"He never gave me a choice before." Tim's words brought Jenny back to the present.

"Well, I wouldn't expect it to become a regular occurrence." She grinned at Tim. "Are you ready to go back to work now?"

Tim's face dropped. "Yeah, I guess. I know that I should. I'm sorry that I took up so much of your time."

"Tim, it's fine. I asked you to stay. But at some point you're going to have to face him again."

"I know." Tim looked so miserable at the prospect it was hard for Jenny not to go over and hug him.

"Tim, part of the point of a spanking is that when it's over, it's over. It's a way to move on. Hasn't Gibbs told you that?"

Tim nodded in assent, "He has. But I'm not very good at that part yet." He sounded so genuinely disappointed in himself that it took all of Jenny's willpower not to laugh out loud at the innocence and honesty of the reply.

Very matter-of-factly, Tim stated, "No one ever punished me like this before Gibbs."

"You don't have to let him, you know." Jenny replied kindly. "If it's ever something that you want to stop, you're to say so, and you'll have my support.

Tim was quiet for awhile as he thought about her comments. "Thanks." He spoke slowly, figuring out what he wanted to say as he went along. "But, I don't know. I hate it, but I also think I get it. I mean, I think I understand why he does it. And I wish I didn't do stuff to deserve it, but when I do, I guess I'm kind of OK with him punishing me that way." Tim looked at her hesitantly. "Is that crazy?"

Jenny was impressed by Tim for the second time today. "No, Tim. It's not crazy. It gets into your system, and sometimes…" Jenny paused. "Well, sometimes it's the only thing that makes things right again."

* * *

Jenny lay in bed, her back to Gibbs. She saw that the sun was starting to rise, but she wasn't sure if she'd slept at all. Even after a sexual release she'd not been able to turn her mind off, and she'd lain awake in bed, tormented by harsh and disparaging thoughts.

She'd made such a huge mistake. They'd spent months cultivating a relationship with this contact, but recently Gibbs had started to suspect that he was a double agent. Jenny refused to believe it – his story appeared to check out and the information he'd been providing had been solid and valuable. He was charming and intelligent, and well, now she knew he'd just been a remarkably skillful liar. But she hadn't been able to see that, and he was gone now, with classified documents that she had given him.

When she'd faced Gibbs afterwards, she'd been ready for his anger. But his eyes had been compassionate. He'd said, "We both trusted our guts on this one, Jen." She'd expected him to add, "And yours was wrong" but the criticism hadn't come. He hadn't discussed the matter after that, and she knew that he understood that her actions hadn't been rash or willfully disobedient.

Still, he didn't try to tell her that it wasn't her fault, because that would have been a lie. And he didn't need to, because it was all her own mind was telling her. The unrelenting voice in her head was biting and sarcastic. Over and over again, it reminded her how gullible and naïve and stupid she'd been.

There was only one thing that made sense to her now.

"Jethro?" she whispered, unsure if he was awake.

He rolled over and silently put a hand on her arm.

"What happened yesterday…" she trailed off.

"Jen, you can't go there."

"I want you to punish me for it."

She had his full attention now. He pushed himself up on his elbow and she turned to face him.

"Jen, no."

"I screwed up."

"That's not the point."

"Then what is the point? I fucked up, worse than I've ever fucked up before. Isn't that the way it works? I screw up, and you punish me for it."

"Not like this."

"Not like what?"

"You're in my bed, Jen. As my lover. For me to punish you now would be a violation of that relationship."

"So I'll get out of bed." she said wryly.

"I'm serious, Jen. It doesn't work this way."

She respected him for having such boundaries, for not wanting to take advantage of their intimate personal relationship, which was already excessively complicated. But she knew this wasn't going away any other way. She looked at him desperately and pleaded with him.

"Please Jethro. I need this."

It took him awhile to answer, and she held her breath. She didn't know what she'd do if he refused. Finally, he broke the silence.

"OK. But not in the bedroom. Wait for me in the living room."

Jenny felt a strange combination of relief and anxiety. She slipped from the bed and made her way towards the door. She turned back to Gibbs, who was now sitting up and pulling on a shirt.

"Don't forget to grab your belt." It was an awkward thing to say, but even though she had asked for this to happen, the situation was making her feel slightly off-balance.

Gibbs stood up.

"What you're asking for is going to take something more than a belt."

Jenny's stomach flipped, and she wondered what he meant as she made her way to the other room.

While she waited for Gibbs her mind taunted her with scenes from the past few weeks. She could see now what a pawn she'd been in the man's game, how easily she'd fallen for his elaborate deception. It sickened her to remember herself laughing at his charming anecdotes, to feel his hand brushing her arm when they met for drinks to trade information. Or rather, when she had turned over state secrets in exchange for a fabrication.

At the sound of footsteps she turned to see Gibbs in the doorway, holding a cane. For the life of her she couldn't fathom why the hell he would have a cane on hand, but it wasn't the right time to ask. And for some reason, even though she'd never experienced a cane before, it seemed to be what he was supposed to use this time.

"Are you sure, Jen? It's not too late to change your mind."

"No. I'm sure." She was almost scared at how sure she was.

He pulled a chair out from the table. "Come over here then. I'm going to have you bend over the chair."

"No. I'll take it against the wall." She wasn't sure what made her say that, but on the occasions that he'd put her in that position for a spanking, she'd been acutely aware of the willpower it took to hold position. Somehow it seemed important to recreate that experience now.

"A cane is a harsh implement, Jen. It'll be easier if you have something to hold on to."

"It's not supposed to be easy."

"It'll be plenty hard over the chair. Trust me."

She did trust him. But she needed to do this her way. She waited, not moving towards the proffered chair, and finally he relented. He nodded at her, and she understood that he was giving his consent.

Jenny moved over to the wall, spread her legs, and leaned forward. She braced herself with her hands and closed her eyes.

Behind her Gibbs moved into position.

"OK, Jen. That's the last decision you make about this punishment. You're not in charge anymore. I decide how much you get, how long, and how hard. And when I say it's over, it's over. Do you understand?"

"I'll try, Jethro."

"Not good enough."

Jenny didn't know how she could be sure that it would be enough. But even though he hadn't wanted to do this to her, she had to acknowledge that he'd always known what she needed and what she could take. She'd trusted him enough to ask for this, and she'd have to trust him to do it well.

"I trust you."

She hadn't answered the question exactly, but it must have been the right answer.

"I'm going to give you four light strokes first so that you get used to where the cane's going to land. Then it starts for real."

Jenny steeled herself for the punishment that she knew she'd earned. The warm-up was confusing and frustrating – she desperately wanted it to hurt, and instead it felt like he was teasing her with the mild sting that came from the first four strokes. She shifted irritably in place, and he laid the cane across her behind until she stilled.

The cane was pulled away, and then it came swiftly whistling down on her ass. The pain was searing, and she cried out sharply. It was unlike anything she'd ever experienced with his belt. Usually the pain built up over the course of the spanking, and she was able to hold her emotions in check until he was nearly finished. But just one stroke of the cane had left her gasping for breath, and she didn't have a chance to recover before he brought it down for a second time.

He gave her five unrelenting strokes, and she screamed in agony at each one. Then he was done, and she started to sob uncontrollably, still in position. Gibbs pulled her into his arms, and as her knees sagged he helped her drop to the floor in his grasp. He held her tightly, cradling her head as she cried and cried, first from the unimaginable pain of the caning, and then from the release of her anger and self-loathing over allowing herself to be double-crossed.

Finally she was depleted, and she could breathe deeply again. She felt a sense of calmness return, and knew that she would be OK.

* * *

Jenny focused an encouraging smile at Tim. "Do you think you're ready now?

"I think so." Tim sounded hopeful, as though maybe saying the words would make them true.

"You'll be fine."

"Is Colonel Austin going to make trouble for you when he finds out I'm not suspended?"

By now Jenny had almost completely forgotten about why Tim had even been punished in the first place. She was moved by the fact that Tim not only remembered how she had first gotten involved, but was now concerned for her.

"That's not for you to worry about, McGee. I can handle Colonel Austin, and besides which, I think you've paid your dues today."

Tim blushed at the memory, but nonetheless smiled shyly at her as he left her office. Closing the door behind him, Jenny realized warmly that what had started as an unpleasant administrative task had ended with her sharing a surprisingly personal moment with Tim, and she was glad to have had the experience.