Author’s notes: “Chained” is not one of my favorite episodes, although I have warmed up to it after my latest viewing. However, the final scene of the episode always leaves me angry, because Gibbs is incredibly callous. This is my take on how things might continue afterwards. Thanks to Triskellion for the beta.



“I really liked him.”

“Yeah,” Gibbs says. His eyes travel over the dead body in the backseat of the car. “Yeah, I can see that.”

There is humor in his voice, and Tony doesn’t get it. What about this is funny to Gibbs? What about this is there to smile about? What is it Gibbs thinks of him? What makes Gibbs think that Tony can kill, just like that, and then smile about it?

Tony’s hands are shaking. The gun is lying there, black and sleek and weirdly innocent, as though it didn’t just take a life. As though it didn’t just spatter a human’s blood all over the insides of a car. There is blood and gore on Tony’s hands, and on his shirt, but most of it is on the backseat windows and the seats, and of course on Jeffrey himself.

“DiNozzo, let’s go,” Gibbs says. Impatience taints his voice as he holds the door open, waiting for Tony to get out.

Tony can’t get his legs to work. They feel heavy, as though they’ve been filled with lead after running for so long. His mind is drained, and he’s not entirely certain of who he is, as is so often the case after being undercover. He’ll get it back, he’ll get himself back – Tony DiNozzo, playboy extraordinaire, all that nonsense will come back in just a little while.

But right now, his mind is tainted black with the blood he just shed.

“DiNozzo,” Gibbs says again, “Get moving. Haven’t got all day.”

He’s not sure where the rage comes from; he just knows it does come. It explodes out of him, and he finds his body again. He gets out of the car in a hurry, the gun clattering to the ground, and he stands at his full height before Gibbs.

“Go to hell, boss.”

Tony can see the shock and anger, quickly masked in his boss’ blue eyes, and he knows he shouldn’t have said what he just did. He can’t find it in him to care right now – not when he has yet to get out off the bloodied clothes, not when his five-o’clock shadow has turned into a two-days-later start of a beard, not when both his body and his soul feel grimy and tainted.

He stalks off, and he’s not certain of whether Gibbs says anything – the rational part of him thinks Gibbs is probably saying something along the lines of, ‘You’re fired,’ but he just keeps walking, angry strides taking him quickly away from the horrid little car and the body of the madman inside.

He liked Jeffrey White. He had been like the weak, bullied little brother that Tony’s never had – the one that would have annoyed him beyond words, but whom he would have protected nonetheless.

He even told Jeffrey a bit about his father – and that is more than he can say he’s told his team mates. Although if he does try to remember, he knows his father has laid a hand on him quite a few times. Most of the time, though, his father had been gone in alcohol, parties, and work.

There is only one car to use to get back to civilization: the one Gibbs and Kate arrived in. Tony doesn’t have the keys for that car, and there is no way in hell he’s driving the little blue car ever again, and then there is the buyer’s car, and he can’t take that one either.

Furious, Tony stalks past the cars, striding past Kate who is cuffing the buyer. She looks at him, and he meets her gaze – but she shrinks back from it, away from him, upon seeing the black void of his eyes.

The road is long and empty, just like it was when he drove to the site. He walks, his body on auto-pilot. His mind replays the events of the last two days, from the tumble into the water – he thinks he ought to win an Oscar for the performance there, covering his anger and fear of knowing that the tracking chip had been destroyed. At least at the time he had the car to rely on.

‘That’s why we took that swim in the stream. That’s why I crashed the truck. No bugs.’

Tony wonders if it would have taken him as long to figure out that Jeffrey was a murderer – the murderer – if he hadn’t like him. He realized things were off when Lane ‘took off’ – he just hadn’t realized how off they were.

He rubs a hand over his throat, where Jeffrey nearly sliced him. He thinks his life came very close to ending at that moment – a second too late with the hand in place to protect himself, and the other hand firing the gun—

He thinks of dying, what it will be like.

It can’t be worse than this feeling of black rage.

His legs are aching. He wants to go home and sleep, because he never sleeps well undercover – it’s just a light rest, a part of his mind still awake and aware of his surroundings so that he won’t get killed in his sleep. He has used the same technique catching naps in the squad room on occasion.

A car passes him and stops just in front of him; it’s Gibbs’ car. Tony balls his hands into white fists, anger radiating from him. He doesn’t want to speak with Gibbs right now, doesn’t want to be yelled for being human. He knows Gibbs is a sniper and that he’s killed, and he doesn’t need to be reminded, yet again, that Gibbs is better – Tony doubts he’s ever let a mission affect him the way Jeffrey White is affecting Tony.

Tony passes by, not stopping, pretending not to see. The anger is already giving way to something else, something even darker – desolation. Despair.

He hears the car start, it passes him and stops again, and this time Gibbs gets out and stands in his way.

“Get in.”

Tony looks emptily at him. The amused smile is gone from Gibbs’ lips; all Tony can see now is anger.

He wordlessly walks by Gibbs.

He’s not prepared for the hand that grabs his arm and pulls him back, turns him around to face his boss again.

“Get. In.”

It’s been a while since Gibbs last looked this pissed off, and Tony wonders why it doesn’t scare him. He can’t seem to find that fear. He feels empty.

He’s pushed into the front seat, and Gibbs slams the door shut. Tony puts the seatbelt on, the motion automatic.

The ride is silent. It’s just them in the car; Gibbs must have left Kate behind at the crime scene. The ME truck passes them in the other direction, going to the crime scene. Ducky will examine Jeffrey’s body and conclude that ‘cause of death is a single gunshot wound to the forehead.’ It was the part of the body that Tony could get to.

Gibbs doesn’t take them to NCIS headquarters, but heads to his own home. Tony realizes only two minutes before they arrive, even though he should have realized five minutes earlier. His mind is elsewhere, going through the motions of Ducky’s autopsy. He wonders what Ducky will find – will he look at Jeffrey’s brain and be able to say that, ‘yes, here it is – the reason he became a murderer’? It hasn’t happened so far – the motive of a murderer cannot be seen by the human eye – but a part of Tony wishes that it could. Just to have an explanation.

They don’t speak until they’re inside the house. Tony is standing in the hallway between the kitchen and the living room. He knows that straight ahead, there are bedrooms, and he fights the urge to go in there and sleep. He wants to sleep, even though he knows there will be nightmares.

“Sit down,” Gibbs says, nodding towards the couches in the living room.

Tony does as he is told, because it’s much easier than doing anything else. His energy is draining away by the second, and he realizes his wrist hurts from where the handcuff has been latched for two days. It’s still on, because Gibbs has the key and he hasn’t unlocked it yet.

He slumps on the couch.

“DiNozzo,” Gibbs says, “Talk.”

Tony’s voice is rough when he speaks. “About what, boss?”

Gibbs gives him a pointed look. Tony wonders where the anger in his eyes has gone – there is none of it left. He’s too tired to read the complicated chart of Gibbs’ emotions, but he thinks there’s concern and even compassion. They’re unusual for Gibbs.

“I’m fine,” Tony says. “I—uh—I’m sorry about what I said.”

“You are not fine, DiNozzo,” Gibbs says.

“I will be.”

He’s pretty sure that’s true; he’s usually all right after a while. He’s killed before, and it takes some time – sometimes hours, sometimes days, and in a few cases even weeks – but he always turns out fine in the end.

“Damn it, Tony,” Gibbs says.

“Gibbs, I’m sorry, okay?” Tony says, and he stands up. He immediately wishes he hadn’t; his legs nearly buckle beneath him. There’s no energy left in him. He manages to stay standing. “I’m fine. I just need a shower and a bed, and I’ll be right as rain tomorrow. So, if you’ll just take me home—”

“You’re not going anywhere.” Gibbs’ words are nearly a snap.

Tony stares at him, but he feels no heat. Anger and indignation are too draining feelings to have right now.

“Sit down,” Gibbs says, “Before you fall down. And don’t you dare say you’re fine, or I’ll have to shoot you.”

Tony sits, and he doesn’t even have the energy to school his face into one of petulance. He thinks he must look like hell, dirt and grime and stubble and blood all over him. He shouldn’t be sitting on Gibbs’ couch to begin with; he’ll stain it.

He looks at his hands, seeing blood, and he doesn’t know if it’s real or if he imagines it. Perhaps a little bit of both.

“I really liked him,” he says. “I did. He was—he—”

He wants to say that Jeffrey was a good kid, but he can’t. He knows it isn’t true; Jeffrey has killed others. The way he came at Tony with the knife tells Tony that he was far from the first person Jeffrey’s tried to kill – although he’s probably the first one who’s survived.

“We’ve got him tied to three murders,” Gibbs says.


“You killed him in self defense.”

That sounds ridiculous to Tony, even though it isn’t. Jeffrey was half his size – a small, short, thin figure next to Tony’s wide shoulders and toned muscles. Self defense – Tony shouldn’t have to defend himself against that.

“His dad beat the crap out of him,” Tony says, closing his eyes. “He was probably bullied in school. He told me, no one ever treated him well.”

‘When I said no one ever treated me like you did, I meant it.’

Gibbs looks at him, and his hand is suddenly on Tony’s shoulder. It feels steady and safe, like a lifeline Tony can hold onto in the midst of the storm.

“Kids get bullied,” Gibbs says. “Kids get beaten, every day. Doesn’t mean they have to become murderers. There’s a choice involved.”

Tony swallows, raking a hand through his hair. “Yeah.”

He knows it’s true, but right now, he doesn’t believe it. Right now, his mind can’t help but play the what-if game – what if someone had been nice to Jeffrey when he was a kid? What if someone had seen the damage his father did to him? What if someone had stepped in?

Gibbs squeezes his shoulder. “Go to bed, DiNozzo. Things’ll be better when you wake up.”

Tony gazes at him. He feels numb, but he knows what Gibbs just said is true. And he knows that he can sleep safely here, at his boss’ house – knowing that Gibbs has his six will allow him to relax and sleep for real.

He stands shakily, and realizes that he’s hungry too, but his wish to sleep wins out. He heads to the guest bedroom where he’s slept before, when he’s had issues with his apartment, and the room’s scent is familiar and comforting. It’s right across from the stairs down to the basement, and it always holds a bit of that smell of sawdust. Tony breathes in deeply, and sits down on the bed.

“I’ll be in the basement,” Gibbs says, standing in the doorway. He’s watching Tony with an air of calm. Tony wonders if he’ll have to face the consequences of telling Gibbs to go to hell when he wakes up, but somehow, he doesn’t think so. Gibbs knows what brought it on.

Still, he says, “I’m sorry about before, boss.”

A hint of the amused smile that provoked the words to begin with plays over Gibbs’ lips. “Stop apologizing, DiNozzo.”

That makes a ghost of a smile pass over Tony’s face. “Yes, boss.”

Gibbs pulls the door nearly shut, leaving only a small stream of light coming through from the hallway. Tony prefers it that way, especially after being undercover – if he does wake up from a nightmare, he wants there to be some light, just enough to tell him where he is. It keeps him safe, it keeps him sanse.

The last two days still play through his mind as he falls asleep, but the images come slower now, in less of an onslaught, and Tony knows he’ll get through this too.

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