting any top enough to take him there, or thinking them worthy enough of the honour of his true surrender. What made Gibbs so different?

Tony shot a sideways glance at the man beside him. Was it because Gibbs had taken that beating for him? No other top had done anything that romantic for him. Or was it what Gibbs had said earlier, about protecting his collared subs? Did he really believe Gibbs was a top who could actually be trusted? His mom would have said that there was no such thing.

Or was it that the man was such an enigma to him? He had two collared subs, neither of whom had been collared in the conventional sense, and he didn't seem to want to sleep with either of them. Had he really collared them, as Abby seemed to think, for *their* sake and not his own? Tony didn't have any answers, but the questions puzzled him.

They arrived back at Tony's apartment in the early hours of the morning – to find it looking considerably better than when they'd left it.

Abby and Ducky were sitting on his couch, which had been returned to its original position, and the mess had at least been tidied into some semblance of order.

"Gibbs! Tony! Are you okay? Did you get into a fight?" Abby asked, throwing herself at both of them the minute they walked through the door.

"No, Abby, we did not get into a fight," Gibbs said, with a wry little grin. "Why?"

"Well, you're walking kind of stiffly, and Tony looks like he's seen a ghost," she said, standing back and eyeing them both critically.

"It's been a tough day, Abby," Gibbs said shortly. He fished the remains of the tapes out of his pocket and handed them to her. "Here – see what you can do with these tomorrow."

Abby looked at the mangled plastic and tape in her hands with a frown. "You do know I'm not a miracle worker, right, Gibbs?"

"Since when?" Gibbs pressed a kiss to her cheek. "Just see what you can retrieve for us, Abby – anything is better than nothing."

She nodded and placed the tapes in her purse. Then she took hold of Tony's hand and led him into the bedroom. He looked around in surprise; the room was pretty much back to normal – in fact it was tidier than he usually left it.

"We thought we'd concentrate mainly on one room, and as you'd need to be sleeping in here tonight, this was it," Abby told him.

"Thank you." He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and leaned against her.

She glanced up at him. "I thought I'd stay over tonight," she said quietly.

"No need. I mean…I'm a big boy. I'm not scared the bad guys will come back."

"I know. But it's late, and I'm tired, and you have a big enough bed." She grinned as she looked at the enormous bed in the centre of the room.

Tony grinned too. "Well, I am a young, single sub." He winked at her. "Never know how many tops I might want to invite back for a night of passion."

"Yeah – but I thought you'd have manacles attached to the headboard and dozens of sex toys hidden in a big box under the bed. I was kinda disappointed, DiNozzo," she chided.

He laughed. "Bondage is your thing, not mine, Abs. I'm never comfortable with people tying me up unless I know them really well – and to be honest I never usually stay with one top long enough to get to know them *that* well. As for the sex toys…" he grinned. "I have had some favourites in my time but usually…" He paused. Usually he went out to clubs and had sex there – but it sounded so sordid he didn't want to tell her that. He'd thrown out his old sex toys when he moved here and it had been so long since he’d last brought a date home that he hadn’t bothered buying any new ones.

"Usually?" Abby raised an eyebrow.

"It doesn't matter. Look, it's late, and I'm beat. I'll just go say goodbye to Gibbs and Ducky, and then we can go to bed. Together." He leered at her suggestively, and she bashed him on the arm before disappearing into the bathroom.

Tony returned to the living room to find Ducky and Gibbs having an altercation in low voices.

"You don't fool me, Jethro. Abby was right just now – you are moving much more slowly than usual."

Gibbs shrugged. "I'm tired. And I'm getting old."

Ducky shook his head reprovingly. "Jethro – there have been rumours flying around the Navy Yard all day…"

"Aw, don't tell me you pay attention to office gossip, Duck?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

"Actually, I have rather a penchant for office gossip, Jethro – particularly as I know I'm more likely to hear something there than have my own top tell me about it himself."

"And just what is office gossip saying about me?" Gibbs looked supremely pissed off to be the object of gossip.

"That you took twenty with the strap from Morrow, which means you have to be hurting right now. I have some of my special ointment, and I don't care one whit about your toppy pride – I want to see the damage, and I want to make sure it heals properly."

"Ducky, there's no need. Stop worrying and leave me alone," Gibbs said tersely.

"You're wrong, Ducky," Tony said, behind them.

Ducky and Gibbs both turned to look at him.

"Really?" Ducky looked confused. "Are you sure, Anthony? Because I have it on very good authority that Jethro took a strapping today."

"He did, but it was thirty strokes, not twenty." Gibbs shot him one of his death glares. "What? Wasn't it you who said something earlier about accepting help when it's given? Let Ducky check you out. Please." Tony added that final plea in a softer tone. He knew Gibbs was as tough as nails, but the man had taken that whipping for him, so he felt responsible for the pain he had to in right now.

"Oh, he'll let me check him out," Ducky said firmly, and once again Tony caught a glimpse of Ducky's toppy side. It was none of his business whether Gibbs's collared *sub* was actually a switch, but the subject did fascinate him. He had no intention of asking such a personal question though – he didn't know Ducky well enough yet. "Thank you, Anthony, for telling me the truth when my stubborn, pig-headed top would not." Ducky glared at Gibbs who gave a grunt in response.

"Fine. Whatever. Now it's late, and I want everyone in on time tomorrow. We have a lot of work to do in the next few days," Gibbs said, reaching into his pocket and getting out his leashes. He clipped one onto Ducky's collar and then looked around. "Abby!"

"Abby's staying here tonight," Tony told him. "She's in the bathroom."

Gibbs gave another grunt, and Tony couldn't tell if he was pleased or annoyed by that news.

"Don't stay up all night talking," was all he said. Tony grinned, but Gibbs glared at him. "I mean it – I've never known two people who jabber on as much as you two. If you do stay up all night talking, I still expect a full day's work from you tomorrow and no excuses about being tired."

"Understood, Boss!" Tony fired off a mock salute that was just like the one Abby was always giving Gibbs. Gibbs slapped his head, and Tony's grin widened as he felt that familiar warmth flood into his belly in response.

They left, and Tony returned to his bedroom.

Abby emerged from the bathroom a few seconds later. "You got a tee shirt I can wear to bed? I'm gonna take a shower," she said.

Tony threw her a tee shirt and watched as she undid her pigtails, shaking her hair free, and then unbuckled her collar and placed it on the nightstand. Then she disappeared into the bathroom again.

Tony picked up the collar she'd left behind. It was just plain black leather – nothing fancy but comfortable, with a nice soft lining. It was still warm from where she'd been wearing it. He wondered what it would feel like to wear a collar like this. He'd never wanted to be collared – no, that wasn't true – he'd never met a top whose collar he could imagine accepting. He'd never agreed to wear one even for play.

He pressed the warm leather to his throat and closed his eyes, imagining Gibbs's blunt fingers strapping it in place. How would that feel? Could he allow a top to do that to him, even if it was just the kind of collaring that Gibbs had done to Abby and Ducky? What would it feel like to walk on the man's leash? He was jolted out of this train of thought by the sound of the bathroom door opening, and he put the collar down quickly as Abby returned to the room, drying her wet hair with a towel.

Abby sat down on the bed beside him, wearing just his tee shirt which was two sizes too big for her and a pair of panties. She picked up the collar, wrapped it around her throat, and buckled it in place.

"What's it like?" Tony asked. Abby raised an eyebrow. "Wearing Gibbs's collar? What's that like?"

Abby smiled. "It's two things. It's wonderful because it's Gibbs's collar, and because of what it stands for. I know that he gave me the collar because he loves me, and I know that he'll always protect me and keep me safe."

"And the second thing?"

Her smile faded. "It's sad too – because I know it's not a romantic collar and because I know he's lonely, and I wish I could do something to help him, but I can't because I'm not what he needs."

"He's lonely?" Tony asked, startled.

"Yes. I don't know what happened to him, but something did, something bad, and that's why he won't take another sub to his bed."

"What kind of something bad?"

"I don’t know. Ducky does, but he won't say. He just kind of hints. I assumed it was something to do with the fact that none of his marriages worked out, but I don't know for sure, and I won't pry."

"Can you settle for just this?" Tony asked, touching the collar with his finger.

"It's not forever, Tony, but it works for me for now. I'll find the right top for me one day." She grabbed his hand with her own. "And so will you," she said firmly.

"Who says I'm looking?" He laughed.

"I think you are. If not looking then…at least hoping." She pressed a kiss to his cheek. "Now don't tell me you're one of those pervy subs who is into sub on sub sex – because if you are, there's no way I'm getting into bed with you."

Tony laughed. "No, Abby, I'm not one of those subs. I like my tops to top me – and so do you. You're hot – but we have no dynamic together. Besides, like I said, I'm really not all that into bondage." He winked at her.

"Well, you have trust issues, so I'm hardly surprised." She slid into the bed, smiling at him fondly.

Tony went into the bathroom and got ready for bed, undressing down to his boxers and a tee shirt. Then he went back into his bedroom, got into the bed beside her, and turned off the light.

She snuggled up to him immediately, and he put his arms around her and inhaled the scent of her hair. Abby's dynamic was so clear to him. It wasn’t anything that turned him on, and he knew she felt the same way about him. She was beautiful, but they were both subs – who would go on top? Who would dominate whom? You could go through the mechanics of it – like those subs who performed with each other for a top to watch – but the payoff wasn't there. It was without meaning or excitement.

"Tony…" Abby said quietly, resting her chin on his chest.

"Mmm?" He looked down on her.

"If Gibbs offered you his collar – same way he did to me and Ducky, same conditions – would you accept it?"

Tony felt his heart thud in his chest. Did he want that? Could he handle wearing a top's collar at all, let alone one that didn't entitle him to any sex? Just two days ago he'd have known the answer to that question, without any shadow of a doubt, but now? After what had happened today?

"I don't know, Abby," he replied honestly. "But I don't think he would offer me his collar."

"Why not?" Her eyes glimmered in the darkness.

"Because I'm such a screw-up, and if I wore his collar then he'd have responsibility for me – legally as well as emotionally. I'm always one smart-assed comment or dumb fuck-up away from a whipping, and you know what he's like – he'd never let me take licks in the discipline room." After today, he knew that for sure. "So he'd have to take them for me. What top would want to take that on without even the prospect of some hot sex to offset all the punishments?" He grinned down at her to find her looking up at him with a serious expression on her face.

"I think he'd find a way of handling you," she said quietly. "He's good at that – knowing how to handle us all in our own different ways and give us what we need to keep us safe and happy. And I don't think you'd fuck up nearly so often if he was around, and you wore his collar, Tony. I think you only fuck up because you don't have anyone in your life who cares – including you. If you knew what was at stake, I don't think you'd do anything stupid precisely because you *know* how it feels for him to take a punishment that's rightfully yours."

He stiffened. "You know about what happened today?"

Abby nodded. "That he took the licks meant for you? Yes, I know."

"You didn't say anything. I mean, you didn't leap on him and commiserate with him about it," Tony said, surprised.

"He has his pride, Tony," Abby told him firmly. "I might be giddy sometimes, but I'd never do anything to dent that. He did something beautiful for you today – but he'd hate for anyone to notice it or comment on it. That's not his style."

Tony ran his fingers gently through her long, dark hair. "Is he the real deal, Abby? I mean, is he really that kind of top? The kind who really would stand by a sub, no matter what?"

"Yes." She said it simply and without any shadow of doubt. "I mean, he's not perfect. He's stubborn, and secretive, and he can be really scary – but he's the real deal, Tony. Believe me, he really is."

Tony hugged her close and kissed her forehead. "Talking of scary – he said we weren't to stay up all night talking."

She laughed. "He's got a point. We've gotta be at work in a few hours!" She moved her head so it was resting on her own pillow and not his chest. "Good night, Tony."

"Night, Abs."

He closed his eyes and immediately he was back in that dressing room, with Gibbs's body pressed against his own. He was sure he'd felt Gibbs's erection digging into him, and the thought that Gibbs was as aroused by his dynamic as he was by Gibbs's intrigued and excited him.

He knew nothing could come of it because he didn't trust tops, and Gibbs didn't want a sub in his bed. But that didn't stop him thinking about how fantastic it had felt to surrender to a top for the first time in his life.

He went to sleep, his wrist still tingling from the memory of Gibbs grasping it in his fingers and holding him in place.

~*~

Gibbs ignored the looks he got as he walked into work the next day. He wasn’t surprised that the news he’d taken a whipping had spread like wildfire. Morrow might have been able to keep it quiet within NCIS, but Gibbs was sure the FBI was shouting the news triumphantly from the rooftops and gossip travelled fast between federal agencies – especially spectacular gossip like this.

All the scared looks being shot his way irritated the hell out of him though, and he was in a foul mood by the time he reached his desk and very purposefully sat down without so much as a wince. Let the gossips talk about *that*.

Tony was already sitting at his desk. He looked tired but a hell of a lot better than he had the previous day.

“DiNozzo – I want you to run a search on some bank accounts for me,” he ordered across the squad room.

“Yes, Boss.” Tony sat with his hands ready at the keyboard awaiting further orders.

“Might take awhile. I want you to track down any accounts that exist in this name, anywhere in the world.”

“Yes, Boss. What’s the name, Boss?”

“Anthony DiNozzo,” Gibbs shot back.

Tony’s head jerked up in surprise. “Me? You’re looking for bank accounts in my name?”

“Yup. Dana Morley isn’t an idiot, Tony. There’s no way she’s going into that hearing with just one phone conversation to hold against you. She’s going to try and pin a hell of a lot more on you than that. And my guess is she’s taken out an account in your name somewhere and has deposited a large amount of cash in there to convince the inquiry that you’re on the take.”

Tony’s mouth opened and closed like a goldfish. “I guess I didn’t think of that, Boss.”

“Yeah, well, we gotta start thinking like Morley if we’re going to stand a chance against her. So start looking.”

“Yes, Boss.” Tony put his head down and began working, looking subdued.

Gibbs studied him while he worked. Last night had to have been hard on him – watching Morley enact her victory fantasy with Billy while using Tony’s name. It was one thing to know you’d been screwed over by two people you’d once counted on to have your six and another to have the evidence of it rubbed in your face.

Morrow distracted him from his thoughts by sweeping into the squad room bearing two cups of coffee.

“Jethro.” He handed him one of the cups, and Gibbs took it in surprise; Morrow had never bought him coffee before.

“Uh…thanks, sir,” he said, his raised eyebrow questioning the gesture.

Morrow jerked his head. “Take a walk with me, Jethro,” he said, his eyes making it clear that this was an order, not a suggestion. “And bring the coffee with you.”

Gibbs got up and followed Morrow up the stairs to the empty landing above. Morrow very deliberately rested his arms on the railings and glanced down at the bustling squad room below. Gibbs followed his cue and did the same. Morrow took a casual sip of his coffee, looking completely at ease.

“So, how are those threat assessments coming along, Jethro?” he asked, in a loud, conversational tone of voice.

Gibbs frowned; they didn’t normally drink coffee and chat in this ostentatious way. “They’re coming along fine, Director. They’re not due in for another couple of weeks though.”

Morrow gave a loud and entirely unnecessary chuckle. “Yes, I know that.” He grinned at Gibbs benignly. “Drink your damn coffee, Jethro, and for God’s sake look happy,” he added in an undertone.

“Happy? You want me to look happy?” Gibbs raised an incredulous eyebrow but took a sip of his coffee all the same.

“Yes – I know it doesn’t come easy to you but make an effort. Oh and don’t go expecting coffee every day. I didn’t buy it for you out of the goodness of my heart.”

It was Gibbs’s turn to chuckle. “Yeah. I figured. So what’s going on? Why are we doing this?”

“Because the rumour mill has been working overtime, and it seems that everyone in the Navy Yard knows what went down between us yesterday. So we have to put on a good show to make them realize that it’s business as usual. Dad and Daddy may have had an argument, but the world hasn’t come to an end even if Dad *did* have to punish Daddy for being a stubborn, manipulative bastard.”

Gibbs gave a loud laugh, full of admiration for Morrow’s strategy. Half the people in the squad room downstairs were casting surreptitious glances in their direction so it was clearly working. Gibbs could feel the strained atmosphere in the building begin to relax a fraction.

“Didn’t realize that us getting along was so important to the smooth running of the place,” he muttered.

Morrow gave another hearty and entirely false laugh. “Are you kidding? You’re the most famous top in the building, and I’m the sub who runs the damn place. Half of them are wondering how I managed to take a strap to your ass and survive and the other half…”

“Are wishing they had the whole thing on film?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow, and this time Morrow’s laugh was entirely genuine.

“Something like that. One thing I do know is that they’re worried about how things will be between us going forward. They like strong leadership, and you and I together have provided that. Their worldview doesn’t allow for you of all people to have taken a whipping. You *scare* people, Jethro. ”

Gibbs grunted. “They’re pretty wary of you too, Tom – and with good reason; you can wield a strap as hard as any top I’ve ever met.” He gave a loud guffaw and noticed the tension in the squad room go down by yet another notch.

“It was entirely my pleasure.” Morrow nodded his head up and down vigorously, a bright smile plastered on his face. “How is your ass by the way?” Morrow added conversationally.

“Hurts like hell.”

“Good.” Morrow smiled at him pleasantly.

“Are we done yet?” Gibbs asked out of the corner of his mouth.

Morrow glanced around the room and seemed satisfied that their little charade had paid off. “Yes. We’re done.”

“Thank God for that.” Gibbs gave another loud laugh and slapped Morrow on the arm.

Morrow gave a hearty chuckle in response. “Glad to hear it, Jethro. Good work. Carry on.” He nodded at Gibbs and then turned to leave. “You owe me for the coffee by the way,” he added in an undertone.

Gibbs grinned. “Understood.”

They parted, and Gibbs jogged back down to his desk, still smiling at the conversation. It had certainly done the trick; people weren’t shooting him those scared little glances any more.

~*~

It took Tony two days to track down the bank account. He was half hoping that Gibbs was wrong, and it didn’t exist – that Dana had just wanted the tapes back to protect herself and wasn’t planning on pinning anything more on him. That forlorn hope disappeared when he discovered an account with $100,000 in his name.

“Boss!” He called Gibbs over and showed him the evidence. “What do we do now?” Tony asked.

Gibbs grinned. “We transfer the money back where it came from of course.”

“How? I mean, I know it’s in my name, but I don’t have access to it, or passwords, or anything.”

“Abby will figure out a way,” Gibbs said confidently. “This shows Morley means business, Tony. She’s gunning for you, and she’s prepared to lose $100,000 to cover her ass. That’s a hell of a lot of money, so I’m guessing she has a hell of a lot to hide.”

“Yeah – and it seems that I’m her designated fall guy. Go me!” Tony gave his cheesiest smile to cover up how much it hurt.

Gibbs seemed to see right through it. He put a hand on Tony’s shoulder and squeezed. “C’mon. Let’s get down to Abby’s lab and see how she’s doing with those tapes.”

Abby twirled around as they entered her lab, a frown on her face. “Gibbs! You’re early! I haven’t finished with the tapes yet.”

“Not here about the tapes, Abby.” Gibbs filled her in on the bank account. “Can you reverse the transaction?” he asked. “Send the money back to where it came from? Won’t be an account in her name – she’s far too smart for that – but at least it gets it out of Tony’s name.”

“No problem. Might take a while to hack the account, but I can do it. You want it done now?” Her fingers were poised over the keyboard.

“Hell no!” Gibbs shook his head. “We don’t want Morley knowing we’re onto her yet – she’d have too much time to plan something else. I’ll tell you when, Abs. Now how’s the work on the tapes going?”

Abby sighed, and Tony’s heart sank. “It’s not good news I’m afraid, Tony.” She gave him an apologetic smile. “I’ve done my best, but all I’m going to be able to get off them are fragments. The quality isn’t great, either – it won’t be good enough to pass as evidence in an inquiry.”

“Thanks for trying anyway, Abby,” Tony told her. “Promise me you’ll come visit me in prison!” The big, cheesy smile didn’t work on her, either. She just wrapped her arms around him and gave him a warm hug.

“It won’t come to that, DiNozzo,” Gibbs told him sharply as she released him.

Tony shook his head. “Look, I appreciate all you’ve done for me – both of you – but without the evidence from the tapes, it’s just going to come down to my word against hers – and who is the inquiry going to believe? Even without the bank account, they’re going to believe Dana Morley’s testimony over a screw-up like me any day. They’ll take one look at my job history and come to their own conclusions.”

“I’ll be a character witness for you,” Gibbs told him.

Tony gave a tired smile. “You’ve known me less than three weeks, Gibbs, so I don’t think that’ll carry much weight with the inquiry. Thanks anyway, but no. I’m going down for this.”

The stinging slap to the back of his head took him by surprise.

“Ow. I’m never gonna see those coming, am I?” he said, rubbing his head ruefully.

“You might one day if you get your head out of your ass, DiNozzo,” Gibbs replied. “I’m not done here. There are three things I hate in this world, and abusive tops and dirty cops are at the top of the list – and Dana Morley is both of those. There’s no way I’m letting her get away with this.”

“You said three things.” Tony raised an intrigued eyebrow.

Gibbs grinned. “Yeah, I did, didn’t I?” And then, infuriatingly, he walked out of the room.

~*~

Gibbs sat back in his chair and gazed at DiNozzo across the squad room. They’d spent the past few days scrabbling around to get something on Morley, but there wasn’t enough time, and she’d covered her tracks well. Tony was due to give evidence at the inquiry tomorrow, and he looked resigned to his fate. All they could hope to do was refute anything Morley tried to pin on Tony; a lot would depend on how Tony performed tomorrow.

Gibbs pressed rewind on the disk in the little CD player Abby had given to him. He’d been listening to the fragments she’d managed to pull off the mangled tapes over and over again for the past couple of days, searching for clues as to what made Dana Morley tick.

There wasn’t much and most of it was disjointed. The part where Tony informed her about Doug Warren’s phone call, and she told him she’d take care of it was too fuzzy to be coherent. You could just about make out what was being said, but not with 100% conviction. There was no way an inquiry would accept it as evidence. Most of what was on the disk were recordings Tony had made of his conversations with Morley – but there was also some audio from various meetings he’d attended and some general background chatter. Gibbs tried to hone in on it, searching for anything that would be helpful.

“Boss?”

Gibbs removed the headphones and glanced at Tony who was standing in front of his desk.

“I’ve finished preparing my testimony for tomorrow. Can I go home now? I figure it’s gonna be my last night there, so I’d like to…you know, appreciate it.” Tony gave a wan smile.

Gibbs nodded. “Sure – go home, Tony. I’ll come pick you up tomorrow morning and take you to the inquiry.”

“Is Director Morrow okay with that?”

“Yeah. He’s fine with it.”

In fact, Morrow had given him a look that said he wasn’t remotely surprised Tony was mixed up in something like this, shaken his head, and told Gibbs he was crazy to get involved. Gibbs had retorted that he’d take it as a vacation day if necessary, but he was going to be at that hearing for Tony. Morrow had told him that his weakness for subs in distress would be the death of him one day, but he’d give Gibbs leave to attend anyway.

“Okay. Good. Thanks. Uh, Boss – if they arrest me tomorrow…” Tony bit on his lip. Gibbs glared at him. “Look, there’s every chance they will arrest me, and if they do…could you…would you explain everything to my father? Would you tell him that I was set up – that I didn’t do anything wrong? He might believe it if you tell him.”

Gibbs felt another pang of pity for the kid standing in front of his desk. “You think he won’t believe it if you tell him yourself?”

Tony snorted. “Hell no! He’s usually only too happy to believe the worst of me. He always said I’d end up on the receiving end of a judicial bullwhip one day. Guess he might be right about that.”

Gibbs grunted; if Tony was found guilty of negligence in respect of Warren’s murder then it was likely he’d face the bullwhip. If Morley succeeded in pinning the corruption on him too then he’d get a prison sentence as well as the bullwhip.

Gibbs’s gut clenched at the thought of Tony stripped to the waist, being strung up to a whipping post and his skin being sliced open with a bullwhip. A judicial bullwhip intentionally left scars that never went away, and he hated to think of Tony’s skin being marked forever in that way.

“If it comes to it then I’ll tell him, but it won’t, Tony,” he said firmly. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Just tell the truth tomorrow.”

“Yes, Boss,” Tony said quietly, but Gibbs could see the dejection in his eyes.

He watched Tony leave, noting his slumped shoulders and the heavy drag of his footsteps. He remembered the bright-eyed, smart-mouthed agent he’d worked with during Tony’s first two weeks at NCIS. Gibbs had looked forward to coming into work just to be with that Tony – to see his wide grin and the sparkle of mischief in his green eyes. Gibbs wanted that Tony back, and he’d be damned if he let that kid go down for crimes he hadn’t committed.

How far was he prepared to go to save Tony from that fate though? Even as he asked that question, he knew the answer. He’d go all the way for the sub who’d just walked out of here looking so defeated. There was no way he’d let Tony face the bullwhip. He’d strap a collar around Tony’s neck and take the punishment himself if need be, but he wouldn’t stand by and watch Tony be thrown to the wolves. Some old, toppy instinct, deep within his soul, refused to countenance it.

“We’ve been on the defensive too damn long,” Gibbs murmured to himself. “Time to go on the attack.” He picked up his phone and called Abby in her lab. “Reverse the transaction and close that account in Tony’s name,” he told her. “Text me on my cell when it’s done.”

“Sure thing, Bossman!” He could almost *hear* the salute. “Where are you going, Gibbs?”

“Oh, I’m going to make a power play,” he replied tightly.

He knew what the end game was here, and the likely result, but he didn’t give a damn about that. This was about saving Tony’s neck and if that meant someone else had to go down, then so be it.

He went home, took a shower, and washed and dried his hair. Then he opened his closet and looked inside. It had been years since he’d made any real effort with his appearance, but there had been a time, back when Shannon was alive, when he had enjoyed dressing up, if only to please her when they went out somewhere.

He pulled out some clothes that he hadn’t worn in a long time; a black silk shirt, plain black chinos, a black jacket, and a black belt with a shiny silver buckle. He wore his shiniest black shoes and slapped on some cologne. He didn’t usually make an effort to look this toppy – he didn’t have to – but tonight he wanted the image to bring out and reinforce his natural dominance as much as possible. Tonight, both image and substance would be important if he was going to accomplish his mission.

He got in his car and drove to Xtreme. He had a hunch that Dana Morley would be there tonight. She’d be jittery ahead of Tony’s big day in front of the inquiry tomorrow, and she’d want something to take the edge off her mood.

The club was bustling when he got there. He opened the door forcefully, walked inside, and then stood there, silent and brooding. He projected all his innate dominance outwards, inhabiting his top space completely. The sound in the bar faltered as people looked his way and stopped talking. There was a noticeable lull in the conversation and only when he knew he’d been noticed by every single person in the club did he move again.

He could feel the eyes of all the tops in the room following him warily – and the subs eyeing him with hungry yearning. He had learned over the years to keep the more extreme traits of his dominance hidden so as not to cause unnecessary confrontations with other tops. He preferred not to get into fights wherever he went as he’d done as an angry teenager. It was tiring and stupid – as his fathers had pointed out on many occasions, although he hadn’t listened back then.

Now he wanted to anger the other tops in the room. He needed them to notice him and fear him. So he unleashed the full force of his dominant energy and went fully into his top space, in a way he rarely permitted himself to do and never in public.

It worked. The crowds parted before him as he strode towards the bar. Other tops shrank away from him, careful not to meet his eye or offer him a challenge, and subs wilted before him. He ignored them all. He ignored the line of people at the bar too. He raised his hand and the barman came to him instantly, serving him ahead of all those who had been there before him. He ordered a bourbon and then leaned against the bar and surveyed the room.

There was a raised stage at one end, with curtains, and he guessed that was where the floorshows took place. Several tables and chairs were arranged around the stage area – and there she was, just as he’d expected.

Dana Morley was wearing a pair of tight black leather pants and an equally tight black leather waistcoat with nothing underneath. Her long dark hair was loose over her shoulders and her face was made up exquisitely, her eyes dark and dramatic, her lips painted a sultry red. A thin rattan cane was dangling from her fingers.

Until he’d arrived, she’d been the strongest top in the room. Now he was here nobody had eyes for her anymore, and he could feel her resentment boring into him from where she was sitting. On the floor beside her was a naked, female submissive. Gibbs wasn’t surprised; Billy hadn’t worn a collar, and he doubted Morley gave a damn about being exclusive to one sub. He also wasn’t surprised by how pretty the sub was – he had a feeling Morley only took the most attractive subs to her bed. Subs like this one kneeling here, and Billy – and Tony.

This sub kneeling at Morley’s feet had long blonde hair, soft pale skin, and large, round breasts. Her breasts were covered in a number of angry red welts which were clearly fresh – no doubt caused by the cane in Morley’s hand. The sub was panting pathetically – Morley had attached a pair of vicious steel clamps to her nipples and fastened a chain to them. Morley’s hand was wrapped in the chain and every now and then she jerked on it savagely, making the submissive squeal in pain.

Those clamps were dangerous; Gibbs knew the kind, and he’d never use them on any sub of his. A little pain was one thing, plenty of subs enjoyed that, but those clamps were like steel traps, and the more Morley tugged on them the tighter they fastened around the sub’s nipples. If Morley made the sub wear them for too long she could cause permanent damage to her.

Gibbs picked up his drink and walked across the room to where Morley was sitting. He sat down at her table without asking her permission. Morley glared at him.

“This table is taken,” she hissed.

“It is now,” he replied, taking a sip of his bourbon.

He leaned back in his chair and opened his legs wide, dominating the room through body language alone. He looked down on the sub kneeling at Morley’s feet and gave the woman a knowing, toppy smile. She leaned towards him, drawn to him, as subs so often were. Morley gave a vicious tug on her chain, and the submissive cried out in pain and moved back towards her mistress again. Gibbs gave an amused grunt.

The curtains opened and a big, bearded top appeared onstage. A naked, blindfolded, male submissive was standing there, bent over a wooden frame. He had been tied in place, his legs wide open, his anus obscenely exposed to the audience. A little frisson of anticipation rippled around the room. Gibbs watched Morley lick her lips and lean forward.

A rack full of the most unpleasant implements was positioned beside the frame. Gibbs had no doubt the submissive onstage would be screaming in agony before long. There was no eroticism here and no sense of mutual pleasure, either. This was torture and brutality, plain and simple. It set his teeth on edge.

Gibbs looked down at the sub kneeling beside Morley. Even without talking to her he could sense the damage in her psyche. All the people here tonight were damaged in some way, their dynamics twisted grotesquely out of shape. He knew that most of them hadn’t started out this way; life had done this to them.

He thought of Tony – he was damaged too, but he’d struggled to hold it together despite that. He hadn’t allowed his self-esteem to drop so low that it warped his dynamic into something ugly, like so many of the subs here. He’d fought to keep himself safe – maybe too safe, because he let nothing and nobody in to keep himself from getting hurt. Maybe there was no happy medium. Maybe, in order not to end up like this woman kneeling here, Tony had been forced to close himself off and refuse to trust any top who crossed his path.

Gibbs felt sorry for them all, for not knowing the kind of beauty that could exist in the true union of a dominant and submissive. He thought of his own two fathers, and of Tom and Jessica, and then he thought of himself and Shannon and his chest felt tight. He dismissed the memory – he didn’t have the luxury of those thoughts tonight; he had a job to do here.

The bearded top onstage took a dildo from the rack of implements and held it aloft. It was covered in thick, harsh bristles. Gibbs winced; he didn’t want to watch this. Morley did though. She leaned forward eagerly, her dark hair falling across her face like a shadow.

Gibbs allowed the screams of the submissive onstage to wash over him. He gazed at the sub at Morley’s feet until she felt the weight of his stare and glanced up at him. He smiled at her, and she smiled back, tentatively, casting a furtive glance at her mistress to make sure she wasn’t being watched.

Gibbs leaned back and glanced around the room. He knew he could take any top here and claim any sub he wanted – and the other tops in the room all knew it too. Half of them were watching the floorshow, but the other half were watching him, their hands tightly wrapped in their subs’ leashes.

Gibbs glanced back at Morley. Her tongue was wetting her lower lip as she watched the floor show avidly.

"You like this stuff?" Gibbs asked, glancing at the stage.

She shot him a sideways look. "Don't you? I like hearing subs scream."

"Hmmm." Gibbs gazed at her speculatively.

"Subs enjoy pain." Morley gave a disinterested shrug. "They get off on it."

"Not all subs. They're all different – they're all people. Some love pain, some hate it."

"Well this one loves it – don't you, Kara?" Morley raised her cane and brought it down it on Kara's breasts with a flick of her wrist. Kara gasped. Morley grinned and glanced at Gibbs who gazed back impassively. "Do you have a problem with pain play?" she demanded.

Gibbs shook his head. "Nope."

He recalled the first year after he'd collared Shannon and how they'd explored their sexuality and found their limits. Shannon had enjoyed a little pain play, if he judged it right, and he'd sure as hell enjoyed feeling her wriggle and whimper under his ruthless caresses. He'd seen how high she could get on the endorphin rush, and he loved the way she'd nestle into his arms afterwards and allow him to take care of her. It had been enjoyable and satisfying for them both.

"I love it," Gibbs told Morley. "If I'm connected to the sub and can feel their response, if we're both in the moment, and if they're enjoying the surrender. Pain can enhance the intensity if it's done right, and if it’s what we both want. Do you know what she wants?" He glanced at Kara.

"She's a pain slut. She wants to be hurt," Morley replied dismissively.

"No – she'll take being hurt because she wants to be loved, and she seeks out the strongest tops because they make her feel safe – even if they also hurt her. Sounds illogical but that's how she is. That's her particular dynamic. Did you take the time to find out what her dynamic is?"

Morley gave him a cool look. "This is a cruelty club – if you don't like it then why the hell did you come here? I'm not doing anything illegal. I found her here; she said I could do what I liked to her. I'm taking her up on that."

Gibbs gazed at her, intrigued. He had always hated abusive tops. He loved and protected his subs, and he could never understand tops who didn't feel the same way.

"Do you even like subs?" he asked, leaning forward and looking into her cold, dark eyes. They flickered in distaste, and he knew that she didn't. She hated them. He had no idea why, but her sense of disgust was tangible. She didn't just hate subs, she loathed them, and she wanted to hurt them as much as possible. That wasn't in Gibbs's understanding of what it was to be a top. He might be strict and demanding with his subs, and he might dispense some hard discipline, but he loved them. Maybe he loved them too much. He knew he'd die for them if necessary; he would have willingly sacrificed his own life to save Shannon's.

"What the fuck does it matter who I like?" Morley gazed at him imperiously. "What the hell is your problem with me?"

"My problem with you is that you get it so very wrong," he said quietly. "And it taints the rest of us."

"Oh, I get it. You're one of those fucked up dominants who’s ashamed of his own sadism," Morley sneered.

He laughed out loud. "Hardly. And there's a big difference between being sexually dominant and being a psychopath."

His cell phone buzzed. He opened it and looked at the text message. It was from Abby, confirming that she’d transferred the money back to where it had come from – an account in a name he hadn’t heard of, although he had no doubt at all that it belonged to Dana Morley. Tracing it wouldn’t do any good – Gibbs knew that Morley was too smart to have left a trail of breadcrumbs back to her door.

He looked up to find Morley watching him from those cold, dark eyes.

He smiled at her. “You made a mistake,” he told her.

She glared at him. “What the fuck are you talking about? And who the hell are you?”

“My name is Leroy Jethro Gibbs. You don’t know me, but I know you.”

“Is that so?” She arched an eyebrow.

“Oh yes. I know that you’re here tonight because you can’t sleep. And you can’t sleep because you’re too full of adrenaline about the evidence you plan to give at an IA inquiry tomorrow. I know that you think you’ve covered all your bases, but I also know that you’ve made one mistake and that as a result of that mistake your entire plan is going to fall apart.”

Her eyes flashed, and he knew he had her wrong-footed. He saw her trying to piece the parts of this puzzle together without giving anything away.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said coldly.

He shrugged. “Okay.” He took a sip of his drink, looking like he didn’t give a damn.

He watched out of the corner of his eye as she struggled with herself – and her need to know won out against her desire not to give him the satisfaction of asking.

“What do you think you know?” she hissed.

“I know about the $100,000 you deposited in a bank account to make it look like a bribe. You should check on that by the way if you were counting on bringing it up as evidence at the inquiry tomorrow. That account might not be there anymore.”

She looked like an angry snake, poised to strike, wanting to kill him where he sat. He smiled at her, completely unfazed by her anger.

“Who did you say you were?” she demanded.

“Leroy Jethro Gibbs. And you are Dana Morley.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And that’s it? That’s the mistake you think I made? Some crap about a bank account?”

He laughed out loud. “Oh no – that’s not the mistake you made.” He leaned forward and beckoned her close. She struggled with it but again was unable to resist, and she leaned her head towards his.

“The mistake you made was in thinking that Tony DiNozzo has no friends,” he told her. She sat back, a shocked look on her face. “He does,” Gibbs said firmly. “I’m one of them, and I should warn you that you’ve pissed me off, Dana Morley. So I’d be very careful what you tell that inquiry tomorrow if I were you, because I’ll be there, watching you. If Tony goes down, I will unleash a world of hurt on you. I promise you that.”

She got up so quickly that she knocked over her own drink. He sat back, smiling at her serenely. She tugged frantically on her sub’s leash.

“With me, Kara!” she hissed.

Kara looked up at her and then looked at Gibbs. Gibbs shook his head. He could have any sub in this room, and he decided that he wanted this one.

“Kara will be staying with me,” he said firmly. “I’m taking her off you.” He clicked his fingers, and Kara moved quickly to kneel by his side, while Morley stared at them both with a look of disbelief. “Aw – don’t look so surprised. Kara always wants to be with the most powerful top in the room, Dana. You know that.” Gibbs leaned over and removed the leash from Morley’s nerveless fingers. “Go home, Dana. Go home and check on that fake account you set up in Tony’s name and then rethink your strategy for tomorrow. I’ll see you there.”

Morley’s eyes glittered dangerously. “You don’t want me as your enemy, Gibbs.”

Gibbs laughed out loud. “I sure as hell wouldn’t want you as my friend. But you’ve got it the wrong way around, Dana – it’s *me* you don’t want as an enemy, and it’s already too late for that. You made yourself my enemy the second you tried to set up Tony DiNozzo to take the rap for your own crimes.”

She grabbed her purse, turned on her heel, and left without another word. A low buzz went around the room as people saw that she’d been forced to relinquish her sub to another, stronger top. Gibbs could feel the sting of her public humiliation as she stormed out. Nobody was looking at the floorshow now – all eyes were on Gibbs, and he knew it would remain that way until he left.

He turned to Kara. “Do you see the difference?” he asked, placing gentle fingers on the steel clamps cutting into her nipples. He could see the blood around the jaws of those steel traps and it angered him. “Do you see the difference between a powerful top and an abusive one?” he asked her.

She gazed up at him from wide blue eyes, and he knew that she didn’t. She couldn’t – she was too badly damaged for that. She wasn’t like Abby, who knew the difference but got involved with the wrong tops because she felt sorry for them and thought she could change them. Kara was like a beaten dog who thought the beatings were a sign of affection and craved them for that reason.

He smiled down at her gently. “Hush now, little one,” he said softly, and at the same time he removed the clamps. He heard her whimper as the blood rushed into the abused flesh, hurting her. He stroked her hair until her whimpering stopped. She leaned against him, her eyes glowing in worship.

“I can’t save you, Kara,” he told her. “I wish I could. Do you have any clothes here?” She didn’t say a word. He wondered if she was mute, and then he realized. “You have permission to speak, Kara.”

“My clothes are in a locker out back,” she told him in a soft, little-girl voice.

“Go get them then come back here. I won’t fuck you, Kara, but I will take you home.”

She looked confused but nodded anyway. She went and got her clothes and returned to his table dressed in a pair of tight white jeans and a pretty floral blouse. She was in her early twenties, but she looked like a child. His gut clenched as he thought of Kelly – there was no way he’d have allowed her to end up in a place like this.

He got up and held out his hand. She clung onto it, and he led her out of the club. The crowd parted, silently, to let them through, and they were almost at the door when a tall, hawk-nosed top stepped in front of him. He looked angry, perhaps affronted that Gibbs had walked in here, ruined their evening’s entertainment, and publicly humiliated one of their own.

Gibbs glared at him. “Don’t fuck with me. You won’t win, and I’m not in a mood to play games. I’m leaving and taking this sub with me. She’s been through enough tonight.”

The top licked his lips nervously. He clearly wanted to take Gibbs on, but now that they were face to face, he wasn’t so sure he stood a chance. Gibbs just stood there, unmoving, staring the man out. Finally, the other top gave a growl of annoyance and backed down, disappearing back into the crowd.

There was complete silence as Gibbs walked the rest of the way out, Kara clinging on behind him.

He drove her home and then walked her to her apartment door.

“Come in – please!” she begged in her childlike voice. “You can hurt me as much as you like. I won’t mind. You can do what you want to me.”

“No.” He put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her empty blue eyes. “Don’t go back to that club, Kara. Don’t go with another top like Dana Morley. There are plenty of good ones out there who’ll give you a little pain if that’s what you want, without being cruel.”

She shrugged. “I like it cruel.”

“I know.” He kissed her forehead and then turned and left. There was nothing he could do for her. He knew that. He’d met her kind before, and she was too far gone to be saved. She had victim written all over her. It was subs like her who occasionally turned up in Ducky’s autopsy suite.

He couldn’t save a sub like Kara, but he could save someone else, someone who could benefit from what he had to give.

He could still save Tony DiNozzo.

End of Part Eight
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Part Nine

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