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Title: Courtesan
By: nancy
Pairing: Tony/Gibbs
Fandom: NCIS
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: slave!fic, angst, violence, femme
Summary: Someone decides to "reward" Gibbs for his excellent service by giving him a slave in the form of one Anthony DiNozzo.


Jethro was about ready to kill someone. Instead of another metal that he could hide away on his drawer, someone had decided to give him a 'real' commendation in the form of a PF. A living, breathing monument to the fact that Jethro knew how to get a confession from a terrorist to stop an attack on yet another tanker. He crumpled the paper 'deed' to his new property into a tiny ball and snarled wordlessly at Ziva, who happened to be looking his way.

She instantly looked away.

Striding away from his desk, deed clenched tight in his fist, Jethro climbed the stairs that led to Jenny's office. He didn't knock and sure as hell didn't wait for Cynthia to announce him. Jethro pushed the door open and snapped, "Do they even think over there? What in God's name do I want with a PF and who the hell thought it was a good idea to give me one?"

He noticed, belatedly, a man standing in front of Jenny's desk. He noticed because the man's fairly broad shoulders stiffened at his coarse acronym. Pleasure Fuck, or Private Fuck, depending on who was talking, but it stood for the same thing; a pleasure slave trained in the arts of seduction and sexual technique the world over. The best of the best from the gene pool, sold or taken in early childhood, raised to be whatever their owners needed them to be.

Jenny gave him a thin smile and stood, motioning towards the man and introducing, "Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, meet Anthony DiNozzo...your Courtesan."

Naturally, Jethro thought darkly. And then the man faced him, temporarily stealing away his thoughts. Late twenties, early thirties, it was impossible to tell with his perfect skin and clear, mostly green eyes. Strong facial features and a fit, well-honed body, though not overly built...

Lithe, Jethro decided at last, like someone at home on both the basketball court and the gymnast's mat. He was more than attractive; no one would kick out of bed for eating crackers. There was something about his eyes...

A wry smile surfaced on DiNozzo's face as he closed the scant distance between them and held out a hand. "Afternoon, Agent Gibbs. It's good to meet you."

Jethro stared suspiciously at the younger man's open, seemingly unafraid expression and took it. He was also surprised by the firm grip as he shook the hand and commented, "I would say, 'Same here,' but that would be lying."

"So I gathered," DiNozzo replied, dry. "I have to say that you're the first person to object to my mere presence before they've even met me. After introductions is usually when that happens."

"Good at your job, huh?" Jethro observed.

DiNozzo flashed him a grin. "All part of my charm."

Something Jethro had no trouble believing. Forcing his gaze from those captivating eyes, Jethro glared at Jenny and ordered, "Undo it."

"It's done."


"Forget it, Jethro. If you scrap him now, he's disgraced and you know what happens then."

Jethro had to give the kid credit. DiNozzo didn't even flinch about being discussed as though he weren't in the room. He also didn't bat an eyelash about being rejected to work the low-rent district for the rest of his life. Was he that oblivious, or possibly, just that good at what he did?

DiNozzo himself interrupted with, "If I could make a suggestion, Agent Gibbs? Use me as part of your team, if you have no personal use for me. I'm fully versed in law enforcement regs and it wouldn't take long for me to get up to speed on NCIS code. I'm trained in the use of many weapons and self-defense techniques."

Jethro glared at the younger man, looking him over as a potential teammate, someone he would have to trust with his life, with the lives of those already working for him. He was sure that Kate and Ziva would eat him alive, and not just physically, no matter what skills the man thought he had. As for Stan, well, Jethro wasn't all that sanguine that the other agent wouldn't try his hand at getting a piece of Tony's ass if not actively discouraged. Stan went through lovers fast and even though his professional life was on the up and up, Jethro had his doubts about just how 'nice' he was in the bedroom.

Folding his arms across his chest, DiNozzo challenged, "Afraid I'll beat you, old man? Because I will, you know."

A flash of equal parts amusement, indignation, and arousal flashed through Jethro. "You're pretty damn mouthy for someone in your situation."

DiNozzo shrugged and pointed out, "Got nothing to lose, do I?"

Lips pursed, Jethro silently conceded that to be true and ordered, "With me, DiNozzo. We'll see just what you've got to work with."

The slave wisely showed no sign of triumph at Jethro accepting the gauntlet.

Jenny called after them, "Try not to kill him in the process, Gibbs!"

Jethro made no promises as he headed for the gym, DiNozzo following close behind.

*  *  *  *

Of all the things that Tony had expected in his permanent match, being rejected sight unseen hadn't been anywhere on the list. When he'd gotten his placement and driven to NCIS, he'd thought there would probably be some old codger ready to retire with, maybe a paunch and follicle-ly challenged. There would be pawing and bland, uninteresting sex where he'd fake orgasms and jerk off in the bathroom for his own needs when he could. He'd been resigned to a dull, ordinary life without even the chance of finding someone to make him happy.

What he'd gotten...Tony's head still whirled at the fierce, spit and polish man stalking ahead of him, down the main stairs and then towards the elevator. Director Sheppard had been warning him that Agent Gibbs wasn't likely to take Tony in at first, but not to be afraid of the man, that he was all sound and fury.

Jesus. If that's all sound and fury, I'd hate to see him well and truly pissed, Tony thought, stepping into the elevator.

He'd talked fast back there, no doubt about it, but not because he was afraid of being disgraced. From the second those pale blue eyes had met his, Tony had known that he would do anything to stay with the man. He'd been, well, indoctrinated to serve the one who would ultimately own him, but he'd believed, prayed really, that it would be someone to love and respect as well. This man fulfilled all his wishes and hopes and Tony had no intention of letting Gibbs throw him away for any reason.

They wound up in a smallish gym with weights to one side, a ring in the center, and various bags and workout areas on the other side. They walked through it into a locker room. Once there, Gibbs looked at him and said, "You'll have to borrow some gear, hang on, you're about Stan's size."

It was maybe five minutes later that he was dressed in borrowed sweats, his suit folded over the worn, wooden bench. Gibbs was ready too, so they went back into the gym, which wasn't nearly as deserted as it had been when they'd arrived. There were three women in addition to Director Sheppard and two men standing in a group. Everyone's attention focused on Tony in seconds and he flushed under their combined scrutiny.

"With me, DiNozzo!"

Turning at the sharp command, Tony immediately followed Gibbs onto the set of mats to the side. They stretched out for a few minutes and Tony let himself sink into the physicality of the whole thing. He'd sparred in a number of different disciplines and could street fight, claw, and pull hair with the best of them. All he had to do was figure out which rules Gibbs played by.

Finally, Gibbs asked, "You good?"

Tony smirked and answered, "Oh, I'm great, Gibbs. You should try me."

Gibbs' tongue swiped over his lower lip and a flash of in his eyes before it disappeared. "What fighting do you know?"

"Tell you what. You start and I'll try to keep up," Tony retorted, throwing his best attitude into the tone.

It was instinct alone that allowed Tony to block the fist that suddenly came at his face. He blocked and jumped back, almost losing his footing in the process. A lightening-fast attack had him on the defensive until he was half-way across the gym, never mind off the mat. He blocked every time, but could barely keep up for real, never mind as he'd joked.

Gibbs backed off and warned, "Pay attention. I'm not going light on you from here on out. We go to five points. Full contact. Off the mat, you lose a point, I gain one. Ready?"

Tony nodded and bowed. Gibbs seemed surprised, but followed his actions and then the fight joined for real. It was a close-quartered fight, the full-body blows and fists landing in his side and gut without warning. He blocked and again followed where Gibbs led, going from style to style, landing a few of his own punches and almost managing to flip the other when Gibbs got a neck hold on him. It felt like it went on forever. Sweat flowed freely, blurring his vision, and his lungs began to burn while Gibbs seemed completely unaffected by the fight.

At last, someone shouted, "Time's up!" and distracted him for a split second. It was long enough for Gibbs to somehow sweep Tony's feet out from under him. Instead of hitting the ground forcefully, though, he landed in his Master's arms, staring up wildly at the other man, his hands clutching insanely strong biceps while he panted, trying desperately to catch his breath.

Gibbs half-smiled as he lowered Tony to the floor and observed, "We need to work on your wind and how easily distracted you are."

Hopeful, Tony asked, "So...I can stay?"

Giving him an eyeroll, Gibbs retorted, "Well I'm hardly going to throw you into the street, am I? Hit the showers, DiNozzo, I'll be in shortly."

Even knowing the other man didn't mean it the way Tony wanted, he climbed to his feet and gave a brash grin as he quipped, "And you'll be coming shortly after that."

Gibbs slapped him upside the back of the head hard enough to sting. "Move it, DiNozzo!"

The other man went to talk to his team and, just when Tony reached the door, Gibbs groaned softly and asked, "Anyone have aspirin?"

For some reason, that made Tony's grin even bigger and he whistled cheerfully as he entered the locker room.

*  *  *  *

"OhmyGod! Gibbs! He fought you to a draw!" Abby exclaimed, bouncing on the soles of her feet. "Has that ever happened?"

Jethro tried to glare at her, but he was too tired to manage an effective one.

Ziva offered, "I did it once."

For Ziva, Jethro managed an effective glare.

She swallowed and gave him a weak smile as she amended, "But only just barely. It was hardly that."

Kate snickered, but wisely didn't comment.

Jenny, however, had no trouble saying, "You're all off until Monday. Farrell's team will be on call. Enjoy the long weekend and thank you for such a swift resolution on the Garry case."

Everyone started talking at once, but all Jethro did was transfer his glare to Jenny before heading slowly for the showers. Sarah Garry, three star Admiral's daughter, had been kidnapped by a psycho ex-boyfriend. They hadn't been able to save her from rape, but Jethro had shot the fucker who'd done it, so hopefully her nightmares wouldn't linger too long.

Dismissing the case happened all on its own when he caught sight of all that perfect, smooth, golden skin under the hot, steamy shower. Tony showed in stark relief against the utilitarian white tiles and he leaned on them, head ducked so the water sluiced down the natural curve of his spine and over the well-formed, muscled ass.

Fuck, he groaned to himself. It's been too long since I got laid.

He knew he could fuck Tony then and there, if he wanted. The man was a Courtesan, his Courtesan, and Jethro could do whatever he wanted to the younger man wherever and whenever he wanted.

As if sensing Jethro's gaze, and maybe he did, Tony turned and looked over his shoulder. A slow, wicked smile surfaced and Tony offered, "To the victor go the spoils?"

Jethro swallowed against a dry throat when the other deliberately spread his legs. "It was a draw."

"I won't tell if you don't," Tony told him, grinning and facing him altogether. Walking silently out of the shower area, he dropped gracefully to his knees and looked up at Jethro to say, "Let me serve you, Master, please. It would...make me happy."

Gazing down at those brilliantly green eyes with their specs of brown and gold, Jethro wondered if he could believe the words. They seemed sincere and yet, how could they be true when the other man was a slave? Cupping Tony's chin, Jethro asked, "Do you like sex with men? Tell me the truth. Would you go to a bar if you had the choice and pick out a man to have sex with?"

Tony shrugged. "I like who I like, Gibbs. Male or female, it doesn't matter to me. They don't just assign us willy-nilly, you know."

"I don't know. Tell me."

Clearly taken aback, Tony explained, "There's a process. We're matched based on very, very thorough criteria. I'm bisexual. My bunkmate Charles is straight. My best friend Leah is a bull dyke who could crush my skull with one hand. They put us where we can be the best fit and do the most good. Especially for someone like you."

"Like me?"

"A hero. Someone special. I would have honored you for that alone, but now...if I saw you in a bar, Gibbs? I would still drop to my knees and beg you to fuck me. Or at least let me suck your cock."

"Do you want to suck my cock, Tony?"

"God, yes."

Jethro couldn't deny the honest lust in the younger man's eyes. It baffled him, but he could tell that that, at least, wasn't an act. The words? He didn't know Tony well enough to say one way or the other; not for sure, anyhow. Not yet.

Deliberate, Jethro shoved his sweats down and his half-hard dick bobbed up, eager for action. He watched as Tony licked his lips before leaning forward and just breathing in at the base of Jethro's shaft. His hand rested on Tony's wet hair, curving around the skull, but without pressure. He kept watching as Tony licked a swatch from the base to tip and then back down. Gooseflesh erupted all over at the bold action and he shuddered, hand tightening on the slave's head.

Tony didn't tease long, maybe sensing that it wouldn't take much to make him come. He went down on Jethro enthusiastically, getting into it with long, slow bobs of his head up and down, but not making those fake noises that some people did, thinking it turned on their partner. It seemed an honest enjoyment, the other man's hands gripping Jethro's thighs as he sucked on the dick, drawing Jethro ever closer to orgasm. When he went all the way down, throat tight and wet around the shaft and lips down to the base, the sight and sensation drove Jethro over the edge. He came hard enough that he thrust when there was nowhere to go, his mind just gone as his seed spilled down Tony's throat.

Panting harshly, Jethro pulled out of the incredible haven of his new slave's throat and mouth. He wondered, vaguely, just how long Tony could hold his breath as he didn't seem nearly as oxygen deprived as he should've been. Dismissing the thought as unimportant, Jethro glanced down and discovered a splattering of come on the floor between his feet.

He came just from blowing me, Jethro thought, dazed and totally turned on again.

Or maybe it was from something more, something deeper, like being used for someone else's pleasure. Had someone known to match his kinks, too? If so, who and how? There weren't many people who knew him that well. Relegating that line of inquiry to the back of his mind for later, Jethro ordered softly, "Stand up."

Tony immediately stood, though he swayed a bit.

Jethro put a hand on the back of his slave's neck and drew him in close for a slow, hungry kiss. When he pulled back, he took in Tony's flushed, hopeful expression and half-smiled. "Get in the shower. I need someone to wash my back."

Tony grinned outright at that and walked confidently to the shower that was still going.

Shaking his head, sensing that he had his hands full, Jethro followed.

*  *  *  *

Introductions were interesting, to say the least. Tony stood beside Gibbs, body still thrumming from both matches with the other man, about ready to vibrate out of his skin. He wasn't nearly in the right frame of mind for anything except more of what he'd just gotten in the locker room, and then some, but he knew it would take some planning on his part to get it.

"Special Agent Stan Burley," Gibbs said. "He's in charge when I'm not around."

Looking over the fairly big man, Tony noted the light brown hair, blue eyes, and tight-lipped countenance with the feeling that he didn't want to be alone with him. Not until Gibbs had properly staked a claim, anyhow. The nearly crushing handshake confirmed his suspicions.

"Special Agent Caitlyn Todd, formerly of the Secret Service."

Shorter than Tony with a grin and friendly, dark eyes, Caitlyn shook his hand and corrected, "It's Kate. Good to meet you."

"Same here," Tony replied, smiling back.

Gibbs pointed to a shortish, dark-haired beauty and introduced, "Officer Ziva David, on loan from Mossad."

Tony's eyebrows climbed as he shook her hand. "That sounds like a story waiting to be told."

She smiled at him and said, "Maybe another time."

The baby-faced, blondish guy was next, younger than Tony could ever remember being.

"That's McGee," Gibbs told him.

Kate spoke up, "AKA Probie or Newbie."

McGee pointed out, "I'm not the newbie anymore, Tony is!"

Gibbs slapped him upside the head. "Is DiNozzo an agent?"

"No," McGee sighed.

Turning to a tall, slender girl with black hair and a spiked dog collar around her neck, Gibbs continued, "And this is Abby Sciuto, our lab tech."

Abby threw her arms around Tony and hugged him briefly before bouncing back and exclaiming, "This is so awesome! Bossman totally needs someone to make him less grumpy! You're like, perfect!"

Tony grinned, her enthusiasm infectious, and said, "I'll see what I can do."

"Abby," Gibbs growled.

But even Tony could see the fondness with which he looked at the Goth girl, the growl rendered useless by his obvious affection.

Gibbs put a hand on Tony's shoulder and said to the group, "You heard the Director. Finish your reports and don't come back until Monday."

They scattered like leaves before a strong wind, which caused Tony to grin. Everyone was the same when it came to getting unexpected time off, it seemed.

Leaning a bit closer, Gibbs told him, "And as for you, plant yourself in the chair at my desk and don't move. I'll be back."

Tony shivered at the warm breath on the side of his neck and nodded. Once Gibbs released him, he made a beeline for the chair indicated and sat. It was, at least, facing the group and he got to observe them as Gibbs went back upstairs. Why he wanted to talk to Director Sheppard, Tony didn't think he wanted to know. He was almost positive that he didn't have to worry about getting sent back, and subsequently sent down, but the sliver of uncertainty undercut his former excitement.

Forcing his thoughts away from that upsetting path, he looked at his new team. Abby had promptly vanished, probably back down to her lab wherever it might be, but the rest were still there. Burley's desk stood beside Gibbs,' while Ziva was on the other side of him, Kate and McGee facing them. It was an open floor plan without the cubicles that he'd half-expected of government agency.

There wasn't any chatter as the others worked on their paperwork, so Tony didn't have much to do with himself. The computer was locked, but the desk wasn't so he started tidying up the papers on the top of it. He'd arrived at the end of a case, which meant everything there probably had to do with that one case. Going slowly through the papers, he discovered that to be the case and started organizing. A lot of it was handwritten in a barely legible scrawl, Gibbs' writing most likely, and he wondered if someone could unlock the computer so he could type it up.

Looking over at Kate, he asked, "Hey Kate?"

She glanced over at him. "Yeah?"

"Any way I can type these up for him?" Tony questioned.

Kate shook her head and said, "No one knows his password. And don't worry about it. McGee gets that job, anyhow."

"Gee, thanks Kate," McGee griped from his desk.

Gibbs appeared as if by magic behind the youngest agent and asked, "Got a problem typing things up for me, McGee?"

McGee jumped, stammering, "N-no! Of course not, Boss!"

"Good. Tony, give that to McGee. We're leaving," Gibbs ordered.

Gathering the files he'd put together, Tony walked over to McGee and put them on his desk. Gibbs put a hand on Tony's back and nudged him towards the elevator. Tony walked, the two falling into step fairly easily together, and the elevator doors opened in short order. Gibbs didn't seem to feel the need to fill the silence, so Tony remained quiet as well.

They ended at a bland, four-door sedan and Tony walked around to the passenger's side, opening the door when the locks clicked open. The ride was just as silent and he wondered if maybe Gibbs was trying to see how long it would take him to start talking. A test to see just how Tony reacted under what should've been stressful circumstances; new master, new team, new life, no idea what or how things would go in the future, or even what kind of man Gibbs really was.

So it might seem to someone on the other end, but Tony was an excellent judge of people. It was, after all, his life's work. He'd sized up Gibbs in those first thirty seconds in Director Sheppard's office and found himself eager to find out more. There was a lot more to Gibbs than met the eye, of that Tony was certain, but he was in no way afraid of how he would be treated. The man's actions in the locker room alone guaranteed that.

They arrived at a single-story home in the suburbs, which somehow surprised Tony. He would've expected Gibbs not to want to bother with a home, given how he could be called off at a moment's notice and be gone for who knew how long. It also surprised him when Gibbs simply opened the front door, indicating it hadn't been locked.

Then again, he thought with a grin. Any burglar who walks in on Gibbs is likely to get his ass kicked.

Inside was clean and comfortable, natural for someone who'd been in the military his whole life. There wasn't a single, ostentatious thing about the place as Gibbs showed him around. When they hit the bedroom, Tony asked, "Am I sleeping here?"

It was the first thing either had said since NCIS and Gibbs looked at him a moment before grunting noncommittally and heading towards the kitchen with, "We'll need to go food shopping, I haven't been for a while."

Tony nodded, ignoring the tiny spike in his body when his question wasn't denied out of hand.

The basement was a trip and a half, with the partially built, wooden boat on its frame. Blinking at it, he looked at Gibbs and questioned, "How're you getting it out?"

"Who says I am?" Gibbs countered mildly, starting back upstairs.

With a last look around the workshop, Tony shook his head and followed.

Once upstairs, Gibbs motioned towards the sofa, taking the solitary chair for himself. Tony sat and waited, doing his best not to give in to the urge to cross his arms and legs defensively. There was something distinctly disconcerting about the pale gaze leveled on him, as though Gibbs saw right through him, through the calm fašade to the insecure man kept under lock and key.

"We should get a few things straight right off the bat," Gibbs began, leaning back in the chair. "I didn't ask for you and I don't want you here, regardless of what happened in the locker room. That was...a momentary weakness that won't be repeated."

Tony's heart started beating faster, sensing a rejection that would land him on his back for the rest of his life.

"That said, I know what happens to rejected Courtesans and I wouldn't put anyone through that, so I'm keeping you."

Tony slowly let out the breath he'd been holding.

Shaking his head, looking genuinely annoyed, Gibbs finished, "You'll stay in the guest room. Feel free to do whatever you want to it. You'll pick up after yourself, feed yourself, do whatever you want as long as it doesn't interfere with whatever I'm doing. You'll work with me at NCIS and I'll see about getting you a weapon if you pass certification. I'll set you up an account and it'll be your responsibility to stay within your means. Any questions?"

"Not a question as such, no," Tony said slowly. " that all you want? A roommate you have to support? I can do more, be more than that for you. I'm not talking about sex if that makes you uncomfortable. I could be a friend to you, Gibbs, someone to talk to since you don't to anyone that I can see. Everyone needs someone to listen."

"You've known me for five minutes and you think I don't have anyone to talk to?" Gibbs demanded.

Tony shrugged and pointed out, "You care for your team, but hold them at arms' length from what I saw, except for maybe Abby. I'm yours, Gibbs, no matter what. I'm here until you decide to get rid of me. Why not get some benefit from the situation? This, you, are everything I could ever have wanted, certainly more than I'd expected at my age, and that's not bullshit. I'm not trying to snow you when I say that I want to be there for you in all capacities."

Gibbs frowned at him for a long moment and then stood abruptly. "You have any personal effects we need to pick up from somewhere?"

"Nope. It's just me," Tony replied, letting the subject go.

You could only lead a horse to water, and Tony suspected Gibbs seemed more of an ass than most.

*  *  *  *

Jethro was surprised to find that Tony had absolutely no personal possessions. Surprised and disturbed, though he showed none of it to the Courtesan. He'd never thought about what that kind of life would be like; it existed, but had nothing to do with him. Or it hadn't, until some well-meaning idiot had decided to make it his business in a far-too-intimate fashion.

Deciding that it would be better to get clothes shopping out of the way first, he stood and said, "Let's get you something to wear other than that suit."

Tony followed him readily enough and they were back in the car three minutes later, driving towards the Georgetown Mall. There were closer ones, but Jethro figured somewhere with a lot of choices would be best. Not to mention that there would be plenty of restaurants to choose from for dinner after.

It was easy to see the younger man holding back as they walked through the men's department. Tony's gaze scanned the more expensive clothes, but he walked towards a far more modest selection. Amused, Jethro told him, "You can get what you want, Tony. I'm not made of money, but I have plenty saved. A shopping spree won't put me in the poorhouse."

Tony's ears turned pink, but he only turned back to the clothes he'd originally looked at without comment.

Thankfully, Tony wasn't one to linger. Jethro had little patience for shopping at the best of times. Maybe the Courtesan sensed that about him, because within an hour, Tony had picked out five slacks, seven dress shirts, a couple of sweaters, two suit coats, a few t-shirts, underwear, socks, and even a few pairs of shoes and sneakers. He looked to Jethro before putting anything in the shopping cart, but Jethro just nodded each time in approval. Even as unfashionable as he was, Jethro recognized how good the clothes would look on Tony.

The amount when they got to the register was enough to make Jethro grimace, but he held up a hand when Tony started to pull things out of the bag. He merely handed over the seldom used credit card and thought, Someone's going to call and make sure it didn't get stolen after this.

Dinner was strangely comfortable as they sat in one of the chain restaurants and lingered over massive portions and alcohol. Jethro only had one bourbon since he was driving and was pleasantly surprised when Tony stuck to two pilsners over the course of the night. It amazed him, how much food the younger man put away, but he only grinned when those eyes turned somewhat pleading as the waitress asked if they wanted dessert. Jethro nodded and Tony ordered some huge chocolate thing that made his teeth hurt just to look at.

He made a note to stop at the drugstore for toothbrushes and toothpaste.

They did stop and as he paid for the bathroom necessities, he noticed others looking at Tony with admiration and obvious respect. There was obviously something about him they recognized as Courtesan, but damned if he could pick it out. Tony, for his part, handled the attention with aplomb and a nod of silent thanks when a man moved out of his way while looking at deodorant.

In the car, Jethro had to ask, "What happened back there? How did they know about you?"

Tony turned his head and pushed the top of his ear forward so that the inside light caught on an earring at the top. It was small and simple, made of gold, and a symbol he didn't recognize, but reminded him of a Japanese or Chinese character.

"What does it mean?" Jethro questioned, curious.

Sitting back to put on his seatbelt, Tony answered, "That I'm a permanently matched Courtesan. There's different symbols for each level we attain, or to which we descend, depending."

Jethro's instinctive reaction was to demand it be removed, not wanting someone else's mark on Tony. Then he realized that it was a status symbol for the young man and bit back the order to do so. It was part of their society and if it made Tony happy, then who was he to take it away? Not to mention, he had no idea if there were any penalties involved for Tony if he did take it out. He knew far too little about all of this and knew that he'd be calling Ducky for a history lesson the next day. Knowledge was paramount; the lack of it, dangerous.

Putting on his own seatbelt, Jethro headed for home and contemplated having another drink or three once he got there.

*  *  *  *

It was something of a surprise to Tony when he actually did wind up in a guest bedroom. He was disappointed, definitely, but had no reason to protest. And it wasn't as though a solid night's sleep would go wrong, either. He hadn't been able to sleep at all the night before, despite his attempts to meditate. It had only been the previous afternoon that he'd been informed of his permanent matching, given his new status earring, and then returned to his room to wait.

So he stretched out on his new, hopefully temporary, bed and turned off the light on the bedside table. Tony understood that Gibbs was coming from a position of hurt, that something in his past kept him from forming strong emotional attachments on an intimate level. He had no idea what that something was, but figured he had plenty of time to find out.

Closing his eyes, he thought about what the next day might hold. There would be no work to distract Gibbs from him. They would be stay in close quarters all day, unless the other man left or sent him away for some reason. That alone should be able to give him clues and insights into the other's personality and history. Not that he would pry. That would get him a stony silence, Tony was sure. No, he would simply talk about things in an associative fashion and see what came up.

Tony sighed an hour later, no closer to being able to sleep despite how exhausted he was. It felt like a switch had been turned on inside him and he wouldn't be able to relax until he lay ensconced in his new Master's arms. Wondering if maybe a drink would help, he climbed out of bed and padded quietly to the kitchen. He looking in the fridge and found some milk, pulling it out and rummaging through the cabinets.

It was a very comfortable house, he had to admit. Almost as though it had been decorated with a family in mind at one point in time. He wondered if the man wanted children, even though he didn't yet have any. From his interactions with Abby, Tony suspected that Gibbs was very good with children.

"Can't sleep?"

Jumping in fright at the unexpected appearance, Tony nearly spilled his glass. Offering a sheepish smile, he replied, "Wish I could, I'm really wiped. Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."

"I'm a light sleeper," Gibbs replied, the dim light from the hall light illuminating a kind expression. "Come on. You can sleep with me, if that'll help."

Tony downed the rest of his milk and quickly rinsed out the glass, leaving it in the strainer to follow Gibbs into the master bedroom. It was also comfortable, although slightly more masculine than the rest of the house. He climbed onto the king sized bed, slipping under the covers and lying on his side as Gibbs got comfortable.

A few minutes later, Gibbs sighed and held out a hand. Tony smiled into the darkness and moved so that he lay flush against the other man. Resting his cheek on Gibbs' chest, he murmured, "Thanks."

Gibbs huffed and told him sternly, "No monkey business in the morning. This is just so you can get some sleep."

Tony wrapped an arm over Gibb's chest and sighed deeply, relaxing for the first time in forty-eight hours. His Master's breathing stayed slow and even, his warmth soothing and his scent enfolding Tony into comfort in a way no one else ever had.

He was asleep in minutes.


Jethro woke to the unfamiliar weight of another person in his bed and froze for a second before remembering Tony. The other man lay draped over him like a second skin, as comfortable as if they'd been sleeping together for years. Given how relaxed he felt, Jethro supposed that it hadn't been all that trying for him, either, and decided it would be okay to continue the arrangement. 

Slipping out from under Tony, Jethro walked to the bathroom to begin his morning routine. The sun was just about to rise, which was his usual time to wake up. Since he didn't know Tony's, he just went about his business with the thought that if the noise woke the other man, it would give him a starting point for going quieter. If it didn't, then he would know the slave would sleep through just about anything and it wouldn't matter. 

He was in the shower when Tony shuffled into the bathroom to relieve himself. Yawning, he asked, "Can I flush, or does that affect water temperature?" 

"Flush away," Jethro replied, grinning at the sleepy picture Tony presented. "You can go back to sleep, if you want. We're not due at work today." 

Instead of doing so, Tony stripped off his sweats and climbed into the tub. Wrapping around him from behind, Tony rested his chin on Jethro's shoulder and mumbled, "Once I'm up, I'm up." 

Jethro made a mental note for the future. "Thought we would take a drive to Ducky's this morning." 

"Ducky's the older ME, right?" Tony asked. 

Trading places so Tony stood under the warm spray, Jethro confirmed, "He is." 

Sounding a little more alert, Tony questioned, "Any particular reason for the visit?"  

Jethro shrugged. "He's my information source." 

"And you want more information about me," Tony guessed. 

Reaching by him for the soap, Jethro nodded. 

"You could just ask me." 

The slave didn't seem offended by it, more curious than anything else. Jethro shrugged again and said, "It's not that I don't trust you, Tony, but..." 

Tony interrupted with a grin, "You don't trust me. Hey, it's totally cool. I get it, believe me. You didn't want me here to begin with so it's natural you'd go to someone you trust for information on me. Although what Ducky could tell you that you couldn't find out online, I don't know." 

Not at the point where he wanted to reveal his technical ignorance, Jethro just said, "Ducky's more fun to listen to." 

There were a few grabby moments on Tony's end, but Jethro maintained his rule of not touching the slave. He made a point of giving the slave a stern look as he turned aside the wandering hands and Tony just gave him an unabashed grin in return each time. After Tony made a breakfast of surprisingly good omelets with spices and cheese, along with bacon Jethro had forgotten about in the freezer, they were out of the house by eight.  

Knowing that Ducky was an early riser by nature as well, he dialed the older man on the drive over.  

"Good morrow, Jethro!" Ducky answered cheerfully. "What on earth are you doing out of bed?" 

Jethro snorted and replied, "Tony and I are on our way over so I can pick your brain." 

"Ah. I suspected I might see you regarding the Courtesan history, but certainly not before the weekend was over," Ducky teased. 

Mentally rolling his eyes at the other man, Jethro just said, "We'll be there in a half hour." 

"See you then, Jethro, my boy!" 

Jethro hung up and tossed the cell phone at Tony.  

"We're not waking him up, I guess," Tony questioned. 

Shaking his head, Jethro explained, "Ducky lives with his Mother, who's in her nineties, and she gets up at the crack of dawn every day. Even days she doesn't know who she is." 

"Isn't he a little old to be living at home?" 

Jethro looked over to find a sly, but not malicious, grin on the slave's face. He lightly cuffed Tony upside the back of the head. "Show some respect." 

"Yes, Master," Tony murmured. 

A quick glance showed Tony not looking at all repentant, as if sensing that the cuff had been lighthearted. Something that McGee and Ziva had yet to figure out. Then again, he thought wryly, I'm usually irritated with them by the time they get one. 

Jethro half-ordered, half-questioned, "Why don't you tell me about yourself?" 

Tony was silent and, when Jethro looked over, it was to find surprise plastered on the slave's face. 

Quirking an eyebrow at him, Jethro prompted, "Problem?" 

Shaking his head, Tony replied, "No, Sorry. There's not much to tell, really. I was taken by the Society when I was six and trained until I was fifteen, same as most kids. I've had a few interim Masters since I turned seventeen, but no permanent matches, obviously, until you." 

Somehow, Jethro thought there was a lot more to the story than Tony let on. He let it go since they were almost to Ducky's and he didn't want to stir things up with so little time to explore.  

"What about you? You were in the marines and now it's NCIS? That's a change," Tony countered. 

Jethro had no intention of going into his own personal history with someone he barely knew, not even Tony. He just answered, "Longer story than we have time for. We're here." 

And they pretty much were. He pulled into the street that led to Ducky's home and, a couple of minutes later, pulled into the driveway and parked.  

"How do I act here?" Tony questioned. 

Jethro thought about it a second and then answered, "Just be polite. Neither Ducky nor his mother are draconian in their views. Although Mrs. Mallard will probably want you to walk her dogs." 

Tony echoed, "Dogs?" 

Grinning, Jethro replied, "You'll see." 

Mrs. Mallard met them at the door with one of the corgis in her arms. Peering up at him with sharp eyes, the old woman exclaimed, "You're late!" 

Making every effort not to smile, Jethro replied, "I'm very sorry, Mrs. Mallard." 

"Well, don't let it happen again," she allowed regally. Looking beyond him to Tony, she demanded, "Who is that?" 

"That's..." Jethro faltered before finishing, "my Courtesan, Tony DiNozzo." 

She peered suspiciously at Tony and informed him, "No shenanigans while you're here." 

"No, ma'am," Tony agreed, smiling. 

The smile only deepened her suspicious look. "You're Italian, aren't you? DiNozzo." 

Tony looked at him, probably for help, but Jethro maintained a neutral expression. The slave finally said, "My family is." 

"I knew an Italian once. He was up to no good! A gigolo!" she exclaimed in scandalized tones. 

Ducky appeared behind her and exclaimed, "Mother! Mother, please, for Heaven's sake, let them in!" 

With a final glare at Tony, Mrs. Mallard left. 

Heaving a sigh, Ducky apologized, "You'll have to excuse my mother, Tony, I'm afraid she's a bit xenophobic. Which has never made sense to me as we're not even citizens by birth. Please, come in." 

Jethro followed him in, Tony trailing in his wake, and asked innocently, "Find a new dog-sitter yet?" 

"Do not even start with me, Jethro," Ducky warned. "Or this will be a very short visit."

They were swamped by dogs as soon as they entered, of course, barking and jumping on them as they followed Ducky inside.

It took a few minutes, but Tony scooted them out of the living room and shut the door, leaning against it with a grin. "Wow. That's quite the menagerie you've got there, Ducky."

"Yes, well. Mother does love her Corgis," Ducky replied. "Please, sit. Would either of you like anything to eat or drink?"

Jethro sat on the sofa, shaking his head. He was startled when Tony sat on the floor by his feet, but did his best not to show it. Ducky winked at him, which said the older man had caught his surprise.

"So. What can I do for you, Jethro?" Ducky questioned, smiling.

It felt rude to ask right in front of Tony, but Jethro requested, "Tell me about the Society?"

Ducky sat on the chair opposite and replied, "Oh my, now that is a long story. Are you sure you're up for it?"

Jethro had the feeling he would regret it, but he answered, "Yes."

It was, apparently, a subject on which Ducky had done considerable research for whatever reason because they were given a two-hour lecture on the history of the Society. And even though he'd asked for it, Jethro felt his eyes start to glaze over a few times. Every time, though, Tony would squeeze his calf, bringing him back to the present. How the slave knew when to apply the pressure, he didn't know, but he was grateful for it.

He certainly learned more about the people who controlled the Courtesan empire than he'd ever wanted. The Society for the Enrichment of All or, simply, the Society. About how they'd started as an appeasement to the South during the Civil war, taking the place of the house slaves in a mixed role of whore and helpmate; the odd mingling of training from Japanese Concubines and Chinese Geisha with the sxual roles of whorehouses. About how they'd grown in power and influence so that having a Courtesan was a status symbol, not a right, and convicts took the place of the majority of slaves, 'rented' by the southern landowners, but nominally provided for by the federal government.

It wasn't until Ducky got to the specifics of the Courtesan training that Jethro really paid attention. Exceptional children were taken from their families, who were compensated both financially and by the honor of being chosen. The average age was between four and six, depending on how gifted and intelligent the child was. Schooling followed the general curriculum of intense private schools, but with the additional subjects of refinement, like music, etiquette, social roles, dancing, and many others. Sxuality was encouraged at a much younger age than in the general population and 'training' began once a child hit puberty.

"And that, unfortunately, is all I can tell you," Ducky finished. "I'm afraid the actual training is a hidden subject and those who participate are forbidden to speak of it. Really, the only reason that I have so much information is because an old friend has a sister who is a Courtesan and she's freer in her chats with him than she should be, as he is with me. Is that what you wanted to know, Jethro?"

Thoughtful, he answered, "More than, thanks Ducky. C'mon, Tony. Let's go."

They were in the middle of saying goodbye when both their cell phones rang. Answering his, he saw Jenny's name on the ID and snorted. He greeted, "So much for a day off."

"Sorry, Jethro, but this one's important," she replied, sounding serious. "Teenaged daughter of a businessman has gone missing and she was last seen with three Marines. He's accusing them of, well, pretty much everything."

Jethro cursed the timing even as he motioned to Tony to leave. Waving at Ducky, he followed Tony out as he replied, "Who's the businessman?"

"Jake Saunet."

The name rang a vague bell with Jethro, which meant the man probably had money up the wazoo. It wasn't like he went trolling through the business pages. Climbing in the car, he said, "The others?"

"Already notified and on their way in," she told him. "Except for Agent Todd, who is prostrate with food poisoning. Apparently she went out for sushi last night."

Of all the times for Kate to get adventurous, he thought, irritated. Starting the engine, he said, "We're on our way in," before hanging up. He peeled out of the driveway and headed towards NCIS. It looked like he would get to see Tony in action sooner, rather than later, and probably not in the way the slave had anticipated.

*  *  *  *

Tony held onto the 'oh shit' handle for dear life as Gibbs navigated surprisingly traffic-filled highway on the way to NCIS. The other man talked easily as he explained there'd been a disappearance of a teenaged girl and three marines were implicated. Honestly, Tony was praying that he would stop talking and just focus on driving. He let out a yelp as their car came way too close to another when Gibbs cut the other person off. They went by so fast that he didn't even know if it was a man or woman.

Finally, they somehow made it safely to NCIS and Gibbs slowed to slower than Mach Two.

The guard at the gate peered in and grinned at seeing Tony clutching the handle. Looking back at Gibbs, he asked, "First time driving with you?"

"Yep," Gibbs confirmed comfortably.

The guard said to Tony, "Don't worry. You get used to it," and then waved them through.

One hand on his stomach, Tony muttered, "I doubt that."

Inside at last, still somewhat queasy, Tony sat at Gibbs' desk when gestured to do so from the man. He watched with interest as the team interacted, slowly overcoming the seasick feeling.

"Terry Saunet, eighteen, last seen in the company of Corporals Frank Willet, Harold Range, and Greg Patterson at the mall," Burley reported, clicking a remote at a large, flatscreen monitor.

The pictures of three young men in uniform appeared on the screen with one of a young girl.

David took over with, "A girlfriend, one Sandra Dickens, reported her missing when she didn't show up for a dinner date later that night."

"Friend who's a girl, Boss," McGee interjected. "Not an actual girlfriend. They were study partners, both freshmen in the same biology one-oh-one."

Gibbs looked at Ziva and questioned, "Reported her missing after a couple of hours? To who?"

"Her father," Burley said, glaring at Ziva. "He's got her on a pretty tight leash, Boss. Everyone knows that if she goes off schedule, he's to be called immediately."

Gibbs stared at the screen for a few seconds. "McGee, get into the Corporals' information and see why they were hanging around with a girl five years younger. David, get Saunet down here. Burley, DiNozzo, you're with me in interrogation...They are in interrogation, right?"

All three exclaimed, "Yes, Boss!" at once.

Startled at being included, Tony jumped to his feet and hurried to fall into step behind Gibbs, which put him next to Burley. The other man was the same height, maybe a little shorter, but broader and had an air of...not intimidation exactly, but something close. Tony's gut instinct told him that there was something going on with the way Burley's eyes remained locked on Gibbs, even in the elevator ride down.

As they walked down another hall, Burley announced, "We've got them in separate rooms."

"Well I hope so, Stan," Gibbs replied, dry, stopping outside a door. "Show DiNozzo into the viewing room."

Burley motioned towards the next door down. Tony walked there himself, opening the door and stepping inside before Burley could 'help.' Inside was a lot of equipment and someone manning a recording device. Tony nodded at the man with a friendly smile and got one in return. Then he looked out the one-way mirror and saw Gibbs drop a folder onto the table.

"You have a thing for underage girls, Corporal Patterson?" Gibbs began coolly.

Blond and pale, Patterson's skin flushed an ugly, blotchy color as he exclaimed, "No, Sir! Sir, we had nothing to do with the girl disappearing! I didn't even talk to her! It was Frank chatting her up, Sir!"

Burley snorted. "Way to get on his bad side, kid, giving up your buddies like that."

Tony shrugged and pointed out, "He's young and stupid. Besides, he's telling the truth."

"Oh yeah, and how do you know that?" Burley demanded.

"Autonomic reaction to the opening line," Tony replied, a little surprised the other guy hadn't picked up on it. "This is not someone who's calm and collected. Anyone who kidnapped a girl would have rehearsed himself into some kind of calm state by now. Or at least not as agitated a one."

Gibbs was calmly flipping through the folder on the table, ignoring the young man across from him. He finally said, "It looks like you would have had a promising career, Corporal. Sorry to see it all go down the drain. Leavenworth isn't exactly kind on kids like you."

Blotchy turned pale very fast and the kid exclaimed, "But I didn't do anything! I don't even understand how she can be called missing after so little time, anyhow! I mean, Frank just walked her to her car last night!"

"Hard to believe a Marine would just give up his team mate like that," Gibbs replied. "Unless he had something to hide. Doesn't say much for your character, Patterson."

Taking a deep breath, Patterson let it out slow and said, "Look, Frank's on my team, sure, but he's not my teammate. Harold's my boy and I'll go to the grave defending him, but Frank? Sir, he is one scary dude. The only reason we were with him was because he invited himself by getting in my car. Once Frank decides something, well, that's it."

Gibbs leaned back in his seat and took a long look at Patterson's earnest face. He flipped the folder closed and left the room.

Tony followed Burley into the hall.

"Where's Willet?" Gibbs questioned.

Burley motioned towards one of the other doors.

Gibbs looked at Tony and ordered, "Question him."

Tony blinked at his Master for a few seconds before nodding and going into the room Burley had indicated. The few temporary Masters he'd had in preparation for his permanent one had all three been in law enforcement, but generally beyond the interrogation stage. Two had been Captains and the third a Chief, so they hadn't been part of the normal ebb and flow of police work. Despite that, they'd all three allowed him to watch as many interrogations and help out in the squad as much as he wanted.

He knew that they'd been spoiling him and Tony had taken advantage of it; in a nice way, of course. He hadn't asked for anything on a personal level except to get involved. Helping put away bad guys had been all he'd wanted to do his whole life and being a Courtesan precluded such an aspiration. It had been as close to his dreams as he could get.

Stepping into the room, Tony took in the big, muscled man at the table in a glance. He seemed utterly unconcerned about his fate, which meant he had nothing to hide or was confident in his ability to cover his tracks. Deciding on a strategy, he grinned at the man and sat at the table greeting, "Hey. You don't mind if I hide out here for a while, do you? My Master's really riding me ragged, if you know what I mean."

Willet snorted, dark eyes all over Tony as he nodded and agreed, "Sure. No problem."

"Cool," Tony replied, leaning back in the chair. "So, how come you're in here? Drink too many muscle shakes?"

That got a grin as Willet answered, "Some stupid mix-up. All I need's my phone call and I can get all this gone."

"Oh yeah? How's that? I mean, if you don't mind me asking?" Tony prompted curiously.

"My Uncle's an Under-Secretary," Willet boasted. "He can get me out of anything."

Tony whistled. "Wow. Man, that's so cool. Wish I could say the same. All he does is think everything's my fault, you know? I mean, like him being too old and not being able to get it up is my fault, right?"

Willet laughed and said, "Yeah, that sucks, man."

Tony hoped that didn't cost him outside the interrogation room. He was pretty sure Gibbs wouldn't take it personally, but... Focusing on the matter at hand, Tony yawned and stretched, arching backwards over the chair. When he sat up again, Willet's eyes were glued to him, as expected. Flashing him an inviting grin, Tony teased, "Now, if I know you're not a killer then I could feel a whole lot more comfortable waiting here with you. Why are you really in here?"

Willet actually licked his lips as he answered, "They think I kidnapped some girl."

Leaning forward, Tony met the younger man's gaze and murmured, "Is that so? A guy like you? Now, that I don't believe. Who'd think you would have anything to do with girls?"

That clearly stung, Willet jerking back and demanding, "What's that supposed to mean?"

Tony gave him a surprised look. "Nothing. Not really. I just meant you seem like you wouldn't have any use for girls, you know? Hey, I'm that way, myself. Half the population is, it seems, these days."

Folding his arms over his chest, Willet snapped, "Well, not me!"

"Okay, geeze, sorry," Tony muttered, sitting back in his chair. He offered a sly look and prompted, "Well, now that I know you like girls, did you do it? You can tell me. It's not like I anyone believes anything I say. I'm just a Courtesan."

Because guilty thugs like the one in front of him could never keep their mouths shut. And Tony knew he was guilty. The question was, was it for murder or kidnapping and assault? Unfortunately, Tony was betting on murder. As dumb as the guy was, he wouldn't leave a witness around to get him thrown in jail.

When it looked like Willet was going to keep his mouth shut, Tony leaned on the table again and said, "Okay, how about this? I'll tell you my dirty little secret and you tell me yours. That way, neither of us can tell on the other, how's that?"

Willet looked interested as he replied, "I'm listening."

"Well. Two years ago, I was driving my Master home. We'd both had a lot to drink but he was totally passed out in the back so I had to drive, you know?"

Leaning forward, Willet nodded. "Sure."

"Well, this guy comes out of nowhere and boom!" Tony slapped his palms on the table. "Up and over the hood of my car! It was like, like, some damn movie or something, you know? God, I thought I was going to piss my pants. But I lit out of there and no one ever found out."

"Wow. Man, you were lucky, with all that forensic shit they do these days," Willet said.

Tony heaved a sigh. "Tell me about it. Just thinking about it now gives me the willies. Okay. Your turn. Did you kidnap the girl?"

Willet hesitated and, just as he opened his mouth to speak, a thud from the other side of the mirror caused his mouth to snap shut. He looked over at the one-way and then back at Tony. "What the fuck? You're a, you're a plant! You sonuvabitch!"

Before Tony could do more than throw his hands up defensively, Willet lunged over the table at him, tackling him to the floor. Tony landed hard enough for the air to be driven from his lungs. Moving automatically, Tony brought his legs up and managed to get one planted on the other man's hip, shoving him up and off. Not before the bigger man landed some serious punches, though.

The door opened then and two guards grabbed Willet, dragging him away from Tony to pin him against the wall.

Coughing for air, Tony looked up to find Gibbs looking down at him, lips twitching as though trying not to grin.

"You're supposed to duck, DiNozzo," he observed mildly, offering a hand down.

Tony took the hand and let himself be pulled upright. "Gee, thanks, Gibbs. I'll remember that next time two hundred and forty pounds of pure muscle is coming at me."

Gibbs did grin at that, though it was brief. "Good."

"I want my damn phone call!" Willet shouted. "I get a phone call!"

Losing all expression, Gibbs strode over to Willet and said coldly, "The only thing you're going to get is twenty-to-life for murder. Cuff him to the chair and sit on him."

The guards obeyed and Gibbs escorted Tony out of the room with an arm around his waist.

"So what happened in there? I almost had him," Tony said.

Burley met them in the hall and answered shortly, "I slipped."

"For which, Stan will be doing the gruntwork on this one," Gibbs announced, pinning Burley with a single look. "Go relieve McGee. And tell Ziva to meet us in the car."

As Burley walked stiffly down the hall, Tony looked at Gibbs and pleaded, "Can I drive?"

Gibbs smirked. "Not if that hit and run story is true."

Tony sighed, knowing the answer was no even though the story wasn't true.

*  *  *  *

At first, Jethro hadn't been sure where Tony was going with his interrogation...technique. But then he saw how relaxed Willet became and realized he wasn't the only one with preconceptions about Courtesans. There were a lot of rumors about them, of course, and their backgrounds were so hidden from the public that most of the clutter on the subject ranged from wild speculation on what they did in the bedroom to blood rituals involving babies. Like most probably would have, Willet fell for Tony's act hook, line, and sinker.

If Stan hadn't tripped over a chair that was " the way, Gibbs, I swear!" then it was likely they would've gotten a confession from Willet. Probably for murder, not kidnapping. If Burley didn't get his act together, Jethro would ship him off to sea somewhere he couldn't do any harm.

The drive to Saunet's house in the 'burbs outside DC didn't take long and he let Ziva drive to show Tony that his driving really wasn't that bad. By the time they arrived at the stately, three-story home, the slave looked pretty green around the gills and Gibbs grinned when Tony opened the back door and just rolled out to lie on the driveway.

Walking over to him, Jethro looked down and asked, "Would you like me to drive back?"

"Yes, please," Tony answered hoarsely. He waved at them and continued, "I'll catch up when the world stops."

Jethro snorted and headed for the door. At least Tony hadn't puked. McGee had lost his lunch the first half-dozen times, driving with Ziva.

She muttered, "You Americans do not have any stamina."

"It's an inner ear thing," he deadpanned as they reached the door.

The door opened before he could even ring the bell. A well-dressed man in his fifties stood on the other side, salt-n-pepper hair stylishly cut and his glasses at least eight hundred dollars. Saunet demanded, "NCIS?"

Jethro held out his badge and confirmed, "Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. This is Officer Ziva David. May we come in, Mr. Saunet?"

"Of course. Wait, who is that on my driveway?" the man asked, peering beyond them.

Jethro ignored the question and prompted, "This will just take a few minutes of your time."

Saunet nodded and motioned them inside. "Yes, of course."

The interior was just as well furnished as the outside was manicured, everything feeling very fake to Jethro. There were no family pictures on the walls and everything was the most expensive option possible, from the specialized hardwood floors to the lead crystal vases adorning the fireplace mantel.

Saunet motioned towards a leather sofa and offered, "Please, have a seat."

Ziva started to sit and caught herself when Jethro didn't. Taking out his small notepad, Jethro asked, "I understand that there's an individual curfew in effect for your daughter. Why is that, Mr. Saunet?"

"Excuse me?" Saunet exclaimed, looking offended.

Jethro replied, "Numerous people were supposed to call you if your daughter didn't follow her schedule. Was she on medication? Did she need the extra supervision? What's the reason for such a strict lifestyle?"

Glaring at him, Saunet stated, "That's none of your business."

"You accused three marines of kidnapping, so it is my business," Jethro countered. "Everything about your daughter's life, and yours, will now be an open book to this investigation."

Saunet informed him, "All you need to do is find my daughter. Nothing else even comes into it."

Jethro changed the subject with, "Have you heard from your daughter since her friend reported her missing?"

"No, I have not."

"Where is Mrs. Saunet?"

"Deceased. Ten years now."

There was something off with that statement, but Jethro questioned, "Any enemies who would want to harm you or your family?"

"Too many," Saunet replied.

It was the most honest thing he'd said yet. Jethro glanced at Ziva before telling Saunet, "If you could make a list of those people, it would help a great deal."

The hint of a temper showed through when Saunet exclaimed, "You have the men who took her in custody!"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Saunet, would you mind terribly if I use the, um, well, the bathroom?"

Saunet barely looked at Ziva as he snapped, "Yes, fine, go ahead. Look, Agent Gibbs, my daughter is...very sheltered. Her mother's death hit her very hard when she was a child and she never truly recovered. She will be absolutely destroyed if those men do anything to her. You need to be talking to those marines and finding out where they hid her."

Jethro carefully didn't watch as Ziva left to check out the rest of the house instead of using the bathroom. Instead, he replied with a forced patience, "We have the men in custody, Mr. Saunet, and believe me, the interrogation has already started. If they had anything to do with..."

"Of course they did!" Saunet interrupted, anger underscoring the tight words. "I will draw up that list, as much of a waste of time as it is, and be sure my assistant sends it to your office. Now. Is there anything else, Agent Gibbs?"

"Special Agent Gibbs," Jethro corrected mildly.

Gritting his teeth, Saunet repeated, "Is there anything else, Special Agent Gibbs."

Jethro offered a brief smile as Ziva returned and said to the man, "No, that should do it."

When they walked outside, Jethro didn't see Tony where they'd left him and looked around. The slave jogged from around the back of the house and joined them for the walk to the car.

"Man, you would not believe how much stuff this guy has in his garage!" Tony exclaimed. "It's like the lost Museum of, well, museums. Some of that has got to be illegal."

Sounding interested, Ziva questioned, "Like what?"

"Pretty sure I saw a Monet through the bubble wrap," Tony replied. Then he stepped in front of the driver's door and thrust his arms out to the side. "Please. Master. I'm begging you. Let me drive."

Jethro bit back a grin as he stared back seriously. He made the other man sweat for a few seconds before nodding at Ziva. She snorted but dug out the keys and tossed them at Tony, who caught them and subsequently dropped to his knees to kiss Jethro's shoes. Rolling his eyes, Jethro gently nudged the slave with his shoe and ordered, "Get up and drive, DiNozzo."

Flashing him a grin, Tony did just that.

*  *  *  *

It was only two in the afternoon when they got back to NCIS. That in itself was enough to give Tony a bit of vertigo. So much had happened that it felt like it should be at least a whole day later. When they got back to the office, McGee and Burley stood arguing in front of the flatscreen. It broke off as soon as they saw Gibbs and Tony had the feeling it hadn't been about the case, from the agitated expression on the younger man's face.

"What do you have?" Gibbs demanded.

Tony sat at Gibbs' desk while Ziva sat on the corner of McGee's. Gibbs stood before both of his agents looking both expectant and impatient.

McGee answered, "It's what we didn't find, Boss."

"I'm telling you Gibbs, it's not relevant!" Burley stated flatly.

Or maybe they were arguing about the case, Tony thought.

Gibbs ignored Burley and prompted, "What didn't you find, McGee?"

"Mrs. Saunet," McGee reported. "The Saunet's moved to that house sans Mrs. Saunet and he just told everyone she was dead. I expanded the search, but there isn't much information to go on."

Burley repeated, "It's not relevant! Has nothing to do with the case at hand. We know Willet's guilty, we just have to prove it."

Gibbs looked at him for a moment before ordering, "Ziva, go see what Abby's got. McGee, keep digging on Saunet. And take a look at his previous residence, see if there are any museums missing their art. Burley...go comb the mall."

"The mall?" Burley exclaimed. "Gibbs, come on! There's nothing left to find there!"

Gibbs turned his full attention on Burley and questioned softly, "Would you rather go home?"

Burley seemed like he was going to protest further, but then closed his mouth with a snap and stalked towards the elevators. 

Tony asked, "What should I do?"

Gibbs looked at him and answered, "Help McGee."

"And what are you going to do?" Tony dared, flashing his cheekiest smile.

Snorting, Gibbs walked by towards the stairs, giving him a smack upside the back of the head as he went.

Tony watched him go up to the Director's office and then asked McGee, "She's here?"

"Generally speaking, if Gibbs is here, so is the Director," McGee answered dryly. "I'm not sure if it's because she thinks he'll bring the place down without her or what."

Having seen the way she'd looked at Gibbs the night before, Tony would bet on the 'or what' part being correct. The relationships in this team were enough to give him a headache. Burley had the hots for Gibbs; the Director and Gibbs had some kind of relationship that might or might not be over; Ziva looked at Gibbs with hero-worship, as did Ziva; and Gibbs seemed to view all of them, except maybe Abby, with a fond distance.

"So what do you know about computers?" McGee asked.

Tony grinned. "Well, I'm really good at looking up sports stats and certainly know my way around the entertainment sites, but that's about it."

McGee sighed and muttered, "Perfect. All right. C'mon. Let me show you some of our systems."

Tony let the younger man show him around AFIS before saying, "You know, I did work at Baltimore PD for a few years with a temporary master. I know how to use a bunch of the local and federal databases. I also know how to do all sorts of nifty things like issue BOLOs and request search warrants."

Giving him an exasperated look, McGee demanded, "Why didn't you say so when I asked before?"

"You asked what I know about computers, not what software I can use," Tony pointed out.

McGee glared at him. "Great. Another Ziva."

Tony rubbed his head and snickered as he said, "I'll take that as a compliment, McGeek."

*  *  *  *

The moment Jethro entered her office, Jenny said, "Tony seems to be working out."

Jethro nodded and agreed, "Seems to be. We'll see."

"What can I do for you, Jethro?"

It was impulse that had brought him to her door, but now that he was thinking about it, he knew it was past time to do something. Stan's crush, for lack of a better word, had been interfering with work for a few months. He'd told the other man that there would never be anything between them except friendship and respect, but Stan kept pressing for more. And now his actions had not only cost them a confession, but bordered on outright insubordination. He'd warned Stan just the week before not to push things or there would be official consequences.

Standing in front of her desk, Jethro said, "I need to know what positions are open somewhere else in NCIS."

Jenny's eyebrows went up. "You want to leave?"

"It's for Burley."


Jethro wasn't surprised that she'd seen what was going on. "How long have you known?"

"A few months now," she replied, leaning back in her seat. "Honestly, you've been far more lenient than I expected."

Jethro sighed and told her, "I didn't want to do this. I've never encouraged him romantically, so I don't know where it's coming from."

Jenny smiled at him and said, "Just by being you, Jethro."

Since her tone was faintly mocking, Jethro didn't ask if she was feeling all right. Instead, he asked, "So is there somewhere for him?"

"As a matter of fact, we have a spot opening up for an Agent Afloat on the USS Enterprise next week."

"Good. I'll tell Stan."

"Are you sure you don't want me to do it?"

Jethro shook his head as he walked back to the door. "I'll handle it. Thank you, Director."

"You're welcome, Jethro," she replied.

When he returned to the bullpen, it was to find Tony typing away on McGee's computer and the agent nowhere to be found. "Where's McGee?"

"Bathroom," Tony answered. "Unlike you, the rest of us actually have bladders."

Jethro hid a grin at the quip and said sternly, "McGee's going to be minus a vital part of his anatomy if he hasn't..."

"Got a few interesting things to show you, Boss," McGee called as he jogged back into the area.

He scooped up the remote and aimed it at the flatscreen where two new images came up. One was a grainy newspaper article and formal picture of a pretty woman in her early thirties with light hair, dark eyes, and a faintly sad expression. The other image was a snapshot of a bank account.

McGee continued, "That's the obit for Frances Walker Saunet. She apparently committed suicide by driving her car off a local bridge. No body was ever found. The bank account you're looking at is Willet's mother's. Tony discovered it while checking into Willet's financials. The money was only in Willet's for about five minutes, but it was there."

"Where'd it come from?" Jethro questioned, already knowing the answer.

Tony confirmed, "Off-shore, nameless account."

Someone had paid Willet to kidnap, if not kill, Terry Saunet.

Jethro prompted, "And Saunet? What did you find out about him?"

"Well respected businessman, both here and his former residence," McGee answered promptly. "No art thefts in any museum in that area, paintings or sculptures or anything. His net worth is north of five million, everything totaled, though his liquidity hovers somewhere just shy of one million, depending on the market. He's active in the community and donates to multiple charitable organizations."

Tony added, "He's also never even come close to getting remarried. There are socialite dates here and there, but no one generally sticks around after the fifth date."

McGee frowned at Tony and demanded, "How'd you find that out?"

Smirking a bit, Tony answered, "Gossip pages. Good for more than tinder, McGee."

Jethro's mind spun the facts around and didn't like what he came up with. He looked sharp at McGee. "Where's Willet's service record?"

McGee immediately moved to his desk, pushing Tony out of the way, and picked up a file.

"What are you thinking?" Tony asked.

Jethro shook his head and moved to McGee, taking the folder from him. He flipped through it and stopped at the man's psych eval for a few seconds. Kicking himself mentally, he tossed the folder on the desk and strode to the elevator, Tony and McGee hot on his six. To their credit, neither asked what he was doing. He went straight to the interrogation room, turned to them both and said, "Viewing room," before walking inside.

Willet sat easily in the same spot as before, looking a lot less like a Neanderthal and more like a crafty sonuvabitch.

Jethro didn't really like the change.

Sitting opposite him again, Jethro opened with, "Most killers don't really send their mothers money."

"I'm not a killer," Willet replied, shrugging.

Jethro nodded. "I know. You do kidnap, though, when it's in the victim's own interest."

That got the man's attention, though the only sign was a slight stiffening of his posture. Most people wouldn't have even noticed it.

"Saunet's been abusing his daughter for years and Terry's mother hired you to get her away from Saunet," Jethro stated. "How is twenty-five thousand dollars worth life in prison? Because that's what you were going to get, Willet."

Leaning on the table, Willet said, "I would've done it for free, Agent Gibbs. I would've gone to jail to get that girl away."

"Next time, just bring evidence to the police," Jethro told him, standing.

Willet asked, "So I'm free to go?"

Jethro felt like smacking the man in the head. "No, you're not free to go. Not until we confirm that Terry's still alive. The sooner you give me where they were headed, the sooner you are free to go."

Willet folded his arms over his chest and said, "I'm not telling you anything unless you give me your word that Saunet doesn't find out."

Which of course he couldn't do. Not with the number of people who'd been fooled by Saunet's goody-two-shoes persona over the last ten years. He would get to someone who would find out where Terry and her mother were.

"You should work on your team building skills. Your own buddies gave you up as fast as they could talk," Jethro informed him, leaving the room.

The viewing room door opened a second later, Tony and McGee spilling out almost on top of each other.

Tony looked pissed. "How did I miss that? How? I always know when someone's acting! It's part of my job!"

Since he didn't have time for a hissy fit, Jethro simply turned and walked to the elevator. They hurried to catch up, as expected. Once the elevator doors closed, Jethro ordered, "DiNozzo, keep an eye on Terry's cell phone. She's probably going to call her father once she gets over the shock that her mother's alive. McGee, keep an eye on Saunet's activity. His bank account, his cell, his credit cards, everything."

"Got it, Boss."

That they answered in sync almost made him grin.

*  *  *  *

Tony stuffed away the anger and self-castigation for later as he jumped into place beside McGee on the elevator. He should've known that Willet had been lying; he'd been practicing the art of reading people since he was six. No one had snowed him that badly since he'd been a teenager. Since Gibbs either didn't care or would chew him out for it another time, Tony concentrated on his current assignment.

Terry did indeed call her father about an hour after they started keeping track. Her number came on the grid and he called out, "She's calling now."

A few seconds later, McGee said, "Saunet's on the move."

"David, McGee, you're with me," Gibbs announced.

Disappointed, though he should've expected some kind of punishment for screwing up with Willet, Tony asked, "Anything I should do while you're gone?"

Gibbs paused by the desk and then said, "Why don't you keep Abby company? Things can be dangerous if she gets bored."

Tony nodded and watched them go, elevator doors blocking them from sight moments later. Sighing, he decided to take the stairs and went down to the lab. He only had a vague idea where it was, but figured he could get directions if he got lost. Fortunately, he found it on the first try and winced at the ear-bleeding noise blasting from speakers. Abby bounced on the toes of her feet at a long metal table, looking over a large piece of Styrofoam with little stick figures on it.

Walking up behind her, he shouted, "What's that?"

She whirled with a grin and shouted back, "Gallipoli!"

Tony spotted a remote on the table, picked it up and then lowered the volume. It was, thankfully, the right one and the noise lowered significantly. Breathing a sigh of relief, he grinned at her and asked, "Why do you have a model of Gallipoli?"

"I'm bored," Abby answered. "There's been no forensics on this case at all."

Her pout very extremely cute.

"Besides which, it's just really fun to say. Gallipoli, Gallipoli, Gallipoli, Gallipoli. See?" she said in a rush.

Tony snickered and agreed, "It is. Hey um, you know that Gallipoli was an amphib operation, right?"

"Ooh. No I didn't," she replied, squinting down at the model as though it were to blame. "So why are you here? Not that I mind, or anything."

Shrugging, Tony answered, "I screwed up so I get to sit out the action."

Abby frowned. "No way. Gibbs doesn't do stuff like that."

"What else could it be?" Tony countered.

Putting an arm over his shoulder, she replied, "I don't know, but trust me, Tony. Bossman does not mess with people like that. He lets you know when you screw up and then makes you clean the head with a toothbrush for months. Or something along those lines. He probably just wants to make sure you're safe. It's not like you could have a gun for the big game, right?"

Something that Tony hadn't considered. "No, not without clearance. I didn't have a weapon with any of my other temporary masters and they were all in law enforcement."

"See? There you go!" she said cheerfully. "Now help me with this model."

Feeling better, Tony gave her a squeeze and asked, "Got any blue markers?"

*  *  *  *

It was a couple of hours later that Tony emerged from Abby's lab covered in blue paint, thanks to a mini paint fight over how big the water mass should be. McGee had called down to let them know they were on their way back with Terry and her mother safe and sound. Saunet had made the mistake of shooting at Ziva and Gibbs had shot him; he was on his way to the hospital under guard.

Tony had learned a lot about his new environment, and the people in it, in those two or so hours. Strangely, Abby had the least amount of information about Gibbs. For all the fact that she'd been working with him the last seven years, the most she could say about the man was, "He's Gibbs. It takes a lot to win his trust but, when you do, he'll believe in you until Judgment Day. Probably longer."

Tony left the elevator and had to stop short when he unexpectedly met up with Burley.

The other man grabbed his arm and hissed, "Come with me!" before trying to drag him away from the bullpen.

Tony planted his feet and retorted, "Not unless you tell me what's going on."

A frustrated expression surfaced on Burley's face as he snapped, "I need to talk to you about Gibbs."

Uncertain, Tony let Burley pull him into a conference room down the hall. Once inside, he asked, "What about Gibbs?"

As soon as the door locked, Tony knew he'd made a mistake in going anywhere with the other man. Wary, he kept space between them as Burley walked closer.

"Look, I'm sorry about out there, but I just had an argument with Gibbs and that always throws me off," Burley said, running a hand through his hair. He flashed a wan smile at Tony and said, "Gibbs throws me off anyhow, but you probably already know what that's like, right?"

Willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, Tony asked, "What was the fight about?"

"This is really awkward, but Gibbs thought I had the hots for you and didn't believe me when I told him I didn't. He told me to, well, try you out to get over it. Not that coarse, sorry. I'm not good with words or this kind of thing at all."

Shock ran through Tony at the explanation. He'd believed Gibbs when his Master had said no sexual advances would be made against him. It was totally within Gibbs' rights to change his mind, of course, he'd actually been hoping Gibbs would do just that in regards to himself, but it still came as a shock. Have sex with Burley just because Gibbs thought the man had ideas in that direction himself? He hadn't known Gibbs very long, but that didn't seem very...Gibbs-like.

Burley continued, "I'm not going to do anything, so you don't need to worry. I just want to stay here for a while so he thinks we are. Stupid, I know, but I think that's for the best."

Tony looked at the door beyond Burley and questioned, "Why did you lock the door?"

"So if someone tries to get in, they won't be able to," he answered. "You can leave if you want, I sure won't stop you. Makes it more believable though, right?"

"Right," Tony muttered.

Burley sat on the conference table and said, "Sorry you got stuck in the middle of this. Truth is, Gibbs means a lot to me. I'm kind of hoping...well, you're here now, but I hope we can keep going with our relationship."

Tony's jaw dropped. "You and Gibbs are together?"

The smile on Burley's face was genuine as he replied, "It's great, I know. He's impossible and gives me an ulcer most of the time, but I've only ever wanted him. Really, I'd do more than fuck you if it made him happy. No offense."

He'd seen no sign that Gibbs was in a relationship with anyone, let alone Burley. There'd been no clues in either the man's home or his admittedly hard-to-read persona that said he was involved with someone. Then again, Tony's performance in the 'reading people' category hadn't been stellar or late either.

Taking a breath, Tony said, "If Gibbs said we should have sex, then we should. Do you mind if I, um, check with him first? Not that I don't trust you, or anything."

Burley smiled and waved it off. "No problem. We'll have to wait until the Director's done chewing him out though. I guess there's going to be a lot of fallout with him shooting such a bigwig. I was kinda hoping we'd just pretend to do nothing and have it all done when he was ready to go home."

"So you want to lie to him instead of having sex with me?" Tony clarified.

Shrugging, Burley said, "I'd rather not have to do either, but yeah. Don't get me wrong, you're hot and I could definitely fuck you, but I'm old-fashioned with the whole monogamy thing."

"Even though Gibbs is the one who said you should have sex."

"Weird, I know."

The self-deprecating grin relaxed Tony. It had been a hard day on all of them. The tension between Burley and Gibbs earlier that day could easily have root in sexual frustration. Tony had so precipitously come into his life, Gibbs' routine had been completely disrupted. Not to mention all the looks that they kept flashing at each other. Tony had thought it had been warning on Gibbs' end, but then, maybe he'd been warning Burley to be discreet, or it might have been something else altogether. And there was no doubting the way Burley looked at Gibbs.

Making a decision, Tony walked over to where Burley sat on the table and said, "Lies are worse. If Gibbs wants us to have sex, we should just do it and then he won't have to think about it later. We can go home and make him forget about getting yelled at by the Director."

A strong hand rubbed Tony's shoulder and then curled around the back of his neck, drawing Tony in close. The first kiss was as demanding and dominant as Tony had suspected it would be. For whatever reason, Burley felt the need to prove he was in charge; as opposed to Gibbs, who just was so, naturally. Tony had been with men like him before and knew how to give in, to let them know that he wasn't a threat.

Burley's teeth unexpectedly clamped down on his lower lip, breaking through the skin. Blood instantly welled between them and he struggled to remain in the moment. Burley moved them so Tony's back was to the table and then those hands clamped around his thighs and lifted, setting Tony on the smooth wooden surface. Burley twisted his nipple through his shirt and Tony gasped in real pain.

Pushing him down flat, Burley ordered coldly, "Don't move, slave, or you're regret it."

Tony began to understand what a big mistake he'd made, that the friendly side had all been an act, but there wasn't anything he could do about it. His split lip would require an explanation and if he didn't follow through now, then Burley would rightfully tell Gibbs that he hadn't done as ordered. And if Gibbs hadn't ordered any of this, then Tony was in serious trouble anyhow and it didn't matter what Burley did to him.

A loud crash startled him and caused Burley to spin around in time for Gibbs to run straight at him. Tony pulled his legs up and rolled off the table's other side just in time for the older agent to tackle Burley to the table. When he climbed to his feet, the two men were going at it, neither pulling their punches. Tony made the mistake of getting close and trying to grab Burley. This seemed to piss off Gibbs, whose elbow slammed into Tony's face to send him flying backwards.

Multiple arms caught him and Tony groaned as they set him on the floor, his head ringing from the blow.

"That's enough!" the Director shouted furiously. "Stop this instant! Gibbs! Burley! Stop it right now or you're both fired!"

Curling up in a ball, holding his head, Tony listened to what he couldn't stomach looking at.

When silence reigned once more, the Director demanded, "What in God's name is going on here? Gibbs, you first."

"I couldn't find DiNozzo and Abby said he'd left her lab a good fifteen minutes ago. This conference room was locked and when I broke it down, Burley had him pinned to the table."

"Because we were going to have sex, Gibbs," Burley taunted. "I wasn't going to kill the private little fucker."

"You sonuvabitch!" Gibbs growled.

"Jethro!" Whatever Gibbs had been going to do apparently stopped, because she continued, "Burley, be glad I'm not firing you over this. Get your things and leave. You report to the USS Enterprise next week and can have the intervening time to think over what you did here that was very, very wrong. Gibbs, get cleaned up and then see me in my office."

Tony opened his eyes in time to see Burley leave the conference room and Gibbs walking towards him. He cringed and Gibbs flinched before changing direction and also leaving the room.

The Director crouched beside him, a compassionate expression in place as she asked, "Are you all right, Tony? Abby and McGee can drive you to the hospital?"

Forcing himself into a sitting position, Tony answered softly, "No thank you, Mistress, I'm fine. Just need some aspirin and a flogger for being such an idiot. He said Gibbs had sanctioned this an I believed him."

She smiled and lightly brushed gentle fingers through his hair. "Burley's a master at lying, just like any politician, Tony. He spent years on the Beltway before coming here. Don't beat yourself up over it, and I mean that literally. Abby, keep an eye on him for me while I go talk to Gibbs?"

"I will," Abby promised.

Standing, the Director also left the conference room.

McGee and Abby helped him stand, Ziva belatedly coming in the room with paper bags in her hands. "What happened? What did I miss?"

Holding his shirt to his still-bleeding lip, Tony sighed and wondered which whore house he would wind up at.

*  *  *  *

Jethro couldn't remember the last time he'd been so furious. His hand ached from connecting with Stan's face and the subsequent fight, as short-lived as it had been. He barely noticed the stinging knuckles or the bruises he'd sustained from the other agent, anger flooded him so completely.


Jenny. Probably the only one who dared to face him, aside from Ducky and the ME had long since gone home. His hands flexed around the edge of the sink, knuckles slowly dripping blood onto the tile. "What?"

"Are you all right?" she questioned, sounding closer.

Not looking up or at her reflection which was sure to be shown in the mirror, Jethro continued to study the porcelain sink. He answered, "Now's not a good time, Jen."

"Tony thinks you're going to cast him out. He thinks the entire situation is all his fault and looks about ready for self-flagellation. He actually asked for a flogger."

That got Jethro's attention. Standing, he met her gaze in the mirror and said, "It's my fault, not Tony's."

"He doesn't know that," she pointed out. "All he knows is that he was going to let Stan do...whatever...and that you beat the hell out of Burley for touching him. For all he knows, you're going to kill him instead of casting him out."

Releasing the sink, Jethro turned and leaned back against it. "I don't know what I'm doing here, Jen. You have to find a way to give him back without it being his fault. Please."

Jenny closed the distance between them and put a hand on his shoulder as she said, "I can't. It's always the Courtesan's fault and you know it. Doesn't matter what the situation is."

"Damn it," he whispered tiredly. "How did things go so bad, so fast?"

She gave him a crooked smile and agreed, "It's been a long day. Look. Why don't you bring Tony home and explain that he isn't in any trouble? Things were going great before Stan imploded, right?"

Jethro had to nod at that. Tony had fit into the team like hand-in-glove.

"Well, there you go. Now that Burley's out of the way, things will go back to that. Just...don't do that thing you do," she warned.

Lifting an eyebrow at her, he repeated, "That thing I do?"

She grinned and confirmed, "Yes. That thing where you grunt and expect the other person to know what you mean. Tony's not a psychic. Tell him that he isn't in trouble. Explain that it's been building for a long time and he was just the match. Then do everyone a favor and fuck him into the mattress. I'm sure we'll all feel better when you can finally unbend enough to take that stick out of your ass."

Jethro snorted and then gave her a quick, sideways squeeze. "Thanks, Jen."

"My pleasure," she replied.

They left the restroom and separated at the stairs, where Jethro continued on to the bullpen. Tony sat on the floor behind his desk with Abby next to him and Ziva protectively over him. McGee occupied his own desk, but looked ready to jump in if needed.

Ziva folded her arms over her chest and asked, "Are you calm, Gibbs?"

"Calm enough to transfer you back to Israel," Jethro replied sharply.

Her gaze narrowed, but she only said, "Good. Come, Abby. Let us go see if Kate survived the day of poisoning food."

Abby took Ziva's hand to get up. She gave Jethro a pointed look and informed him, "Tony better still be in one piece on Monday. None of this was his fault."

What am I, some kind of monster? he thought, irritated. But he'd never really shown any of them his temper before, so it wasn't too unexpected. He tugged on her ponytail and promised, "Tony's fine. He's not in trouble."

Offering a suddenly sunny smile, Abby echoed Ziva's, "Good!" and kissed his cheek before leaving with the other woman, arm-in-arm.

Jethro glanced over at McGee and said, "Go home, McGee."

The younger agent jumped to his feet and replied, "H-have a good day off, Boss."

"Thanks, McGee," Jethro said, though he was already looking down at Tony.

The slave hadn't moved during any of the conversation going on around him. He sat on the floor, partially hidden by the desk, and looked very small for a man of his size, arms hugging knees to his chest. The bruise where Jethro's elbow had accidentally clipped him had darkened, covering most of the left cheek. His lower lip was already swollen, though it had stopped bleeding, and he still didn't know how that had happened.

Jethro moved the chair out of the way and sat on the floor opposite him, ordering softly, "Look at me, Tony."

Tony's changeable eyes shifted from the floor to Jethro's face.

"What happened was...a lot of things," Jethro started quietly, but firmly. "Messed up. A serious miscommunication. Revenge. None of it had anything to do with you, not really. Stan's been pursuing me, I guess you would say, for months now. I should have transferred him a long time ago, but didn't. You were just the straw that broke the camel's back. I hold nothing against you. Really, I only blame myself for what happened and hope you can forgive me."

"Forgive you?" Tony repeated, incredulous. "Master, I'm the one who let him..."

Jethro held up a hand, cutting off the words. "I should have told you that no one has the right to demand anything from you, no matter what they say. That should have been much, much clearer. No one touches you."

"No one but you," Tony corrected hesitantly.

Or maybe it was more hopeful than hesitant. Jethro didn't understand it, the need Tony had to submit to him. Or maybe he did. He knew brainwashing when he saw it and the younger man had been subjected to a legalized, even time-honored, form of it for most of his life. It didn't matter how Jethro felt in this particular case. Tony was who he'd been trained to be and that was a Courtesan; one made to please his or her Master.

In this case, that Master was Jethro and there was no getting around that fact. They were together now for however long they lived, in a bond more ironclad than arranged marriages.

Finally, Jethro smiled and confirmed, "No one but me."

The smile of relief on Tony's face at his confirmation was unmistakable.

Jethro stood and held down both hands as he said, "C'mon, Tony. Let's go home."

Tony took them and let himself be pulled to his feet. He made a surprised noise when Jethro tugged him into his arms, holding him tight and then tracing his tongue over the swollen lip before kissing him, slow and easy. The response was immediate; Tony's mouth opened and he just about melted against Jethro, a gasp escaping into the kiss. Jethro fed on him for a long time, getting acquainted with the slave's eager kisses and nimble tongue.

Breaking off the kiss, Jethro smiled at the sight of the hazy expression, Tony's eyes half-lidded and lips swollen for a much more pleasant reason. He stole another, shorter kiss and released the other man, swatting him lightly on the ass. "Time to go home."

Tony shook off the apparent fog and fell into step with Jethro on the way to the elevator.

Should've known he was the right one for me yesterday, Jethro mused as he hit the call button. No one else can pace me right.

Better late than never.


Next story in series - Formalities.