Warning: This story deals with themes of an adult nature, violence, rape (case-related), lots of angst and anger, and eventually explicit male/male sex. There'll be a happy ending, though, I promise. I'm all about the happy endings! If this kind of thing isn't to your liking, if you're underage, or if m/m sex is illegal where you are, please don't read this story. Life is far too short to be upset by things you read on the internet.

The story's currently up to chapter 6 and 32,000 words with more to come. I'm planning on updating a couple of times a week, but I'm about to move house, so please bear with me if there's one or two delays.

Monday morning. Tony took a moment to roll his neck, easing the tension in his shoulders, before plastering a smile on his face and stepping out of the elevator and into the bullpen. He strolled to his desk, dropping his backpack into a drawer and himself into a seat.

'Morning, McGee,' he offered casually to the only other member of the team currently at their desk. The jacket on the back of the chair of the desk opposite told him Gibbs was in the building somewhere, which meant that, unless Gibbs had come in stupidly early, Tony was late, at least by the odd preconceptions his stern boss held. His only consolation was that Ziva was even later. 'How was the weekend? Your elf lord get any hot pixel-on-pixel action?'

Tim glared at Tony. 'Like I'd tell you! Anyway, what do you want to know about my weekend for? It looks as though you got plenty of action yourself.' He lifted his chin, indicating the bruise on the side of Tony's neck.

Tony hung onto the wince that threatened to escape. 'Yeah, you should have seen her. Tall, blonde, and a yoga instructor. The things she could do with her legs–'

'I don't want to know!' Tim protested.

'But Tim, how will you ever know what you're missing if I don't let you in on just how... flexible... some women are? I mean, it's not like you're going to find out first-hand, is it?' Tony riposted.

'Find out what?' Ziva asked, coming around the corner of their half-height dividers into the space the team claimed for their own.

'Tony was just trying to tell me about a yoga instructor he met,' Tim scowled.

Ziva gave Tony a searching look, shaking her head when she spotted his hickey. 'Either she's a vampire and she was very hungry, or she has a future sucking melons through straws. Or maybe it was just Tony's vacuum cleaner...' She gave a wicked smile.

'It's golf balls, Ziva,' Tony said, flushing. 'Sucking golf balls through a hosepipe.'

'I don't care if it's baseballs through a drainpipe. I don't want to hear!' Tim said fiercely, turning his attention firmly to his monitor.

Ziva and Tony looked at him in surprise for a moment, before Tony spoke up again. 'How about the time I dated twin acrobats from the Moscow State Circus?'

'Tony!' Ziva threw a pen at him, which bounced off his chest.

The banter eased the knot in Tony's chest, and with a more genuine laugh, he turned on his PC and settled down to work. He barely noticed the knot unravel when Gibbs strode to his desk, carrying a large cup of coffee, and sat down with a scowl and a snapped 'You're late,' at Tony and Ziva.

'Won't happen again, boss,' Tony reassured him, eyes flicking quickly over the older man and checking for signs of harm, before turning back to his monitor, confident that Gibbs was in much the same condition as when he'd seen him last.

'Damn right it won't,' Gibbs said, pulling a stack of paperwork out of a drawer.

For an hour, the team worked in silence before the ringing of Gibbs' phone made everyone jump. Tony quickly flicked from a website advertising weekend breaks in Panama City to a work screen as Gibbs pushed his chair back abruptly and stood.

'Grab your gear, people. We've got a case.' Gibbs strode towards the elevator, leaving his team scrambling to catch up. In the van, he filled them in on the details. 'Dead petty officer, Melissa Jameson, twenty-three. Found about an hour ago in a dumpster at the back of the Dirty Eight bar and pool hall, by a member of staff putting out the trash. LEOs called us when they found her ID.'

'Why is it always the petty officers?' Tony asked, shutting up again at Gibbs' glare.

They beat Ducky and Palmer to the scene by a good fifteen minutes, by which time Tony had finished taking photographs and was sketching the scene, Ziva was dusting for prints and Tim was inside the Dirty Eight, looking at the security footage from the two working cameras outside the bar. Gibbs was making himself unpopular with the two LEOs on scene, but since he still had half a cup of the tar he called coffee, Tony wasn't worried.

'Oh dear,' Ducky said mildly, looking at the battered face of the corpse. 'It would seem that someone took rather an objection to you.' Delicately, he slid a probe into her side. 'How could anyone simply throw you away like this? Don't you worry, though, my dear. I'm confident we'll soon find whoever did this terrible thing to you. Mister Palmer, if you could bring the gurney over?'

'What have you got for me, Ducky?' Gibbs asked, finished with the LEOs for now.

'Just one moment, Jethro.' Ducky withdrew the probe and looked at the temperature it recorded. 'I'd say she was killed around eight to ten hours ago, probably by blunt force trauma to the head or neck. Of course, that depends entirely on what Miss Jameson has to tell me when we get her back to base.'

'Understood. Keep me informed.' Gibbs strode off.

'When do I not?' Ducky said reprovingly to his retreating back. 'Well, come along Mister Palmer. Help me get this poor woman loaded up and ready to go.'

'Tony!' Gibbs barked. The man in question jumped, then turned around with an expression of forced patience.

'Yes, boss?'

'Go through the dumpster. Bag anything suspicious. Ziva, go talk to the staff.'

Tony sighed. 'Yes, boss.' He knew from long experience that when Gibbs was in this mood, it was better just to get on with whatever task he assigned, no matter how unpleasant. Once the body had been lifted out of the dumpster and bagged, Tony climbed in and began searching, breathing shallowly through his mouth when the smell threatened to make him gag.

Tim pounded on the side of the dumpster, making Tony jump all over again. 'How's it going?'

'Don't do that, Probie!' Tony snapped. 'Or I swear I'll put a dye pack in your chair and tell everyone it's your time of the month!'

'That bad, huh?' Tim sympathized, not at all bothered by Tony's threat.

'I don't think my dry cleaner's ever going to forgive me for these stains,' Tony scowled. 'There's nothing here but bottles and cans. Anything on the security cameras?'

Tim shook his head. 'Half the external cameras don't work, and the vic was never inside. There's an ATM about a block away. It's possible I could get a shot of a car off its camera, but there's nothing to say whoever dumped her came from that direction.'

'We might as well head back and see what Ducky and Abby can tell us,' Tony said, climbing out of the dumpster and brushing futilely at the marks on his trousers.

'It's not a fashion parade, DiNozzo!'

Tony closed his eyes briefly. 'No, boss. Nothing in the dumpster but cans and bottles.'

Gibbs grunted. Somehow he'd acquired another large cup of coffee; steam was still curling from the hole in the lid. 'Back in the van. And don't get that mess on the seats.'

'No, boss.' Plastering on his game face, Tony followed the others back to the van. Clearly, it was going to be one of those days.

'What have you got for me?' Gibbs asked. The team had been back at the Yard for less than two hours.

Tony was first to his feet. 'Petty Officer Third Class Melissa Jameson got back a week ago from a long deployment on the emUSS Ronald Reagan/em, where she was an IT systems technician. She was staying in quarters on base, due to ship out again in another three days. Parents are John and Martha, got an address for them. Only child, no boyfriend that I've found so far.'

'Cell phone records show calls to her parents, couple of friends from high school. But get this: over the past week, Melissa's been placing a dozen calls a day to the same number,' Tim continued. 'It's the home phone of Lieutenant Amy Rogers, who's also on leave from the emUSS Ronald Reagan/em. She was only stationed on board for just over six weeks, should be back at the naval base on Monday.'

'Good work, McGee,' Gibbs said. 'Ziva, get clearance to search Melissa's quarters on base and aboard ship. Tim, see what you can find out about Lieutenant Rogers. DiNozzo, with me.'

'On your six, boss,' Tony said, glumly following Gibbs to the elevator.

As the elevator descended, Tony could feel Gibbs watching him. 'What?'

'I was just wondering what's up with you today,' Gibbs said. 'You seem a little out of sorts.'

'I'm not the only one,' Tony muttered, then sighed and spoke up. 'I don't know, boss. I guess I'm feeling a little... itchy. Something about this case bothers me.'

'Murder always bothers me,' Gibbs said.

Tony scowled as the elevator doors opened and Gibbs led the way to Abby's lab.

'Gibbs! Where's my Caf-Pow?' Abby demanded, turning off her music.

'Later. What have you got for me?' Gibbs frowned at her computer screen.

'The prints Ziva lifted are still running. No hits so far. But the bloodwork Ducky sent through... I gotta tell you, boss, I'm very excited!' Abby bounced up and down, a gleeful smile spread across her face. 'I never thought I'd get the chance to see something like this!'

'Like what, Abs?' Gibbs asked.

'The first time I ran the bloodwork, there was something hinky about the results,' Abby explained.

'Drugs?' Tony leaned against the doorway, waching his favorite scientist, so excited she was practically vibrating.

'No! Nothing like that. But there was definitely something off, and the way it was off rang a few bells. So I ran another set of tests. They aren't ones we normally do; they're looking for evidence of neurotransmitter levels and things like that, which is hard to do because, you know, there's that whole blood-brain barrier thing going on,' Abby gesticulated wildly and started pacing. 'But there are tests you can do, and I did them and there's no doubt about it, none whatsoever. I ran the tests twice!'

'No doubt about what, Abs?'

Tony could tell Gibbs was having to work hard to curb his impatience.

'Our vic was imprinted!' Abby said triumphantly. There was a pause as both men looked at her. 'Imprinted! Have you any idea how rare that is?'

'Uh, Abbs... I hate to ask, but what do you mean by imprinted?' Tony asked.

'Oh! Right, I forget not everyone reads back issues of science journals for fun,' Abby smiled. 'Basically, about twenty years ago a couple of scientists, Ronald Potts and Philip Childs, did a study on couples. They only looked at couples where both partners were obsessive about each other, I mean, we're talking seriously obsessed here. Not abusive, or anything like that, but totally focused on each other. They found that in a small number of cases, these couples had altered brain chemistry and it turned out that every single pair had fallen in love at first sight. Well, not even that, but they had this emzing/em when they first met and it didn't matter whether one or both was in a pre-existing relationship, even if it was very loving and going well, or if the couples were two men or two women or a man or a woman; regardless of previous sexual orientation, they ended up together.'

'Breathe, Abby,' Gibbs warned. Abby flashed him a smile and continued talking a mile a minute.

'Potts and Childs did a whole range of experiments and they found out that these couples reacted very badly to being kept apart, to their partner being hurt or threatened with pain, and most interesting of all was that they lost the capacity for sexual arousal outside of their partner. You can do an experiment where you show explicit images to people while they're hooked up to monitors and even if their brains don't get turned on, their bodies do to a certain extent. So you can show a straight woman lesbian porn and she'll still get wet, right?'

Tony grinned. 'Sounds like my kind of experiment!' He ignored the glare Gibbs sent his way.

'But these couples only got physically aroused by images of their partner, even if there was nothing erotic or explicit about the photographs. So they came up with this term, imprinted. These couples were imprinted on each other to the exclusion of everyone else in the whole world. Isn't that incredible?'

Gibbs blinked. 'So what does that mean for our victim?'

Abby pouted. 'Isn't it obvious? There's someone out there who's imprinted on our dead petty officer.'

Gibbs frowned. 'Did those scientists of yours find out what happens when one half of these emimprinted/em couples dies?'

'Oh! It's not pretty,' Abby confided. 'They're, like, a emmess/em, even more so than a regular person when their partner dies. They're prone to irrational behaviour, seeking revenge if there's any hint of blame on someone else for their soul mate's death.'

'Soul mate, Abs?' Tony queried, joking to cover his deepening unease.

'How else would you describe it, Tony?' Abby retorted. 'Two people, fated to be together, to love only each other for the rest of their lives?'

'I don't care if they're soul mates or ships passing in the night. We've potentially got someone out there who's homicidal right now, and I'm betting I know who it is. Come on, DiNozzo. Abby, keep up the good work and I'll bring you a Caf-Pow later.'

Tony stood aside to let Gibbs pass, then followed him back to the elevator. 'Lieutenant Rogers?' he asked as they headed back up to the bullpen.

Gibbs nodded. 'A dozen calls a day sure sounds like obsessive to me, wouldn't you say?'

Tony winced. 'Could just be a bad break-up,' he offered, but even to his own ears, his tone lacked conviction.

'Either way, we need to get a hold of the Lieutenant,' Gibbs said.

'We're cleared to go search Jameson's quarters,' Ziva said as they returned to their desks. 'They've been secured.'

'Take McGee with you,' Gibbs said.

The young man in question looked up in surprise. 'Me, boss?'

'Yes, you, boss,' Gibbs growled. 'I need Lieutenant Rogers' address and anything else you've found out about her.'

'Okay, uh... Let me see...' Tim shuffled through a handful of papers and pulled one out. 'Here's the address; it should take about forty minutes to get there.' Gibbs snatched it from him, glanced at it and passed it to Tony. 'Lieutenant Rodgers is twenty nine, been married for six years, no kids. Her husband, Mark, is eight years older, got a couple of priors for brawling when he was in his early twenties, nothing major, works in the shipyard as a crane operator.'

'Put out a BOLO on his car,' Gibbs said, holstering his gun and pulling on his jacket. 'And keep in touch.'

'You think he had something to do with this?' Ziva asked, sharp eyes darting between Gibbs and Tony.

'I've got a gut feeling.' Gibbs swept out of the bullpen with Tony in his wake.

Gibbs drove even faster than usual, but Tony didn't protest; not when his own gut feeling was telling him to hurry. Grim-faced, they parked in front of a two storey grey-painted clapboard house. It was small, only separated from its identical neighbors by a few feet on each side. Tony got out of the car and jogged up the steps to the front door, not questioning the instinct that had him unsnapping his holster for quick access to his gun. Behind him, Gibbs did the same.

Tony stood to one side of the door, while Gibbs rapped sharply on the frame. After a pause, he knocked again, following up with, 'NCIS! Open up!'

There was a muffled thud from somewhere inside, and a woman cried out in pain. It was enough to have them both unholster their guns. Tony nodded to Gibbs, who tried the door handle. When the door didn't open, Tony stepped back and kicked the door hard. The cheap plastic buckled enough for the door to bounce open and after a quick look, Tony rushed inside, gun at the ready.

He took in the room at a glance. The door opened straight onto the living room. A door at the back stood ajar, presumably leading to the kitchen, while against the left-hand wall were stairs leading up. There was no one there. 'Clear.'

While Tony covered the kitchen door, Gibbs moved towards the stairs, glancing quickly up to make sure no one was lurking at the top.

'Boss, here.' Tony nodded towards the kitchen door. A smear of something red was just visible on the blue linoleum. 'Blood.'

Gibbs nodded, and together they stepped cautiously towards the door. This time Tony pushed it open and Gibbs glanced inside, then stepped in. 'Clear.'

Tony followed the blood smeared on the floor. It led to another door; this one clearly to the basement. That door was ajar too, and Tony eased it open.

A muffled curse came from below. 'Bitch! You fucking whore bitch!' It was a man's voice, filled with rage and disgust. The whimpers that followed were just as clearly female. Tony trod carefully, easing his weight onto each step, trying not to let a creak betray his presence. He knew Gibbs was right behind him, the older man cat-silent.

Tony peeked around the corner. The basement had a bare cement floor, had a chest freezer and a washing machine along the back wall, cupboards and a tool rack on the far wall. Kneeling on the floor with his back to the stairs was a man, bare to the waist and with his jeans pushed down around his thighs. Deep scratches were gouged across his broad shoulders and upper arms, one of which was drawn back preparatory to a punch.

'Freeze! NCIS!' Tony said loudly. When the arm twitched, he stepped forward and pressed his gun to the back of the man's neck. 'I said freeze!' That close, he could see over the man's shoulder to the slight figure curled on the floor. Lieutenant Rogers lay on her side, arms over her face. She was naked, her body a mass of bruises and bite-marks. Blood was smeared over her thighs and there was a small pool of it drying into a stain on the rough floor.

Tony sucked in a sharp breath. 'Boss, we need an ambulance,' he said quietly. Gibbs came fully into the basement and covered him as, with one hand, Tony retrieved his handcuffs and cuffed the upraised arm, keeping his gun firmly in place. He pulled the man's arm down and secured the other arm, then lifted the man up and back, away from the woman on the floor.

The man snarled as Tony pushed him into the corner, seeming not to notice the scrape of concrete against his bare ass. He had scratches on his face, his chest, but Tony was willing to bet the blood smeared across his groin and staining the top of his jeans wasn't his.

'Don't give me a reason to shoot you,' Tony warned, keeping his gun trained on the man. 'Because right now I really want to and if you push it, I might forget just how much of a pain the paperwork is.'

'She's a fucking whore!' the man spat. 'A lying, cheating cunt of a faggot bitch whore!'

'That's enough,' Gibbs snapped icily. He holstered his gun and pulled out his cell phone. Tersely he called in the need for an ambulance, then phoned Tim, ordering him and Ziva to get to the house as soon as possible to process the scene, both calls taking under a minute to make.

As he stuffed the phone back into his pocket, the woman suddenly launched herself up off the floor. Fingers hooked into claws, she struck at her husband's face, shrieking wildly.

'Shit!' Tony fumbled his gun back into its holster and joined Gibbs in pulling her off. She struggled furiously against them as her husband, blood trickling down his face, swore at her, then laughed.

'She's still dead! No matter what, she's still dead and you'll never stick your lying face in her cunt again!'

The woman howled in anguish, then collapsed, sobbing, against Tony. He held her awkwardly while Gibbs took off his jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders.

'Take her upstairs, DiNozzo. I'll see to things here.'

Tony nodded. 'Come on, Amy. Let's get you upstairs before the ambulance gets here.' He half carried her up the stairs, through the kitchen and into the living room, where he wrapped her in the throw from the back of the couch before letting her curl up again on the cushions. She cried until the ambulance arrived, sobs dying to a heartbreaking keen that didn't let up, even as the paramedics took a quick look at her before enlisting Tony's help to get her into the ambulance.

'Wait here a minute, guys,' Tony said. 'I need a quick word with my boss.' The paramedics waited unhappily as Tony jogged back up the steps and into the house.

Gibbs was still in the basement, watching Mark Rogers with cold, predatory intent, like a snake watching a mouse. Tony suppressed a shiver.

'I was going to stay with Lieutenant Rogers,' Tony said. 'Want a hand getting him into the car first?'

Gibbs nodded sharply. 'ETA from Tim is five minutes at the most. Ziva's driving.'

Tony winced. 'Make that three, then. All right, on your feet.' He moved to the man's side, careful not to come directly between him and Gibbs. With a hand under Mark's bicep, Tony pulled him, unresisting, to his feet. With a look of disgust, Tony pulled up his jeans and buttoned them, fighting a wave of revulsion at the sight of the blood smeared across the man's flaccid penis.

'I really hate people like you,' he said conversationally as he pushed the man up the stairs. 'But that doesn't matter. What matters is that Gibbs hates people like you even more. In fact, he's incredibly pissed. I know that doesn't mean anything to you now; you're still full of adrenaline and anger, but trust me, you do not want Gibbs pissed at you. Did I mention he used to be a sniper?'

Tony chattered his way through the house and out the front door, keeping a grip on the man's arm to make sure he didn't accidentally fall down the stairs or try to run. When he was safely in the back seat of the car, seat-belt buckled, doors locked, Tony looked at Gibbs, who was standing at the bottom of the steps looking easily as pissed as Tony had warned.

'You going to be okay getting him back, boss?'

'Why wouldn't I be, DiNozzo? Stay with the Lieutenant, get a statement when you can. Find out what the heck happened.'

'I think I can guess,' Tony said sourly.

'Don't guess, Tony.'

'Yes, boss.' He climbed into the back of the ambulance and perched precariously opposite the gurney on which the Lieutenant was still crying softly, rocking forwards and back. The paramedic slammed the doors and as the ambulance pulled away, Tony could just make out a squeal of brakes, the characteristic sound of Ziva's parking.

It was hours before he got back to the Yard. Ducky had turned up at the hospital to collect the rape kit and talk to the attending doctor about Lieutenant Rogers' injuries. While he was waiting to see the doctor, he sat outside the examination room with Tony on the hard plastic chairs that were stationed intermittentely down the hallway.

'How is she?' Ducky asked gently.

Tony shook his head. 'She's stopped crying, but I think it's going to be a long time before she's okay. They've scheduled a psych consult for later; I have to wait for them to clear it before I can try to get a statement.'

Ducky shook his head. 'It's a terrible thing, Anthony. Terrible.' He sighed. 'And how about you? How are you holding up?'

Tony shrugged. 'Something about this whole case... I don't know. It bothers me.' He frowned, trying to dislodge the thought.

'I'm sure whatever is bothering you will come clear soon enough, Anthony. It looks as though you had a good weekend, at any rate,' Ducky said, indicated Tony's neck in an abrupt change of subject.

With a grimace, Tony said, 'Yeah, not so much, Ducky.'


His attention still mostly on trying to figure out what was niggling at him about the case, Tony answered Ducky's gentle query without thinking. 'She was great. Hot, knew what she wanted, but when she started on my neck... I guess I just wasn't interested. Not my type.'

'And just how long has it been since you've been interested?'

'I don't know. A year, maybe?' Tony's head whipped round, a flush staining his cheeks as he stared at Ducky in horror. 'Shit! I can't believe I said that!'

Ducky patted Tony on the knee. 'My dear boy, it hasn't escaped my notice that the tales of your exploits are more designed to amuse and entertain. Unless you have a time machine I'm unaware of, or have found some means of doing away with the need for sleep altogether, I long ago concluded there simply aren't enough hours in the day for all your reported assignations to be true. Not with all the hours you put in at work. But don't worry; your secret is safe with me.'

Tony groaned and dropped his head into his hands. From behind them, his voice came, muffled. 'I don't know what's wrong with me, Ducky! I meet these beautiful women, stunning, funny, smart. It's an honor to worship them, to make love to them. And we flirt and we kiss and then... Nothing happens!'

Ducky waited until it became clear Tony wasn't going to elaborate on his own. 'What do you mean by nothing happens, Anthony?'

Tony looked up and glared. 'I mean nothing! Bupkiss! Squat! Little Anthony isn't coming out to play! They leave me cold and I don't know why. I'd get it checked out, but you know me and doctors. I hate going to see them at the best of times and this is just embarrassing.'

Ducky paused, obviously searching for the right words. 'Anthony, this kind of thing can happen to anyone. The hours you work, the pressure you're under, the frequency with which you are injured... Something has to give. None of us are immune to the effects of stress and exhaustion. It could be as simple as your needing a vacation.'

Tony scowled. 'It doesn't seem to matter. Ducky, I've always worked long hours. Work hard, play hard. This... it's something different.'

'Hmm... May I ask, when was the last time you achieved an erection?'

'Ducky!' Tony hissed. 'I am not talking about this here!'

'We are far less likely to be interrupted by one of your colleagues here than at work,' Ducky said reprovingly.

'Gah!' Tony scrubbed the palms of his hands over his face. 'God... Last week. Thursday. Okay?'

'And do you masturbate?'

Tony flushed again. 'Yes.'


'Not as often as when I hit puberty, but three or four times a week,' Tony admitted, staring at the floor and trying to pretend he wasn't having this conversation.

Ducky nodded. 'And may I ask, of whom do you think when you do so?'

'You know what, I think that's our doctor. You should talk with him.' Tony sprang to his feet, talking rapidly. 'Doc! Meet Doctor Mallard, our ME. How's Lieutenant Rogers doing?'

The doctor looked at him oddly, but put out his hand. 'Doctor Mallard, I'm Doctor Heigel.'

Ducky shook his hand. 'Call me Ducky. Is there somewhere a little more private that we can go? I believe I have a little information that may help shed some light on the poor Lieutenant's condition.'

'Follow me,' Dr Heigel turned and walked back the way he'd come.

Tony caught the glance Ducky threw his way as he passed and hid a wince. It promised more embarrassing questions as soon as Ducky caught him alone in autopsy. He knew from experience that staying out of the ME's way only worked for so long and then he'd have to face Ducky's disapproval as well. For some reason, avoiding medical issues made him cross. Almost as cross as it made his boss. And speaking of the devil...

He pulled his ringing cell phone out of his pocket and looked at the display, then hit a button and put the phone to his ear. 'Hey, boss! How's our emdirtbag-de-jour/em doing?'

A couple of hours later, Tony was finally allowed in to see the Lieutenant. She was clean and dressed in a hospital gown. Gauze was taped to her neck covering one particularly vicious bite mark; the edge of another dressing was just visible at the neck of the gown. Her bruises were turning a spectacular shade of purple and her eyes were red and swollen where they weren't black, but at least she wasn't crying. Tony smiled sympathetically as he took a seat beside the bed and settled in to begin the delicate task of taking her statement.

It was past seven pm by the time Tony stopped off on the way back to pick up Chinese takeout for the team. He didn't know whether or not they were still in the office, since the prime suspect was in custody, but he had a good few hours' work ahead of him and the food would always be good cold for lunch tomorrow.

The only one left at his desk was Gibbs. Tony dropped a couple of the cartons on the desk in front of him.

'Thanks. Got that statement?' Gibbs looked up and Tony felt the weight of his gaze, assessing, calculating. With the rest of the team gone, he didn't bother trying to hide his mood behind his customary mask of smiles and jokes.

'Yeah, I got it. I'll have it typed up for you in an hour. Did you get a confession?' Tony moved over to his own desk and perched on the edge. Fishing out a carton of mu shu pork, he leaned back and snagged a fork out of his top drawer.

'Uh huh. Didn't even try to hide what he did,' Gibbs confirmed. 'Autopsy puts cause of death as a broken neck. Some of the trauma to the face is post mortem.'

'So, what, he punched her a few times, broke her neck, then hit her some more?' Tony said around a mouthful of food.

'That's about it. Came home from work early and found her in bed with his wife and snapped.' Gibbs shook his head. 'God, what a mess.'

'That ties in with what the wife said. He caught them in bed, knocked her out; when she woke up, she was locked in the trunk of the car with the dead body of her girlfriend. I think she was in there for something like up to eight hours before he dumped the body. Even if they hadn't been imprinted on each other, that kind of thing would be enough to drive anyone crazy.'

'I'm guessing he took her back home and set about teaching her a lesson.'

'Yeah.' Tony stared into the carton for a moment, then closed it and dropped it back into the bag, his appetite gone. 'The worst part of it is that Lieutenant Rogers thought she was going out of her mind. I mean, she's happily married, she's straight. Sure, she's spent most of her career in the navy stateside and her husband wasn't too keen on her being deployed at sea, but it was only a short stint and then she was due back here. Then after a couple of days on board ship, she meets this petty officer, this female petty officer, and all of a sudden she can't stop thinking about her, can't stop wanting to be with her. And the petty officer feels the same way, hates that Amy's married. She was a little less straight, I think.'

He sighed, shoulders slumping tiredly, ran a hand through his hair. 'You meet someone and bam, your world's turned upside down. Almost thirty years of heterosexuality just blown away. Marriage dead, even if your husband doesn't know yet; career in jeopardy. This imprinting thing is... I don't even have the words to describe it.' He pushed himself off the desk and went around it, settling into his seat to begin typing up Lieutenant Rogers' statement.

Gibbs watched him for a few long seconds. 'I can't imagine what it's like, to have who you think you are overturned by a random act of biology.'

'I guess the closest thing would be a mother seeing her baby for the first time,' Tony said, typing away.

'Not something I'd have thought you'd know anything about,' Gibbs snapped.

Shocked, Tony looked up in time to see Gibbs striding out of the bullpen. He forced down the hurt. 'Probably didn't mean it the way it sounded,' he muttered to himself. But he wouldn't put it past Gibbs to know all about Tony's mother; the man could put most TV psychics to shame when it came to knowing about things he shouldn't.

Gibbs still hadn't returned by the time Tony had typed up the statement. Assuming he'd gone home, Tony filed the statement and printed a hard copy which he put on his bosses desk. He took a minute to put the takeout into the fridge in the break room and pour a mug of coffee that, by now, resembled tar. Briefly he wondered if, a hundred years ago, the Navy would have used it for caulking seams, or whatever it was they did with pitch, but his smile only lasted until the first sip hit his tastebuds. With a grimace, he went back to his desk and made a start on his report.

Tony put down the case file, stretched and yawned widely. He glanced at his watch; it was after eleven. His report was finished and he'd reviewed those submitted by Tim and Ziva, watched the footage from Gibbs' interrogation of Mark Rogers, read over Ducky's autopsy report and Abby's forensic findings. Together with the medical information, the photographs and, later in the week, the results of the rape kit, they had a water-tight case. Murder, assault and battery, rape, and all because of one man's reaction to something biological, something neither woman had control over.

A thought crossed his mind and he frowned, wondering just how much control imprinted people had over their actions. Surely they had some choice, some restraint, or they'd be no better than animals in heat. He needed more information. Tony opened a web browser and opened up a link provided by Abby. First up was an article in the emAmerican Journal of the Medical Sciences/em, in which Potts and Childs discussed their study and its findings. It took a while to read through; he kept having to stop and look up some of the long, technical terms, although some were familiar thanks to a career filled with autopsy reports.

'What are you still doing here, DiNozzo?'

Tony yelped and nearly fell out of his chair. 'Boss! I thought you'd gone home.'

Gibbs stared at him. 'I could say the same to you.'

'I had a few things to take care of,' Tony said. 'My report and the lieutenant's statement are on your desk.'

'So why aren't you at home?'

'Research?' Tony offered.

Gibbs came round the desk and stood behind Tony, bending to look at the screen. 'Looks more like Abby or Ducky's kind of thing.'

Tony relaxed a fraction under the weight of the warm hand pressing down on his shoulder. 'Yeah, the link was in Abby's report.'

'The imprinting thing.'

'I thought if I looked into it I could maybe get a handle on how this happened, what's going to happen to Amy Rogers now Melissa's dead and her husband's going to jail.'

'People cheat on their spouses every single day, DiNozzo. Doesn't have to be anything special about it at all.' Gibbs squeezed Tony's shoulder, then straightened up and moved away.

Tony shivered at the loss of contact. 'I know there doesn't have to be, I was a cop for long enough. I dealt with my share of domestic cases. But this time there is something special about it and I just want to understand.'

'Fine, research it to your heart's content. But not now. It's almost midnight, so go home, get some sleep.'

Tony summoned the energy for a cheeky grin. 'Only if you do, boss.'

'Why, you need tucking in?' Gibbs said drily, going to his desk to collect his jacket.

'Yup,' Tony said, enjoying the momentary shock that flitted over the older man's face. 'But I don't think you have quite the... attributes... for it.' He gestured with his hands, miming the curve of breasts and hips.

'I'm sure you have no shortage of willing volunteers,' Gibbs said.

'None whatsoever, boss.' Tony stood, collected his backpack and powered down his PC. 'See you in the morning.' Despite his fatigue, he jogged down the stairs rather than taking the elevator to the parking garage with Gibbs. Sometimes, when he was tired, when he'd had a long day and an unsettling case, being in close proximity to Gibbs was difficult to take and Tony worked hard at not looking too closely why.