Leigh looked indignantly around the room, outraged to see that her mother was openly laughing, and her father was trying hard to keep a straight face. She exchanged a shocked look with her sister, who had been about to fetch something from the kitchen and now stood frozen in the doorway. Neither of them had experienced one of Gibbs's infamous head-slaps before, although they'd occasionally seen him smacking Uncle Tony and, less often, their father, upside the head.

'Awww, Tim! Our baby's first Gibbs-slap!'

'Yeah... they grow up so fast....', her father replied, chuckling at the parody of the usual 'child's milestones' exchange. Suddenly, his face lit up and he added, 'Hey! Tony owes me fifty bucks!'

'Daddy! You bet on whether Gibbs would hit me?'

'Ummm.... actually, it was which one of you girls he would headslap first.'

'DiNozzo thought I'd have to smack Katie before Leigh?' Gibbs asked, sounding incredulous.

'Hey!'

'He pointed out that you don't head-slap Abby, and Leigh's more like her, so he thought...'

Gibbs shook his head, his amusement at his former agents' wager clear. Leigh caught his eye and opened her mouth to protest, but thought better of it when he raised one eye-brow at her and jerked his head in the direction of the steaming pot of potatoes still waiting for her attention.

A few minutes later, Leigh found herself alone in the kitchen with Gibbs. While she scooped the potatoes into a serving bowl, he stepped over to speak quietly to her.

'You might outrank me in the field, Leigh, but I won't hesitate to tan your hide when you deserve it, at home. And I hope you get a couple of COs who are willing to do the same thing when you screw up on duty. Like I did with my men.'

She looked up at him, shocked.

'You want me to be spanked by my commanding officer?!' she asked, horrified by the prospect.

'If having an old-fashioned hard-ass CO who cares enough to make damn sure you learn from your mistakes keeps you from getting yourself killed, then yes, I want you getting your ass whipped when you screw up.'

'You can't be serious! The Navy doesn't allow...'

'A whole lot of things aren't exactly done according to the regs, Leigh. I was whipped when I was a Marine, and I took my belt to my men when I was a Gunny. And I know for a fact that the same thing happens in the Navy.'

Leigh was reeling. The idea that the official protocols that had been drilled into her would be so blithely ignored by an organisation that defined itself by rules was mind-blowing enough... and the idea of being spanked by a professional colleague was truly appalling. She knew that a combat unit was like family, and she knew also that Gibbs, who had always been part of her family, had been her parents' boss... and had spanked them when they had worked together. But she had a hard time believing she'd ever have that close a connection with the people she worked with, and she couldn't imagine accepting a spanking from her current CO.

'And if you don't have one, you can always come to me if you need to.'

'Huh?'

He couldn't possibly mean what she thought he did... could he?

'It's not just about making sure you learn from your screw-ups, Leigh. It's about making sure you can live with yourself afterwards. You're no good to your people if you're so consumed with self-doubt and guilt that you can't function. A good spanking can help you let go of that, and let you move on. If you don't have someone in your chain of command who's willing to offer you that when you need it, I will.'

'Gibbs, you can't seriously expect me to come to you and ask you to spank me for something I've screwed up on base...'

'I think that, someday, you might.'

'Not a chance! I know how hard you spank!'

Gibbs smiled at her fondly, placing a gentle hand on her back and propelling her towards the dining-room door.