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Rescue Pup - chapter 8

Page history last edited by nate 14 years, 5 months ago

 

 


 

Chapter 8

 

Gibbs had held Tony for a long while, comforting him and allowing him the release of emotions.  When he felt that he was done for the time being, he slowly eased back and wiped at the drying tears, pulled tissues from his pocket and handed them to the younger man with a caring smile. 

 

“How often do you normally spend time as Hero?”  He asked, stroking brunette hair as Tony blew his nose.

 

“Depends on what’s going on with work really.  Sometimes it’s once a week, but occasionally it’s been 3 or 4 times in one week.  I’d like more, it’s just that Lady P’s wasn’t exactly… convenient.”   His voice was stronger, slightly more confident; the hint of apology just for his mere presence had receded.

 

Jethro nodded, “You need it quite regularly.  It’s not an escape; I understand that, that it’s more a part of you than that. I think that my worry would be that you use it to avoid dealing with issues, that it becomes an escapism.”

 

Tony chewed his lower lip slightly, eyes not quite drifting away from the other man’s intense but kind gaze.  “I try not to.”

 

He nodded, “We’ll be talking, I’m happy for you to get some downtime from dealing with crap, I have my own ways of doing that after all,” he gave a smile and a wink.  “But, that doesn’t mean you have to deal with things on your own, I want you to talk to me about things… anything.  I don’t expect you to be able to do it straight away, but hopefully you’ll be able to share things with me once you’ve had time to process them yourself.”

 

DiNozzo gave a smile, it was a shadow of what Gibbs was used to, but it was a vast improvement; a start.  He nodded, “I’ll try, Boss.”

 

“You need some pup time now?”  It was a guess, he could see the look in the hazel eyes and he could tell that the younger man needed something to enable him to relax and process the last couple of days in peace.

 

His reply was a somewhat self-conscious nod.

 

“All you need to do is ask, Tony.” He told him, gently, helping him up. “Let’s get your kneepads.”

 

Tony followed to the snug, the scent immediately soothing him.  It was interesting how being surrounded by Abby could do that. 

 

“How do you prefer to go into pup mode?” Gibbs asked him, curiously.

 

He gave a small cough to clear his throat.  “I take my clothes off and then strap my kneepads on.  Then I lie down for a few minutes to sort of adjust my mindset.  It used to be a collar that would trigger the switch and I didn’t need time to really adjust. But the collar at Lady P’s was just a cheap insignificant one, designed to make it easier to lead me round.”  He explained, his shyness slowly evaporating as he realised that Jethro was actually really interested and not just humouring him.

 

The older man nodded thoughtfully, “Do you prefer to be left alone while you adjust?”

 

Tony toyed with the kneepads, “Yeah, it’s easier, usually.” 

 

Gibbs smiled, “Ok, I’m going to take a shower and get dressed. That should give you enough time.”  He turned to head back through the arch.

 

“Thanks, Boss.”  He said quietly to the retreating back.

 

******

 

Tony had waited a few minutes before he stripped off his clothes, he was embarrassed at the thought of being naked in front of them again, but he knew that once he was in his puppy mindset, he wouldn’t care.  He was quickly naked, he ran a hand over the dark fur on his chest and smiled to himself, at least he was in good shape; he really didn’t have any reason to be embarrassed.  He had a good body, he had worked hard for it after being told so much that he was ugly and worthless he was determined to prove that voice wrong.  He pushed them thoughts aside and sat down on the futon to strap the kneepads on.  The affect wasn’t instantaneous for him, not like it had been with the collar he used to have, but he could definitely feel the beginnings of falling into the headspace. 

 

His posture shifted as he lay down on the top of the comforter, a mixture of pup and human in the way he was lying.  He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, it was almost like stepping back from his human nature as he moved through the transformation.  A few minutes later his self-perception had changed completely, the world around him felt and looked different.  It wasn’t like he was a separate entity from his human side but there were big differences, everything was simpler when he was a pup. 

 

Hero stretched, yawning wide, his tongue hanging out slightly as he twisted onto all fours, front limbs stretched out.  He let a full-bodied shake run along his back and end in a distinct wagging of his tail.  He turned on his body warmed spot and trotted through the open archway, paws sinking into the carpet as he snuffled around the bed.  And settled back on his haunches looking towards the sound of running water and the scent of cleanness.  He twitched forward, on the alert, but didn’t quite move from his position as he waited for his owner to emerge. 

 

The man came out with a towel around his waist, and he couldn’t help but back up slightly from him, he was still wary of him.  

 

Bossman cast him a glance with a smile, as he busied himself getting dressed.  Shifting from paw to paw as the towel was dropped on the floor, Hero moved onto all fours and crept warily towards where it was puddled; sniffing and nosing at it.  A deep laugh made him jump and he backed away, keeping his eyes on the other man as he scuttled away on his butt whimpering.

 

Gibbs sighed and shook his head, quickly pulling on his clothes while Hero was cowering in the corner.   His shirt tucked in he crossed to the pup and crouched down, holding his hand out in a gesture of friendliness.

 

Hero looked at the hand, tilting his head to the side.  It was empty, no treat, there was nothing to draw him in.  He let out a huff through his noise and shifted between his front paws.  The hand that had just been sitting there reached up and patted his head.  Bossman turned away with a smile in his eyes.  He watched him walk away before shifting forward onto his paws and following warily at a distance. 

 

He padded slowly, looking up at the man’s back, not really noticing where they were going until there was a door being opened.  He smelt Abby, and his tail started to wag as he wandered into the room where she was relaxing on a big beanbag chair.  When she looked up at him he could see she was happy to see him, it was in her eyes and the way she smiled at him.  She patted her thigh and he looked up warily at the Bossman as he trotted around him to get to her, giving him enough room that the man wouldn’t be able to kick out at him.  

 

Her hand was held out to him, it held a treat and he sniffed at it before picking it up in his teeth.  He crunched it down and concentrated on cleaning all traces of it from her palm.  She made a noise of happiness that he liked, so he did it again, and carried on doing it.

 

“I have to go out for a while, I have some chores to do.  Will you two be ok?” Gibbs asked his girl. 

 

Hero was too busy licking that hand to notice or care about what was being said.

 

“I’m sure we’ll be just fine, won’t we, pup.” The hand he wasn’t cleaning came up to ruffle his hair and he happily wagged his tail, his butt plopped down onto the floor.  He nudged her knee with his nose and then rested his chin on it.

 

Gibbs laughed, and nodded his agreement, “You’ll be just fine.  Try not to get up to too much mischief.”  He crossed to her and leaned down to kiss her softly on the lips.

 

Hero looked up, eyebrows raised, without lifting his head, making a soft whining noise.  Bossman made that rough chuckling noise again and petted his head.  He turned his eyes back to looking up at her and she gave her own rough laugh as she stroked him.

 

“How about we go and play in the garden?” She asked him softly.

 

Hero heard… “wah wah wah….garden.” He was up on his paws and padded over to wait at the door, his tail occasionally moving in a restrained wag. 

 

Abby watched the reaction and grinned, “Well ok then, lets get your toys.” 

 

She made a detour into Gibbs’ office and gathered up some of the treats and the squeaky squirrel and stuffed rabbit.  He trailed behind her and that reminded her that he was a damaged pup, that they would have to work hard at restoring his playfulness and his eagerness.  She looked forward to the day that he would be bouncing ahead of her in excitement with his tail wagging furiously.

 

As she’d pulled out the two toys there had been a flicker of excitement that gave a tiny glimpse into the playful pup that Hero could be, but all too quickly it was buried again under that serious demeanour.  It made her ache just a little bit more, wondering what kind of pup he was before he was mistreated.  His attention seemed fixed on the rabbit and with a smile she held it out to him. 

 

Ever so gently, Hero took the ear of the rabbit in his mouth and looked up at her expectantly.

 

“Well, ok then, let’s go get some sun and fun.”  She told him.

 

Abby took him out through the family room, onto the lawn and threw the squeaky toy for him.  “Go on, Hero, fetch.”  She didn’t throw it too far; it wasn’t like he could bound after it like a real pup.  The rabbit was dropped as he went after the squirrel and she was surprised at just how fast he was able to move, considering he was on all fours. 

 

She knew that Tony’s ex had been cruel, that he’d done terrible things to him, but she didn’t know if he’d ever trained Hero.  Some pups were hard to command, others were smart and picked it up easily, a lot depended on previous training and the key commands that had been used.  She decided that it was probably best to wait and ask Tony about it. 

 

The squirrel retrieved, he picked it up in his mouth and trotted back to her, he dropped it on the ground at her feet before shifting back onto his haunches and lifting his paw slightly.  Abby smiled brightly, leaned down to shake the paw and then pet his fur.  Chuckling she picked up the squirrel and threw it again, a little further. 

 

As she watched him move, her mind turned over the events of the last couple of days.  She hadn’t read very much of the file yet, but she’d read enough for it to sicken and sadden her.  She was already compiling mental lists of what she was going to do to the bastard when she found him: when… not if.  Abby considered the pup-boy as he stopped to sniff at some flowers.  The start of this relationship was a far cry from when she and Gibbs had first got together.  She moved to sit on the sun-warmed grass as she watched the distracted Hero go wandering off after a butterfly.  He was focused on it intensely and she was amused to see that he was actually panting, his tail occasionally wagging.

 

She thought back to that night almost two years earlier.  To all outward appearances she’d come across as totally confident when she made the approach, but she had really been very nervous.

 

Abby paced back and forth, she was giving herself a pep talk.  Smoothing her top and tightening her pigtails, she took a deep breath and hit the up button on the elevator.  As expected, Gibbs was still at his desk and everyone else had gone off home.  She crossed to him with a bounce in her step that masked the inner fluttering of nerves.

 

“Hey, Gibbs.”  She grinned and perched on his desk.

 

He looked up at her and smiled, “What can I do for you, Abby, shouldn’t you be off home?”  He’d checked his watch and she’d almost backed out then.

 

Instead she shook her head, setting her bunches swinging. “I wanted to ask you something.”

 

Jethro leaned back in his chair and looked at her. “Well ask away.”

 

“I’ve been invited to this…thing… and I really need a date, I wondered if you would go with me.” She blurted all in one go, gesturing with her hands as she spoke.

 

He raised an eyebrow at her.  “A thing?”

 

She nodded enthusiastically, “Yes!”

 

“Wouldn’t you prefer to ask someone nearer your own age, like DiNozzo?”

 

Abby shook her head, “Nope, I want you to go with me, Bossman.”

 

“What exactly is this ‘thing’?” He’d asked and she could feel him studying her, she knew she was right, she had to be; it would all be too embarrassing if she wasn’t.

 

“Well, it’s… a collaring ceremony.”

 

Both eyebrows rose at that, “You want me to be your date to attend a collaring ceremony?” His tone was still relaxed, with only a hint of incredulity peeking through.

 

“Yes!” She exclaimed, animatedly. “Exactly!”

 

“Why?”

 

It was cool, he seemed to know just fine what a collaring ceremony was.  Abby almost danced in victory; she’d been right.  “Because.” Was the only explanation she gave, even though she knew him well enough to know he wouldn’t leave it at that..

 

“Because, why?”  He persisted and she felt her resolve crumble in the face of that attitude of his that had given him away in the first place.

 

“Because, if I go solo then my friends have threatened to set me up with this dom, and he’s totally not my type.” She scrunched her nose up for emphasis.  “Besides, you’re hot and well… one look at you and they’ll be convinced. And did I mention that I think you’re hot?” She’d pointed at him as if to emphasise who she was talking about.

 

He hadn’t said anything for a while, he’d just studied her carefully, then slowly he’d started to pack away his things and switch his computer off.  It was only when he got to his feet to put his jacket on that he’d spoken again.

 

“So, when is this ‘thing’?”

 

Abby knew she had to have a big goofy grin on her face at the memory.  Her eyes found Hero; he was stretched out on the grass, the butterfly chase abandoned in favour of chewing on the squeaky squirrel.  There was hope for him, there had to be.  He’d been badly hurt, but she had to believe that they could help him recover.  She couldn’t believe that his mask had fooled her for so long, they were meant to be investigators for god’s sake; but then, wasn’t Tony the master of the undercover ops?

 

She picked up the rabbit and crossed to where he lay, stretching out along side him, Abby stroked him gently as he chewed. 

 

Hero raised his head to look at her, cocking it slightly to the side, she had bunny, and suddenly he had an important decision to make… squeaky or floppy.  He held the squeaky in his front paws while he’d been working on chewing it into submission, but his attention was pulled back to the floppy.  Tough call, he arched slightly though at the feel of a gentle hand stroking his back… that felt good and he was tempted to roll over for a tummy rub.  But a flash of memory reminded him why he’d learnt not to do that.

 

He shuffled a little nearer to her on the grass and rested his chin on his left paw, looking up at her with both eyes before dropping them to look at bunny.  With any luck she would make the decision for him… maybe he could have both?  Oh, oh… there was a plan.  Hero raised his head, and with one paw on squeaky for protection he made his move to retrieve bunny.  Surprisingly, she didn’t taunt him with it, but gave it up freely, that confused him slightly as it dangled by one ear from between his teeth.  He was used to having to earn bunny, he wondered if there was a new game and someone had forgotten to tell him the rules.  He was a little suspicious but for now he was just going to enjoy the opportunity to have both toys.

 

Hero dropped the floppy between his paws and alternated chewing on one then the other.  His tail occasionally wagged but then stilled.  The sun was warm on his back and he was stretched out with Abby-girl who smelled familiar and safe.  One paw on squeaky and the other on bunny, he rested his chin back on his paw and let his eyes fall half closed.

 

He hadn’t even realised that he’d dozed off until he woke with a start, there was a loud noise and he whimpered as he picked floppy up.  If he had to choose, the floppy would usually win.  He looked around but couldn’t see Abby-girl, there was a pile of daisies where she’d been and he snuffled at them before sneezing.  Scared, he got up on all fours, abandoning squeaky to whatever fate might await him he made his way back to the house.  The door that they’d come out through was still open and he slowly made his way back inside.

 

He moved slowly, hardly daring to make a sound, the noise had stopped but he was still worried.  He’d dozed for a while it would seem and now they’d left him alone… it was all he really deserved.  A soft whine bubbled up from his throat.

 

“Stupid mutt, all you do is make a mess, you don’t even deserve someone to take care of you.”  The door slammed as Master left the apartment.

 

Hero made his way to the front door, he sat by it, bunny dangling from his mouth by the ear and he whimpered and whined.  The longer he sat there the louder he got.  puppy cries and sad eyes, Master had been right, it had only been a couple of days and already they’d abandoned him.  He really didn’t deserve them, he should have known they’d go away again. 

 

Distressed he took himself off towards the Master Suite, head hanging low, needing to surround himself in their scent, he found their huge walk-in-closet.  Hero pawed at the laundry hamper until it fell over, he snuffled, immediately picking out their unique smells.  He dragged a few items into a corner and curled up on them with bunny.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9

 

Abby came out of the office and twirled a pigtail round her finger.  It was always good to talk to her friends, but Matt could go on and on sometimes; it was especially annoying when she just wanted to get back to Hero.  She went through the family room and out into the garden.  She frowned when she saw the patch of grass, where she’d left the man-pup, was unoccupied.

 

She was baffled, stepping further out into the garden; they wrapped around the house and she followed it all the way round to see if she could find Hero.  There was no sign of him outside.  Chewing on her lip she returned inside, locking the door behind her, she started to go through the house room by room.   This was bad, what would she tell Gibbs when he got home? She’d lost their new pup.  Abby cursed herself and went through the Master bedroom into the snug; but there was no sign of him there either.

 

She’d checked the obvious rooms, the kitchen, Tony’s bedroom as well as the Master bedroom and the snug.  She stood in the hallway scared and upset, how could she have allowed this to happen.  She would have to go through every room methodically.  Before she had chance to start her search, her Master’s car was pulling into the drive. 

 

Abby was waiting for him at the garage door, nervously wringing her hands.  Just one look at her and he knew there was something wrong.

 

“I’m sorry, he was asleep on the grass, and the phone rang so I came in to answer it.  I was longer than I thought I’d be and when I went back out he was gone.  I don’t know where he is, I’ve looked the places I could think, I checked the whole garden.” She told him all in one go, close to tears, “I’m sorry, Master.”

 

“Whoa, little one, slow down.” His strong hands gripped her upper arms with surprising gentleness, but it was enough to ground her and make her focus on him. “Where have you looked?”

 

“Our bedroom, the snug, Tony’s room, the kitchen, and I know he can’t be in the office or den, I was in the first and the door to the den was shut.”

 

Gibbs nodded, thoughtfully; it would all depend on his reason for running off as to where he could be.  The obvious choices had been ruled out.  “Where else can he hide, and still have a comforting scent?”

 

“I can’t think of anywhere I haven’t looked.”

 

They started towards the Master Suite; he had one arm wrapped around her shoulders reassuring her.  He would deal with the issue of leaving the vulnerable pup unattended when they’d found him.  “Did you check under the bed?”

 

“Under and all around.”

 

“If you were a frightened puppy where would you hide?” He asked her.

 

Her pale eyes momentarily flared a more green than hazel, a spark of something in her mind to be dealt with later.  If she were a pup?  Abby wouldn’t be a pup, she wasn’t very pup-like at all… more… kitten-like really. “Somewhere he can snuggle down but that has the smell of safety.”

 

Their eyes both moved in the same direction, simultaneously they started towards the closet.  He put his hand out to slow her down.  If he was in there, then her rapid approach could spook him even more.  They calmed themselves down and moved into the closet, if they didn’t find him in there then he didn’t know where to look…they would have to go through the whole house in minute detail.

 

The first thing they noticed was the overturned laundry hamper.  A trail led from it into the corner under Abby’s dresses.  They both crouched down to look under there, what they found almost made her cry again. 

 

Hero had practically made a nest of their clothes and had burrowed into them, he was curled up and shaking, but not from cold.  She dug a hand in her pocket and offered the treat to Gibbs.  Her guilty conscience not allowing her to be the one he trusted.

 

Jethro took the treat and moved a little closer, he carefully lowered his voice so that it was quiet and non-threatening, “Hey Hero, we were looking for you, this is a good hidey-hole.”

 

Hero hadn’t been thinking, he’d just been smelling them on their worn clothes and trying to be good and stay out of the way.  They had to come back; it was their house, they lived there.  But logic had little place in a pup’s confused and hurt mind.  When he heard Bossman’s voice, he peeked out through the black fabric that was part shielding his face, one of Abby-girl’s swirly-skirts. It was a trick… it had to be. 

 

Instead of moving forwards, he shuffled back, pressing himself into the corner as deeply as he could.

 

Gibbs patiently held the treat out on his hand, hoping to tempt the frightened pup.  “It’s ok, Hero, no one’s going to hurt you.  Abby’s here too, look.”  He nodded towards her, “You’re safe with us, it’s ok, you can come out.”

 

Hero looked at the outstretched hand suspiciously, his head coming up slightly, more to be on the alert than any kind of success on the Bossman’s part.  He remembered games like that, his Master’d lure him out and then there would be pain again.  He remembered the overturned hamper and the clothes that he was lying on; he was no doubt going to be punished as soon as he came out.  But when he needed to go, what would he do then.  They were too close, and faster on two legs than him, he couldn’t get past them.  A quiet whine found it’s way out before he could stop it.

 

With little success forthcoming, Jethro was starting to contemplate the wisdom of bringing him back to Tony while in a state like this.  It would no doubt be emotionally jarring.  He resisted the urge to sigh and made a slight shuffle forwards, Hero had already backed away as far as he could get, and with any luck the scent of the chocolate would coax him out.

 

Abby was trying to keep calm, but she felt so bad and to blame and it was obvious that Hero didn’t understand.  She looked helplessly at her Master.  He had such infinite patience in such situations; it never ceased to amaze her.  She almost thought about crawling in there with the pup, it looked pretty comfortable in there after all.

 

Gibbs managed to get a little closer and placed the treat on top of the bed of clothes, then he backed off to where he’d started from.  He watched the man-pup sniff at the chocolate treat, eyeing it with suspicion.  Slowly, he picked it up in his mouth and crunched it down.

 

“See, it’s ok, boy.” He told him.

 

Abby gave him another treat and he held that out, placing it on the clothes still, but slightly further out.

 

He didn’t move right away, but looked at the treat as if he half expected it to jump up and bite him on the nose.  He inched his way towards it.

 

Bit by bit, Gibbs coaxed the pup out of his hiding place, until he was sitting in the open and looking up at them, a little bemused and a fair bit frightened.  Jethro attempted to reassure him by stroking his hair. 

 

Abby retrieved the rabbit from the bed of clothes and held it out to the pup, and he hesitantly took it by the ear, looking from one biped to the other.

 

“I bet you’re hungry and thirsty, hiding in here all this time.  Let’s get you some food and water.” Gibbs said as he got to his feet and patted his thigh for Hero to follow.

 

He made an aborted start, shifting forward but then halting, a repeat of the pat to Bossman’s thigh had him following at a safe distance. 

 

In the kitchen, he sat back on his haunches and watched as bowls were filled with food and water and then placed on the floor on top of a mat that he’d not seen before.  He looked at them, body set in preparation for movement, ready to go but not until he was given the command; he knew better than to just dive in.

 

Gibbs was waiting for the pup to make his move and go to the bowls but, as on edge as he was, he never moved.  He frowned and rubbed at the back of his neck, he remembered the rules that he and Tony had gone over.  It seemed you could only do so much in one day.

 

“Go on, boy, eat.”  He told him, keeping his voice light and playful.

 

The magic words freed Hero from his spot, the bunny was dropped and his face was in the water bowl in seconds, tail high in the air as he leaned in to lap at the water.

 

His face was wet and he had crumbs around his mouth, there was laughter in blue eyes as Bossman crouched in front of him with a cloth to wipe at his face.  Instinctively, Hero licked and nipped at the cloth as it passed in front of his lips. Laughter made him back up a bit, then a heavy hand was ruffling his fur.  The cloth tossed aside, he watched it land on the counter. 

 

Hero followed at a distance as his owner left the kitchen for the room with the rug.  Hesitant still, he made his way almost painfully slowly to the soft rug and kept his eyes on the Bossman as he circled before settling down.  The pup rested his chin on his front paws, raising his eyebrows to look up at the biped. 

 

His anxiety levels were still high and he watched suspiciously, worried that the second he stopped paying attention that they would get angry with him and he’d find himself kicked until he turned his attention back to them or he’d be locked naked outside.  He tried, but despite having slept in the closet, the pup found his eyes slowly closing.

 

Gibbs waited until he saw the body visibly relax, it was a sad sight to see, such open distrust in those sad hazel eyes.  Haunted and hurt, he just wanted to hold him and make it better.  He hoped there would come a time when they would have won over enough of Tony’s trust for him to be able to do just that.  He watched those beautiful eyes slide closed, breathing evened out and slowed.  A small smile crossed his face at the scene now in front of him; if he didn’t know better then he’d think that Hero didn’t have a care in the world.  But he did know better, he knew a lot more than that. 

 

Standing and stretching, he moved silently so as not to disturb his sleeping pet and went in search of his girl.  Abby was no doubt off somewhere beating herself up over what had happened.   Well, punishments were his job and he wanted to find out exactly what had happened before he considered whether one was deserved.  It was likely he would discipline her just so she could let the guilt go.  Sometimes it was about what *she* needed.

 

He found her in the snug; she was sitting on the futon where it had been folded back to a sofa, her knees pulled up to her chest hugging a Tony’s pillow to her chest.  Her eyes lowered to stare at her bare feet.

 

Jethro hitched his pants slightly and sat down beside her.  He waited for her to speak.  She never said a word.  Guilt and sorrow poured off her so thickly he could swear he could almost see it. 

 

“I want to know what happened.” He finally broke the silence.  His tone was like steel but laced with that quiet patience she’d come to know and love him for

 

Abby couldn’t look at him but she knew better than to not answer him, even such an indirect command to talk.  “He was asleep on the grass.  The phone rang and… I thought he would be ok.  I didn’t think I would be very long.  Oh god… I’m so sorry, Master.” Her eyes came up to look at him, pleading.  “Things were going well and now… it won’t ever happen again, I promise.”

 

He studied her, silent as his ice-blue eyes and stoic face took her in, he was giving away nothing. “Who was it?”

 

It took a moment for Abby’s brain to back track and work out what he was talking about.   “Matt.” She answered, “He just wouldn’t take the hint and ring off… I did try.”

 

“I’m sure you did.” His voice was emotionless, and she couldn’t tell if it was sarcasm or if he did believe her.

 

She was miserable and her eyes sank once more to the ground.

 

Jethro got to his feet and looked at her, “Up, my girl.” He commanded her, emphasising that she was his, ‘mine no matter what’ the hidden message.

 

In spite of her worry and internal hesitancy, her feet dropped immediately to the floor and she stood, placing the pillow aside.  It had been a comfort, smelling as it did of the sexy Italian brunette.  She didn’t look at him; her eyes fell again to the floor.

 

Gibbs knew what she needed and it wasn’t something they could put off.  Abby couldn’t forgive herself until she knew he’d forgiven her, and forgiveness meant punishment had to come first.

 

“Strip and come to the play room.”  He told her.  Without waiting to see or hear her response, he headed for the room.  Taking out his keys and unlocking the door that hid the contents of the room away, they’d been mindful not to spook their delicate new family member.

 

******

 

Abby knew the protocol, she slipped out of her clothes and took deep breaths before she knocked at the door of the playroom.  

 

“Enter.” He called to her, not paying any further attention as he readied equipment for use.

 

She knew what was expected and sunk to a kneel six feet in from the door.  This was a punishment so she assumed the required position; one hand gripped the wrist of the other arm behind her back and she leaned forward to press her forehead against the cool padded floor.

 

Gibbs paid her no attention, that wasn’t unusual for such a situation; he would give her attention only when he wanted to.  She could hear him moving around, but didn’t dare look to see what he was doing; she knew better - he’d trained her better than that.  She felt, rather than heard, the door open and guessed that he’d left the room. 

 

******

 

Jethro left his girl kneeling in the playroom, he needed to check on Hero, the last thing he needed was for him to wake up and feel abandoned again.  It was time to bring him out of it.  He collected a blanket from the bedroom before heading to the family room.

 

The pup was still asleep where he’d left him.  He crouched and gently ran a hand through the soft hair.  The contact made the human-pup stir and sleepy eyes blinked open to look up at him.  Gentle hands held his face.

 

“Tony, I need you to come up.”  He encouraged, his voice little more than a whisper.

There was a slow blink and he could see the start of the transition. “That’s it, Tony, up you come. Good boy.”

 

The second time he spoke the name there was a shift in posture.  The slight blush that had stained his cheeks the first time was evident again and Jethro wrapped the blanket around his shoulders. 

 

“You ok?”  He asked, Tony.

 

There was a small wary nod.

 

“You’re not in trouble, understand?” 

 

Gibbs was talking to him like he was talking to a frightened child and the thought nearly made him laugh.  Instead, he nodded again.

 

“Tell me.” Came the instruction.

 

Tony didn’t understand what was expected of him, his lower lip was pulled between his teeth and sad eyes looked into the other man’s face like he might find the answer there.  All he found was patience and acceptance.  It made him swallow the hard lump that formed in his throat.

 

“I…” He started, but aborted.

 

Still, Jethro waited, not hurrying him or repeating himself.

 

“I’m… not in trouble?”  Tony asked, almost in disbelief.

 

There was a small smile on the older man’s lips, not much, just the slightest upturn at the corners.  “I want you to tell me, not ask.”  His voice like velvet covered steel, firm but soft.

 

His voice was slightly stronger the next time he spoke and almost sounded like he believed what he was saying as he told his boss what he wanted to hear.  “I’m not in trouble.”

 

Gibbs nodded and pulled him into a hug.  There was a moment of hesitation, then Tony was hugging him back solidly, filled with relief and the need for reassurance that the contact brought.

 

“We’re never leaving you, not unless you choose to walk away… maybe not even then.” Jethro murmured in his ear, as he held him and stroked his back through the blanket.

 

Tony wanted to tell him not to make promises he couldn’t keep, but he kept his mouth shut.  He hadn’t been clever enough though, his boss was far too perceptive.

 

Pulling back slightly, but not giving up his grip on him, Gibbs studied the younger man’s face, an open book for anyone who chose to read at that moment in time. He realised just how closed off DiNozzo had been from them for so long, and the few glimpses that they’d seen of that hopeful puppy look: ‘please don’t hurt me… please don’t leave… please don’t say you’ll stay when you’re going to walk away and leave.’

 

“I only make a promise when I mean it, Tony.  You should know that about me by now.”

 

A gentle thumb brushed at his cheek and he realised rather belatedly that his eyes were leaking; because there was no way he was crying… not again.  It was bad enough knowing that he’d done it once, and then there was the blushing, but Tony wasn’t going to admit that it was happening again.

 

“It was all a misunderstanding, pup, Abby was on the phone, she thought you would still be asleep.”

 

That pulled a sob of a hiccup from the Italian and he looked almost mortified at the sound.

 

“I told you, you’re family now.  I’ll tell you as often as you need to hear it; we’re not going anywhere.  We care about you too much to hurt you.”

 

Another hesitation and then finally a nod of understanding, Tony fought to dry the wetness on his cheeks with the corner of the blanket.  His efforts earned him an indulgent smile.  “Go and take a nice long shower in your room’s en suite… better yet, a soak in the tub, no less than half an hour.  Relax and then get dressed.  You can set us up with a movie to watch.”

 

Tony obeyed, not even realising he hadn’t questioned the instructions until he was actually running the bath water.   He blinked and shook his head, a small smile on his face; a glimmer of hope.  Gibbs never made promises that he couldn’t keep.  He just had to keep telling himself that.  He was still struggling to believe that he wasn’t in trouble.

 

******

 

Punishing his girl was the last thing Jethro felt like doing after comforting his boy.  He just wanted to curl up with either or both of them.  It was hard and it was unwelcome, but it was necessary.  He’d long since learned what Abby needed, this was one of them things; if he didn’t punish her then she would do it to herself.  He really couldn’t handle her going all introverted on him too.

 

He paused outside the room to ready and remind himself why he was doing it then, with a flourish, he opened the door and stepped in.  Gibbs clicked it shut behind him and turned the key.  Slowly, he walked around the kneeling form of his raven-haired girl.  She was beautiful and the position she was in highlighted perfectly the curve of her back that the large gothic cross adorned.  He allowed himself a smile at the two cute little stick-figure angels that decorated her shoulder blades, it was quickly pushed away and he continued to circle her before coming to a stop, toe tips six inches from her lowered head.

 

He looked at her until he could see a shift in her body’s comfort level; whether physical or psychological it didn’t really matter, he suspected the latter.  His girl could kneel for hours if she wasn’t paid attention to, but if she was being watched it was a whole other matter. 

 

“Ask, my Girl.” He commanded.  Nothing in his voice showed displeasure, but he was almost unapproachable, emotionally detached from the moment.  In her logical mindset, Abby would know that wasn’t the case, but she’d had time to drop herself into that submissive mindset where logic wasn’t such a strong feature anymore.

 

“Please, Master, please correct me.” In contrast with his level tone, Abby’s husky voice was thick with her emotion. 

 

She was already close to the point where the dam would break and he hoped he wouldn’t have to push to hard too get it to give way.

 

“What did you do?” He requested. 

 

It wasn’t exactly a script that they used, but a format that he had found to work best.  First, she had to ask for the discipline; he could tell her state of mind from that and whether or not she really was contrite.  Secondly, she had to tell him why she required the discipline.  This was not the part of their relationship that he enjoyed most, but it was a necessary evil, it kept his girl feeling secure in her position.  He preferred to play for fun.

 

“I left him.” Her voice hitched, “I left Hero on his own, it scared him. Oh, God, he was so scared, I’m sorry Master, please… punish me so I won’t ever do something so stupid again.” 

 

Her head never lifted from her position of supplication but the rawness in her voice told him what he would see in her face if he were to look in it.

 

“Stand.” He told her, watching to make sure that she was ok after the period of kneeling, he watched for any signs of a muscle cramp.

 

There were times when Abby could be graceful, but as she raised herself from her position, it was the furthest thing from her mind right then.  She wanted to drop her eyes, but she knew the rules on that, so she fought to look her Master in the eyes.  His expression was as unreadable as usual, his eyes weren’t hard exactly but they certainly brooked no disrespect or rebellion.  Not that she had any intention of trying to talk her way out of this.  There might be times when she did, but this wasn’t one of them, she felt too bad about what had happened.

 

For a moment, Gibbs simply had to stare at her, she was so beautiful, but the situation wasn’t right for him to take advantage of that right now; despite the way his cock was twitching in his pants. 

 

Seeing something that obviously satisfied him, he moved away to gather restraints. Fur-lined, wide black leather, hardware… double buckle cuffs.  Obediently, she offered him each wrist in silence, without being asked, and watched as they were tightened around them.  She watched as he crouched, and remained still as hands fastened the remaining cuffs around each of her ankles. 

 

“How long were you on the phone for, my Girl?” He asked simply as he straightened up. 

 

Patient eyes of the long suffering Master and boss, studied her while she took her time to try and work it out.  She blinked, her tongue flickered out to try and moisten lips that had dried with her sudden nerves.

 

“About thirty-five minutes, Master.”  She told him, the reluctance to make the admission was obvious, but she had told him the truth regardless.

 

The toy of choice that was used during punishment was the two-pronged tawse, it was the only time they used it.  It was vicious and Abby hated it, despite loving the other implements – some even more vicious.  Gibbs wondered whether it was because it was the first thing he’d punished her with that had built the negative relationship with the toy.  He was going to use one strike for every minute, but thirty-five was pushing the limit.  It worried him, but he would use his judgement.

 

“Bench.” He instructed and moved aside to watch her cross to the spanking bench.

 

It was one of his favourite pieces in the playroom. It had so many uses and was quite versatile, despite its name.  Padded shin rests could be fixed together but they were also on a pivot so that he could part the legs of the occupant to expose their genitals for play or use.  A wide padded bar braced the thighs so that they were slightly beyond the 90 degrees, putting the sub off balance.  The top was shaped, padded for comfort but acted as a brace for the upper body across the abdomen, a T-bar up the sternum left access to nipples, with a woman’s breasts hanging down on either side of it.  The T-bar terminated in the shoulder and head brace; there were three ways this could be used, a solid insert left the surface flat, meaning the sub had to turn the face to the side; the cut out could be removed to leave an oval for the face to rest in it; or a chin rest that tilted the sub’s head up and left their mouth accessible for use.   Attachment points were arranged at many places.

 

Gibbs waited until Abby had lowered herself onto the bench, face in the cut out oval so she was staring at the floor beneath the bench.  He attached the ankle restraints first, clicking them into place.  Then straps came up around the calves to secure the lower limbs.  Next came the straps around the thighs, these ensured that the thighs couldn’t be squeezed together.  There were times that he might strap her shoulders down, but this time he simply attached her wrist cuffs to the front legs of the bench. 

 

He took a moment to admire her form before retrieving the tawse.  “One strike for every minute.” He told her, “Count them.”

 

He knew that she knew the rules when it came to punishment, that counting meant she had to thank him also.  He had her do this because it was useful to hear the changes in her voice, but also it kept her from entering subspace; it was a punishment after all. 

 

No warm up with a punishment and he barely waited a heartbeat, as he moved behind her, before bringing the split leather down across her ass cheek with a solid crack. 

 

Abby gasped at the sudden slash of fierce pain across her ass cheek.  She counted, her voice emotional, but firm.

 

By ten Jethro’s arm was aching and his girl’s voice was hitching with a sob on every slash of the leather against her soft flesh.  It was bruising, if this had been playtime he would be enjoying the thrill of marking that beautiful little butt.  But it wasn’t.  Bright red welts marred that perfect flesh.  He took a moment to soothe over the flesh with his hand, feeling the heat that poured off it.  Just because he didn’t want to punish her, didn’t mean that he would do a half-assed job of it.  He was an all or nothing guy, if a job needed doing it was done well and to the best of his ability. 

 

He kept one eye on the time, needing to make sure that Tony wouldn’t come looking for them.  He shifted the strikes down to cover the thighs as well.  Alternating, one side than the other, his girl was diligent and never messed up on the count, even when it became a struggle to get the words out around the constriction of emotion in her throat.

 

By twenty Abby’s ass and thighs were on fire with the pain of it, she wasn’t going to be sitting comfortably for a few days, and that was just fine by her, she wanted to remember what she’d done every time she came to sit down.  She deserved the pain for hurting Tony/Hero.  Her body shook with her sobs, her nose and eyes had streamed a small puddle under the bench and she didn’t even care that she would look a mess.

 

Gibbs could hear it in her count that she was nearing the breaking point.  Just a few more and they would be there.  Her cries of pain from each crack of the tawse were increasingly louder; he was glad they’d padded the room out to sound proof it.

 

He had only reached twenty-two when the wall crumbled and the words began to fall from Abby’s mouth.

 

“Please… sorry…. Master… forgive me… please… sorry….” It was a litany but it was also his cue. 

 

He landed two more and she counted them out, interrupting her plea for forgiveness to do so.  He put the tawse down and inspected her ass, the skin was blistering hot in places, welts and the start of bruises forming, there were a few places where the skin was perilously close to being cut but it hadn’t actually split.  Before releasing her, he covered the abused flesh with a soothing balm that she had concocted herself, liberally rubbing it over her flesh.  He released her in reverse from where he’d bound her, then slowly eased her back so that she was kneeling.  Gibbs cupped her tear-streaked face gently with one hand and pulled a cloth from his pocket and wiped her cheeks and nose.

 

“I forgive you my pretty girl. And I trust you that it won’t happen again.” His voice soft, gentle and full of tenderness; the punishment was over and it was time for reassurance.  “I love you, baby girl.” He told her as he helped her stand.

 

Abby heard the words and felt the weight lifting from her, the pain in her body was sharp, but it didn’t matter.  She was forgiven and loved.  She leaned in to him and he carefully wrapped her in his arms, kissing her hair and her temple. 

 

“Ssh.” He told her as she sobbed, “it’s all ok, it’s over now, baby girl.”

 

“Love you… Master, th...thank you.” She managed to stutter out amongst her sobs.

 

 

 

Chapter 10

 

The bath had felt so good, the soapy water warmed Tony through, he’d added bubble bath and there was a good pile of foam on top of the water that he’d played with, lost in thought.  His fingers had gone wrinkly and for some strange reason, that amused him.  He didn’t often take the time to just relax like this; showers were just a means to getting clean.  He needed a radio though, or better yet, a TV.  He grinned at that thought.  He could imagine the look he’d get from his boss if he mentioned that one.  Occasionally, he’d topped the water up with more hot as it cooled, not wanting to disobey and get out before his time was up.  When his watch beeped at him, he didn’t want to move, so he’d stayed a little longer.  When he finally did ease himself out of the water, he felt heavy and almost boneless.  

 

He shivered slightly at the tickle of cool air on his damp skin, before wrapping himself up in a towel and drying himself off.  He was actually feeling happy as he dressed himself.  Gibbs’ words kept playing themselves over in his head.  The day had been such a roller coaster, but it would all be okay, they cared about him, he wasn’t in trouble, and they wouldn’t leave him.  He just had to remember that.

 

Jeans and T-shirt on, he took himself through to the family room and started looking through the movies that they had.  There were loads of them, and he just couldn’t understand how Gibbs never got his references.  That made him frown slightly in puzzlement, he decided to ask about it later.  His choice was an old black and white film from the fifties, it was a corny sleuth film but he loved it… knew it almost word for word.

 

Tony helped himself to a drink in the kitchen after hesitating about whether or not to do so.  He’d read over their ‘no rules’ list and it had built his confidence to pull the fridge open.  The house was quiet and the day was marching on, he sat in the family room waiting for the other two to show.  

 

Finally, Gibbs wandered in and sat down beside him, he gave him a small smile. “Right then, on with the show.”  He prompted.

 

Tony looked towards the doorway, “We’re not waiting for Abby?”

 

“She’s having a nap.”

 

“Oh.” Tony frowned and clicked the remote to start the movie.

 

As the film had progressed, the brunette had once more found himself edging closer to his boss.  An arm had come around his shoulder and pulled him in to settle against the other man’s side.  He gave a tentative look out of the corner of his eyes, but Jethro was absorbed in the movie.

 

“How come you never know what I’m talking about when I go on about a movie?” He asked as the credits rolled.  He flicked it off. “You have practically every movie I’ve ever mentioned.”

 

The older man smirked at him but didn’t answer.  He gave Tony’s hair a ruffle and got to his feet.  Most of the time he’d known exactly what he was going on about, but it was fun to play dumb and watch the enthusiasm on the boy’s face as he detailed his favourite plots.  He’d never tell DiNozzo that though.

 

“Time to make dinner.” Jethro told him, and left him sitting in front of the TV waiting for an answer that would never come.

 

******

 

Left to his own devices, Tony spent a little while flipping through the TV channels.  There wasn’t anything of any interest on though.  Bored, he flicked the screen off and wandered through to clean up the mess he’d made in the closet.

 

He felt a wave of embarrassment as he saw the scattered laundry across the floor and started to gather it up.  He dumped it all back into the hamper and straightened it in it’s place.  He retrieved Bunny and gave a small smile, carrying him by one ear as he left the room to return him to the snug.

 

As he passed through the Master Bedroom, he looked over at Abby; she was curled up under the sheet on her side.  It pulled another smile out of him.  The girl had so much energy; he couldn’t believe she took naps in the daytime.  As he paused to watch her sleeping, she whimpered softly.  Tony frowned.  Did his best girl have nightmares?  He remembered their had been times when she’d briefly mentioned something to Kate but…? She made the sound again and this time sounded in pain.

 

He quietly padded across to her and crouched beside the bed, brushing the locks of hair from her face.  She smiled and her eyes opened, there was a flicker of surprise but then the smile grew.  He wondered if she’d thought he was Gibbs.  She hadn’t been asleep though, that was obvious.  Suspicion stirred.

 

“You feeling ok?” He asked, quietly.

 

She nodded slightly, “Mmhmm, you?” 

 

“I’m ok, feel like an idiot though.  I just cleaned up the mess I made in the closet.” His eyes fell away in embarrassment.

 

“Hey, it’s ok.” Abby reached out to rub his arm and winced as the movement shifted the sheet over her abused flesh.

 

Tony caught her hand.  “You’re in pain.”

 

He frowned, he went to move the sheet to check her but she stopped him with a quiet word.

 

“Don’t.”

 

He saw red; she was hurt, injured and there was only one other person in the house that could have done it.  Gibbs, the bastard, had beat her.  Rage like he’d never felt before coursed through his veins making his blood boil.  He dropped her hand and left the room. 

 

He found Gibbs in his office, the man looked up at him and started to smile until he saw the look on Tony’s face.   He barely had time to know it was coming before the fist connected with his jaw, sending the chair and it’s occupant scooting backwards.

 

“You bastard,” Ice-cold Tony DiNozzo, like Jethro had never witnessed before.

 

He lunged for him.  Gibbs was on his feet and deflected the fist that hurtled towards him.  The Italian’s other hand came up to push at him.

 

“You beat her.”  He spat, angrily.  The flash of red fire that ran through him came out in words as strong as venom.

 

“I fucking trusted you… and you beat her so bad she hurts to move.”  The angry tirade continued.

 

Gibbs didn’t respond, deflected another angry punch and caught wrists as hands came up to push him.  Tony fought to pull his hands away.

 

“That what you’re gonna do to me?” Hurt and angry in equal measures, accusing hazel eyes narrowed and intent on the ex-marine.  His hands continued to either try and escape the grip or inflict pain while still being held.

 

“Tony, she wanted it.”  He finally, replied softly.

 

That calm patient tone of Gibbs that Tony usually loved just made him want to be sick. 

 

“No! No one wants that.” Hot tears prickled at his eyes, “Finally, know why they call you a bastard.”  He yanked his arms back to try and free them from the strong insistent grip that would no doubt leave bruises.

 

“Ask her Tony, she needed it.  Needed to be forgiven, absolved or the guilt would have eaten her up.”

 

The brunette stilled as he looked at him.  “What?” He asked, incredulous.  He couldn’t be hearing what he was.

 

“She felt bad for what happened, she needed to be absolved of that or she would have just beat herself up over it.” Jethro explained, his tone still soft.  He relaxed his grip on the wrists.

 

When Tony pulled back the next time, his hands came free.  “No.” He whispered, his eyes dropped to his hands, then flickered back up to the older man’s face.  Bile rose up and he felt like he was going to be sick.  He’d hit Gibbs, his boss, and while he’d done nothing more than maybe raise a bruise, he was mortified.  He ran from the room.

 

Heading straight for the cloakroom, Tony heaved his guts into the toilet bowl.  His body was shaking.  He couldn’t believe what he’d just done.  What the hell had come over him?  He retched again. 

 

A gentle hand rested on his trembling shoulder and he peered up sideways from where he was huddled over the toilet, his eyes filled with shame and self-loathing.  Concerned blue eyes looked back at him.  Then the Gibbs’ other hand stroked lightly through his hair.  He looked away and hit the flush.

 

“I’m so sorry.” He almost choked out the words in disgust with himself.

 

Gibbs helped him to his feet and gave a little half amused inclination of his head. “No need.”

 

“But I…”

 

“You were looking out for Abby.”  The dom interrupted him.  “Your intentions were admirable.”

 

Jethro filled a cup from the sink with water, passing to Tony.  He rinsed his mouth and spat the water down the sink. Straightening up, he looked back at the other man through lowered lashes. 

 

“I can’t believe that I…” he brought his hand up, stopping just short of the bruised jaw. “I’m sorry.”

 

The other man shook his head slightly, a slight upward curve to his lips that wasn’t quite a smile, “It’s fine, you’ve improved, but I’ve been hit harder.” His blue eyes twinkled slightly.

 

Tony flushed. “It’s not the point though, I should never have hit you. It makes me feel ill that I lost it like that.”

 

“It wasn’t without reason.” Gibbs continued to try and reassure him, his hands wrapping around his waist and pulling him in for a hug.

 

“Reason?”

 

“Abby! That’s a good reason in my eyes.”

 

That brought a smile to DiNozzo’s face then, “I feel protective of her.”

 

“That’s good.” His strong hand slid slowly up and down the guilt-ridden man’s back.

 

“Even if it’s misplaced?”

 

He nodded and kissed Tony’s temple, “Even when it’s misplaced.  It’s good to know that you’ll look out for each other.”

 

“She really wanted it?” He couldn’t get his head around that, why would anyone want to be beaten so bad they couldn’t move?

 

“She needed it, I didn’t enjoy giving her it anymore than you like the idea, but it’s what our girl needed.  Punishment means forgiveness.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“I know.” Jethro sighed as he continued to hold him.

 

“Are you going to punish me?” Tony asked quietly, afraid of the answer.

 

The shiver that went through his frame could be felt by the man holding him and Gibbs blinked, dumb-founded a moment, before pulling back to look seriously into stormy hazel eyes.  His hands moved to firmly grip DiNozzo’s shoulders.  “There’s nothing to punish you for, and even if there was, I would never punish you like that.  I don’t have the right.”

 

“But, I hit you… and…Abby wouldn’t have been in trouble if it wasn’t for me.”

 

“We’ve already covered the hitting.  As for Abby, that’s not your fault, she put herself in that position and she accepted her responsibility, which was why she needed punishing.  Tony, none of this is your fault.”

 

“But…”

 

Jethro shook his head, brooking no argument. “No buts.  You hit me again we might have a rethink on the situation, but I’m fairly certain that’s never going to happen again.  Is it?”

 

Tony shook his head, furiously from side to side; his voice was determined, as he replied, “Never!”

 

He could hardly believe he’d done it in the first place, it was like he’d been possessed or something.  It scared him to think he could lose control like that.  He brought his hands up again, noticing them shaking slightly.  Gibbs saw it too and took the hands in his and brought them up to his lips to kiss them lightly. 

 

“Lets go and check on Abs.”  The older man offered.

 

The only reply he received was a nod.

 

******

 

Abby was looking towards the door, chewing nervously at her lip, Tony had been in a rage when he’d left the room and she had no idea what he might do.  When the two of them came in together, she gave a sigh of relief and smiled up at them. 

 

Her pup looked like he’d been through the ringer a fair bit and was that a bruise on her Master’s chin?  She decided not to ask. 

 

“How you feeling?”  The brunette asked her as he crouched by the bed and picked Bunny up from where he’d been abandoned.  He was blushing faintly at his behaviour.

 

“I’m ok, it’d be nice to have some company though.” She told him, patting the bed.

 

“Yeah?” He looked from her to Gibbs, who nodded as she responded by sliding over on the bed to make room for him.

 

A small smile formed on his face, it wasn’t much but it was something and he carefully lowered himself onto the bed and settled his head down on the pillow.

 

The proud looking dom, leaned over and kissed his girl on the cheek.  Pulling back, he gave Tony’s arm a reassuring squeeze and then left them to talk.

 

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

 

She smiled indulgently at him. “Yes.”

 

“Did you…? I mean, Gibbs said you wanted it?”  He asked her, not sure if it was really any of his business, but he had to know for sure.

 

Abby nodded, “Must be pretty weird to you.”  Her hand found his and she held it, just to feel connected to him.

 

“I hit him.” His blush deepened and his voice was a mix of awe, shock and disgust.

 

Her eyes widened slightly and then her whole look softened, “My hero.” She smiled; thumb stroking the back of his hand.  “You survived and everything.”

 

Tony gave a soft chuckle at that, “I know, incredible isn’t it?” He paused a moment, “He didn’t even get angry with me.”

 

“He rarely gets angry.” She told him.  “It’s the sign of a bad dom, he says.  If you can’t control your own emotions how can you hope to have control of another person?” She mimicked Gibbs.”

 

“I thought…”

 

“I know.” She cut off his train of thought, their eyes locked on each other as they both lay on their sides talking.  “It’s easy to think the wrong thing though.  We’ve been together a long while now; he knows me, knows what I need, sometimes before even I do.  I trust him Tony, and you can too.  He won’t hurt either of us.  But thank you, because I know that if anyone ever did hurt me that I could count on you to look out for me.”

 

He gave a long heavy sigh and let all the emotion of the last half hour drain away. 

 

“How did you realise you had a pup side?” She asked out of the blue.

 

Tony grinned at her. “It was a bit by accident really.  Fooling around being told I was like an eager lil pup.  I gave a yip, wagged my tail and licked her face.  It was just a bit of fun but… something felt like it fell into place.  I wasn’t very good at it at first.  Y’know things like talking and using my hands.  It was mostly just a cute fun thing back then. My Mistress at the time thought it was adorable.  That was about five and half years ago now.”

 

Things hadn’t lasted with them but he still had such fond memories of his time with her, it had been a whirlwind of exploration.  After their break up he had started looking into the pup culture and that was how he’d met his ex.  He pushed that thought aside; he didn’t want to be thinking about him.

 

“That’s cute.” Abby concluded, with a smile.

 

He gave her a smile.  “You’re not interested in giving it a go are you, Abs? Only, I wouldn’t have taken you for the puppy type…more…”

 

“Kittenish?” Her eyebrows rose with amused expectation.

 

He laughed, “Yeah, Kitten Abs.  Where did that come from?”

 

“Watching Hero in the garden and then lazing out there in the sunshine.  Could be company.”  She smiled, brightly.

 

He grinned again, “wouldn’t we have to be enemies, y’know the kitty and the pup?”

 

She shook her head, “Course not, my gran had a dog and a cat, they were bestest buds.  Of course, I would have to lick your ears clean.  It’s like a compulsion.” 

 

He laughed, “Have you told Gibbs? I have an image of him standing there saying ‘I live in a zoo’ or something, while we create mayhem.”

 

Abby chuckled huskily, “he’d love it, he’d get to pet us ‘til his heart’s content.  I’ll probably talk to him about it though.”

 

Tony reached over and smoothed her dark hair back behind her ear.  It was fun in the garden and it would be cool to have a play pal, but he also liked it when Abby looked after him.  They would have to see how it went; he certainly wouldn’t deny her something like that, not when he got so much out of it.

 

They talked quietly for a good few hours, until they both gradually drifted off to sleep. 

 

Jethro found them like that; curled on their sides, holding hands and sleeping softly.  He smiled to himself and pulled covers up over the fully clothed man.  Stripping down to his boxers, he climbed in on the other side of Tony.   He smiled, pleased when the other man snuggled back into him, encouraging him to wrap an arm around and spoon up behind him.

 

******

 

Tony slowly drifted to wakefulness, a warm body beneath his, breathing softly, fingers curled in a hairy chest and a masculine scent teasing his nostrils.  It took him a moment to realise where he was.  Just on the verge of panic a strong arm gave him a squeeze, grounding him and making him hum softly.  His eyes blinked open properly and focused on the bruised chin, then the piercing blue eyes that held him captive.  He almost gasped at the sight of them, so intense and all focused on him.

 

“Mornin’.” Gibbs murmured.

 

He smiled, feeling part of his body wake up and backing his hips up so that the contact they had wouldn’t give him away. “Hey.” He whispered back.  “I shoulda known.”

 

“Known what?” A confused look flickered across the handsome older man’s face.  Even first thing in the morning, his hair still managed to look almost parade perfect.  Tony wondered how he did that when his own stuck up every which way.

 

“That you’d keep the nightmares away.”  He replied as he tried to bury his face in the warm shoulder his head had been resting on.

 

Gibbs smiled, “I’m glad.” His hand coming up to caress mussed brunette hair. 

 

Beside them Abby snored softly, undisturbed by their conversation.  DiNozzo’s eyes settled on his wrist and the bruise around it.  He held it up slightly, “Kate’s gonna have a field day.”

 

“I’m sure you’ll think of something to deflect her in the wrong direction.” Jethro’s tone was amused and he was smiling in a way that lit his eyes.  He couldn’t wait to hear that one in the office.

 

Tony groaned.

 

“What’s wrong?” Concern furrowed the dom’s brow at the sudden change from smiling to pained groaning.

 

“I need a cold shower.” He muttered, quietly.

 

The chest under him shook with a silent laughter, he looked up with a slight pout.  Gibbs tried to straighten his face but his eyes gave him away, “Why would you want to do that? Why not just…take care of it.”

 

The pout gave way to utter surprise, then a slight blush, “I didn’t think…I mean… I…I’m allowed?”  Disbelief coloured the stammered response, it caused the other man’s expression to soften then; humour all but vanished as he gently cupped the lightly stubbled cheek.

 

“Of course. I don’t have the right to impose those rules on you.  You’re not my boy; I certainly haven’t earned that yet. ”

 

The brunette blushed slightly, turned his head and kissed the hand at his cheek.  “We both know that’s not true.  I’ve always been your boy.”

 

“You boys want some privacy?” A sleepy voice asked from the other side of the bed.  Unashamed.

 

Tony buried his face in Jethro’s neck while the older man glared at his girl.  He was embarrassed that she’d been listening to their conversation but also, it made things a little awkward with his boss. 

 

“Baby girl, coffee would be good.”

 

There was a grumble then a very dishevelled looking goth girl eased herself out of bed, careful not to irritate her bruised butt.  When they were alone, a hand gently eased the warm face away from his neck.

 

“I’m not ready yet.” The brunette told him, quietly.

 

Gibbs was nodding, “I know.” Soft lips pressed against his forehead.  “There’s no hurry, pup.”

 

 

Chapter 11

 

“Someone had an interesting weekend, liked to play rough did she, Tony?” Kate’s voice teased as she stopped in front of his desk, just as he’d reached forward for his cup of coffee. 

 

Hazel eyes glanced up at her, then down to the ring of bruising that was visible around his wrist.  He gave her an innocent smile. “Why, Kate, I don’t know what you mean.”

 

She snorted, “It’s lucky she didn’t know you very well or she’d have left you in them handcuffs.”

 

“Au contraire, Kate, who said anything about a woman?” His eyes twinkled and he smirked.

 

Her mouth fell open at the comment, then snapped shut, he wouldn’t? Would he? He had to be ribbing her, but he looked like he meant what he was saying and she had no comeback at all.  She opened her mouth again, still nothing would come out.  She turned on her heel and walked away.

 

Tony was left grinning in triumph; he stretched and laced his hands behind his head as he leaned back in his chair.

 

“Someone call a vacation day and forgot to tell me, DiNozzo?”  Gibbs snapped in his direction. He’d heard the brief exchange between his boy and Kate and had to school the amusement from his face, he’d known that he would be able to deflate or deflect the woman.  It was almost poetic, since Tony had used the truth to confound her.

 

“No, Boss.”  His arms dropped and he pulled the file on his desk into his hand as he stood up to brief Gibbs on what he had gathered so far.

 

“Good to know.  Do you need a written invite to fill me in?”

 

He shook his head, inwardly cursing himself.  He’d wondered if there would be awkwardness at work but it seemed it was all business as usual.  The last thing he wanted was to piss Gibbs off at work though; he didn’t want to find out if that would go home with them.

 

“Right, well… A parking ticket put the Lieutenant’s vehicle outside the Bank of America, 2201 C Street North West, at fourteen hundred hours.  The bank has surveillance inside and out, we’re trying to get copies of the footage to see who was actually driving the car.”

 

“Try harder.”

 

“Boss…”

 

“Get down there and get that damn tape, DiNozzo.”

 

“I…”

 

“You’re still here.” Gibbs looked at him, an odd mixture of patient annoyance.

 

He gave a small cough, “Well, there’s more.”

 

An enquiring eyebrow rose, “It’s just a block over from the Federal Reserve so, McGee and Abs decided to see if they were able to follow the cars journey using the cities camera surveillance system.  It went off the grid at Jefferson Davis Highway and Washington Boulevard at Eighteen Thirty-Five.”

 

“Jefferson Davis and Washington?” Gibbs asked, his eyes reflecting that his mind was ticking over.  That location was right by the Pentagon. He stood and pulled the drawer open, retrieved his weapon and holstered it.  “Get me that bank tape, yesterday.”  He grabbed his jacket and headed around his desk, “McGee, with me.”

 

The morning passed by in a blur, busy with the case, Tony hadn’t even realised that he’d totally skipped lunch until a paper bag bearing the logo of the local sandwich joint was dropped on his desk at just gone three pm.  He looked up at the deliverer and found his boss looking back at him with a half-smile.

 

“Eat something.”

 

“Thanks, Boss.”  He stretched, cracked his neck and pulled the bag towards him.

 

*******

 

“You…” Abby grinned, pointing at Tony, “You are one wicked boy.  What did you tell Kate?”

 

He tried to look innocent but couldn’t keep the smile from his face, “I just gave her something to think about.

 

“I had her down here for a full half hour trying to figure out whether you were teasing her.” She chuckled. 

 

He gave a shrug and a slight boyish smile.  Abby hugged him then mock scowled, “now I have to suffer her internal debates and act like I know nothing.” 

 

He laughed.

 

“So, how are you doing, my own hero-pup?”

 

He looked down at one bruised wrist, face falling serious.  “Not my smartest moment.”

 

“Hey, you did me proud,” she told him giving Tony a playful tap with her finger.  “It’s good to know you have my back.”

 

“That’s what Gibbs said…”

 

“What? You don’t believe him?”

 

“Of course… well… sort of.  Abby, I hit him.”

 

She gently cupped his face in her hands.  “I wish we could have been there to protect you the way you protected me.”  Her hazel-green eye sparkled with emotion.

 

“I didn’t protect you though, did I?” he said, bitterly.

 

The words no sooner out of his mouth than she kissed him softly on the lips, just a gentle meeting, no tongue.   He pulled back looking startled.

 

“Your intention was there.  And don’t look so stunned, pup, a girl’s allowed to kiss her subbie bro.  You’re family now.”

 

“I just… I don’t want to upset Gibbs.”

 

She shook her head and smiled at him warmly, “He won’t be upset, babe.  In fact, I think he’d be quite happy.”

 

He shook his head, “I… I have to go tell him the results… are they them?” Tony took a step back, pointing at the print out on the desk.  He didn’t want to do this at work; he couldn’t run the risk of reducing himself to that nervous self-conscious sub.  His boss would lose his temper with him.

 

Abby sighed and picked the paper up, “Yes, I can tell you conclusively that the car trunk had carried no explosives.” She grinned.

 

“None?” His tone reflected his shock.

 

She shook her head, “But… there were a few trace chemicals that corresponded with those that can be ‘used’ in them.”

 

He sighed, not looking forward to tell Gibbs the news, they had nothing at all on the suspect.  How the hell could they prove the terrorist intent without forensic evidence?

 

He took the print out from her and disappeared off to let him know.

 

******

 

“We’ve got a dead suspect.” Gibbs declared, grabbing his gun from his desk.  “I want everyone on it.”

 

The drive to the scene in the truck was as erratic as usual when Gibbs was driving, and they were all a little green when they climbed out at the crime scene.  Tape had already been put up and the local LEOs were in attendance.  As one, they grabbed their equipment and headed for the house, flashing ID as they passed by the cop on guard.

 

“You almost had me, y’know?” Kate told DiNozzo as they walked up the path to the suspect-turned-victim’s house. 

 

“Huh?” He looked at her, holding his rucksack at his shoulder and adjusting his shades.

 

“That comment.  About not being a girl.”  She persisted.

 

“Oh?” Tony raises an eyebrow behind his designer sunglasses.

 

“Yeah, but then I thought about it, you don’t have enough style to be gay.” She smirked.

 

“That’s the trouble with you, Kate, everything’s black and white.  You don’t see shades of grey.  Kinda odd for a profiler, don’t ya think.”

 

Without a second thought, Gibbs smacked the back of Tony’s head.  He realised the moment that he did it that he shouldn’t have.   The younger man’s hand came up to his head and he jumped to the side, eyes wide and shocked.  He froze there.  Jethro felt an icy feeling creep up his spine. 

 

“DiNozzo, are you working or not?” Kate called back.

 

“Kate! When you’re ready, you think you could actually help McGee catalogue the scene?”  Gibbs snapped at her.  He made sure she went inside before turning back to Tony. His hands came up and reached for him but didn’t touch. “I’m sorry, I should have thought.” His tone softened.

 

“I…I’m fine.” He stammered and made to head inside. 

 

Gibbs gently caught his arm.  “We’ll talk later.” He told him, softly.”

 

******

 

They were all exhausted when they made it back to base.  Everyone wearily climbing out of the truck, except for Gibbs’ who seemed as fresh as he did first thing. 

 

“DiNozzo, you’re with me.  The rest of you, start sorting this evidence.”  He barked and headed for the elevator.

 

Tony cringed, but followed, carrying his rucksack with him as he stepped onto the elevator.  The doors slid shut and they started to move upwards.  A few seconds later, his boss hit the switch to halt them.   He swallowed hard and looked at the ex-marine.

 

“I’m sorry.” The brunette told him.

 

Jethro shook his head and Tony felt his stomach lurch.

 

“No, pup.  I’m the one that needs to apologise.”  Gibbs had been concerned.  His boy had been quiet and professional at the scene after he’d smacked his head and it was always a worry when he stopped joking or flirting.

 

“But I… shouldn’t have…” He was interrupted when the older man held up a hand.

 

“I never thought.  We’ve been able to carry on at work as if nothing is going on outside.  But, inside you’ve already changed my role in your life.  I’m not just your boss anymore.  I’m more than that, I’m someone you’re starting to trust and doing that was as bad as outright beating you.”  Gibbs shook his head, “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again. I promise you that.  Forgive me?”

 

His mouth opened and closed, “Abby kissed me.” He blurted.  Not sure why he felt the need to say it, but it seemed important to be honest.

 

Gibbs smiled, “Good.”

 

“Good?”  His eyes wide, he’d been so sure that he would be annoyed with him about it. 

 

“Yes, Tony, ‘good’.  I’m glad that you two are getting on.” He continued to smile warmly at him; he reached up slowly and caressed his cheek.

 

DiNozzo’s eyes fluttered closed as he leaned into the touch, Gibbs really wasn’t mad at them, he felt so happy he could burst.   

 

He felt lips brush his forehead and he sighed in contentment.

 

The elevator jerking to life snapped him out of his blissful reverie and it was back to business as usual.

 

******

 

Wednesday brought the investigation into the abduction of Gunnery Sergeant Bill Atlas.  Tony’s paranoia took a back seat as they worked the whole day on the case, not even going home at the end of the day.   Abby had gone alone to the party that she and Gibbs had been supposed to attend together, while the rest of them had worked into the night.  His ears were had still been ringing from the explosion out at Quantico where the EOD had been training.  He desperately wanted to please Gibbs, and so he’d offered to tail Sacco.  He’d swallowed hard at the threat that if he didn’t check in every hour on the hour he needn’t come back.  He knew his boss would know something was wrong if he didn’t.  He wasn’t sure if Gibbs was pissed with him for flirting with the waitress at the bar or what, for much of the time he thought so; but Kate would have been suspicious if he hadn’t… he always flirted it was part of his deflection technique. Either way, the offer had been intended to make his Boss proud; instead it had caused everything to turn sour.

 

It had all gone horribly wrong, and he knew that Jethro would be so pissed with him for having let his guard down enough to be drugged.  In hindsight, he was somewhat pissed with himself, he’d let a pretty face distract him enough for the drugging to happen.  All he could think of when he was in the sewers was how he had to get out of there, had to prove to his Boss that he was a good agent.  He was glad that Rule #9 had been slapped into his head, and even more glad that he had that neat little concealed knife.

 

Gibbs had come for him, like he’d known he would, but he’d done his bit to show that he had balls, he’d got them out of the cell and into a position where they weren’t completely helpless.  If they’d stayed in there they may have been dead before his colleagues could get to them.

 

It had filled him with such warmth to know that Gibbs cared about him, that he’d worked flat out to find him.  He’d been unable to stop himself in the elevator, babbling desperately, even in front of Kate, so badly wanting to hear his owner say it.

 

“Admit it, you were worried about me, right? …You don't have to say anything, I know… Okay. I want you to say it… You care, right?”

 

And Gibbs had just stood there the whole time, saying nothing, while his insides had churned themselves up in knots that his boss had just been concerned about not losing one of his team and didn’t actually care.

 

They stepped off the elevator, and he couldn’t hold it in anymore, his voice reflecting just a hint of his hurt.  “So...you're saying you don't care?”

Gibbs had stopped and turned to him, in front of Kate and the whole bullpen.  “Tony. As far as I'm concerned, you're irreplaceable.”

 

Tony’s heart had stuttered and threatened to stop.  He felt ten feet tall.  None of it mattered, being drugged, being covered in dirt from the sewer, being hungry and tired… it all paled away at those words and the look in Gibbs’ eyes. 

 

Then it had all crashed down around his ears.

 

“Forget about it McGee. He's still alive.” Gibbs told the young agent as they rounded the corner. 

 

Tony had seen that McGee was sitting in his desk and Gibbs was laughing.  That mischeivous smirk on his face and his eyes had been lit up with amusement.  He’d felt like someone had ripped him open and pulled his insides out.  A flicker of hurt, a moment of a crestfallen look, it was all he’d allowed himself before he’d pulled the mask back on.  Eyes a little duller, humour almost non-existant and almost silent in his work unless someone had spoken to him.

 

He’d kicked Tim out of his chair and focused on writing his report.  He handed it over to Gibbs with no flourish, there wasn’t even attempt at gaining his pride, he just turned away mumbling that he was going home.  No one had stopped him and no one said anything to him; why would they?

 

That was how he’d come to be there now. Having scrubbed red raw in the shower and poured his tears down the drain with the soapy water.  He’d dressed in sweats and perched himself on the floor between the two big windows in his room, knees pulled up to his chest.  He was all cried out.  How could he have been so stupid and so damned naïve?  Of course Gibbs didn’t care about him, of course he wasn’t irreplaceable at work or at home.  He was pathetic, why would anyone actually be sorry if he was gone?  They’d probably only been worried about the missing marine. 

 

He kept playing the damn conversation over in his head, torturing himself with it.  The laughter on his Boss’ face as he’d told McGee to forget it, the fact the other agent was already at his desk like he wasn’t coming back.  He wondered if they would even have known or cared he was missing if he hadn’t been on the phone when he passed out.  He thought he was all cried out, but he’d been wrong. 

 

Tony had trusted them when they’d told him he belonged there, that he was family.  He’d believed them when they’d held him and kissed him earlier in the week.  And when he’d hit Gibbs and thought that he’d fucked up so bad there was no going back, he’d thought they were telling the truth when they told him that it was more than okay because he’d just been looking out for his family - for Abby. 

 

It was all lies though, they didn’t care about him and he didn’t even know why they wanted him there.  That part did confuse him, was it all some kind of cruel joke? Build him up so the fall would be harder and hurt more?  Maybe they hadn’t intended for him to realise so soon that it was all a game.  It hurt so much.  It hurt more that Gibbs could lie to him so convincingly and then stab him in the heart just moments later… and laugh at it. 

 

He pushed the heels of his hands into his eyes, trying to stop another wave of tears.  He didn’t know what to do.   Should he pack up his things and leave now? Or should he bide his time, sort out a new job on the quiet and sneak away?  He cringed, there was no way he would ever find a new job without them going to Gibbs for a reference.  His father was right, he was destined for the gutter and he’d been falling from grace since the minute he’d left the academy.  There was a real theme developing, dominant males who would make him feel safe and secure then pull the rug from under him.  Was he so bad that he didn’t deserve to be happy?

 

He had no idea how long he’d sat there for, the scene playing over and over, mixed in neatly with the quiet moments where he’d believed what they were telling him; that they cared and he was good and deserving.  All he knew was that his ass was numb and his back hurt.  He had to protect himself; he needed to make sure they couldn’t hurt him anymore than he already had been.  He felt so stupid. 

 

******

 

Jethro was confused and worried, he and Abby drove home while she talked at him about the party on Wednesday; they hadn’t had a chance to catch up until now.  It was Friday evening, and they had the luxury of a weekend off, having wrapped up their active case that day.  He should have been feeling relaxed, instead something was niggling at him.  His gut was telling him that something was wrong, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

 

“Did Tony come by the lab this afternoon?”  He asked, interrupting the stream of words.

 

She took a moment to think then shook her head, “Nope, he didn’t stop by at all today.  And I really wanted to make sure he was okay.” She gave a little pout.

 

He tapped the steering wheel as he manoeuvred through traffic.  He hated rush hour.  “He was quiet.” He said with a frown.  “He sat and wrote his report and didn’t clown around.”

 

“Hmm, that’s not very Tony.” Abby confirmed his thoughts.

 

“No… no, it’s not.”

 

That seemed to put his girl into a state of thoughtful silence for the rest of the journey home.  She loved a good mystery but she was operating on limited facts.  He was quite relieved to have the silence though, so he didn’t say anything.  They left the majority of the traffic behind them in the city, the roads growing less and less busy the nearer they got to home.

 

When they pulled into the drive, they found Tony’s car parked out front.  He frowned at him not having put the car away and parked in the garage. 

 

Abby went straight to making coffee while Gibbs went looking for his boy.  He couldn’t help it; no matter how hard he tried not to think like that…it always came back to down to the fact that he *was* his boy.  The damn boy had got himself drugged and kidnapped and all he’d wanted to do was hold him for a long time.  But after the initial euphoric response to his declaration of Tony being irreplaceable, he’d just faded into the background; working diligently and then leaving.  It wasn’t like DiNozzo not to have a joke or a witty comment, to parade his success at escape or court sympathy for having been in the situation in the first place.  

 

He checked the den and the snug first, thinking that he might find Tony napping after his ordeal.  Both places showed no signs of him having been there.  The next obvious place was his bedroom.  The door was shut tight, that was unusual as it was nearly always open just a crack whether he was in there or not.  Jethro knocked, then turned the handle and peered around the door.  His gut instinct was confirmed when he found his boy in the position he always seemed to take up when in distress of some kind.

 

“Hey.” His voice gentled, whatever was wrong, he didn’t want to make it worse.

 

Tony looked up at his Boss, not caring that his face was still sticky from his tears.  He was still hugging his legs but his laptop now sat on the floor beside him.  His butt had long gone to sleep and he figured it must have been a good few hours that he’d been sat there if Gibbs was home from work now.

 

Jethro crouched in front of him, his hands hitching his trousers so they wouldn’t split or dig in uncomfortably.  “What’s up, pup?” He asked, voice full of concern and a little of his confusion.

 

Despite his misery, or perhaps because of it, Tony laughed. “What’s up?” He asked, almost hysterically incredulous.  “I’ve worked it out… the game… I’m not playing it anymore.” He said, adamantly.

 

Gibbs’ brow furrowed in confusion.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Tony.”

 

“The game!” Tony spat out and tried to stand up, realising that after sitting on the floor for a couple of hours his muscles weren’t very co-operative.

 

A strong hand came out to catch his elbow and help him stand; he pushed it away.  “I’m not playing anymore.”

 

“Well that’s good,” Gibbs told him, “Because I have no idea what you’re talking about but I sure as hell am not playing any game.”

 

Tony wagged his finger at him, “Yeah, right…whatever.” He didn’t make an effort to push passed him though, opting to remain with his back to the wall.

 

“Really, Tony.” He frowned, “What are you talking about?”

 

“I’m not going to say it… I’m not going to give you the satisfaction of knowing what you’ve done.”

 

Gibbs shook his head, “Tony, at least give me a clue what you’re talking about.” He was at a loss as to what was going on, where this sudden change in attitude had come from.  DiNozzo sounded paranoid and hurt, but he didn’t know about what and he didn’t seem about to enlighten him.  How was he to put it right if he wouldn’t tell him what had happened?

 

“Don’t pretend like you care.  Not now.”

 

Jethro reached out his hand to cup his boy’s cheek, but Tony flinched to the side, he lowered his hand.  “You know I care, we’ve been over this, what happened to make you think I don’t?”  He was at a loss and it hurt to think that after all the progress they’d been making that the brunette didn’t believe him.

 

Tony glared at him, speechless, he could hardly believe the audacity of the man to stand there and act like he didn’t know.  He shook his head and finally moved around Gibbs.  “I want to go home.”

 

“Tony, you are home.”

 

“No… this is all just a part of the game.  Make me feel like you care so that you can have a good laugh at my expense.  I’m not playing anymore; I want to go home.” He hadn’t meant to say that, it had tumbled out, he’d not wanted to give Gibbs the satisfaction of knowing it had worked; that he felt more broken now than he had the first day they’d brought him home.  He wondered if it was too late to develop an alcohol problem.

 

“Game?” Jethro was annoyed at the insinuation, “You think I would bring you to my home, share intimate things with you and it all be a part of an elaborate game?”

 

For the first time, Tony hesitated, he turned and looked at him, raising his finger to point something out but found himself wordless. It had made such perfect sense, except… they’d both allowed him to learn something about them that no one else knew about, something so personal and intimate.  He pulled his hand back and rubbed at the back of his neck.

 

“Tell me what’s going on in your head, pup.”  Gibbs urged gently.

 

“McGee.” He said, quietly, feeling helpless.

 

“McGee?” He asked incredulous. “What the hell has McGee…” He went over the day’s events, and when the change had happened.  All the pieces slotted into place and he groaned inwardly.  He reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose.  “I was teasing.”

 

“Teasing?”  Tony’s eyes were wide remembering what had been said.

 

Jethro slowly approached, not wanting to spook him anymore than he had already; he stretched his hands out in front of him in placation.  “Oh Tony, you really thought we could …would … replace you that easily?  You’re a vital part of my team, I know I give you a lot of shit but that’s because I know what you’re capable of.  I meant what I said; you’re irreplaceable, not just there but here too.  You’ve no idea how worried I was about you… but I had little doubt that you would do everything in your power to get out of there and you did so well.”

 

“But…” He started to argue.

 

When Tony didn’t back away, he brought his hands up to cradle his face.  “But what? I couldn’t pull you into my arms and hug you the way I wanted to. I couldn’t kiss you and tell you how proud I was of you.  I wish to god I could have, maybe that way we could have avoided this misunderstanding.  I forgot, pup, I’m not infallible, and I find it hard to remember that some things shouldn’t be joked about.”

 

“Proud?” Tony asked, uncertainly. He didn’t dare believe it was true.

 

“Yes, pup, very proud.  You did good, Tony, real good. And don’t ever doubt that I care about you deeply.”

 

He closed his eyes, he’d thought he’d worked it all out, that it was a cruel game, but if it wasn’t…if it was real…what did that mean then?  He gave a soft whimper of despair, realising how much of a crazy guy he’d come across as.  He’d been looking for a new job even.  He was such an idiot.

 

“It’s ok, pup.” Gibbs wrapped his arms around him and held him tight. “I’ve got ya, not going anywhere.”

 

Tony buried his face in the older man’s neck and allowed himself to feel the relief of being safe.

 

 

Chapter 12

 

“C’mon, up and at ‘em.” Abby bounced chirpily by the futon where Tony slept.

 

He groaned and cracked an eye.  He still wasn’t sleeping the greatest and after the week he’d had, he really wanted to sleep in.  “Aaabs,” he whined.

 

“C’mon, bro, places to go, shopping to do and stuff to be bought.  We have plans this weekend.” She clapped her hands, “C’mon.”

 

He huffed out an annoyed breath.  “What can be so important we have to be up at…” he paused while he brought his watch into focus, “eight forty-five?” He groaned again, louder.

 

“Painting!” She declared unfazed.

 

“Paint…” It took a few seconds for the information to trickle down into Tony’s brain and then he was jumping out of bed and standing in front of her. “As in my room type of painting?”

 

She bounced and nodded excitedly. “I hope you have an idea what colour you want, mister, or it could be a very long day. Oh and you better believe that I am *so* helping.”

 

“I have lots of ideas, but… nothing definite.  I don’t need to shower, do I? I mean decorating is messy so what’s the point?”

 

She shook her head, her ponytail swinging back and forth.  “Just go get some sweats on or something that doesn’t matter if it gets ruined.”

 

“I thought maybe blue…or green…” he called over his shoulder as he headed out of the snug, still rubbing sleep from his eyes.  “Or browns maybe…”

 

Abby followed him with amusement, “Not pink then?”

 

He snorted. “Something masculine, Abs,”

 

Tony wasn’t surprised when she followed him to the bedroom and sat on his bed to wait while he sorted himself.  He laughed and shook his head.  The trauma of the previous day had actually left him feeling somewhat more relieved.  After he’d got over his mortification, they’d spent a chilled out evening in front of the TV, both of them offering him reassuring touches and his best girl had repeatedly hugged him just to reassure herself that he was ok.  She’d told him off as well, of course, told him not to scare her like that again.

 

He thought about the previous day while he carried his sweats into the bathroom, had a quick wash and shave and changed his shorts before pulling on his clothes.  He attempted to tame his hair and failed and came out to find Abby staring around at the walls and ceiling.

 

“I think greens,” she said finally.  “Like a pale green on three of the walls and then a deep forest green or something as an accent wall.  That one should be the accent,” she pointed, “and we can get matching curtains and stuff too.”

 

He smiled at her indulgently and offered her his hand.  “Breakfast, Abs?”

 

Gibbs was already drinking coffee and reading the paper in the breakfast room when they came in.  He smiled brightly up at them and raised his mug.

 

“Coffee in the pot, cereal for breakfast. You sleep ok?” Jethro asked Tony.

 

Tony smiled back as he went to help himself to coffee. “It wasn’t so bad… until I was woke up by an uber bouncy Abby.” He chuckled.

 

Gibbs was happy as he watched his pup move around the kitchen; finally looking like he’d relaxed into their home.  It made him feel like there was hope yet even after the previous day’s wobble.

 

Tony chatted and teased Abby animatedly as they ate breakfast, a number of times catching Jethro off-guard and making him laugh.  They were like a proper family.

 

******

 

The trip to home depot was a very unique and interesting experience; Gibbs spent the entire time feeling like he’d taken two kids shopping.  As Abby whizzed around, pushing and then hopping on the cart, and Tony took up pushing her when she ran out of steam.   It was good to see the other man laughing and enjoying himself, all worries seemingly forgotten and he couldn’t help but laugh at them.

 

“Hey look.” Abby pointed and Tony veered to the side where she was pointing. 

 

She picked up the set of stencils, “We could edge the walls with white bunnies.”

 

Tony laughed and tried to take them from her. “I don’t think so, Abby.”

 

“Aw, go on, they’ll be cute,” she teased huskily just keeping them out of his reach.

 

He ended up pinned tight against her, his reach longer than hers and he easily took the stencil from her hand.  She laughed and kissed him on the cheek.

 

“Now…about that pink paint,” she chuckled huskily as she took off with the cart.

 

“Hey, no pink and no bunnies!” he called after her. 

 

Gibbs chuckled and came up behind him to pat him on the back. “Better get after her, Tony. You’ll have all kind of glitz and girlieness, just because she can.”

 

The brunette laughed and took after the chuckling Goth.  He found her holding up a pink and lilac bead curtain and a big grin on her face.

 

“Step away from the pink, Abby.”

 

She gave a look of fake innocence and lowered the bead curtain back onto the shelf.  Turning away she spotted a pink light shade with fluffy pink edging.  “Oh… perfect, look.”  She gestured wildly.

 

Tony grabbed her arm and pulled her round to face him, laughing as he did so and shaking his head. “No pink and no fluffiness. Not unless you want your den and snug redecorated to match.”

 

Abby pouted. “But…”

 

He shook his head, still grinning at her, no colours that you wouldn’t be seen dead with.

 

“I have pink!” she told him with an even bigger pout.

 

“Your sixties bowling outfit doesn’t count… and neither does the career girl Barbie outfit.”

 

She folded her arms over her chest and glared at him sullenly.  “Ok, no pink and no bunnies.  How about spaceships and teddy bears?”

 

Tony laughed and shook his head as he pulled her in for a hug.  “Love ya, sis, but not a chance.”

 

It was all so easy, fun and relaxed.  He’d almost forgotten all the stress of the last few weeks.  It was easy to have fun with Abby once he let himself. 

 

Gibbs looked on, the indulgent doting partner, a sappy grin on his face even as an old woman walked past tutting and scowling in their direction at their antics. He shook his head and approached the two laughing ‘kids’.

 

“So, any decisions made yet?”

 

“Only that Tony is a spoilsport, I mean… no pink, no fluff, no bunnies…what does that leave?” Abby pouted at her lover.

 

“Butterflies?” Jethro offered helpfully, a smirk of amusement on his face.

 

“YES!” the Goth cheered, did a little twirl and set off looking for them, “perfect… Hero loves chasing them.”

 

Tony’s eyes widened and his cheeks heated slightly.  He gave a little whimper and turned pleading eyes on Gibbs.  “In the snug maybe but not in my room…” 

 

The older man rested a hand on his shoulder and gave the muscle a squeeze.  “You know she’s only playing with you, pup.”

 

When Abby returned with the cart the only things in it were two tins of green paint of different shades.  The relief on DiNozzo’s face was priceless.

 

“Psyche!” she laughed huskily and hugged him.  “I wouldn’t do that to you, bro.”

 

Tony grinned and flicked her ponytail.  “Do we need brushes and stuff too?”

 

******

 

All Tony’s furniture and stuff had been moved out of his room and the carpet covered with polythene sheets.  Gibbs and Tony had finished painting the ceiling two hours ago.  In that time they’d had lunch and watched a movie.  There was nothing else they could do while waiting for the paint to dry. 

 

Determinedly, Jethro got to his feet and held his hand out for his girl and pup.  “Come on, let’s get back to it.”

 

The fact that the room had been cream was an advantage, it meant an undercoat wasn’t really necessary and the good quality paint they’d bought should only need one coat. 

 

All three of them set to work, pop music playing in the background.  Abby bopped and Tony hummed along, Jethro laughed and worked with amused affection at the two, he didn’t know how he’d got so lucky. 

 

Paint went on and chatter came and went, Abby stood back and looked at the wall she’d been working on.

 

“What do you think?” she asked brightly.

 

Tony moved to stand beside her with his paintbrush.  “Looks good, but you missed a bit.”

 

Abby’s brow creased in concentration as she looked over the wall. “Where?”

 

DiNozzo had got the answer he wanted and with an impish grin dotted his brush against her nose leaving the tip covered in green paint.  “Right there.”

 

She took on an indigent look, puffing up slightly as she pointed at him. “Anthony DiNozzo, that was uncalled for.”

 

He laughed and the next thing he knew she was daubing his cheek with her own paint. 

 

“Hey!” he protested.

 

They dissolved into a paint fight, getting in hits with their brushes wherever they could, giggling and hurling teasing comments.  It was all good fun and Gibbs watched and laughed along.  Until Tony missed and his brush carried on to smear green paint over Jethro’s arm.

 

DiNozzo froze, laughter falling silent, looking at the paint and then back up to meet blue eyes.   He swallowed and started to back away, suddenly terrified that their antics had gone too far and that punishment would follow.

 

 But Jethro moved quick and his brush stroked down the scared younger man’s nose.  It did exactly what it was intended to and Tony stopped in his tracks, going almost cross-eyed trying to see his painted nose.  He met his Boss’ eyes and was surprised by the warmth and humour he found there.  A small hesitant smile crept onto his lips and was encouraged by the one that pulled at Gibbs’ own mouth.

 

The laughter returned and they went back to work.

 

Tony had never had so much fun doing something so mundane and after a couple of coats of paint and a lot of laughter, the room looked fantastic.   They were all covered in paint and completely exhausted.

 

He was pointed towards the en suite for a shower while Gibbs dragged Abby back to the Master Bathroom for the same reason.  The hot water soothed Tony’s muscles but only increased the sleepy feeling.  He stood under the spray for long minutes, scrubbing to remove the traces of paint from their playfulness.   He towel dried his hair and dressed in sweat pants and a t-shirt before padding his way through to the Master Bedroom. 

 

Mindful that they’d just showered too, he knocked lightly on the door. 

 

“C’mon in bro, it’s safe,” Abby’s mildly amused husky voice called out.

 

He smiled and pushed the door open.  Tony found Abby propped up on pillows on the bed flicking through TV channels on the plasma screen that was hung on the wall opposite.  He glanced around the room looking for his boss but couldn’t spot any sign of him.

 

“Looking for something, pup?” the teasing voice said in his ear from behind him.

 

He shivered at the way breath tickled his ear and turned to look at the other man.   He shook his head.  “Thought maybe you were still in the shower, boss.”

 

Gibbs held up the tray he was carrying.  “I was cooking pizza.” He crossed the room and set the tray down on the nightstand.  “Hop up on the bed and we can eat while we watch TV,” he instructed with a gesture.

 

Tony felt shy at the idea of being back in their bed after last time.   But then he reminded himself they were going to be eating and watching TV, two of his favourite things.  With a small almost coy smile, he climbed up beside Abby and she snuggled into him, bestowing him with the sweetest smile.  He was still smiling back when the tray landed on his lap.  Her body heat was matched on his other side as Gibbs settled himself on the bed, sandwiching him in, and snagged the first piece of pizza with a smirk.

 

“Dig in,” Gibbs urged.

 

Pizza was inhaled, the remains moved to the floor out of the way, and a basketball match on the TV was half-watched.  It was cosy, comfortable and Tony felt like it was just so right.  He was so relaxed with Abs curled up against his side and Gibbs holding his other hand.  It was inevitable, that after the exertion of the day, his lids started to fall closed and he didn’t even bother to fight it.

 

Jethro smiled, somewhat smug and a whole lot of pleased as Tony’s gentle snores started to fill the room.  He knew Abby would soon follow him into sleep.  Reaching down to the bottom of the bed, he pulled the comforter up over them to keep them warm.   He watched TV a little while longer until he knew that she was out for the count and then switched the TV and light off.  Satisfied, Gibbs closed his eyes with a smile on his face.

 

 

Rescue Pup - Chapter 13 

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