"Jethro. You're a little late. Come on in." Chegwidden stated placidly, sipping from the tumbler in his hand before striding slowly back to the center of the room where he'd been having a quiet conversation with Clayton Webb.

Tony opened his mouth to speak, but a look from Gibbs clearly warned him that, despite what he'd said earlier, now was not the time. Silent, he allowed Jethro to lead him to the corner just left of the door and back him into it. The brief pressure of a hand on his chest told him to stay there. The other man, meanwhile, grabbed a sign from a cabinet and hung it on the outside of the door. After he closed and locked the entrance, while Tony watched with wide eyes, Gibbs moved a few feet into the room, stopped and fell to his knees, hands behind his back and head bowed.

The two other men finished their talk and walked forward, splitting up as they moved. A.J. walked to Jethro and placed a gentle hand on his neck. This was obviously a sign of release, because Gibbs rose to his feet and gently embraced his friend.

Clay stepped up to greet Tony.


"T... um, Anthony?"

"Good. You learn fast. He's the only one allowed to use a nickname in here." Clay said wryly, indicating the admiral with a thumb over his shoulder. "He's proud of his full name, but he knows it's too much work for the rest of us to say it over and over. Call him A.J."

"Yeah... okay. Can I ask a question?"

"Of course."

"What's going on here? I have an idea, but... I'm pretty sure it can't be right."

"Lots of things happen in this place. Most of it's sexual, but not all." Clay explained, taking a pull on his drink. "The best description would probably be an escape club."

"From the world?"

"Sometimes. Do you want anything to drink before we get going, by the way?"

"Ummm... beer?'

"NA only. Alcohol interferes with the process."

The mere idea of non-alcoholic beer made Tony grimace.


"I'll get it." He agreed, turning away.

"Wait... am I... why are we here tonight, specifically?"

"Jethro is here for pain management and absolution. You're here to learn. I hope Dasani is acceptable. It's the only bottled water the big man will drink."

"Yeah... yeah, it's fine."

"Good. Unless A.J. says different, stay there. I'll be right back."

"C'mon. He's an admiral, yeah, but he's not my superior. I'm not even military..."

"Kid, stay in the corner. You do *not* want to hear the word correction any time tonight, trust me. It never involves sticky white fluid, not even the good kind."

Tony blushed heavily, threw Clay a wide, transparently false smile to hide his alarm and did as he'd been told. A minute or two later, the smaller man returned with the water, a miniature white towel wrapped around the chilled plastic bottle to absorb condensation. Bewildered, Tony studied the arrangement then looked back up at his host.

"No paper napkins?"

"Napkins and paper towels shred when they get wet enough. It leaves a mess. Besides, they offer the best here. No reason not to take advantage of it."

"Makes sense. Can I crack it now?"

"I'd wait. Looks like they're ready to go."

Tony turned his eyes to the other two men and watched them approach. Within a few feet of his position, Jethro stopped, hands in his pockets, but A.J. kept coming.

"Anthony. Welcome." He said, holding out his hand. Tony grasped and shook it, but only after a second or two of delay, caused by the residual surprise and confusion he was still slogging through.

"Sorry. I'm a little..."

"Overwhelmed? Perfectly natural. Glad you're here tonight, son. Once you know all the details, you won't regret showing up, I can guarantee it. Let's head to the lounge and Clayton and I will fill you in. Jethro..."

Gibbs nodded and headed in the opposite direction, entering a small room in the far corner. "Have a seat, Anthony."

A.J. dropped into a chair and waited until Tony had settled on a nearby couch before he continued speaking. "Just so I'm clear on what you know and don't know... Jethro didn't tell you anything about where he was taking you tonight?"

"No. All he said was he needed my help. I thought maybe it was case research or a stakeout."

"He probably thought he'd scare you off. He couldn't afford that. He does need you, Anthony... more than you realize."

Clay took over the story at that point.

"I've only known Jethro for a year or two. Only met him a few times, but his commitment to the job was obvious from day one. It's a good thing, don't get me wrong. It helps him solve cases that would slip right through other people's hands. Unfortunately, it's a bad thing too."

A.J. sighed quietly, finished off the liquid in his glass and continued.

"Once in a long while, especially if a case hits too close to home, or if one of his people ends up hurt... he can't let go of it. He digs in his heels and wraps himself in the work until he can't see anything else. I've seen it get so bad he starts neglecting his health... skipping food and sleep, never taking a minute to relax or try and forget. Eventually, I brought him here... convinced him to let someone try and help."

Tony's eyes widened.

"It went wrong didn't it?"

A.J. looked at him intently. "I... we met someone in the hall. He said something about Gi... Jethro being in "Forgive Me Father" mode, whatever that means, and that he let it get out of hand once... "

"It was nasty. Don't ever ask him. He wouldn't tell you even if you did, but..."

"I get it. So... that's when you..."

"I studied, learned what I needed to know... then I stepped in, yes. Had to. I couldn't watch a good man and a good friend hurting like he was and not do everything I could to make it better."

"The office invasion... he's been pulling back lately... staying in the office 24/7. God..."

"He'll be alright, Anthony. Now that he's here, he'll be alright. I have to warn you, some of what you'll see tonight is gonna look a little like... abuse. We yell at him, push his buttons... and the sexual component can stray toward the wild side a little. You have to understand that what your eyes tell you isn't the whole story."

"He knows exactly what's coming." Clay added. "He knows and accepts it. Most of us have a mechanism... something inside that lets us forgive ourselves and realize that not every major fuck-up in life is our fault. Somewhere in his past Jethro either lost his or intentionally left it for dead. We're helping him rebuild it, but until that's complete... an occasional night like this serves an important purpose for him."

"Okay. I see that. The pain management and absolution part I get now. Do I dare ask what I'm supposed to be here to learn?"

"To be our surrogate when we aren't around. And class is officially in session." Clay said, seeing Jethro approaching. He rose to his feet only a second or two behind A.J. and moved to stand beside the older man. Tony, curious, followed Clay's line of sight and, almost literally, his chin hit his chest. As Gibbs walked toward the group, Tony had to force his eyes to stay on the man's face instead of roaming over his naked body as they were suddenly aching to do. That realization made Tony's stomach clench and twist and he pushed the disturbing thought firmly to the back of his mind.

Gibbs dropped to his knees again, though this time his head stayed up, and his facilitators soon joined him.

"Jethro. Are you ready to begin?" Clay asked, gently stroking Gibbs' soft hair, soothing him with an easy touch

"Yeah. I'm ready."

"This won't be an easy night. You've sunk pretty deep this time. You let it go too long."

"I know."

"You've got some harsh time ahead. You up to the challenge?" A.J. continued.


"Usually." He amended, smiling. "Tonight, though, it's the truth, so I'll let it slide. Clayton, will you show Anthony the cabinet and gather up what we'll need to get started?"


Clay stood and headed toward the left hand wall where a pair of tall doors was inset. Retrieving a small ring of keys from his pocket, he opened the doors, revealing a shallow closet with several shelves, some holding objects and items Tony at least recognized, though he blushed brightly, and some laden with things he couldn't even imagine names and uses for. Clay quickly picked up what he needed, closed and re-locked the cabinet and pointed to a stack of six lightweight exercise mats lying on the floor. "Can you grab those?" he asked. Tony nodded, hefted them and followed the other back to where Gibbs and A.J. still knelt. Clay showed him how to lay the mats out so that they formed a large rectangle. After a minute or two of shifting and settling, the three most heavily involved in the session were kneeling together on the padding as they had been on the floor and Tony was seated cross legged a foot or two away, watching intently for the most part, only turning his gaze away when it threatened to become embarrassing. A.J. caught him at this and admonished him gently.

"Anthony. Eyes up. You need to see everything. If we can't be here to help him, it'll fall to you. You could hurt him if you do this wrong."

"Sorry. It's... I've never..."

"Showers in the locker room are a few years back. I understand."

"I never showered with the other cops. I always waited 'till the room was empty. Unwritten rule number one is those who get caught looking get their heads beat in."

A.J. arched an eyebrow but made no other comment.

"The rules here are different. You need to see how we do this."

"Pop quiz later?"

"Yeah. Hands on pop quiz. On yourself."

Tony lost most of his normal color. It was replaced a moment later with pale green.

"Oh. Uh... good incentive to pay attention."

"Isn't it?" Clay replied with a grin, continuing to stroke and caress Jethro's cock, enticing it to fill and lengthen. When the other man was about half hard, A.J. picked up one of the items Clay had taken from the closet and showed it to Tony.

"Cock ring. I add a tiny smear of lube around the inside to prevent chafing... slowly push it up... and secure it around the base." he directed, intent on his task.

"But... the point of... that'll stop him from..."

"Yes, it will. He doesn't get to come until he's earned it."

"Earned it?"

"He gets relief when he acknowledges that he didn't cause what happened... that the terrorist getting in, that young man getting shot... none of it was his fault. Once he can say that, and make us believe that *he* believes it, the ring, and whatever else we decide to use, disappear."

Gibbs scowled at Clay and spat a response through his teeth.

"Go to hell."

"It can be a long night or a short one, Jethro. It's up to you." A.J. told him stoically, turning to Tony again. "For every half-hour he stays stubborn... one more item gets used. Nipple clamps, an anal plug... as you saw that cabinet holds plenty of choices."

"But... how long can you keep this up? You could do damage to his... to him if you leave that ring on..."

"It won't get that far... will it Jethro?"

"Hell it won't..."

"Every single member of your team is over eighteen. You are not completely responsible for them and you are *not* responsible for some terrorist's agenda."

"I'm the leader. My job is to protect them..."

"Protect them when you can see the threat coming, yeah. Did you see this asshole coming? Huh? Answer me, Jethro." Clay demanded

"I should have..."

"How? Are you psychic now? Is that why you think you should have predicted the infiltration?"

"I should have guessed... been faster... smarter..."

"He had people you care about hostage, Jethro. At gunpoint. Speed and brainpower wouldn't have changed anything. You know that..."

"No, I don't, damn it! I was supposed to save them! They trusted me!"

"They trusted you not to come charging into that morgue and get them and yourself killed!"

"You don't understand... you weren't there, you weren't in my shoes..."

For the next twenty-five minutes Tony watched and listened as the three men argued back and forth. Always, one or the other had a hand on Jethro's shoulder, back or hair, calmly touching and reassuring, ignoring the fact that their subject only seemed to be more and more furious and tense as time went on. Finally, exactly as half an hour elapsed, Clay beckoned to Tony and he knee-walked closer, grimly accepting the clamps and connecting chain.

"I'll talk you through it, okay? Here... see how they loosen... right. Don't tighten them too much... watch how they're positioned... good. Nice job."

Jethro groaned and the young man flinched, reaching out to remove the metal device, but A.J. grabbed his wrist. They remained in that position, locked in a silent showdown for several seconds, until Tony gave in, dropped his eyes and was released. He laid a hand on Gibbs' knee, gently rubbing and trying to give comfort as the others had been doing, and was relieved when he wasn't reprimanded and sent back to his former place.

"That's good. Keep it up. It won't be much longer."

"Okay, back to work, Jethro. Tell me again why you're to blame. Explain to me how it is you let this happen."

"I let them down... I failed Gerald... failed Ducky and Kate..."

Slowly, Gibbs collapsed onto his side, curled up in a ball. Tony thought that now, at last, this clear sign of surrender would make the questioning cease, or at least ease the tone, but the others only pushed harder.

"So you opened the door for him? Handed him the gun and invited him in for coffee, did you?"

"No... God, no..."

"You told him how to get past the security, then. How and where to find exactly what he was looking for."

"No! Shut up! God, shut up..." he begged, eyes tightly shut against onrushing tears. Watching Gibbs rock back and forth, and knowing he wasn't allowed to help, Tony was in pain as well, but he somehow stayed in control and didn't interfere.

"Then how are you to blame? What did you do to grease the wheels so Gerald would be shot? Was that bullet hole in you part of the plan?"

Jethro moaned deep in his chest, sounding like a wounded, terrified, inconsolable child, but he refused to answer.

"Did you plan the attack? Did you sit down with that creep and work out every detail? C'mon, Jethro, answer! Talk to me! Did you plan this?"

"no..." was finally forced from Gibbs' lips, though it could barely be heard.

"One more time. Louder."


"Again. Did you have anything to do with the attack on NCIS headquarters? Yell it this time, damn you! Scream it!"

Gibbs shuddered violently all over, clenched his hands into fists so tight that blood oozed from one palm and abruptly let out a bellow that seemed to shake the room.


The sound momentarily frightened Tony, who fell backwards and lay half-prone, stunned and unable to think. A.J. and Clay, however, were instantly wrapped around a sobbing Jethro. They whispered in his ear and soothed him with soft, consoling words.

"That's right... you didn't hurt them... it wasn't your fault..."

"I tried... I couldn't be stupid... couldn't risk them..."

"I know... you did everything right... nobody blames you... let it go..."

Tony, now recovered and back in a sitting position, gazed at his boss. Seeing the pain in his expression, A.J. gave up his place behind Jethro and encouraged Tony to supplant him. The younger man did so, tentatively, but when a hand grasped his, pulling it around to the front of Jethro's body, he balked.

"I can't... he doesn't want that... not from me..."

"You'd be surprised. You can do it... release this... that's right... slide it down and off... wrap your hand loosely... set a rhythm with your strokes... just like you would on yourself... perfect..." Removing the clamps, A.J. and Clay both backed off then and let instinct lead the way.

His own tears now flowing, despite his efforts to contain them, Tony spoke close to Gibbs' ear as A.J. had been doing. As he murmured comfort, Jethro began to come in his hand, pouring out his delayed orgasm along with the last of his anguish.

"God... oh, God... please... I'm so sorry... God, Gerald... I'm sorry..."

"So am I, Jethro... so am I. You and me, we're gonna make a deal. I know it's your way not to talk about the shit you're going through... but no more, okay? Starting now... when you need anything, you tell me. Maybe I won't be able to get or fix whatever it is... but I wanna hear about it... Understand?"

As he descended from emotional and physical heights, all Gibbs could manage was further shivering and a dubious, non-committal sigh. "On second thought, forget it for now. We'll talk about it later."

Tony felt a vague nod against his collarbone and took that as agreement to defer the conversation. As Clay draped a heavy blanket over them and nudged pillows under their heads, Tony gratefully closed his eyes and began to drift, belatedly realizing that he was exhausted.



"Anthony, remember?" Dinozzo responded muzzily. He had been partially awakened by the restless shifting of the body in his arms and had forced himself to consciousness in case Gibbs was having a nightmare.

"Session's over."


"Listen... I know you have a million questions..."

"Actually... just one. For the moment."


"What the hell is an MA and why did your friend apply the term to me?"

Webb answered the question himself as the pair approached and crouched down.

"MA stands for Marzipan Angel. Around here it means someone who's especially sweet and innocent."

"And looks good enough to eat." A.J. added with a grin. "You doing better, Jethro?"

Gibbs groaned faintly as he sat up.

"Yeah. Much. Man... you guys shoved with both hands this time."

"Long as it worked, that's all that counts."

Turning to Tony, A.J.'s grin widened and took on a distinctly mischievous cast. Dinozzo began to slowly crab crawl backwards.

"You weren't serious. Tell me you weren't..."

"I never joke when it comes to sex, son." When Tony continued to sidle away, Chegwidden sobered and his voice became commanding. "Do I need to say it? If I say the word, I'll have no choice but to choose something from the closet."

"If I were you, kid... I wouldn't mess around." Clay chimed in. "No sticky white fluid, remember?"

"The ring really isn't that bad, Tony." Gibbs reassured him. "He won't hurt you. You can trust him..."

"Trust? I trust him as much as I trust anybody else. That's not the point!"

"I see that." Clay intoned quietly. "A.J... back off a minute. Let him breathe. You're wrong, you know, Tony."

"About what?"

"Jethro. And, if I had to make a guess, relationships in general, but we can discuss that another time. He wants you. He has for a long while now."

Tony's face darkened.

"I've been wanted before. It starts out good... but by the end it sucks like you can't possibly believe."

"Go on. Keep talking."

"I don't know... I'm just not sure it's worth it anymore. You get close... you start to put the breakable parts of you out on display and wham! The person who "wanted" you yesterday, wants something or somebody else today and doesn't give a damn how it affects you. Just wanting isn't enough and I won't go through that again."

A.J. reached out cautiously and touched Tony's face.

"Amazing... to be his age and be so open... I thought the breed was extinct."

"I was certain of it. Jethro... you need to tell him."


"Did you not hear that little bit of eloquence he just put out there? He's been hurt as badly as you have. Tell him the truth."

Gibbs grimaced, squirmed and finally turned to his young colleague. He started to speak twice, but abandoned whatever he was going to say. Finally he managed a word, but stalled out. Dinozzo, however, wouldn't let him get away with that.


"Yeah? That all? You know my name. Terrific. Take me somewhere we haven't been."

"Damn it, Dinozzo, will you let me talk?"

"Is that what you were trying to do? Sounded like we were doing introductions, but since I already know who I am..."

Gibbs growled in frustration, leaned in and drove Tony down onto the mats, hands on his shoulders, mouths locked fiercely together. He didn't pull back until oxygen deprivation became an issue and Dinozzo was a puddle of unresisting, man-shaped goo underneath him.

"Now who's incoherent?"


"Thought so."

"You love me."

Gibbs grinned.

"Duh." He replied, dropping another brief kiss on Tony's lips and then whispering in his ear. "You ready to try this?"

"What? I... I guess."

"I'm telling you, babe... the ring can be really amazing. However bad you need to let loose... it just builds on that... and builds on it 'till you'll do anything for the chance to come."

"Half an hour... I couldn't take that."

A.J. stepped in to reassure the younger man.

"No, son. That was a session. This is nothing but pleasure and showing us you were paying attention."

"Oh... okay. I'll try."

"Good man." Clay praised, pressing the small device into Tony's hand. Initiating another kiss in the hopes he could keep his young lover anxiety-free, Jethro slowly snaked a hand down Dinozzo's body and lowered his zipper. A low cry of surprise burst against Gibbs' lips and he quickly spoke to soothe any fear.

"It's okay. Easy... you're okay."

"Sorry. It's... been a while."

"Dinozzo, the perpetual chick magnet?"

"Not so much. More like perpetual liar. Working where we do... covering becomes a habit."

"I know."


"Shhh. I promise this is just the start... I won't let it be all there is to remember." He vowed as he reached in and gently released Tony's cock.

"Ahhh... whoa... warm hands... forgot how good that could feel..."

"Compliment appreciated. It's about time for that pop quiz..."

"Oh... oh yeah."

In spite of a distinct tremble in his hands, Tony was able to correctly place and secure the cock ring. Jethro then proceeded to touch, stroke and tease the other man until tears were threatening to spill down his face.

"God... no more... please let me take it off... let me come..."

"Go ahead." A.J. told him. "You'll want to let go immediately, but try and hold it together, just for a few seconds. Let Jethro be the one to take you over the edge."

"I'll... try..."

Once the ring was slipped off, Clay took it away for cleaning and the admiral followed, leaving the other two on the mats alone.

"Don't touch me... just for a second... let me..."

"Okay. You tell me when you're ready. It's all you..."

Tony clenched his eyes shut, willing his frantic breathing to slow just a little. When he felt he had regained some measure of control, he gazed up at his new lover and nodded. Gibbs took him in hand once again and caressed him with skin and voice.

"Let go, Tony... let me feel it, see it... can't believe I get to touch you... watch you lose it. That's it... pump your hips... beautiful... yeah... I can picture you on top of me, moving like this... driving into me deeper and faster... pouring all this hot come into my body..."

As Tony finally relaxed, the aftershocks of his intense orgasm relenting at last, Jethro lay down next to him, pulled him close and dragged the blanket back over the both of them. Tony looked at his lover and was faintly shocked to see him licking his fingers clean.


"Can I help it if you taste as good as you look?"

"Uh... yeah. If you say so." He responded, the last word distorted by a yawn. "Man I'm beat. Wish I could go back to sleep... but I guess we have to go home."

"Nah. A.J always reserves the suite for the night. Go ahead and rest. I'll be here."

"I know, but will you be sleeping or keeping an eye out for boogeymen?"

Gibbs looked at him critically at first, but the lesson of the night had been deeply ingrained and was not easily pushed aside.


"Atta-boy, boss."

"You're such a brat, Dinozzo."

"And you love me anyway."

"God help me, I do."

"Then all's right with the world. Night, Jethro."

"Good night, Tony."