Actions

Work Header

Hiding in Plain Sight

Chapter Text

"I don't see why we need some outsider coming in and telling us what to do," Rodney said, his entire body shifting restlessly, the way it always did when he was agitated.

They were standing in a reception party on the south pier, watching the Daedalus go through her docking procedures.

"Three marines have been murdered, Rodney," John told him, placing a hand on Rodney's wrist. The effect was instant; Rodney stilled, and he leaned in towards John, their thighs and upper arms touching. John smiled to himself; he doubted that Rodney had even noticed and that was part of the thrill of having such a complex submissive. After over two years of marriage he thought he had a pretty good idea how to handle Rodney, but his brilliant husband could still surprise him occasionally so he always had to be on his toes.

"Yes, I know, but that's *your* jurisdiction!" Rodney complained. "I mean, you've always handled this kind of thing on Atlantis."

"This isn't the Wraith, or life-sucking black shadow entities, or anything else killing our people, Rodney," John reminded him. "It's murder – plain, old-fashioned murder, and, despite my best efforts, we still have no idea who did it."

"Yes, but bringing in these other people, it's like they're saying you can't do your job properly," Rodney complained. John stiffened.

"Rodney, three of my men have died in as many months, one a month, all killed in the exact same way, and I haven't been able to find whoever is doing it. I'm not proud – I'll take all the help I can get," John hissed. Rodney turned to him, his blue eyes contrite.

"I'm sorry. I know how much this has upset you…I just don't like the idea of anyone coming in here and criticising you," Rodney said softly.

"I know." John tangled his hand affectionately in the long, curly ends of Rodney's hair.

"And if Elizabeth was still here, she would never have sanctioned this," Rodney muttered. John sighed – on that, at least, Rodney was right.

"But we're under new management now, Rodney, and if this is the way Woolsey wants to play it, and if it means I don't have to go into another marine's quarters and find him staked out on the floor with his insides gutted and his throat cut then that's fine by me," John told him firmly.

John glanced at Woolsey. He felt kind of sorry for the guy; he was a submissive, which wasn't a problem - some of the best commanding officers John had worked under were subs – but Woolsey was fresh out of what John suspected had been a stifling and unsatisfactory marriage. You could still see the little line around his neck from where his collar had been, and every so often Woolsey lifted his hand to rub the line absently, clearly missing the security the collar had given him. He was a man who liked rules – both in his personal and professional life, and he had a penchant for doing everything by the book. Needless to say, that didn't always sit well with John's more free-wheeling style of command.

John was trying not to get into unnecessary confrontations with the man, but, like Rodney, he wasn't best pleased that Woolsey had called in NCIS to investigate the murders of these marines. He was keeping that to himself though – his wayward sub might pick up on it but John wasn't going to fuel that particular fire by speaking his mind on the subject. Rodney's loyalty and volatility were both well known to him – the combination in this instance might be explosive.

"So, Carson, did Steven say what these guys were like?" he called to the doctor, who was standing next to Woolsey in the welcoming committee, a goofy look in his eyes. Carson's husband had been gone for six weeks doing the scheduled run to Earth and back, and John was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to survive if Rodney was gone for that long so he had no idea how Carson had got through it – although the usually good-natured doctor had become more and more tetchy as the weeks had passed.

"Hmm?" Carson turned towards him, his eyes still far away.

"The NCIS agents Steven has been ferrying over from Earth – did he say what they were like?" Rodney butted in, clearly eager for some gossip.

"Funnily enough, we had other things to talk about in the very brief conversations we've been able to have since the Daedalus came within range," Carson replied, rolling his eyes. John snorted at that.

Rodney was about to open his mouth to dig a bit further so John poked him in the thigh with his finger to get him to shut up.

"But…" Rodney began. John shook his head.

"No need to ask – you're about to find out," he said, pointing at the Daedalus's hatch which was just beginning to open.

"Oh shit," Rodney breathed.

Yeah, oh shit, John thought, as a man emerged from the ship onto the south pier. John was a confident top, who had collared and kept his own sub for the past two and a half years…but, like all the other tops present on the pier, he recognised an uber-top when he saw one, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.

Almost without realising it he felt the adrenaline surge and a sense of protective possessiveness kick in. He turned to Rodney, took his leash from his belt, and fastened it to Rodney's collar, pulling him in close. Rodney melted against him, body fitting next to his in a way that was both familiar and reassuring, but John didn't miss the little whimpering sound that Rodney made in the back of his throat.

The top who had emerged from the Daedalus was a decade or so older than John, and had an air of grizzled experience about him that made John feel like a ten year old standing in front of his father, Gil, in trouble for some misdemeanour or other. This top's eyes were a startling blue, and you just knew they never missed a thing. He was tall and imposing, with a straight back and a toned physique, but that wasn't what made him intimidating. No, it was those piercing eyes and the brisk, no-nonsense way in which he carried himself that made John's hackles rise. He was good looking, with features that might once have been boyish but now, in middle age, had weathered into something harder and much edgier. Even so, John doubted there was a sub alive who wouldn't find him extremely attractive. He didn't appear to be making any kind of toppy statement in his clothing, which was a combo of plain black pants, black shirt, and a black jacket, but all the same, there wasn't any chance at all that anyone would mistake him for a sub.

His hand was hanging loosely at his side and in it were five leashes. He didn't even tug on them – he was so sure of his submissives' obedience that he made no concessions to them and simply strode forward without glancing back, trusting them to keep pace. John craned his neck, eager to see the submissives that this man had collared.

They were an unusual bunch – there didn't seem to be any unifying characteristics about them – this top clearly didn't have a 'type'. The one that took John's eye immediately was the tall, handsome sub with brown hair. He had a mischievous look in his green eyes and John recognised immediately that he was trouble – not in the same way that Rodney had been when he'd first met him, but trouble all the same. He was wearing a pair of ass-hugging faded blue denim jeans and a tight black shirt, open just a little too much at the top to reveal an inviting patch of chest hair. There was a small silver and green earring in his left ear, and a studded bracelet on his right wrist. He was possibly slightly taller than his top, but if so only by an inch or two, and powerfully built, but John saw immediately that his wide grin and laid-back body language hid something. This sub was sharp, those mischievous eyes missing nothing. He was also deceptively strong, and he knew how to game-play with the best of them; it wouldn't be wise to under-estimate him.

Then there was the pretty girl with the spider-web tattoo on her neck and the bright red lipstick. Her black hair was in pigtails, and she was wearing a short plaid skirt with heavy leather boots and a tight black tee shirt with a skeleton on the front. She also wore a number of studded wristbands and rings, and several chains around her neck, below her collar. She was the opposite to the other sub – her clothes screamed 'fear me' but her friendly green eyes and wide, open smile, hinted at a sweet nature. John noticed that of all of them, she stayed closest to Gibbs.

There was another woman, stunningly beautiful, with long, dark hair, deep brown eyes, and a 'don't fuck with me' look on her face. She was dressed in plain chocolate brown jeans and a tight green sweater, and there was something dangerous about the way she moved. There was no subterfuge to her - she wasn't deceptive, like the male sub. She moved like Teyla moved, with all the power and grace of a warrior, and John had a healthy respect for that kind of person. He was puzzled though – he was getting the same vibe off her that he got off Teyla and it wasn't the vibe of a collared submissive - maybe there was something deceptive about her after all.

If he wasn't sure about her, he was very sure about the man next to her, who couldn't have radiated a more submissive vibe if he'd tried. He had a sweet-face and beautiful eyes, but he looked nervous and strangely out of place in the clunky, formal suit and tie that hid his body. His clothing was in stark contrast to the more obviously provocative apparel of the first male sub. This sub looked as if he'd prefer it if tops didn't look at him, although John doubted many did considering whose collar he wore. He was tall, at least as tall as the first sub, maybe even slightly taller, and broad across the shoulders, but his hesitant nature made his height and breadth seem less imposing.

Then, finally, John's gaze fell upon a man older than the top leading him by perhaps a decade. He had a gentle, almost distracted air about him, and kind blue eyes, but John sensed an inner steel beneath the genteel façade. His hair was a faded blond, and his eyes sparkled with an insatiable curiosity. He was wearing a suit, complete with a bow tie, and he had the manner of an affable eccentric.

Colonel Steven Beckett escorted the NCIS agents towards the welcoming committee, and made the formal introductions.

"Mr Woolsey, this is Special Agent Jethro Gibbs and his team. Agents Anthony DiNozzo, Abigail Sciuto, Ziva David, Timothy McGee, and Dr Donald Mallard.

John blanked out the stuttering welcoming sounds Woolsey was making – it would take a submissive of extremely strong stuff to stand his ground on first meeting with a top like Gibbs, although he guessed that Steven Beckett hadn't been affected by the NCIS chief. Carson's husband was steady and strong – the kind of submissive John had met many times in the military, and who he knew he could count on in battle. Gibbs wasn't doing anything to unsettle Woolsey – just his presence alone was enough to turn the man into a gibbering wreck.

John could feel his hackles rising as Woolsey turned to introduce him to Gibbs. Who the hell did this guy think he was, walking onto Atlantis like he owned the place, and bringing his five collared submissives with him? How many subs did one top need anyway? John couldn't imagine having room in his heart for anyone else - it was so full of Rodney. He didn't want, or need, any other subs. Besides, he had a feeling that Rodney would be really crap at sharing. John always felt that tops who collared more than one sub were just showing off – trying to big themselves up to cover some basic insecurity. This guy though…well, on first impressions he didn't seem remotely insecure.

"Pleased to meet you, General," Gibbs said, holding out his free hand. John took it, and gazed, unflinchingly, into those clear blue eyes.

"And you, Special Agent Gibbs," he replied, squeezing Gibbs's hand firmly, showing he wasn't about to be out-topped by this newcomer, whoever the hell he was. He wrapped his hand so tightly in Rodney's leash that it cut off the blood supply to his fingers.

"This is my husband, Dr Rodney Sheppard," he said. "He's the Head of Science on Atlantis."

Rodney didn't say a word, he just stood there, quiet and obedient by John's side. John wasn't sure if he was over-awed, or whether the pressure he was exerting on Rodney's leash was robbing him of speech. Gibbs nodded at Rodney but made no attempt to shake his hand. John was pleased about that – if Gibbs had asked for permission to touch Rodney he had a feeling he might have refused it, and that would have got this whole thing off to a really bad start. He didn't want this man touching Rodney; he didn't want this man within ten feet of Rodney if he could help it. Rodney was HIS, and he didn't like the idea of this man, with his five submissives, trying to collar a sixth.

John gave a low, almost inaudible growl at that thought, but Gibbs had already moved on and was being introduced to Carson. John was suddenly aware of Rodney's hand stroking his ass, gently but insistently.

"You know…you can tighten the leash if it'll make you feel better but could you just not hold it so close," Rodney whispered to him. "I think I'm gonna trip over your boots in a minute if you don't loosen up."

It was enough to snap John out of it and he gave his sub an apologetic grin and loosened his grip – but just a little. Rodney continued stroking his bottom, and slowly, very slowly, John felt his sudden, extreme sense of his own toppiness start to recede. It would seem that Rodney had also learned a trick or two about dealing with his top, he thought to himself wryly.

"I'll show you to your quarters – you'll no doubt want to get settled in – and then, uh, well, I'm not sure what you want to do next, but you're very welcome to…" Woolsey prattled on, as the newcomers began walking off into the distance.

DiNozzo turned around, and glanced at John with an assessing look as they went. He looked him up and down, and then his face broke into what John could only describe as a leer, and he gave him a wink. There was a sharp tug on his leash and he muttered a, "yes boss, coming boss," before running slightly to catch up with the others.

Now it was Rodney's turn to growl, and the gently stroking hand on John's ass turned into a prod.

"I'm not looking," John protested.

"You think he's cute though, right?" Rodney pressed.

"Yeah, but *trouble*," John snorted.

"You *like* trouble," Rodney protested.

"Yes I do – and I have more than enough of it on my hands, thank you very much," John replied, yanking Rodney's leash slightly and pulling him in for a quick kiss. "It's not as if you didn't go all weak-kneed when you saw Gibbs anyway."

"If I went weak-kneed it was simply from lack of oxygen because my top was strangling me with my own leash," Rodney complained.

"So you didn't happen to notice that we have an uber-top in our midst?" John asked.

Rodney's eyes widened with feigned surprise. "Who? Gibbs?" he asked innocently. John slapped his ass for that and Rodney laughed and stole another kiss from him. "Seriously, you're not really jealous are you?" Rodney asked.

John thought about it for a moment. "No," he said finally. "Just…that guy is unsettling."

"I think he's supposed to be," Rodney said. "But you know me – I've never been a fan of that kind of top. All strict rules and leash etiquette – bores me rigid. I much prefer what I've got."

"Which is?" John raised an eyebrow, and they started walking back to their quarters.

"Well, you know, someone laid-back and a bit more casual."

"You mean lax," John said.

"No, I mean casual. I'm far too brilliant to be confined by a set of rigid rules," Rodney said proudly. "You give me room to breathe."

"And for that – I think a spanking is due," John told him.

"What?" Rodney's blue eyes were aghast, but John didn't miss the little flash of hopeful anticipation in them either. Rodney would go to hell and back to escape a real punishment but when John talked about this kind of spanking they both knew it was for pleasure.

"Yeah…just to remind you that I could impose some more rules, *if* I really wanted to," John replied.

"And *if* you could be bothered to enforce them," Rodney muttered.

"And for *that*, I'm gonna get out my clamps," John said.

"Oh shit," Rodney sighed, but the sound was swallowed by John swinging him close and kissing him hard until his body melted against that of his top, utterly submissive and compliant, which was just how John wanted him.

~*~

"Nice." Tony dumped his bag on the table and gazed around the suite of rooms. In the centre was a large living space, complete with big dining table. There was a galley kitchen off to one side and a smaller living room to accommodate anyone wanting some quiet time on their own. The bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, opened off from the main living space. "Very nice," Tony added appreciatively, throwing himself down on the sofa and putting his feet up on the coffee table. "First the ride on a spaceship, which, once you got over how cool it was, was actually pretty boring, and now this! I will be sleeping tonight on a completely different planet. It's mind-blowing - I feel like I'm starring in my own movie."

"Would that movie be 'Zombies from Outer Space'?" Ziva asked. Tony made a face at her.

"Nope. It'd be, 'Anthony DiNozzo – Intergalactic Hero Cop'," Tony said, drawing his hand across empty space, imagining the title in his head. "Righter of wrongs, catcher of killers, and the best lay in two galaxies".

"Even if he does say so himself," McGee said, rolling his eyes at Ziva. She grinned.

"This, uh, 'intergalactic hero cop' – does he solve these crimes all by himself, or does he have any help?" Ziva asked, a dangerous look on her face. Tony shrugged and leaned back on the sofa, arms stretched along its back.

"I expect he has a couple of sidekicks," he said confidently. "But he's the hero – the star. They're just there for show – they do a bit of fetching and carrying for him but he's the man."

"Uh huh," Ziva said, her face a study in straightness. Tony knew that look all too well. He stiffened.

"Gibbs is behind me isn't he?" he squirmed.

"Yes he is," a voice said into his ear. "Nice to know your ego has room for a couple of sidekicks though."

"I didn't mean…that is, I mean, you're not one of them! I'm just…I'm referring to probie here, and Ziva. Not you. I mean obviously, if anyone is the man, you're the man. I'm just…that wasn't what I meant at all," Tony waffled helplessly.

"Glad to hear it," Gibbs said. Tony braced himself…and just when he relaxed, thinking it wasn't going to happen, it did – and the smack landed square on the back of his head. "Now, perhaps the intergalactic hero cop would like to do some work," Gibbs said dryly.

"Yes boss." Tony got up quickly, grabbed his bag, threw it into the nearest bedroom, and returned to the living room.

"Okay," Gibbs said to his subs. "I know this is all very new and exciting, and yes, DiNozzo, the idea that we're in a different galaxy is mind-blowing – but, we have a job to do."

"Yeah…about that," Tony said. Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

"It's just that…I spent quite a bit of time talking to Colonel Beckett while we were on the Daedalus, and he was telling me about this stargate thing."

Gibbs's eyebrows crawled higher up his forehead.

"Okay…I don't understand much about this kind of technology but was there a reason why we just spent eighteen days cooped up in a glorified tin-can when we could have stepped through a gate and got here in nano-seconds?"

"Tony has a point," McGee butted in. "The stargate programme is top secret but seeing as we're out here, I'm guessing we have clearance – so why not send us through the gate?"

"Three marines have been murdered," Ducky mused. "You'd think they would want us out here sooner rather than later – is there a reason why we weren't allowed to travel through this 'stargate', Jethro?"

"I was told they had some kind of a glitch with it and it wasn't considered safe to travel between galaxies with it," Gibbs shrugged. "They weren't sure how long it would take to fix it so they made arrangements for us to travel here on the Daedalus instead."

"Which was cool for the first three days but then got really dull," Tony muttered.

"Okay, this isn't our usual environment and that puts us at a disadvantage," Gibbs said tersely. "However, I expect the same high standard of you out here as I do back home. We won't have access to the same information or technical equipment but that's no excuse for not doing our jobs properly. Ducky…" Dr Mallard looked up, and straightened. "Go and make friends with Dr Carson Beckett – he's in charge of the medical facilities on the base. He's also Colonel Beckett's husband. I want you to set up an examining room and start autopsying the bodies."

"I believe Dr Beckett has already conducted autopsies," Ducky said, glancing at the file of notes in his hand.

"Do it again. Remember, everyone out here is a suspect at this stage," Gibbs told him. Ducky nodded, and got up to leave.

"The rest of you – get out there and start talking to people. I want to know all about these dead marines – who their friends were, who they were sleeping with, whether they were collared or had collared anyone else…and, most, importantly, who their enemies were."

"Yes, boss," they all said in unison.

"Uh, Gibbs – what about me?" Abby asked. "I mean, I'm not technically a field agent so…"

"You can talk, Abs. And god knows, you know how to ask questions," Gibbs told her, flashing her one of his rare smiles. She smiled back, basking for a moment in the sunshine of his smile. Tony envied her. Gibbs tipped her chin up and planted a soft little kiss on her lips and Tony felt the knife of his envy go even deeper. He shook himself. This was Abby for god's sake – Abby who he adored just as much as everyone else on the team, including Gibbs.

"Just go out there and be yourself – you'll do fine. And be careful," Gibbs added. "All of you. We are out of our environment and it's unclear what the dangers are. If in doubt, speak to me – do not, I repeat, do not take unnecessary risks. Now go."

They all got to their feet and made towards the door.

"Not you, Tony," Gibbs said. Tony hung back, wondering what was coming next. "General Sheppard is married," Gibbs said, not even looking at him as he rummaged through his luggage for something.

"Oh come on, boss. He's a good-looking top. A sub can look, can't he?"

"Not if it causes problems," Gibbs said firmly. "We're here to solve some murders, not cause any."

"You wouldn't let anyone murder me, boss," Tony grinned. "Besides, I noticed he didn't seem too happy to have you here."

"So did I – and you'll remember I didn't exacerbate that situation by shaking his sub's hand. Now, the question is, is he unhappy we're here because we're muscling in on his territory – or is there another reason? Does he have something to hide?"

"Good question, boss. I'll get out there and find the answer." Tony started walking towards the door again.

"Not yet, Tony. First things first." Gibbs found what he was looking for in his luggage and Tony's heart did a little flip.

"You have already spanked me once today, boss," he said, gazing warily at the hated strap that was dangling from Gibbs's hand.

"I didn't know there was a limit on the amount of times I could spank my sub in one day," Gibbs replied, stone-faced, just a hint of a challenge in those blue eyes. Tony sighed.

"No boss, there isn't," he said.

"Good – into the bedroom, pants down," Gibbs ordered.

Tony did as instructed. For some reason, and he had no idea why, he was the only one of Gibbs's submissives who got a daily spanking. Every day, without fail, the boss turned him ass up and delivered a spanking. Sometimes it was long and arduous, other times just a couple of swats, but Gibbs never forgot. Tony thought he'd be kind of upset if he ever did.

Gibbs's bedroom, was, naturally, the largest in the suite. It held a massive, king-sized bed although Tony doubted Gibbs would be needing that. Still, if the man went around with five leashed subs then people had to suppose he was sleeping with them and make appropriate arrangements.

There was a large armchair in the corner of the room. Gibbs motioned with his head towards it and Tony undid his pants, and lowered them to his ankles. He never wore underwear – it saved time when presenting himself for daily spankings and besides, it was part of his own particular dynamic as a sub that he enjoyed feeling naked and available under his clothes. He bent over the back of the chair, and rested his hands on the padded arms. God he hated the strap! He longed for a spanking that would involve Gibbs's hand on his ass, and Gibbs's knees beneath him - sturdy, intimate and reassuring. He didn't like the impersonal feeling of being draped over a chair, and he sure as hell didn't like the hard feel of firm, unyielding leather on his bare skin. Gibbs had never once taken him over his knee or spanked him with his hand though – he'd spanked both Abby and Tim in that way but not him. Never him. Tony wasn't sure why but it was hard not to feel envious of his fellow subs.

Gibbs tapped his ass with the strap and Tony opened his legs wider, as instructed. This was kind of a game they played. Tony knew well enough what Gibbs required of him and the exact position he was supposed to assume, but he was naughty sub enough to not always want to give it to him that easily. Gibbs only ever spanked on the bare and Tony was used to offering up his ass for his top's attention, but even so, he always felt like this, every single time; exposed, apprehensive, excited. The cool caress of the leather lasted for only a second before being transformed into a sharp sting as the strap thwapped across his buttocks.

"Oh shit," Tony said, gripping the arms of the chair tightly. Another thwap, and then another, and then it was over. Just three strokes – barely more than a caress by Gibbs's standards, and yet, despite his dislike for the strap, Tony couldn't help but feel disappointed. He stayed in position, waiting for permission to rise, and then felt Gibbs's hand tousling his hair.

"Good boy," Gibbs said, and Tony felt himself glowing at the praise. He stood up, and turned.

"If you wanted to throw me down on the bed, I could show you just how good a boy I can be," Tony said, in a soft, low tone. He knew the inevitable answer, but hell, they were in a whole different galaxy – maybe the rules had changed here.

Gibbs gave a little grin and shook his head.

"You never give up, do you, Tony?"

"Never will, boss," Tony replied, pulling up his pants and fastening his belt.

Gibbs looked at him with that unfathomable look in his eyes, the one that made Tony feel he was going to say something – but he never did. They stood there, face to face, for a long time, neither of them speaking, and then Gibbs reached out, and briefly, for just one tiny second, touched the side of Tony's face with his fingers; gentle, soft and caressing. Then the moment was gone, and the hand was withdrawn.

"Get out there and find this killer, Tony," Gibbs told him, brisk and business-like again.

"Will do, boss," Tony sighed, turning to go.

"And don't forget who you belong to," Gibbs warned. Tony let out a yelp as Gibbs swatted his sore ass lightly.

"Never could, boss," Tony replied. "Never could."

He wasn't sure what that spanking had been about, just as he wasn't sure what the usual daily spankings were about, and god knows his inscrutable boss would never tell him, but Tony felt a warm glow spread out from his smarting buttocks and up into his heart.

He belonged to Gibbs. However unsatisfactory and downright frustrating it was to be one of Gibbs's subs, Gibbs took the time to tell him, with every daily spanking, that he belonged to him. It might not be much, but it was all that was on offer so he'd take it. He set off, determined to do his job to the utmost of his ability and make his top proud of him.

~*~

"I just don't see why I have to have them in my lab," Rodney said mutinously as John dropped him off at said lab on his way to his own office.

"Rodney – be nice," John warned. "I don't suppose they'll be here for long."

"You don't know what it's like to have non-lab trained personnel hanging around, getting underfoot, *touching* things," Rodney grumbled. "It's bad enough having you in there and at least you're not totally stupid."

"No I'm not and neither are you," John retorted. "These people are here to do a job, and as part of that job they have to ask questions – now be nice and answer up or they'll wonder what you have to hide."

"What? Oh my god! You don't think…they won't suspect ME, will they?" Rodney asked, horrified. He hadn't even thought of that.

"Well I don't know – I suppose it depends on how suspiciously you act," John told him. "And right now you're acting pretty suspiciously. Got anything to hide?"

"Well, there's the experiment you and Elizabeth expressly forbade me to work on - they wouldn't be interested in that, would they? I mean they're here about the murders, not that. Um…oh, shit…did I just tell you about the 'on pain of severe punishment' experiment? Oh god, I think I did."

"Yes you did, Rodney, and we'll talk about that later," John said, rolling his eyes. "And this is another reason why I don't think they'll be hanging around your lab for long. Frankly, five minutes with Gibbs and his team and you'd confess all your sins at once. You're not exactly hard to break, are you?"

"Break? Are they going to interrogate me? Oh shit…" Rodney glanced around his lab, horrified.

"Relax." John put two calming hands on his shoulders, deposited a kiss on his head and then shoved him into his lab. "And don't think I've forgotten about the forbidden experiment."

"I was kidding about that!" Rodney lied to John's retreating back.

"No you weren't," John threw back over his shoulder.

Rodney sighed and then glared at the pretty girl, her dark hair hanging in pigtails, sitting in HIS chair.

"Hi. I'm Abby," she said, as he prowled over.

"Yes I know who you are," he snapped, grabbing the back of her chair and wheeling it out of his way, then drawing up another chair and setting it in the vacant place he'd created in front of his workstation.

"Cool!" Abby said. Rodney ignored her. "You're Rodney Sheppard", she said.

"I can tell you're a trained investigator," he muttered. She grinned.

"Well, to be honest, I'm not. I'm kind of along for the ride. Gibbs knew we'd be gone for a few weeks and didn't want to leave me behind, so he brought me along."

"What, like some kind of trophy sub?" Rodney said maliciously.

"Not really. Anyway, I'm glad he did. This is SO cool." She reached out a hand and touched the magnetic imaging spectroscope sitting in front of her.

"Don't touch!" Rodney yelled. "Do NOT touch anything. This is a highly sensitive piece of equipment, calibrated to an exact equation and it must not be touched. God I hate it when non-scientists start playing around in my lab."

"Me too!" Abby said. "It's so annoying isn't it? You just get something set up the way you want it and some idiot who doesn't know the first thing about it comes in and presses buttons, or stands in the wrong place and just gets in the way."

"You're a scientist?" Rodney asked cautiously. "You have a lab?"

"I'm a forensics scientist." Abby nodded. "And I definitely have a lab. In fact..." She glanced around, a sad look on her face. "I really miss my lab."

"You don't look like a scientist," Rodney said, glancing at her attire which to his mind looked like an odd mix of leather sub and baby doll. Not that he was an expert on fashion.

"Neither do you. They're usually old and boring, not hot with nice asses," she said, glancing appreciatively at his posterior.

"Hot?" Rodney said. "Really?" John thought so of course, and it was true that when he dressed up for a night out he could turn heads but even so…it was always nice to hear it from someone else.

"Oh yeah." Abby grinned at him. "Definitely. Did you calibrate the spectroscope using Vant's Theorem or the Helsinger Tables?"

"Vant. Helsinger is an idiot," Rodney said. "Wait – you know about them?"

"Sure." Abby laughed and he felt himself relaxing. She really was impossible to hate for long. "And I totally agree. Helsinger got all his math back to front."

"That's what I always say!" Rodney exclaimed. They grinned at each other happily.

"I haven't seen this model," Abby said wistfully, gazing longingly at the spectroscope. "It's the latest stuff and I never get the latest stuff, not even when I do my best begging for Gibbs. Could you show me the features?"

Rodney felt himself going to a happy place in his head. He demonstrated all the features on the equipment in detail, humming as he did so, pleased to have a chance to show off to someone who actually knew something, rather than the usual dimwits he had to put up with in his lab.

"It must be so weird to live out here, in a totally different galaxy," Abby said later, over their mid-morning coffee and donut break. "What's the weirdest, freakiest thing that ever happened to you here?"

"You mean apart from the life-sucking vampire monsters? Well, John nearly got turned into a bug once."

"Really? No way!"

"Yeah. Or…oh no, I remember the freakiest thing ever – John and me were once sucked into a completely different universe where the people were…well, I grew to like them eventually, but they were a bit weird."

"Weird how?" Abby asked, licking donut sugar off her fingers.

"Well, they were like us but they only slept with people of the opposite gender – they had some kind of taboo about same-sex relationships - and they didn't seem to have any concept of dynamic at all. They just wandered around with no idea about whether they were dominants or submissives…now *that* was weird."

"You're making that up," she said, eyes wide as saucers. "How would that even work?"

"I have no idea. They didn't seem to have a lot of sex though," Rodney said with a shrug. "It was strange, seeing myself in this other universe…"

"Wait - there was another you?"

"Yes – and another John, and another Carson. It was very like our own universe and yet so completely different."

"I wonder if there was another me there," Abby said.

"Probably." Rodney shrugged.

"I wonder if she's happy. I wonder what her life is like," she pondered. "I hope she's got a Gibbs looking out for her there, like I do."

"Is he a good top?" Rodney asked. "He seemed kind of scary from where I was standing."

"Oh everyone says that and I don't get it," Abby replied, shaking her head. "Wow, this coffee is nice – it has a real hit to it. I usually prefer soda but I'll settle for this."

"Caffeine – the drug of choice for scientists," Rodney grinned.

"Yeah. But going back to Gibbs – he's the sweetest guy."

"How can you share him with all those other subs?" Rodney asked. "I know I couldn't share John."

"Well, it's not really like that," Abby replied.

"Don't any of you get jealous?"

"Not really. At least I don't think so. Maybe Tony does. And maybe we all would if he was sleeping with any of us," she mused.

"He's not sleeping with you?" Rodney asked, shocked. "But he's collared you."

"I know – but that's just the way Gibbs likes to work. He kind of collects subs. Besides, he doesn't really like having anyone on his team that he hasn't collared. He says there can only be one boss, and that boss is him. He doesn't want any of his subordinates answering to anyone else, or having divided loyalties – not in our line of work."

"But…how does that work?" Rodney asked, genuinely curious. "You're his collared subs but…"

"Ziva isn't – a sub I mean," Abby interrupted. "She's a top."

"And she let him collar her?" Rodney was totally confused now.

"Yeah – you'd be surprised how many tops would accept Gibbs's collar for the chance of working with him. The man is a legend," Abby said happily. "It's not forever – Ziva knows that. But for now it suits her."

"So how does it work?" Rodney asked helplessly. He had heard of arrangements like this, where a high-flying top collared colleagues for purely professional reasons, but they weren't very common. Also, he didn't get the feeling that Gibbs's relationship with his subs *was* entirely professional.

"Well, he's in charge, and he can discipline us, obviously. He's…somehow he gives each of us what we need. With Tim it's a sense of protection and belonging – he's always wanted that and Gibbs makes sure he gets it. With Ziva, it's maybe kind of a refuge, while she figures some stuff out. Heavy stuff. She never talks about it but he knows – he knows all of us really well. With Ducky – well, those two go way back. Gibbs collared Ducky years ago. I never heard the whole story but there definitely is one – if either of them gets close to talking about the subject they give each other these weird looks and clam up, and afterwards Ducky gets really clingy and Gibbs seems extra protective."

"And DiNozzo?" Rodney asked.

"Ah Tony," she grinned, shaking her head. "Where do I start? Tony needs a strong top. He's looked all over for one but none of them are strong enough to take him on. He might not seem it because he's such a wiseass but he's smart, Rodney, and strong. Gibbs almost gives him what he needs, but he can't – or won't – give him everything because he can't give him what he wants most – which is himself."

"Why not? If he's not sleeping with any of you surely there's room in his life for someone?" Rodney asked.

"I'd like to see him happy, and I think Tony could make him happy," Abby sighed, "but he won't go there and I have no idea why. He just…won't. Something to do with his past I think. He's been married before, several times, and it never worked out. Maybe he's just been burned too often."

"And you?" Rodney asked, intrigued by this young woman's life.

"Oh well…I have a history of getting into really bad relationships. Gibbs kind of saves me from myself," Abby said, with a little smile. "He insists on meeting any top who wants to date me. If he says I can't see them, then that's it. Kaboosh. No dating." She shrugged.

"But he doesn't claim you for himself?"

"No. With him and me it's more…paternal. He looks out for me and takes care of me. Not that I'd say no – I'm all for the daddy/girl roleplay." Abby gave him a big grin, and Rodney felt himself flushing slightly at her openness. He was used to having some pretty frank conversations with people about their preferences, but this was a bit too much too soon. He was intrigued though, and genuinely interested in the strange setup these NCIS agents had.

"To be honest, I don't think it'd work between us anyway," Abby said. "I don't think we really see each other that way, and it'd ruin what we have if anything happened between us. Don't get me wrong – he's still my top - he just chooses not to exercise some of the rights that come with that. It may seem weird to you but it works – for all of us. For now at least."

"What happens if you meet someone who wants to collar you?" Rodney asked.

"I dunno. It hasn't happened. Well…just once." Abby grimaced.

She was silent for a bit, and Rodney wasn't sure if she was going to say any more, but then she turned to him, took a deep breath, and started.

"There was this guy. His job was cleaning up crime scenes which I thought was totally cool, and we got talking and…well, Gibbs was away for a few days, and I was falling for this guy so I didn't want to wait until Gibbs got home. I thought it was just going to be a fling but then it got more serious…and, you see, I just knew Gibbs wouldn't allow it."

"Why not?" Rodney asked, finishing the last drop of his coffee and scraping his finger around the rim to scoop up the dregs of the foam.

"I dunno – I suppose even though I was crazy about Mikel – that was the guy's name – there was something about him that was setting off alarm bells. But instead of telling Gibbs about him, I started creeping around behind his back. I got it into my head that it was none of Gibbs's business who I slept with – which was dishonest of me. If I want to wear the man's collar then I have to abide by his rules." Abby gave a little sigh. "I owe him that – and really, he never makes any demands on me. He's only ever wanted my honesty, and I let him down. Badly."

Her clear green eyes looked suspiciously glassy as she said that, and Rodney wasn't sure whether to pat her arm in an attempt to offer clumsy comfort of some sort. Luckily she saved him from that decision by continuing with her story.

"Mikel wanted to take me away from Gibbs. He said all this crap – that Gibbs was using me, that I'd look better in his collar, that Gibbs was an abuser. None of that was true. I woke up to it eventually, and told Mikel I didn't want to see him any more. He went ballistic, took me prisoner, took my collar off me and put his own on me." She shuddered.

"Oh shit," Rodney said, horrified, because a similar thing had happened to him once and he still woke up screaming from the nightmares. "He took your collar? That happened to you too?"

Abby's eyes widened. Rodney waved his hand.

"I'll tell you about mine some other time. I want to hear about yours."

"It was just so horrible. I don't know what would have happened if Gibbs hadn't busted a gut trying to find me. He showed up, just in time, because Mikel was saying that if he couldn't have me then nobody could and I really thought he was going to kill me. Gibbs shot Mikel in the shoulder and took him into custody – he had him up on charges for abduction, removing another top's collar without the sub's permission, and coercing a collared sub."

"Man – this sounds like a movie or something," Rodney said.

"Yeah. It does kinda," she said, but her eyes were sad.

"What did Gibbs do?" Rodney asked.

She took a deep breath. "Oh it was bad, but then I guess you know that."

"Yeah." Rodney gazed at her, one sub to another, both of them sharing an understanding of what she had faced.

"I let Gibbs down. He trusted me and I let him down." She bit on her lip. "Once he'd taken care of Mikel, he just lifted me up in his arms and hugged me and hugged me. Then he took me home and put me straight to bed. I slept for hours and he never once left my bedside. Next day though…" She made a face, and then continued. "He gave me a choice. Said I could have my collar back if I wanted it, but I had to mean it, because he couldn't go through this again. And if I accepted it back then I had to accept whatever punishment he was gonna hand out too."

She trembled a bit when she said that, and Rodney watched her, transfixed.

"I wanted that collar back so badly." She gave a wry little smile. "I went down on my knees, no question, and he put it around my neck and buckled it on and it was such a relief, you know? Then, without saying a thing, he grabbed my wrist, walked me into the bedroom, sat down on the bed, swung me over his knee, lifted up my skirt, pulled down my panties and gave me a spanking I'll never forget until the day I die. He never said a word the entire time - just spanked my ass to kingdom come."

"Oh shit," Rodney breathed, empathising with her for all he was worth.

"You don't understand," she murmured. "He'd never spanked me before – never. And he hasn't spanked me since then, either, other than a stray swat here or there. So it was just the once, but man…it hurt. He didn't stop until I was sobbing my heart out, and my ass was burning every single shade of crimson you can imagine. He didn't use a strap or anything, just his hand, but he's got one hell of a strong spanking hand!"

"I can believe that," Rodney said, and then he frowned. "But what I can't believe is that we're sitting here, and I'm having one of those subby chats – I never do subby chats! Ever!"

Usually the very idea of sitting with a fellow sub and droning on about their latest spanking or the latest way their top had been annoying or demanding was his idea of hell, but with Abby it was different. She just had something that made you like her and want to spend time with her. And her story was different too – he'd never heard of a relationship like the one Gibbs had with his subs, and he was intrigued by it.

"Me either!" Abby said with a wild, bright grin. "I can't stand them. All they do is go on and on about how terrible their lives are and how boring their tops are. I don't even usually like to hang out with other subs – well, except Tony and Tim because they're cool - but that's only because we don't usually talk about sub stuff."

They sat there in silence for a moment, grinning at each other, both of them flushing slightly from the embarrassment of being caught doing something they never usually did.

"So, about the spectroscope," Abby said eventually. "Got anything else as cool as that to show me?"

"Oh, I have a whole lab full of stuff," Rodney said, relieved that the subject had been changed and he was back on more familiar territory.

~*~