Main NCSI Slash page | The new stories | Tony/Gibbs stories | Other pairings stories | Het stories | Gen NCIS stories

Title: Chains
By: nancy
Pairing: Tony/Gil Grissom (CSI), Tony/Gibbs, Gibbs/Nick Stokes (CSI)
Fandom: NCIS
Rating: R
Warnings: serious kink, BDSM, angst, BDSM with humiliation
Summary: Tony goes to Las Vegas to get things off his chest after Twilight and is introduced to Gil Grissom.

***

Vegas was as glittery, hot, crowded, and noisy as Tony remembered from his other visits. He liked to go at least once a year to let off a different kind of steam than the trips to spring break. The kind of steam that would probably get him arrested in Florida barely caused a blip on the Vegas radar. He took his first day and early evening to just wander the strip, gambling when a brightly flashing game caught his eye, people watching as he got used to the area again.

He enjoyed the freedom that came with anonymity as much as, maybe more than, any perp. All the stress that came with being a Federal Agent, all the recognition and power it brought wore him down over time until he had to find a way to let it all go so he could start over and do his job to the best of his ability.

Unfortunately, Tony came on a crime scene being processed that night, which ruined the carefree vibe he'd managed to drum up throughout the day. He watched from the side of the crowd as the local CSU went over everything with a thoroughness that Gibbs would have admired. A beautiful blond woman, a young guy with stylishly messy hair, and another woman, dark haired this time, took pictures and collected evidence.

A few minutes into the unexpected reminder of his job, a black SUV arrived and a man got out. Tony didn't really notice him until the cops stepped aside to let him through, keeping the crowd well away from the man. He was probably Gibbs' age with salt-n-pepper hair and a darkish beard, handsome features, and a quiet authority to which everyone deferred, even the cops. Surprised and instantly attracted by that, Tony stuck around to watch the man work. He was an expert, no doubt about that. The way he talked to the others was quiet and confident, but not arrogant, furthering the attraction.

It was when the man scanned the crowd, probably to see who was hanging around, that their eyes met. From several feet away it was impossible to tell what color they were, even with Tony's sight, but the piercing intensity in them was unmistakable. Tony had to consciously lock his knees in order not to embarrass himself. Flushing, Tony looked to the ground to regain control of himself for a few seconds. When his head lifted again, the man was gazing elsewhere and Tony used the opportunity to slip away.

Holy fuck! Tony thought as he took slow breaths to calm down. I need this a hell of a lot more than I thought I did if a stranger can make me want to drop to my knees in the middle of the street! Jesus. I better call Lady Heather tonight to make an appointment for tomorrow.

Shaken, he hurried back to his hotel.

*  *  *  *

It wasn't often that Gil found himself back at Lady Heather's establishment. After he'd mistakenly brought her in for questioning, things had been awkward between them for a long time. To be honest, the awkwardness had all been on his side, but that didn't make it any less real. When he'd finally come to terms with his distrust and how it had caused him to overreact, Gil had been able to meet with her and apologize without feeling like he'd lost face. Being the gracious woman that she was, Heather hadn't held his actions against him and accepted his apology.

After seeing that young man on The Strip the night before, Gil had started feeling that itch again. He'd been gorgeous; tall and strong, thick brown hair and an incredibly open face that had practically begged for someone to push him down on his knees. Gil had been able to see that in a matter of seconds despite the distance, and had fully planned to take him aside after the scene had been processed, but the man had disappeared without a trace.

Fortunately, he had the next two days off since they'd managed to clear the case in nearly that same hour. The poor woman who'd been an abused wife for fifteen years had finally snapped, shooting her husband in the middle of a crowded street when he'd backhanded her in front of witnesses. It was a sober counterweight to the urges he had to bend someone over like that beautiful young man and take a switch or a whip to perfect skin and mar it, however temporarily.

Sometimes Gil had to take a few days and make sure that he was in complete control of himself before even thinking about calling Lady Heather. But all he really had to do was think of that woman or others like her and know that he wouldn't ever be like that. The men he punished, the men he fucked and sometimes raped depending on his mood, they were there because they wanted to be there. They craved exactly what he needed to give and Gil knew just how to give it. He'd been doing it for a long time and it was as much a part of him as breathing.

Gil smiled faintly on hearing moans and cries waft down from the second level. It sounded like a full house and he said as much to Heather when she greeted him. "Are you sure you have room for me?"

"I not only have room, I have the perfect man for you," she replied, tucking her arm around his and leading him to the stairs. "He comes to town about once a year and is one of the most natural submissives I've ever met. Well trained, despite the lack of a permanent Master, and obedient. He's had some trouble lately, works in law enforcement, so it will probably be more difficult for him to let go tonight, but you can be sure that he wants to. I've rarely seen the poor boy wound so tight, so desperate to be made to let go. You are just what he needs."

"Sounds like a match made in Heaven," Gil murmured.

She smiled. "Oh it is, Gilbert, trust me."

Taking her hand, Gil kissed it and replied, "I do."

Lady Heather nodded towards a door at the end of the hall. "He's already bound and blindfolded, waiting for whatever you want to dish out."

"Recommendations and safeword?"

"He can take quite a lot. I'd start out with the paddle and work him over good with the crop. Don't stop until he truly starts to cry, or he won't get what he needs," she told him. "And his safeword is basketball."

Gil grinned briefly and observed, "A sports fan."

"A disappointed athlete, unfortunately, due to injury," Heather corrected.

Oh. Well that makes sense then, Gil thought. "Thank you."

She kissed his cheek and said, "You're welcome, Gilbert. Be very stern and harsh with him until he breaks and, well, you know what to do. I'm sorry about being such a busy body, but he's a special man."

Gil returned the brief kiss to her cheek. "I can see that. Thank you for trusting him with me."

With a nod and another smile, Heather left him in the hall.

Looking at the door for a moment, Gil closed his eyes and took several slow, deep breaths, getting into the right spot for what was to come. His body was thrumming with energy and a buzz that was only present when he had someone completely under his control, or he was anticipating it.

Opening his eyes, Gil smiled coolly to no one at all and opened the door.

*  *  *  *

Tony's ears strained as the door opened from behind him, but there was no sound save the quiet closing of the door a few seconds later. Whoever it was moved with a stealth that Gibbs would've been jealous of.

Stop thinking about him!

Angry with himself for letting work-thoughts intrude, Tony tugged futilely on the leather restraints that held him against the wooden post that was permanently embedded into the floor.

"It's not going anywhere and neither are you."

Tony froze at the warm, rich voice that spoke from a lot closer than should have been possible, fingers wrapping instinctively around the chains that were attached to his cuffs. There was just enough slack for him to be turned to various directions, but he definitely wasn't going anywhere, like the voice said.

"Not for a long time."

Swallowing nervously at the promise, Tony opened his mouth to ask something, though he wasn't sure what, except a finger was laid across it.

"No speaking from here on out unless it's your safeword, which is...?"

Tony licked his lips when the finger was removed and answered, "Basketball."

"Very good."

There was absolutely no warning between the praise and the hard slap of wood against his bare ass. Tony yelped in surprise, more than pain, and jerked away without thinking. The paddling began in full force and though he squirmed away from it, the man was relentless and there was no way that Tony could get away from it for real, not chained as he was. Even his ankles were cuffed into place.

It stopped as abruptly as it had started, leaving Tony panting and wrecked from the heat in his ass. It stung like a bitch, but felt so fucking good at the same time that he was groaning in pleasure.

"So pretty," the man observed, trailing a single finger down Tony's spine to scratch a nail over the tender skin.

Tony gasped at the additional pain that seemed somehow more than the paddling.

"I'm pleased that you found your way here. I was going to take you aside at the crime scene last night, but you disappeared too quickly."

Shock ripped through him and he asked, "You were there? Are you a cop? Who are you?"

There was a disappointed noise and Tony abruptly remembered that he wasn't supposed to talk. Warm lips sucked gently on his shoulder and a tongue slid down one shoulder blade to the spine that was still tingling from the finger. He moaned desperately when that tongue pushed inside his hole and he was skillfully and enthusiastically eaten out. It was one of the most embarrassing and difficult things for him to accept, having someone's mouth on him there, and there was no way that he could have known that save Lady Heather telling him.

When it stopped, Tony sagged gratefully against the post...until the paddling started up again.

*  *  *  *

To coin a phrase, it was Christmas come early for Gil and he was thoroughly enjoying his present. Finding that young man from the crime scene literally wrapped up and waiting for him had instantly hardened his cock and sent a thrill through him that he hadn't felt in far too long; maybe ever.

He'd slid off his shoes immediately, wanting to keep the other man on his toes, and taken a good long look at his slave before starting. Watching him strain against the cuffs, seeing the strong body helpless, the sweat beading and rolling down the grooves of muscle, it had hardened him further and yet added to his control. Gil wanted to make this man break down, wanted to split him open and put him back together again in such a way that it was to him that the man looked and no one else.

After the second paddling, when there was no real sign of tears that weren't a purely physical response, Gil returned the instrument to its place on the dresser and picked up the crop. It could get places that the paddle couldn't, after all. He took a minute to turn the young man so that he faced out, vulnerable in many ways that he hadn't been.

Gil slid the crop over the broad chest then flicked the tip over each nipple before trailing it south to the straining dick. There was no cockring in place, he noted with satisfaction, and he wondered just how far he could go before the discipline was lost and the young man came without permission. When the crop lightly tapped the cock, goosebumps broke out over the smooth skin.

"I have as yet to punish you for speaking out of turn," Gil commented, continuing to tap the crop up and down the shaft without impact.

His captive swallowed convulsively, but remained silent.

Smiling, Gil brought the lash down hard, but on the tender, deep-red ass cheek. The skin raised in response, red on red, and he took a moment to admire the straight, up and down line and observed, "Very nice."

Unable to resist, Gil leaned in and gently pulled the lower lip from the other man's teeth as he said, "That belongs to me and I don't wish to mar Lady Heather's carpet with your blood. Well, not from your lip, at least. You can cry out as much as you like, just no words, am I understood?"

There was a shaky nod and exhalation.

Gil moved close and took the swollen lip between his, sucking on it and then possessing the mouth itself in a first kiss. The young man whimpered as he was kissed, mouth falling open with a submissiveness that called to Gil. The kiss grew more aggressive until he was devouring, teeth clicking against teeth as Gil tried to explore every nook and cranny, every ridge on the palate, and the tonsils at the back. When he pulled back, Gil was breathing every bit as hard as his captive and licked the saliva from the corner of the man's lips.

"You're mine," Gil informed him softly, but firmly. "I want to know your name. Your real and full name."

There was a long moment when he thought the young man wasn't going to answer. Gil could practically see the wheels turning in the other's mind, consequences that could happen from that information being divulged.

At long last, the young man whispered, "Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo."

Triumph filled him and Gil took his mouth in another hard kiss as a reward.

*  *  *  *

White panic filled him as the words left his mouth, but then another kiss obliterated all rational thought and any need to panic. It told him that he was okay, that he would be taken care of, that he could trust this man. Even if he hadn't been given into the man's care by Lady Heather, whom he trusted implicitly, Tony knew that this was the man who'd been in charge of the crime scene. He didn't have a name yet, but he'd finally recognized the voice.

"Ssh, it's okay Anthony, it's going to be fine," the man soothed, fingers combing through his hair. "You're all right, I promise."

Tony took a deep breath and slowly released it, instinctively believing what this man said. There was no mistaking the sincerity in his voice, it was there right with the command, and Tony responded to both.

After a brief silence, his new Master, and the man couldn't be anyone else now, stated, "I'm going to punish you now and then I'm going to fuck you. If you come without permission, I'll punish you again. When we're done, I'm going to care for you and then we'll talk."

There was no need to reply, even if he hadn't been forbidden to speak, because it was a simple outline, not a request for suggestions or opinions. Tony's head fell back against the post with a thunk and he tried to brace himself for the crop.

The slice of a whip across his chest tore a shocked, pained cry from him.

*  *  *  *

Gil had used the panic and confusion to trade the crop for the whip, knowing that it wouldn't cut through what needed to be dealt with. He could tell that this man, Anthony, was far stronger even than he looked, as well as far more vulnerable. Gil had made his living studying people and things, being able to assess them within minutes to determine guilt or innocence, and he used that skill tonight to full advantage.

Something had happened to push Anthony close to the edge of breaking without anyone to pick up the pieces. Certainly not within a safe environment like this. It actually hurt to think of this beautiful young man suffering all alone. Unfortunately, whatever that something was, it had also pushed his barriers up far past what had to be normal for him. Heather hadn't said anything about needing more than the crop, but there had barely been a reaction to that, aside from the purely autonomic raising of skin into a welt.

He kept the blows hard enough to bring up angry wheals, but not going hard enough to break the skin. Not yet. Gil stopped when his arm began to grow tired, lowering it to look at the neatly spaced lines that went straight across the young man's chest. The nipples looked particularly pained, not having been spared, red and swollen more so than the rest of the area. Leaning in, he whispered into Anthony's ear, "It wasn't your fault."

Anthony jerked away in shock, mouth opening to protest.

Gil popped three fingers into the open mouth and ordered, "Suck them."

Though hesitant at first, it took only a few seconds for Anthony to get up to speed, sucking on the fingers like a cock and his life depended on it.

"Listen to me, Anthony. It was not your fault," Gil repeated, knowing suddenly that he was dealing with survivor's guilt, if not exactly what kind. He'd seen it often enough over the years. It made sense, given the man was in law enforcement. Loss of a partner, perhaps? If so, perhaps he was going about this the wrong way.

Pulling his fingers free, Gil silently returned the whip to the table before retaking his place beside Anthony. Thinking about it a moment, he wrapped one hand around the slightly wilted cock and said firmly, "There was absolutely nothing that you could do. You're alive and you're going to remain that way. You're going to live your life and continue to do good things with it. You're going to feel pleasure in sex and love and obedience. You're going to eat good food and listen to children laugh and see lovers as they kiss and stroll down a sidewalk. This is where you're meant to be, Anthony, nowhere else. Not dead in the ground, not on some quest for vengeance that will get you killed in penance for something that is not your fault in the first place."

During his impromptu speech, Gil had stroked the warm, mostly hard cock until it was back to its former strength. He saw the struggle on Anthony's face not to feel good, the need to hold back more than just not having permission to come. He was eaten up inside and needed to let it all go, whatever it was that had happened.

"This guilt doesn't belong to you any more, it belongs to me, just like the rest of you," Gil continued, his mouth practically on Anthony's ear. "I no longer allow you this guilt. You're going to let it all go to please me. Just let it go, Anthony, that's it. I can see how good you are, how much you want to give it up. So good, so pretty and obedient. That's it, good my boy, very good, let it go now. Come for me, come for me!"

The cry that was torn from him along with the orgasm was heartrending, but Gil didn't let up. Not until Anthony hung limp and shaking in his chains, crying in earnest with sobs shaking his body. Wiping the come from his hand, Gil bent down to undo the ankle cuffs first, then wrapped an arm around the other man's waist to hold him as he undid the wrist manacles. Anthony practically fell into his arms, clinging to him as he cried.

Whispering soothing words, kissing the tear-stained face, Gil brought him over to the big bed and settled him under the covers. Taking a few seconds to strip, he crawled under the blankets as well. Once Anthony was curled around him, Gil took off the soaked cloth that had hidden Anthony's eyes from him all this time. It was a long time before the young man was calm enough to accept the handkerchief that Gil offered to wipe his face. When hazel eyes shot through with red from the crying looked at him with something between gratitude and adoration, Gil smiled softly and asked, "Better?"

Anthony nodded shyly and pressed his face to Gil's chest without answering.

Gil chuckled and kissed the top of his head, allowing it for the moment. "You did well, Anthony, I'm proud of you. I want you to speak now, tell me exactly what you think you need to feel guilty about, and then I want you to go to sleep and have no nightmares, but sleep deep and restful."

Anthony's voice was rusty at first, as he talked about the terrorist who had taken the life of a fellow agent, a woman who had been like a sister to him. But it grew in strength and fondness, replacing sadness, as he continued to talk about Kate herself, instead of her death.

Hiding a smile as the yawns grew more and more frequent, Gil finally ordered, "It's time to sleep, Anthony. You can talk more about her tomorrow."

"Master, may I ask you something?" Anthony questioned hesitantly.

Gil nodded. "Unless I've told you not to speak, you can ask me anything."

"What's your name?"

"Gil Grissom."

With a deep sigh that turned into a yawn, Anthony smiled and mumbled, "S'nice name."

Kissing the top of Anthony's head, Gil repeated, "Sleep now. We'll talk more in the morning."

Among other things, Gil thought with an anticipatory smile as Tony fell asleep, heavy in his arms.

***

Tony woke surrounded by strong arms and a warm body; chest hair scratched against his back when he sighed deeply and the smell of an unfamiliar man filled his lungs. He couldn't believe just how much he'd given up earlier. He'd never let it get that personal and wasn't sure what would happen now. He'd never called another man Master before, not and meant it. It had always only been play before now, but that wasn't true anymore.

He smiled and thought, Definitely not true anymore.

Warm lips kissed the side of his throat and Tony shivered in response, turning his head to expose his throat further. The silent hint was taken and teeth bit into his flesh, gnawing on him, marking him, and he groaned, then gasped, "Please!"

He was shoved forward, face into the pillows, and his Master's voice said roughly into his ear, "I'll give you what I want to give you. Beg me all you want, pretty, but it won't help you unless I'm in the mood to indulge. Since you're new to me, you don't know, but that won't happen very often."

Tony shuddered violently, biting the pillow to keep from begging.

Those teeth bit sharply into his shoulder and kept biting all the way down his back to his ass, which was still really sore. The flat of his Master's tongue licked straight across to the center where he was again eaten out with skill and enthusiasm. Tony arched into it and away from it, heat and embarrassment running through him in equal measure. A finger pushed in roughly, twisting around inside until he saw stars and his head slammed back as he cried out in pleasure.

The finger was fast replaced by a thick, blunt cock that shoved into him without warning, just like everything else about this man. Mouth open in a silent cry of agonized need, Tony's fingers gripped tight into the blankets as he was fucked. He was brought up onto his knees by a tight hand in his hair and an arm around his waist. His body was owned by this man inside and around him, split apart by the cock ramming in and out of him. It was more than he'd ever felt before in his life and Tony couldn't stop himself from the begging that had always seemed so humiliating in other players he'd witnessed over the years. His voice cracked as he cried out without rhyme or reason whenever his prostate was hit, which was more often than not.

Tony needed to come, needed to come so badly, holding on to the ragged edge of control through sheer will. He didn't know what would happen if he came without permission, but it wouldn't be good. It seemed an interminable time later that he was pushed face down into the mattress and the other man lunged one last time into his battered body, filling him to overflowing. Mouthing the pillow, aching with need, Tony moaned and begged wordlessly into it.

"That's what I want, you're so perfect like this," that warm voice murmured breathlessly into his ear. "Feel so good around me, so tight and hot. But you're no virgin, are you? You're a slut, if not a whore, and I'm going to use you until you don't even know who you are anymore. You're going to belong to me body and soul, and I'm going to keep you so well. You're never going to want for anything, Anthony, I'm going to make sure of that. All you have to do is be just like this for me. Willing. Obedient. Needy."

"Please!" Tony gasped. "Please, yes!"

He was ridden again, the half-hard cock moving slowly but surely. The hot puffs of air on the back of his neck signaled the exertion the other man used to stimulate himself with Tony's body, as did the sweat that dripped down on him. Whimpering, about ready to come without permission, Tony writhed on the cock impaling him, legs spread as far as they could get in his need for more.

And then it just stopped. His Master's cock was withdrawn from his body, as was his Master from the bed altogether. Panting and struggling not to come, whimpering with need, Tony rolled onto his side to see what was going on. He was startled to discover the other man striding for the door. Then he heard the knock, which was quiet and polite, but somehow insistent, and knew that Lady Heather stood on the other side.

Tony struggled to get off the bed, barely managing to make his body respond to his commands, and literally fell to his knees beside it. He had to show them both that he was worthy of this man, had to make the proper obeisance even if his body felt like it had gone through the wringer. Face down on the soft carpet, Tony forced his arms up in front of him in a long line. They talked quietly so that he didn't hear, at least until his Master's voice rose just enough in anger to make out.

"I'm not letting him go, Heather. He doesn't want to."

"I can see that," she soothed. "But his supervisor has gotten worried without hearing from him."

"Even I let my people have days off. What is this man's problem? He doesn't own Anthony, I do."

Tony warmed inside at the firm declaration, even as his stomach sank at the news that Gibbs was looking for him. It had actually been three full days since he'd talked to anyone from home. It was probably McGee who'd blown the whistle, since Abby knew full well where he was and what he was doing.

"I'm sorry, Gil, I truly did not wish to disturb, but there's no help for it. Believe me."

There was an irritated sigh before the voices lowered again so that Tony couldn't hear what was going on. Not that it mattered. He would be told what to do and would do it. A few minutes later, the conversation ended and Lady Heather left, the door closed softly behind her.

"I suppose you heard that."

Directly addressed, Tony nodded without raising himself and replied, "Enough to know what's going on, Master. I'm sorry to be such a problem."

Gentle hands caressed through his hair and his Master replied, "You're not a problem, Anthony. This is just an unforeseen matter to be dealt with, is all. Come, kneel up for me."

Tony pushed into a kneeling position and was steadied by hands on his shoulders and the warmth shining back from pale blue eyes. He gazed back just as steadily and asked, "Yes, Master?"

Lightly gripping the back of Tony's neck, the other man said, "I need you to come up for me, Anthony."

His stomach clenched and Tony closed his eyes, whispering, "Don't make me, please don't make me, Master. I'm not ready. I, I can't face him, not yet."

"Oh Anthony, it's going to be okay, I promise," his Master murmured, gathering him in close. "He's not here. All you have to do is talk to him on the phone, but you have to be clear-headed and yourself when you do, or he'll think something's happened to you."

Pulling back enough to meet the other's eyes, Tony answered simply, "It has."

A warm smile curved his Master's lips.

*  *  *  *

Watching Anthony struggle to come up from his subspace was both gratifying and dismaying. It wasn't fair that someone should make him interrupt what was so very obviously needed. The fact that it took a good hour of question and answer on current events and movies to get the young man back into his 'normal' headspace told Gil just how far down he'd gone. He'd also found out that calling him Anthony didn't help and had been told to call him Tony, instead; it was the name he'd used since he was a kid, what everyone used.

He let Tony shower on his own, accepting that the time alone was needed to get back into his own skin, so to speak. Though he would have loved to see the young man wet and writhing in that environment, too. He still hadn't gotten a real taste of him yet.

Well, aside from his ass, Gil amended silently with a smile.

And that had been so damn good that he wanted the rest as well. He wanted to swallow Tony's seed down and so much more. He hadn't really made Tony come yet, the night before notwithstanding; that had been about emotional release more than physical. He wanted to make the other lose it completely. He wanted Tony to come without permission and do it screaming while Gil pounded into him. And then he wanted to punish him for it, decorate that perfect ass with his bare hand.

Groaning, Gil gripped his cock and twisted it ruthlessly, gasping at the pain. Taking a few deep breaths, wishing he wasn't quite so good at visualization in moments like that, Gil pulled on a robe and waited for his turn in the shower. He wasn't sure what was going to happen, but he knew that he needed to be present when Tony called his boss.

And really, what nerve does this man have to be calling an employee on his vacation? Gil thought indignantly.

But then he thought about his team and what he would do if he thought something had happened to any of them, and sighed in understanding. He'd almost lost Nick three times, Greg once, and he had lost Holly. It was like family and this unknown man had lost one of his team recently so of course he'd be extra vigilant with the remainder.

Tony came out of the shower clean with a towel around his waist and an uncertain expression. "Should I, can I get dressed?"

If he had to ask, then he wasn't completely out of headspace. Gil restrained a sigh and said, "It's up to you, Tony, remember?"

There was a brief flash of disappointment over Tony's face, but he nodded and moved to the dresser against the wall.

Gil hesitated, then ordered, "Don't go anywhere until I'm out of the shower and with you."

It was the fastest shower he'd taken in a long time, just enough soap and water to clean himself off and drying was even quicker. He pulled on the spare boxers and t-shirt that were in the metal shelving unit, so thoughtfully arranged in his size before his arrival. Heather must have set them there the moment that he'd called and Gil shook his head in amusement. He'd never met a more romantic soul in his life, except maybe Nick, and couldn't help but remember the other times she'd played matchmaker to him in the recent past.

Tony was fully dressed and sitting on the edge of the chair of the desk along the side wall, waiting patiently, except for a bouncing leg. Gil ignored him to gather his clothes from where he'd left them the night before and got dressed. Feeling presentable once more, Gil walked over to Tony and said, "Ready?"

Sighing, Tony shook his head but answered, "As I'll ever be."

Gil motioned for Tony to precede him and they left the room for Lady Heather's office. She took the cell phones of the men and women who visited her establishment upon arrival. Not to keep them incommunicado through some nefarious motive, but to give them as little chance of being interrupted as possible.

Heather looked up at their arrival and she rose gracefully to take Tony's hands in hers as she apologized, "I'm sorry, Tony, but I knew that you would want to head Gibbs off at the pass."

Tony managed a smile. "Thank you, Lady Heather, I do appreciate it."

She nodded towards her desk and said, "Cell phone is there. I'll give you some privacy."

Noting the way Tony's steps dragged a bit as he walked over to the desk and picked up the phone, Gil asked, "This isn't a man you've trusted with this part of you, is it?"

Tony grimaced, answering, "That's the problem. I did and he didn't want any part of it. Or me."

Baffled at the response, Gil could only shake his head and say honestly, "I don't understand how he could pass you up, but I can only be glad that he did."

The gratitude that shone from Tony's hazel eyes was enough to make Gil feel about ten feet tall. As did the renewed courage it took for Tony to dial one of his speed dial buttons and put the phone to his ear.

*  *  *  *

The other end was picked up immediately with a terse, "Where the hell are you?"

"Las Vegas," Tony answered. "I'm on vacation, remember?"

There was a pause before Gibbs asked, "Are you okay?"

Tony sighed, pressing the heel of his palm to an eye to forestall the coming migraine. The concern in Gibbs' voice wouldn't be evident to anyone who hadn't worked with him for a long time. Tony heard it and it hurt. "I'm fine. I was in the middle of something when you called."

"You shouldn't turn off your cell, Tony."

Tony didn't let him in on the fact that he hadn't even had it within reaching distance. That would've resulted in Gibbs being on the next plane out. "Did something come up? Do I need to come back?"

"No. No, it's fine," Gibbs answered. "Have a good vacation, DiNozzo. Just check in once in a while, okay?"

"Boss, look, I might not..." Tony paused, pressing his palm in harder. "Don't expect to hear from me until I come back to work next week."

The silence was heavier this time.

"Are you...is what you're doing safe?"

"Yeah, Gibbs. I'm safe."

"Okay. I'll see you when you get back."

And like that, the conversation was over. Tony didn't even realize that he was just staring at the phone until it was taken from him. Raising startled eyes to Gil, he said, "It's not that bad."

"Come on. You need to eat something," Gil replied, putting the phone down. "We'll get something to eat, you're going to talk, and then we'll see what's next."

Tony wanted to protest, he didn't want to leave the sanctuary that Lady Heather's place had become, but the stern tone brooked no argument and so nodded instead. A kiss was his reward, slow and soft, and Tony hugged Gil tight after, pressing his face to the other man's throat.

"Ssh. It's going to be okay, my Anthony," Gil murmured, stroking a hand down his back. "I've got you, remember? I'm not Gibbs. I'm not going to abandon or reject you."

"It's not like that," Tony defended. "He's just, he's not built like this."

Cupping his face, Gil soothed, "I'm not attacking him, Anthony, I promise. I just know that he hurt you, unintentionally I'm sure, but I'm not going to do that."

Tony bit his lip as he stared into the open, honest eyes that were so like, and so not like, Gibbs' eyes. The face was rounder and more careworn, there weren't nearly the hard angles and edges found in Gibbs' face, but the command was unmistakable. Tony sighed deeply and nodded, closing his eyes to lean into the hand against his cheek.

"Good my boy. Come on. Let's get you fed."

It was an order, not a suggestion, and Tony accepted the hand on the small of his back, guiding him towards the door.

The cell phone was left behind.

*  *  *  *

Being with Tony in 'the real world' was like watching a completely different man come to the fore with only a few glimpses of the wanton, needy creature who'd been under him earlier. He interacted with others easily, connecting and forming instant, if temporary, bonds to valets, waitresses, hotel staff, other patrons waiting in line. It was an incredible thing to watch as the young man deftly put those around him at ease with a funny joke, kind word, or a simple touch to the shoulder.

Sitting at the table about an hour after leaving Lady Heather's, Gil could barely see even a sign that Tony was still his and it irked him. Lips pursed, he said softy, "Anthony."

Tony froze, then looked down at the table, gooseflesh visibly breaking out over his throat and that small bit of chest exposed by the V-neck.

Reaching across the table, Gil took one of Tony's hands and informed him, "Just because we're in public doesn't mean that I don't still own you, Anthony."

Tony shivered and nodded, answering, "Yes, Sir."

"Good my boy," Gil praised, releasing the hand. "So. Tell me about Gibbs."

For a moment, it looked like Tony was going to balk, but then he sighed deeply, eyes closing for a moment. When he met Gil's gaze, that simple, warm look was back in the hazel eyes and he marveled that that was all it took to get Tony to fall for him. Soft, stern words and an order. Tony had to be a natural submissive, there was no other explanation.

"I've been working for Gibbs at NCIS for a little over three years now," Tony began. "The work's challenging for me and I enjoy bringing in the bad guys. Steve McQueen's been a role model for me since I was a kid."

That explains a lot, Gil thought with warm amusement.

"A few months before, before Kate was killed, we got this case where a young marine went looking for a Dom in all the really, really wrong places. I knew more than I should have about the scene, which tipped Gibbs off right away. Kate too, really, but she wasn't focusing on much except the case. Didn't start messing with me about it until after, which was always her MO."

Gil shared the smile and observed, "It sounds like the two of you had a good relationship."

Wistful, Tony nodded. "Good and bad. She was like the evil sister I'd always and never wanted, you know? Anyhow. When it was all said and done and the bastard who'd killed the marine was locked up, Gibbs pulled me aside to talk. I should've known then and there things wouldn't turn out the way I was hoping. He just, he didn't get it. Couldn't understand how, why I would want to give up control to someone else, why I would want to be hurt and given pain. Why I needed both. He was totally down with the gay thing, he'd always been up front about that, and we'd even had a couple of one-nighters when the going got really tough, but he just couldn't..."

Gil took Tony's hand again, lacing their fingers together and squeezing gently.

Giving him a grateful smile, Tony continued, "Then we were too busy with work and he seemed fine with knowing about me, so it didn't really matter. Nothing had changed, except that no matter how bad it got, we were never together again. Like he thought I would want him to do something to me that he couldn't. I think, in a weird way, he didn't want to disappoint me, you know? Gibbs has always been there for me, he's always caught me when I did something stupid or got hurt on the job. And then Kate...and now nothing. We're coworkers only. I know it's a defense mechanism, I know that he's scared of losing one of the rest of us, but...I'm the only one he doesn't touch any more."

Not wanting to make light of it, Gil couldn't help but admit, "It's selfish of me, but I'm glad that he drove you away. I can't imagine never having met you."

The waitress arrived with their order just then, so Gil released Tony's hand again. The shining happiness in the other man's eyes was enough to tell him that he'd said the right thing. Offering a brief smile of his own once the waitress left, Gil ordered, "Eat your food, Anthony. You're going to need your strength."

Tony shivered again and started eating with gusto.

*  *  *  *

They were almost done with breakfast when Gil saw Catherine enter the restaurant on the arm of a handsome, middle-aged man that, thankfully, wasn't Sam Braun. She noticed him and arched an eyebrow his way on taking in Tony sitting across from him. Gil half-smiled and waved her over, saying to Tony, "One of my friends is coming over."

"How should I act?" Tony asked right away, uncertain.

Gil smiled and answered, "You're fine the way you are, Anthony. Catherine understands, even if it's not her thing."

There was distinctive relief to Tony's smile. Gil stood at Catherine's approach, Tony a heartbeat ahead of him.

"Gil, I'm surprised to see you here," Catherine greeted, leaning in to kiss his cheek.

Gil returned the kiss to one of her cheeks and answered, "I could say the same. Catherine Willows, this is Tony DiNozzo. He's here in Vegas on vacation, possibly more if he finds what he's looking for."

Tony flushed a little, but smiled and accepted her hand. "It's very nice to meet you, Ms. Willows."

"Oh please, don't call me that, it makes me feel old," she countered, chuckling. "And this is Henry Faldren, an old friend of mine in town on a convention."

The men all shook hands and Gil offered, "Would you care to join us?"

"No, that's okay. It looks like you're finishing up," Catherine replied.

Henry nodded and agreed, "It looks like our table has just come up. It was good to meet you, Tony, Gil."

Seeing that Tony looked a little confused as the couple walked away, Gil asked, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing, Sir, but...you introduced me as Tony."

Gil smiled and said, "I'm the only one who gets to call you Anthony. Well, and possibly Lady Heather, but certainly no one else."

"Oh," was all Tony said, though he looked pleased as he started in on his last piece of toast.

Sitting back in his chair, Gil looked around the restaurant, observing the families and couples and single diners. It was what came naturally for him and he enjoyed people watching.

"Sir?"

"What is it, Anthony?"

"Did you mean what you said to them?"

Since he hadn't said all that much, Gil knew exactly what Tony was asking. Taking the other man's hand, he brought it up to kiss the knuckles and replied, "I want you to stay, Anthony, but the decision is yours. I know that we've only just met and you have a career to consider, so of course it's up to you as to whether or not you stay here."

Frowning, Tony asked, "What would I be to you, if I stayed?"

"Mine," Gil answered firmly. "I'm sure that you would be able to find work wherever you wanted down here, and I wouldn't stand in the way of something that stimulates and challenges you intellectually, but off duty, you would belong to me. You would live with me and exist, just for me."

"You're talking slave," Tony whispered.

Gil was a little surprised to discover that yes, that was exactly what he meant. He'd never truly considered that route with anyone before, but this was something that he knew he wanted and wouldn't give in on. If Tony stayed, those would be the terms. Nodding, he confirmed, "That's correct. You would set up your own accounts, but I would administer them. I'll take care of you, Anthony, you never have to worry about that."

Lowering his gaze, Tony poked at his last pancake, clearly deep in thought.

Gil let him think.

*  *  *  *

Jethro never paced. He stood, or sat, calmly. He lounged against a wall, carelessly. Occasionally, he might tap his fingers on a table for a distraction; his or the suspect's. One thing he never did, was pace. It served no purpose save the revelation of anxiety, worry, anger, agitation, or worse, and those were emotions that he never wanted to reveal to anyone; not even to himself.

Despite that, Jethro paced his living room floor like he could wear a hole in it.

After the conversation he'd just had with Tony, even as short as it had been, Jethro knew exactly what the young man was doing in Las Vegas. There had been a...tone...to his voice that hadn't sat well with Jethro. Almost...dreamy...like he wasn't entirely himself, maybe under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or both.

Or like maybe he'd been having really incredible sex that you refused to even consider giving him, and was more sated and relaxed than anyone has a right to be.

Jethro snarled wordlessly at the unwanted thought and continued pacing. This wasn't something that he could interfere in. Tony was a grown adult and could do whatever, or in this case whomever, he pleased. There was nothing that Jethro could do to put a stop to what was going on. He didn't even have any right to even think about going down there to drag Tony back to DC by his hair. They weren't involved, weren't even fucking, he couldn't lay any claim on Tony.

"You better fucking believe I can lay a claim on him!" Jethro snarled to the empty room.

He stalked to his bedroom to pack a bag and get to Vegas before Tony did something really stupid like decide to stay there.

***

Chained from the ceiling, Tony cried out, "Thirteen!" a split second after the whip bit into his back. The flesh instantly raised into a long, red welt, joining the other twelve already in place. His hands clenched spasmodically around the chains as sweat stung its way down his back, crossing over the evenly spaced lines. Fourteen and fifteen followed in exactly the same manner and when it was over, he hung in his chains, panting and crying from the pain, but high on endorphins as well.

Gil chuckled wickedly from behind, which was the only warning he got before a dildo slowly pushed inside him. His legs spread further, giving his new Master more room. Not that more room was needed, since the silicon cock was so slick with lube that it slid right into him. It was ridged to function as both plug and dildo and his Master pushed it all the way inside, what felt like a foot, even though it was probably only seven or eight inches; it was wide, which was what made it so different.

"You look so good like that, split open and wearing my marks so prettily," Gil praised. "What's the biggest you've ever taken, slave?"

Even directly addressed, it took a few seconds to collect both thought and breath to answer, "T-ten by three, Master."

"Hmm. We're going to go a lot bigger than that, by the time I'm done with you."

Tony moaned at the promise, but didn't beg to come, knowing that it was useless. They'd been at it for a few hours now, ever since he'd woken before dawn to the feel of his Master pushing into him without any prep save the leftover, sticky lube from the night before, and a thin new coating on Gil's shaft.

"But first, I think your ass has gotten a little too pale."

It was his Master's bare hand this time, not the paddle, and he cried out at the hard, stinging slaps that continuously jostled the fake cock inside him. His prostate was nudged over and over, sending slices of pleasure through the ripples of pain and he knew that he wasn't going to last much longer. Every one of his buttons was being pushed, except for exhibitionism, and he'd been hard for longer than he could remember. He ached with the need to come, the tenuous thread of control fraying faster, the longer the spanking went on.

"Master!" was torn from his throat in a long scream as he came, jerking violently in his bonds until he was completely spent.

"You're going to regret that," his Master vowed darkly. "But first, on your knees and lick it up. I want that rug clean."

Tony sagged into Gil's arms when the cuffs were swiftly released, and he was held up for a long, devastating kiss. He literally slid to the floor when the grip loosened, collapsing in a heap to catch his breath.

A foot rested on his back, causing Tony to cry out in pain as his whip-marks were stepped on, even though the pressure was light.

"Now, slave."

Shuddering at the steel in his Master's voice, Tony shook himself so that he could actually focus on the streams of come that almost blended with the carpet. He didn't even think about the dust or miscellaneous hairs that he and Gil might have shed over the last forty-eight hours. Tony simply picked the closest strip of come and started licking it clean, just as his Master wanted. 

Every time he moved, the dildo shifted inside him, prompting a flash of need and causing his cock to sluggishly respond. It wasn't nearly canceled out by the foot that moved over his back, toes tracing along the thin stripes of hot, throbbing pain that felt so damn good. All of it was more than Tony had ever, ever prayed for and he would crawl anywhere, so long as he could be with Gil.

"That's my good boy. So eager to please. You're everything I could possibly want."

The words weren't whispered or soft, but in a regular tone. There was nothing furtive or hesitant about them, either, and Tony soaked up the praise like a dried out sponge.

Then he looked for more spunk to clean up.

*  *  *  *

Gritting his teeth, Jethro snapped, "You can't keep me from seeing him!"

"I can, and I will, especially if you continue to behave in this fashion," Lady Heather replied coolly. "Mr. DiNozzo is here of his own free will and specifically instructed me to make sure he was not disturbed. As did his companion."

Jethro took a breath to try and calm down, seeing that this woman would in no way be bullied by the usual tactics. Looking around the tastefully decorated office, he observed, "I doubt the cops would appreciate knowing what's going on in here."

That actually amused her to the point of provoking a soft chuckle. "Really, Agent Gibbs, do you think that I've never been raided? Aside from which, you don't want Anthony to get into trouble with the law any more than I do."

Giving in, something he was definitely not used to doing, Jethro finally just appealed, "I'm worried about him. If I can't see him right now, can you set up a time for us to meet?"

She gave him an intent look before saying, "I may be able to arrange that, but that depends."

"On?"

"None of your business. I suggest that you leave me a number where you can be reached and I will call you to let you know."

Jethro shook his head. "Find out now. I'll wait here like a good little boy while you check. If DiNozzo doesn't want to see me, then I'll just camp out at his hotel until it's time for him to leave."

"I believe you would," she mused.

"Good."

Arching a disdainful eyebrow at him, indicating that she hadn't been complimenting him, Lady Heather rose gracefully to her feet and swept from the office. The door didn't lock behind her, but Jethro caught a glimpse of two large men who looked like they knew how to subdue someone. Grimacing, he settled in to wait, trying to ignore the cries of pain and pleasure that leaked into the room despite the door being shut.

Christ, Tony, what the hell are you doing? he wondered wearily, rubbing at his eyes. Do you even know anymore?

The answer, unfortunately, would have to wait.

*  *  *  *

At the soft, insistent knock on their door, Gil's hand went still where it was buried in Tony's ass. Just three fingers, but the other man was trembling from the exertion of being bent over on his hands and toes. Gil had been stretching Tony out by going through inventive variations on yoga poses, not wanting to overdo the young man's body while they were exploring his limits. So far, they hadn't truly hit any, which gave Gil a sense of anticipation and a thrill that he hadn't felt in years.

Growling in fury at the second interruption in as many days, Gil withdrew his fingers and absently wiped them on Tony's back. Looking down at the shaking body, he finally relented and ordered shortly, "Rest and then don't move a muscle."

Tony gracefully went down on his knees, pressing his face to the carpet and resting his arms above his head with a deep sigh and a squirm.

Gil grinned at the squirm and assured him, "We're not even close to being done, Anthony, so don't get comfortable."

"No, Master," Tony replied, his tone relaxed and buzzed, all at one.

Knowing how content and happy Tony was at being put through his paces, Gil slapped him sharply on his ass before striding to the door. The anger returned and it took a great deal to rein it back so that he presented a calm fašade to Lady Heather on opening the door.

An apologetic look was firmly in place as she explained, "He's here, Gil, I'm sorry. He either wants to see Tony this afternoon or he's going to camp out at the poor boy's hotel until it's time for him to leave."

"What is wrong with this man?" Gil demanded, even though he thought he knew. "There's no way that Tony can see him while he's in this space, but I can meet with him."

"Gil, perhaps it would be best for Gibbs to see Tony like this," Heather suggested.

Gil frowned. "Tony has to work with this man, Heather. I can't expose him to that level of vulnerability, especially to one with so much power over his career."

There was only a brief hesitation before she asked bluntly, "Are you going to let him go back to DC long enough for it to matter?"

"Probably not," Gil admitted after a longer pause to consider her words. Showing Tony to Gibbs the way he was would either get him fired or get Gibbs off their backs for good, probably both. And yet, this was a man whose respect Tony seemed to need. "But I still won't do that to Tony."

She smiled, gently caressing his cheek. "Which is why I knew that he'd be safe with you."

"You are a temptation," he scolded.

"I'll invite the man to meet you for dinner if you think you can bring Tony up in the next two hours?"

Gil chanced a look back and saw that Tony had literally not moved a muscle. Lips pursed, he countered, "Better make it three."

She nodded and headed back down the hall towards the stairs.

Closing the door, Gil walked back to Tony and ordered, "Up and into the shower."

It took a few seconds for the other man to get his balance, but he walked to the bathroom under his own power and knelt gracefully beside the tub.

Moving up beside him, Gil turned on the water and adjusted it to the temperature he liked then ordered, "Feel it and remember it. This is how I like my showers. Baths will be hotter."

"Yes, Master," Tony agreed, obediently moving his hand beneath the spout to feel the water for a few seconds.

"Get the shower started and step in," Gil ordered, beginning to undress.

Gil suspected that Tony would remain in law enforcement, when he decided to move down to Las Vegas and that meant they needed to condition him to something that would bring him up at a steady, but faster pace than they currently had. They wouldn't always have access to a shower, or at least not the time to use one, but Gil would start with that simply because it was relaxing. It was also somewhere they could be where he could take care of Tony without overly upsetting the slave.

Picking up the washcloth and rubbing the soap into it, he ordered, "Duck under the spray, get good and wet, Anthony."

Tony did as ordered and looked at him when done, the trust and desire and need in his hazel eyes enough to take Gil's breath away. Unable to resist, he pulled the other man in for a strong, deep kiss, plunging his tongue into Tony's mouth and mapping out its recesses. When he was done, Tony moaned softly and silently begged for more by leaning in towards him, despite the hand on his chest that momentarily held him back. Smiling, Gil relented and commanded softly, "Come close, my slave."

"Yes, Master," Tony murmured happily, stepping just into Gil's arms.

Gil wrapped one arm around Tony's waist, holding him as the other ran the washcloth slowly up and down the long, lean back. He stated firmly, "You belong to me."

Tony breathed, "Yes, Master."

"Your body is mine."

"Yes, Master."

"I own you and care for you."

"Yes, Master."

"You obey me, no matter what."

"Yes, Master."

Gil smiled at the way Tony leaned into his caress every time he answered with the same two words. "I'm going to set a ritual now, Anthony, do you understand?"

"Yes, Master."

"Good. This ritual may have variations in the future, but when I want you to come up to only a very light subspace, I'm going to stroke your back like this."

Tony whimpered in disappointment at that, but replied, "Yes, Master."

"I won't always explain myself, but because you've been so good today, I'll do so this time," Gil told him, continuing to rub his lover's back. Pulling him closer so that their cocks played and touched, Gil continued, "You're safe with me, Anthony. I know when you have to come up and now is one of those times. I won't ever let you face the world before you're ready. Do you speak Italian?"

There was a startled pause before Tony answered, "Yes, Master."

"Any other languages?"

"French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese."

"Good. Each time I want you to come up from somewhere deep, like you are now, I want you to count to twenty-five in every language that you speak. Go slow and steady, coming up a little more with each language. When you end, it will be in English and once you've finished, I want you to only lightly be in subspace."

Tony sighed, but answered, "Yes, Master."

"Begin."

"Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis..."

Gil continued to stroke Tony's back as the young man counted.

Tony was curled up around him with his face pressed to Gil's throat by the time he reached, "...twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five."

For a few minutes, Gil didn't say anything; he simply held Tony without the stroking, knowing how much comfort the other needed to regain his balance. Tony's words, when he spoke, weren't all that surprising.

"He's here, isn't he?"

Gil nodded and kissed his lover's temple. "He is. We're going to meet him for dinner in a couple of hours, so there's time to get you back to your normal headspace."

"I don't want to," Tony answered sullenly. "He can fuck off and fly back to DC."

Slapping Tony sharply on his tender ass provoked a gasp of pain and a surprised look. Stern, Gil informed him, "I won't accept foul language. You can express your anger and discontent all you want without resorting to swearing. Understood?"

Tony nodded, looking down. "Sorry, Master."

"That's all right. I know you're upset, so I won't add on too many strokes for the vulgarity," Gil said, flashing Tony a wicked grin when the other man looked up at his words.

Tony responded to the humor, as Gil had hoped, and replied, "Well what does a body have to do to get whipped around here?"

"Oh you did it, Anthony, when you came without permission," Gil reminded. "And we'll address that lack of control thoroughly when we get back from dinner."

Flushing with pleasure, a distinct combination of nervousness and anticipation evident on his face, Tony said, "Thank you, Master."

Gil kissed him deeply before telling him, "Time to get cleaned up. Then I want to put some salve on your back and bottom."

Tony instantly protested, "But I want to..."

"Do you really want sit across from Gibbs with your ass sore and your back throbbing?" Gil interrupted bluntly. "Or will it put you at a disadvantage?"

Biting his lip, Tony agreed, "Disadvantage."

"All right then. Trust me, Tony, I know what to do. I've handled more than one pissed off ex in my time."

Gil's dry tone caught Tony's attention and he questioned, "What happened?"

"Let's just say that Catherine's ex-husband got a little too rough for my taste, so I got a little rough with him in return."

Gil was sure that the young man believed he could get rough when those he cared for were threatened; especially when Tony started to relax.

*  *  *  *

Jethro waited at the restaurant where he'd been told to wait, but he did it with ill-concealed grace. He scowled at anyone who looked at him for too long, or at all, and did his best to look as menacing as possible without actually saying anything. It got him left alone, so he was happy doing it. Then his phone rang and he grimaced on seeing Abby's number in the Caller ID. Sighing, he flipped it open and greeted, "What is it, Abby?"

"Don't you get all grouchy with me! I told you that Tony was fine!" she exclaimed angrily. "Why couldn't you just let it go? You're totally fucking with his head, Gibbs, and not in a good way, either!"

The fact that Abby thought that there were good mind-fucks told him just how far apart they were on this particular issue. "Listen, Abby, this isn't any of your business."

"No, you listen to me," Abby snapped coldly. "You are seriously fucking with things you don't understand. And if you have any respect or caring for Tony at all, you will leave without ever seeing him and then never mention when he comes back just how much of an asshole you were to go down there in the first place."

It was one of two times he'd ever heard her well and truly off her nut with fury. He was about to agree to her terms when he saw Tony get out of a car, assisted by another man, and walking towards the restaurant. Unless Jethro wanted to duck through the kitchen and out the back like he was on the run, and he wasn't all the sure that wouldn't prompt the manager to call the cops on him, there was no way he could get out of this now.

"Too late."

"He's there?"

"Yeah. With...some guy," Jethro confirmed.

"His Master, Gibbs. Say it."

Gritting his teeth, Jethro hissed, "I will not!"

"He's going to be very fragile right now, coming in and out of subspace like a yo-yo. Even if this guy's a complete Master in all senses of the word, Tony's going to need you to go easy on him. And I mean everyone else's definition of the word, Gibbs, not yours. If you want to get out of this with Tony's ego intact, you'll handle him with kid gloves."

"Like his ego needs any handling?"

"Gibbs!"

"All right, I'm sorry!" Jethro exclaimed quietly. He noted how close to the stranger Tony stood and frowned. When Tony blanched on seeing him, he schooled his features to show at least a neutrality and said, "Gotta go, Abs."

"Don't fuck him on this, Gibbs. If you're not going to take him as a Master, let someone else who will."

Jethro hung up before he heard more words he didn't want to hear and stepped forward to meet them.

"Ah, Mr. Grissom!" the maitre' d gushed upon the stranger's arrival. "It's excellent to see you after so long. Are you still waiting for your third party to arrive?"

"No, I can see that he's already here," the man named Grissom stated, following Tony's line of sight to look straight at Jethro.

The maitre' d actually grimaced on seeing who was at the receiving end of that look. "Very well, Sirs. This way."

Jethro restrained the strong urge to slap the man upside the back of the head and followed them down the main aisle of the nice restaurant. Sitting across from them, he had to admit, however reluctantly, that Tony looked a hell of a lot better than when he'd left. He was tense, sure, but the stress that had been weighing him down like a cement shoe was lessened to a strong degree. As Grissom ordered drinks for himself and Tony, both non-alcoholic, Jethro took a moment to look his...rival...over.

Polished and refined in a way that Jethro knew he'd never be. Handsome in a traditional sort of way, with a beard and sharp, sharp blue-gray eyes that missed nothing. Not even the way Jethro was giving him the once over. He was thicker in the middle than Jethro would have assumed Tony to go for, as well as older, but the air of authority was unmistakable. Distinguished, was the word that really came to mind.

"And you, Sir?" the waiter asked Jethro hesitantly.

"He'll have coffee," Tony answered unexpectedly. "As hot and strong as you can make it. When it's ready to eat through the pot, it'll be ready."

Meeting Tony's gaze, Jethro was relieved to find a spark of humor among the tension there. Smiling, he confirmed, "With a splash of Irish cream."

"So... come here often, Boss?" Tony asked, flashing a wry grin.

Jethro sighed and said, "Look, Tony, I'm sorry. I wasn't really thinking about what, ah, you needed when I flew down here. All I could think of was that you were beating yourself up over Kate and wanted the outside to match the inside. I didn't want you to get hurt like that."

Pure astonishment lit through Tony at that, and he shifted closer to Grissom, clearly unable to think of a response.

Grissom took one of Tony's hands and said, "Thank you for the apology, Agent Gibbs."

The tone wasn't very forgiving, but then, Jethro figured that he'd pissed all over the man's territory, so it was allowed.

"Boss...Gibbs...this is hard for me, but...I'm not coming back," Tony slowly got out. "I mean, I'll be back to get my stuff, but I'm done at NCIS."

"Anthony, I told you to wait and think it over more," Grissom admonished gently.

Shaking his head, Tony smiled at Grissom and said softly, "I don't need to."

Jethro felt both betrayed and like a heel. He'd done this. He'd chased Tony out of a job that he was born to be in. "Tony, I understand if you think I'm a bastard, hell, I never made any bones about that, but don't quit because of me. I don't care what you do, once you're off the clock as long as it doesn't get you hurt."

"I'm not quitting because of you, Gibbs, I promise," Tony assured him earnestly. He brought Grissom's hand up and kissed the palm. "I'm quitting because I've found the one I'm supposed to be with, finally."

Jethro saw that nothing he could say would break through that, even if it was the newlywed phase of overblown emotions and hormones. For once, he gave in gracefully and said, "All right. If you change your mind, the door is always open, Tony."

For which, Tony shot him a warm, grateful look. "Thanks, Boss, that means a lot to me."

Even though it felt like his heart was being ripped out, Jethro managed to nod and got to his feet. "I'm going to head out. You two enjoy your dinner and the rest of your leave, DiNozzo. I'll expect you back for paperwork next Tuesday, all right?"

"We'll be there," Grissom told him, standing as well.

Accepting the hand that was held out to him, Jethro warned, "Take good care of him or I'll hunt you down."

The firm grip and steady eye-contact told Jethro all he needed to know. He left them with regret, but knew that it was the right decision for Tony. Glancing back when he reached the small foyer, Jethro saw them sitting too close to be decent for public consumption. Tony's head rested on Grissom's shoulder and there was a dreamy look on his face as the other man murmured something into his ear.

Just because it was the right thing to do, didn't mean it was any easier to let go.

***

Epilogue

The bar was noisy and filled with regular, ordinary guys who liked football and liked to shout at the televisions in every corner of the place. Jethro sighed deeply as he relaxed into his beer, taking a long draught before waving for another one.

"Man, what a crappy week. Can I get a Bud? Thanks."

Looking over at the voice that was suddenly beside him, Jethro found a dark-haired, dark-eyed young man about Tony's age. He had broad, handsome features and crinkles at the corners of the eyes and lips that said laughter was a big part of the man's life. He was broad shouldered, but not especially tall, and the near buzz-cut would've done a Marine barber proud.

"Hey. Nick Stokes," the man introduced himself, smiling and holding out a hand.

Taking the hand, Jethro answered, "Gibbs."

"Just Gibbs? Like Madonna, or Cher?"

"I sure as hell hope not."

Nick chuckled and said, "So what's your first name then?"

"Leroy."

"Ouch."

"Yeah. So you can call me Jethro."

Looking interested, Nick leaned on the bar and observed, "You look like you've had a rough week, too, or I don't know the look of the common slob ground down into the mud."

A chuckle escaped despite himself and Jethro confirmed, "It's been...long and strange."

"Man, I hate weeks like that. And trust me, I've had my share of them."

Casting another look over the man, Jethro guessed, "Cop or military?"

"Close. CSI," Nick answered. "You?"

Becoming interested himself, Jethro told him, "NCIS."

"I didn't hear about any government trips in town this week," Nick said, frowning thoughtfully.

Jethro shook his head. "Personal business."

"And that's my cue to shut up. Sorry, Jethro," Nick replied, taking a drink of his beer, which had finally arrived.

But Jethro didn't want his new acquaintance to shut up. There was something about him that interested Jethro in a way that no one had in a long time, not even Tony. The unassuming, honest look that came from having a clear conscience and the will to stick to his convictions. He placed the accent a second later and prompted, "Texas?"

"Wow. You're good!" Nick exclaimed, smiling. "I been trying to keep it low key so people stop thinking of me as a yokel, but it just sticks."

Thinking of Billy, the Virginia Sheriff who'd played him more than she'd been played, Jethro grinned and said, "Oh I don't know. I've had my ass whipped pretty good by a local before."

That seemed to give Nick pause and he asked, "Um, you do mean that figuratively, right?"

Surprised, Jethro answered, "Yeah."

"Good. Sorry. It's just...I had this on-again, off-again who was into that and it's totally not my thing. Good for them and whatever, but not this Texas son."

Jethro's mouth curved into a slow grin and he leaned in a little as he asked, "What kind of shot are you?"

"Depends on what kind of weapon you're talking about," Nick flirted, smirking.

Laughing, Jethro motioned to the bartender and ordered another round.

***