(hello again. thank you all for all the lovely reviews on pronunciation. this is a work in progress, but i have a fair idea where i'm going with it, and a lot of spare time. it is au, a supernatural one at that, and there will eventually be love involved. i don't own ncis, i don't own paradise lost and i don't own any lyrics written by mr nick cave. enjoy.)



"As with everything, a time comes when the alpha has to step down. When this happens, the alpha is no longer considered part of the pack."

Tony tried to keep his secrets well away from his PDA.

He quite liked the thing. It was sleek and high tech and Abby had put a cutesy Roman Dirge skull sticker on the back. It held case notes, appointments, dates, scores and scores of phone numbers and a rather nice and carefully selected collection of girly pictures. It was expected of him, after all, and who was he to disappoint?
All in all, he was satisfied that if he should happen to disappear, and thereby force McGeek to hack into the thing looking for clues, there was nothing in there he minded people seeing, and nothing in there they would be surprised to find.

Except maybe the fact that he carefully marked the phases of the moon.

Old habits died hard, after all...and it was more than unlikely that anyone would draw the proper conclusion

Also, he found that he quite needed the reminders. Gibbs had left, and then he had returned, and now it was much harder for Tony to control himself. All his instincts were screaming at him to attack, to challenge. For years he had, quite contrary to his nature, played the puppy to Gibbs' alpha. It had been worth it then, even at the cost of most of his self respect, to be given purpose and direction - both things that he had long lacked, which Gibbs had had in abundance. But now...

There could never be two alphas in the same pack. Unless they were mated.

Yet there had to be. Because Tony couldn't, wouldn't, leave now. Never mind that McGee and Ziva didn't respect him and didn't trust him to lead, probably didn't even like him much. Never mind that officially, they weren't his team anymore. They had become his pack. His responsibility. They still belonged to him. So Tony stayed. And Tony submitted, as gracefully as he could manage. And that led to Tony being dangerously close to losing control, to shifting, which didn't make for the most efficient Senior Field Agent. Something that had certainly not gone unnoticed.

"DiNozzo!" Gibbs' voice cut through his thoughts with a Marine Standard Issue edge.

"...Yeah?" He was teetering precariously on the edge of insubordinance. Gibbs' eyes narrowed.

"Are you waiting for an engraved invitation?!"

"On your six...Boss."


They had a new case. A dead Marine wife, Joy Fairport. Her husband was deployed, but due to come home in a few days. Her body was found in the living room by her sister-in-law, who'd come to pick her up for an ultrasound. Joy was eight months pregnant. With triplets. She'd been bound with electrical tape, gagged, stabbed multiple times and stuffed into a sleeping bag. Gibbs' jaw was so tight Tony was expecting crunching noises any second, he was on his sixth cup of coffee already and he was even more irritable and bad-tempered than usual. Dead wives and dead kids, even ones still in utero, did that to him.

For his part, Tony was feeling strangely distracted. There was something about this whole scenario that tickled annoyingly at the back of his mind, some connection that refused to fall into place. And then there was that faint scent in the air, underneath the overwhelming smell of blood, somehow familiar, but for the life of him he couldn't...

"DiNozzo! Was my order in any way unclear? Shoot. And. Sketch! NOW!

Oh yeah. Gibbs was in a mood, alright. And that wasn't helping his own mood, much. And Tony's mood was definitely not helping him keep hold of his slipping control. Focus, Tony. Play nice. Be a good boy. Suck it up. Deciding discretion would have to be the better part of valour for now, Tony kept his mouth shut and just bent to his task.

Joy Fairport was a pretty little thing, he noticed absently, when Ducky and Palmer carefully extracted her from the sleeping bag in order to check her liver temperature. All blonde curls, delicate wrists and bluer than blue eyes. Dainty, was the word that came to mind. Like a porcelain doll.

"There now, my dear, isn't that better?" Ducky murmured and patted her comfortingly on the arm. "I can't imagine it was very comfortable in there...In fact, I remember this case, where a young man had gone camping with his family. Very tragic. You see, he was a very restless sleeper, and in the night he had somehow twisted and turned until he ended up upside down in his sleeping bag! Just like you here. He, however, was not stabbed, but suffocated accidentally..."

"Are you saying she was alive when she was put in the bag, Dr Mallard?" said Gibbs, tersely.

"Oh no, not at all. She had perished already. I would be very surprised indeed if the cause of death was anything other than hypovolemic shock. She bled out, Agent Gibbs. And it was not in here. There would be a very large pool of blood, at the scene. The only blood here is what little has seeped through the underside of the bag."


"Hmm...the sleeping bag has probably kept her body temperature from falling as swiftly as it would otherwise have done, but I'd estimate the time of death to approximately twelve to fourteen hours ago." Ducky wiped off the liver probe and handed it to his assistant. "I think we're ready to take Mrs Fairport home with us now. The gurney, please, Mr Palmer?"


"BOSS! Got something!" McGee's yell came muffled from above.

When Tony and Gibbs found Ziva and McGee on the second floor, the something turned out to be, just as Ducky predicted, a very large pool of blood. At the edge of it lay a sharp-looking kitchen knife with a worn wooden handle. Above it, on the light yellow wall of the nursery, someone had taken advantage of this abundance of red. Four words had been carefully written out in a calligraphy every bit as pretty as that on the fateful SWAK letter.

"'His red right hand'?" said McGee questioningly."What does that mean?"

Somewhere in Tony's head, a little jingling alarm of recognition went off. His red right hand. ...his red right hand..? wait, wait, wait...it's a quote. Red right hand. The odd scent from downstairs was more noticeable here. It made his hackles rise.

"Maybe the killer is right handed," Ziva suggested, practical as always. "His hand was probably quite red by the time he finished, yes?"

Tony would have snorted derisively, but his mind was working furiously and he'd almost caught it, almost...red right...arme again his red right hand...to plague us...

Gibbs, as usual, had no patience for idle chatter. "Get back to work, people! This room won't process itself!" It seemed Tony's state of distraction had become too obvious, and it was not appreciated in the least judging by the severity of the slap that suddenly connected with the back of his head. "What the hell is wrong with you today, DiNozzo? Get moving!"

Managing to ignore his boss' glare, Tony finally captured the unwilling memory. "Milton!" he blurted. Apparently the rest of his team were uneducated heathens, however, since all he got for his revelation was a growl from Gibbs, a 'Huh?' from McGeek and a 'What?' from Ziva. He gasped in mock-despair. "I'm surrounded by plebeians! That," he said, pointing meaningfully at the grisly writing, "is a line from a very famous poem. 'Should intermitted vengeance arme again his red right hand to plague us?' so on, so forth. John Milton. Paradise Lost. 1667. A classic. I'm surprised you didn't catch it, Probie."

"And since when do you read, Tony?" scoffed McGee in disbelief, looking slightly defensive. "Especially poetry?"

"Maybe it comes in a cartoon version," Ziva smirked. Condescending little bitch! If only you knew...

"Movie, actually," he replied, smirking right back, enjoying her irritation at his quick retort and the dubious looks that told him they had no idea if they should take him seriously or not. "Ow!" His right hand flew up to the back of his head reflexively. His left fisted itself into anemic white at his side. "Getting to work now, Boss."


Five hours later, back at the office, he was finally rid of the aggravating and seemingly unplaceable smell, though he was still battling that feeling of not-quite déja vu – he knew the crimescene from somewhere - bound and gagged and stuffed into a sleeping bag - but he'd be damned if he could figure out where from. He'd worked plenty of similar cases over the years, of course, but they weren't it, and neither were any of the movies he'd seen. It was pissing him off. The skin between his shoulderblades itched in irritation. Gibbs was apparently trying to set a new world record in bastardry, mostly using him as a target, Ziva was taunting him and McGee was looking sickeningly smug about it all. That was pissing him off too. He knew himself well enough to recognise that a fair bit of this anger was due to his approaching lunacy, his moon-madness, and that he wouldn't normally be reacting like this. The insight didn't help in the slightest. By the time Abby called to tell them she had something, it was an effort to keep back the growl rising in his throat.


Even the heavy, sultry Abby scent of jasmine and gunpowder didn't sooth him as it usually did.

"What've you got, Abby?" Gibbs turned off the stereo with one hand and shoved Abby's latest CafPow fix at her with the other.

"Wow, Gibbs!" Abby teased, "anyone saying men can't multitask should meet you!" She smiled wickedly around the straw. The ice rattled loudly in the plastic cup.

"What have you got, Abby," he repeated irately.

"As I've stated before, patience is definitely not your virtue," she tsked. "The only prints on the knife were Mrs Fairport's, and they were old and smudged, so I bet the killer had gloves on and just grabbed it in her kitchen on his way in. One of the Fairports probably have immigrant ancestors because the knife is quite old and was made in a Swedish city rather famous for knife-making... I wonder if it's her or him. Probably her...I can't see him in a viking outfit. Hey, maybe you've got Scandinavian ancestors too, Gibbs! It would explain your blue eyes...and the fact you don't talk much. Scandinavians are supposed to be terse yet loveable..."


"Sorry Gibbs, but you ARE! Anyway, the partial footprint you found in the blood was admittedly kind of smudged, but I matched it to a pair of Converse Allstars...very hip, but a rather stupid shoe to wear when you're desanguinating someone...they soak up liquid like a sponge. If you find them, you'll definitely be able to tell on sight. They're a male size 9, so it's either an average guy, or some kind of female bigfoot..."

"Like Tony then!" Ziva interjected nastily.

It was a really crappy insult. He was more insulted by the crappiness of it than by the insult itself. In his current mindset, however, it was the very final straw, and before he knew it he was more than half shifted and shaking in his attempt to keep control. Luckily the others were focused on the plasma...except Abby, who half-turned and froze, locking gazes with him for an endless second. He knew what she saw – green eyes turned golden, glowing savagely, mouth twisted into the beginnings of a snarl – him, without any traces of civilization or restraint. He willed her silently to let it go, to not freak out and not draw any attention to him. Somehow, he must have communicated that to her, because she took a deep breath and visibly shook herself out of her daze, but kept a wary eye on him.

"...I'm running DNA on the strand of hair I found stuck on the tape now." She kept on with barely a pause, though her slender fingers were fiddling nervously with Bert's ears. Relieved, Tony closed his eyes and concentrated on forcing his mind back out of its feral state. They flew back open again as Abby's next sentence registered.

"There's something really hinky about this case, Gibbs...sleeping bags and Milton on the walls? I KNOW that from somewhere! But I don't know where! I wish I could figure it out," she pouted and hugged her hippo firmly. So...you feel it too?

"You will, Abs, you will. Good job." Gibbs pressed play on the stereo on his way out, and as Tony all but fled from the lab, he was followed by a familiar drawling male voice, backed by a slow, dark and driving beat.

'Have mercy on me, sir
allow me to impose on you
I have no place to stay
and my bones are cold right through
I will tell you a story
of a man and his family
and I swear that it is true...'

The elevator doors cut off the rest.


The door bell startled Tony out of his channel-surfing stupor. His mind was still in turmoil, and he'd been unable to concentrate, not even on the Hellraiser marathon on cable. Getting to his feet slowly, he cracked his shoulders before opening the door.

"Tony, you got some splainin' to do! What's up with that freaky glowy eye thing, huh? I haven't told anyone about it...yet...so you OWE me!"

In retrospect, he supposed it had been a bit optimistic to hope she'd put it down to an overactive imagination.

To be continued.