Disclaimer: Still not mine

A/N: Thank you so so so much for your encouraging reviews! I was literally stunned by the positive feedback I received

This story is finally complete and it was an awesome ride, wasn't it? I'm surprised how popular this little experiment got over the past few months! Thank you for your support, reviews and PM's! They made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, every single one of them!

And of course I'd like to thank my Beta Keahi Spitfire (aka. ktwesterna) for the great beta-work! The second half of this story would have been so much harder to get out without you! I'm deeply indebted to you and can't wait to work with you on the sequels!


The Day Before The Day


Chapter 16

(or: The Epilogue That Wanted To Be A Prologue)

Homicide Detective Michael Boston spread the pictures over the tabletop and couldn't help but wince when the victim's lifeless eyes stared back at him. He would never get used to that. That emptiness. The complete lack of life. It still managed to make his blood run cold.

The detective studied the photos for a long time and tried to ignore the niggling feeling in the back of his mind.

The dead man was lying on his back, with his arms and legs spread wide on either side of his body. His head was tilted forward so that his face was partially hidden by chestnut hair. He was completely naked and Mike could see that the man was well built. He'd obviously done some kind of sport and taken care of his appearance - Mike could still see traces of an old manicure - but now, in death, his body was covered in cuts and bruises and his nails were dirty and split. Most noticeable however, were the dark, blue bruises that adorned his neck. Their ME suspected that the cause of death was strangulation, but he couldn't be sure until he'd preformed a full autopsy.

The married couple that had found the vic during one of their walks through the park had been beyond horrified. Mike could certainly understand their shock but he had to admit that, all things considered, he couldn't say that he hadn't seen worse during his thirty years as a cop.

It only bothered him that - since the man had been found naked - they hadn't found anything that could tell them who they were dealing with. No wallet, ergo no identification. Mike hated it when they had no name. It made this job even more depressing than it already was.

But there was something else about the case that worried him deeply. Something that made his skin crawl every time he looked at the pictures taken at the crime scene. And it wasn't just the fact that his boss was breathing down his neck because this was the second victim this month that had been found like that. It also had nothing to do with the press that was already speaking about a serial killer and pestering him with questions he couldn't answer.

No, what bothered him, made him feel outright queasy in fact, was the resemblance the two victims bared with a certain young man he knew.

A man with brown hair and green eyes.

A man that was his partner and currently standing on the other side of the table, staring at the photos much like Mike had done just a few seconds ago.

The seasoned detective wondered if he should voice his worries, but decided against it. His partner wasn't stupid. He had probably already seen the similarities and Mike knew that the kid would just shrug it off should he mention it.

So he didn't.

The boy, and he would always be a boy in Mike's eyes, no matter how many dark looks he received for that, had been his partner for almost two years and Mike began to wonder if he should look for a new one.

Not that he wanted to! He'd become quite fond of the boy and they were a good team, but everyone in the department knew that the kid didn't stay much longer than two years in one place.

Mike really didn't know why this time would be any different.

The other detectives didn't like the kid all that much.

'Trouble maker', they called him.

'Can't follow rules', they said.

There were even rumours that his old man was pretty rich and that Daddy's money was the only reason why he'd become a homicide detective.

But Mike knew that there was no truth behind those rumours... well, except for the 'can't follow rules' thing, but that particular quirk had saved them a couple of times already, so Mike really didn't feel like he could hold that against him.

He had to admit though, that the first few weeks of their partnership had been a little bit tense. Mostly because, at first, he had listened to those rumours. He'd made the boy's life unnecessarily hard when he wasn't just ignoring him, giving him tasks that not even the greenest rookie had to do.

His new partner had taken it all without complaint, manhandling the tasks with an accuracy that they didn't deserve. He couldn't say if it had been plain stubbornness, but Mike found himself growing more and more impressed with the boy. And one day, Mike couldn't even tell you which exactly if you asked him, he'd made his first attempt to really get to know the young man that would cover his back during operations.

And he'd liked what he'd seen.

It hadn't taken long before the old detective had felt guilty enough to apologize for his less than civil behaviour and the boy had forgiven him with a disturbing amount of ease and a little bit too eagerly, as if he was afraid that Mike would change his mind.

But just because Mike had realized his mistakes didn't mean that the others had as well. During the last two years Mike had stayed his only friend and although the kid acted like it didn't bother him, the older man didn't quite believe him. The boy was all smoke and mirrors, always cocky and laughing, but if you took the time to actually watch him, his loneliness was almost palpable.

Mike knew that the young man had no reason to stay in Baltimore any longer than he'd done in Peoria or Philadelphia, but he certainly wished that it would be different. He hated it when he lost a partner. Especially a good one.

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door and he turned around to see a young officer enter the room, a piece of paper in his hands.

"Detective Boston. We got a match on the fingerprints."

Mike's mood brightened immediately. The man would finally get his name back.

"Who is it?"

"Name's Corporal Lance Sperr. He served on the USS Hopper and was here on a vacation. A couple of years back, he was involved in a bar fight, that's why he's in our databank."

His partner's face snapped up and Mike could see a gleam in his eyes that he'd never seen before.

"A marine? Are you sure?"

The young officer sniffed at the question but nodded anyway. Mike thanked him and waited until he was gone before he turned to his partner.

"What is it Tony?"

The young man, Detective Anthony D. DiNozzo, barely heard the question. He reached into his pocket and fingered the old piece of paper he always carried with him without taking it out. He didn't need to see the numbers that were written on it.

He knew them by heart.

"Hey DiNozzo!" Mike waved a hand in front of his face. "Anybody home?"

Tony smirked a little bit at his partners antics but it didn't last long. "Our second victim was a Marine, Mike. That means we'll have to share jurisdiction."

"Share jurisdiction?" Mike frowned at the possibility. "With whom?"

Tony's answer wasn't more than a shaky breath, but fortunately, his partner didn't seem to notice.

"NCIS."

The name evoked so many memories and feelings that Tony felt like he was being swallowed by a huge wave. Mike's voice ("NCIS? I've heard that somewhere before...hmm") seemed to fade until it was nothing more than an annoying buzz in the back of his mind.

Tony's hands were beginning to shake with anticipation, excitement... and fear.

This was the moment he'd been waiting for. The moment he had imagined when he was hiding from the world, in an empty classroom of Rhode Island Military School, feeling alone and abandoned.

But it was also the moment he had dreaded the most. The moment that had always filled him with anxiety and insecurity every time he thought about it.

There had been many days, mostly bad days, when he'd already dialed the first few numbers, but his self-doubts had always prevented him from actually calling the man.

15 years had passed.

A lot happened in 15 years.

A lot changed in 15 years.

Tony, for his part, had changed a lot and he was pretty certain that the man had as well.

What if the man decided that he couldn't be bothered with Tony anymore? Or worse, what if he didn't even remember him?

Tony was terribly afraid that his need for attention and love back then had skewed his memories of the man and that another encounter would taint them somehow. The time he'd spend with the man and the doctor was one of the few good memories from his childhood. He desperately wanted them to be true.

"So." Mike drawled and pulled Tony out of his thoughts. "I guess we'll have to call those NCIS guys." It sounded more like a question and the Italian knew that his partner was less than thrilled about the idea.

Tony's hand hovered over the phone and his eyes shifted to the photos of Sperr's corpse. Corporal Lance Sperr had died a slow and painful death. Much like their first victim, Alan Lowe. Tony would never forget Mrs. Lowe's chocked off screams after he'd told her that her husband would never come home again.

His resolve hardened.

This wasn't about him and his feelings. This was about the victims and their family. They had priority and they deserved the best. And the best was, is and will always be, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

15 years after their first encounter, Anthony DiNozzo took a deep breath, picked up the phone and dialed.

END...


A/N: Aren't I a bitch? I leave you with a cliffhanger at the end of the story! *evil laughter*

But I guess that the title of this chapter makes much more sense now. This chapter could also be considered a prologue for the 2nd installment "Their Day in Baltimore". I posted a short summary of the sequels on my profile. I'll try to not let you wait too long for the next installment, so watch out for it! :)

Thanks again! You guys were great!