Author's Notes: As the story gets more intense, I have to admit it was difficult for me to write, so all your kind words of encouragement are very much appreciated. I'm trying to post every day or two, but it all depends on how busy I am (I like to have a little bit of time between reviews before I post a new chapter).
I'm wondering if after this chapter you'll get a better idea of where this is going next. If you think you know, give me a guess! As always, looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Gibbs fidgeted restlessly in the seat of the car. He'd been following Nakamura for over a week, and so far the man had done nothing to indicate he knew the whereabouts of Tony or was even involved in his disappearance. The smarmy Asian spent most of his days in business meetings or going to museums and auction houses to examine antiquities; his nights he spent at a variety of Dominant/submissive clubs. They had traveled across several states and visited a handful of major cities along the way. At least they were far enough away from DC that at this point Gibbs wasn't concerned about anyone recognizing him.
Since merely following Nakamura wasn't going to pay off quickly enough, he was going to have to do something different. It was risky, but Gibbs' gut insisted that Tony needed him sooner rather than later. The risk would be worth it if he found out any information about the slavery ring that he suspected had abducted his agent.
Gibbs slid down in his seat as the Asian left the building, his naked slave and a bodyguard in tow. For once, the federal agent didn't cautiously pull his car into traffic behind them; he knew where they were staying and based on Nakamura's previous behavior the Dom would head back to the hotel and sleep until at least noon the following day. Instead, Gibbs confidently stepped from the vehicle and walked into the club.
The doorman assessed him as he approached, then waved him through without a word. Gibbs knew that when he let all his toppy vibes out, very few people ever had the nerve to question him. He let the loudly thumping music wash into the background and waited while his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. Surveying the room, he found the bar and went directly to it, leaning on the mahogany wood with one elbow while glancing at the patrons drinking, talking, laughing, and dancing around him.
"Can I get you anything?" the bartender asked, raising his voice slightly to be heard over the noise.
Gibbs tilted his head to see the man; he was short, middle aged, with a slight paunch and close cropped hair. The former gunny could smell the marine on the man and a Semper Fi tattoo peeked out from under the sleeve of his shirt; Gibbs would turn that connection to his advantage.
"Need to work out some aggression, so I could use a sub with some attitude," he replied. "And a bourbon."
The bartender laughed. "We can take care of the sub and the bourbon, but let me start you off with the drink first."
A glass of amber colored liquid appeared in front of him, which Gibbs sipped while surveying the clientele. "So now I have my bourbon, you got any suggestions about my other order?"
The bartender wiped his hands on a towel and nodded. "You looking for hard and rough or soft and sweet?"
Gibbs sat his drink on the counter and let his eyes go cold. "Hard and rough." It was important he make a name for himself as a tough Dom who could handle anything or anyone.
"My name's Mick," the man introduced. "Give me a minute - I think I have a sub you'll enjoy." He moved to the end of the bar and spoke to a thirty-something man wearing a charcoal grey suit who turned to glance at Gibbs giving him an appraising once over. The silver-haired agent took another sip from his drink and watched them dispassionately, unconcerned with their analysis. Grey suit approached him.
"You got cash?" he asked.
Gibbs nodded. He'd cleaned out his savings before leaving DC, prepared to spend every last dime if he had to in order to get back what was his. And whether either one of them was willing to admit it or not, Tony belonged to him.
It had been several years since Gibbs had played in the scene at all, but some things you never forget how to do. It came back as naturally as waking up in the morning. The whips, the floggers, the clamps, the restraints – he used them all. By the end of the session the tall, muscular submissive they had given to him was clinging to his leg and begging for more.
Gibbs was grateful the guy had jet black hair and a Latino background; he didn't think he could have handled any resemblance to Tony. He placed a firm hand on the boy's thick hair and gave him a quick kiss on top of the head – he appreciated the other man's complete surrender to him even if it had left a hollow feeling that could only be filled by one person. It wasn't this boy's fault he wasn't Tony.
The hollowness, however, was offset by a small thrill that came with exhibiting his dominant side. Taking someone over the edge again was nothing short of exhilarating; he had forgotten how much he enjoyed it and the kind of contentment it gave him. With a gentle hand he helped the sub cover his striped back with a soft robe.
"Rest," he ordered. "You did very well."
The man sighed and curled up on the bed, already drifting to sleep in an endorphin filled haze. Gibbs buttoned his own shirt back up and headed out into the main area of the club.
He met grey suit in the hallway.
"Quite a display," the handler said. "David is difficult to bring down and you did it in under two hours. I'm impressed."
Gibbs shrugged and kept walking. "I'm guessing you were watching."
"Of course – it's my responsibility to keep our subs safe. I don't know you, even if you're money is good."
Gibbs nodded his approval. "We both got what we wanted."
Grey suit followed him back out to the bar where Mick greeted him with another bourbon.
"Why haven't I seen you around here before?" his new companion asked.
"New in town," Gibbs replied without elaboration.
Mick leaned over and studied him. "You're a marine, right?"
Gibbs smiled slightly. "Gunnery Sergeant. You?"
Mick gave his own grin in return. "Lance Corporal. Got wounded in Desert Storm and honorably discharged."
"I did my time and retired a few years back. Been working in clubs ever since, looking for a place to settle down. Leroy Jackson," he announced.
"Duncan Spencer," grey suit countered. "I own this club. You still looking for work?"
"Maybe," Gibbs answered. "I haven't decided yet. Why? You got an opening?"
Duncan made a face. "I could use a new handler; I had to fire the last one when he kept skimming money off the top. Put us in a bit of a tight spot."
Gibbs finished his drink. "I could fill in for you a few days. Nothing permanent."
Duncan put his hand out to shake and Gibbs took it. "Sounds like a deal to me."
The NCIS agent didn't say anything else. He wasn't sure if this was what he should do or not, but being on the inside of a club that Nakamura frequented might give him a better angle on the slave trade. Duncan struck him as shady; maybe the bar owner had something worked out with the guys who took Tony. He'd stay a little while, see if he could pick up on anything, and if nothing panned out he'd hop back on Nakamura's cross-country jaunt.
Right now time was running short and anything was worth a shot.
Rick stood at the edge of the cell and watched his newest slave toss and turn, unable to rest even when asleep. When they had taken him out of the cage the week before, he had been very near collapse from being unable to shift position for so long. His knee had immediately buckled, unable to support his weight after they removed the restraints and allowed him to stand.
Steve had laughed at his inability to remain upright. "You seem to like the floor after all, princess. Better get used to that position, it's at just the right height after all." The trainer had pushed his crotch into Tony's face, forcing the nearly incapacitated man to breathe in the leathery scent of his trousers.
Rick had half expected DiNozzo to throw up, but the young man continued to display a streak of stubbornness that rivaled any he'd ever encountered. Instead he had gritted his teeth and breathed deeply through his nose, refusing to budge an inch until eventually Steve relented and backed away.
"Take him to the dining hall," Rick directed the guards. They had followed the same procedures as every other day throughout the past week, giving him the opportunity to show his supplication and Tony refusing. As a result, the plain bread and few sips of water he'd been allowed were barely enough to keep a rat alive. Instead of bending to their demands, he sat swaying in his bonds, dark smudges circling his eyes, and endured.
It had become a battle of wills, and Rick wasn't quite sure who was going to win.
The boy was intent to refuse anything and everything they required, regardless of the consequences. His welfare didn't seem to matter in the slightest, even if it resulted in severe punishment or even death. They had beaten him daily, tied him up and left him in various stress positions, denied him any human contact outside of the trainers, and nothing broke him. Each and every time DiNozzo managed to reapply that goofy grin, make a smartass comment and find his resolve again.
The federal agent was a significant investment, with a potentially huge payoff. More intense measures were going to have to be taken if they were to receive the results they desired. It was a fine line, and he'd gone too hard on subs before until he was left with a slave so shattered they provided no enjoyment, and that wasn't what his clients wanted. He needed to leave the fiery soul intact. So far they had avoided overly sexual tactics, but that might be what was necessary to get this particular slave into the correct frame of mind.
One thing was certain, even now, exhausted, tired, hungry, and sore, DiNozzo was still a beautiful man. His back was broad and muscled, the symmetrical lats tapering down into a small waist before widening back out into a firm, round ass, finishing up with long, lean legs. He had just enough hair covering his skin to remind someone he was a man, and those flashing green eyes framed by incredibly dark lashes could take your breath away. Oh, this one was definitely going to earn him a fortune if they could just get him under control.
Rick might even have to sample the goods himself before this fine boy was sold off.
The trainer leaned forward when he heard DiNozzo mumble something. It sounded like Where are you? Please hurry. Rick mulled over the words. Was that Tony's secret? Did he believe that someone was going to rescue him? It would explain why he was holding out, refusing to give in.
That could be used as leverage. During the upcoming session they would increase the intensity, push him farther both physically and psychologically. They only had around a month until the next auction, and he needed DiNozzo to be ready.
McGee lifted the tea cup to his lips and sipped. "This is really good, Ducky. Is it a special blend?"
The ME smiled brightly, clearly pleased by the question. "Actually, it is. I purchased it at a small shop in Georgetown that sells only tea – they carry hundreds of varieties. You might not be aware, Timothy, but tea has a rich and interesting history. Most people have heard that the first tea was produced in China and imported across the desert in caravans thanks to the intrepid explorer Marco Polo. And of course there was the infamous party in Boston instigated by the Colonist's addiction to the substance. This particular brand of tea has a unique blend of herbs including chamomile and peppermint that is tremendously soothing and helps to calm a troubled mind. I thought it was quite apropos considering the current situation with our beleaguered colleagues."
Ziva's lips curled indulgently as she lightly blew ripples across the surface of her warm beverage. "It is a very good choice, Doctor Mallard." She placed her own teacup back on the saucer with barely a tinkle of the china. "I think we have all been very anxious over the last few days." Even if they were sharing tea and cookies off of a metal tray in autopsy, it was nice to have everyone together for support instead of off worrying on their own.
Abby sighed and downed her tea in one gulp. She stared back at her friends with indignation. "What? I've given up Caf-Pow until Gibbs and Tony come back, so I'm low on caffeine." She held her cup out and waited for Ducky to fill it again, which the doctor did with a wry shake of his head. "Besides, I'm totally stressed out about not knowing what's happening and maybe this will help me relax a little. You know," she picked up a cookie and took a bite, crumbs falling on her black shirt, "there's always a chance if Gibbs doesn't find Tony he won't come back at all. We might never hear from either of them again." She stuffed the rest of the cookie in her mouth and chewed slowly, her eyes searching for someone to contradict her statement.
"Abigail," Ducky chastised, "Gibbs would never leave without ever getting in touch with us….." His voice trailed off and he busied himself pouring a cup of tea for Palmer, the lead agent's jaunt to Mexico clearly on his and everyone else's minds. "I suppose you're right, it is a possibility," he conceded with regret.
The Goth scientist drank her second cup of tea and poured another. "I don't think Gibbs could stand losing Tony like this, not with the way he feels about him and all, I mean he almost never got over Shannon and Kelly and I'm pretty sure having to accept Tony being gone forever would be completely devastating." She paced back and forth while she talked, tea cup in one hand and cookie in the other.
McGee frowned from his spot on a rolling stool in the corner, not quite following her train of thought but that wasn't so unusual when talking to the scientist. "What do you mean 'the way he feels about Tony?'"
Abby stared at him like he was the dumbest person she'd ever met. "Come on, McGee, you know what I mean! The tension between them is so thick it's practically a palpable entity. I think they both ignored it for as long as they could, but after Tony was gone as Agent Afloat it started driving them both crazy. They couldn't be in the same room together without one of them acting schizophrenic…either Tony was mad or Gibbs was mad or they both were mad, and Gibbs was grumpy and Tony was out of control and they were going to have to deal with it. But now Tony's gone and they can't. It's one thing when you think you've got all the time in the world with someone, but imagine how it would feel to know you wasted all those seconds, minutes, hours, days, and now you can't get them back again! Poor Gibbs must be so upset with himself."
"Abby," Ziva stated calmly standing up with her eyes narrowed in concentration; she carefully placed her hands on the Goth's shoulders. "Are you suggesting that Gibbs has….feelings for Tony?"
'Well, duh, I thought you guys were investigators. Don't act like you didn't notice."
"That is ridiculous," Ziva spouted immediately, pacing toward McGee. "Yes, of course, Gibbs cares for Tony as a friend, but anything else would be out of the question!"
Dr. Mallard pursed his lips together. "Abigail might actually have a point. I have noticed quite a bit of…unresolved energy between the two of them lately, and had wondered myself if it could be something more than just normal irritation. Gibbs has been trying to avoid Tony as much as possible, and poor Anthony has been doing anything to attract Jethro's attention, even if it had to be garnered in a negative context."
"That really doesn't prove anything," McGee countered, still unwilling to believe the theory. "I agree with Ziva; Gibbs sees Tony as a friend, maybe even a son, but that's all. Tony would drive Gibbs nuts with all his movie references, non-stop talking, and constant activity. I can't see an attraction at all."
Abby whirled around to face Jimmy Palmer, who was standing quietly against the wall. "You!" she pointed her cookie at him like a weapon. "What do you think Palmer? Do Gibbs and Tony have some secret sexual connection going on that the rest of the team has blatantly ignored?"
The autopsy assistant shifted uncomfortably while the others scrutinized him, waiting for a response. "I guess I've noticed a few things," he finally answered.
"Like what?' Ziva asked, her arms folded across her chest, face tightly pinched with outright skepticism.
Palmer warmed to the subject. "Like Tony always walks behind Gibbs and when he thinks no one's looking he….you know….checks out the boss' butt. And sometimes when Tony's across a room he'll watch Gibbs talking with this really dreamy look on his face. And Gibbs," Palmer paused, "Gibbs' hand is always twitching when he's around Tony, like he wants to touch him. I think that's why he head slaps him so much. Of course, Gibbs hadn't been doing that lately, but he still brushes up against Tony on the way out of a room, or leans in close when Tony's working on his computer. So yeah, I can definitely see it. Actually, I think they'd be kind of cute together."
Ziva snorted and McGee made a disgusted face.
"Exactly!" Abby proclaimed, before letting her face drop and sitting down heavily on a stool. "Which is why Gibbs won't stop until he finds Tony, one way or the other. He'd never give up, and if he doesn't he'll blame himself for everything." She scanned their faces. "We have to help them, even if they are miles away and can't contact us! There has to be something we can do!"
"There isn't much to go on," McGee told her softly, unwilling to let his friend down. He might not be able to fathom a potential relationship between Gibbs and DiNozzo, but they were his team regardless. "I'll continue tracing Nakamura. Maybe something will come up."
Ziva bit her bottom lip, letting her sympathy for Abby show. She gave the other woman a quick hug. "I will see if my connections in other agencies have heard anything useful."
Ducky smiled sadly, wondering for not the first time just how this incredible group of people had been fortunate enough to find one another. "I still have the remains of our departed marine. I'll review the autopsy again and see if I missed anything."
"I've got that little bit of fluff off the marine that I've been analyzing. Maybe I can find some more tests to run," Abby provided bravely. "Thanks, guys."
"We won't give up, either, Abby." McGee said, rubbing her shoulders. "I'm not convinced you're opinion about Gibbs and Tony….liking each other…. is right, but it doesn't matter, really. We want them back all the same."
"McGee is correct," Ziva agreed. "If Gibbs has taught us anything it is to never leave a man behind. We will find Tony and make sure that Gibbs does not have an excuse to run away again."
They finished their tea in silence, each lost in their own thoughts about how to find Tony, and in the end find Gibbs, too.
Tony took a deep breath through his nose and released it slowly. In and out. He repeated the mantra to himself, the one holdover from the plague experience that had actually proven useful. Working to control his labored breathing was almost second nature after days upon days of nearly drowning in his own fluids while lying in a bed in Bethesda.
He would trade almost anything for that warm bed right now. His current situation was so degrading, so humiliating that it was almost too foreign for his body and mind to recognize. He supposed that's what they wanted, for him to feel like less than a person, to accept his status as a thing to be ordered around and treated like a possession without any kind of free will at all.
His eyes snapped open a few seconds before the whip stung his back, his sensitive ears having picked up on the whistling of the braided leather through empty air. The sharp sting was akin to being doused with ice cold water, and it took a few seconds for his nerve endings to register the pain that eventually rushed through his overloaded system. He wanted to moan with every lash, but he steadfastly refused to make the smallest whimper, clinging to whatever vestige of dignity he could grab onto. They wouldn't let him sleep, wouldn't let him drift away for even a moment of rest. His punishment for trying to mentally escape was the ever present bite of the whip.
Involuntarily his body tensed and then shook, trying to absorb the force of the blow and allow the pain to spread out from where it radiated on his flesh into the rest of his being. It was difficult, since his arms were stretched wide and taut above him, attached to a silver bar. Another bar held his legs firmly apart, his bare feet planted on the dirty wooden planks of the scaffold. He now had an up close and personal view of the platform in the center of the compound. People in the camp came and went, some ignoring him, others openly ogling his naked form. Trainers and guards didn't hesitate to walk straight up and touch him in any way they pleased.
He had cursed the first one to pinch his nipples, and Steve had gleefully added a large round ball gag to his accoutrements. From that point on he had to accept his degradation in silence, unable to do more than twist his head away when total strangers approached to fondle and play with any part of him they wished to explore.
Some had simply run their hands through his hair; others had stroked his cock and balls or squeezed his ass. One spent a great deal of time licking up and down his inner thighs. Another had let rough, stubby fingers circle dangerously around his hole, causing Tony to flinch and tighten reflexively. The man had licked his index finger and pushed it partially inside him, and Tony had made an uncontrollable sound of desperation, trying to wiggle and buck away despite how pathetic it might have looked.
When Rick told the man to stop, Tony's chest had been heaving and he'd broken out into a cold, clammy sweat. In and out, Tony repeated. In and out. Just breathe. All of the air was going through his nose now, but he had to control his racing heart or he might possibly pass out or hyperventilate. He tried to recall movie plots as a distraction, tried to maintain a grip on his mind….memories of Zeke assailed him, the way he'd been touched without permission, without any control over his own body. He blinked furiously, gasped, rolled his eyes up toward the sky. He wouldn't lose it, wouldn't let them win. In and out. In and out. He started to calm down, but somehow they could always tell when he lost focus, and the whip returned to painfully remind him of his reality. It sliced his skin. There was no way escape.
He had no idea how long this had gone on. Dozens of people had placed their hands on him, and he doubted if one inch of his body had gone unmolested. He was actually grateful for the gag since that at least protected him from having anything unwanted in his mouth.
After a while his legs grew weak and tired and he slumped downward, putting more and more of his weight on his arms, his joints aching under the strain. His back and legs had been whipped so many times he could no longer feel the new strikes when they landed. His head lolled forward and his vision grew blurry until he was unable to distinguish the features of the people around him.
Rick fisted a hand in his hair and lifted his head. Steve reached in and unbuckled the gag. "Have you had enough?"
The question was a simple one. Tony tried to rouse himself sufficiently to laugh hoarsely, his voice rough from hours of disuse and lack of water. "Yeah, I think I have."
He didn't even try to open his eyes.
Rick didn't let go of his hair. "Acknowledge me as your master and I'll let you down. We'll give you something to eat and drink, allow you to sleep."
The words were more of a brutal blow than the whip. Even now, he couldn't say that, he couldn't give over control to these bastards and utter those words. Master. He had no master. They could physically force him to do what they wanted, but he would never willingly agree to it. They could try to make him, but he'd die first.
"Can't," he replied. There was no need to elaborate on the obvious.
"Do you want to stay like this all night?" Rick asked, waving a hand at Tony's predicament. "We can give you a short break and then go right back at it again. We can make this last for days if you force us to. But eventually I will win."
Tony managed to lift his head higher. Resistance is futile. He chuckled to himself and Rick looked at him like he was a little bit crazy. He wasn't the first person to come to that conclusion.
"No…..not my master."
Rick tilted his head. "You're waiting on someone, aren't you? The man you think is coming to rescue you. That's why you're being so stubborn. I can assure you, boy, no one is coming. We are so far off the beaten trail and into the wilderness, you will never be found. I hate to crush your dream, but you might as well give up and realize this is your life now."
"Can't," Tony repeated. He hasn't met Gibbs.
"That's too bad," Rick acknowledged, distracted when Josh came to join them. He let go of Tony's hair and DiNozzo's chin bounced off his chest.
"You have a phone call; it's Nakamura," Josh informed him, staring cautiously at Tony.
Rick pursed his lips before turning to Steve. "Take him down for thirty minutes then put him up again. Tell the other trainers that our obstinate boy is ready for round two. Use the gag and a blindfold; whip him every half hour or whenever you think he needs it; make sure it hurts but don't leave too many marks. Continue the cycle until he changes his mind."
Tony managed to raise his head once more to stare at Rick, struggling to find a way to deal with what he was hearing. It was so surreal he had to remind himself this wasn't some fucked up nightmare his brain had conjured up after a long night of drinking. All those hands on him – he swallowed heavily, wishing he could have some water but unwilling to pay the price for it. He was learning very quickly that everything here came with a price tag attached. He licked his dry, cracked lips.
Rick held his hand out to Josh, who handed him a bottle of water.
"You look thirsty, would you like a drink?"
Rick unscrewed the cap off the bottle and tilted his head back, pulling from the opening. Tony watched his Adam's apple bob up and down, captivated by the motion.
Without warning, Rick paced over to him, leaned down, and kissed him hard on the lips, spitting water into his mouth at the same time. Tony sputtered, his body trying to swallow the liquid while his mind screamed to spit it back out. He ended up coughing raggedly, drops of liquid dripping down his chin.
The slave master took another drink and swallowed. "Behave and I will take very good care of you. You will want for nothing. Your suffering is unnecessary."
Tony grunted low in his throat, anger flooding his veins with fiery hot intensity. He trembled with the onslaught of emotion. "The first chance I get I'm going to kill you."
The tall man laughed without amusement. "Then I'll make sure not to give you the chance. Accept your fate, boy. It will make everything else so much easier."
As Rick walked away, Tony tried to straighten up tall again despite the agonizing burning in his arms and legs. He wouldn't show weakness. Gibbs would never give up and neither would he even if they left him strung up here day and night. If only they wouldn't touch me. It was a faint afterthought, but it sent a shiver down his spine.
The rest they gave him went by too quickly; he spent the thirty minutes lying on the hard wooden platform feeling like ants were crawling up and down his body as the circulation tingled through his limbs. He considered if there was anything he could do to get away, but the guns trained on him made any thought of escape tantamount to suicide. When Steve and Josh spread his arms and legs and attached his cuffs to the posts again, he had to struggle not to scream or cry with frustration and, he hated to admit it, fear. By the time the groping started, he'd blanked out his mind completely, pretending he was being stroked by every lover he'd ever known, and when it got too much, he let his mind imagine Gibbs' calloused hands on his skin, holding onto the fantasy like a charm against the evil surrounding him.
Rick ran a hand over the stubble on his chin. His Asian client was a pain in the ass, but he was a big time spender so it paid to keep him happy.
Nakamura had asked about DiNozzo, wanting to know if the new slave would be ready by the next auction. Rick hadn't outright lied, but he had hedged the truth somewhat. In all honesty, the federal agent was turning out to be one of the most uncooperative slaves he'd ever met. He was beginning to wonder if the potential payoff was worth all the effort.
Walking to the window he stared out to the middle of the compound where DiNozzo stood, once more bound hand and foot. He had intentionally requested Steve use a whip that wouldn't cause too much damage, since the broad expanse of tawny back was one of the slave's most appealing features. His eyes traced over the round ass and firm legs – the agent was far too pretty to give up on. Even if Nakamura didn't buy him, someone else would, all they had to do was find the right trigger to send him down into subservience. He almost hated to do it, but they were going to have to completely break the young man to build him back into what they wanted.
He watched fine tremors snake up and down Tony's body, the effect of spending so many hours in one position. Through it all the man had never once begged for mercy, never cried, never screamed. He endured it all with a stoic attitude that his frat boy looks and clownish personality never hinted he possessed. Rick couldn't afford to admire his determination, since ultimately it cut into his bottom line.
With a sigh he headed back outside; Tony was now blindfolded and the agent whipped his head to the side at the approach, apparently able to either hear or smell him getting nearer. Rick silently motioned Steve aside.
"I'm going to have to meet with Nakamura tomorrow – seems he's found another cop who's caught his interest. After the cluster fucks you've created the last few weeks, I decided to take this meeting myself; we can't afford to piss Nakamura off. Keep working this one over, hard." He tossed his head at Tony. "Keep him restrained all the time; I get the feeling he's ready to snap and if he gets an opportunity I don't think he'd hesitate to take out any one of us."
"How long will you be gone?"
Rick considered the question. "A couple of days." He watched Tony attempt to stand on wobbly legs. "Don't screw this up; I think he might be close to giving in."
Steve folded his arms. "I'll take care of it – don't worry about anything. He won't be so tough after a few more days of this. Even the strongest SOB caves eventually."
The older man raised his eyebrows. "Just don't kill him, Steve. He's worth a small fortune and I don't want you to have to recoup any loss of profit out of your own pocket."
Rick knew the veiled threat was enough to make Steve more than a little nervous; his partner loved money almost as much as he loved torturing a defiant slave. Rick patted Steve on the arm and left to pack, smiling to himself when he heard the thud of the whip striking flesh again.
Gibbs leaned against the bar, tapping his fingers on a glass of water, wishing he could drink something stronger. The blaring sound system was giving him a headache, and he was bone weary tired. He couldn't seem to rest even though he was exhausted and the sleepless nights were getting to him.
He wondered if he was on a wild goose chase, and these people had nothing to do with Tony's disappearance. There was a chance he was looking in the wrong direction, and he was wasting precious time.
His gut told him otherwise.
Briefly he pondered how Tony might be holding out against what was being done to him now. DiNozzo was a strange mixture of hard and soft; he could be as solid as iron one minute, as supple as silk the next. He had no doubt his senior field agent could withstand torture, being beaten or hurt, but the rest of it – the sexual aspect of it – he didn't know how Tony would handle that.
This would be physical contact beyond Tony's control, which would only add to the strain considering how the younger man was conflicted by issues of dominance. Tony didn't mind taking orders if he chose to do so, however he had extreme problems with commands – and commanders – he didn't respect. There was no way Tony would bend to their will without being forced to do so. And they would punish him for it. The image of Tony at the mercy of those bastards – he gripped his glass so hard his knuckles turned white. Tony was no pansy, but there was no way he deserved to be treated with any kind of brutality.
Gibbs had been enough of a bastard to the man on his own – he just hoped he'd have the opportunity to make it up to his second-in-command. Guilt was an emotion he was used to, but not one that he enjoyed.
A young man, mid-twenties with sandy brown hair and an athletic build came up to the bar and stood next to him. The guy checked him out and smiled. "Nice," he commented, approving of Gibbs' dark jeans, button down shirt, and mid-length leather jacket that clung tightly to his shoulders and nipped in slightly at the waist. He'd picked up a thing or two about fashion from Tony along the way. "You looking for someone tonight?"
Gibbs gave his half-smile to the boy young enough to be his grandson. "I'm working tonight. If a Dom comes in looking for a sub, I'll let you know."
"Too bad," the kid replied with a pout. "I have a daddy thing you could help me with."
Gibbs laughed. "Maybe you should talk that over with your father instead of picking up older men in a bar."
"I don't think so," the kid said firmly. His eyes darted to the door. "Shit. It's that crazy Asian fuck. He won't leave me the hell alone; keeps buying me drinks and telling me how hot I am." The kid winked, and reminded Gibbs of Tony. "Of course, he's right about that. Excuse me while I go hide from my not-so-secret admirer." He made a dash for the dance floor without looking back.
Turning away from the main entrance, Gibbs headed toward the back of the club to check out the private rooms. Running into Nakamura wouldn't help his cause, but he did want to keep an eye on his suspect. Settling into the shadows, Gibbs leaned against a wall and observed his only potential connection to DiNozzo.
Another man took a seat across from the collector; Gibbs tried to get a read on the new player. He was an older man around his age, mid-fifties, with long steel grey hair pulled into a sleek ponytail. He had a well-trimmed goatee and intense dark eyes. His clothes were casual, yet tailored and fit perfectly – dark slacks, a v-neck sweater, expensive shoes, and more jewelry than any man should ever wear. A gold earring dangled from one ear, several large diamond rings accented his fingers, and a thick gold bracelet circled his wrist. A heavy gold chain hung around his neck. Gibbs wasn't sure what kind of look the man was going for, but he had an air of sophistication mixed with an undercurrent of danger. Gibbs didn't like him immediately.
Nakamura spoke to him animatedly, eventually pointing out to the dance floor where Gibbs noticed the young boy from earlier shimmying and swaying to the beat. Nakamura smiled ferally and spoke quickly to his companion, punctuating his words with odd bursts of laughter. The discussion turned more serious, and Gibbs leaned forward, trying to read their lips without giving away his position.
The only thing that helped him to not react violently was his extensive sniper training; Gibbs clearly read the words "federal agent" and "pretty green eyes" on the Asian's lips. He nearly burst across the room and grabbed Nakamura by the throat. He forced himself to remain still and quiet, watching and observing even after the revelation. The ponytailed man smiled and made a small gesture with his hand. He had his back to Gibbs, so the agent didn't get a chance to read his response, but based on the expression on Nakamura's face it had pleased him. He smiled broadly and Gibbs could make out the words $250,000 at least. They were going to sell Tony, he knew it.
What should he do now? Call Fornell? Try to arrest them on his own? What if they wouldn't tell him where Tony was being held? Chances were good they had high-priced lawyers on retainer who would have them out of jail in a heartbeat, and he would be no closer to finding Tony than he was right now. They might even kill DiNozzo to protect themselves from prosecution.
He decided to wait, see if he could follow Ponytail to where Tony was being held and then play it by ear from there. It was damned hard to be this close to answers, and not just tear them both apart to find out what he wanted to know. But he had to hold his temper, had to stay calm for Tony. Running off half-cocked would only make the situation worse.
Dom vibes exuded from the grey eyed man, and Gibbs guessed he was a trainer. The man carried himself like someone rarely ever questioned, who expected complete and total obedience from everyone around him. Even now, he held himself apart from his client, his demeanor cool and unruffled in the face of Nakamura's unsettled hyperactivity. This Dom was the key to finding Tony; Gibbs just had to hold out a while longer to find out what he needed.
Suddenly the men shook hands and stood up. Nakamura put some money on the table and left. Ponytail sat back down to finish his drink and silently observe the boy on the dance floor.
It was time for Gibbs to make his move.
He emerged from the darkened area and back into the brighter lighting of the main club, taking a seat on a stool near the bar. Duncan came over, reaching for a bowl of peanuts and crunching them. "So how are we doing tonight?"
"Pretty good," Gibbs answered honestly. "Nearly all the private rooms are taken and most of the subs you had on call are hooked up with a Dom. That cute little Sally actually snagged two." It was all legal as long as the club had a license for it – another cultural shift brought about by the Sawyer movement. The subs were there consensually and were well paid for their time and services, the Doms got what they needed without having to look for it on the streets; he supposed it was better than having it all go on underground like before. Everyone got tested to prevent the spread of disease, the toys were cleaned and sanitized, hell, he figured pretty soon Disney World would have a sex club.
"So far we haven't had any trouble tonight, which is the way I like it," Duncan commented, tossing another peanut in his mouth. "Mix alcohol and sex, and you never know when someone's going to snap."
Gibbs grunted his agreement. "Who's that guy over there?" he asked, indicating Ponytail. "Is he a regular? Came in like he owns the place."
Duncan smiled. "He shows up every now and then. He's an old friend of mine – I'll introduce you. Two uber-tops like you; I bet you guys have a lot in common."
He walked over to the table and came back with Ponytail, who greeted them with a stern frown. "Leroy Jackson this is Rick Townsend. Leroy's taking care of the subs for me until I find someone permanent."
The two men exchanged handshakes and appraising glances before Duncan continued. "You remember, David, don't you Rick? He's that big beautiful sub who won't submit to anybody – Leroy here had him taken down and nibbling from his hand in a couple of hours. I've never seen anything like it."
Rick raised an eyebrow. "I've worked with David a time or two; he's always been difficult."
Gibbs feigned indifference. "I like a challenge."
Rick chuckled to himself.
"Something funny?" Gibbs asked, leaning back in his chair.
Rick just shook his head, his ponytail moving from side to side. "Nah, it's nothing."
Duncan interjected. "You can tell him, Rick, Leroy's cool. I did a background check on him – he's not a cop or anything. I think he might find your little enterprise….interesting."
Gibbs waited, barely breathing.
Rick put a peanut in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully; after a long pause he seemed to decide it was ok to proceed. "I spend a lot of time working with subs who aren't quite inclined to submit. I help them learn to serve their masters completely and willingly without question. Even if they think they don't want to."
"Do these subs have any say so in the matter?" Gibbs questioned. His cool demeanor hid his surging heartbeat.
Townsend smiled. "Not really. I enjoy it, and there's a profit in it, so….." He let the statement trail off. "You got any moral issues with that?"
Now it was Gibbs' turn to smile. "Nope. Like I said, I like a challenge."
"Well I've got one right now I'd like you to meet. I think the damn bastard might let me kill him before he gives it up."
The words cut through Gibbs like a sharpened blade. It was Tony, he knew it in his soul. No one evoked a reaction like that except his insufferable agent. He fought not to outwardly react.
The young kid bopped over to the bar, sweaty and out of breath from dancing, interrupting them. "Hey, Dad," he said, eyeing Gibbs. "You changed your mind yet?"
"I'll let you know," Gibbs answered. The boy gave an exaggerated frown, got his drink and danced away.
Rick watched him intently. "That's my next acquisition. I've got a client who likes to collect pretty boys who work in law enforcement." He shrugged. "We've all got our kinks."
Gibbs had landed right in the viper pit.
A Dom approached, wanting to make some arrangements to hook up with a sub. Reluctantly, Gibbs got up and took the man aside to deal with him. He wanted to negotiate price, but Gibbs was in no mood to cut deals and refused to lower the rate. Out of the corner of his eye he continued to observe Rick and Duncan. Somehow he needed to get on the inside of Rick's operation.
When the Dom was taken care of, he went back to his spot at the bar; Rick stood and joined him. The Dom walked by on his way to the private rooms and muttered "bastard" under his breath as he passed by Gibbs. Rick grinned. "I like the way you handle yourself. You got any references? Not that I don't trust Duncan's judgment, but I'd like a little more to go on before I offer you a job."
"Who said I wanted a job? I didn't even want this one." Gibbs wasn't about to tip his hand.
"I'm pretty good at reading people, and I can tell you're a Dom with some talents I can use. If everything checks out, I might need some help tomorrow picking this guy up – think you could lend me a hand?"
It was the opening he needed, but he didn't want to seem too eager. "What's in it for me?"
"Don't worry, I'll make it worth your while."
Gibbs didn't answer immediately, wanting to appear that he was considering the offer. He grabbed a handful of peanuts, chewed and swallowed. "Alright, I'll give it a shot. But I expect a cut of the profit once I show you what I can do. Otherwise it's not worth it to me." He gave the name and number of his friend to call; Rick nodded approval.
"I've heard of him, he runs some high end establishments." Rick programmed the information into his phone. "I'll give you more details tomorrow after I have time to make some calls. I'll tell Duncan you're coming with me; he owes me a few favors so I'm sure he won't mind."
Gibbs tilted his head. "I'll be here. Gotta couple of ex-wives to support; the extra money will get them off my back for a while."
Rick clapped him on the shoulder. "If you're as good as you seem, this could be a very lucrative association for you." He downed his drink and nodded at Duncan who was talking to a Dom at the other end of the bar. "Bring a bag," he said to Gibbs, "you won't be coming back here for a while."
When he was gone Gibbs sat silently on his barstool collecting his thoughts and letting his rattled nerves settle down. He never expected to get offered a trip into the belly of the beast; he considered calling Abby to tell her what was happening, but discarded the idea quickly. He couldn't chance anything going wrong, and if that meant he had to go after Tony alone, he would. It wasn't like doing things solo was anything new for him.
Once he found DiNozzo he'd figure out what to do next. Just getting into their facility was the critical first step. He doubted Tony would be all that surprised to see him, more than likely he'd ask what took Gibbs so long to get there.
A few more days, that's all he needed to hold out, a few more days.
Tony struggled to stay awake; his eyes kept closing involuntarily. They'd removed the blindfold and stopped whipping him, no doubt afraid he was going to be seriously injured. His arms burned like they were on fire and his back had turned into one blazing sheet of agony. He no longer cared that he was naked and exposed; all he wanted was for the pain to stop. He didn't think he could stand it anymore.
Steve's face swam into his vision. "All you have to do is ask to be released, boy. Just say the words and you can rest."
An internal battle raged within him. He was so fucking tired – every muscle in his body protested the strain being placed on it. Was holding out worth it? He could do what they wanted and no longer suffer, was that really so bad? What was he proving by allowing them to hurt him like this?
Steve touched his face gently, the fingers on his skin so different than the rough touches he'd endured all day. "Such a pretty boy, so strong and brave. Let me help you."
Tony stared into Steve's chocolate brown eyes and swallowed the lump in his parched throat. He hated himself for it, but he knew what he had to do. It was what Gibbs would want, and really, Tony didn't think he had much of a choice.