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


The First Collar
By Xanthe
Part Eleven


It was late when Gibbs got home. He went up to his bedroom, sat down on the side of the bed, picked up the photo on the nightstand, and traced the outline of Shannon's face with his fingertip.

"They're nice – Tom and Jess. You'd like them, Shannon. They're how you and I would have been if you were still here."

He sat there, allowing himself to feel the pain. She wasn't here. She never would be here again and acknowledging that hurt like hell. He wondered if the pain would ever go away, or if his new strategy of allowing himself to actually feel it would one day kill him. Seeing Tom and Jessica together always made him feel this way; he loved being with them but afterwards he couldn't help thinking about what he'd once had with Shannon.

He knew he couldn't go to bed feeling like this. Somehow, he had to learn how to accommodate the pain without denying its existence. Denial had only got him lost, and it had been a long road back. He got changed into sweats and jogged down to the basement.

Working on the boat helped him work through the pain. It cleared his mind and allowed him to process his emotions.

He imagined Shannon watching him as he worked on the boat. He wondered what she would have thought of his recent showdown with Dana Morley. He hoped that she'd have been proud of him. He thought she would. Shannon had a fiery temper, and she'd have hated Morley as much as he did. He wondered if she'd have liked Tony. Probably. Shannon had been a good judge of character, and she'd have seen through Tony's masks to the brave, big-hearted, if troubled sub inside.

He hoped Tony would return to work and wondered how he'd handle him if he did. Tom Morrow might be right about Tony needing his collar, but the kid was like a stray cat – you could entice it into the house with food, and it might even let you stroke it, but he doubted it'd let you put a collar on it.

Slowly, the familiar sensation of working on the boat soothed him. He spent a peaceful hour smoothing and sanding when a sudden loud knocking sound upstairs cut through the silence with stark urgency.

Gibbs glanced at his watch; it was far too late for this to be anything other than job related – or bad news. He ran quickly up the stairs and along the hallway to the front door.

"It's open," he called before he got there, but he couldn't see anyone through the glass section of the door. He wondered if it was kids, knocking and running away, although none of the kids on his street had ever dared play that game on him before. They knew the consequences wouldn't be worth the thrill of the dare.

He opened the door – there was nobody standing there, but there was someone crouched on the doorstep. Tony. He had one arm clasped across his belly, and he looked like he was going to throw up – he already had judging by the state of his clothes. For one brief second Gibbs wondered if he was drunk – and then he saw the bruises on Tony's jaw and the cuts on his mouth.

Gibbs didn't say a word. He took hold of Tony's arm, slung it over his shoulder, and hauled Tony up. Then he walked him into the house, kicking the door shut behind them. He took Tony into the living room and deposited him on the couch.

Christ, he was a mess! Gibbs sat down on the coffee table in front of him. "Where does it hurt?" he asked quietly.

"Everywhere," Tony muttered. "Pride mostly though I think," he added, in a self-deprecating tone.

Gibbs reached out and touched a gentle hand to Tony's jaw, moving it sideways so that he could examine it in the light. Tony's lips were chapped, swollen and torn, bleeding in places. His jaw was peppered with bruises and there was some kind of dried bodily fluid on his face and jacket. Gibbs jaw tightened; he could make a good guess at what had happened here.

"Tony – is it just your face, or are you hurt anywhere else?" he asked. Tony didn't reply. He looked guilty, as if he was ashamed of himself. "Tony – I need to know if I should call Ducky or take you to the ER," Gibbs said firmly.

Tony shook his head. "It's just my face. I'm fine."

"I don't like the way you're holding yourself." Tony had one arm wrapped across his own body and was almost bent double.

"Just trying not to throw up again," Tony said. He looked up for the first time, and Gibbs saw the bloody cut on his throat and the dark red banded mark around his neck. It looked like someone had tried to garrotte him.

"Stay there – I'll go get something to clean you up," Gibbs said curtly.

He went into the kitchen, got a bowl of water, a towel, and his medical kit, and took them back into the living room.

Tony looked uncomfortable and even more ashamed than before, as if he wanted the couch to open up and swallow him. "Sorry," he muttered. "Shouldn't have come here."

Gibbs tapped him lightly on the head. "Don't be an idiot. Here is exactly where you should have come." Much to his surprise the tap, or maybe the words, seemed to help. Tony's body relaxed a fraction, and he gave a wan, faded smile.

Gibbs sat down on the coffee table and dipped a cotton ball into the water – and then hesitated. "If you intend to report this, then I shouldn't clean you up, Tony. There's evidence here."

Tony gave a tight little laugh. "Not gonna report it."

"You should."

"No." Tony shook his head vehemently.

Gibbs decided not to argue with him on the subject. There was still plenty of evidence on Tony's clothes if he changed his mind. He cleaned up the cuts on Tony's face and gently wiped the dried, encrusted remains of the bodily fluid – either vomit or semen or both – from the corners of Tony's mouth. Then he leaned back.

"Tony – who did this to you?" he asked quietly.

"Doesn't matter. I kind of deserved it."

Gibbs felt his jaw tighten. "You know there's no way in hell I'll let you get away with that answer, don't you?"

Slowly, hesitantly, Tony raised his face to meet Gibbs's hard gaze. "Yes," he said quietly. "I figured."

"So what happened?"

"I screwed up." Tony shrugged. Gibbs sat back and waited. When nothing more was forthcoming he tapped Tony's knee. Tony nodded and continued. "There was this top." He paused again.

"Anyone I know?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

Tony shook his head vehemently. "No. Oh God no. He was just this one night stand – a really crappy one night stand. I pissed him off a few weeks ago and then ran into him a couple of days later and pissed him off again."

"Pissed him off how?" Gibbs demanded.

"Humiliated him." Tony grimaced. "I behaved like a shit to be honest. I knew what I was doing – I hated the guy, so I enjoyed baiting him. Then tonight, he caught me on my own in a dark alley – and he had some friends with him. Three against one. Got in a few punches before…" He trailed off, swallowing hard.

"What did they do?" Gibbs fought down his own anger.

"Forced me onto my knees. Slapped me around a bit. And then…" Tony reached up and touched his neck, breathing heavily. "Oh shit," he whispered.

He clutched his stomach again, and Gibbs grabbed him, ran him into the kitchen and shoved him over the sink. Tony threw up into it, although mostly he just brought up yellow bile; there didn't seem to be anything else left in him.

Gibbs got a bottle of water out of the cupboard and unscrewed the cap. When Tony was done throwing up Gibbs handed him the bottle silently, and Tony took several grateful gulps. He looked at Gibbs with dark, haunted eyes.

"He put his collar on me, Boss," he said, his voice hitching as he spoke. "On me. He put his collar on *me*." He sounded as if he couldn't believe it. "Then he fucked my mouth while his buddies held me in place with my arms shoved up my back. One of them held a knife to my throat to keep me from biting the bastard's dick off. Afterwards they ran away, and I took off that damn collar and threw up onto it in the alley. "

Gibbs went very still. Legally, collaring an unwilling sub was almost as serious an offence as sexual assault; the emotional fallout for a sub could be severe and long-lasting. Gibbs knew Tony's views on being collared and was all too well aware of how devastated he must be right now.

"You know who this bastard is?"

"Yeah." Tony nodded.

"You gonna tell me?"

"No."

"I thought you'd say that." Gibbs rocked back on his heels and gazed at Tony. He looked terrible; his face was white as chalk, his hair was sticking up all over the place, and his clothes were stained with vomit and semen. Now was not the time to press him further on the identity of his assailant. "Come with me," he said firmly.

"Boss?" Tony's head jerked up.

Gibbs gestured towards the stairs. "You need a shower and a change of clothes. You'll stay here tonight."

He watched the play of emotions on Tony's face and it reminded him of that stray cat again. He'd managed to entice Tony into the house, but he was still too freaked out and feral to accept the comfort he so clearly needed right now.

"No. I'll go home," Tony said. "I shouldn't have come here in the first place." He started walking towards the door.

"DiNozzo!" Gibbs rapped out. Tony hesitated and then turned back. "You don't wanna be arguing with me tonight," Gibbs told him in his most authoritative tone of voice. He knew that what the sub in Tony needed right now was for the top in him to be in charge. "Now follow me."

He walked out of the room and up the stairs without looking back to see if Tony was following. He went into the bathroom, took a clean towel out of the cupboard, and hung it on the radiator to warm. He straightened up to find Tony hovering skittishly in the doorway, watching him. Gibbs turned on the shower.

"Your clothes stink," Gibbs said in a low, calm tone, taking care not to make any sudden, jerky movements. "I'll get you some sweats while you take a shower. Take as long as you want in here."

He left the room and went into his bedroom to get a clean pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt. He put them down on the bed and then stood there, allowing the rage to course through him. He wanted to pound his fist into the wall, or yell, but he wasn't going to do that with Tony so near in case it spooked him. Tony had come here, to him, despite the fact that he didn't trust tops. That was a massive step for him, and Gibbs knew that it wouldn't take much to frighten him away again. He wasn't going to risk that happening.

He got control of himself and then waited until he heard the shower being turned off before returning to the bathroom with the clean clothes. He knocked on the door and opened it to find Tony standing there with the towel wrapped around his waist. Gibbs handed him the sweatpants and tee shirt.

Then he went and retrieved a new toothbrush from the bathroom cupboard and placed it by the sink, next to the toothpaste. "Here. I figure you might want to clean your teeth as you've been throwing up."

He gathered up Tony's soiled clothes, took them downstairs, and put them in a trash sack. When he turned around he was surprised to find Tony standing behind him, dressed in the sweatpants and tee shirt. His hair was wet and the bruises on his face stood out in livid contrast to the pallor of his skin. Gibbs noticed more bruises on his wrists from where his arms had been held behind his back. He fought down another wave of fury; his anger wouldn't help Tony right now.

Standing there, with bare feet and big eyes, Tony looked like a lost, scared child, and Gibbs wanted to hold him like he'd held Kelly when she'd woken up screaming from a nightmare.

"Always swore I'd never let a top hurt me, Boss," Tony whispered.

"Yeah. I know."

"So why do I keep letting it happen? First Dana and now him. Why do I keep putting myself in that position?" He looked broken.

Gibbs shrugged. "Damned if I know, Tony."

Tony bit down on his lip and a droplet of blood welled up in one of the cuts. "I think I've screwed up your evening enough. I'll go now." He stood there, swaying uncertainly.

Gibbs knew he didn't want to go. "Why did you come here, Tony?" he asked gently.

Tony looked down at the ground and then back up at him. "Didn't know where else to go, Boss."

"That all?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "What did you want from me, Tony?"

"Just…I dunno." Tony shrugged.

"I think you do."

Tony wrapped his arms around his own body and hugged himself tightly, answering Gibbs's question as clearly as if he'd spoken the words out loud.

"Come here, Tony." Gibbs held out a hand. Tony's eyes were an agony of uncertainty. Gibbs gazed at him steadily, willing him forwards. Tony took one faltering step towards him and then another - and then he stopped.

"I can take care of myself," he said.

"Yeah. I know." Gibbs stayed very still. He didn't want to spook Tony right now, or make him feel like he'd been backed into a corner. If he did that, Tony would turn around and run out of here, and he'd never see him again.

Tony took another step towards him. He was close enough to touch now. Gibbs waited some more. Tony shuffled forwards, one more step, and his eyes were full of such pathetic need that Gibbs couldn't hold back anymore. He reached out, wrapped his arm around Tony's shoulders, and drew him in the rest of the way.

Tony buried his face in the side of Gibbs's neck, trembling violently. Gibbs folded his arms tightly around Tony's shaking body and pulled him in close, freely offering him the hug he refused to ask for. Tony’s body was stiff and resistant. He bunched his hands in the hem of Gibbs's sweater and stood there, fighting it.

"It's okay, Tony. I've got you," Gibbs told him.

Tony made a low choking sound in the back of his throat and stamped his bare feet on the floor. Gibbs could sense the struggle inside him. He stroked the hair on the back of Tony's head and just stood there, holding his stiff body, while Tony fought a vicious, silent battle with himself. Gibbs knew how much Tony wanted to give in and accept the comfort of the hug, but he also knew how hard it was for him too.

They seemed to stand there forever, Tony's fists wrapped in Gibbs's sweater, his head buried in the side of Gibbs's neck, his chest heaving as he tried not to give in. Gibbs knew all about this kind of pain. He'd fought against it himself, and he knew that you had to give in eventually, even if in his case it had taken him ten years to do it. How long had it taken Tony to get to this point, he wondered? Maybe it had taken him his whole life, in which case it was hardly surprising he was struggling with it so much right now.

"I know how much it cost you to come here tonight, Tony," he said softly, gently rubbing Tony's back.

"Got my pride, Gibbs," Tony muttered into his neck. Then he gave a bitter little laugh. "Well, I used to have my pride anyway. Think I lost it out there tonight, in that alley, wearing that bastard's collar."

"Fuck it, DiNozzo, your pride's safe with me. I won't tell," Gibbs growled.

Tony gave a sound that started out like a laugh and then morphed into a low, choking sob. Then, finally, something seemed to break inside him, and he released his grip on Gibbs's sweater and slid his arms around Gibbs's back. His body relaxed, and he nestled in close, finally accepting the comfort Gibbs was offering. Gibbs rocked him in his arms, stroking his back, and Tony held on like a drowning man clinging to a life-raft.

Gibbs was very aware of the honour he was being paid. This sub in his arms had never trusted a top in his entire life, but he had chosen to come here tonight – to him. Gibbs tightened his grasp, relishing the way Tony's body melted into his, as if it belonged there.

He had finally won this sub's trust, and he made a silent vow that he would never betray it.

Gibbs hugged Tony for a very long time, until the trembling in his body had subsided and his breathing had calmed, and then he gently pushed him away. Tony looked dazed, like he wasn't entirely sure what was going on. He also looked completely exhausted, as if the events of the past few weeks had finally caught up with him.

Gibbs took him by the hand and led him up the stairs. He took him into the guest room and guided him into the bed.

"Uh…" Tony looked up at him from confused green eyes. "You want anything from me, Boss?" he asked.

Gibbs cuffed the back of his head lightly. "Not all help comes with strings attached, Tony."

Tony gave him a heart-stopping, completely unguarded smile, and Gibbs knew he was getting a rare glimpse at the sub buried deep behind Tony's many masks.

"No, Boss. Sorry, Boss. Oh, and sorry for apologising, Boss," he mumbled.

Gibbs laughed. He pulled the blankets up over him and then leaned down and kissed his dark hair. "Go to sleep, Tony," he said softly. "You're safe here."

Tony gave a hazy smile and then rolled onto his side and closed his eyes. He was asleep in seconds. Gibbs looked down on him, smiling to himself, and then he quietly left the room.

He went along to his own bedroom and opened a drawer in his closet. Inside were several black leather collars. They weren't anything fancy, but they were functional and comfortable, with a padded velvet lining; Gibbs wouldn't allow any sub of his to wear a collar that chafed. There was only so much wear you could get out of a collar though, and Ducky and Abby both needed regular replacements, so he'd picked up a handful in a sale in Walmart a few weeks ago.

Gibbs took one out and placed it on the nightstand, next to the photograph of Shannon and Kelly.

~*~

Tony lay in bed watching the sunlight streaming around the edges of the drapes. Downstairs, he could hear Gibbs moving around, and he could smell the enticing scent of coffee. He glanced at the clock on the nightstand; it was nearly noon, which meant he'd slept for hours.

He ached, his jaw was sore, and his lips were cracked and painful, but he felt at peace. It was as if he'd fought some kind of battle with himself and either lost or won – he wasn't sure which – he was just grateful the war was over.

He rolled onto his side and cautiously got out of the bed – his knees and arms ached from last night and his face felt sore but apart from that he was fine. He went over to the drapes and opened them, allowing the sunlight to flood the bedroom. In the daylight, he saw several boxes stacked up along one wall of the room. Curious, he went over to them.

One of them was open, and he could see a sweater inside. He pulled it out – it clearly belonged to a woman judging by the size and style. Beneath it, he found a silver belt that was so small it had to belong to a child. Tony frowned; Abby had said Gibbs had been married several times, but she'd never mentioned him having any children.

Tony peered into the box again and found a framed photograph of a woman with long red hair and mischievous green eyes. She was very pretty and there was an elegant gold collar around her neck. There was another photo underneath; Tony tugged it out from under a book and saw that same vivacious looking woman. This time she wasn't alone. Gibbs was with her – only he wasn't a Gibbs Tony knew. He was maybe a decade younger but the difference wasn’t his age. It was something else.

Tony studied the photo, trying to figure out what it was – and then it struck him: this Gibbs looked happy. And it wasn’t that the man he had come to know these past three weeks didn’t smile occasionally and even laugh – it was just that he always looked as if he was carrying some kind of burden. There was a quality of grief to him, as if he nursed some deep, private sadness that never went away.

Tony gazed at the photo, wondering what had happened in the past ten or so years to give Gibbs that burden of sadness. Maybe this woman was the reason why Gibbs refused to take subs to his bed now. There was a mystery here, and the naturally nosy part of him longed to find out what it was. But last night Gibbs had been there for him when he needed him most, and Tony wasn't about to repay that kindness by digging into this box and disturbing memories that Gibbs had clearly wanted packed away.

Tony put everything back into the box and closed it again. Then he went along the hallway to the bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror as he washed his hands and winced; his face was bruised and his lips badly split in places. There was a red line around his neck from where Jake had buckled his collar too tight. Tony wished that line wasn't visible; he hated it for reminding him of that nightmare.

He turned away from his reflection and went downstairs, lured by the smell of coffee. He found Gibbs sitting at the kitchen table, the day's papers spread out around him, a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him and a mug of coffee in his hand.

Gibbs glanced up and smiled. "How you doing?"

"I'm fine. Aren't we...?" Tony paused, bemused. "It's late – aren't we due at work?"

Gibbs shook his head. "We've got the day off. I called in and told the director we wouldn't be in today."

"Sorry. Again." Tony sighed.

Gibbs pushed a chair away from the table with his boot. "Sit," he ordered.

Tony did as he was told. Gibbs poured him a mug of coffee from the pot on the table. Tony inhaled deeply and then took a sip and almost choked on it. Damn, Gibbs liked his coffee strong!

“Want something to eat?” Gibbs asked. Tony was aware that his belly was painfully empty after last night’s vomiting. He nodded, and Gibbs went and piled up a plate with bacon and eggs that were warming in the pan. He returned to the table and placed the plate in front of him. Tony wondered, for one brief moment, what it would be like to share a plate with this man, but then he shoved the thought back down again. Since when had he been the kind of sub who harboured secret fantasies about sharing a plate with a top?

Tony found that he was starving, and he shovelled the food into his mouth as fast as he could. Gibbs watched him eat without saying a word. When he had finished his breakfast, Gibbs handed him a folded section of his newspaper.

"What's this?" Tony raised an eyebrow.

"Something you need to read." Gibbs nodded his head at the paper.

Tony looked down with a frown and found a small item, two thirds of the way down the page, that Gibbs had marked with an asterisk.

"Baltimore PD detective arrested in corruption probe." Tony glanced up questioningly. Gibbs nodded at him to continue. "Baltimore PD detective Dana Morley was arrested by the FBI yesterday on suspected corruption charges. She was recently the subject of an Internal Affairs inquiry into the murder of undercover police officer, Doug Warren. FBI agent Tobias Fornell says they have strong evidence linking her to an organised crime syndicate he has been investigating for the past two years."

Tony looked up again, his jaw dropping open in surprise. "You did this?"

Gibbs shrugged. "Said I'd take her down."

"Yeah, but I thought it was just…"

"Empty talk?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Toppy posturing?"

"Something like that. I didn't think you meant it. Even if you did, I had no idea it'd be this fast." Tony gave a little whistle of appreciation. "How the hell did you do it?"

"I spent some time listening to those tapes you made. I found something linking her to Hansen, so I did some digging and then handed the whole thing over to Fornell. Killed two birds with one stone – took Morley down and now Fornell owes me – and I love it when Fornell owes me." He gave a smug kind of grin, and Tony laughed out loud.

"Thank you," he said, handing the paper back to Gibbs.

"I keep my word, Tony."

"Yes. I know that now."

Gibbs got up and retrieved a trash sack from a cupboard.

"You have a decision to make," he said, opening up the sack so Tony could take a look inside. Tony saw his soiled clothes from the previous night and swallowed down the bitter bile that rose in the back of his throat.

"Not gonna puke again, are you?" Gibbs asked.

Tony shook his head. "Not this time."

"This is your choice, Tony. If you want to go to the police then I'll come with you, and we can take the clothes along as evidence. If not, we can take them outside and burn 'em. I doubt you'll want to wear them again."

"No." Tony shuddered.

"So what's it to be?"

Tony sighed. "Gibbs – I don't do relationships. I pick up tops in clubs and half the time I don't even bother to ask their names. I've slept with so many tops I can’t even begin to remember them all. Sometimes I like it rough. Sometimes I like it painful. Sometimes I like to be held down and fucked so hard that I forget my own name. If I take this to the police, all this will come out in court. Nobody will believe that what happened to me in that alley last night wasn't a sex game."

Gibbs didn't look happy about it, but Tony could tell that he understood and respected his decision.

"You like living that kind of life, Tony?"

Tony stared at him morosely. "No. I hate it. I'm tired of it, Gibbs. Beyond tired. I just can't seem to stop myself."

"Want some help?" Gibbs asked quietly.

"Help?" Tony frowned. "What kind of help?"

Gibbs reached into his pocket and pulled something out. He threw it into the air, and Tony caught it – and his breath caught in his throat.

It was a collar.

It was plain black leather with a soft, velvet lining, very like the ones Abby and Ducky wore.

"It's yours if you want it, and if you think it'll help," Gibbs told him. "Your choice, Tony. I know how you feel about being collared. Might not be what you want."

Tony looked down, caressing the smooth leather of the collar with his thumb. He felt hot tears pricking behind his eyes and blinked them away. He looked up again to find Gibbs gazing at him intently.

"There are conditions," Gibbs said.

"Yes. I thought there would be." Tony managed a wan smile.

"It's not a traditional kind of collar. You know the deal I have with Abby and Ducky – I can only offer you the same deal; nothing more, nothing less. I don't have anything else to give." He said that flatly, and when Tony looked up he saw that burden of grief sitting on Gibbs’s shoulders like a shroud.

"If I accept it, I'll be your submissive?" Tony asked.

"Yup." Gibbs nodded. "Same as Abby and Ducky. You'll walk on my leash, and you'll be subject to my discipline. You'll take any punishments I hand out: No HR, no NCIS, no paperwork – it'll be between me and you, and if I want to spank you, I will."

Tony's stomach flipped.

"I won't just punish you for work screw-ups but for personal screw-ups too. If you wear my collar, you'll submit to any punishments I see fit to hand out. No questions. No refusals. And absolutely no arguing about it," Gibbs said firmly. "I know that’s asking a lot of you, so you'll have to think about whether you trust me."

Tony gave a wry little snort and shook his head.

"Yeah. I know." Gibbs gave a little laugh. "Trust isn’t your strong suit – which is why you need to be sure about this. You've only known me for three weeks, but you've seen enough in that time to have an idea of the kind of a top I am. I'm fair, I'll respect you, and I'll always have your best interests at heart. But I'm strict, no doubt about that, and when I punish, I punish hard."

"Yeah. I figured." Tony continued to caress the black leather collar with his thumb. It was soft, shiny, and smooth. He could smell the new-leather tang even without holding it up to his nose.

"I take good care of all my subs," Gibbs continued. "You’ll be able to rely on me 100%, but I won't sleep with you."

Tony felt his heart sink.

"Be very clear on this, Tony. I’m not asking for full body rights over you, and I won’t be requesting any kind of sexual favours."

"Even if they're freely offered?" Tony gave a cheeky smile.

Gibbs glared at him. "No. It's not part of this deal."

"Pity." Tony made a face.

Gibbs shook his head. "Maybe you need to rethink your whole approach to sex because from what I can see, it doesn't seem to be working for you."

"Yeah. I met someone last night who said the same thing."

"Maybe you should listen."

"Maybe." Tony shrugged. "So, how's the collar supposed to help me exactly, Gibbs?"

"It'll give you someone to belong to while you figure yourself out – someone who cares what you do and whether you screw up. It'll give you discipline and grounding. It'll make you accountable to someone outside of yourself – someone with the authority to question your decisions and point out where you're going wrong."

"Sounds restrictive." Tony gazed down at the collar.

Gibbs nodded. "It is. It has to be, if it's going to be any use to you. If you wear my collar then I'll ask you deeply personal questions and expect honest answers. If you lie to me – and you really don't want to do that – then I will blister your ass so hard you'll regret it for the rest of your life."

Tony winced. "Any other conditions?" he asked.

"Yes. If you want to sleep with a top you'll ask my permission."

"Every time?" Tony thought of all the many one night stands he'd had. "That'll put a serious crimp in my style, Boss."

"Yeah – that's the point. You take sex pretty casually, Tony, and you said yourself that you're tired of it. If you have to ask my permission first, it'll focus you on what you really want and what you're intending to get out of it. Hell, I’m not likely to refuse permission without good reason – I don’t want that kind of control over you – I will point out any downsides I see though.”

Tony twisted the collar around in his fingers. He wanted it. God, he wanted it so badly. But did he want the conditions that came with it?

"So what are the upsides to wearing your collar?"

Gibbs grunted. "Oh, I think you already know those, Tony. No sub of mine ever takes public discipline, so if I have to take it for you then I will. You might like to bear that in mind whenever you're thinking of doing something really stupid."

Tony was aghast. "I can't let you take another whipping for me, Boss! That was bad enough first time around."

“Then it might be a good way of keeping your behaviour in check." Gibbs shrugged. "Knowing I'm the one who'll take a whipping for the consequences of your actions – not you. Might make you think twice."

"But I'm…well, I'm kinda naughty, Boss. Are you sure you want to offer this to me?" Tony held up the collar. "You're taking a hell of a risk – or at least your butt is."

Gibbs laughed. "Tony, if I have to take another whipping for you, then I promise that your butt will feel it too next time – privately."

Tony had no doubt that Gibbs's spankings would hurt just as much, if not more, than anything he'd receive in the workplace discipline room, or even in the courthouse. Tony liked a certain degree of pain as part of sex when he was in the right mood, but he wasn't very keen on it as punishment. He gazed at Gibbs’s square, blunt hands. What would those feel like spanking his bare ass he wondered? He gave an involuntary shiver, imagining how exquisitely terrifying and yet curiously enjoyable it would feel to be swung over Gibbs’s knee for a good, hard, hand spanking.

"What kind of things will you spank me for?"

Gibbs shook his head. "That’s up to me. If you wear my collar then I'll spank you at my discretion – because you screwed up, or simply because I think you need it."

"That's not very reassuring."

"It's how it is." Gibbs gave a shrug. "I'm not saying this will be easy, Tony. I'm just trying to give you a realistic picture of how it'll be."

Tony continued to stroke the leather collar, wondering what it would feel like around his neck. Would it make him feel like he was choking, as Jake's collar had?

"I will always be there for you, Tony. I'll never let you down. In return I expect your complete obedience. I know I already have your loyalty, and I hope you know you have mine," Gibbs told him.

Tony nodded thoughtfully. "What happens if it doesn't work out, Gibbs?"

Gibbs shrugged. "Then you can repudiate the collar, same as any normal collar. You should be very sure about it if you do that though because I'm unlikely to let you have it back again. So you should take some time to think about it."

"I don't need time," Tony said, without hesitation. He held up the collar.

"Not for you, huh?" Gibbs gave a wry smile. "Thought you might feel that way."

"You're wrong." Tony got down on his knees in front of Gibbs. They still hurt from last night, but he ignored the soreness. He looked up to find Gibbs looking down on him with a startled but satisfied expression on his face. "Collar me, Boss. I know I'll screw up, and I'm pretty sure your right arm will get tired of having me around, but I'm not happy. I want something to change. And I trust you."

The words came out without any hesitation at all, and he saw Gibbs's eyes flash in response to the admission.

"Yeah, I know, I know.” Tony gave a wry smile. “I haven't changed my opinion of tops, Boss, I still don't trust them – but I do trust you."

Gibbs gave an amused snort. "You might also find you hate me sometimes," he said, unbuckling the collar in his hands.

"I do sometimes anyway," Tony replied, with a grin.

Gibbs slapped the back of his head, and Tony laughed out loud, feeling his belly flood with warmth the way it always did when Gibbs slapped him.

Gibbs placed warm, gentle fingers on his neck. "Sure?"

"Sure," Tony said firmly. What did he have to lose?

Gibbs examined his neck. "Skin's bruised, so I'll buckle it loosely – you can tighten it when you heal."

Tony lifted his head so that Gibbs could fasten the collar around his neck. It wasn’t such a big deal – like Gibbs said, if it didn’t work out he could repudiate it. Hell, it probably wouldn’t change his life much at all. It was just a strip of leather. What difference would it really make? So it would give Gibbs more of a say in his life and the right to punish him – so what? That wasn’t likely to be much of an issue. He could take any spankings that came his way. It wasn’t like Gibbs was asking him to commit to a sexual relationship – he knew he wasn’t ready for anything like that. No, this was a collar of convenience – that was all. It wouldn’t change anything.

He was wrong.

He was completely and utterly wrong, and he knew that the instant Gibbs buckled the collar in place. It changed *everything*.

This collar wasn't just a strip of leather – it was so much more. It was a lifeline, a promise, and a symbol of respect. It was a statement of intent, a caress, and a solemn vow between a top and his submissive. It was about protection, service and love. It spoke to the inner sub deep inside Tony that he rarely let anyone see.

This collar wasn't something to be taken lightly or repudiated on a whim. This collar had meaning and suddenly, too late, he found that he was old-fashioned and romantic to his core. He could never sleep with another top while he wore this collar. It simply wasn’t possible.

He belonged to Gibbs and for as long as he wore this man's collar no other top would ever touch him.

“You okay?” Gibbs asked, looking down on him. Tony wondered if this moment could possibly mean as much to Gibbs as it did to him. The man had two other collared subs after all. “Regretting it already?” Gibbs looked like he wasn’t sure if Tony was going to make a run for it.

“No.” Tony shook his head firmly. “Just thinking how different it feels to last night.”

Gibbs’s eyes darkened. “Yeah, well, it should. Anyone who collars an unwilling sub deserves to be bullwhipped.”

He leaned forward, took Tony’s head in his hands, tipped it up, and pressed a firm kiss to Tony’s forehead. Tony closed his eyes and surrendered willingly to the loving caress. He felt as if he’d been delivered up into safety after years of danger.

“You’re mine now,” Gibbs said, drawing back and looking down on him, his hands still pressed against the sides of Tony’s face. “Thank you for wearing my collar, Tony. I’ll take damn good care of you, I promise you that.”

He took a step backwards, and Tony got up. He was acutely aware of the collar around his neck and how his life had changed. He was a collared sub now. He belonged to someone. The collar created a bond between himself and this man here. Gibbs was no longer just his boss, or some stranger he’d met a few weeks ago. He was his top and that had profound implications for Tony.

Gibbs picked up the sack with his clothes in it and gestured to Tony to follow him outside.

They went into the back yard, and Gibbs threw the contents of the sack onto the ground.

“Leather jacket looks expensive,” Gibbs commented, touching it with his boot. “Sure you want to burn that? You could get it dry cleaned.”

“No.” Tony shook his head. “Burn it. Burn all of it, even the shoes. I don’t want any of this stuff anymore.”

Gibbs’s blue eyes were inscrutable, but Tony knew that he somehow understood. This wasn’t about a set of clothes – it was about saying goodbye to the past and making a fresh start. The collar he was wearing marked the change between the old Tony and the new. He had been given a second chance, and he was going to grab it with both hands.

Gibbs got the lighter fluid from the barbecue and sprinkled some on the pile of clothes. Then he lit a match and tossed it onto them.

He took a step back, and the two men stood there, side by side, watching Tony’s past go up in flames.

End of Part Eleven
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Part Twelve
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